This year, instead of sharing a week of gift guides I decided to mix things up and think a little more local! All this week I’ll be sharing interviews with local Boston business owners to get their tips for holiday gift giving and entertaining. Hopefully it’ll inspire you to hit Main Street for small business Saturday this weekend and support local business! First up, the fabulous duo, TJ & Hadley, owners of the Urban Grape:

K: I love to bring a bottle of wine to a holiday party, but sometimes I’m nervous I might bring something that people don’t like … what do you look for in a wine to bring to a party? 
UG:  We tell people who are looking for a wine to bring to a party to look for something that’s fruit-forward — fruity, juicy wines — and something that has a bit of acidity helps too, the acidity makes you want to drink more. It also helps to pick a bottle that’s not a well-known brand, you can learn a little bit about the specific wine and the region or vineyard that comes from, and tell the story of the wine to give the hostess a little background — it’ll make the wine a little more memorable. One other tip: if the wine is supposed to  be served chilled, bring it at the appropriate temperature so if your host wants to open it that evening it’s already ready to go.

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K: What do you look for in a bottle that’s going to make a holiday gift? 
UG: If you’re looking to give a bottle of wine as a gift, and you’re not completely sure what the person drinks, we usually ask people: do they travel to certain places? Do they like certain types of cuisines? That can usually help narrow down a region of wines to start with. It’s also fun to pick a theme, you can put together a sampler back of a few different wines from the same region, or of the same grape varietal to give them a tasting of different types. Or put together a cocktail box that has all the ingredients for a special mixed-drink (and don’t forget fun accessories like a shaker!).
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K: As owners of a wine shop , I assume you’re quite popular and get invited to lots of holiday parties — any good entertaining tips you can share for the holiday season? 
UG:  Our motto is: keep it simple. Focus on quality elements, but keep everything pared down — your guests will feel more comfortable  if they’re not presented with tons of options. We usually stick to serving one signature cocktail, and 2-3 types of wines. People also spend all this time working on a perfect menu or hiring a great caterer, and then they let wine be the afterthought and just buy whatever is on sale — think about the wine just as you would planning the food menu. We tell people to bring in their menu to the shop and we’ll help pick things are going to not just go well with the food, but even elevate it.

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K: My favorite holiday is New Years Eve — what do you tell people who are intimated by picking out champagnes for a New Years Eve soiree? 
UG: Look for sparkling wines made in the champagne method — it’ll give you the taste of a champagne but at a lower price point. Smaller producers will also give you more bang for your buck, their attention to detail will give you a better quality, and they tend to spend much less on marketing than bigger brands and those cost savings get passed on to you. If you find a brand you like, at the beginning of the holiday season, buy a case of it and split it up to bring to various parties, give as gifts, and save some for yourself to enjoy too!
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Thanks to TJ & Hadley for all of their great advice! Don’t forget to #shoplocal this holiday season! 

The lovely folks at Calypso St. Barth invited me this weekend to preview the new store in Chestnut Hill at The Street, and it’s absolutely darling. First off, they have a great collection of resort wear that had me craving a warm weather getaway. And it was  great to hear that despite being a national brand, they support local designers and has some beautiful jewelry pieces from local Boston artisans. They kindly helped me pick out a few things for myself, and to say I fell in love with the cashmere v-neck sweaters is an understatement — I mean, I might actually live in these in for the  rest of the winter.  Be sure to check them out if you’re in the neighborhood!

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 Sweaters gift c/o Calypso St. Barth, all opinions are my own. 

 

This was one of those blissful summer weekends where we had no plans but to kick back and relax. I wanted to go back to The Sinclair in Harvard Square to try the full menu after tasting a few of their bites at our Boston Blogger meet up earlier in the week. Spoiler Alert: It was delicious. I had oysters, a mustard-y steak tartare and some phenomenal mac and cheese (which is a high praise, as I consider myself a bit of a mac and cheese connoisseur!) We sat out on the roof deck and enjoyed the cool, end-of-summer breezes, and tasted just about one of everything off the cocktail menu. As a result, I was moving a little bit slow on Sunday — but still managed to make it to SOWA Market — my first time this summer! — to check out the food trucks and farmer’s market. Guys, I’m just not ready for summer to end yet — I’m soaking in every last bit! 

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I felt like I packed an entire summer’s worth of activities into my weekend. On Friday we took a sail around the Boston harbor on the Adirondack III — a belated birthday treat for the Mr — and it couldn’t have been a more gorgeous night. We had wine and cheese and took in the Boston skyline as the sun set. Then Saturday was filled with lots of celebrations and activities for a dear friend’s bachelorette party. We got blow-outs with the bride-to-be to get ready for the day, and did  a walking wine tour of the South End neighborhood, tasting wines and food pairings at different local restaurants — wine and cheese were clearly the theme of this weekend! And our day of fun was followed by the usual bachelorette debauchery of dancing and clinking of champagne glasses. It was a jam-packed weekend and now I’m paying for it — I can’t wait to get in my bed and catch up on the DVR!

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Last night I worked with my partner in crime Alison to organize a very fun Boston Bloggers meet up at Scampo in the Liberty Hotel. It was such a fun night getting to meet new bloggers and catch up with others. Plus we had the pleasure of sampling the amazing food there; I practically stalked the waiter to get more of the truffled gnocchi bites they were passing around, the sausage stuffed bacon-wrapped dates were another favorite. The desserts were phenomenal too: mini banana pies, decadent brownies, and vanilla bean ice cream on pastries with berries. Are you drooling yet? I can’t wait to go back!

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I was lucky to catch a few runway shows at The Tent for Boston Fashion Week on Saturday. My favorite of the shows was Luke Aaron who presented gorgeous, lady-like pieces. Peplums, gingham maxi skirts, and smart little structured bags all made an appearance on the runway. And the best part? The long, bouncy ponytails on the models — they looked sophisticated and un-fussy — something to keep in mind on my next bad hair day!

I was super lucky to be invited last night to a hear Designers Don Carney and John Ross share their inspiration and present a preview of their new Patch NYC line debuting at Target on September 9th. As a long time fan of kitschy woodland creatures, these pieces were right up my alley. I’ll be ready to line up at my local Tar-jay for a gorgeous feather serving plate and teapot and few quirky little owl candle holders.  Check out more previews here.

Last week I took a calligraphy class with one of my friends in Boston’s North End. I’ve always admired the delicate details of invitations and menus done in calligraphy and I was hoping to pick up the skill in time for addressing my own wedding invites. Here is what I learned: it’s a lot harder than it looks! It was great to understand all of the basic strokes and techniques, but I think it’s going to take a lot of practice before I start writing up cards on my own. I had lots of fun though, and loved looking at all of the different styles in Liz’s gorgeous studio space. For all of the Boston readers, if you’re interested in taking a class, check out Lettering By Liz — I recommend it!


Sometimes the best things are right under your nose. I realized that tonight when I stopped by the  home furnishing and interior design spot Twelve Chairs on my way home from work — it’s right around the corner from my office and somehow I’ve never been in! It was a total feast for my design-hungry eyes, worn kilim rugs, cozy linen covered couches, and bright patterned pillows lined up on shelves. I also got to catch up with other Boston area bloggers at the event they hosted and had an awesome time — if you’re ever in the Fort Point area you must stop by, don’t wait a year like I did!

I had a delicious brunch with my girlfriends to cap off a relaxing fall weekend.

This was a bowl of baked heaven:

Brunch was topped off with some thrifting at the SOWA market:

Lots of Mad-Men-esque glassware, I’m kicking myself for not scooping these up:

And ton’s of retro-chic:

This one was a winner:

Also, no trick-or-treaters showed up tonight, which means I have a lot of candy to eat this week… I better go get started.