Friday, April 18, 2014

Afternoon tea in Boston - Boston Public Library

The first time I ever had afternoon tea, with finger sandwiches and delicious pastries, was at the Courtyard Restaurant, at the Boston Public Library. I found out about it by accident: my parents were visiting and I took them to visit the most beautiful library room I have ever been to when we walked by the restaurant windows and saw people at tables with the cutest pastries on tiered trays. It was my birthday that week, so I thought "let's start celebrations right NOW!" ;)

The set up at the Courtyard is clean and modern, the room is beautiful and bright and service is really good. I can say that my first afternoon tea experience really impressed me and got me hooked on afternoon teas!

Now that I have been to a few other places, I can say that this one was not the best afternoon tea I ever had, but it is still pretty good. The food was good and it has advantage of being open during the week (Wednesdays through Fridays), when most other places are not serving tea. I would go back anytime!


Monday, April 14, 2014

Boston Neighborhoods: Beacon Hill

Today, Emily Mahlman is here to tell us a little about Beacon Hill, the most charming of all Boston neighborhoods! No matter which season of the year, Beacon Hill is always beautiful and has so many adorable little corners to be explored.

Greetings from Beacon Hill! I am the gal behind The Great Wide Open blog. Each week I try a new job or activity on the search for my next passion in life, and then I share the experience with you! Some of my adventures take place right in my neighborhood.

I moved to Beacon Hill just over year ago, and have loved every minute of it. While you have likely passed through the hood, you may now know its rich history. Beacon Hill, only one square mile big, is one of Boston’s oldest communities, and many noteworthy writers, in addition to me (just kidding), have called The Hill home, including Robert Frost and Sylvia Plath.

what to see
Spring is right around the corner (we hope), but winter, and all the snow it brought us, turns Beacon Hill into a photographer’s wonderland. Take a stroll up any street from Charles and enjoy the quaint, narrow blocks and alleyways made more picturesque by a light coating of snow. My favorite is Acorn Street.

Acorn Street in the winter

In the winter Boston Common is a great sledding spot, and in the summer Shakespeare takes center stage, along with a poignant celebration of Memorial Day. One of our nation's great urban parks, in my opinion, the Common also turns into an informal gathering place for area dog owners around 5:30 each day.

Boston Common

I’m a runner, and THE place to run in Boston is steps from Beacon Hill. While Storrow Drive is the formal border of Beacon Hill, residents claim the Charles River as our own. The Esplanade is great for walking, running, playground outings with the kiddos, plus rowing and sailing.

Charles River

where to eat
Both Charles and Cambridge Streets are lined with spots—small, large, elegant and holes in the wall—for you to eat and drink. Here are just a few of my favorites: The Paramount is easily identifiable by the line stretching down Charles Street made up of people waiting to get a table for brunch (if you don’t have time to wait, call in a take-out order and find a comfy bench in the Public Garden). One of the last Upper Crust is still open at just down Charles between Mt. Vernon and Chestnut. If you round Charles Street and head up Cambridge Street you pass Fin’s, which is solid sushi, but almost more importantly, it has the most genuinely nice staffs I have ever encountered. For all the carnivores out there, The Tip Tap Room, the brainchild of chef Brian Poe, opened at Cambridge and Temple Streets in 2012.  It has an extensive menu of exotic meats, and in warmer months, the garage door-style windows open for one of the only (nearly) alfresco dining experiences in Beacon Hill.

where to shop
Charles Street does not lack for antique shops, so if you are looking for a vintage treasure, you will be in heaven. Flat of the Hill has an extensive selection of home d├ęcor, accessories and jewelry. If you dashing to a friend’s house for cocktails, it’s the place to find that perfect hostess: gift, candles, cocktail napkins, cookbooks and more. If a bottle of wine is more to your taste, then head into Beacon Hill Wine and Spirits on the corner of Charles and Mt. Vernon streets. I’m a regular (don’t judge, their friendly and knowledgeable staff doesn’t) of this tiny gem. But don’t let the size fool you; they have an amazing selection of wine, liquor and bubbly, and experts to help you choose the perfect bottle.

NRO, North River Outfitters, has a adult, children and "sport" locations nestled on the corners of Charles and Revere Streets. I love basically everything they sell: Barbour, Lilly, Tory, just to name a few. Plus, the staff is super nice. They even let me work with them for a day to see what retail is like. Wish and Moxie have the brands of women’s clothes, shoes and accessories that you would expect to see in Beacon Hill, and they are great, but Holiday is my favorite boutique on the street. It features a more curated collection of eclectic designers (Lauren Moffatt, Bell) along with vintage pieces, and their own vintage-inspired line. If you go, ask for Damon, he is amazing!


I hope you check out some of my favorite spots the next time you are in my neighborhood, and let me know if you find your own hidden gems!

Thank you so much, Emily! I am definitely trying a few of these eating spots soon, can't wait for my first alfresco dinner of the year! ;)

For addresses and working hours, click on the names of restaurants and shops and check back soon for more insider's tips of Boston neighborhoods!

all images by Emily Mahlman

Friday, April 11, 2014

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Eyeshade DIY

eyeshade DIY

I have so much trouble falling and staying asleep, I consider myself an insomniac. It's sad, it's frustrating and it's tiring. But this year I decided that instead of taking a sleeping pill I would try some alternate treatments. Some of which are meditation, sleeping soundseating better and wearing a eyeshade every night.

eyeshade DIY

I had this really, really old eye mask that my dad got from an airline company when he traveled to China. And it was starting to fall apart. So, when I saw this tutorial, I thought it was easy enough for me to try it, and, if it worked, I would have a brand new eyeshade to help me fight insomnia.

eyeshade DIY

So, I took my sewing machine from the closet for the first time in a couple of years! I wanted to make a mask exactly like the one I already had, so I used some batting leftover and my own mask as  template, but the tutorial was really helpful.

eyeshade DIY

eyeshade DIY

eyeshade DIY

And after some trial and error, my eye mask was done!

eyeshade DIY

P.S.: I found this really good YouTube video teaching how to sew a blind stitch. It was really helpful!


Friday, April 4, 2014

Boston Neighborhoods: Fenway

The Red Sox home opener happens in a few hours, and to celebrate it, my friend Chelsea, blogger at bergen house and curator of the most amazing Etsy shop with the same name, is here today to share tips to enjoy Fenway as a local.

I was thrilled Ana asked me to share a little guide to the Fenway neighborhood. Ana and I connected as fellow Etsy sellers when we both were living in the South (me in Birmingham, AL and she in Atlanta, GA). Oddly enough, we both found out around the same time last year that we’d both be moving to Boston.

I’ve hardly lived here a year but will forever have a soft spot in my heart for this neighborhood. We were pretty thrilled we settled here (two blocks from Fenway Park) around the time last year when the Red Sox won their first World Series at home since 1918.

Queensberry Street

where to eat - I had to start with food.
Trattoria Toscana is a tiny but fantastic piece of Italy tucked away in Fenway. I urge you to give your North End taste buds a try here soon… you may not go back. We love it more every time we go; the service is personable and top-notch.

Ravioli at Trattoria Toscana

Citizen Public House & Oyster Bar is such a sexy place with spot-on cocktails and delicious seafood -- or if you’re up for it: a pig roast. It’s consistently excellent with a swanky ambiance.

Pimm's Coupe at the Oyster Bar

At the corner of Kilmarnock and Peterborough Street is Fenway’s Restaurant Row with Sushi, Thai, Persian, Greek, and Mexican (big El Pelon fan). There’s something for everyone here and lots of patio seating in the summer.

Neighborhoods Cafe is an adorable (but small) spot that serves up delicious crepes and George Howell coffee. It’s wonderful when it’s not busy -- which sadly means we try to avoid it on the weekends. Saturdays and Sundays we’re almost always found at Pavement Coffeehouse.

Neighborhoods Cafe

Other mentionables: BBQ at Sweet Cheeks, hamburgers at Tasty Burger, pre- or post-game food and drink at Baseball Tavern (their roof deck has views of Fenway Park), and the award-winning Eastern Standard.

what to see

Having The Museum of Fine Arts in our backyard is something I don’t take for granted. I’ve loved hopping over just to explore a wing or spend some time in their dark and calming Buddhist Temple Room. Tip: admission is by donation only after 4pm on Wednesdays. Otherwise, I can assure you it’s worth your afternoon and the $25 admission.

Outside the MFA

Don’t leave the MFA without stepping into the Tenshin-En Japanese Garden inspired by Zen temple gardens of 15-century Japan. Access is outside the museum and it’s open spring through early fall.

The Kelleher Rose Garden is easy to miss. It took me a couple months to stumble upon it, but nestled in Back Bay Fens (behind the MFA) is a rewarding walk through this circular courtyard to admire the bounty of roses.

Kelleher Rose Garden

Fenway Park is obviously a must see. Go for the Red Sox, the opposing team, the atmosphere, or just the history. One of my happiest moments was experiencing the Park and Yawkey Way two summers ago. The energy at Fenway is something else.

Yawkey Way

I can’t not mention The Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum. This statement from their website sums it up perfectly, “Visitors [...] are greeted by the visual splendor of the courtyard garden and surrounding galleries—a feast for the senses. The Museum was designed as a work of art in totality.” It is a three-story Venetian-style palace holding over three decades worth of art amassed by Isabella Stewart Gardner. Just go.

where to shop
While I love browsing our West Elm, if you’re looking for local boutiques I suggest you head to Newbury Street. It’s a short walk from Fenway and you’ll pass Pavement Coffeehouse on your way. Refuel with their Spanish Latte and you can thank me later.

Thank you, Chelsea! I'm glad some of these tips are already ticked off on my list, thanks to you, of course. I hope I get to see the roses this year!

For addresses and working hours, click on the names of restaurants and shops and check back soon for more insider's tips of Boston neighborhoods!

All images from Chelsea's Instagram feed.