I’m super excited to be kicking off my 2nd annual Shop Local holiday series on the blog today!  First up, we’re talking with Tara Foley, owner of Follain in the South End of Boston. Check out the rest of the series here. SouthEndShop_12Welcome Tara! Tell me a little bit about yourself and your shop and how you got started.  Tara: When I graduated from college, I moved to NYC and was trying to get healthy — practicing yoga, racing triathlons, eating locally and clean; so when I found out about the toxic chemicals in my beloved beauty products, I became really upset, and realized there was no beauty store in NYC or anywhere else where I could buy safe and effective products, only.  So, in 2009 I started a blog — The Naturalchemyst — about healthy beauty products, and then I quit my job soon after to learn more about these products, working on a lavender farm in France, and for a skincare company in Maine.  Then I moved to Boston to get my MBA at Babson.  Immediately after winning a business plan competition for the concept, and graduating from my MBA (May 2013) I opened the South End shop in July 2013.  Now, our mission is to change the way women and men approach the products they apply to skin.  
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Are there any go-to items that you offer that you always recommend for holiday gift giving?
Tara: Our deodorants!  Conventional deodorant is filled with aluminum, which is extremely toxic.  Our little product is an expression of how much you care about your loved ones’ health and future…  We also love the fluffy marshmallow-y texture of our RICA body butter, which everyone loves for thirsty winter skin.  Healthy (lead and pthalate-free) candles are always a good option, and — last but not least — a refillable bottle of Follain liquid hand and body soap is the gift that keeps giving!  
SouthEndShop_14This is the time of year that we always need hostess gifts, what are you recommendations for the best thing to bring when attending a holiday party or visiting someone for the weekend?
Tara: People always turn to entertaining and house items for hostess gifts, but we encourage you to treat the hostess herself with something indulgent that she’ll love!  Our RICA bath tea is a great hostess gift, because it does both — it looks gorgeous in the bathroom and provides a decadent aromatherapeutic treat to help the hostess unwind!
SouthEndShop_17One of my favorite products at Follain was the lipstick I recently bought — any recommendations for which products can help create a great holiday-season make-up look?
Tara: We love golds and greens for holiday parties, like the RMS Solar cream eye shadow, Ilia Linger lipstick, and Vapour Viper eyeliner. 
SouthEndShop_13One of my favorite things about shopping local is the way that the community supports each other — what are your favorite places to shop in Boston?
Tara: We’re obviously partial to our great friends in the South End, like Olives & Grace, Farm & Fable, Flock, Twelve Chairs, Urban Grape…the list goes on!  For anything we can’t find in the South End, there are other awesome Boston neighborhood shops like Forty Winks in Harvard Square, Dress and Good in Beacon Hill.  
SouthEndShop_18What would you tell someone that’s thinking about shopping local this year?
Tara: There are SO MANY great reasons to shop locally — but to help put things in perspective, think about what your Boston neighborhood would look and feel like without all the cute, love-filled independent shops.  Would you want to live in a place with impersonal big box stores, only?  If not, then support your shopkeeper friends who have a story — and who know your story!
All photos credited to local Boston photographer: Bring to Light Photography.

One of the things I love about Boston is the amazing food scene we have here — I get a little burst of pride opening up Bon Appetit magazine and seeing some of my favorite local spots getting more and more shout outs these days. One of the restauranteurs that is synonymous with the Boston foodie scene is Ming Tsai. I’m excited to be joining Ming at his launch party for Season 12 of his cooking show at Blue Dragon on October 21, and you could join me too! The fine folks at Breville are giving away 2 tickets to the event, as well as a signed copy of Ming Tsai’s cookbook. To enter just head over to Instagram and follow @breville and @domestikblog, and then find their post about the party and comment, tagging a friend you would bring. Good luck!

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Last week I finally got a chance to try the new Harvard Square hot spot, Alden & Harlow, with my blogging buddy Elizabeth. I have been dying to try this place after seeing their plates pop up in my instagram feed since they opened. You know that anticipation you have when you really want to try something new? I had that waiting for this reservation to pop up on my calendar, and I have to tell you something: it completely exceed my exceptions. I’m still thinking about every bite I had a week later!

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We started with the onion dip and homemade chips; onion dip is kind of a weakness for me — I could eat buckets of it — and this passed the test for some of tastiest I’ve ever had. One of my other favorites from the night was the butternut squash salad, topped with currants, pecorino, hazelnuts,  and brown butter — I mean, this completely changed my perspective on vegetables — I can actually say that I crave vegetables after eating that.

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The pickled corn pancakes with a maple glaze and grilled shishito peppers was another dish that I have major food memories about now, it was such a unique combination of flavors, something I would never think of! We also tried the grilled carrots, charred broccoli and squash hummus, and the slow roasted beef neck over parsnip puree, all of which were phenomenal. Oh and the cocktails! The cocktails were delightfully refreshing, I tried one with vodka, honeyed kumquats, cinnamon and lemon — holy yum.  I absolutely can not wait to go back, and if you haven’t been yet, get yourself a reservation and prepare to be amazed! 

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A few weeks ago I was having brunch in the South End with a friend, and we made it a point to stop into the a new shop that I had been hearing about called Farm & Fable. It’s kind of like dying and going to vintage kitchen heaven. The store specializes in vintage cookbooks and serveware, and has an awesome collection of new heirloom kitchenwares — and it is some kind of miracle that I didn’t buy every single item in the shop on our visit. Oh also, they are starting a Cookbook Book Club where all of the attendees make a recipe from one cookbook and bring it for a potluck to chat about the recipes, how cute is that? I’m sad I can’t make the first meeting, but am definitely signing up in the future — that’s a book club I can get behind. If you’re in the neighborhood you must check it out!

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Earlier this week I worked with my buddy Alison to throw our summer Boston Bloggers meet up at The Sinclair in Harvard Square. I absolutely adore these events because I finally get to put faces to the Boston blogs I love to read. The party went off without a hitch thanks to the fabulous staff at The Sinclair (if you haven’t been yet, go check it out — they have delicious food, crafty cocktails, and a really amazing roof deck). We also added a few extra special touches to this event to introduce our new instagram and twitter accounts for the group — check them out if you’re a local blogger!

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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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As I was trudging through 2+ feet of snow snow this weekend I realized I’ve lived in Boston for 9 winters now, and every single year I have procrastinated buying appropriate footwear for these types of weather conditions. I finally broke down earlier this year and bought a pair of Hunter boots with fleece lining after my gazillionth pair of cheap wellies bit the dust. And let me just tell you, as I pulled on my boots and headed out into the storm it hit me, this is what being an adult feels like: having warm, dry toes. So bring on the cold and the slush Boston, I’m finally ready for you.

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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!


It was crazy gorgeous weather in Boston this weekend, and while I had a long list of things to do, I put off of my tasks and decided to soak in the weather with some drinks and relaxing on the porch. I finally scooped up some peonies at the market and made use of my new gingham plates. Then on Sunday we headed outside the city and did a little research around our wedding venue for rehearsal dinner spots. It was a tough job, testing restaurants on the water, but someone has to do it! What did you do this weekend?

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