Delicious Treats You Don’t Want to Miss in the Greater Boston Area

1. ANYTHING from Sugar Magnolia’s in Gloucester

sugar mags

sign image via, french toast via

This is the breakfast place that I take everyone to when they come to visit . . . and also the one that I go to WHENEVER I can come up with a reason to go out for breakfast! The food here is out of control phenomenal. Whether you order Georgia’s French Toast (like French toast and S’mores all-in-one), or the Carrot Cake Pancakes with the maple butter, or the Goatie (an incredible omelette with tomatoes, caramelized onions, & goat cheese), or the AMAZING porridge (one of my favorite things ever!), you won’t be disappointed!

2. Dinner (Try the Kibbeh!), at Kareem’s in Watertown

Dinner at Kareem's When you step into this restaurant, it almost feels like you’re having a luxurious Syrian dinner in the home of a friend. . . the intimate setting and novelty of seeing your food prepared before your very eyes is an experience in and of itself, but it is more than simply unusual as a setting. In addition to the setting and service being fabulous, the food is also incredible – like a magical blend of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern goodness. Everything is fresh and flavorful and hits the palate perfectly. They only take cash or check, which is good to know in advance, but it’s worth the pre-planning to have this dining experience!

3. New England Ice Lollies in Newburyport

lollipop ice   It feels wrong to just call these incredible creations “popsicles”. These cannot be demoted to the same status as those frost-bitten things in the back of your freezer. . . these are heaven. Refreshing and cold on a hot day, they also are some of the most flavorful and delectable things I’ve ever had the privilege of tasting!

4. Ice Cream at The Cherry Farm Creamery in Beverly

cherry farm creamery It’s delicious, it’s local, and it’s the perfect creamy, decadent treat for a hot summer night. Or afternoon. Or morning.

5. Cake from D’Amici’s in Lynn

Cake from D'Amici   My sister buys birthday cakes here whenever the opportunity arises (and with a rotating door of 5 children in your home, the opportunity arises with happy frequency!). I can honestly say that their cake is awesome, but MORE importantly, the frosting is PHENOMENAL.

6. Tortelloni di Zucca at Chianti in Beverly

This is the only item on this list that is unaccompanied by a photo. . . probably because I usually am FAR more focused on eating it than playing food paparazzi. I wish I could truly and fully describe to you how delectable this dish is.  It is homemade pumpkin tortelloni is served with bits of diced pear and caramelized nuts in a creamy  Gorgonzola sauce. It can be yours for a mere 16 dollars and it’s worth every penny.

7. Barbecue Chicken Pizza &Key Lime Pie Martinis from Soma in Beverly

Soma   These are my stand-by favorites any time I get the chance to go out, particularly when I’m craving barbecue chicken pizza goodness. Top it off with a key lime pie martini (rimmed with graham cracker crumbs!) and you’ve got the best quality comfort food you could ever ask for.

8. Decadent Lemon Blueberry Mascarpone Cake from Jaho’s in Salem

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Jaho’s coffee shop in Salem is a wonderful spot. They have an unbelievable array of teas, drool-worthy gelato,  some incredible pastries (including the cake, which I adore) AND free wi-fi. It’s the perfect spot – lovely for relaxing, meeting up with a friend, studying, or even just grabbing something yummy to eat.

9. Pastries, Bread, and Coffee at A& J King Artisan Bakery in Salem

A and J King

This small artisan bakery is tucked into a little corner of Salem, MA, and it has the most incredible breads and pastries you will find outside of France. It is definitely 100% on par with the best I tasted in the year I lived there!

10. Chocolate Orgasms from Rosie’s Bakery in Cambridge (or Chestnut Hill!)

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My sister brought me this as a thank-you after I babysat for her. It was out of control delectable.

11. A quite-nice Chicken Kabob Salad . . . but INSANELY amazing PITAS from North Beverly Roast Beef in North Beverly

chix kabob salad - north bevs

I kind of already explained it in the title, but let me just explain. . . the salad is good and all, but the PITA BREAD. It is insanely good. They make it fresh and you can see the puffy pillows of pita cooling on the counter right before they get cut and served to you FRESH. They are divine. I always order an extra.

12. The Cinnabun Pancake from The 17 State Street Diner in Newburyport

17 Street Diner Cinnabun Pancake

I recently tried this delicious magical pancake for the first time. It is simultaneously both the most fluffy and the most delicious warm  breakfast treat you will ever taste. I don’t even usually like cinnamon, actually, and it is still the best pancake I could ever conceive of.

 

[Salad] Bar NOTHING

Summer meals are sometimes less-than-appealing to plan . . . particularly if it happens to be on the hotter side. SO, I just thought I would remind you of an option that you may have written off!

salad bar optionlettuce image via

 
That’s right. Now, salad sometimes sounds less-than-appealing. I mean, salad can just be so blaaaand, right?

WRONG.

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Salad is only boring if you lack imagination, friends. The spread above is the delightful smorgasbord of salad accoutrements that I recently enjoyed with friends.

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A few things you might enjoy on a good salad:

  • avocado
  • sweet corn
  • chives
  • peppers of all colors (pan-seared for some extra deliciousness)
  • chick peas (baked, if you want that extra little crunch!)
  • bacon
  • kale chips
  • sunflower seeds
  • pine nuts
  • sugar snap peas
  • mushrooms (sautéed is better)
  • dried cranberries
  • olives (unless you’re me)
  • basil
  • snow peas
  • tomatoes
  • beans (black beans, kidney beans . . . )
  • cucumbers
  • radishes, if you’re into that kind of thing
  • strawberries
  • onions (might I suggest shallots?)
  • cheddar cheese cubes
  • carrot shavings
  • hard boiled eggs
  • croutons (homemade are delicious, if you can manage it!)
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • peach slices
  • apple slices
  • wheat berries
  • broccoli florettes
  • slivered or sliced almonds
  • candied pecans (or walnuts)
  • beats (I bake them and cut them into chunks)
  • orange slices
  • feta cheese

Anything I forgot?

 

 

Color-by-Conjugation

Let’s face it . . . conjugating verbs is nobody’s first choice activity.

One of my students lets me know exactly how he feels about conjugation, choosing the verb "vomir" (to vomit) every time I give the class the option of selecting their own verb for a conjugation . . .
One of my students lets me know exactly how he feels about conjugation, choosing the verb “vomir” (to vomit) every time I give the class the option of selecting their own verb for a conjugation . . .

As a French teacher, I am always trying to think of new ways to get my students more familiar with verb conjugations. The traditional worksheet tends to be less-than-scintillating, and at this time of the year I find that students have a low threshold of tolerance for tedious activities of any kind. SO, inspired by the traditional concept of color-by-number art . . . and by the awesomeness of conjugart (which blends conjugation and art quite impressively!), I have made a present-tense review color-by-conjugation worksheet. It covers regular ER and IR verbs, as well as the verbs I like to call the “fab four” (être, avoir, aller, and faire – four insanely useful and common, yet highly irregular, French verbs). If it looks useful, I’m including the two links to download it below (one is for the key/cover page, and the other is for the coloring page!)

thumbnail - color by conjugation - free download

 

Instructions Page – Color Conjugations

French Present Tense Color by Conjugations

Because who doesn’t like coloring???

Not So Happy. . .

My nieces and nephews are an endless source of delight. . . and also ridiculously fickle water-works.

Anybody who spends time with kids aged four-and-under probably knows exactly what I mean. As easily as they are delighted, they are enraged and as much as they enjoy life, they also become frustrated by it on a very regular basis! SO, as near-constant paparazzi to four of the coolest kids I know, I have gathered my fair share of upset-kiddo footage alongside the happier moments I usually share. Just to keep things in perspective,I am sharing some of those more . . . dramatic moments.

Keep in mind that no children were actually in pain or hurt during the filming of footage used for the following montage. Their reasons for crying are listed at the end of the video, for those of you who are interested.

Also, I obviously make no claims to the music (Happy, by Pharrell Williams) that accompanies this video – all rights and such remain with the original artist.

I might be a horrible person, but I think I’m hilarious.

Baklava-lovah!

I just made Baklava for the first time!

What is baklava, you ask? Well,Google give us this handy definition:

baklava defined

 

OR, you could just look at this beautiful visual straight from my very own kitchen!

baklava - cooking

I used the Pioneer Woman recipe, because, after reading her book, I decided that she is a kindred spirit and that I just absolutely love her. Her recipe for Baklava is fairly simple and straightforward. The only thing I might change about the directions would be to melt the butter, or at least let it get very very soft, before putting it on the uncooked/layered Phyllo dough. If you don’t do this,  the thin sheets of dough will tear. This might seem like common sense, but (embarrassingly enough) some of us could still use the directive. I might also put a flashing warning sign above the recipe regarding the RIDICULOUS amount of sugar/calories these bad-boys have . . . I mean, let’s just say that you wind up mixing butter and sugar with TWO CUPS of honey at one point. So, maybe don’t eat this if you’re diabetic. Health-factors aside, however, the Baklava was delicious and a smash hit with the crew who requested it!

Baklava

 

Springtime Magic: Photo Proof

Sometimes the stars collide and I manage to snap a photo at the right moment to show exactly what I am seeing and the magic of this beautiful changeable season that is Spring as it surfaces around me in New England! These are a few of those moments from the past few weeks . . . for your viewing pleasure!

the long-lasting bubble

This bubble last for whole minutes on the grass at Lynch Park!

rain rain

The rain became an impressionist painting through my windshield.

frosting sand

The sand on Wingaersheek Beach looks like frosting.

cloudburst

Even the overcast sky shines with new dimension.

a perfect day

An absolutely idyllic day at Wingaersheek Beach.

watermelon love

A surprisingly hidden and beautifully  revealed symbol of love from my watermelon.

Free Printable: Candyland Madlibs!

candyland mad libs

Every year, as part of the annual school dance preparations, we include the making of Mad-libs. . . after including these as part of the table decor a few years ago, they were met with such positive feedback that we’ve included them ever since! Functioning as a fun ice-breaker and a laughter-filled prelude to dancing, were can you go wrong? (Well, I mean, they are mad libs . . . they tend to go gloriously wrong.) Finding theme-specific mad libs, however, can be something of a challenge. Thus, I have undertaken the writing of original mad libs from time to time, and our recent Candyland Prom was no exception. If you would like to download and use a PDF of my two Candy Land Themed Mad-Libs for use at your own sweet event, feel free to click the pink link and do so with my blessing! Also, if you want to make changes to anything or use the candy-stripe font I used on anything else (for uniformity’s sake), you can find the font available as a free download here.

If you would like to follow our example and transform these mad-libs into part of your decor by making them look like large-scale Candyland game-cards, check out the picture and explanation below for some inspiration!

madlibs - on the tables

We printed the mad-libs on cream-colored stock paper (they are formatted tw0-to-a-page) and then used a paper cutter to make uniform 3.5-inch squares of tissue paper in the requisite colors to adhere to the backs of the mad-libs (using either double-sided tape or glue sticks, depending on availability!).mad libs - game cardsTo keep with the colorful theme, I bought the brightest mechanical pencils I could find at Target (which, incidentally, is also where I purchased the polka-dotted paper cups to hold the pencils). I also bought small fake lollipops from Etsy vendor Twisted Lolly Boutique and hot-glued them to some of the pencils for an added candyland-accent!

DIY Tutorial: Tulle Puff Wands

Every year, a few times a year, I am faced with the question of centerpieces.

puffs in a row

Cut flowers are pretty and generally okay, I guess . . . but they tend to be expensive, not to mention difficult to transport, oftentimes fragile and, in the long run they’re inconvenient. They cannot be prepped very far in advance, but they also don’t last long past the date of the event – rendering them VERY high maintenance for the limited time they’re used. THUS, over the 4+ years of event aesthetics-coordination I’ve undertaken at work, I have continued to seek out new and innovative centerpieces. For example, one year, we had fish as centerpieces. Now, even though there were 15 VERY delighted new-fish families  afterward the event ended, I would probably never do that again just because of the sheer logistical headaches it caused. 15 mini-fish-bowls and gallons of water later, I decided that I should go more towards practical instead of interesting in the future. As a result, over the years, we’ve wound up doing some very fun pieces, including candy-jars, silver leaf branches and several others. This year,  with an impending Candyland themed prom, I thought I would share the latest innovations in centerpiece decor in the form of a tutorial.

Heading - DIY puff tutorial

 Step 1 – start with the raw materials. You will need:

Raw Materials

Step 2 – Measure and Snip

Cut 5-6 foot strips of the tulle/gauze ribbon- each strip will make one “flower” or puff, so plan accordingly. I found that 7 of them filled a typical vase nicely!

Step 1

Step 3 – Fold ‘n Roll

This step is a little self-explanatory. I eye-balled about 5-6 inch folds in the ribbon. If it helps your measurement sensibilities, wrap the tulle around a book which you can then slide it off of. At the end of the fold ‘n roll stage, you should have a loose-yet-neat little coil (pictured below on the right).

step 2 - tulle rolling

Step 4 – Sew

Once you have your little packet of tulle, sew straight across the middle , effectively making the piece bow-shaped. I sewed from the middle out, just to make sure it was a reinforced and tight cinch in the middle.

step 3 - sewing through the middle

Step 5 – Peel Back the Layers

At this point, you just take the bow-like creations that came from Step 4 and shape them, peeling them out layer by layer so that the tulle gains some shape and starts to resemble a blossom.

tulle puffs26

Step 6 – Hot Glue!

There is no picture for this part, because I had my hands a bit full. First I hot-glued two paper straws together for each “stem”. I put the hot glue directly into one end of a straw, and then took the second straw and creased it so that it would fit easily into the other straw, attaching them where I had just put the hot glue. That done, I dabbed hot glue onto the base of each tulle puff and held the straw-stem in place for a moment while it began to set.

Step 7 –  Finishing Touches!

Remove any loose glue-strings and arrange the stemmed tulle puffs as desired in your vase of choice. Then, step back and survey your handiwork. They are like a miniature garden of hothouse Truffula Trees!
tulle puffs!!!

They are so colorful and bright!!!