Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels to all!
Hooray - it's Thanksgiving week! For me, this week marks the beginning of a month of celebrations (holidays! birthdays! parties!). Sadly, it also means the end of autumn (well, not officially but all the leaves have fallen and I almost slipped on black ice today so...yeah...winter has arrived in New England). As we bid adieu to our most colorful season, I'll leave you with my favorite pictures from this fall, starting with my sweet little boy:)
Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels to all!
A few weeks ago, we attended a beautiful baby shower in honor of our little boy due this June. Our family & friends organized a brunch party at a delicious Italian restaurant called Cinquecento in Boston's South End neighborhood. Chris and I had been here for brunch before and had LOVED the food, atmosphere and service, so we were delighted that our baby shower was held in their private room downstairs.
Me & Baby B ready for the shower at Cinquecento in Boston's South End.
Everything was beyond our expectations - the food, drinks, decor and best of all - time with our family & friends. Our little guy is incredibly lucky to have so many wonderful people in his life.
The party planning team consisted of my parents - Abuela & Grandpa (the hosts), Chris' parents - Grammie & Papa and Aunt Jen (the decor team), and good friends Lisa & Kim (the fabulous organizers). The shower was safari-themed which was wildly appropriate since one of our favorite world destinations is South Africa. Here are some pictures of the details:
Safari themed invitations from Tiny Prints
Baby B now has a drawer full of creative, colorful, funny and clever onesies - all made by friends and family.
We left the shower with a barrel of safari animals used to decorate the room. They are currently eagerly waiting to play with their new friend.
Aunt Jen found us this adorable "guestbook" poster on Etsy. Guests signed the balloons and stuck them to the poster which will be framed and hung in baby's nursery.
Party favors!!! Everyone loves a Lindt truffle.
Like I mentioned earlier, the food was phenomenal and I highly recommend Cinqucento for brunch if you happen to be in the Boston area. This was our menu:
There are many wonderful places to host a private party in Boston, but I really liked Cincquecento for a few reasons:
Here are a few snaps from the party:
[Pictured Above] The beautiful grandmas! I know, they look WAY too young to be grandmas.
Wallman-Barbier family photo. I think this one might be framed for small fry's room!
We had some pretty adorable kiddos in attendance. These two little ones give the BEST hugs.
The lovely party planners - Lisa & Kim. I swear we didn't coordinate outfit colors.
Grammie announcing the answers and winners to the Chris & Eva trivia game. Who knew us best?
It was a tie between long time friend Hanna (an occasional BV guest blogger!) and baby bro. Luckily it was an easy prize to split in half.
Buddies! These three, along with our friend Mike, are part of an elite club called Steak Hunters. Maybe one day Chris will write a Culinary Delights feature about it (hint hint).
We had an amazing time at our shower! Thank you to my parents for hosting, our family & friends that helped plan the party and everyone who joined us to celebrate our little guy. The three of us are so lucky to have you in our lives!
Eva & Chris
Attention cheese lovers! Vermont should hold high rank on your travel bucket list. With 45 different cheese makers scattered across this small state, you'll surely find a new favorite snack at one of these farms nestled in New England's mountains.
In early April, Chris and I decided to embark on an impromptu self-guided tour of Vermont's cheese trail. For years we have enjoyed Vermont cheeses sold at local markets in Boston, but we have never ventured out on the cheese trail to taste freshly made cheese directly from the source.
The Vermont Cheese Trail map along with some pamphlets we picked up along the way. You can print your own map here or see it in Google Maps:
I quickly learned two lessons from our cheese tour experience:
1) Early April is not the best time to go. Many of the cheese makers are closed for the season and the weather is unpredictable. The first day was sunny and a balmy 70 degrees F. The second day was freezing,windy and snowy. Early May might have been a better choice.
2) Going on a cheese tour while pregnant can be a bit...well...tortuous. Much of the cheese is freshly made with raw milk - a no-no food for pregnancy. Luckily there were a couple of options made with pasteurized milk so I could partake in sampling. A tip for the pregnant ladies: you can eat raw milk cheese as long as you heat it up. So bring on the grilled cheese!
During our two day tour, we visited three cheese makers:
We would have been able to squeeze in two more had we planned our trip beforehand and called ahead to arrange a time at those creameries that are appointment only. But this was a last minute get-in-the-car-and-go trip so c'est la vie!
Not only is it fun to taste the cheese, but the drive through Vermont is beautiful and each property has a really fascinating history. Here is a brief recap of each:
Plymouth Artisan Cheeses: Presidential Roots
The charming and tiny town of Plymouth, VT. It's the birthplace and childhood home of USA President Calvin Coolidge and long time home to Plymouth Artisan Cheese. The former President is buried across the street.
Above the store is an exhibit of old fashioned cheese making tools and the history of the factory.
Present day cheese factory. Unfortunately, they weren't making cheese while we were there.
Our favorite snack -The Mapled Nut gourmet almonds! I also loved the unique design of each cheese label.
Cabot Creamery Cooperative: Strength in Numbers
Chris sampling various Cabot cheeses at the shop. There had to be at least 20 different types!
Three cheers for pasteurized cheese! We purchased the horseradish (my favorite) and chipotle cheeses.
Shelburne Farms: A Vanderbilt Legacy
The Shelburne Farms tasting room and shop. The woman working here was very helpful and knowledgeable, but too shy to pose behind the counter for the picture.
This is the Farm Barn - home to the bakery, cheese making facilities administrative offices, an elementary school, the children's farm and more. It's the most spectacular barn I've ever seen!
The backyard of the Inn, facing a frozen Lake Champlain. I'm looking forward to coming back here when the lake has thawed and everything is green.
This concludes our very first experience on the Vermont Cheese Trail. There are still 42 more cheesemakers to visit so I know we'll be back on the trail again soon.
If you are curious about where we stayed, we played it by ear knowing it was shoulder season in Vermont and demand would be low. We ended up getting a deal via Priceline at The Essex Resort just outside of Burlington. We booked the room on our phone a few hours before checking in. Our room was very cozy and comfortable and we were only about 20 minutes from Burlington where we spent the evening and dined at Church & Maine. Check out more photos from Burlington here.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Women In Travel Summit (WITS) in Boston, a gathering of hundreds of female travel bloggers, entrepreneurs and travel enthusiasts. Attendees who arrived early could participate in several tours organized by WITS and Context Travel - a company that specializes in walking tours in cities around the world.
I attended Context Travel's "Brahmins of Boston", a three-hour walking tour. Despite the ghastly weather - torrential rain at times - I'm really glad I attended this event. I learned a lot about my city!
Before I describe the tour, I'll answer three questions you may be pondering:
1) What is a Boston Brahmin?
Associated with the upper crust of society, Brahmins were often descendants of early colonists from England. While many considered them elitist, the Brahmins contributed significantly to the development of our country and culture, and were especially influential on the east coast.
2) What is the origin of the name "Brahmin"?
While it sounds like someone with a heavy Boston accent saying barman - it has nothing to do with the famous Boston dropped "r". In the traditional Hindu caste system, Brahmin refers to the highest ranking class. Writer Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. first referred to these elite New England families as Brahmins in an Atlantic Monthly article from 1860, and the name stuck.
3) Who are the most famous Brahmins?
You'd recognize many of these names from US history, especially if you've spent time in New England. Many of the the street names, cities and notable landmarks in New England are named after a Brahmin family. Examples include Adams, Forbes, Cabot, Jackson, Lowell, Quincy, and Winthrop.
Paul Revere's gravestones (looks like he got an upgrade at some point). While he wasn't considered a Brahmin, the man who sent him on his famous midnight ride - Dr. Joseph Warren - was.
Our tour guide was named Jessica Del Russo - a born & bred Bostonian - who had somewhat of a modern day Brahmin upbringing. Like many a Brahmin, she was raised in the North End and attended the prestigious Boston Latin School, followed by Harvard University. She was extremely knowledgable about the city's history and, as a shareholder in the Boston Athenaeum, she gave us an insider's tour of this library which houses beautiful artwork and rare books including George Washington's personal collection. Most of our walk was concentrated in the area around Downtown Crossing, Boston Common and the State House. However, I felt like Jessica may have altered her typical route a bit due to the unfortunate weather.
Here are a few fun tidbits I learned on the tour:
Ben Franklin was possibly expelled from grade school. He attended the prestigious Boston Latin School (USA's first public school) for just two years. Many experts claim he left because his father could no longer afford to send him to school. However, Jessica offered another theory - Ben was outspoken and questioned the school's viewpoint on God, and was thus expelled. Regardless of the reason, Ben never completed his education here. Despite this fact, there is a large statue of Ben Franklin in front of Boston Latin School today.
Ben Franklin, standing in front of Boston Latin School, appearing far more intimidating than any present-day disciplinarian and significantly more judgmental than most teenagers. Way to uphold those Brahmin standards!
Downtown Crossing was once a water source. Downtown Crossing - one of the earliest neighborhoods in the city - owes its location to a natural underground spring that provided fresh water. It still flows beneath the streets of Boston, and you can supposedly hear it in parts of Beacon Hill.
This sign can be found along the aptly named "Spring Street" in Downtown Crossing.
The colors of the T lines actually mean something. Boston was the first city in the USA to establish a subway, and Park Street was the first stop. The names of the four major lines are colors that represent each line's purpose:
Park Street T stop - the first subway stop in the USA. The subway entrances are often referred to as mausoleums.
The Puritans were pretty darn intolerant. Although the Puritans left England to escape religious persecution, it didn't stop them from persecuting others. They pushed out immigrants of other religious denominations upon arrival in Boston, most of them moving west or south. Until the King's Chapel was built, most of the religious establishments in Boston were Puritan Congregationalists.
Many Brahmins belonged to the King's Chapel. When England established a governor in Boston, they built a church that reflected the religion of the King (hence the name). The church, built in 1754, is the first granite structure in Boston and its interior architecture is influenced by European churches of the time - double columns, baroque details, and a wine glass pulpit. The church philosophy and practice became a hybrid of sorts: Congregationalist in governance, Episcopalian in worship and Unitarian Christian in theology.
Notice many famous Brahmin names on this plaque that is located in the church.
The church had a governor's pew and it was here that George Washington sat during service.
The wine glass pulpit
The King's Chapel was the first church in the US with an organ.
The seats in the pews are lined with horsehair which still make a crunchy sound when you sit down.
The King's Chapel Common Prayer book is the only one of its kind. Members of this congregation were very liberal and edited the traditional Common Prayer book to only include the stuff they believed in.
These prayer books are truly unique to this church.
Boston Brahmins were known for their accents which were very different from those of the working-class Bostonians. Many associate this accent with snobbery. Current examples of Brahmin accents include John Kerry and - my favorite pop culture reference - George Feeny from Boy Meets World.
Toward the end of our tour, Jessica brought us to the Boston Athenaenum, an institution with the mission of preserving rare books and works of art. It was here that we saw George Washington's private library. Even after living in Boston for several years I never knew this beautiful library existed!
[Above] View of the Old Granary Burying Ground, where John Hancock, Paul Revere and Sam Adams are buried.
[Below] You can see down several levels of the Athenaeum in the stairwell and the stacks.
[Above] Washington's private library including copies of New York Magazine from the late 1700's
Last week, I featured a list of Boston recommendations from local ladies Lisa & Jen as a part of our Live LIke a Local, Boston series. Today I have the pleasure of introducing Marissa - my favorite coffee & tea connoisseur, fellow traveler, and Rachel Bilson doppelganger.
Eva has been traveling for 15+ years, including an 8 month journey around the world.