Sunday, December 5, 2010

Safari #19: First Thursdays in The Hallway

The reasons to fall in love with Jamaica Plain (JP) keep growing.  A recent safari took me down Centre and South Streets for the monthly First Thursday event where local shops stay open past regular hours to welcome visitors with libations, hors d'oeuvres, and other goodies.

The Hallway Gallery (66a South Street) showcases the work of local fine artists offering a new rotation each month.  December features the works of Megan Hinton, Karen Kemp, Ben Silva, John Steck Jr, and Jonathan Stark.  The owner, Brent Refsland, an accomplished photographer, also includes his work as well.

If you have a chance, stop by to visit this month or wait until January for the next rotation of art.  While you're strolling, don't forget to stop in the other shops along the way.

Safari #18: Bizarre Bazaar

What do you call a collection of local artists selling their offbeat, unique, and handmade wares?  A Bizarre Bazaar.  Today marked 10th gathering of the Bizarre Bazaar at the Boston Center for the Arts.  Since it's inception in 2001, the bazaar has sprouted roots in other cities across the U.S. including Cleveland (my hometown), San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Below, I've listed a few of my favorites, but be sure to check the website to learn more about the other vendors.

Taylor Ceramics - Cara Taylor's beautiful ceramics offer a simple sophistication that reminded me of the mid-century work of Eva Zeisel.  The porcelain planter is on my list of must-haves, and I know my amaryllis would love it too.

AB Cowls - Amy Beth makes cozy cowlneck scarves and scarflettes.  I've had my eye on a mustard yellow cowl for weeks and was thrilled to find one perfect for me.

DanMade - Dan makes cartoon and fantasy inspired ceramics - great for small and big kids alike.

Maxine in Trousers - Nothing tops off a vintage look better than a period hat or fascinator.  After trying on a few pieces, my plan for dressing up on New Year's Eve cemented itself.

Image Credits
Aqua Fascinator image obtained from the vendor's Etsy website (  Item is no longer available.
Porcelain Planter image obtained from the vendor's Etsy website (

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Safari Style #3: Cratchit!

Ebeneezer Scrooge didn't have it all together, but he did have one thing right: saving money is a good thing.  If you're looking to save a little money this holiday season and give something unique, try the following local shops (and grab something nice for yourself too):

Lola's Urban Vintage (187 Harvard Ave) - A little store that packs a big punch with period jewelry, hats, and fascinators.  If someone on your shopping list loves unique vintage, this shop is not to miss.

Buffalo Exchange (180 Harvard Ave) - Pat yourself on the shoulder, because I blinked too.  Yes, Buffalo Exchange has opened an Allston location.  While not as big as the Davis Square location, this is still a great stop for holiday consignment shopping.  Within minutes of entering the store, I scored a new pair of dark gray Chuck Taylors for $16 (applause).

Roslindale Village
Regeneration (20 Birch Street) - located in the lovely Roslindale Village, Regeneration offers both vintage and new clothing.  If you're looking for unique outerwear, this place has it.  The shop also has great novelty items - perfect for the stylish geek.  Parking is free and conveniently located right in front of the shop.

Jamaica Plain
Dame (68 South Street) - Shop in Betty, Joan, and Peggy's closet.  Find a dress perfect for any holiday party or celebratory night out with someone special.  Dame is chic at a great price. 

Image credits:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Safari #17: Getting Crafty

Lately, I've been wanting to get back in touch with my crafty side.  The drawback?  Supplies and workspace.  Enter Grey's Fabric and Notions (450 Harrison Ave) located at the SOWA market in the South End offering inspired, beautiful fabrics and a gorgeous storefront.

On Thursday nights from 6 to 9pm, Sarah, the shop's owner, holds sewing classes that are appropriate for beginners (and those who haven't sewn in awhile, ahem, ahem).  In addition to sewing lessons, Sarah offers a great selection of fabrics and pattern books.  If you don't have fabric, you can easily purchase some before class - just as I did.

After a three hour class, including sewing basics and stitching lessons, I (and my trusty machine, Millicent) created a lovely, reusable, tote bag perfect for small grocery shopping.

Check out Grey's Facebook page for contact information and the class schedule.


  • Be fearless and have fun!  It's ok to make mistakes.  Focus on learning as much as you can and enjoy what you make.  
  • Practice.  Grey's offers open sewing hours during the week.  Stop in and practice your stitches! Be sure to contact the shop for details.
  • Feel like driving?  Go ahead.  Parking is free at SOWA.  

*Grey's Fabric and Notions logo from the shop's Facebook page.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Safari #16: Get Out, Give Back

There is only one thing at the top of my list this holiday season: getting out and giving back.  Fellow safari travelers, with this posting,  I hope to encourage you to do the same.  If you're not sure how, here's one idea to get you started.

The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) is the largest food bank facility in New England.  It acts largely as a processing and distribution center where donated food is sorted, boxed, and shipped for delivery to local soup kitchens, community centers, and religious organizations.  As a volunteer, you can work within the main distribution center sorting and packing food.  Shifts occur daily in the morning (9:30 to 12:00pm) and afternoon (1 to 3:30pm).

Before your shift, GBFB employees will provide you with all of the training that you need to handle and sort a wide range of non-perishable foods.  Training lasts about 15 to 20 minutes.  Charts and how-to sheets are also placed throughout the facility to assist you.

Last Saturday, I volunteered with 67 others and enjoyed every minute of it. In the short amount of time that we volunteered, my group sorted 4,869 pounds of food making a total of 3,752 meals possible for those in need.  The sad part is that we could have done much more.  Our shift ended 45 minutes early because we ran out of food.

If you're interested in helping the GBFB this holiday season (or at any other time), here's how:
  • Donate Food.  Using the GBFB's Virtual Food Drive tool, you can purchase food at wholesale price for donation directly into the bank.  You can also bring boxes of food directly Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4pm.  Be sure to contact the Food Donations Manager to arrange a drop-off time.
  • Donate a Turkey.  During the holiday season, the FoodBank provides thousands of turkeys to shelters and soup kitchens in the community.  Turkey's are only $13.
  • Volunteer.  All you need to do is complete a volunteer registration form, and you're ready to go.
**Please watch for additional posts this holiday season to help you find ways to do more.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Safari #15: Sam Adams Brewery

You'd be hard pressed to find a Bostonian who dislikes beer - and this one has grown to love it.  One of the most popular brews in town is Sam Adams, and over this past weekend (with visiting guests in tow), I had a chance to visit the brewery in Jamaica Plain (JP).

Home brewers and beer connoisseurs alike will appreciate the informational nature of the tour which gives you a full picture of the brewing process.  For a special olfactory experience, hops are passed around the room for rubbing between your hands.  The aroma gives you a better appreciation of the high-quality ingredients Sam's uses for brewing. 

The JP location focuses largely on tours and brewing smaller craft beers, including the once yearly Utopias brew which contains anywhere from 24 to 27% alcohol by volume.  Other U.S. locations focus on brewing large quantities of the top sellers including the Boston Lager and seasonal brews.

The tour ends in the tasting room where three types of beer are offered.  Guests first get to sample the Boston Lager, Sam's flagship brew.  Second comes the seasonal selection, which in our case was the Octoberfest.  Last, we sampled a craft selection called the George Washington Porter, which is not sold in stores. 

If you're new to Boston and haven't had a Boston Lager, there's no better way to try it than at the source.  The sampling glasses given at the tasting are complimentary and yours to take home after the tour.

  • Go on a Weekday.  Weekend tours fill up quickly.  We showed up just before noon on Friday and made it right into the noon tour.
  • Stop by Doyle's Cafe.  Doyle's was the first bar to serve the Boston Lager on tap and a tour bus (with a fun and knowledgeable guide) will take you there for a meal - and special deal.  For $4.50, you can purchase a pint of beer served in Sam Adams glassware to take home (1 per guest).  The bus runs every 15 to 20 minutes to take you back to the brewery.
  • Drink the Irish Red. All proceeds from this beer help to support local entrepreneurs find capital to open their own businesses.  A great way to support the local economy!
  • Give the suggested donation.  The suggested donation for the brewery tour is $2.  Sam Adams uses these funds to support to local charities.  To learn more, visit the Sam Adams website.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Safari #14: Never Judge a Book by Its Cover

Guilty as charged.  I've passed the Boston Public Library (BPL) in Copley Square more times that I'd like to admit.  As a buyer rather than borrower of books, I didn't think that the library had much more to offer outside of books and research materials.  After a recent visit, I learned how wrong I was. 

We Bostonians should be proud to know that our library was the first free, municipal, public library in the United States (say that to yourself a couple of times).  Pretty amazing.  With this spirit in mind, the library was painstakingly designed as a testament to spirit of learning and the appreciation of the arts.  The best way to learn about the library is to take a free, one hour guided tour, which focuses on its history, architecture, and art - of which there is alot.

Not to Miss
If you don't have time to take a guided tour, make sure to stop by and see the following sights:

The Entrance Stairway.  From the murals and fixtures to the and visually appealing marble, the entrance stairway is stunning.  When facing the stairwell, head towards the lion on the left side. Don't forget to rub its tail for luck.
John Singer Sargent Gallery (3rd Floor).  Known largely for his portrait and landscape paintings, Sargent is less known as a muralist.  When library architect Charles McKim asked if he would paint the third floor gallery, Sargent jumped at the chance.  It took him 26 years to paint the gallery, and sadly, he died before being able to finish it (a blank mural represents this).  The gallery art was recently restored, so this is a great time to visit and view the refreshed pieces.

The Courtyard.  If you're walking from the Johnson Building (the location of the circulation desk), you'll have an unexpected surprise just before you reach the McKim Building.  The courtyard made my jaw drop.

Quick Tips:
  • Visit During the Day.  While I loved seeing the Courtyard lit up at night, it was difficult to see some of the artwork as the natural light in the galleries dimmed significantly.
  • Eat in the Courtyard.  Either bring your lunch or buy it at the library cafe and eat outside in the courtyard.  What a beautiful setting to enjoy lunch with a friend - or someone special.
  • See More Art.  The museum displays many historical pieces quite frequently in partnership with other organizations.  The current exhibit was of vintage travel posters.  The next installation will display vintage postcards from Boston in the 1920's.
  • Get a Library Card.  Why not? While you're at the library, get a library card from the Circulation Desk.  It took me about 5 minutes using my Driver's License.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Safari #13: One Bite at a Time

Did you ever think that eating chocolate could support the local economy, promote direct trade, and be environmentally conscious?  If you eat Taza Chocolate, it certainly can.

My latest safari took me on a tour of the Taza factory in Somerville, where Taza has been making artisanal, organic chocolate for nearly four years.  Made Mexican style, the chocolate is ground using stone mills allowing for smaller bits to remain within the finished product offering a distinct and rustic texture. 

Taza uses direct trade to purchase its cocoa beans.  Rather than using fair trade, where a middle man acquires beans without regard to growing practices, Taza buys beans directly from a farm in the Dominican Republic.  Direct trade allows Taza to ensure that the farm uses both humane and organic farming methods.

Last but not least, Taza uses environmentally sustainable practices for the production and shipping of its products.  Each chocolate is hand-wrapped using bio-degradable paper and shipped using corn-based insulation.  The remaining cocoa shells (removed from the cocoa bean after roasting) are sold as mulch to local and organic gardens and to local breweries as an ingredient in beer.

If you're interested in learning more about how Taza produces its chocolate (and to taste some of its chocolatey goodness), sign-up to take a factory tour at the company website. 

A few tips before you go:
  • Skip the sandals and fragrances.  Since you are entering a manufacturing facility, you must wear closed toed shoes and refrain from wearing perfume or cologne.
  • Prepare to expand your palate.  You'll get a chance to try some traditional dark chocolate (ranging from 60 to 80%), but you will also be offered traditional Mexican flavors like spiced chilli pepper.  It's a little different, but it's worth trying.
  • Don't leave without chocolate.  While finished chocolate is sold in local retail stores and used at many local restaurants, you can also bring some home.  At home, it can be eaten as is or shaved and mixed into liquid (like milk) to make hot chocolate.
  • The factory is within short walking distance of Inman Square in Cambridge (accessible to the 69 bus) or a 10 minute walk from Union Square in Somerville (accessible to the 86 bus).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Safari #12: South End Open Market

Local. Chic. Indie. 

This is the mantra of the South End Open Market (SOWA) located at 460 Harrison Avenue in Boston's South End.  Open mid-May through late October, this market highlights handmade goods by local artists ranging from housewares and furniture to clothing and accessories.  Recently added to the lineup is the vintage market. 

If you're on the hunt for handmade or vintage goodies, check out the booths I visited during my recent trip to get some great local (and regional) flavor:
  • Lola's Urban Vintage (187 Harvard Ave in Allston) - the day's offerings included a great selection of late 70's and early to mid 80's jewelery.  Many items were priced under $10.
  • FidgetFinds (Rhode Island) - Tons of accessories including a great selection of day and evening bags. 
  • Calico (New Bedford, MA) - Great stuff all around.  I couldn't pass up the sunglasses.
  • Escama Studio (Arlington, MA) - Are you a fan of recycled items made into something new?  If yes, check out Escama's merchandise (and my soda can top handbag).

Some tips before visiting SOWA:
  • Try your luck at bargaining with the vendors - most times, they are willing to lower the price ;)
  • Hit the ATM.  While many vendors accept credit cards, some only accept cash. 
  • Food Trucks.  If you're hungry, head to one of the many food trucks available.  Most of these are also cash only.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Safari #11: I Roam Around, Around, Around

Well, I'm the type of gal who likes to walk around - and that's exactly what I did today.  With fall temperatures already settling in, there's no better time to head out on safari.  Where to go, you ask?  If you've already visited some of the other green spaces I suggested, head next to the South End and try one of my favorite routes.
Starting at the Back Bay T station, walk into the Southwest Corridor Park, home to the strollers and joggers of the South End.  There are plenty of nooks and crannies to sit and enjoy the greenery.  Walk through the park until you reach W. Newton Street.  If you're lucky, you may get a chance to see some of the area's creative spark.  Look what I found decorating the concrete posts.

    At W. Newton Street, turn left and continue walking about one mile until you reach two of the South End's largest parks, Blackstone and Franklin Squares.  Ornate fountains compliment these spaces along with trees reaching as far as the eye can see.

    If you feel like picnicking, stop at Flour Bakery, located at 1595 Washington Street, for some awesome treats - both savory and sweet.  My favorite: the smoked turkey with cheddar and cranberry chutney.
      P.S. If you're boots still feel like walking (and it's also a Sunday), head down Harrison Avenue and check out the South End Open Market where you can buy local arts and crafts in one of the most creative spaces around.  More on this in an upcoming post.

      Tuesday, August 17, 2010

      Safari #10: Oystah's

      There once was a woman who dared to defy local bivalve yore.  This is her delicious (and thrifty) tale.

      How many times have you been told to only eat oysters during the months that end in "r" (e.g. September, October, etc.)?  Perhaps I have a strong stomach (given the amount of raw seafood I already consume) OR there's nothing wrong with oysters in the summer. Hmmm or rather, Mmmm, I should say.

      Given that oysters can cost nearly $3 each, how can one enjoy them and not spend a chunk of change?  Enter the $1 summer oyster specials to be found all over Boston, depending in some cases on the month and day of the week. Find an open patio, your favorite beer on tap, and slurp away.

      Some of my favorites to get you started:
      • Jasper White's Summer Shack (Back Bay and Alewife) - for the entire month of June, enjoy a wide-range of $1 oysters from all over New England.  If you're new to raw bivalves, you should definitely start here. Even if it's not June, head here simply for the selection.
      • Marliave (Downtown Crossing) - are you looking for a bit of history to go down with your oystah?  Give Marliave a shot.  $1 oysters are served daily from 4 to 6pm.  Don't forget to try one of their many old-fashioned cocktails.
      • McCormick and Schmick's (Faneuil Hall) - head to the bar to taste the $1 oyster of the day from the happy hour menu.  A great spot for people watching, if you're so inclined.
      • Rialto (Charles Hotel, Cambridge) - enjoy local Massachusetts oysters for $1 on Mondays in the bar.  Note: no cocktail sauce is served here, so a trip to Rialto should be for seasoned slurpers only (unless you are brave).
      ***TIP*** If you are an oyster newbie, try asking for some bread or crackers as you go along.  They'll help coat your stomach and give you less of a "swimming" feeling. 

      Tuesday, August 3, 2010

      Safari #9: Playing in the Octopus' Garden

      Fellow travelers, self-discovery is a splendid thing - especially when you find it in the most unexpected place.  Where, do you say?  Read on.

      Let's start this safari with the creative process - an artist's spark.  Media takes this spark and transforms it into a reality.  You interalize the reality and attempt to understand it, process it, and "feel" it.  To your process of internalization, add an island, a map, and wilderness.  Enter the Bumpkin Island Art Encampment.

      Every year, artist's take temporary residence on Boston Harbor's Bumpkin Island to create a festive and exploratory environment where you can watch and participate in all of their fantastic creations.  Using media obtained from the island, the artists spend 5 days creating their works and then invite the public to join them for an open viewing.

      Last Sunday, I participated for the first time.  Map in hand, I flew into the wilderness in search of installations, artists - and myself.  Every path I chose allowed me to stumble upon something amazing - a hidden tent, secret messages and pathways, and never before seen island creatures.  I even played for a moment in the Octopus' Garden, a recreation of the real 'gardens' that octopi create to navigate the ocean floor.  Playing  in the garden helped my spirit find its way home.

      Some helpful tips if you plan to attend next year's installation:
      • The Berwick Research Institute - founders and sponsors of the art installation.  Check their website for details on upcoming events including the dates of the island encampment.
      • The Boston Harbor Islands - find information about Bumpkin including tips on what to bring (and what to avoid - like poison ivy).  There is a leave no trace policy on the island, so whatever you bring in, you must bring out with you.  Ferry information is also available.

      Monday, July 19, 2010

      Safari #8: An Oasis

      This summer, I've been waiting for my moment to exhale.  It finally happened yesterday.  For nearly the entire day, I felt like a kite floating in the sky - so free and relaxed that I was ready to let the wind take me anywhere.

      Crane Beach, a wildlife reserve and recreation area in Ipswich, is a rare gem.  White sand, tide pools, and sand bars abound as far as the eye can see.  The beach front itself is nearly 4 miles long, making for wonderfully long and peaceful walks.  While some areas of the beach can get a little crowded, there is plenty of room to spread out and find some solitude.  I found mine while taking a walk along the shore.  The lapping waves pushed my thoughts into exactly the right place.

      Fellow safari travelers, Crane's is T accessible.  Before summer's end, make a promise to yourself and visit.  Your only regret will be leaving Crane's at the end of the day.

      Some Helpful Tips:
      • Getting to Crane's Beach.  Catch a Newburyport/Rockport line train from North Station to Ipswich.  From the Ipswich train station, take a CATA shuttle to the beach.
      • Facilities - Crane's offers food service from burgers and hot dogs to salads and made to order sandwiches.  The concession stand accepts cash and credit cards.   Restrooms, changing booths and showers are also available. 
      • Pets - dogs are not allowed.
      • Cost - if you drive, it is $25 to visit, including parking.  Walk-on visitors pay $2.  The shuttle (mentioned above) will drop you at Crane's, so your entry fee would be at the walk-on price.

      Tuesday, July 13, 2010

      Safari Style #2: What's Your Secret?

      It's always easier to dress yourself when someone else does all of the thinking for you.  Therein lies the rub of vintage shopping - with so many styles from different periods in time, where do you start and how do you choose?  What is the secret to vintage style?  Allow me to humbly whisper in your ear.

      First, my shopping mantra: (1) find what suits you (and remember that not everything will), (2) use your imagination, and (3) don't be afraid to try something different.

      Next, my deck of cards.  Pull any of these to keep the heads turning and the masses guessing.
      • (Updated on 7/16/10) Dame (68 South St., Jamaica Plain) - forgive my french, but this place is f*cking fantastic.  Upon walking in, you can tell immediately that the owner has impeccable taste and an eye for details.  What makes Dame even more extra special?  Local clothing designers and artists also sell their wares in this store.  I'm going to start making monthly trips to JP just to make sure I don't miss anything.  I left the store with a 60's era romper (score!) and vintage filligree earrings from Germany.  My bank account had better watch out.
      • Raspberry Beret (Porter Sq., Cambridge) - a quirky, fun and colorful mix of clothing is to be found here.  Vintage items range from the mid 60's to the late 80's.  It also includes contemporary items.
      • Second Time Around (Newbury St., Back Bay) - a good place to start if you're new to consignment shopping.  I can't tell you how many Banana Republic tops I've scored here and at nearly 75% off the original price.  Why pay $68 for a top when I can get it (barely worn) for $18?
      • Poor Little Rich Girl (Imman Sq., Cambridge/Newbury St., Back Bay) - lots of vintage style in the form of clothing, jewlery, and hats.  The vintage items in Inman offer mid-50's to the late 70s, while the shop in Back Bay has pre-1950s items.
      Know of more vintage shops that I haven't mentioned?  Share them here and spread the wealth.

      Wednesday, July 7, 2010

      Safari #7: Islands?

      "Islands?  What islands?" is the response of many Bostonians when you tell them that you recently visited Boston's Harbor islands.  Yes, the harbor does have islands - 30 in fact - that are a combination of national parks, wildlife reserves, privately-owned areas, and publicly accessible recreation areas.  Opened to the public in 2006, the Harbor Islands boast a wide array of activities for the adventure seeking Bostonian.  And the best part?  They are only a short ferry ride away.

      My latest safari took me to Spectacle Island, one of the harbor's largest,  for a Sunday afternoon beach outing.  The island has a pebbly beach, boat docks, a visitor center with restroom facilities, Jasper White's Summer Shack (limited menu available), and free jazz concerts on Sunday afternoons (making the timing of my visit perfect).  The Adirondack chairs along the visitor center's open deck are a nice place to take a break from the sun,  drink a cool beverage, and listen to jazz and seagulls.

      It's hard to believe that this little oasis has a sordid history (which you can learn more about on one of the island's free guided tours).  Once a horse disposal facility and garbage dump (sailors used to navigate their way through harbor fog using the islands' stench as their guide), this island was converted into a national recreation area and green facility.*  The transformation is quite a sight to behold.     

      Some key points to remember:
      • Sunblock - just in case you forget yours, the rangers will provide it to you at no cost.
      • Leave No Trace - while the island provides restrooms and other facilities to make your stay more enjoyable, it is your responsibility to remove whatever you have brought to the park including garbage.
      • Return Time - when you purchase your ferry ticket, you will need to indicate what time you would like to return.  While it's possible to return earlier or later than your scheduled time, you will be on standby.
      The Harbor Islands are easily accessible via public transportation.  Take the blue line to the Aquarium stop.  On the Columbus Park side of the Marriot Long Wharf Hotel, you'll find informational kiosks, ticket booths, and the ferry docks.  For more information, visit

      *Historical information obtained from

      Wednesday, June 30, 2010

      Safari #6: An Eclectic Mix

      Diversity - in all its forms - is a good thing.  For your next safari, visit one of Boston's most diverse neighborhoods, Jamaica Plain (JP).

      JP has a homegrown, grassroots vibe all of its own, and this beat is contagious.  Artists, musicians, independent thinkers, hipsters, rockers, and everyone in between are the residents of this vibrant area - and no fancy degrees are required to participate in the community that has been built here.

      To feel the vibe that is JP, head out on safari and visit these popular haunts on Centre Street:

      • Centre Street Cafe - why not stroll while sipping a beverage?
      • Boomerangs - THE place to shop; practically every JP'er has perused this store, and so should you.
      • JP Licks - even if you don't like ice cream, get some anyway. This is a neighborhood staple and JP original.  And no, it's not the same as getting ice cream from the one on Newbury street.  This is the flagship.
      • If you don't have a stomach ache from drinking coffee and eating ice cream, pick any restaurant for a meal.  Japanese?  Mexican?  Indian? Pub Food?  You name it, Centre Street has it.  You can't go wrong with locallly owned restaurants.
      While there are other locations in JP that are also worth visiting (such as the Arnold Arboretum (perfect for picnicking and grass slumbering), Jamaica Pond (with rental boats and bike paths), or the Sam Adams Brewery), get a real feel for this neighborhood and go where the people are.

      Your sensibilities and creative spirit will be grateful.

      Tuesday, June 22, 2010

      Safari #5: In Search of Sunshine

      Where can city dwellers go to embrace the sun that is both nearby and T-accessible? Enter Carson Beach in South Boston, located about 1/2 mile from the JFK/UMASS stop on the Red Line. This beach boasts sand volleyball courts, a bocce court, restrooms (with a shower located outside for rinsing off) and food vendors. It's fairly bare bones as far as beaches go, but it should do if all you're really looking for is a chance to sizzle. The sand isn't fantastic, but it's acceptable and relatively stick, stone, and (thankfully) garbage free.

      Some tips before you head to Carson:
      -Bring soap. If you like washing your hands using soap *and* water, Carson's bathrooms will disappoint you. Thankfully, I had a small bottle in my beach bag.
      -Bring a beach chair or extra towels. It's nice to lay on the sand, but considering some of the "debris", I'd suggest a beach chair if possible. If you're going to bring a towel, pack more than just one for some extra cushion.
      -Sunscreen. I didn't forget mine but still managed to get a little sunburn.

      What's next? The fridge for some cool aloe vera gel. Later this week, a trip to a new salon.

      Thursday, June 17, 2010

      Safari Tip#2: A 'Reasonable' Excuse

      You've been standing in the doorway waiting for that final nudge to get you out of the house, and there's only one thing holding you back: lack of play money. If my latest postings haven't done it, here's a nudge and a 'reasonable' excuse for you to hit the town.

      Visit, a site that offers the best deals in shopping, entertainment, and dining in cities across the country. Sign up to receive daily emails for deals in and around Boston. For example, today's special offers $60 in food and drink from Lobby Bar and Kitchen (131 Broad Street) for only $30. Sounds like a pretty reasonable excuse to get out and explore the Financial District.

      Grab the coupon, a girlfriend, and head to Lobby (or any other restaurant featured on LivingSocial), for after work food and drinks.

      What are you waiting for? I already bought mine.

      Tuesday, June 15, 2010

      Safari #4: A Bit of Bread

      In anticipation of summer picnics and entertaining, my latest urban safari brought me (and my nose) to the doorstep of Clear Flour Bakery, a European style bakery tucked quietly between Allston and Brookline.

      Located on Thorndike Street, Clear Flour offers a range of rustic, European-style, baked goods from traditional breads (like French baguettes) to pastries (ranging from cookies and cakes to hot buns and scones). Rather than heading to your local grocery, consider visiting Clear Flour instead, where you can buy hand-shaped freshness made from organic, unprocessed ingredients - all for about the same price.

      For your first summer party, consider one of Clear Flour's rustic fruit tarts. Be sure to check their special listing to ensure first pick of the best treats. Avoid long lines on the weekend by arriving early - and certainly before noon if you're craving hot buns.

      Maybe I'll see you in line this weekend.

      Thursday, June 10, 2010

      Safari #3: A Walk-On Adventure

      It's true, the city is great, but sometimes it's nice to get away and smell the flowers. If you get the itch for a nearby, yet somewhat out of town trip that embraces the outdoors, consider a trip to your nearest L.L. Bean.

      L.L. Bean offers Walk On Adventures for $20 where you can explore an outdoor sport of your choosing. Over the Memorial Day weekend, I opted to try kayaking at the L.L. Bean location in Dedham, MA, (which is commuter rail accessible). For those of you who have never been kayaking before, this is a good way to learn how to do it inexpensively as well as have access to trained and experienced professionals. Each L.L. Bean location offers a different selection of adventures, so be sure to check out the website to find the right activity for you. If you are willing to travel up to Freeport, Maine, the location of the flagship store, you will have more adventures than you can possibly imagine - and it may be worth a long weekend.

      If you decide to kayak, here's a few tips I can offer you in terms of preparation:
      --Bring a bottle of water
      --Wear clothes that can get wet - in other words, don't try to look cute. You will sweat and smell like pond scum when you're finished.
      --A light snack to enjoy afterwards (or while on the water). My well-prepared roommate brought trail mix for the group, and it was *perfect*.

      What's next for me? A trip to a local bakery. Stay tuned.

      Sunday, May 23, 2010

      Safari Style #1: Training Wheels

      Do fashion training wheels really exist?

      I can't tell you how many times I've wished for these - especially after moving to Boston. And while it's true that you'll see many sports jerseys and flip flops, there are an equal number of well-dressed people walking around too. Dressing the part can be very difficult if (a) you don't know what you're doing (shamefully raising my hand) and (b) would rather not spend all of your extra money on clothes. Here are some ideas to help you make training wheels of your own.

      There's plenty to look at in Boston. People watching will always yield ideas, so the next time you're grabbing a latte, sit back and just watch. I can't tell you how many ideas I've gotten just by taking a look around me. Just be sure you're wearing a dark pair of sunglasses to remain inconspicuous.

      Read and flip through publications that can help you identify styles and trends. Don't buy or subscribe to any of these. Just hit your favorite bookstore one afternoon, grab a latte, and peruse the following:
      --The Improper Bostonian ( - Get information on the latest fashion trends around town (and local places to shop).
      --Real Simple ( - RS always has a fashion section displaying complete outfits (from head to toe) with details of where to buy. Most often, the items listed are pricey, so I use them as the foundation for ideas to buy something similar and cheaper at a different location.
      --Elle ( or Allure ( Magazine - both contain incredible styles guides with options for all budgets.

      Ultimately, this is up to you. Some of my favorites:

      Second Time Around (
      Upon hearing the words "vintage" or "consignment", those of us with little or no experience are reminded of thrift stores where you can buy a pound of mothball scented clothes for $1. Here, I'm referring to the "gently" used clothing market, where clothes are selected for sale. Many clothes are name brand, in excellent condition, and sold for a mere fraction of the original cost. Visit the 3 locations on Newbury Street or the one in Harvard Square.

      I'd never thought I'd say this, but I love H&M. I shop here specifically for evening wear and accessories. Staples like jeans, t-shirts and the like are generally better bought somewhere else. Plus this is an inexpensive way to embrace trends or look for styles based off of something you saw in a magazine.

      Ann Taylor Loft
      When you need to look polished during the day, you can't beat Ann Taylor Loft ( The clothes have more structure and refinement than ever, especially since they've redesigned their line. If you see something you like and don't want to pay full price, wait three weeks. Your item will be on sale before you know it.

      If you like bold colors and interesting patterns for dresses and tops, visit Boden ( Considering that this online and catalog retailer is located in the UK, you're not likely to bump into someone wearing the same outfit. Buy once from them, and you'll start receiving emails about discounts, which can add up over time.

      That's enough for now. More on Accessories in an upcoming post.

      Monday, May 17, 2010

      Safari Tip#1: A Free Pee

      You're out on safari and all of a sudden a warm, tingly sensation comes over you. Are you reminiscing over time recently spent with your significant other? Eh, no not exactly. It's actually your bladder signaling you that it's time for a pit stop.

      Enter the question dreaded by all safari-travelers, "Where can I pee?" aka "Where can I pee - for free?"

      Here's a list of places where you can comfortably use the restroom without feeling obligated to spend a dime:
      -Faneuil Hall - enter the middle of the three Quincy Markets. Pass through the food court and look for the restroom signs.
      -Copley Place or the Prudential Center. Both contain public restrooms.
      -The Boston Public Library - lower level. If asked, you're looking for a book! ;)
      -The Charles River Esplanade (near the sailing school)
      -Back Bay Subway station (Orange Line) - you'll want to squat at this station. Seriously, I'm not kidding.
      -South Sation (Red Line) - located just off of the main food court.

      Problem solved.

      Monday, May 10, 2010

      Safari #2: Get Green and Relax

      When asked which season is the best, most Bostonians will tell you without hesitation that it's Spring. With the return of warm temperatures, low humidity and baseball, everyone has a slight "spring" in their step. And while some of us may sniffle and sneeze with all of the loveliness that the new season brings, it still won't keep us away from all the greenery that Boston has to offer.

      For your next safari, put a picnic together (bought or made) and head out to enjoy a green spot. While there are an endless number of more public green spaces (like the Boston Common and Public Garden), try shooting for something a little less off the beaten path. Depending on where you are in the city, try any of these locations (and bring Fido along too):

      --Commonwealth Avenue Mall (Commonwealth Avenue in Back Bay - just walk down the tree lined middle and check out all of the statues/monuments)
      --Arnold Arboretum (Forest Hills Stop on the Orange Line)
      --Jamaica Pond (Stony Brook Stop on the Orange Line or the #39 bus from Copley)
      --Beaconsfield Park (Beaconsfield T stop off of the Green Line D Outbound)
      --Outlook Park (at the top of Summit Ave between Brighton and Brookline)
      --Chestnut Hill Reservoir (one lap around is 1.6 miles - get some exercise while you're at it!)

      Wednesday, April 28, 2010

      Safari #1: Aquitaine Bistro and the South End

      If you've recently moved to Boston, you may still be reeling from sticker shock. Breathe easy though - there are plenty of deals to be had in some of the nicest neighborhoods in town.

      The South End, known for its gorgeous brownstone buildings and cobblestone streets, is one of Boston's trendiest neighborhoods. Independent boutiques, artists lofts, and top notch restaurants abound. An urban safari to this neighborhood promises many adventures and beautiful sights.

      For your first safari, plan brunch at Aquitaine Bistro on Columbus Avenue. On Saturdays (all day) and Sundays (10am to 11am), you can eat brunch for $9.99 - that's right, $9.99. On top of the great deal, Aquitaine is beautiful - as in I feel like I'm in Paris beautiful. This French-inspired bistro will make you rethink how you decorated your apartment.

      The next sunny weekend in Boston, put your fabulous on (aka stylish sunglasses) and head to Aquitaine. If you're feeling stuffed after the meal, pick one of the many nearby streets and just take a stroll.

      So, What Exactly is an Urban Safari?

      After living in Boston for nearly 3 years, I've begun to use the term "urban safari" to describe how I spend my free time.

      So what is it you ask?

      An urban safari is a trip into the urban oasis - in this case Boston. It can be spontaneous or planned. The idea is to have fun, create your own adventure, and uncover unknown gems in the urban landscape.

      I'll use this blog to share ideas for having urban safaris of your own along with tips and tricks for enjoying Boston. Where possible, I'll also try to inject some style tips considering that the weather here can potentially cramp your style.