Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Experiencing Boston’s Local Food Movement

If you are in the Boston area and in search of restaurants that serve locally grown food look no further than Za and Evoo. Appealing to tourists and locavores, both provide the opportunity for diners to savor seasonal flavors while enjoying the freshest ingredients available.

Za is known for their unique pizza’s and family-friendly atmosphere. Evoo, Za’s sister restaurant serves up eclectic cuisine and is perfect for those looking to experience a unique twist on locally prepared food. If dining on local fare is your thing, Za and Evoo are a must when travelling to the Boston area. Read on to be tempted by these unique restaurants.

Za- 138 Massachusetts Ave. Arlington MA 781-316-2334

With pizza options like Roasted Butternut Squash, Apples, Smoked Goat Cheese, Maple Vinaigrette, Walnuts, and Micro Greens, one can truly appreciate the local seasonal offerings Za has to offer. For the adventurous types, the "Mac 'n' Cheese" pizza is a great option. After eating this pizza one wonders why it is not a common topping.
Za’s salads are a perfect blend of ingredients from the farmers that the restaurant partners with. The restaurant touts serving the highest quality produce available and after eating one of their mouth watering salads you will agree.

Za does not take reservations but does have a call ahead option. If there is a wait list they will add your name for a better chance at getting a seat upon arrival. Calling ahead to see about the wait is not a bad idea.

Evoo- 350 Third Street in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 617-661-3866.

Evoo serves up local produce and livestock and changes their "Home Grown" menu daily. A changing menu that includes local ingredients like Carlson Orchard's Peach-Basil Relish or Sesame-Hoisin Braised Boyden Farm's Beef, you can go on a tasting adventure that will lead to new and interesting culinary combinations. The wait staff is very knowledgeable and should be consulted with for their recommendations.

A nice option that Evoo has is a three-course daily menu and a seven-course tasting menu. A great way to experience different menu choices.

Evoo accepts reservations both by phone and online.

The Nature Playground will feature restaurant reviews and area farmers markets regularly so be sure to check back often!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Incorporating Nature Into Family Travel

Since I can remember I have been in love with traveling. I love everything about it from getting in the car, to arriving at an airport, to seeing my final destination for the first time. Every step taken when traveling makes me feel alive. I am addicted to it.

There is no better way to learn about a culture or experience what it may be like to be from a different place than through travel. True, you can read about different places but to experience a destination, its people, flavor, sights and what it has to offer or not offer is a true experience.

When my son was born four years ago, I experienced for the first time anxiety
over travel, I was concerned that I would have to put travel on hold. I spent hours online trying to find resources for planning the perfect family trip with a young child. I was able to find some information but not exactly what I was looking for. I was looking for two things, comfortable destinations for traveling with children under 5 and trips that included nature experiences. I was able to put together two trips that worked out well for our family.

Disney and Sanibel Island
As a new parent, I was worried about my first time on an airplane with my son. I was that traveler who would silently sigh and scream inside when I saw a young family coming near me on an airplane. I hate to admit it especially now since I have become a member of that family walking on to an airplane kids in tow. I was so certain my karma was due. With that mindset, I set out to find the perfect trip, I wanted to be around other families. Not at all how I traditionally traveled and not how I travel now but had to be done for our first trip.

We set out for Disney, being a lover of environment and culture and heading to Disney seemed to be an oxymoron. I decided that staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for a few nights would satisfy our needs perfectly.  It was wonderful. The Animal Kingdom Lodge resort is located on a 43-acre wildlife preserve. The resort has awesome views of the surrounding savanna and its animals. I learned that the Animal Kingdom Lodge is home to the following animals, Ankole Cattle, Bontebok, Eland, Zebra, Greater Kudu, Impala, Okapi, Red River Hog, Nyala, Reticulated Giraffe, Roan Antelope, Sable Antelope, Thompson's Gazelle, Waterbuck, White-Bearded Wildebeest, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Blue Crane, East African Crowned Crane, Greater Flamingo, Marabou Stork, Ostrich, Pink-Backed Pelican, Spur Winged Geese, Guinea Fowl and Ruppel's Griffon Vulture. We stayed in a savanna room and saw giraffes right outside our balcony.

Also impressive were the African artifacts that can be found throughout the resort lobby.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge has been designated by the Florida Green Lodging Program, recognizing the Resort's environmentally responsible practices.

After three days at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, we headed to Sanibel Island about a three hour drive. Sanibel Island is world renowned for its shelling beaches and the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States. It is world famous for its spectacular migratory bird populations. We ended our vacation with a restful couple of days exploring beaches and the Refuge.

Beaches Turks & Caicos
Our second family vacation was to Turks & Caicos Islands. Turks & Caicos islands are known for their beaches and most of the islands are considered to be an undiscovered part of the Caribbean. We chose to stay at the Beaches resort and could not have been happier. Beaches provides Sesame Street Caribbean Adventures camp. With programs like bird watching with Big Bird and story time with Elmo, my son was able to learn lots of new things. He went on nature walks and learned about habitats.
You can access reviews for both the Disney and Beaches trips through my TripAdvisor account at:  http://www.tripadvisor.com/MemberProfile?uid=7E7AE06679641B78F7E143F95F9626CA&c=pm&public=1


It's that time of year for us New Englanders. The time of year where we curse the snow and cold and jet off to a warm destination. Due to the current state of the economy, many families have opted for what is referred to as a staycation. A staycation is a type of vacation in which an individual or family stays and relaxes at home, possibly taking day trips to area attractions. Living in New England, provides a wonderful playground for a perfect staycation and winter time is just as good as any to brave the elements and enjoy all that New England has to offer.

I live in the Boston area and have taken advantage of a staycation by taking my family to many great destinations. The destinations listed also allowed for nature exploration as well as great fun!

Winter Destinations:
Spring Destinations:
Summer Destinations:
Fall Destinations:
*Some of these outings required a night or two at a hotel but are close enough that a day trip can be managed. Future blog posts will provide details about each trip. You can access reviews of some of the listed destinations through my TripAdvisor account at:  http://www.tripadvisor.com/MemberProfile?uid=7E7AE06679641B78F7E143F95F9626CA&c=pm&public=1

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Educating Children Through Pet Ownership

Caring for a family pet provides many benefits for children. Studies show that children who grow up in homes with pets have less risk of developing common allergies and asthma. It is also known that playing with a pet may help lower blood pressure and require fewer visits to the doctor. Children who own a pet get outside more and are able to reduce stress and anxiety through their relationship with their pets. Children who are learning to read often feel more comfortable reading aloud to their pet. Sharing love and caring for a family pet brings a family closer together and encourages childhood responsibility.

There are many different pets to choose from. Dogs and cats make wonderful pets and we all know the advantages and disadvantages to both choices. Its fun to think outside the box of traditional pets such as dogs and cats and look to other types of animals.

Our family includes a ferret, fish and one very spoiled Budgie. We live with an interesting combination of amphibian, bird and mammal and it has given our preschool-aged son a hands-on lesson in science.

Ferret Ownership
Our ferret Guiness is teaching our son what it means to be a mammal from Mustela putorius furo group. Ferrets are domestic animals, cousins of weasels, skunks and otters. (Other relatives include minks, ermines, stoats, badgers, black-footed ferrets, polecats, and fishers.) They are not rodents. Ferrets are crepuscular which means they spend 14–18 hours a day asleep and are most active around the hours of dawn and dusk.

My son learns a lot about what it means to be patient as he waits for his friend to wake and play. Since ferrets are smaller in size than a cat or dog, learning to play with a ferret teaches children to be gentle and careful.

Ferrets are known to suffer from several distinct health problems. Among the most common are cancers affecting the adrenal glands, pancreas and lymphatic system. Our ferret currently suffers from adrenal gland disease which requires a monthly shot. Caring for him is teaching our son compassion and he learns a lot from our monthly vet visits. Keep in mind that this disease is unfortunately very common in ferrets and presents itself as early as 2 year of age. It can be a costly disease to manage so research before making your decision to add a ferret to your family.

Ferret Central is the best online resource I use. Its best to research owning a ferret thoroughly prior to adding one to your family.

In Massachusetts, the best veterinary office for ferret care is Angell Animal Medical Center. Massachusetts Ferrets Friends ia a great resourse to ferret owners as well.

Our fish, Blue Paxton the Third teaches our son about caring for a friend that lives in a completely different habitat. Not being able to touch or play with the fish has brought on some creative interactions between the two. Blue Paxton is a Betta fish, very easy to care for.

We are the proud owners of a very spoiled Budgie named Ziggy. A Budgie is a parakeet. Living with Ziggy has been great fun for my little aviculturist. Ziggy tolerates being handled, is easy to care for and has developed a vocabulary that includes "pretty bird." She is very bonded to the whole family which she views as her flock. Most hand-fed Budgies are very sweet natured and will gladly oblige!

I recommend that you purchase a hand-raised parakeet. We got Ziggy from Peaks Parrots in Middletown, CT and could not be happier with her!

Backyard Chickens
Would love to add backyard chickens to our home. Found this resource for those of you who are also in the process of researching! http://www.backyardchickens.com/