Small Business Gift Guide

Small business make the world go round and this holiday season I’ve made it my mission to support small businesses whenever possible, especially when it comes to gift buying. I’ve had the pleasure of being introduced to some awesome small businesses over the past year and could think of nothing better than sharing these businesses as part of a holiday gift guide. Here are my favorites for gifting this season!

Silk Therapeutics Silk Renewing Peel

The Holy Grail of my skincare routine, I’ve been using this product weekly for almost a year and it has transformed my skin. Free of harsh chemicals, the Silk Renewing Peel from Silk Therapeutics uses pure liquid silk, glycolic and lactic acids to gently yet effectively exfoliating the outermost layer to reveal a brighter, more vibrant complexion.

The entire Silk Therapeutics product line is gentle enough that it’s safe for those going through cancer treatment and for every product that’s purchased, one is donated to oncology patients. For more details, check out my review of the Silk Renewing Peel.

silk therapeutics renewing peel

Courtesy of Silk Therapeutics

Purlisse Blue Lotus + Seaweed Treatment Mask

Harnessing the powers of Asian botanicals, Purlisse is a skincare line that I recently discovered. My favorite product in the line is the Blue Lotus + Seaweed Treatment Sheet Mask. Nourishing and fun to use, the mask comes in sheets that makes it perfect for awakening your skin during winter holiday travel.

McCrea’s Candies

If you’re a caramel lover like me or know someone who is, then look no further than caramels from McCrea’s Candies. The local Boston company makes to die for caramels in unique flavors like Black Lava Sea Salt and Single Malt Scotch, that are perfect for gifting! The only bad part about gifting McCrea’s caramels is that you won’t want to give them away so I highly recommend picking some up for yourself as well!

mccreas handmade caramels

Seacoast Sweets

If you’re looking for something chocolatey, scoop up some chocolate pattie treats from Seacoast Sweets. The peppermint, peanut butter, coconut, and s’mores patties will delight any palate. In addition to tasting good, Seacoast Sweets is also committed to doing good—one dollar for every dozen patties goes to an organization that empowers girls girls from low-income situations by providing them with the basic items and fees needed to participate in sports and physical activities.

seacoast sweets

Courtesy of Seacoast Sweets

JORD Wood Watches

If you’re shopping for a jewelry gift that stands out, JORD Wood Watches are my top pick. Available in a variety of men’s and women’s styles, these watches are made from woods like bamboo, walnut, and zebrawood, making each watch is unique. The watches can be dressed up or down and are different than the usual watches you see out there. I’ve found my JORD watch to be quite a conversation starter—nearly every time I wear mine, I get comments and questions from strangers.

fashionable wooden watches

Classic Holiday Line Boat Cruise

To me there’s nothing better than sharing in an experience and I’ve recently started gifting more experiences than tangible objects. My pick for an experience this year is a holiday boat cruise, specifically the holiday boat cruises with Classic Harbor Line. Setting sail around Boston Harbor, Classic Harbor Lines offers three festival holiday cruise tours.

I recently had the chance to take the Holiday Jazz Cruise with my fiancé and we had a wonderful time.  We listened to jazz and sipped warm boozy cocktails as the boat sailed around Boston Harbor for an hour and a half. If you’re looking for a good gift, this is the perfect New England experience for any New Englander!

boston holiday jazz cruise

Stocking Stuffers

The Wand by Pure Wine

If you’re gifting or drinking wine this season, pick up The Wand wine filter and enjoy wine without the side effects. This magical wand absorbs histamines and removes sulfates leaving you with wine that you can enjoy without the horrible hangover. Smartest. Invention. Ever.

the wand by purewine

Courtesy of PureWine

PureLYFT

A small business based in New Jersey, PureLYFT is a great stocking stuffer for go-getters addicted to coffee and energy drinks. The all natural clean caffeine is a tasteless powder that’s easily mixed into any drink, including water or cocktails. Conveniently packaged in a tube, PureLYFT is perfect to have on hand for travel or any necessary caffeine boost without having to battle coffee lines.

purelyft clean energy

If you haven’t finished your holiday shopping this year, check out some of these small businesses for the special people on your list!

Disclosure: I received some of these items for free over the past year, but all opinions are my own.

Just Add Cooking + Chef Jeremy Sewall

No matter the season, sometimes there are days when you just don’t want to cook. Whether it’s rainy or you’ve been too busy with life, we all have those days where you’d rather hide under the blanket all day, than meal plan and grocery shop. If you’ve ever had one of those days or weeks (or months) you should check out Just Add Cooking, a Boston-based meal delivery service.

Just Add Cooking prepares and hand delivers delicious meals to your door—all you add is the cooking! My first experience with Just Add Cooking was back in March and from the get-go I was hooked and excited for my next order.  Partnering with local Boston chef Jeremy Sewall of Island Creek Oyster Bar, Lineage, and Row 34, the latest Just Add Cooking box I received showcased recipes from Chef Sewall’s new cookbook.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

A recipe from Chef Sewall’s new cookbook, The New England Kitchen, the Roasted Cauliflower Soup was the perfect compliment to a rainy or snowy New England week. Not the biggest cauliflower eater, I was apprehensive about this soup when I saw it on the meal plan. That quickly changed as I cooked the complex blend of cauliflower, leeks, potato, and cream. Sautéing the leeks alone filled the house with a fresh aroma!

sauteing leeks

Although a multi-step recipe, making the soup was fairly easy. It was my first time cooking with leeks, but the recipe directions told me exactly what to do. The result? Healthy, hearty, and full of flavor—Chef Sewall’s Roasted Cauliflower Soup was a win!

roasted cauliflower soup

The toast came as bruschetta but I got hungry and ate it while the soup cooked!

Sliders and Gorgonzola Dressed Salad

My fiancé and I are both meat eaters but have been trying to eat healthy, which made this this pre-portioned beef recipe appealing to us. The sliders offered the taste and flavors we love in a well-balanced protein and veggie-packed dish. The beef for the sliders was fresh and beautiful, if you’re comfortable saying that about meat.

While the recipe was relatively easy to make, it presented a bit of a challenge because the shredder and/or grater it called for had recently and had yet to be replaced. Thankfully I had a food processor to use which allowed the recipe to be cooked in full and thoroughly enjoyed! My fiancé LOVED this meal and quickly gobbled up seconds!

sliders with gorgonzola just add cooking

Cod with Broccoli and Orange

I usually don’t make fish at home, since our city apartment doesn’t have room for fancy kitchen contraptions like a meat thermometer that fish recipes often call for, so this cod dish was new for me. I was half excited to make fish and half nervous that I was going to make myself sick. Thankfully, the recipe directions provided by Just Add Cooking made this dish a success, even without an internal temperature reader. Hearing customer feedback, Just Add Cooking made some recent modifications to their recipes to make them less complicated so new recipes won’t require as many kitchen gadgets.

The cod was delicious and a great complement to the pearl couscous and fresh broccoli. The panko sprinkle added the perfect touch of crunch and color to this healthy meal! Best of all, this dish gave me confidence in my fish-cooking skills!

just add cooking orange cod and broccoli

The convenience that Just Add Cooking offers is a great compliment to busy lives and unpredictable New England weather and the upcoming 2017 collaborations with more Boston chefs make it even easier to get your favorite professional recipes right at home! Looking for an easier way to meal plan? Just Add Cooking is offering a deal for new customers. Sign up here and you can get your first no-commitment Just Add Cooking box for just $39 (that’s $30 off of your first box)!

Note: I received this box free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Vinyasa with a View with the American Cancer Society

There’s something about yoga that always makes me feel good. Since I started practicing regularly almost two years ago, I’ve taken advantage of the thriving yoga community in Boston by attending classes and yoga events. So when I was approached by the American Cancer Society to be a guest at their inaugural yoga fundraising event, Vinyasa With a View, I graciously accepted.

Vinyasa…with a view

Held at the distinctive 9OFS, a rooftop event space in Boston’s financial district, Vinyasa With a View was an evening rooftop yoga event with heart-warming cause behind it. The venue promised amazing views of the city of Boston and, despite the cold and rainy weather, did not disappoint. Due the weather however, the planned outdoor class was moved indoors.

vinyasa with a view american cancer society boston

Photo by Iam Nash NYC

Izzy VanHall, one of Boston’s most talented and spirited yoga and acroyoga instructors, led the practice. I had taken Izzy’s classes at YogaWorks Back Bay (fka Back Bay Yoga) and love her style of warm, relateable, and humorous style of teaching. Since this was a fundraising event, for many of the participants, it was their first time placing their feet on a yoga mat. Izzy led a practice geared toward beginners with sufficient room for more advanced poses, which I greatly appreciated.

The hour-long practice ended with a short mindful meditation and prizes for the top fundraisers. More than 85 participants raised over $8800 to benefit the American Cancer Society. Following the practice, we were treated to delicious pizza from Otto Portland, Freshii salads, Beacon Blend organic juice, Upstate Distilling vodka, and snacks from various vendors.

vinyasa with a view american cancer society boston

Participants all left with an Athleta reusable goodie bag filled with drinks, snacks, local discounts, and beautiful Hollis Hayes bracelets.

vinyasa with a view goodie bag

hollis hayes bracelets

Vinyasa with a View was a wonderful event and I encourage any philanthropic yogi to sign up next year. Congratulations to the American Cancer Society for a fun and successful fundraiser and thank you for letting me be a part of this amazing cause.

Note: I attended this event for free in exchange for media coverage but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Fall Day Trip from Boston: King Richard’s Faire

Fall is the time of many great things in New England—from apple picking and haunted hayrides to leaf peeping and drinking at beer fests, there’s always something fun to do. This weekend my fiancé and I took part in another New England fall tradition—King Richard’s Faire.

For those unfamiliar, King Richard’s Faire is an annual Renaissance Faire held in Carver, Massachusetts. This year marked the 35th anniversary of the event that draws crowds from Boston and the surrounding areas. My fiancé and I attended the Faire last year and had a great time, so when the good ol’ King Richard himself offered us two tickets to attend this year, we jumped at the chance!

king richards faire massachusetts

A big misconception about Renaissance Faires is that you have to dress up. While dressing up is fun and plenty of people do so, it’s certainly not required. That being said, last year I purchased a bodice from one of the vendors and was excited to have an excuse to wear it again. So, on Saturday morning my fiancé helped me tie myself into the surprisingly comfortable chest-emphasizing device and we headed out to the Faire.

The ride from Boston to Carver is around an hour, depending on traffic, and an easy ride. Despite the busy day and nice weather, there was ample parking and we found a spot near the entrance. With experience from last year under our belts, we arrived with cash on hand. While there are ATMs and many vendors take cards, food and drink tickets are cash only and service in the area is limited for credit card processing—do yourself a favor and hit up the ATM before you arrive.

king richards faire massachusetts

Food and drink tickets in hand, we ate our way through the Faire—turkey legs, baked potatoes, bacon mac and cheese, friend dough, and all of the beer and mead you could ask for! After stuffing ourselves silly, we made our way to the stocks outside of the medieval torture house, which this big baby opted not to explore!

the stocks at king richards faire

We walked past jousting shows, fire-breathing women, feats of strength, pony rides, a magical unicorn, and a kilt contest full of shirtless men. Everywhere you turn, there’s something to see.

kilt contest king richards faire

Family friendly, there are activities, rides, and games for kids young and old. Last year Ronnie won an axe throwing contest so this year we tested our luck at archery. Despite the mini lesson we got from the attraction guide, neither one of us was a winner.

archery at king richards faire

My favorite part of King Richard’s Faire was the Faerie Circle. Horticulture tells us that faerie circles are naturally occurring circles of mushrooms, but certain folklore explains that within these faerie circles are buried treasure that fairies are set to guard. Those who enter the ring are at the mercy of the fairies if they seek to uncover the bounty, but if you let the treasure be and tell no one of the location of the circle, a wish will be granted to you. At the risk of my wish not being granted, suffice it to say that there may be a faerie circle at King Richard’s Faire and in it you may find a centaur playing a flute and fairies granting wishes…

faerie circle king richards faire

In addition to the attractions and shows, there are dozens of vendors at King Richard’s Faire. Nearly anything you can imagine, and some things you never knew existed, are sold at the Faire. From fairy wings and leather kilts to swords and family crests, you can get your fix of Renaissance Faire wares. We picked up an outfit for my niece and a flower crown for myself but could have easily bought more things that I never knew I always needed!

king richards faire

After much frolicking around the beautiful scenery, we headed back home to Boston where I wore my flower crown the rest of the night.

king richards faire boston

If you’re looking for something fun to do over the next couple of weekends, head to King Richard’s Faire!

Note: I received two tickets to King Richard’s Faire free of charge, but all opinions and love of fairies are my own.

Besito Mexican Chestnut Hill Review

Located just outside of Boston in the chic Chestnut Hill Mall, Besito Mexican is a must visit for anyone in the Boston area. I had heard great things about the restaurant, so when my fiancé and I were invited for hosted dinner a couple of weeks ago, we jumped at the chance.

besito mexican chestnut hill review

We went to dinner on a Sunday evening to close out the weekend, arriving at the restaurant around 7:30pm. We were surprised to find the place busy with couples and families, but after our dinner, can easily see why it’s so popular.

Decorated taverna style, Besito Mexican, has a sophisticated yet down-to-earth vibe. Assorted lanterns, high-back chairs, and white tablecloths give the spacious restaurant an intimate feel. Everyone on staff was warm and friendly—the kind of welcome you feel when you’re dining at a friend’s house—and make you feel like part of the family.

Upon arriving at the table, our server told us a bit about the restaurant, including the daily Appy Happy Hour and events like the Día de Muertos festivities, where the staff paints their faces like sugar skulls. He even presented us with branded keychain lights to help us see the menu in the dim restaurant—a perfect solution to the issue of diners using the annoying flashlight on their phone.

In addition to the service and ambiance, Besito also offers a different take on the usual Mexican style food in local and chain restaurants for roughly the same price. The flavors and specials are fresh and authentically creative. You won’t find fajitas on the menu (iron skillet tacos are the closest thing they serve) but you won’t complain. From the food to the drinks, everything is expertly crafted and literally drool-worthy…and affordable. Appetizers are all less than $15 (most are under $10)  and entrées range from $18-$29.

cocktails at besito mexican chestnut hill boston

We started our impromptu date night with table side guacamole and a round of cocktails—a Paloma for me and a Spicy Martini for Ronnie. The Paloma was refreshing, perfect for the hot summer weather and the Spicy Martini offered an unusual and welcome flair. Radically different in taste, each drink was rimmed in a different salt mix that made our taste buds dance with joy.

shrimp taco appetizer besito mexican

Hector, the manager of the Chestnut Hill location, brought the drinks to our table and chatted for a few minutes. He recommended the Tacos de Camarones (shrimp tacos) appetizer on the menu but we had already had our hearts set on the rib special that our served had mentioned. Regardless, the Chef sent over both appetizers for us to enjoy.  The shrimp mini tacos were the perfect size, full of flavor, and the ribs in mole sauce fell off the bone.

mole ribs and cocktail besito mexican

After stuffing myself on the appetizers, chips and guacamole, I opted for the seemingly lighter Camarones Jalisco—a dish of pan seared jumbo shrimp, mashed boniato, tequila chipotle glaze, and spring pico. While the dish was lighter in calories, it was not small! I was surprised at the size of the dish and the number of shrimp on the plate.

dinner besito mexican chestnut hill review

Ronnie got the Filete de Res al Chipotle—a Filet Mignon marinated in Negra Modelo, salsa de chipotle quemado, queso Chihuahua, nopales, plantains, and queso fresco.  A big fan of bold flavors, Ronnie loved the steak. Both dishes were perfectly complemented by the Elotes de la Calle (Mexican street corn) that we ordered and the complementary side of black beans and rice that comes with every entrée.

flan dessert besito mexican chestnut hill review

Full from the delicious entrées, we opted not to order dessert, but Hector had other plans and sent over the most delicious cheese flan topped with crema, walnuts, and a sweet drizzle. Fluffy and rich, it was the perfect sized dessert for us to split. Before leaving, we were presented with mini churros to go with two little worry dolls. Our server explained that if you tell our worries to the doll and place it under your pillow, you’ll wake up worry free.

worry dolls besito mexican

Dinner was so relaxing that we almost didn’t realize that it 9pm and closing time by the time we were ready to leave. The restaurant was nearly empty as we rolled ourselves out the door and bid adieu to the staff. We left Besito Mexican impressed. Food, service, and ambiance—everything about the restaurant blew us away and we cannot wait to go back. If you’re in the Chestnut Hill area and craving an authentic Mexican experience, I highly recommend Besito Mexican.

Note: I received this meal free of charge but all opinions are my own.