Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bostonist: "Wining and Dining" daytrips, Part 2: The Coastal Wine Trail

Local wineries in the Bostonist, part deux!

This one includes the one itinerary I'd truly like to do:

Westport Rivers Winery, which recently received some press from the Improper Bostonian, sits outside New Bedford off Rt. 128, near Horseneck Beach. The farm is owned and operated by the Russell family, which also founded the eco-friendly Buzzard’s Bay Brewing. Guided tours of the vineyard are held at 1pm and 3pm on weekends, so take the early tour, get your tasting on, then head out to Horseneck Beach for a late-afternoon layout session, or make it a twofer tasting and stop off for a brew at Buzzard’s Bay on Horseneck Road. Grab a dinner of local cod, fried wild shrimp, or “heritage pork” with a side of mac ‘n’ cheese at beachside restaurant The Back Eddy.

[Full piece here.]

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bostonist: "Wining & Dining" daytrips, Part 1

Here in Boston, late-summer lethargy has set in. We all want to get out of the city, and we're all fantasizing about California, where it's not raining 24-7 and where we could drive through the rolling hills of Napa, sipping on pinots and snacking on local cheese (or maybe it's just me, since my best friend Karen lives in SF and regularly does this). Unfortunately, us Bostonians (meaning me) are mostly broke, and therefore, us Bostonians (meaning me) have been drinking a lot more lately.

Hence, I was inspired to write up a piece on winery day trips in New England for Bostonist:

We’re still in a gas crisis, and despite reading pages and pages of fluttery feature copy dedicated to the “staycation," we’re still not convinced that eating at Petit Robert Bistro is as good as going to France, that strolling through the North End is akin to a trip to Italy, or that New York Pizza’s pies are as delicious as those served in their namesake city. But grapes are grapes, so stop crying about your canceled trip to Napa--we’ve got your wineries right here. In fact, there are wineries all over New England. Most are open for weekend tastings, and many even feature beaches and bucolic farmland scenery...

[Full piece here. More on "South Coast" wineries to come.]

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cool mama in Copenhagen

Speaking of street style, I was just browsing Yvan Rodic's Facehunter blog (he shoots for Coolhunter, another style blog), and had to post this shot. This is a perfect example of what I mean by "real messy people" - because they are so much more inspiring than staged models on a photo shoot. This rad mom appears to have made no compromises to her own personal style and self-expression, simply because she has a baby. I love that. (It should also be noted that whenever a street style blogger comes to Copenhagen, they always come away with killer shots like these. There must be a funky-fresh chemical circulating in the water up there.)

It's also funny, because I've been seriously joking about moving to Scandinavia lately due to their more progressive health care and overall female-friendly systems there (i.e. Sweden offers 12 months maternity leave and subsidized day care - two things which would make the whole stay-home-or-stay-at-work dilemma for new moms much easier in the U.S.). This shot is only convincing me further...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What would your dream magazine contain?

I recently read a post on Feministing.com that echoed my recent thoughts about women's magazines. It's summer, and I tend to find that I'm more attracted to glossy spreads and bright colors than I am to musty classics and heavy nonfiction. But after reading magazine after magazine geared toward women, I can't help but wish that there were more substance to these publications. Feministing blogger Courtney agrees:

Too often, the magazines targeted at my age group are chock full of anxiety-inducing body features (even when they claim to be giving you a "body image makeover" it tends to feel like they're secretly making you hate yourself), fluff pieces on what kind of sex you're supposed to be having, and shock-and-awe memoir by women who were kidnapped by a cult or discovered that their mother was their sister etc. etc.

The editors at these magazines, I imagine, would argue that they are just supplying the demand, that young women ask them for this kind of content in letters and focus groups.

But where are the women who ache for these anxiety-inducing sex columns and another frickin' article on working out? Why is it that older women seem to want complex personal essay and complex features on cutting-edge science, reviews of literary novels etc., but we youngin's just want fashionfashionfashion?

Like Courtney, I doubt that this is the case. Sure, we youngin's do like our fashion. Even the most intelligent woman likes to rest her eyes on some pretty pitchers now and then, and even the most substantial woman is conscious of the ways in which she clothes, presents and expresses herself in a highly visual culture. And yes, many of us like to keep fit, eat healthy, and own our sexuality in an infinite amount of ways. But most of us don't need much additional help from magazines in order to do so, and in fact, we could do with less advice and meddling from the ladies' press, and more good talks with girlfriends and grandmothers on these subjects.

So what would we like to see instead? Courtney starts the process with her own brainstorming session:

What would your dream magazine contain? Mine:

-Lots of personal essays by really smart, funny women
-Reviews of memoir and novels, indy movies and music
-Profiles of social entrepreneurs, feminists, great thinkers
-Cutting edge science that features legitimate peer-reviewed studies on health, psychology, and the environment
-Op-eds where women take different points of view on complicated issues
-Photo spreads featuring women with diverse body types wearing gorgeous, original, affordable clothing
-Those awesome spreads where a magazine takes an issue--like the wedding industry--and gives all kinds of fascinating facts and figures (my favorite version of this is in Mother Jones

I'd second Courtney's suggestions and add to them:

- witty personal essays (of the non-shocking kind)
- reviews of books and movies that are not on any best-seller list (but that you might find on Pitchfork or Slashfilm, only without the pretense)
- useful health information (to counteract the huge amount of misinformation out there and the damage done by abstinence-only sex education)
- op-eds (to underscore the fact that "women", "white women", "black women", "Christian women" etc. do not constitute a monolithic group)
- photos with diverse body types and affordable clothing (because I love the "real" photos on the Sartorialist, but I have yet to see a woman featured who is shorter than 5' 7" and heavier than 120 lbs.)
- exposes of the industries that prey most on women's insecurities (Courtney's choice -- the wedding industrial complex -- is spot on).

I would go further to say that what I want is this:

Less advice columns telling me how to pluck my eyebrows or pleasure my man - I can do this without the help of Cosmo. Both come easily enough with good instincts and a little practice.
More advice columns telling me how to pick an ethical mutual fund for my money, and how to share my finances with my man, without going crazy.

Less photo spreads featuring perfect women and perfect homes.
More photo spreads featuring real messy apartments and real messy people, with material goods that suit and reflect all ages, sizes and budgets.

Less redundant and advertorial copy on the best new microdermabrasion product or the most eco-friendly eyeshadow.
More "service pieces" that actually do service. Tell me and my 20something friends how to find health insurance (even if we're baristas, contractors, artists, interns), and how to find the best physician and/or gyno.

Less features telling us how to perfectly cook our food or count the calories in our food or avoid food altogether.
More features telling us how to truly enjoy our food.

Less features on models and celebrities who are mainly famous for being famous, or for being beautiful.
More features on the women -- and men -- who are actually shaping our world.

(note: image above is from Apartamento, a new Italian design magazine not yet available in the States. More to come on this, probably, since I'm a bit in love with it.)

Facebook, across the generational divide

Both of my parents are on Facebook. Most early users of Facebook -- the golden 18-34 demographic -- instinctively recoil at the idea of their parents being privy to their crazy party photos and moody "status updates". But it has its moments. This one says it all:

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My dog's in the Dig

This month I produced a piece of hard-hitting investigative journalism for the Dig. I went undercover as a pup-toting yuppie to three dog-friendly restaurants in Boston with Eko, my calm and contemplative chocolate lab, who went undercover as an out-of-control beast who steals fries and hyperventilates under the table during dinner.

As I wrote in the subsequent article, "it was stressful".

I now have a greater sense of appreciation and sympathy for the parents of toddlers in restaurants, and Eko most likely has a greater appreciation for his quiet apartment and cozy bed.

But you have to admit, he looks adorable in the photo. Look at the faaace.

(Photo credit: Lexy Winter)