Month

February 2015

Festivals in the Azores:Celebrate on Portugal’s Nine Islands

There’s always something going on in the Azores. Although the summer season comes with temperatures hovering within an idyllic range of averages (lows in the 60’s and highs in the upper 70’s) you’ll find that island locals create reasons to celebrate on the black sand beaches of their 9 islands year-round.

Visit Azores/Facebook
Visit Azores/Facebook

Make your way to Santa Maria in August for the Festival Mare de Agosto.  Praia Formosa beach hosts the Mare de Agosto Festival for four days at the end of August. Enjoy concerts featuring artists from around the world. Started in 1984 when some Azorean musicians put together a jam session on stages throughout the island, it has evolved into one of the most popular music festivals in the Azores.

Get religious on Sao Miguel at the Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres each May. Held the fifth Sunday after Easter, this festival celebrates with parades weaving throughout the city with a religious statue as its centerpiece. Ending at the convent at Esperanca in Ponta Delgada, this ritual procession has been taking place since the sixth century.  A street fair joins the three day festival where you’ll find visitors flocking to churches and chapels in a pilgrimage.

Portuguese mainlanders make their way to Faial for the Week of the Sea Festival in August. Complete with a whaling boat competition in Faial’s canal, a street parade, procession and music performances by some of Portugal’s greats, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a true local celebration of the the Sea.

Join the grape harvest in September on Pico at the Mes das Vindimas festival. During this time you’ll find yourself among locals helping to squeeze the grapes for liquors, brandy and Portuguese wine.

July is prime time for a trip to Sao Jorge where you’ll find the Semana Cultural das Velas Festival in full swing. The most popular event on the island this festival is filled with concerts, dancing local crafts, a regatta and even a bullfight.

The Azores celebrates their own Mardi Gras with Carnival in March. Every island has its own events, but those on Graciosa are the most popular event that island sees all year. The Parades are filled with creative costumes and the year-round visitors line the streets in droves to be a part of the action.

March through the streets of Terceira in June when the island’s Sanjoaninas Festival (festival of Saint John) is in full swing.  Taking place in commemoration of the patron saint of Terceira, Saint John. Check out the daily marches, parades, and decorated cars within the town of Angra do Heroisimo.

The island of Corvo celebrates the Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Milagres in August. The largest festival on Corvo includes a procession through the village streets atop a colorful carpet made by the local craftsmen. Celebrating the legend that states that Our Lady of Miracles was responsible for drawing pirates away from the island, this is special time for Corvo.

Flores is the spot to visit for the Santa Cruz Festival each August. One of the Azores’s largest festivals it draws a good crowd. Here you’ll find stunning flower displays covering the arc in the main street. 27 Emperors crowns are on display at this most important Holy Ghost Festival.

To learn more about the Festivals of the Azores, and plan your trip, check out their website: http://www.visitazores.com/en/calendar/all/parties-festivities

– A woman in need of a snow-less, solo escape to the Azores, Jess

Fashion Find – Super Cute, Winterproof Sorel Wedges

Once upon a time, my feet were adorned in the highest of heels. Each day I’d pair my of the moment outfit with a coordinating member of the two to three inch collection that took over my closet. But that was when I had a corporate job, and I could not even imagine Pirate Booty fingerprints smeared on my designer duds, or breaking into a full sprint after a toddler to keep him from running rampant in a parking lot.  Since my kids came along my feet have found a new home, a not so fun selection of sneakers, riding boots and hideous, but warm, boots for arctic days standing around ice rinks, and ski slopes while my kids take lessons.  Notice the trend? Not a lovely pair of heels in sight.

As winter is the absolute worst footwear season (most days I dress for comfort and warmth, not to look stylish, and that includes my footwear), I was determined to solve my footwear conundrum and get back to my previously taller self.  I started seeking a pair of winter wedges. After a lot of research, I found myself circling back to Sorel’s new winter boot line.

I bought the Joan of Arctic Wedge Ankle Boot, and after a few moments of skepticism, and a walk two doors down to Jess’s house without even a single stumble on our slightly snow covered street, I decided that these are the most AMAZING shoes in my entire (not just mom) collection!

An ankle height bootie,  this treasure has everything you could ever possibly want or need in a winter boot.  They are stylish, comfortable, waterproof and extremely warm. These booties are really versatile, you can dress them up or dress them down; great with skinny jeans (my choice most days), casual winter dresses, a black mini skirt and tights, or leggings. They also have really good traction if you are walking on ice and I can easily bust into a full on sprint after my kids when needed.

They are my new go-to boots for winter; unless I am trudging through 4+ feet of snow playing with my kids.  If you are looking for a boot that’s fashionable, comfortable and waterproof, that you can wear out at night or on the playground by day, check out Sorel’s winter boot line.

– Delivering style, comfort and warmth one step at a time, Thia

Valentine’s Day Blizzard Busts Up Big Plans in The Northeast: The at Home Date Idea That Will Save the Day

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I rarely go out on Valentine’s Day. All the hype never meets my expectations so when we moved to the burbs and had a baby, my husband started a tradition of putting the kids to bed, pouring me a glass of champagne and shucking some of my favorite east coast oysters. Together we assemble our own personal raw bar, often adding lobster tails, and we sit at our hightop bar by the wood stove laughing and relaxing.

With at least another foot of snow, and dangerous winds threatening to blanket the coastal northeast this weekend there’ll be a lot of disappointed diners skipping out on their special Valentine’s Day reservations. If you’re opting to hunker down instead of heading out, steal my go-to, stay home Valentine’s Day date.

Aphrodisiacs at home-Oysters and Champagne:

Treat your someone special to a bottle of champagne and a platter of raw oysters.  My $50 favorite is Vueve Clicquot, but if that’s a little too steep pick a Prosecco. The Italian version of this bubbly treat tends to be delicious for under $20 a bottle. A fan favorite is the Mionetto Prosecco Brut.

An at home oyster shucking party will give you a lot of giggles with great rewards. And believe it or not, oysters are quite easy to shuck-if you have the proper tools. A reinforced, washable oven mitt makes a great oyster shucking glove. But you should spring for a pair of oyster knives, for $8.99 each these can be found at stores like Bed Bath and Beyond.  

If you’re in the Boston area, where the restaurant industry is hurting from the snowfall, stop into one of Legal Sea Foods fish markets (Legal’s has postponed their Valentine’s Day menu until March 6-8 on account of the crazy snow already in the city) or call around and see if seafood specialists like Island Creek, or Row 34  have oysters you can buy. If you’d prefer to go to a fish market not affiliated with a restaurant, James Hook & Co. always has a stellar selection of seafood.

Mix up a variety of dips like cocktail sauce and mignonette, buy a bottle of tabasco and horseradish then slice up some lemons and arrange alongside your freshly shucked platter of oysters on ice.

-Busting this blizzard one home date idea at a time, XO Jess

Specialty Cocktails to Inspire Love in Boston This Valentine’s Day Weekend

Fitness For Two (or Just You) at Flywheel Sports

Get your heart racing this Valentine’s Day at  Flywheel Sports. Couples can come with their “plus-one” for a 45-minute Power Couple Ride. Led by two of Flywheel’s popular instructors, Meredith DeJesus & Colin Batty, you’ll be spinning away to tunes from music’s hottest power couples: Beyoncé & Jay-Z, Gwen & Gavin, Miranda & Blake, and many more. Compete on the board to win matching Flygear because the couple with the highest combined “Power Score” gets their pick.

 If you’re lacking a plus one, head on in for Flywheel’s 60-minute heartBEATS Ride led by Colin Batty. Enjoy glowing LED bracelets, while pedaling to the beats of  empowering, high-energy love songs and anthems.

Located within he Prudential Center, and complete with showers so you can continue your day after you exercise, Flywheel Sports features its couples ride at 11:00am and the heartBEATS ride at 3:00pm. Each class is $28/per person. Seat reservations are recommended; to do so  visit http://boston.flywheelsports.com/ or call 617.300.0388.

-Sweating outside the sheets with someone special, Jess

Somerville’s Saloon Satisfies Your Stomach With Food for Whiskey Lovers

120 whiskey selections are available at Somerville’s Saloon  and now their menu is meant to compliment the lovely brown liquor in this  pre-Prohibition themed restaurant.  

Open for dinner Sunday-Wednesday until 10:00pm, and Thursday-Saturday until 11:00pm, Saloon offers shareable plates of hearty fare pairs nicely with the restaurant’s whiskey to create a comfortable dining experience for friends who share a love of whiskey.

Enjoy plates of snacks with friends like their Fried Pickle Chips, Duck Wings or Chips Benedict or share a charcuterie, selection of cheeses, or flatbreads. Or heart warming entrees like Short Rib Pie and Chicken Fried Rabbit Leg. 

Whatever you order, pair it with your favorite whiskey drink, sit back, sip and savor.

-Just one foodie who’s fond of whiskey, Jess

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Some Food is Worth the Search: Three Secrets of Boston’s Food Scene Unveiled

Boston’s full of secrets be it tours and attractions, bars or even restaurants. These three restaurants have secrets, be it an entrance, location, or menu items to order. And these secrets are worth revealing because what good is it to have something great and not share it.

With only 20 seats, and only for those who are legally adults, Bogie’s Place is tucked inside jm Curley. The steakhouse meals served here come a la carte, warranting a sharing of sides. Caviar fans will be happy to know that Bogie’s place has a small selection on their menu. And be sure to leave your cell phone behind because the sign clearly states they are not allowed. It would be a shame to get kicked out of such a cool secret dining spot.

A4 Pizza may not be hard to find, but their secret slice is never listed. Changing with the chef’s whim, the secret slice can only be ordered if you know to ask for it. The funky combinations will pleasantly surprise you. When the chef is at their sit down sister spot, Area Four, you may be able to order a secret slice there as well.

Get in on the pop up action at a Kitchen Kibitz dinner. Constantly changing locations, this supper club moves its location for each event; you never know where the next will be, unless you follow them on Facebook. Partnering with a different Boston chef each time, Kitchen Kibitz adds a modern twist of old world Jewish cuisine.

Reserve your seats, buy your tickets, and order off the menu to experience three of Boston’s best dining secrets.

-Revealing Boston’s secrets one at a time, Jess

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areafour.com

I’m Just Not That Kind of Mom & It’s Ok

I’m not that kind of mom; the one who loves crafts and can whip up something wonderful and entertaining in a matter of minutes. I’m more the create a great  adventure type. I can plan a mean kids party (with the help of Pinterest & my mom friends). I kick butt at organizing an outing the kids will love and parents can handle, and I’m awesome at arranging nights out (for moms, dads, or couples). I get creative in the kitchen and on the computer, just not with crafts.

I truly stink at crafts; I have no patience for a project that takes more than an hour, and I’d much rather buy something ensuring it looks nice and is ready in time. I’m all for instant gratification.

So, as Valentine’s Day approaches and I yet again wait until I get the inevitable email about card distribution to my son’s preschool class (yesterday) to even consider cards. As I read it my heart begins to race and I pray that my son opts for the store bought box I plan to score at Target later today (the party is tomorrow).

I smile at him and ask, “Want to buy Valentine’s cards for your friends this afternoon?” and he replies, “No, Mommy, I want to make them” all 22. Swear words race through my head, a few escape my lips, and I being to recite to myself all the ways I fail as not just a mom, but as a stay at home mom to my two kids who have yet to enter elementary school. I’m supposed to have this stuff under control, but I never do.

The first card
The first card

My husband, who’s scurrying out the door battle the snowbanks en-route to work for an 8am meeting, sees the crestfallen look on my face and pauses to lend a hand (I believe he fears may simply vanish one day because I’ve been doing quite a bit of griping since the second foot of snow fell this winter). He starts listing all the different character cards we could get, hoping to say one that will resonate and have our lovely boy so excited it puts all this create a card crap behind him, but it’s useless, his 5 year old heart is set on making cards for his friends. And I know that the stress of making these cards later today is nothing compared to crushing his vision, so my husband heads out and I smile and say, “Ok, we’ll make them”.

Supplies: a cookie cutter, ballpoint pen, scorers& construction paper
Supplies: a cookie cutter, ballpoint pen, scissors; construction paper

The cards will be simple, white 8.5 x11 paper I cut into 4 squares with scissors, slightly uneven. There’ll be a heart glued to the front of each. The back will simply say, Marcus (or Love, Marcus if I can get him to write it 22 times). There will be no “to’s”  because I just can’t get it done by his little hands and since most of his class can’t read; I’m really saving the teachers some trouble.

Ideally AM co-founder, my neighbor, and most importantly crafter extraordinaire, Thia, will come to my rescue, and cut them with her Cricut machine. If not, I’ll be cutting by hand, and really I only have myself to blame since I waited so long to face the Valentine’s hell I knew was inevitable.

Before I send his backpack filled with cards (anyone want to place bets on my leaving them at home and having to rush back post drop off to retrieve them?), I’ll take one final glance at our sad looking Valentine’s cards because once they leave this house they’re gone for good, distributed to his classmates; ready to join the recycle bins of 22 households throughout our small town.

For one moment all my mommy failures flash through my mind, these cards a reminder of my lack of craftiness, something greatly appreciated in a mom of little ones. Then I’ll shake it off and plan something amazing for my kids, like a visit to
Lawn on D for Slopefest or lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe or maybe a day at Boston area museum and my super powers will shine through.

And maybe next year, when my son’s in kindergarten, and my daughter starts preschool,  I’ll plan ahead. Maybe I’ll take them to the store as soon as the Valentine’s hit the shelves, and have them pick out their pre-made cards of choice. But realistically, I’ll probably be reposting this exact same blog stressing over a greater number of cards.

-Not so secretly hoping that craft guru, AM Thia, will come to my “crafts-cue” , XO Jess

The life saving Cricut
The life saving Cricut

***Update***

As I was completing my hand cut hearts Thia called and rushed me over for an emergency session with her Cricut. In 5 minutes (including my commute to her house and paper selection) Thia took the Valentine card design to a level I never could have imagined on my own. Just another reason she’s an Amazing Matriarch! 

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Stop Your Whining and Get to Wine-ing at Boston Wine Events

If Boston’s winter has you whining about the excessive amount of snow on the ground, and the excessive cold, check out two great wine events that are sure to switch you from a whiner, to a wine-r- the Boston Wine Festival and Boston Wine Expo

Boston Wine Festival kicks off in January to save you from the post holiday haze that had you fooled that this winter won’t be so bad after all. Taking place at the Boston Harbor Hotel, the Wine Festival is a series of wine focused dinners featuring the cuisine of acclaimed Chef, Daniel Bruce, paired with wines from around the world. Running through March, the events of the Boston Wine Festival often sell out making a seminar or dinner best planned in advance. Boston Harbor offers hotel packages so guests can easily retire for the evening with only a walk to their room.

The Boston Wine Expo takes place annually on President’s Day weekend at 10best 2015 best Boston hotel, the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center. This expo is jam packed with winters from around the world sampling their finest wines in a laid back atmosphere, while chefs take to the two stages to showcase their skills in cooking classes aimed at teaching you a new kitchen trick. Seminars are held in various conference rooms throughout the Boston Wine Expo and offer deeper exploration of a region, style or parking of wine. Hotel packages are available to make your weekend even better. And use of the drync app allows easy purchasing while you’re tasting so you’ll be sure to remember the wines you loved.

Buy your tickets today so you can wine the right way until winter comes to a close.

-Here to rescue you from the winter blues, Jess

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Bye, Bye Dry Skin: Moisturizers that Work Magic on Rough Patches

MoisturizersIf you’re living in a climate where the weather leaves your skin a little parched, don’t fret, there are 2 products proven to send dry skin packing for every member of your family.

Aquaphor is the petroleum jelly based product I came to love when my son was born in 2009. Since then it has helped everything from minor rashes (think diaper & pacifier) to dry skin. It kept his newborn face safe when we went for winter walks on windy days and as recently as last night, soothed my 2 year old daughter’s chapped, cracking little hands after too many days removing her gloves while playing in the snow on frigid days (I put mittens on and she rapidly removes and tosses into a snowbank, we repeat this many times until I quit and scream something like, ” fine just freeze then” and worry like crazy that she’ll get frost bite).

Inexpensive and easy to find, Aquaphor is available in many sizes and at most drugstores and grocery stores. The downside, it is sticky, like Vaseline, and as often as I prove it works, my husband refuses to apply it to his dry skin because he can’t stand the feel.

Which led me to find my family’s favorite moisturizer, First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Cream. This moisturizing cream works just as well as Aquaphor for treating dry skin, and can be used all over the body, including the face. Best of all it soaks into the skin leaving no greasy film behind.

I use it as my daily facial moisturizer (and every esthetician I meet tells me how nice my skin is then looks at me stunned when I tell her my products of choice), my husband treats his hands and face, my daughter has been digging into the tub all morning to moisturize her hands, and I’ve successfully used it to keep my son’s chapped face in check all winter. As our tub runs low, it is my husband who asks when I’m heading to the mall to get more.

Sold online and at many retailers, like Sephora, you can find it in a variety of sizes. A  6 oz tub of Ultra Repair Cream (my personal fave as it lasts a whole season in my house) will run you around $30. A little steep, but a little goes a long way and you can feel good about using it because it is harsh chemical, colorant and paraben free. Making me feel good putting it on the skin of my little (and big) loves.

-Just one matriarch mastering the universe of moisturizers, Jess

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