day trips

2014 Winter Olympics at the BCAE

2014 Winter Olympics Logo

2014 Winter Olympics Logo

Doesn’t it feel like we just watched the 2012 Summer Olympics in London? Doesn’t it feel like just a few months ago the Spice Girls were reunited for a few songs and that gymnast girl was unimpressed with her silver medal? Has it really been almost two years? Apparently.

Strangely enough, I can barely remember the last Winter Olympics in 2010…Apparently it was in Vancouver? I do remember one from 1998, though, where young figure skaters Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan were competing for the gold.

Back to the present, though.  This winter the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE) is offering Boston’s only up-close and personal look at the Winter Olympics. In celebration of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the BCAE is bringing together a group of renowned experts including a former Olympian for a series of unique classes designed to provide in-depth knowledge on the Winter Olympics and its competitions including bobsledding, figure skating, skiing, snowboarding and curling.

The BCAE will turn into Boston’s own Olympic village during the last two weeks of January. The series kicked off on January 22nd, 2014 with Skiing and Snowboarding led by Tom Meyers of Wachusett Mountain. Meyers and his expert staff will gave students an insider’s look at the Olympic sports including what to wear, proper form, what to look for while watching the competitions on TV, as well as the different types of skis and snowboards used in various competitions during this two hour class. On Thursday, January 23rd and January 30th, 2014 Anne Stacy will lead Figure Skating. Stacy, an esteemed figure skating coach, will guide students through the technique, pageantry and beauty of this beloved Olympic sport.  The two-part course will teach students everything they need to know about what it takes to become an Olympic skater including the amount of preparation that goes into a four minute routine, training, the history of the sport, an explanation of the esoteric scoring system, and a demonstration session where students will learn how to do lutz and axel jumps in the BCAE’s spacious ballroom.

On Monday, January 27th, 2014 the BCAE will give students a rare look at curling, one of the most intriguing Winter Olympic sports. Broomstones Curling Club will lead a hands-on Curlingclass, demonstrating the methods behind the madness of this unique winter event. Students will learn the rules, regulations and strategy of the sport, and participants will be given the opportunity to test out their skills with a specially-made curling stone created for dry land demonstrations. On Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 two-time Olympian Peter Donohue will lead a rare discussion onBobsledding and what it takes to be an Olympic athlete. After a career as a world-class sprinter in Ireland, Donohoe turned his sites towards bobsledding and qualified for the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics, representing Ireland. This lecture will include notes on Peter’s career, a video demonstration, equipment samples, and a question and answer session about both bobsledding and his career.

For those looking for a cultural taste of Sochi, the BCAE will host aVodka Tasting (chosen as a staff pick!) led by expert Randall Bird onThursday, January 23rd This class will cover production, labeling standards, understanding Vodka bottles, and will of course include a tasting of many Vodkas. Finally, on Saturday, January 25th the BCAE’s Dustin Todd Rennells will present Sochi Succulents: Russian Eating Olympics, a crash-course on preparing Russian cuisine such as blintzes and borscht. These classes are perfect inspiration for Winter Olympic game parties and preparation.

WHEN:            Skiing and Snowboarding: Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014; 6:00PM to 8:00PM; 1 session. $40 / $34 members

Figure Skating: Thursday, January 23rd and January 30th, 2014; 6:30PM to 8:30PM; 2 sessions. $60 / $51 members

Vodka Tasting: Thursday, January 23rd, 2014; 6:30PM to 8:30PM; 1 session. Staff pick pricing: $36 / $31 members, materials $15 (regularly $45/$38 members)

Sochi Succulents: Russian Eating Olympics: Saturday, January 25th, 2014; 2:30PM to 5:30PM; 1 session. $55 / $47 members, materials $18

Curling: Monday, January 27th, 2014; 6:30PM to 8:30PM; 1 session. $40 / $34 members

Bobsledding: Tuesday, January 28th, 2014; 6:00PM to 8:00PM; 1 session. $40 / $34 members

WHERE:          Boston Center for Adult Education, 122 Arlington Street, Boston, MA, 02116

RSVP:             To register visit www.bcae.org or call the Boston Center for Adult Education at 617-267-4430

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My ideal fall weekend in and around Boston

View from Sholan Farms

After a summer full of hot, humid weekends spent laying on the beach, a cool but sunny fall weekend spent outdoors is the perfect remedy.  Fall has recently become one of my favorite seasons, and there are endless ways to enjoy it.

My ideal fall weekend begins with friends, dinner, and pumpkin beers at a casual restaurant on Friday night.  My go-to, Sunset Grill & Tap, boasts over 100 beers on tap, including multiple seasonal and pumpkin offerings.  Shipyard Pumpkin with a cinnamon sugar rim is my choice to wash down a feast of nachos and buffalo chicken.

Saturday morning, I wake up and have a delicious breakfast of an egg & cheddar sandwich and coffee, at one of my favorite Brookline spots, Temptations Cafe, and then head outside of the city for a bike ride. Located less than 30 miles west of Boston, the Nashua River Rail Trail is an 11-mile paved bike trail that starts in Ayer and travels through several small Massachusetts towns before reaching the New Hampshire border.  The 22 mile ride through shaded trails is the perfect way to get some much needed exercise before stuffing my face with some more fall food.

Apple picking is another must-do on my list. Nothing beats a couple of McIntosh or Honey Crisp apples, fresh off the the tree, except maybe hot apple crisp fresh out of the oven, covered in cool vanilla ice cream.  This fall, I picked apples at two different orchards in central Massachusetts: one in Harvard, MA near the bike trail I mentioned previously and Sholan Farms in Leominster, MA, where I grew up. Head to the orchards in September for McIntosh or Honey Crisp and in early October for Cortland or Macoun. These apples make great snacks for work, especially when sliced and dipped in peanut butter! On the less healthy side, my favorite apple crisp recipe always makes a satisfying dessert.

Although I love summer because along with it comes the beach, vacations, seafood, ice cream, flip flops, and a laid back atmosphere, its heat and humidity can make it difficult to exercise.  It’s too hot and humid to run outside, and even the air conditioned gym feels too sticky for a workout.  Gross. Fall is my favorite time to head outside. Whether it’s for a long run through the streets of Brookline and along the Riverway near Fenway, or a hike up a local mountain, when it’s a nice fall Sunday I’m ready for an outdoor workout.  This Monday, since I have Columbus Day off, my friend Katie and I are planning on heading up to New Hampshire to hike Mount Monadnock.  The last time I hiked that mountain, I was twelve and my parents were bribing my sister and I with $5 each and lunch at McDonald’s.  Hopefully I’m in good enough shape to do it again.

My ideal fall weekend ends with a trip to a local ice cream shop.  Nope, fall is not too cold to go out for ice cream.  Neither is winter, for that matter.  I’ll trudge through ice, snow, or rain to devour my favorite dessert.  And no, the stuff from the grocery store freezers is never as good. My go-to, J.P. Licks in Coolidge Corner, features different homemade flavors each month, and October has some great ones that I can’t wait to try.  Chocolate Chocolate Chip yogurt, Caramel Apple, Cheesecake Oreo, Pumpkin Custard. Yum! So many reasons to look forward to the weekend. Now I just need to get off the computer and go enjoy it!

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Cape Cod: The bay side vs. the ocean side

Skaket Beach

Orleans has two beaches, one on the bay side of the Cape and one on the ocean side: Skaket and Nauset.  Nauset, on the ocean side, has big waves, cold water, and seems to stretch on for miles, while Skaket, on the bayside has warmer water, more drastic tides, and is pretty small.

Both beaches are a lot of fun, but I’ve spent more time at Skaket.  As I’ve said before, I’m basically five years old, so Skaket is perfect for me since it’s perfect for families with small children.  There, as a kid, I was never bored.  I’ve always enjoyed sitting on the section of beach away from the main part, where it’s quieter and you have more space.  When the tide is between low and high, there is this tidal pool where you can find hermit crabs and small fish, when the tide is going out there’s a river if you walk down the beach all the way to the right where you can float down on tubes, and when low tide comes around, you can walk out about a mile into the ocean. I’m not exagerrating.  The only problem is, you have to really pay attention to when high and low tide are because if you’re at Skaket a day when it’s hot, and low tide is at 1:00 pm, you will have no place to swim and cool off. Luckly during this trip, the temperature was perfect.  Close to 80, so even though low tide was around 3:00 we were ok.

Nauset beach at sunset

I haven’t spent as much time at Nauset beach, but its definitely a nice beach to take a long walk on as the sun is setting.  The water is colder, like most New England beaches, and the waves are pretty huge.  I’ve even seen seals swimming right of shore at Nauset, which was pretty cool.

The Caribbean beaches may have their bright blue water, palm trees, and soft sand, but Cape Cod beaches definitely have a relaxing, summery charm.  To me, summers mean seagulls, sandy dunes, and crashing waves.

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What’s wrong with Revere beach?

Revere Beach

The beach is one of my favorite places.  I love laying out in the sun, relaxing while reading a book, cooling off in the ocean, and going for walks by the water.  There’s one beach I love,that has a lot of critics, though, and I don’t understand why. For some reason, whenever I mention to anyone that I’m going to Revere Beach, they give me a strange look and say, “Watch out for syringes in sand” or ask, “Really, isn’t that beach gross?”  I was skeptical too the first time I made the quick 20 minute drive to Revere, but my friends assured me that it would be fun.

We arrived pretty early, and easily parked on the street.  Used to expensive parking at Hampton (it was $20 in the lot I parked in on 4th of July weekend), I was pretty excited to park on the street next to the beach for free. If you get there after 10 am on weekends, though, it becomes very difficult to find a spot. Fortunately, Revere Beach is also T-accessible. It’s only a couple minute walk from the Revere Beach stop on the Blue Line, meaning it’s only about 15 minutes from downtown (Government Center) and about 45 minutes from my apartment (Brookline).  We’ve taken the T a few times when we wanted to leave for the beach a little later, and it wasn’t bad at all.  I was even the annoying T rider carrying a small beach chair and a beach bag.

Once we parked, we walked out onto the hot sand, picked out a spot, and put on our sunscreen.  I was surprised.   The beach was clean and wasn’t packed at all, especially for a hot, sunny Saturday.  Like any New England beach, the water was cold but refreshing, and was rocky in a few places, but overall I had a wonderful day laying out  and swimming.

For food, there’s a few good options.  I always head to the beach with some healthy snacks and the intention of not spending money, but most of the time, my non-existent self control gets the best of me.  There’s a great pizza/sub shop called Nick’s Place across the street from the bathrooms that has tasty, cheap food.  I’ve had their small Italian sub, which was only about $5 and very filling.  Their pizza is also good, and their staff is very quick.

After a long hot day at the beach, nothing’s better than a cold dish of ice cream. I’m addicted to ice cream, so every time I’ve been to Revere Beach, I’ve had to stop at Twist & Shake.  I noticed it because of the  bright pink 24 flavors of soft serve sign.  I love flavored soft serve, and was very excited to have it.  My favorite is definitely black raspberry.  They also have tons of flavors of hard ice cream and frozen yogurt, as well as sundaes and slushies.  I tried one flavor of hard ice cream, Tornado I think it was called, that had Oreos, M&Ms, caramel, and other toppings in it.  Definitely a topping-lover’s fantasy.  It’s also pretty reasonable (under $3 for a small).

After spending many Saturdays and Sundays at Revere Beach this summer, I’ve definitely grown to like the place.  I don’t know why people think that it’s not a nice beach.  Maybe it was gross in the past, and they cleaned it up? I don’t know.  But  I think it’s perfect for a quick beach day.  Twenty minutes from my apartment, free parking, and ice cream. Can’t get much better than that.

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Last chance for cheap Red Sox pre-gaming & Celtics watching at Sports Depot

At Sports Depot before a Sox game last summer for drinks and 99 cent apps.

Full disclosure: I’ve been a server at the Sports Depot in Allston for over 3.5 years. I started working there my freshman year of college (I just graduated), and I’ve had a few great years working through the Red Sox World Series Championship in 2007, the undefeated Patriots season that ended in the horrible Superbowl loss, the Celtics championship in 2008, the BU hockey team winning the NCAA title in 2009, the current Celtics playoffs, some busy March Madness days, and countless Saturdays and Sundays during football season, trivia nights, and UFC Fight Nights. As much as I’ve enjoyed working there, I’m also a pretty loyal customer.  I’m a fan of their $2.50 beers and $5.50 mixed drinks (made with well liquor). Unfortunately, it’s all coming to an end. Sports Depot is going to be closing forever in the very near future. Pizzeria Regina  bought it, and it will reopen as a pizza place in the fall. No one will tell us when Sports Depot is closing, though! Needless to say, everyone should come in for some last minute deals!

The Celtics still have a few games left in this championship series, so I’m hoping to see tons of people packed into the bar cheering and drinking $2.50 drafts.  Where else can you get beer that cheap? It’s only Bud Light, Miller Light, Coors Light & High Life, but really, who can beat those prices? Sports Depot still has tons of TVs, even though a few of them are dying, and there’s plenty of places to watch the game.

Sports Depot never needed to promote the fact that they are a great place to watch a big game, but there is one thing they should have promoted that they never did: how they are a great place to go before a Red Sox game. You might think it’s a little strange since they’re probably about 2 miles from Fenway, and Fenway is surrounded by other sports bars like Game On, Cask n Flagon, Boston Beer Works, etc. Why not just go to those? Well, they are packed, expensive, and the only parking around is $30.  I know if you’re going to a Sox game you probably already dropped at least around $50 on each ticket, so why not just keep splurging? I mean 1 Bud Light at Fenways is $8.

If you’re looking to save some money, and you’re coming from outside of Boston, stopping at Sports Depot on your way to the game is definitely the way to go. They’re right off of the Mass Pike (the Allston Brighton exit) and Storrow Drive.  Every weekday between 4 pm and 6 pm they have 99 cent appetizers (nachos, boneless buffalo wings, sesame chicken fingers, fries, etc.) with the purchase of two drinks (including soda).  With two of the cheap light beer drafts, the total comes to $6 plus tax. So for $1 more than the price of one beer at Cask n Flagon and  $2 less than the price of  one beer at Fenway, you can get two beers and an appetizer at Sports Depot.

To add to the savings, just leave your car in the large parking lot on Braintree St., and either walk to Fenway (takes about 45 minutes) or take the 57 Bus on Brighton Ave (1 block from Sport Depot) or the T from Harvard Ave (2 blocks from Sports Depot).  After the game, just head back out to Allston, and avoid all the traffic near Fenway and the $30 parking.

As I said before, Sports Depot is closing soon. Very Soon. So this weekend, or next week, if you’re heading to Boston to watch the Sox, stop at the Depot on the way and save some money!

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Eat ice cream for a good cause in Boston!

Scooper Bowl Logo from Jimmy Fund's website

From today (6/8) through Thursday (6/10), ice cream lovers like me will be able to eat as much ice cream as they can at the annual Scooper Bowl in city hall plaza in Boston.  The event runs from 12 pm –  8 pm, tickets are $8 for people over 10. For real ice cream fans, Scooper passes can be purchased for $15, which allows visitors to attend every day! The proceeds benefit the Jimmy Fund, so you get to support a good cause and eat ice cream at the same time. Doesn’t get much better than that.  Since 1983, the Scooper Bowl has raised over $2.65 million for cancer research.  Definitely takes away some of the guilt of eating all that unhealthy food!

Baskin Robbins, Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Brigham’s, Edy’s, Häagen Dazs, HP Hood, Garelick Farms and Gifford’s will be supplying over 30 flavors for the event.  This is my first time going, and I’m really excited. I’m buying the 3-day pass, and I’ll be eating ice cream for lunch today!

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Snowboarding: one of my favorite winter activities

Wachusett Mountain

Now that winter has hit us with snow and freezing temperatures, and Christmas is just around the corner (tomorrow!), I’m trying to have some fun in the snow before I get too sick of it.  Sledding and ice skating are great, but snowboarding has always been my favorite.  I skied when I was younger, but started snowboarding about 5 years ago.

If you live in or around Boston, you may think you need to go to Vermont or New Hampshire for a good day of skiing.  That involves waking up at 6 am, packing the car, driving for at least 2.5 hours, spending close to $80 on a lift ticket, $20 on some unhealthy lunch and a hot chocolate, and possibly spending even more money on a hotel room.

Yes, the mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire are great.  I love making the trek to Mount Snow, but as a poor college student, I really can’t afford spending $75 on a lift ticket (weekend price; they’re $69 during the week) very often.  Also, between classes, interning, and working, it’s difficult to find the time to make the trip.

The perfect, affordable alternative: Wachusett! Located in Princeton, MA, it’s only about an hour from Boston.  Week night lift tickets are only $39 for skiing or snowboarding between 4 and 10 pm.  Not too bad.  I don’t feel like I need to stay on the mountain for 8 hours to get my money’s worth.  The mountain’s small, but they have enough trails to keep you busy for a few hours.  They also have a park with jumps, rails, etc for those who are feeling adventurous.

I went tonight, and the conditions were pretty good.  None of the trails were too icy.  I really enjoy Ralph’s Run, even though it’s a beginner’s trail, Smith, and Conifer.

Like any mountain, their food is overpriced, but my broccoli soup in a bread bowl was filling and cost about $7.00.  Overall it was a fun time.  In high school, when I lived about 20 minutes away from Wachusett, I would always get a season pass.  I think it was around $200 something for weekdays and any night.  It’s a pretty good deal for people who live close by and love to ski or snowboard.  I definitely recommend that you spend an evening skiing or snowboarding at Wachusett.

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