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6/10/16

143: weekend to-do's




li:

  1. celebrate a bright debut. yaa gyasi will be reading from her first novel, homegoing at harvard book store tonight. her book traces the history of two half sisters over the course of 3 centuries - from an african village to modern-day san franciso. homegoing has been described as "a blazing success" and "the most important book of the summer". i can't wait to meet the author and hear the passages read in her voice.
  2. get (slightly) out of town. sometimes heading just a short distance outside of the city can provide a much needed new perspective. i have an event to attend in concord this weekend and plan to visit all of my favorite stops in that neighborhood - the old manse, walden pond and the decordova sculpture park and museum will make for the perfect new england afternoon.

liz:
  1. laugh it up. local comedian xazmin garza is performing a set at the comedy studio in harvard square tonight. there's nothing better than a cocktail and some good laughs on a friday night.
  2. brunch it up. i owe a good friend a birthday brunch so we're heading to s+s in inman square for some bellinis and hearty french toast. this place has been running since 1919 so they have their brunch game down to a science. it's not the hippest place but i've never had to wait and their parisian french toast is amazing.
  3. sammy time. rumor has it blackbird donuts in the south end is offering a new donut ice cream sandwich on the menu for the summer. i love a good donut but these guys do it better than almost any place i know. be sure to grab one of these treats before the end of the season!

6/8/16

142: june playlist

this month's playlist is a collection of songs to get you into the summer mood. it is the perfect soundtrack for a car ride with all the windows down, sunglasses on and the wind in your hair:




6/1/16

141. all-natural lip balm

now that the weather is finally warming up, we'll be spending a lot more time outdoors. your lips will thank you for a little extra protection while you're enjoying some fun in the sun. this simple, all-natural balm will keep your lips healthy and nourished. it's perfect all on it's own but can easily be transformed with a subtle tint.



all-natural lip balm:

1 teaspoon unrefined cocoa butter
1 teaspoon raw shea butter
1 teaspoon unrefined coconut oil
1 teaspoon jojoba oil
1 teaspoon beeswax
1 teaspoon honey
6 drops of essential oil (we used a combination of cardamom and sweet orange)

optional:
1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
1 teaspoon of a natural tint (we used a combination of powdered beetroot and unsweetened cocoa powder. powdered hibiscus and powdered alkanet root also work beautifully)

if you are tinting your lip balm, combine the vegetable glycerin and powdered color in a double boiler. stir until fully combined. set aside.

using a double boiler again, melt the cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil, beeswax and honey. stir constantly until fully blended. pour mixture into small jars or containers (this recipe should be enough for two).




now is the time you will want to add the color if you are making a tinted lip balm. the mixture will cool quickly, so you will need to move fast! pour the color into the mixture and stir vigorously util evenly combined.


before the mixture hardens, add your essential oils for to flavor it. once it cools completely, you are ready to to get your balm on!





5/20/16

140. weekend to-do's



li:

  1. get growing. the time has finally come to fill my yard and back deck with plants to enjoy through the warmer months. ricky's flower market in union square is my annual go-to for it's huge selection of healthy flowers and herbs.
  2. unplug. now that i've got my outdoor oasis ready, i plan to make the most of it this weekend - iced tea and book in hand. i'm really looking forward to my first delivery from the new and improved book of the month club. each month they ask a panel of judges to recommend a book to members. it's a great way to hear about works and authors that may have otherwise been overlooked.

liz:
  1. outdoor music. saturday, i'll be bouncing around somerville watching bands play live music for porchfest. just as the name suggests, local bands play their music from the comfort of a porch. this is one of my favorite spring activities because it marks the time in the season where outdoor venues are back in! i love good music outside while enjoying a refreshing breeze. i would suggest mapping out a few artists you would like to see. there are so many to choose from this year!
  2. joy ride. i just got a new bike and can't wait to take it out for a spin on saturday while the weather is still nice. the minute man national historic park has a beautiful, secluded set of trails that will keep me busy for an afternoon.
  3. spring + summer edits. it's that time again where the change of season is upon us and i am editing my closet for this season's wardrobe capsule. i'll be incorporating some principles from the french 5 concept and using planning tools from two of my favorite blogs: unfancy + into mind.

5/18/16

139. travelogue: san francisco



this past week i made the journey to san francisco, ca with one of my dearest friends. siu and i have been best friends for 20 years but have never traveled together before now. as it turns out, she is a great travel buddy and is one of my favorite people to travel with! 

we spent the week drinking amazing coffee every day, exploring the majestic red wood forest, eating taro root dumplings and standing under the awe-inspiring golden gate. there were so many moments and places that i loved about this trip but here is a short list of my top picks:


this historic fort is situated directly underneath the golden gate bridge. make sure to stop here before you make your way across the bridge because it will give you a unique and new perspective of this iconic bridge. definitely bring a few extra layers because it is windy!!

 

this restaurant serves american family style dishes like a tasting menu. this relatively new dinner spot is run by the same team as the well-known state bird provisions and is well worth the splurge. dinner in the dining room (as opposed to the bar) can run $60 and up per person at minimum however, it is delicious from start to finish. make sure to try the black cod toast, the grilled spring asparagus and lamb shank-flat noodle stir fry.

once a thriving salt water playground, the sutro baths now sit in ruins on the west side of the city. the structure was built in 1896 and operated until 1966 when the building burned to the ground. in it's heyday, there were multiple salt water pools and a fresh water pool for swimming. now all that is left standing are concrete walls, crumbling staircases and a tunnel carved into the side of the cliff on the coast. it's interesting to see how peaceful this once booming site has become. not to mention, the backdrop for photographs is breathtaking.


these two nature filled gems are located in the middle of golden gate park. it is incredible how extensive and well maintained the collection of worldly plants in both park areas are. after two hours of walking amongst gigantic ferns and thousands of succulents in the botanical garden, i was completely enamored with this spot. for those of you who know me, you know how much i love a good fern. these two sites are best visited on two different days if you are a serious nature lover and need time to appreciate them fully. admission is free for the botanical gardens on tuesdays and free for the japanese tea garden on wednesday mornings before 10:00 am!



last but not least, the coffee scene in san francisco is on point. siu and i visited a new coffee spot every day but my favorite was the mill in alamo square. not only is the coffee fantastic, their breakfast toast is worth the trip alone. the interior has a clean, airy and organic quality to it which makes for a nice morning breakfast date. menu items change seasonally but if they are offering the salmon and herbed cream cheese toast while you are there, grab it.




p.s. thank you to siu for capturing a few photographs of me on this incredible trip. great eye!


5/11/16

138. profile: the craic & blonde

the first thing you notice when meeting the craic & blonde's founder, blonde beauchamp, is her mega-watt smile - it's infectious. and it seems to resonate even more when she's discussing her enthusiasm for her haitian culture and it's vibrant cuisine. this cuisine is beautifully exemplified by her pikliz, [pronounced pick-lese], a traditional condiment of pickled vegetables and spicy habanero peppers. we recently met up with blonde for some shopping, eating, and a lively discussion about inspiration:


what are some unexpected everyday sources of inspiration? 
i actually get a lot of inspiration from our innovation ecosystem here in boston, which is currently densely populated with tech and biotech startups. what i love about this scene is the collaboration. the food startup community is finally being pulled into the innovation conversation and vibe, but there's still progress to be made in closing many gaps, i continue to draw from entrepreneurs who are breaking grounds in their respective fields, none of which are food.

what is your favorite time of day to create? 
i'm all over the place when it comes to a rhythm! also, i hate, strongly hate, purses, so if i can get away with not carrying one, i will. my essential items are always cell, id, credit card, chapstick + hair elastic... which means my notes app has become my journal. sometimes properly sketching out a creative idea is ideal, but if all i have is my iphone, i will certainly use descriptive writing to illustrate an abstract idea. that also forces me to take action on the idea the same night or the following morning so that i don't lose the essence of the creative process. sometimes an idea is absolutely absurd, but i rarely toss any one out. i file it away until i figure out how to activate it or have the guts or senses to trash it.

favorite or most inspirational place? 
i can spend hours in thought on any oceanfront, riverside or really swanky, noisy cafe. my favorite combo: bad hair + rainy day = carefree stroll along a waterside. if the hair's already a wreck, i have nothing to lose, right? it feels a bit weird to say those are some of my most freeing and inspirational moments, but they are and so i cherish bad hair... on rainy days!

has food and cooking always been an important part of your life? 
yes, my love for food, both eating and cooking it, include exploring the kitchen, food ingredients, restaurants, and even people as they cook. my earliest memories are of my mum and her friends just dancing from countertop, to stove, to sink, and back again. it's like their hips swayed with every side movement along the cooking process. even that memory is making me smile. i've always loved how the body moves in the kitchen - it's so graceful, full of passion, consideration, as well as impulsivity. our house was always busy with many visitors; and of course everyone congregated in the kitchen. i remember a family friend scrubbing down the kitchen dinner table in preparation of something glorious... after intense labor grating fresh coconuts, squeezing out the milk, and making caramel in a large aluminum pot big enough to fit a baby pig, and then mixing in the freshly grated coconut, she would pour the gooey mixture onto the glistening dinner table to cool down before cutting into bite sized portions. but of course this piping-hot-delicious tabletop snack beckoned my sister and i to grab a spoon and scoop up chewy morsels of dous kokoye - a haitian caramel coconut candy. when my sister reads this, guaranteed, a sweet smile will beam across her face.

i can ramble on through my favorite food memories; bottom line is food and cooking form my best love language.

your pikliz is such a wonderful way to celebrate your haitian heritage. was there an a-ha moment when you realized that you needed to share it with a wider group of people? 
yes indeed... i've always been proud of my haitian culture and love sharing it with others; and what better way to do that than through food?! but i was jolted into starting the craic & blonde while i was living in ireland and sharing some of my favorite cultural dishes with friends. i was really surprised by the positive responses from my irish friends. my flatmate, rose, was particularly encouraging as i had the most opportunities to share dinners with her, and her only complaint was that i wasn't commercializing my food!

clearly your time spent living in ireland was an important component to the craic & blonde's inception. how were your pickliz and other haitian inspired dishes received there? 
well, "craic", pronounced crack, is an irish word denoting "fun". every experience in sharing my haitian culture with friends was great craic!

you include some incredibly delicious-sounding recipes on your website. what is your favorite way to serve your pikliz?
ever since my family starting putting pikliz on hot dogs and burgers, we haven't been able to enjoy a cookout without pikliz on the table. pikliz is incredible on grilled meats and sandwiches. however, i really do enjoy it on almost every meal; a quick breakfast like hard boiled eggs turns into something really special... i quarter my eggs, add some salt and black pepper and then sprinkle the vinegar and pikliz on top; with a few slices of buttered toast, this is a perfect breakfast!

how do you see the craic & blonde growing and expanding? 
for starters, i am contemplating changing the brand name to something that resonates more with haiti. i love that my inspiration came from ireland and that place will always be like home to me. but as the business grows with more products and recognition, i'll need to pivot a bit. other than brand name, i'll be adding more products, which will always provide my customers with an authentic haitian experience; that's the heart of my business.

what is the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given? 
feedback i often receive is to get my personality more involved in my business brand. i'm definitely a great example of being my own worst critic and enemy. so it's not always easy taking and applying that feedback. i'm being vulnerable by sharing all of this, but i'm also aware that in order for my business to grow, i need to as well. and for me, that's spelled out in how much i embrace who i am and celebrate it without apology. i guess sharing this here and now will hold me accountable to making the necessary changes in how i communicate my business.

what is the best piece of creative advice you have to give? 
same one i'm taking for myself: be yourself!!! you were created unlike any other. use that to your advantage. if you don't know yourself, ask your parents/family/close friends what you gravitated towards as a child; how you reacted to different genres of music; how you responded to strangers or how you responded to stress, etc... those are indicators of your innate strengths and desires. start playing with them and see how you feel. if you feel "alive", then you've probably discovered your strength and/or passion. pull that into your creative expressions and keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zones.


in addition to the website, you can purchase the craic & blonde's pikliz locally at sienna farms, formaggio kitchen south end and commonwealth cambridge among others.

many thanks to sienna farms for allowing us to photograph their beautiful shop at the boston public market.






5/6/16

137. weekend to-do's


li:
  1. cut back on the chaos. i love reading books about decluttering and productivity - there is something meditative about re-examining how you organize your space and your life. i am so happy to have stumbled upon fay wolf's book new order: a decluttering handbook for creative folks (and everyone else). she offers great tips on streamlining while also embracing imperfection. can't wait to incorporate her process into my spring cleaning routine!
  2. rainy weekend retrospective. looks like we're in for more gloomy weather this weekend, making for a great excuse to go to the movies. the harvard film archive is presenting a near-complete retrospective on the groundbreaking work of filmmaker chick strand. strand was a pioneer in blending documentary, avant-garde and ethnographic techniques.
  3. ps. james blake dropped a new album today!

liz:
  1. san francisco here i come! i'm jumping on a plane to head west for a much needed vacation. my best friend from high school and i are taking the week to hike muir woods, explore the delicious cuisine and reconnect with each other. stay tuned for my travelogue!

5/3/16

136. may playlist


the time has come to start taking advantage of the spring weather with some outdoor entertaining. this warm and eclectic mix is the perfect soundtrack for a sunny afternoon get together:





4/29/16

135. weekend to-do's







li:
  1. linen love. i can't wait to stock up on some summer basics now that everlane has released their new linen line. i lived in their linen tanks and tees last summer and i'm so happy to see that they've added sweaters and dresses. not only is linen super comfortable, but it's one of the most sustainable textiles to produce, requiring only 8% of the energy needed to produce polyester!
  2. tasting tix. rosie's place and the urban grape are teaming up for a special wine tasting on may 24th. the event will feature a selection of wines crafted by talented female winemakers and all proceeds will benefit rosie's place's programs for poor and homeless women. tickets are on sale now!

liz:
  1. celebrate the makers! somerville open studios is happening this weekend. so many incredible local artists and makers are showing their creations. some of my must see artists are sarah wentworth and her incredible photography, rebecca scott's handmade jewelry, and mary lewey's playful collage work. don't miss this event!!
  2. more market time! the south end open market also starts this weekend. i can't wait to get my fill of delicious food and more artists' creations on sunday. what i am most excited about is that this officially marks spring in my mind. now let's hope the spring weather cooperates.
  3. keeping it classical. a good friend of mine is playing this sunday with the rivers symphony at jordan hall. i can't wait to hear them play cello concerto no. 1, opus 33 and of course, bizet's carmen suite no. 1.

4/22/16

134. weekend to-do's








li:
  1. celebrate in the city. i have some work travel this weekend that happens to coincide with my wedding anniversary. we're looking forward to having a mini-new york adventure to celebrate.
  2. winter is coming. but only on tv! all anniversary celebrations will come to a hard stop at 10pm when the season premier of game of thrones comes on. priorities...
liz:
  1. this little fig. i've been craving the greek yogurt and house made granola from three little figs recently. in light of the nice weather, i'll be sipping on some iced coffee at one of their adorable tables outside this saturday.
  2. show time. my band parks will be playing a show at great scott this saturday night. we're opening for night moves- a band i've been listening to a lot lately. also on the bill is local artist abadabad. should be a great time with tons of fun music.

4/19/16

133. april reading



excited to learn something new this month? we're focusing on non-fiction for april and reading about some amazing women.


lab girl by hope jahren
this is jahren's debut memoir. as a geobiologist, she has spent her life studying plants, soils, seeds and flowers. through moving prose, she invites the reader to share in her passion for plant life all the while providing moving anecdotes from her life as a woman in science.


journalist sara marcus was on the front lines of the riot girrrl scene in the early 90's. she uses her experience to provide a unique perspective on the stories of influential bands like bikini kill, bratmobile and sleater-kinney as well as their continued effects on culture and politics.


following up 2013's bestselling the body book, diaz and bark consulted experts in science, medicine and nutrition to provide this informative resource on the aging female body. this book eschews the superficial and provides practical information on what women should expect from the aging process and how we can stay strong and healthy.



4/15/16

132. weekend to-do's



li:
  1. dessert duty. we're meeting friends for dinner tonight and in-charge with bringing something sweet. on busy days when i don't have time to bake, mariposa in central square is my go-to for freshly baked treats.
  2. muppet madness. the brattle theater is featuring the work of jim henson's creature shop all weekend. muppets will be well-represented as well as other henson favorites like the dark crystal, the witches and labrynth.
  3. spring shoes. it finally feels like time to put away the boots and heavy winter shoes. i just got my new pair of nisolo's equador huarache sandals and can't wait wear them out in the sunshine.

liz:
  1. brunch love. going to check out what the tip tap room has to offer in the brunch department this weekend. their signature egg dish with shiitake mushrooms, brie and mushrooms is calling my name!
  2. wine love. now that i know the spring drink list for spoke, i will be testing them out. two of liana and my closest friends will be here this weekend and i can't wait to introduce them to this special restaurant.
  3. plan love. i am preparing for a trip to san francisco in may and would like to get some ideas in order. the thrillist has a great bucket list of to-do's so i'm going to start there for some research. suggestions from you guys are more than welcome too!!

4/14/16

131. spring cocktails and wine at spoke





our idea of a perfect spring evening is sitting on a patio with something fresh and festive to drink. one of our favorite places to do this is at spoke in davis square. we are so excited to welcome spoke's liz mann to introduce us to some of her favorite selections from their spring cocktail and wine lists. she's even sharing a few of her recipes!


the cocktails

when it's time to change the cocktail list at spoke, the bar team collaborates to curate a thoughtful and dynamic selection for the season. we have three categories on our cocktail page: classics, modern, and proprietary. we also have a dessert cocktail section. classics are where we can geek out over old, sometimes pre-prohibition creations from the annals of cocktail history. for inspiration in this section i sort through my vintage cocktail book collection. i am a bibliophile and amateur antiquarian book collector. combining my love for books and love for cocktails, i have combed through dusty book shelves and the abyss of ebay to snatch up some incredible finds, such as stanley clisby arthur's famous new orleans drinks & how to mix 'em (1937) to esquire's handbook for hosts (1949).

this holds true when i try to name a drink. i love literature-inspired drinks. last season i was working on a drink called 'the little sister' after a raymond chandler novel. honestly, i was more interested in the name than i was impressed with the drink itself. we tweaked it a bit and came up with something delicious, but what to name it? how about the 'lizzie bennet', my friend suggested, inspired by my love for jane austen. perfect. the drink became the 'dear miss bennet'.


the modern section is generally reserved for our spins on classic drinks and homages to boston's renowned bartenders. in this section we chose to place my 'the inimitable jeeves' cocktail. this drink was inspired by a bramble, and is perfect for drinking in warmer weather. the bramble was created in london in the '80s as a refreshing gin-based drink calling for both fresh blackberries and blackberry liqueur. a bramble tends to be rather sweet, so we decided to add a little acidity to lighten it up. replacing the blackberry liqueur and muddled fruit, i made a blackberry basil shrub. this uses equal measurements of fruit, sugar and apple cider vinegar to create a long-lasting ingredient which bridges the strong herbaceous flavor of the old tom gin with the bitter floral notes of meletti amaro. topping off the drink with soda gives it a refreshing bubble and the perfect amount of dilution.

'the inimitable jeeves" is the name of a p.g. wodehouse novel. (because i am obsessed with literary-themed cocktails), and a good englishman likes his gin, and a good butler knows how to make a drink. i cannot wait to drink this outside on the patio - once we have shoveled off the snow, that is. could you see to that please, jeeves?


the inimitable jeeves
1 1/2 oz ransom old tom gin
1/2 meletti amaro
3/4 blackberry basil shrub
3/4 fresh squeezed lemon juice

mix ingredients and shake, pour over ice in a collins glass. top with soda.



for the proprietary section, i went with mezcal. i love working with mezcal. its flavors are strong, pungent, and even off-putting to many drinkers, which is why it is a challenging ingredient. but when it works, it really works. i really, really wanted to find a drink worthy of one of my favorite novels. the 'macondo' is named after the mythical town in gabriel garcia marquez's novel 100 years of solitude.

the mocondo
1oz vida mezcal
1oz old monk rum
1/2 oz campari
1/2 oz put e mes

stirred over ice, flamed lemon oil in the glass, then poured on top

the drink is dark red, smoky, spicy, bitter and dark, inspired by the tragic lives of the characters who live and die in marquez's labyrinthine story. i had the greatest thrill the other night when a guest saw the cocktail on the list, got the reference, and ordered it because he loved the novel!



the wines

leaning about the wines we choose, and natural wines in general is such an interesting and rewarding part of being here. we are a very small space, only 40 seats, and storage is limited as well. our wine list must be precise. a good rule of thumb - you have to love a wine for it to make it on the list. that is our primary focus; we give the guests what we love. what we love is natural wine made by thoughtful and hard-working winemakers. and if we are excited about the wines, the guests will be excited about trying them too!

one of my favorites, and a beautiful expression of terroir and natural winemaking is frank cornelissen's rose 'susucaru'.



cornelissen chose to grow his vineyards on the slopes of mount etna in sicily. he loves the way the volcanic soil can express itself through the indigenous varietals he cultivates - such as nerello mascalese, catarratto and coda di volpe. the wine is dark for a rose; almost more like a light red wine. the nerello mascalese really shines through, giving the wine a bold structure. on the bouquet there is crushed rose petal, fresh snapped peas and ripe peaches. the wine doesn't disappoint on the palate either. it is full of lively fruits and vines that linger and challenge you to think about what you're tasting. there is no yeast, chemicals or sulfites added to the wine. cornelissen's philosophy is to do as little as possible to the wines in order to let them naturally express the terroir, the varietals and the natural conditions. flavors are not adjusted or hidden, nothing added. what you see through the clear bottle is what you get.



be sure to visit liz at spoke this spring to try one (or all) of these incredibly special drinks. cheers!