Green Guy

Hey, guys. Today’s post was inspired by my super sweet brother-in-law, Dan, who asked me my opinion on some green brands and products he was considering. Of course, I immediately thought, “Oh, cool! Maybe someone in blogland could use my thoughts, too.” So, here we are!

I’m not an expert at any of this stuff. I’m clearly not a dude. (Um. Hopefully you knew that.) But, after reading reviews and doing some research, I’m pretty confident that these are some kickass products. Of course, it should be stated that not all products work the exact same way for everybody. Like, our current shampoo works great for Dave and “eh” for me, but I still think my poo-free days changed my hair’s pH and I’ve lived with straw-like conditions ever since. But I digress.

Today’s post is all about the guys. And, because I’m me, it’s particularly about the eco-guys. You know who you are. The ones who are looking for ways to eliminate the earth-hurting crud from your daily grooming routine. Who still want to look good (and, ahem, smell yummy) without the tingling chemicals, drying foaming agents, and general nastiness that goes down the drain.

I’ve got your back. Since I’m unable to try these myself — do you really have to ask why? — I’ve decided to pick a couple of extra products (like two shampoos, etc). Check out the reviews for yourself and consider what will work for your needs. And, ladies, the next time you need a sweet little gift for your sweet, don’t do the Axe. Seriously. Just put down the Axe.

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1 –  Maple Holistics Sage Shampoo (for Heavy Dandruff), 100% Natural and Sulfate-Free – I selected two shampoos because everyone’s head is different, and I thought it would be cool to give you guys some options. I know the bottle is purple and it may look a little feminine, but that’s actually because this is a shampoo that could work for both men and women. It’s so awesome that there are natural options out there for folks who have dry skin, dandruff, and dermatitis. (Are those all the same things? I don’t know. Maybe.) Oh, and it’s cool for color-treated hair. That’s pretty cool.
2 – Every Man Jack’s 2-in-1 Thickening Shampoo – Like I said, everyone’s head is different, and some guys are fighting an issue with thinning. I know how much thinning can affect a guy’s self esteem, so the fact that this phthalate-free option exists (and with a conditioning option) is awesome. Let’s just say that I may ask Santa to bring this to our house this year.
3 – Baxter of California Chrome-Plated Safety RazorThe Dorky Daddy loves his safety razor, although he admits that it does take a time or two to get used to a newer, short-fast strokes method. Seriously, this thing is awesome, and you’ll only need to buy the individual razor blades once in awhile. (Hint: If you dry off your razor well every time you use it, you’ll hardly need to buy new ones.) Plus, if you buy one package of blades, they’ll last FUH-RE-VER. Just try it. Oh, and this (along with a kit of the proper brush, a holder, and some soap in a cute bowl or mug) was his all-time favorite Christmas present. I kid you not.
4 – ManCave Natural Face Moisturizer – No parabens. No sulfates. No synthetic fragrances or dyes. No petrochemicals. No GMOs. No cruelty. No problem! Plus, it comes in super manly packaging. These companies are really catching on to what people want. Oh, and it helps firm your skin (thanks, caffeine), clear it up if you’ve got a bit of acne (thanks, borage oil), and has several anti-aging agents. Wonder if I could get away with using this…
5 – Kiss My Face Creamy Cleanser Clean for a Day – I wouldn’t usually support a face cleanser, mostly because everyone’s face is very much unique. As a teen, I had battles with moderate acne (wasn’t that bad, but it tore my self esteem to shreds enough to matter), so I know something that works for one person won’t work for another. However, the reviews were good enough for this one that I feel confident saying that maybe 8 out of 10 people will have success with this one. It’s great for sensitive skin, has a light citrus scent that could work for ladies or gents, and full of everything we like and has NOTHING we don’t like (vegan-friendly, not animal tested, etc etc)…yeah, I think I WILL be ordering this one myself.
6 – Moon Dance Soaps Refreshing Mint Lathering Shave Soap – This will work perfectly with #3 above! The reason I picked a mint soap is because it’s such a refreshing scent that leaves your skin feeling tight and gives you a morning aromatherapy session that will rival your cup o’ joe. I also hit up Etsy every year to put a different scent in the bottom of someone’s stocking. It’s always great to support a small business owner who supports the philosophies we live by. 
7 – Herban Cowboy Dusk Cologne – (How cute is that name?!) Here’s some more super sexy packaging containing an even better product. It’s another vegan product, produced completely in the US, and the Herban Cowboy series of products seem worth checking out. (Especially their deodorant, which people are saying “actually works for a truly stinky man.” Good to know.) ***Please make sure that you purchase the true brand of this since, apparently, there are knock-offs going around. Since this made the below list, which means a lot to me, I’m still supporting it, but some of the online reviews are warning against some sellers.***
8 – Burt’s Bees Cologne – If PETA thinks these colognes are great, I’ve gotta get behind that. We’re a Burt’s Bees family, so I decided to include this cologne because a) it’s a natural, animal-friendly option and b) it seems to be a completely different scent from #7. It is TOUGH to buy a cologne online, so I should mention that most reviewers love it, although there are one or two that find it a bit too…shall we say…hippie-ish. But, if your guy’s into that, awesome. That said, plenty of reviewers mention citrusy, Bergamot, Cyprus and Fir notes (which sounds pretty woodsy and manly to me).  

Do you have any earth-friendly products that you or your guy enjoy? Are you fans of a particular brand? Tell us all about it in the comments!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and buy something (even if it’s not on my list), you’ll make my day AND help us pay some bills. Seriously. So much appreciation.

Toddler Travel Essentials

We recently revealed some of the ideas we’ve had for our summer vacation, and no matter what we choose, we’ll clearly be hitting the open road for our little adventure. Since this undertaking will involve traveling for an extended period of time with an active 2-year-old, it’s going to take some planning and strategic packing to make it all work smoothly. Well, as smoothly as anything can when a toddler’s involved. Am I right? #littlewrenchthrowers 

Let’s just say figuring out what to bring on a road trip with a little one involved can be a bit of a challenge.

So, I thought it would be fun to share a handful of items that I consider must-haves (or at least “they-help-the-cause” haves) to make a road trip way less stressful on mommy and daddy…and doesn’t that make the trip more fun, as a whole? Feel free to add them to your packing list if you think they’ll work for you!

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1. This one’s as much for the parents as it is for the kids. An iPhone is a life-saver, especially if you’ve got unlimited access to the interwebs. We like to use ours to customize our listening experience with Pandora, but I’ll admit publicly that I tend to let Hadman use the PBS Kids app to watch whatever shows he wants for a few minutes. Yes. I’m that mom. The guilt overwhelms me. Kinda. Oh, and I’m including this cell phone cover because mine’s chipped and in need of replacing…and don’t you just love the hip arrow design and ability to insert a picture of your little monkey? *swoon*

2. An adorable fleece blankie. What’s more versatile than that? Use it to snuggle up if you’re leaving on one of those chilly summer mornings (they exist here in the northeast, at least), if your little one is in the need of some comfort, for a quick picnic lunch along the way, or as an easy-to-shake-out beach blanket. I adore how you can personalize this nautical design to suit your own family’s needs.

3. Have you ever noticed that you can get just as bad a sunburn while riding in a car as you can while sitting outside? Only it’s super uneven and not fun to look at. I’m a sunscreen obsessed mama, so I’m all about slathering it on before a big trip (and throughout). Badger is a trusted eco-friendly brand that not only WORKS, but that’s all natural and free of nasty stuff. I like this combo-pack that includes bug spray because my little guy just happens to be a magnet for bugs since he doesn’t know how to swat them yet.

4. Honestly, this is an everyday “must” for me. I don’t go anywhere without my stainless steel water bottle. It’s just my thing. So, needless to say, I’d much rather fill this up with our filtered water (and add more along the way) than buy bottled water — or less healthy options — on the trip. Oh, and this one can hold cold OR hot liquids, so feel free to fill it with your java if you need a caffeine kick.

5. This is another product that we use everyday, but it’s particularly suited for travel. This set includes two little cups with silicone tops. Sounds simple, but the tops have ingenious slits in them that make it *harder* for the food inside to fall out. (Notice I said *harder*; our little monkey has a tendency to grab a huge fistful, so stuff’s bound to escape, but it’s better than having him dump the entire contents in the backseat.) So, go ahead! Fill ‘er up with puffies or organic toasted O’s cereal (you know what I’m talkin’ about), and hand it over, carefree. I do.

6. My #1 tip for any overnight trip with a toddler is packing a cooler full of your usual (healthy-ish) already-prepped foods, snacks and beverages. Then, use it to fill a smaller lunch bag like this one with snacks or meals when you reach different stops. This also helps when you decide to stop at a restaurant; packing at least one healthy fruit or veg will help offset the inevitable unhealthy toddler fare they’ll be offering. #macncheese #chickenfingersandfries #nothinggreen?

7. I got to review these Tegu magnetic wooden blocks last year before Hadman was really old enough to enjoy them. I’ve gotta say, though, I’m so happy to have them now because they’re PERFECT for keeping the munchkin occupied while traveling. Why? They’re magnetic, so there are no pieces falling all over the car and getting lost under the passenger seat. They’re not too big or too small, so there are no choking worries. Plus, they’re compact, with their own cute carrying case.

8. For our little guy, books are the best thing on earth. So, for the car, board books are great. They’re durable, smaller than the usual picture book, and often fun and interactive. In this case, he can independently look for words that he knows (or “oof oofs” and “nanas”), or I can turn around in my seat and ask him to look for different items.  

9. We don’t have this yet, but I want it SO badly. Crayons and coloring books aren’t ideal travel materials for toddlers. THIS, however, is ideal. I remember getting a Magna Doodle when I had my tonsils out as a kid and loved it. This one is even simpler (no choking hazards with those little shape stamper things) and perfect for little doodling hands. 

So, what are YOUR must-haves for a road trip (especially with little ones along)? Any suggestions for what work for your family that I might have missed?

***Full disclosure: I am not sponsoring the aforementioned brands, and chose them based on personal choice. I was not monetarily compensated or provided with free products for my feelings. As always, all thoughts are completely, 100% my own.***

Bad Grocery Juju

Why, oh why do I stray from the norm? Seriously, Meg: stick to Hannaford, the occasional Aldi stop, and go nuts with farmers’ market trips.

I was in the need of a handful of stuff. You know. Not a “stock the cupboards” type of trip; more of a “just the necessities that we’re out of” thing. So, I thought naively, why not give the new local Price Chopper a go? And bring the guys along?

Ugh. So. Dumb. *points to self*

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Mistake #1: Assuming that this new, snazzy Price Chopper was going to be equal in options to, say, the same branch about half and hour away, or even (goodness forbid) our local Hannaford. *buzzer*

Totally different. Not much room to maneuver, especially the areas we needed (namely produce). And HARDLY ANY NATURAL/ORGANIC OPTIONS!!! Hannaford wins, hands-down, in that department just be, um, HAVING “that department.” I walked through a ton of aisles just to see what options they had mixed on the shelves. ONE organic cereal, and it was Kashi (which we don’t buy thanks to some unsavory practices…say, being owned by Kellogg).

Lesson: Stick to what you know. Locally, Hannaford is our best bet. It just is. Prices were generally comparable, there are occasional sales at both places on the organic produce so it’s hit-or-miss, and there’s just SUCH a selection at Hannaford, hands-down. 

Mistake #2: Assuming that bringing the guys along would be a pleasant experience for all involved. I should’ve known better on this one, honestly. It’s completely my fault.

Considering I had seen in advance on their new flyers that an ex from college is apparently in management at the place…that created one awkward environment. I can’t be the only person to whom this type of ridiculousness happens, right? Normally, I’m cool talking to people from my past, but this guy clearly wasn’t over…well, anything. Just…awkward and stupid.

Lesson: Shouldn’t I know better by now? Don’t subject family to potentially awkward situations if at all possible. (smacks forehead)

Then, the “toddler itch” kicked in. Oh, yes. The grab items (a non-organic Granny Smith apple which he proceeded to chomp down on…eh, at least it kept him quiet for awhile. “Go ahead, sweetie. Eat the sticker.”), squirming to get down, fine-poor-daddy-will-walk-you-all-over-the-store itch. We later figured out that the little guy’s teething up a storm, so I feel a tad less upset about this whole part. Not to mention it was a very big “I told you so” moment since Dave has a crystal ball and realized the place wouldn’t be as well-stocked as Price Chopper. :-\ Eh. He’s right, what can I say? When the man’s right, he’s right.

Lesson: Well…I kinda wish Dave had voiced his concern beforehand, but I’m stubborn and not sure I would’ve listened. However, I have already learned that a) a shopping trip with Dave and Hadley along always has a different level of “excitement” (and takes longer). I should’ve just gone on my own and been done with it. Not to mention, Hadley wouldn’t nap when we got him home, so that made for a crazy visit at my parents’ later in the evening.

FINAL THOUGHTS (I’m Jerry Springer!): If you aren’t looking for natural options, this new Price Chopper would be a fine choice. If you’re not dragging a brood along (seriously, it’s tough to maneuver those aisles!), it’s a fine choice. If you haven’t dated any of their employees who have clearly not yet dealt with their issues, it’s a fine choice.

If you WANT good organic and natural choices, if you WANT everything on your shopping list, if you WANT a pleasant environment, if you WANT to have a fun grocery shopping trip with your entire family…maybe not the best choice.
By the way, your situation may be completely different, and this could be an isolated thing. It’s entirely possible.

Whole Foods Experience

So, a couple of weeks ago, we took the Friday off and left insanely early to take a quick trip. Dave was set to be on a local Massachusetts TV show to do his Dorky Daddy thang while Hadley and I had the privilege (no, really!) of hanging out with a good friend and her little guy. We all had a BLAST while Dave made us laugh through the TV set.

Then, both of our husbands arrived and we got to hang and laugh and chat even further. We headed to an AWESOME eatery that serves lots of locavore treats for lunch, then trekked to find a street sign that would help our agreed-upon parenting decision — to tell our children that a TOWN was named after THEM!!! (There’s a local town near us with their handsome little guy’s name in it…and, needless to say, they live near “Hadley”. *high pitched* Awesome!!!) Holding a sleepy toddler up to a wonderfully aged sign was just the ticket to cement the agreement. Perfect.

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So, after we bid adieu to our buddies, and since Hadley was so dang sleepy, we plugged the local Whole Foods into our GPS. We had discussed, in advance, that we should check out the Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s since a) we don’t have EITHER one near home and b) it was the baby’s naptime, so I could run in and Dave could hang out with the air cranked.

My first impression was that the place reminded me of an insanely busy beehive. I couldn’t believe that pedestrians and vehicles weren’t getting into tangles with the sheer number of people heading in various directions and cars pulling in and out. (Hence my not standing in traffic to take an exterior picture.) There were a plethora of organic seedlings for sale outside, but at $4 a pop I didn’t think it wise to spend my entire gardening budget on the plants alone. (Mind you, I was tempted. Oh so tempted.) We also didn’t have my SUV, so I didn’t want to dirty my mother’s impeccable car.

Once inside, I found just as crazy a mass of worker bees. Of course, I forgot my shopping list, so I just meandered (as much as one can) throughout the store and grabbed things that I thought were a deal or that I would NEVER find locally.

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Organic wine?! So cheap! Okay…yeah…but that $%#* adds up. I bought, like, six different “varietals.” (Is that the right term?)

Organic strawberries the price of REGULAR strawberries?? Get me the largest container, STAT!

MEAT?? Every combination of organic or grassfed or humanely treated you could imagine.

Organic white AND whole wheat pizza dough? Be still my heart.

Mind you, I would’ve bought more stuff. A lot more. But…see…I’m a touch disappointed to admit that all the rumors and online bashing are accurate. Most of the people I tried to maneuver around were downright…um…well, let’s just say self-involved and rude. Can I say that? Okay, we’ll just say that. I’m thinking far more appropriate, but LESS appropriate things, if-ya-know-what-I’m-sayin’.

Seriously, I was kind of surprised that pretty near EVERYONE shopping was the same exact way. At my usual Hannaford stop, I stumble upon the self-involved…the “won’t look up from their cell phone, won’t move from the center of the aisle” folks. But, they’re generally in the minority. Most people will say “sorry!” and scoot over for you, just as I frequently do for them. It’s a give-and-take.

Not at Whole Foods. Young hipsters. Middle-aged dudes who should know better. Mamas. Hippies. Somewhat normal 30-somethings…okay, these ones surprised me. I could’ve been looking in a mirror, seriously. Except that they remembered to take their apathy pills for the day, and I clearly didn’t get the memo to take mine. Like, really? Gonna give me the “move or I’ll get cut” look?

At one point, I sneezed. Then I sneezed again. And, because I’m a genius (I’m superstitious), a final third time. The last time, a lady working there glanced up, then back down. So, apparently the concept that workers are on the opposite spectrum from their shoppers is kinda bull crap, too. I could feel the seething judgment of the cashier, whom you could tell would rather be working at a GAP (y’know…full of a different type of narcissism). That was lovely.

But, regardless, aside from the warm fuzzies from the actual social experience of perusing a Whole Foods, I enjoyed the place. No, really. The aesthetics were gorgeous. I found myself turning a corner only to gasp at the beauty of the meat section. I’m not deranged; they were just stocked wonderfully with items I could have only dreamed about…and at relatively low prices. They just HAD. SO. MUCH. I wanted to weep.

Only, I really did kinda want to weep. When I got to the car with my booty (which, thanks to booze — and a special organic, non-GMO 6-pack for the husband whom had entertained the, of course, NOT napping toddler in the backseat the entire time — cost a touch more than I had expected), I was glad the experience was over.

Let’s just say…I’m kind of glad for my over-priced Hannaford finds and a relatively stress-free shopping experience. I’ll probably go back some day, but I’ll be better prepared.

As we slowly entered Memorial Day weekend traffic, I stretched my neck to glimpse the Trader Joe’s across the way. Next time, Dellecese. Next time.

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Remember saying that when we were kids? “I-C-U-P!!!” So mature. So very, very mature.

Anyhoo, today we have the story of three sippy cups. (Or, at least that’s what we call them. Sippy cups.)

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We have #1, The Original. Our favorite.

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I’m inclined to say that these are all Nuk brand, but the ultimate issue here is that they change styles so. Damn. Quickly…who’s to say? What the Nuk.

So, yeah, Numero Uno. Two in a pack. No BPA (‘cuz homey don’t play that). Ultra squishy, silicon mouth piece sucker thing. Easy to use (no lining up of this with that 14 times before getting the lid on properly — believe me, we’ve had those). Great for a teething Monkey who likes chewing just as much as drinking.

Er. Juice. And milk.

We loved these. But, of course, when it was time to pick up another pack…none to be found. *sigh*

On to #2. Or, as I like to call it, The Dud.

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Note The Original peeking over its shoulder saying, “You’ll never be as good as me. NEVER.” He’s right, y’know.

Everything about these cups is the same — the handles, how the top screws on, the cute designs, the colors. Except for, of course, the most important part — the sucky part. (Literally.)

See, this one was COATED in some silicone-type material with a solid form on the inside — hence being less squishy and more rigid. Apparently when Monkey tried to chew…he did a little too well. Yeah, I don’t know how much he ingested, but I’m pissed about it.

*sigh* So, we went on a hunt last weekend. We didn’t care about the cost. We didn’t care about the brand. We just wanted a squishy sucky part!!!

The woman at Babies R Us asked several times if we needed help. Apparently the intensity of our brow furrows and super serious conversation were cause for concern. “No, no,” we dismissed. “We’ve got this.”

Picture us trying to squeeze through packaging to see how squishy the mouthpieces were. Strange, strange people. The weirdest part is that the Monkey in the cart just sat there, quiet as a mouse, fully accepting of the absurdity his parents were displaying.

This is what we came up with. Let’s call it “Sure, That’ll Do.” Because it’s not The Original, but it’ll do. Not perfect, but fine. And, these days, fine is awesome.

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It was a bit of a gamble, actually. We THOUGHT it had a squishy sucker part…but weren’t sure. But, yay(!!!), it does! The cool feature about this one is that it has a part that flips to cover the mouthpiece (ie save the inside of our diaper bag), and Monkey’s not the sort (anymore) to put that piece in his mouth if he happens to pop it loose (which he IS the sort to do). It even recesses into the lid when open, which is pretty neat.

Plus, he uses it. If you don’t know this about kids, they’re verrrrrrry particular. Like, “I won’t drink for a week+ if I don’t like the receptacle. Deal with it.” (Not that we’d let him go a week…but, yeah, they’re stubborn beasts.) So, that’s half the battle right there. Getting him to USE it.

Side note: Why does my kid NOT like chocolate milk? I mean, he’s not a big milk drinker in the first place, but when I add chocolate it’s like I’ve OFFENDED him. Like. Huh?? Maybe it’s a girl v. boy thing? He prefers sourness (pickles) and cheese, I guess.

So, anyhoo, these are my trials and tribulations of recent sippy cup usage. If I gave you the whole story from bottle to bib to sippies, we’d be here for a month. Seriously, I’ve got a bagful of once-tried sippy cups and bottles in the basement that never made the grade. I keep them in case they agree with a future (less finicky?) kiddo.

I won’t say that kids are super picky people, because aren’t we all kind of picky in our own ways? We like what we like. Kind of like cats.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

A Tailor-made Meal, Cooked Perfectly

See what I did there? “Tailor…” “…Cook(ed)”? Yeah, you know this is gonna be good.

This year for my “birthday dinner” (observed the Saturday after my birthday), I opted for something a little different. Usually, our go-to meal would involve Beardslee Castle, a venue that acted as the sight of our wedding reception (delicious food — can’t wait to get back there and offer up a review!). Actually, Dave even said, “Want me to make reservations at Beardslee?” I had to stop him with a different suggestion.

The Tailor and the Cook is a Utica restaurant that’s been open shy of one year. It’s a unique place in more ways than one; not only does it feel like an eating experience straight out of a larger (more modern) city, but many of the ingredients used by the talented chefs are locally sourced. We’ve heard nothing but good about the place, so I’ve been itching to get there. It’s one of those “demands reservations” joints, so Dave hooked us up, and our mouths were watering and minds were wandering in anticipation.

Upon entering, one can tell that the experience would be special. Located in a newly up-and-coming area of the city, the bare brick walls are accentuated by local art and reclaimed wood trim. Edison-style bulbs dangle precariously above tables with mixed long, shared booth-style seating (which creates an intimate, yet still open and private atmosphere). Three large barrels (wine or whisky? Does it matter which?) have been repurposed into light fixtures for the front bar, which double as conversation pieces. The mix of modern and earthy is well-executed from front door to back bathrooms (which, before I even get to the food, I must say were incredible. The ladies’ room held an antique Singer sewing machine with vintage cookbooks, stark black-and-white industrial photography on the walls, a plethora of lotions and a sink that could double as an art installation. Yes, it was THAT worth mentioning).

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After being politely seated and informed of jaw-dropping specials, we were offered sparkling spring water or tap water. We shot the moon (don’t usually drink sparkling), but I was equally as impressed that they reuse (cleaned) wine bottles filled with chilled tap water which stay at the table. It sounds simple, but the efforts to reuse items and the simple air of class that the stylish bottles gave to each table struck a sweet chord with us.

It took some doing, but we finally decided upon our meals (I considered going vegetarian, but this was a special occasion and it was a Saturday, so…I went for it): mine, a glass of Newman’s Own organic Chardonnay and the pork chop meal; Dave, a glass of Ommegang’s Three Philosophers brew and the hanger steak (which his curiosity taught us that this is the cut that butchers used to bring home to their own families without offering them to customers). We opted to share a cheese platter, and our entrees came with salads.

Okay. Let me stop right here. Saying “Dave got steak, I got pork” sounds mundane, boring, average. This was anything but. The meals were served as courses; not dumped in our laps while our waiter juggled a dinerful of other patrons. We were brought each item in a royal fashion, each plate constructed lovingly as if by a doting father. It was far from your average experience. Even our bread was brought to us by a guy carrying a basketful of the stuff (from Old Forge), doling it out one at a time on our plates with a delicious honey butter.

The cheese platter was one of the specials (which usually means you’re paying more for it), but it was reminiscent of a cheese platter that we shared during our Vermont honeymoon and anniversary trips. Only better. There were five cheeses, each from local farms — a bleu cheese, a smoked gouda, a goat’s milk chevre, a cheddar, and I totally forgot the last. (Sorry!) Alongside these were a couple of dried fruits, apple slivers, honeycomb (yes, on the comb…how do you even EAT that? Who cares, we had fun with it), grainy spicy mustard, cornichons (baby gherkins!) and rustic crackers. They were all impeccable and we had a blast sharing combination of flavors and choosing our favorites. Rather, I chose my favorite (that gouda was da bomb); Dave couldn’t choose. Oh, and we clearly didn’t get a picture.

Even our salads were impressive. Everyone had the same molasses vinaigrette (it wasn’t that sweet or heavy-tasting, really) and local hydroponic greens topped with sunflower seeds and beans. It was the first time that we realized how salt (and pepper) can heighten the flavors of a dish SO MUCH. I’m pretty sure it was a fancy schmancy type of salt, but a sprinkling brought out a taste that we couldn’t devour fast enough.

Here’s where things get embarrassing. Have you ever eaten something so good that you make noises you wouldn’t normally make in public, no apologies? Yeah. It happened. I should also say that we were the only folks in the place losing our cool enough to do this. Still not apologizing. We don’t go to a restaurant like this for the “scene”, or to BE “SEEN”. It’s for sharing in a special experience and, in this case, the best meal we’ve ever had in the Mohawk Valley. Onlookers be damned.

So, Dave’s meal was actually the pan roasted hanger steak with fingerling fries, fresh arugula, Gorgonzola butter and a red wine demi glace. Yeah. It was insane. (C’mon, steak with bleu cheese AND fingerlings? Shut the front door. One good thing about humans is that they’ve come up with seemingly CRAZY food combinations that can change a person’s thinking.)

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I got the pan roasted pork rib chop (medium) with braised local ramps and celery, hazelnut and barley risotto, and rainier cherry gastrique.

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***I had gastrique and I liiiiiked iiiiiit…the taste of that cherry saaau-aaauce…”

Even after trying a bite of Dave’s meal, I had to declare mine the winner. (Not sure he agreed.) Man, do these folks know the meaning of “complementary flavors.” The impeccably cooked chop, the excitement of the first ramps of the season (and the surprise of the evening: braised celery as a side vegetable? Delish!), creamy nutty risotto with a sweet-but-slightly-bitter cherry sauce to pull it all together? Doubly insane. Seriously, all I could tell the waiter when he checked on us was “Insane. Just insane.”

Since we were shooting the moon, we grabbed dessert — Dave enjoyed the Jones Family Farm cheesecake (we LOVE their cheeses, and I just happen to have their daughters in school; it’s awesome to know that it wasn’t a 100% selfish act in eating here; we were also supporting local farms who deserve the heck out of it!) and a Utica Roasting Company’s Drip coffee (they just happen to be TTATC’s neighbor; talk about local!) while I got buttermilk panna cotta with a blueberry sauce and DELICIOUS graham-style cookie, plus a decaf cappuccino (also courtesy Utica Roasting Company).

Ultimately, one of my favorite parts about this meal (aside from the flavors, the execution, the incredible service, the local sourcing) was the conversation it brought up. Since this meal was obviously costlier than most (like, a once a year sort of meal), we discussed what we were actually paying for. Simply put, it’s costlier to ensure that your ingredients (all the way down to the herbs) are quality and responsibly sourced. The lives of the animals that we eat have value beyond that of a dollar value menu. The food deserves to be respected as it’s grown, as it’s prepared, and as it’s eaten.

That being said, we’d give this joint a 5 out of 5 possible spoons. It was THAT GOOD. (Maybe we could take off half a spoon for price, but we think it was worth the splurge.) We even told the hostess (whom Dave knows from work) and our knowledgeable waiter that it was the best meal we’ve ever had in the valley. Makes some of the usual local fare seem like heavy loads o’ crap. (Yes. Yes, I said that.)

If you’re interested in visiting “The Tailor and the Cook”, find out more at their website. You can see their menus (and cost) as well as their sourcing practices. Oh, and as for one of those challenges that folks face more than we’d like to admit: Dave wore jeans with a button-down shirt (he brought a blazer along but didn’t wear it) and I wore a nylon skirt, top and 3/4 sleeve sweater, although we saw a complete range in clothing — from shorts to preppy orange/coral/pink slacks (on a gentleman) to dressy. So, I guess anything goes, but keep it classy, folks. Not that I have to tell you that. 😉

Pop Tarts, You Say?

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It’s pretty clear that we still eat some processed foods. We’re good, but we’re not that good. I only wish I had the ability to eat nothing but fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains and the rare odd meat/fish. But, slowly and surely, we’re making tiny strides everyday, and THAT, my friends, is where real change occurs. Cold turkey doesn’t work for everyone, and definitely not me!

That being said, we’re pretty specific about the processed foods that we do consume. We’re avid non-GMOers, which has really reduced that spiraling, overwhelming feeling one gets while trying to make wise choices grocery shopping.

One of the brands that we’re currently cool with is Nature’s Path. They’re organic, generally less expensive (their cereals are the same as, if not cheaper than, traditional brands), taste yummy, and are free of GMOs. See their pretty little “NON GMO Project Verified” logo up there next to the organic logo? That’s my new best friend.

I’ve tried some really crappy organic Pop-Tart knock-offs before. They still had an artificial flavor that I couldn’t wrap my head around.

THESE, however, are da bomb…and I don’t use that term lightly. Actually, I never use that term. So, that’s sayin’ somethin’.

They still have upwards of 25 ingredients (I’d rather live by the 5 or less rule, but c’est la vie), but most of them are what you’d find in a pastry you’d make at home. Plus, knowing that if there’s corn starch in it that it’s non-GMO helps.

We got the unfrosted version (and apple because that’s the hub’s jam) and I’ve gotta say they are DELISH. It’s like making a homemade turnover, but (dare I say?) better. If you have the chance, even if you don’t eat organic, BUY THESE. They’re a kazillion times better than Pop-Tarts, and if you must eat toaster pastries, these are the healthier option. (Not calling them a health food. Just healthier. Yes, I know there’s a difference.)

So, that’s my 2 cents. Oh, and of COURSE when discussing Pop-Tarts I can’t help but direct the conversation to Paula Poundstone. You don’t know to what I am referring? Ooooohhhhh, what you’ve been missing. (Just watch the first couple of minutes…unless you’re that bored.)