What better day than a snow day to daydream of sun dresses? While Stella’s outside doing what she does best (snow + wind), I’m inside attempting to keep the babes entertained + looking forward to spring’s return.
I had a chance to visit The Paper Store‘s headquarters west of Boston earlier this year (on the eve of our last big snowstorm), along with some of my favorite blogging pals, to get a preview of spring fashion trends from their lovely buyers. We were treated to Champagne, Sugarfina treats, macarons and a peek at several racks full of beautiful spring dresses and tops.
Those of you in the Northeast are likely familiar with The Paper Store (it’s my go-to for cards, gifts and Alex + Ani jewelry). They have a really great fashion section as well, and many of their items (including their new private fashion and jewelry line, Mia & Tess) are available online.
Here are a few of the spring fashion tips The Paper Store buyers shared with us:
Off the shoulder tops and dresses continue to be on trend this year (and are universally flattering!)
Look for delicate chokers that can be worn alone or layered
Floral prints are updated in pale, dusty pinks, bold mints, china blues and pair perfectly with denim
Speaking of which, you’ll find denim dresses, footwear, scarves, hats, jackets and tops in store
Layer a longer lace or crochet trimmed tank under sweaters and tops to add some visual interest and update an old favorite
We haven’t been home enough to commit to a full CSA share, but I’ve been keeping an eye on the weekly boxes (a best guess at each week’s contents is posted on Mondays and you can order as late as Wednesday night for a Friday pick up at the farm), which currently cost $23.
We’re home all week and you know I love a good bunch of carrots and berries by the pint, so I got my order in right away. We met my mom at Ward’s (word to the wise: it’s really busy there at lunch time) and I really appreciated having her there to helpnavigate with Grace and baby Nick. Our first stop was the animals, or as Grace calls them, “the little friends.”
My mom and Grace picked up our Farmer’s Choice boxes at the back of the store and grabbed a table outside in the shade, while I ordered smoothies and tried my best to not knock over produce displays with Nick’s stroller. Small life goals. That’s how we roll these days.
Mo’ berry for her, Green Machine for me
Once we were outside, I couldn’t resist taking a peek in the box.
This week’s Farmer’s Choice box contained
1 head of lettuce
1 bunch of carrots
1 lb Romano beans
1 Green bell pepper
1 lb wax beans
1 head of fennel
1 pint of blueberries
1 bunch of Bok Choy
1 lb of squash
I picked up a pint of strawberries and some new potatoes at the farm store to round our my order.
Meal planning with the Farmer’s Choice box
Lettuce: Use in salads; lettuce wraps with black beans, corn and pico de gallo
Carrots and Romano beans: Use in salads; as a snack with hummus
Green bell pepper: Greek salad (I’ve been eating a simple mix of peppers, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, feta and fresh oregano all week)
Onions: Use in an easy summer gazpacho; and roasted with new potatoes and thyme
What better way to wrap up a week down the Cape than a weekend in Vacationland? Or technically, 20 hours in Portland, Maine. We were only there long enough to catch a ferry, enjoy a wedding on an island, eat a pizza, take a nap, drink a cup of coffee, buy a lighthouse postcard for a lady in Poland, and retrieve our car… but hey.
I’m always game for a change of scenery, however short, especially if water and boats and beaches are involved.
20 HOURS IN PORTLAND, MAINE
Saturday, 1 PM: Check-in at The Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Waterfront
After 3-ish hours on the road from Boston (we hit a little traffic, which seems appropriate for a summer Saturday) we arrived at our hotel, The Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Waterfront. My not-so-extensive research involved Googling the ferry line we’d be taking to the wedding, locating the closest hotel, comparing prices a bit (there are a few hotels within walking distance of the Casco Bay Ferry Lines), and checking availability.
We were really happy with the Hilton. So, um… thanks, Google. The night before we arrived, I was able to check-in using the Hilton Honors app and choose our room (something I’ve never seen before, making joining HH and downloading the app totally worth the 2 seconds each required). I snagged the last room available with a water view, which felt like a triumph of sorts.
We arrived well before check-in… but shortly before we needed to arrive at a wedding in all our “beach formal” glory, so we left our bags with the front desk staff and freshened up in the pool/fitness center area before making our way across the street to buy our ferry tickets.
Even the drain markers are cute. Or whatever.
1:30 PM: Purchase ferry tickets
Super easy. Round-trip tickets to the Casco Bay islands are $11. They need to be purchased in person, however… so don’t do what I did. (Which is spend an hour trying to figure out how to buy them online. And another six minutes calling the terminal to ask how to buy them online.)
And by lunch, I mean… I ate onion rings and drank a Diet Coke at the bar. That’s how I wile out on vacation. Nick, on the other hand, had a lobster roll and an Angry Orchard. He’s my better half, and also, my more normal half. It was relatively quiet at the bar, but there’s a bigger seating area out back, including a deck with views of the bay. I think that’s where everyone else was. Eating onion rings. Or maybe an entire meal of food.
2:00 PM: Board the ferry to Long Island
There’s a Long Island in Maine. And that’s where we went. I didn’t take many (any?) pictures on the ferry, but the 30 minute ride was comfortable and the views were extraordinary. We passed several lighthouses, gorgeous sailboats and schooners, and a few smaller islands before reaching the dock and heading to the wedding.
8:50 PM: Return ferry to Portland
The ride back to Portland took closer to an hour (the route is a loop, and so we hit more stops on the way back), but we got to enjoy the most spectacular sunset while waiting on the pier. Once we got back to Portland, I grabbed our bags and headed up to our hotel room… while Nick picked up a veggie pizza from Bill’s Pizza on Commercial Street.
Sunday, 8:00 AM: Breakfast at the Standard Baking Company
The next morning, we ventured out for a walk, but the skies opened up (and who packs an umbrella?) after a few blocks, so we headed back toward the hotel and grabbed coffee, tea and 9,000 calories worth of baked goods from the Standard Baking Company. I highly recommend the gingerbread with lemon glaze. And I want to go back and eat everything else they have to offer. In the meantime, I’ve got my eye on their cookbook.
We stopped into a nearby shop for the aforementioned postcard (a postcrossing special request) and matching lobster pajamas for the babes before checking out and heading back to Boston.
It was a short, but sweet (extra sweet if you consider that gingerbread) visit to the Portland area. I’m looking forward to heading back when we have a bit more time to explore and enjoy the area.
The sign of a great summer: My beach bag is getting more use than my handbag.
Whether you’re toting around a beach bag, a pool bag, a gym bag or a something-else bag, I’ve got a few upgrades to share. Things that make my life a little bit easier and a little less messy.
Beach bag upgrades
Some of these beach bag upgrades are technically baby items, but don’t let that scare you off. And if you find yourself childless yet running to Babies ‘R Us after reading this post, allow me to either 1. talk you out of it (with one child and another on the way, that place still terrifies me) 2. offer you one of the 19 about-to-expire 20% off coupons I have crammed in my wallet.
A wet bag
This should really be called “a prevent everything else in your beach bag from getting wet… bag.” We use this one from Skip Hop, which is on the small side, but is perfect for storing my wet bathing suit, Grace’s wet bathing suit, and at least one towel. If you’re heading to the pool or a friend’s house, wet bags are a great place to store your change of clothes (which can be swapped out for wet suits). This also works for sweaty gym gear.
I like the mesh pocket on the outside of the Skip Hop bag — it’s perfect for stashing keys and a few dollars, or an extra swim diaper or two. The snap handle is great too — I often attach it to the outside of our beach bag if we need a little extra room.
A giant carabiner
I sort of wonder what life was like before I discovered stroller hooks. I also sort of wonder what I would get done if I weren’t wondering about things like life before stroller hooks. This thing is essentially a giant, glorified carabiner. It’s padded on one side, allowing you to comfortably carry a bunch of bags or items that have been clipped together.
During the non-summer (I’m just not ready to say winter, or fall even), I use our hook most often when trying to make a single trip into our condo with the groceries and Grace. I keep one in my car, and another in or attached to whichever bag I am carrying. In the summer, however, it’s perfect for securing extra items to our beach bag (sand toys, towels) or keeping multiple sets of keys from getting lost.
Reusable snack bags
I use these reusable snack bags to store small items that, like keys, have a tendency to go missing in the very bottom of our beach bag– my phone, lip balm, hair elastics, band-aids, and sunblock sticks. Again, these work for your gym bag, too. The larger size can take the place of my wallet (because who wants to bring their entire wallet… 20% off coupons and all… to the beach?) and the smaller sizes are great for collecting shells and other treasures. They can be easily washed or wiped clean.
Also: I am obsessed with the patterns on these bags. They make me want to start designing fabric. If I had any clue how to do that. Which I don’t. Mostly because I am busy thinking about life before stroller hooks.
A waterproof camera
This is a bit of a splurge, but I bought a waterproof camera before our honeymoon to St. John and I’m so glad I did. We’ve been able to capture photos from amazing snorkeling trips and swimming in tropical caves to Grace’s first swimming lessons and days spent at the Cape with our family. In my dreams, I am the sort of person who swims under waterfalls and regularly partakes in SUP yoga in the harbor… but um, it’s perfect for my less cool, less adventurous (real) life.
We have an older version of the Nikon Coolpix Waterproof AW100 series. It is waterproof up to 100 feet, is shockproof and has built in GPS/world map. It seems like there are more options available (and at better prices) these days, and the new Nikons have built in wifi to easily transfer images to your smart phones. If you’re going to invest in a camera, I highly recommend getting a waterproof camera float, too. This can be used to carry the camera… but also lessens the chance of your camera disappearing, sinking, or sneakily bodysurfing ashore without you.
Speaking of bodysurfing, I’ve got a wave to catch. Toodles!
First things first: Thank you so much for all the love and kind words about our happy news!
We had great luck at this week’s farmers market at Crescent Ridge. The farm animals were out and about, the weather was perfect, and we scored some really beautiful produce.
Eggs for Nick (and eggshells for me to grow little plants in)
Raspberries, blueberries and and a basket of “pretty uglies” tomatoes from Ward’s Berry Farm
Peaches and peppers from Silvia Farms
Needless to say, we also got ice cream. With sprinkles.
We’ve already done some serious damage on the berries, but the rest will go into breakfast parfaits and a blueberry + thyme lemonade I’ve been dreaming about (probably the most pregnant thing I’ve said today). I’m also planning on a tomato tart and 900 Caprese salads. As for the peppers, they are almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Anywaaaay…. I hope your week is off to a lovely, delicious start. To quote my animal-obsessed child, “Bye, goats. I love you.”
Who needs a vacation alarm clock (set for 3 hours earlier than you desire to wake up), when you have a toddler at the foot of your bed?
I woke up like this. With Grace pinching my toes and yelling, “Hellooooo!”
In an effort to spare the rest of our family the 4:30 wake-up call over the 4th of July weekend, we snuck out for some early morning walks down to the beach. The Cape might be my favorite place on Earth. Except for the place where they make popcorn (I’ve never been to a popcorn factory, but I just know it’s magical).
Not a bad way to start the day.
We covered 3.5 miles on Friday on our own, and 2.5 miles on Saturday with my brother and sister-in-law and their own mini-human alarm clock, my niece.
6 AM pajama parties on the beach are the best.
And with the entire world still sleeping, we had the beach to ourselves and our pick of the prettiest shells.
Any day we are lucky enough to wake up at the Cape (even if it’s at 4 AM), we are lucky enough.
Grace and I have been trading colds for what seems like months. After a rough night (and more snow), we really needed some fresh air. It’s good for the body and it’s good for the cranky, wintered over soul.
Couldn’t help myself.
After breakfast and Irish music in the neighborhood, we drove out to Lincoln (about 30 minutes from the city) with our Audubon member cards in hand to see the baby (and, like, grown up) animals at Drumlin Farm. Our first stop was the Yellow Barn to see the tiny black lambs before eventually making our way to the baby goals kids.
A real, live pile of kids.
The sun was shining, the chickens were clucking, and the lambs were climbing in and out of the hay bin (I respect any creature that passionate about snacks). It was the perfect day and the perfect way to start breaking out of my winter rut. It’s a deep one. (Speaking of which, I am working on a rut-busting plan. More on that later.)
This does not answer the chicken or the egg question… but I like it nevertheless.
This makes me so hopeful for spring.
Added bonus: We got to see nearly every character from our favorite bedtime story, The Very Busy Spider, on the farm today.
We’ve snuck out of town for some warmer weather. And yes, I know you’re not supposed to tell people you’re away, but let’s be serious:
What happens on vacation ends up on Instagram and I can’t resist sharing a good sunset shot.
All the important and valuable things are coming with me (Because, hello… the important and valuable things aren’t things. They’re people). So, I guess I’m not really worried.
If you’re spending this Monday getting sucked into a Polar Vortex (Do we capitalize that? It nearly froze my eyelashes off last year, so I am guessing something that powerful and terrifying deserves capitalization.), the least I can do is give you a little mental vacation.
A few of my favorite vacation photos
Here are a few of my favorite vacation photos (and memories) I’ve collected over the years.
North Adams, MA
A couple years ago, we spent a long weekend at Porches, visited Mass MoCA (and an old burial ground, because I am a creep) and climbed little mountains with our little dog.
U.S. and British Virgin Islands
And now I want to go on our Honeymoon again. Like, real bad. We stayed on St. John, but took a few sailing and day trips to places like Virgin Gorda. We snorkeled in caves, spied on sea turtles and drank Old English ciders (because gluten allergies do not take vacations no matter how badly one craves a cold beer). I took 9,000 photos. And did lots of floating.
Boothbay Harbor, Maine
This is why Maine is called Vacationland.
Aaaaand… a bonus photo of Clark.
The dude knows how to do vacations.
Also On Tap for Today:
Working on some festive posts and giveaways (which I shall draft on the back of a cocktail napkin — attempting to unplug whilst on vacation!)
Thanks to C. Columbus, his holiday and his poor navigation skills (He was headed to India, right? …Also: The same day is celebrated as Native American Day in South Dakota and Indigenous People’s Day in places like Seattle and Minneapolis. These seem like much more worthy holidays.), my office was closed on Monday. I kept Grace home from daycare (“We’re havin’ a Diva Day!“) and joined my parents and younger brother for a walk in the woods.
We bundled up the baby and headed down to the Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk (about a 40 minute drive from the city) and followed a two mile loop through the woods and marsh and across a few streams. Most of the pathways are flat and there are designated trails for strollers and wheelchairs.
I picked up all kinds of gorgeous fallen leaves (and, feeling inspired, got out my watercolors as soon as we got home) and then convinced myself during the drive back to the city that I had poison ivy. I did not. In other words: A normal day, but with fresher air, fewer people flipping me off in traffic, less noise, and more vibrant scenery.
A walk in the woods
We used my parents’ Audubon membership (which seems like a very grown-up thing to have) to access the wildlife sanctuary, and I remembered how much fun we had at places like this and the Trailside Museum when we were younger. There are a number of Massachusetts Audubon sites close to the city, so I figured it was worth checking out. I didn’t realize how much programming (including art classes, yoga, and something called an Owl Prowl…) they do at individual centers.
And how’s this for timing: Memberships are currently discounted ($32 for a family or individual membership) through the end of November. I am now one membership card closer to becoming America’s Next Top Nature Model a fun parent.
Reasons why I am the least enjoyable person to be around this time of year (an abbreviated list):
The only pumpkin-flavored things I like are pumpkins. I don’t want my coffee to taste like a gourd. I want it to taste like coffee. Same goes for my M&M’s and my gluten-free beer.
And don’t get me started on fall colors. I love our condo. I don’t want to make it ugly with brown and orange stuff.
I am allergic to wool. Your sweaters had best keep a safe distance from the hives that are about to creep up my neck.
I’m not ready to say goodbye to tomatoes. If summer tomatoes were a person, and that person was my boyfriend and that boyfriend broke up with me, I would not give his stuff back.
Nick (who is very much a real person and was once my boyfriend) and I were married in the fall of 2012 and our caterer nearly sent me to a home with her “festive” dessert display at our menu tasting. I like to think I was a pretty easy-going bride (don’t we all?) and also thought I had made my firm “no fall colors” policy quite clear, so when she rolled out a table festooned with fake leaves and plastic pumpkins, I barely contained a simmering rage.
This year, though, I can’t help but look forward to cooler mornings, crinkling leaves and carving pumpkins. I am guessing I have my daughter to blame thank for that. Seeing her experience new things is just the best, whether it’s her first time in the water, her first time eating solids, her first time being held by a strange man dressed as the Easter bunny or yes, even her first Fall (I felt like capitalizing the season would help you see that I meant that, and not that I delight in watching her tumble over and potentially become injured). Watching Grace reach for a giant pumpkin and squeal in delight as she grasped its stem has me changing my ways. All those adorable fall outfits hanging in her closet don’t hurt either. And if I really dig deep, I guess I could cop to an affinity for soup and scarves.
This weekend we took advantage of the late summer (very-nearly-fall) weather and spent the afternoon at Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon, Massachusetts. It’s about 30 minutes from the city and not far from where I grew up. After walking around a bit, we ventured out to the pumpkin patch to find that their healthy, growing pumpkins were bigger than our healthy, growing child (and too big, frankly, to fit underneath her stroller… or like, in my handbag). So instead of picking one up there, we took 100 photos and then ventured back to the farm store and purchased a smaller, much more portable, sugar pumpkin.
I also picked out a few of these gorgeous heirloom gourds and white pumpkins. They’re like the gateway drug of fall decor… fall-ish, but not brown and orange. I am dying to make one of the succulent topped pumpkins I saw in the fall issue of Country Gardens (side note: I am 900% obsessed with Next Issue… which is how a city dweller with no garden comes across such gems as Country Gardens.) Perhaps I can make green and white the new blackbrown and orange? And then maybe I will get a show on Netflix about my life as an over-tired working mom who wastes time making succulent topped pumpkins when she should be, like, sleeping?
In addition to a tremendous selection of farm fresh produce and local treats, Ward’s is also home to Sunny Rock 4H Club’s barnyard animals. Grace was sort of ambivalent about the goats, but Nick got right in there. The man never misses a chance to feed the animals.
Did I mention they have mini horses?
If you asked me who my all time favorite television mini-horse is, my answer would obviously be: It’s a tie between Lil Sebastian + Mini. Duh.
You know, fall’s looking pretty good, after all. (But do not tell that caterer I said so.)