Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Westborough 4th of July Block Party

My first couple of years living in Westborough I was traveling out of town during the annual 4th of July block party event.  Last year I stumbled into the event by chance and only had half an hour or so to check it out.  But even in that short amount of time I realized how great this event is and this year I am prepared to enjoy all of the festivities.  

According to online sources, Westborough’s July 4th Family Block Party will be held from 6-10 p.m., this Friday, July 2.  The event is held in the center of town from the rotary down West Main Street, ending at Church Street.  The event is run by the Westborough Recreation department, specifically the July 4th committee, and they do an amazing job putting together an event for everyone in the community.

In the articles I have read there are tons of activities for the kids -- moon bounce, dunk tank, sand art, hay rides, pony rides, Big Daddy Racing Cars, air-brush tattoos, ring toss, and even a putting green.  And for entertainment this year the musical group The Reminisants and the Westborough Community Band will preform.   There will also a DJ to provide music when the bands weren't playing.

And one of my favorite parts...adding to all the of course the food.   Hot dogs, ice cream, steak tips, sausages, subs or salads.  This event is slated to have it all.  Several vendors are contributing to the meal and snack options, but I am most excited to see my friends from Tavolino Restaurant participating.  Anthony and his staff at Tavolino are really showing how much they care about this community.   I am proud to see them at each these events, and even more I enjoy the GREAT food they bring each time.

My family and I are all ready to walk down and enjoy all the activities scheduled for Friday evening.  My boys are excited for a hay ride as we missed that last year.  And since I am expecting it to be such a great community event I already plan on extending the boys standard 7PM bedtime so we have time to socialize with the community.  

Westborough and the local organizations really do a great job on their community events.  They are well organized, fun, and really foster a community spirit that makes me proud to live here.  And the location, Route 30 west of the circle, is ideal for community events.  There is plenty of space for everyone to congregate and socialize.  As someone who throws a bunch of parties I respect a good party layout. 

My personal thanks goes out to the members of the July 4th Committee including Frank and Karen DeSiata, Brandi Phillips, Susan Pickering, Bill Linnane, Bill Kohler, Tom Shea, Mark Brady and Pete Allen.  I look forward to a great event this Friday.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Impressive Balance

I am so excited for this particular blog.  In fact if you happen to run into me and my family at EMC park or walking to Panera I will recite this blog to anyone who will listen.  I have been so impressed over the past months at both of my sons progress I can't contain it.

About two months ago I was having lunch with a wise co-worker and I mentioned that I needed to get my youngest, the 3 1/2 year old, a two wheel bike with training wheels so he can keep up with his brother when we walk to Panera.  His 5 year old brother has a 16 inch bike, that at the time had training wheels.  My co-worker quickly suggested I instead should look for a balance bike.  I had never heard of a balance bike, but in my one attempt to take give no training wheels a try with my older son, and the failure that ensued I was willing to give a balance bike a try.

What is a balance bike?
Also known as a "push bike" or "running bike", it is a standard two wheel bike with no peddles.  Some are wood, some are nice aluminum or even graphite.  They all seem to work just fine from anyone I have talked to.  I personally chose the aluminum as the bike looks like his older brothers bike and is super light for the first trip where I ended up carrying it for a stretch.  BUT I definitely ended up paying more for the look without additional functional value.  :-)

First thing I had to do was find a bike.  My co-worker had passed his sons on to his daughter so borrowing there was not an option.  Sadly these are not cheap and shopping in person I did not find many options.  Mostly because no one had them in stock and I had decided to buy a bike that evening.  Now in researching more options for my readers I found tons of options from reputable suppliers.
  • Target claims 19 options online.  When I was in the store…NOTHING.  That was annoying.  They range from $72 to $100 - Target Options 
  • Walmart claims 3 options online…and none are available in any store.  I know lots of us are web savvy and buy online all the time but Walmart is supposed to have everything, even if the quality suffers.  Walmart is definitely the cheapest option I found, but they also look cheep.  Walmart sells these for $59 - Walmart Options 
  • Landry's Bicycle in Westborough was where I found the bike I now own.  It was probably the most expensive at $159 but it was in stock and the model I have is a sharp blue.  Online they have a white version featured and the one I own isn't pictured.  Landry's, as expected, was knowledgeable about the bike.  I had done a little research but the sales associates contributed and confirmed the information I had acquired.  Nice job Landry's and although I paid more I don't regret it a bit.  Landry's Options 
  • REI has two options, basic wood and aluminum, I like their aluminum and I may have shopped for that one had I noticed it at the time.  Price range $94 - $119 - REI Options
  • For those who love Amazon, they carry them as well.  Ranging in price from $30 (I really don't think I trust that one) to over $300…seriously…$300 for a TODDLER bike!  Amazon Options
The Results:
I am amazed at the results from a balance bike.  Absolutely astounded at how well it worked and how easily my kids have transitioned to riding a 2 wheel bike.

Here is the scenario: I brought the bike home we decided to walk to Panera for dinner.  My house is about a mile from Panera and for the most part there are sidewalks all the way.  My wife and I both walked, my oldest was on his two wheel bike with pedals and training wheels.  My 3 year old was on the newly acquired balance bike.  We set off and the youngest was very slow.  We was walking more then sitting and pushing.  but he was happy with his new bike.  For the entire mile we kept reminding him to try to sit down and glide.  After dinner we began walking back and he was starting to sit on the bike and more then two or three feet of gliding, but still getting the idea.  By the time we were back to the house, he had the concept down and was gliding for four or five feet.  It was unbelievable, on the inclines we was faster then his brother.

Each afternoon he wanted to practice and began riding across the driveway.  After one week, he could balance on an incline for twenty to thirty feet.  All of the sudden he was faster then his older brother.  I made a second attempt at taking off the training wheels on the 5 year old's bike but it didn't work.  He could pedal but had no balance.  
Now I had a new problem, the older child was slower and...frustrated.  Then I tried a new approach, I unscrewed the pedals from my older son's bike and lowered the seat slightly.  Then I started to repeat the same instructions I had given for the balance bike.  A couple of time he caught his leg on the bars the pedals attach to but in a week he too was gliding around the driveway.  After two weeks I added the pedals back on and that was it, he was off riding a two wheel bike with pedals.  I am so impressed with him on his bike...I need to get used to riding mine again so we can go on some bike rides.

I bought a new 12" bike with pedals for my younger son, but the first attempt he was having a cranky day and it didn't go well.  He did hop back on his balance bike without any issue so I will try again this weekend.  As soon as I do, I will review some of the bike trails in the area.

Until then I encourage any parents with children 2 - 4 who are ready to move off the tricycle to try a balance bike.  I am amazed at how well it works.  As always I am proud to support local business in my endeavor but check the links above or others on your own for the best prices.

Checking out the Big Trucks

Last Saturday was the annual big trucks day at the Northborough at the Algonquin high school.  I almost missed the event but some friends mentioned it on Friday and our plans allowed the addition without difficulty.  Maybe where I grew up there weren't enough big trucks or maybe in my home town the DPW didn't need community support.  Whatever the case I never got to attend this type of event growing up, but my sons LOVE the big trucks.  I try to catch these type of things whenever I can.  Although Saturday overall was pretty wet, the rain held off most of the morning and my family was lucky to not only enjoy the event but also remain dry.

I have to commend the Public Works Department, as they lined up a great row of trucks for the kids to sit in, walk around, and of course take photos with.  It is funny how much a 5 year old enjoys a photos where the tire is taller then he is.  I personally enjoyed the street cleaner, not sure why but they seem fun.   My oldest got tricked on the street cleaner.  For most of the trucks he got in line or went to the drivers side to climb up into the truck.  He then "asked" his younger brother to go to the other door.  This way he could always drive first.  The street cleaner drives from the right side of the cab so the youngest got to first.  My oldest wasn't ready for that and got all confused when he got into the truck.  :-)

Although focused for Northborough and Southborough my Westborough family crashed the event, and we were happy to contribute the $10 per family to help continue these events.  I did think it was also an interesting bit of unintentional planing that right next to the tent where you can buy t-shirts and give you donation, there was one truck that was missing a large chunk of the seat and was showing it's age on the inside.  A subtle hint for anyone who was trying to ignore the donation tent.

Thank you to the DPW and for those who missed it, I have added a couple of photos for others to see the event.

Northborough recreation also hosted its first ever community wide yard sale at the event.  I have enough kids stuff, used and forgotten books and toys, and general junk to feed a summer's worth of yard sales so I try to avoid yard sales in general.  But I did notice sign after sign on my drive to the high school.  The community was definitely taking advantage of the advertising for this event all over town.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Momma wants her body back

First, let me start this blog by saying, I am impressed with anyone who has the dedication to stick to an exercise routine and achieve results. I have yet to achieve this goal.  I have over the past couple of months tried a couple of the gyms in the area and once I complete the next couple I will blog on my set of experiences.

My wife on the other hand has always enjoyed exercise.  When she lived in Boston she walked everywhere and still went to the gym 2 or 3 times a week.  I have never had this kind of dedication to fitness, and unfortunately as I said, it shows.  :-)  My wife really enjoys instructor lead classes or group exercise programs.  Sure she works out on her own at times, but this seems to be her preference.

After the birth of our first child in 2005 my wife was in search of some program to help her drop the extra weight.  This was when she first found stroller strides.  Of course she tried a few classes at some of the local gyms, and the Boroughs YMCA still has a few classes she enjoys, but in terms of results nothing has compared to stroller strides.  At first I just got to hear the stories and see some of the results, but in 2007 the Metrowest stroller strides group held classes on Saturday mornings and invited significant others to join the class.  This is where I got some first hand experience.

For those unfamiliar, stroller strides is a total fitness program for moms that they can do with their baby/child in tow, rather push in the stroller.  When weather permits these classes are held outside at places like Hopkinton State Park and Assabet River Rail Trail.   In the winter and on stormy days classes have been held at the Natick Collection and other indoor locations.  The program includes power walking and intervals of body toning using exercise stretch bands, the stroller and outdoor environment. On top of all this fitness, the local stroller strides includes weekly organized playgroups, monthly Mom's Night Out and  lot of other fun things.  The Metrowest organization is lead by Laura Kimball. 

From my perspective...the results I see on my wife...I have been impressed with stroller strides.  At the risk of getting yelled at later I am going to share two photos with my readers.  The first photo was taken 2 months after the birth of our second child.  The second is after my wife compeleted about 7 months of stroller strides.

I have one other comparison photo from after the birth of our first child but I am sure that will get me in too much trouble to post publicly.   But stroller strides isn't just for moms with strollers anymore.

Recently the Stroller Strides franchise added a new program called Body Back.  This program is an eight week results based workout/meal plan program designed specifically for moms of all ages! Program includes before and after assessments, two HIIT (high intensity, interval training)workouts per week (this time without the kids) in the beautiful outdoors, full meal plan and food diary, online coaching/support group and Mama Wants workout video series to use at home.

For the husbands/significant others out there I offer the following advice about Body Back:
  • Once my wife really got into it, nothing could be overbooked on a Body Back night.  We have kids and I need to be home from work a little earlier two nights a week to cover kid duties.
  • In our house I usually do a lot of the cooking.  And I, like so many others, love a nice juicy bacon cheeseburger from the grill.  This program changed things and my wife has made dinner more nights a week then I have.  BUT dinner often consists of brown rice, lots of vegatables, and lean meats.   All good things, I admit, but not all the flavors I love.
  • If you're like me...a "big guy" and your wife is taking stroller strides you may start looking for a workout routine of your own.  Sure it may be enjoyable/exciting to watch your significant other bending and flexing to the videos at home, but trying to keep up is a whole different story.  :-)  To date I am still looking.
  • Finally, stroller strides and body back work so enjoy the benefit of a happy, healthy, beautiful partner.  :-)
For any of the mom's who read my blog, and are looking to get back in shape in the Boroughs area, I recommend you check out the Metrowest Stroller Strides below if Laura's info.  For all the husbands like myself...Thanks Laura.

Contact:   Laura Kimball - M.B.A. Fitness, LLC
(888) 514-2455

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Summer Cigar and Whiskey

As I have mentioned in the past I am definitely a fan of Tavolino.  Although potentially pricey, they have yet to let me down.  I am also a fan of Julio's, so when the two planned an event together I couldn't miss it.

On May 11th, Julio's sponsored an Ashton cigar dinner at Tavolino Italian Gourmet in Westborough.  What a great event...Although it was a little chilly to be eating and socializing outside for 3 hours in early May, I really enjoyed the evening.  And short of climate change I don't think Anthony (Tavolino GM), Ryan (Julio's Owner), or any of the other managers could have done anything else to make the event better.

Let's first review another win from Tavolino's head chef.  The evening menu included:
Aperitivo: crab salad in cucumber cups, seared Tuscan ahi tuna on crostinis, petit potatoes with herbed sour cream, and bruschetta
grilled delmonico
Dolce: spiced molten chocolate cake with gorgonzola

This menu was paired with three Ashton cigars (Ashton Cabinet, Heritage, and VSG), Tavolino house cocktail “Tavolino Tea” and three small-batch bourbons: Eagle Rare Single Barrel, Buffalo Trace and Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel.   The cigars were exquisite and very well paired with the meal.  After the three bourbons there was an additional bourbon announced that evening.

Overall, it was a really fun event.  Representatives from Ashton and Buffalo talked about the cigars and bourbon.  Julio's managers brought their own experience to the event describing how they select whiskeys and other select liquors.   It was more then just a meal and drinks, the event was a fun social evening highlighting some really great tastes with true experts guiding us through the selections.

I know Tavolino has other events scheduled this summer.  Take the time to check out what they have planned on their events calendar. 

Julio's and Tavolino are planning a repeat event for late in August.  As soon as I get the information I will pass it along and maybe my readers will join me.  I know I won't miss the second installment of this event.  As I was writing this blog I also noticed the Dogfish event on July 13th listed on the Tavolino calendar.  I may first have to check that out as well. :-)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Local Music - More Artists

As a follow-up to my last post, there are many more local musicians in and around the Boroughs.  Lori along with all the artists below donated cds to the 2010 Taste of the Boroughs auction.  She shared this music and list with me and I wanted to in turn share it with all of you. I understand how hard it is to follow your dreams, so I encourage everyone to at least check out and support some some of the musician that are in our area. 

Lori Diamond –
Kim Jennings –
Elizabeth Lorrey –
Too Many Drivers –
Stuart Ferguson –
Patti DeRosa –
Carrie Rowan –
Daniel Chauvin –
Marc Bridge –
Perry Desmond-Davies –
Jane Fallon –
Sean Fullerton –
G.S. Picard –
Jon McAuliffe – on Facebook
Tony Gallo –
John Maclean -
Lee Villaire –
Kevin Burgess –

To anyone I missed, I do apologize, please feel free to add others to the comments.  I just wanted to highlight some of what I have found over the past couple of months.

Local Music - Lori Diamond

Over the years I have had the good fortune to meet and become friends with several musicians.  Not rock/pop stars, but talented artists sharing their stories and emotion with their fans.  I always admire their dedication and passion.  Sure, I wish I had more musical talent myself, but my occasional karaoke attempt or my high school years playing trombone are all the music I have personally.  What I am talking about are the tons of great artists locally working to share their sound and talent.

On May 20th I had the opportunity to experience Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli at the Bull Run in Shirley MA.  Lori's music style is Acoustic / Soul / Folk, a deviation from my normal 80's hair bands but so impressive it was well worth broadening my tastes.  This was the third time I got to catch Lori and Fred and every time I think I become more impressed with their talent.

The first time I saw their act was at The Java Room, in Chelmsford.  This performance really wowed me.  First, Lori has a beautiful voice, it resonates emotion and really reaching into the core of the listener.  The second reason is kind of unique.  I have attended lots of local acts at bars, coffee shops, even entrance halls, and everyone always has some sound issue.  Too loud for the space, not balanced compared to the activities, or not clear enough to appreciate the music.  Lori's performance at the Jave Room was the first I have ever attended where the sound was PERFECT.  I truly mean perfect.  As I sat and enjoyed brunch with my family, the music was clear but we could still talk.  And the conversations from other tables didn't detract from the music.  As we walked to the car I kept commenting to my wife about the impressive music balance.  Finally, and I know this is most artists, Lori is so appreciative of any of her fans.  She is so sincere in her appreciation and makes and effort to visit with the people who come to see her play.  It really makes the experience so personal, just like the music.

The video below is a combination of a couple of excerpts from Lori and Fred's performance at the Bull Run last month.  Even on my poor video quality Blackberry you can get a taste for the music.

If you are looking for a relaxing Sunday brunch and Lori is playing at the Java Room, I encourage everyone to make the trip.  Also here is a link to Lori and Fred's 2010 schedule of performances.