Monday, January 15, 2018

Local Lovin': The Urban Grape + a Giveaway!

Wine and food, literally two of my favorite things to be honest. Before we had kids, the husband and I used to go wine tasting, take our time choosing our favorite wines and food pairings and were once awarded most amazing wine buyers on a trip to the Finger Lakes (we awarded it to ourselves). Anyone who is in the throws of having young children and being tasked with maintaining your sanity knows that it's hard to keep up on your fine wines and what's the newest food craze that you've got to try... but when Hadley Douglas at The Urban Grape was like "Hey Amanda, do you want to try to regain some of that coolness again?" I was like yes, please and thank you. She didn't really ask me that but she might as well have! The folks at The Urban Grape, an awesome, eclectic wine shop in Boston, MA is not only a place to stop and grab the perfect bottle of wine. It's a store whose owners think about drinking in a different way. more progressively you might say. I met Hadley last year at a "real women" photo shoot with our mutual gal pal (Astrid of Tapered Collection) and to say that I had a crush from the onset, would be an understatement. She's cool, funny, smart and voices her opinion (which you know I love). I was thrilled to snag a copy of her and her husband's new book "Drink Progressively" and thought it would be wonderful to learn more about her, The Urban Grape and obviously, WINE!

Give us a little background as to how The Urban Grape came about. What initially drove you to start your shop/brand/book?

I really have to give my husband the credit for this one! It was his dream to open The Urban Grape, and I found myself along for the ride at first, but then jumping in with both feet. TJ had been in the restaurant industry for a long time, and knew he wanted to bring that kind of hospitality to Boston’s retail wine world. Our business partnership works because we are good at keeping what we do for The Urban Grape separate – I sell the store and he sells what’s in it. Building the UG brand has been one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I’m so proud of how I’ve been able to help TJ articulate his vision for the store. Our new wine education book, Drink Progressively, really grew out of this partnership – it’s his knowledge, seen through my lens. It’s just kind of how we approach life!

What inspires you about wine?

No wine experience is ever the same, twice. Wine is so malleable. Your experience with each bottle is influenced by your mood, what you’re eating, who you’re drinking it with, what the weather is like. It’s widely known that terroir (the soil, air, temperature, etc) around the vines and grapes influences the wine in your glass. But it’s more than that. All of the experiences about that wine influence your pleasure with it. That’s why we wanted a beautiful store and an educated, friendly staff. Wine is grown in the most beautiful places in the world, it should be sold in beautiful places too! Your relationship with that bottle starts the second you walk into our store.

I love the way that you have shaped your business. You're making choosing your wine different than the average wine shop. What does it mean to "drink progressively"?

The concept of “Drink Progressively” is based on a system that we call The Urban Grape Progressive Scale, which categorizes wine by its body instead of by its varietal or region. Basically, we’re saying if you think about five principles of wine – light, medium, or heavy bodied, lemonade, and hot chocolate – you can understand the basics of wine without ever having learned the name of a grape or region. The Progressive Scale rates the body of wine on a scale from 1-10, with one being the most light-bodied (think skim milk), five being medium-bodied (think whole milk), and then being the most full-bodied (think heavy cream). From there, think about lemonade and hot chocolate. Light-bodied, brightly acidic wines have a time and a place, as do rich and full-bodied wines. Once you learn the principles it’s easy to pair wine to food and know what to drink, and when!

What do you love to do in New England, when you aren't busy running your business?

I’m a New England girl, through and through! I love to hike and snowshoe with TJ, our sons, and our dog Zeus. I love the beach just as much as I love the mountains. Yoga is my passion, and I wish I had more time for it – that’s my 2018 goal! JP Centre Yoga in Jamaica Plain is my favorite studio. I’m very into healthy eating, so you’ll find me in the kitchen every day, cooking for our family (a lot of my family recipes are in Drink Progressively!), so to that end I love farmer’s markets and my weekly CSA box delivery. I love my friendships with other women, a lot of whom are small business owners themselves. We’re a bit of a tribe. And as a family we have fallen hard for the Celtics this year. I want to adopt Jayson Tatum as my third son. I’m obsessed.

You have certainly found success and obviously I have a huge girl crush on you! You have a new book out which is awesome, where do you see The Urban Grape headed in the future?

Before I can get into the future, I have to say that the definition of success is a really tricky thing. I’m very hard on myself, and always striving to do better. So is The Urban Grape successful? Sure it is, but there is always something more to accomplish or fine-tune. But when I think of success, it’s not The Urban Grape that springs to mind. It’s my family. I’m really proud of who we are as a family, of who are sons are growing up to be, of our values, and our desire to make the world a place that works better for everyone. I can’t tell you where UG will be in a year, but I can tell you that my favorite part of every day will still be having family dinner around our kitchen table – paired with wine, of course!

PS. Special Treat time! Hop on over to my Instagram post to win a signed copy of Drink Progressively for yourself!

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Night Out with #XfinityMoms

*This post was sponsored by Xfinity though all thoughts are my own.

Last week while my parents were up visiting, the man and I decided to combine some blogger business with a date night. We headed up to the Xfinity store at 3rd Ave in Burlington to have some tasty holiday inspired sips and snacks while learning all about what the team at Xfinity are working on this holiday season. I know it seems silly to take my husband with me, but listen, he likes gadgets and so it wasn't too much of a stretch to take him with me to play with some of the new grown up toys at the Xfinity stores. We joined some other local Moms to listen and learn.

I think it's hard for this non techy Mama to get into all the business that goes into your wifi, internet, mobile, cable and so on and so forth. I usually leave this all the my husband but when Xfinity put it into terms that I could understand, it became a whole lot more interesting. From the super high tech voice controlled remotes, you can not only search for your favorite movie, there's less to fuss about with your fingers. Add in the "Kids Zone" and parental controls, you can actually leave the room without your kids turning on some too too adult programming (because you know mine would!). They've got some really fun things on demand as well, like the Santa Tracker this holiday season, if that's your family's kind of thing!

If you're looking to control your "home" and such on the go, Xfinity mobile makes it really easy to carry it with you on your mobile device whether it's your phone or tablet. You can stream something like 200 TV channels and 40K online movies to your devices so on the go entertainment is covered, not to worry. They've also got some pretty amazing apps to check in on your home's security and energy management while you're out if you're signed up for Xfinity mobile service. As a busy mom who often forgets things, this is one less thing to worry about since you can do it on the go. Forgot to turn the thermostat down? No problem with the Xfinity suite of apps. You can get started with Xfinity mobile for as low as $12 a month as long as you have Xfinity internet. They offer an unlimited plan for $45 which totally makes sense if you have a big data lovin' family!

I think of all the things I learned about last week, my absolute favorite was the xFi pods. There's a spot in our bedroom that absolutely is too far from our router. I can't surf the nets while laying in bed, which is sometimes a bummer. With the xFi pods, you can boost your signal and get internet to all corners of your home, which to me, is clutch when I just want to relax with a Netflix show before bed. These are most definitely on my list of things to snag! I know for a fact that if you visit a store, they would be happy to answer all your questions and find a solution that fits your needs. It's nice to be able to work with people to create the right amount of "tech" needed for your home and family!

You can find your local Xfinity Store here and check out all their offerings on their site. Thanks for having us Xfinity, Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 18, 2017

peach for active yet hip mamas

*Peach and my stylist Peach Alissa gifted me items for this review.

You may have been seeing Peach and their casual cool work/out wear on the nets recently. The ladies over there are certainly doing their best to spread the good word about their awesome athleisure-wear but I didn't get a peek at it until one of their stylists, Alissa, contacted me about checking it out. We chatted about the brand, my lifestyle and what would work best for me Peach-wise before trying them on for size.

As a Mom to two busy boys, it's imperative for me to be comfortable. I hate to be like "comfort is key" but dude, it really is. I can't be bothered to wear clothes that dig into me, are ill fitted or don't move with me as I am on the go. That's why "athleisure" wear has become something of a necessity to me... but I don't want to look frumpy dumpy you know? I told Alissa all about my lifestyle, and she totally got it. We talked about my body type and what makes me feel comfortable, and she totally got it. It was nice to actually work with someone to find what would be the best fit both literally and for my lifestyle.

We ended up deciding on the very popular Margot Funnel, the Nina Legging, the Velvet headband and the Modern Boho pant, all which seemed to be very versatile and stylish (+comfortable) staple pieces for my wardrobe. I love everything but I have BEEN LIVING in the Margot Funnel (in soft pink) and the Modern Boho pant. Can we talk about the epitome of comfy! The clothes are Made in the USA and sold by a network of stylists so you most definitely feel that there's a personal touch to the experience... and I just love that.

It's not hard to love a brand that creates comfort without losing the cool. If you'd like to speak to a stylist, I highly recommend working with Alissa and the team at Peach. You won't regret having that human relationship to guide you in shopping for your next favorite clothes!

You can follow Peach online, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Friday, December 15, 2017

Nora Mattress Review- Sponsored by Wayfair

*This post was sponsored by Wayfair. We (well, my sister) received a new Nora mattress for review. All opinions are 100% our own.

When my pals at Wayfair were like, hey Amanda, do you want to review one of our new Nora mattresses, I was legitimately bummed because look, we don't need a new mattress in our house as much as I would have loved to review one... but then I had an idea! Could I write a review with my sister? YES! Her and her husband just bought a new house this year and they've not had the opportunity to flesh out the guest rooms until now. Wayfair and the best sister ever just hooked up The Ward family with a new Nora mattress for all the out of town guests looking to stay at their home these holidays (us included)!

Wayfair shipped the queen sized mattress just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. My sister Mallory and her husband Brandon made it their job to get a bed and some light furniture in their newly painted guest room for family to come and visit, comfortably staying in their home. I had the opportunity to try it out myself while the #propahfamily was visiting so we chatted about the mattress and what Mallory thinks of it! (Hint: It's veeeeeeeery comfortable)

The mattress arrived rolled up into a very compact and very light box, which my sister was able to carry into the house on her own. They opened it in the living room but would recommend opening it in the room where the bed is since it expands right into its glorious mattress-ness right away. So far so good, right? They set it up on a new platform bed with no boxspring but note that it could be used on one depending on what kind of frame you'd like to use. Most importantly, they absolutely think it's the most comfortable.

The layers of foam are gel infused and supportive and fit to your body like a glove. Also, a bonus for this lady (who runs hot), the mattress cover itself is jade infused which ensures that the bed stays cool while you sleep! Besides being super comfortable, the mattresses themselves are super affordable on Wayfair, so much so that I will very much take one into consideration when we're looking to outfit some bunk beds in the coming years. So to recap: delivers compact, lightweight, super comfortable, super affordable... what more could you ask for in your mattress?

Check out the Nora Mattresses on Wayfair today!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

It's All in the Sauce with Autumn Glory Apples

*This post was written in collaboration with Autumn Glory Apples and you can believe me when I say that my opinions are 100% my own and my opinion is that these apples are delicious.

I'm starting to be of the mindset that I've got to figure out a way to get more fruits and veggies into my kids without buying those expensive pouches all the time and while also serving my inner domestic goddess. When Autumn Glory Apples was like hey Amanda, can you work with our apples but we want it to be a pretty simple apple hack and not too many steps, I was like hey, you came to the right girl. This Mama of two little ones does not have time for extravagant recipes full of precise measurements because, well, I've usually got a three year old helping me.

The Autumn Glory Apples are a variety of sweet, caramel and cinnamon, that frankly, taste like starshine and moonbeams, they're that delicious. They come in both conventional and organic varieties. Add to that that they are sustainably and thoughtfully grown, well, I'm yours AGA. Wes loves when I cut them up and drizzle a little Whole Foods peanut butter on them but we also love some apple sauce! Since store bought apple sauce often contains unnecessary added sugars, we make ours at home with just a dash of this and a little bit of that so that I know exactly what's in it. This is the perfect kind of recipe for a preschooler to help with too since it's kind of hard to mess up and is bound to be delicious no matter what. We make an apple sauce using apples, cinnamon, ginger and maple syrup and to be honest, the Autumn Glory Apples took our usual recipe to the next level.

It really is as simple as peeling 4-5 Autumn Glory Apples, putting them in a medium/large sauce pan or dutch oven, setting them on medium heat and seasoning. I like to start heating the apples with 1/4 cup of water (you can always add more later) then start adding in the spices, finishing off with maple syrup. My go to amounts are 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and ginger, then I drizzle pretty freely with the maple syrup (I use the organic from Trader Joe's) though I have to say that these apples are pretty sweet on their own so I didn't need to use a ton for this sauce.

Once the apples are soft, I let them cool then pop them in the food processor or blender. The batch usually yields enough for immediate consumption, snacks in the fridge, a couple servings to freeze and enough to make a couple of my favorite applesauce cake recipe. I received 12 apples and they've seen us through a few weeks of snacking, baking and cooking (did you see my apple rosemary flatbread from a recent potluck?)!

I absolutely love these apples. They seriously got Wesley interested enough to take a bit through the peel, which was no small feat let me tell you. I'm hopeful that on my next batch of apple sauce, maybe I can sneak some turnips in without him noticing... but seriously. it feels good to be able to make good food from quality produce that tastes amazing and comes from only the best hands. I can't wait to see what the team at Autumn Glory Apples and Super Fresh Growers have in store for us in the future!

What's your favorite Easy Peasy Apple recipe?