Volunteer in Boston with One Brick

Looking for ways to volunteer in Boston?

My work encourages volunteerism, so I have been looking for opportunities recently. I have volunteered several times with One Brick Boston, including a few 5k events in Cambridge.

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I love the way that One Brick Boston is set up. They partner and support local non-profit and community organizations and create a unique, social and flexible volunteer environment for people like me. One Brick posts opportunities to volunteer without the requirements of individual long-term commitments. I don’t always know what my schedule looks like months in advance and I can’t commit to the same day each week or month. I like to look at their calendar a few weeks out and pick events to volunteer. From their website:

Our ‘commitment-free volunteering’ allows you to choose when you volunteer, rather than having to make commitments for a certain number of volunteer hours, or agree to be available every week at a specific time.

My first 5K, I worked the bag check and had a fun time working with the other volunteers and runners before and after the race.

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Another way to help is to use a special link before making an Amazon.com purchase. Amazon donates 7% of the total sale to One Brick.

In April, I volunteered at the Banned in Boston event. The Governor and other local politicians and media people put on a comedy show.

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Before the show, I was stationed with other volunteers to check in people by looking up their name on an iPad app and by giving them different colored wristbands.

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Check out One Brick Boston if looking for ways to help out in Boston.

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Fiorella’s is a hidden gem in Newtonville

A few weeks ago, we ventured out to Newtonville and went to Sunday Supper at Fiorella’s.   Lucky for me, it’s just 5 minutes from Belmont. Otherwise, it’s just 6 or 7 miles from Cambridge.

Here is the front of the restaurant. I love the rustic, Italian outdoor decor.

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While I waited for the group to arrive, I stood near the bar area. It’s good to know that they have a TV.
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Before we sat down to order, we were offered a glass of Blueberry Smash. It was made with simple syrup with blueberries and also Bourbon. They mentioned that they wanted to showcase the Bourbon but not overwhelm. It was refreshing. Of course, I had to mention I was from Kentucky when they talked about Bourbon!

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While meeting with the owner, we learned that this location opened 15 years ago (and added additional seating and the bar area over the years) and they added other “Express” locations over time. They have 3 takeout/delivery locations in Brighton, Belmont, and Cambridge. These Fiorella Express locations have the same quality and most of the same menu items, offer a few seats and are a great value. They wanted to reach more people for delivery and takeout.

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We ordered a few appetizers to share, including Calamari Fritti and Toasted Ravioli. 

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And then the largest Arancini  ($7) I have ever seen. It is a ball of risotto stuffed with mozzarella cheese & served with their signature marinara sauce.

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They also prepared an antipasto board ($13) that included salami, pepperoni, parmacotto~ham, imported prosciutto, provolone cheese, marinated long stem artichoke hearts & mixed kalamata olives.

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We also specifically requested to try the flatbread and pizzas. They brought out a mushroom & truffle flatbread with prosciutto & fontina cheese drizzled with truffle oil.
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Pictured below are the Margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella cheese & basil over tomato and basil sauce, sprinkled with pecorino romano cheese and also the Marinated eggplant & goat cheese pizza with grape tomatoes, artichoke hearts & fontina cheese

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I ordered the Seafood Fettuccine ($25) which included shrimp, scallops & imported prosciutto prepared in a creamy alfredo sauce, tossed with fresh fettuccine.

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Here’s a view of the table of food.

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We also had dessert! I shared a cannoli with someone.

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 The tiramisu ($7) was my favorite. It is sponge cake soaked with vanilla & espresso coffee, layered with sweet mascarpone and then dusted with cocoa powder.

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Thanks for hosting us Fiorella’s!

This meal was provided free of charge, but these are my opinions.

 

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Boston Harbor Boat Cruise

Ever wanted to charter a boat in the Boston Harbor or take a Sunset Cruise?  Check out Karma Crew Yacht Charters.

A few weeks ago, Jodi and I took a Boston Harbor Sunset cruise with the Karma Crew.
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Karma Crew does Private Charters for events like birthdays, weddings, corporate parties and also has cruises such as a Saturday Morning G’Day Mate Coffee Cruise and a Sunday evening Oyster and Craft Brew Cruise.

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The Full Moon is the name of the boat. It can hold up to 48 passengers. Untitled

There are several areas, including this part that is covered but open and the host has a cash bar set up. Untitled

Across from the Bar area Untitled

Our cruise lasted around 90 minutes. Here is the sun was starting to set.
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The stairs leading to the back end of the boat. Jodi and I sat back here the last half of the cruise.

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There is also more indoor seating with lots of views.
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The Full Moon also has a kitchen, a few bunks, and a small bathroom.

Here are a few of my favorite views during the cruise. I took tons of pictures. 

Here’s the Financial District and Custom House Tower Untitled

The Zakim Bridge over the Charles River
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The Boston Skyline from the Harbor side Untitled

One of the Tall Ships that was in town that weekend, all lit up.
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Have out of town guests or want to celebrate that special event? I recommend contacting them via their website or by calling 617-982-2767.

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Papa Razzi Metro: Be Italian

A few weeks ago, I went to the newly redesigned Papa Razzi Metro in Burlington!

Here’s a view of the front open area. I love the colors and textures. UntitledWe gathered in the bar area and snacked on a selection of appetizers, while our table was being prepared. I had been to the previous restaurant, approximately 4 years ago on a business lunch. It didn’t stand out in my mind, but this visit was memorable! Untitled

Here was their cocktail menu and they highlighted the Negroni and Aperol Spritzer.
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I think the Negroni is featured below. Untitled

Here was a crostini board and spreads. It featured focaccia, white bean, smoked fish, beef tartar, chickpea, and mortadella spreads. Untitled

Enjoying more appetizers before our main entrees arrived.

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We split the tomato mozzarella wood fired pizza. It was so good. It was one of the best pizzas I’ve had in a long time.  Even Tony, who is picky about pizza, loved it!

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I ordered the lobster tortellini- rich and buttery.

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Tony, the true Italian, ordered the chicken parm! Untitled

I asked about the pizza because it was so good. We learned that the dough goes through a 12-15 hour fermentation process. This pizza oven cooks the pizza in 90 seconds. Crazy, huh?!?! Also, did you know that a restaurant can get a certified in making Neapolitan pizza?!

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Dessert. I had to be quick with the camera.  They served pistachio gelato and chocolate cake. The gelato was made in house and they also serve passion fruit mango and raspberry.

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Arms reached in from all directions to try the cake and gelato.Untitled

Another memorable moment- the Sbrisolona. A dessert was brought out and then it was hit and shattered! It was a popular dessert among peasant families in 16th century Northern Italian. It was made of cornmeal, hazelnuts and lard, instead of butter. It’s a traditional dessert, although the ingredients have changed over time. It is broken into pieces and then eaten with your hands.

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And more dessert. A donut with sugar and sauce!

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We also had lemoncello and another Italian-style liqueur, but instead of lemons, the liqueur is made with fresh figs. We talked to Corey, the Regional Director of Operations about how they made it. It was great to chat.

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I didn’t get a picture of our hosts for the night (Corey and Kevin), but I snagged this photo from Instragram. It was so great to talk to them for such a long time. We heard stories about the journey to transform Metro and also what they envision it becoming.

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Thanks Papa Razzi Metro for hosting us. I’ll see you again soon!

-This meal was provided free of charge, but these are my own opinions offered.
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Tips for All-Inclusive Resort

It’s been almost 3 months since my (first) all-inclusive trip to Cancun but it is still on my mind. I had such a good time and it was a bargain!  Read my blog about the trip overall.

Here’s some more tips about picking an all-inclusive resort and taking advantage of what you get…. once you get there. But first, research, research, research, and print out your stuff before leaving. Be sure to know what you get in your exact package!

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In April of this year (2015), I went on my first all-inclusive vacation to Cancun, Mexico. I bought a package through CheapCaribbean.com with a flight from Boston and 6 nights at the Grand Oasis Cancun. I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect, but I read enough to know that I should do research, bring biodegradable sunblock (it’s less than $10 in the US, but over $25 if you have to buy from a resort), wear my wristband like it was my passport, don’t carry my passport, and don’t have high expectations for the food. I think these tips helped me, so I’d like to share what I learned.

RESEARCH

Research about your resort as much as possible especially BEFORE you book. Like I said in previous posts, read as much about your resort as possible- especially from the place you book it. Copy and paste the details into a Google doc. It could change by the time you actually go on a trip. Search the resort on other booking places BEFORE you book it, see if you learn any more, but also be aware that not all packages are the same, even if they are the same resort.  Compare what you get at the same resort at different websites- maybe details were left out…. or maybe the packages are DIFFERENT.

COPIES

We made photo copies of our passports and wrote down the phone numbers of the credit cards and saved securely into an internet accessible application. We carried paper copies of our passports when we left the resort, but our passports stayed in the hotel room safe. If we lost our credit cards, we wouldn’t know the number to call to report it lost, so that’s why it’s a good idea to get the phone number. I think you can call collect or find the local number for where you are traveling.

PRINT

Print your itinerary, package details, transportation transfer voucher, hotel voucher, and restaurant details. We didn’t buy a data or voice package from Verizon for our iPhones, so I couldn’t pull anything up while there. I did take some screen shots of emails before we arrived so I could see that. We almost had a major issue checking in at the hotel because we were missing ONE page from our packet of papers and it was the ONLY one we really needed- the hotel voucher. These days, I am so used to getting EventBrite ticket confirmations and just showing my phone or even just telling them my name, and they pull it up. But NOT here. They needed the actual print out. We freaked for about 5 minutes paging through the 15 page stack of papers, realizing we were missing the hotel voucher. We finally convinced the guy at the reservation desk to let us log into Gmail and print the voucher. Whew! Crisis diverted. Lesson learned- print everything and staple together.

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FLIGHT TIMES & HOTEL TRANSFER

A lot of times, you don’t have a lot of control over flight times, unless you want to spend lots of money. Our choice seemed to be between leaving Boston at 6:30am (which meant leaving the house at 4am and paying $80 for a taxi) and getting to Cancun around 2pm and paying around $100 each extra for the flight…… or leaving Boston around 1pm (taking the T for around $5 and arrive in Cancun around 9pm). We picked the last option. We arranged roundtrip airport to/from hotel transportation with the package company. I figured we’d end up paying the same if we booked there, but since we were arriving late, let’s go ahead and book it and not worry about it. Plus, it was pre-paid and it would be one less thing to bring money for or use my credit card (and come back to surprised charges). It was worth it. It was a little overwhelming when we arrived and it was comforting to know that there was a company waiting for us and had our flight details in case we were delayed. We did tip the driver. This was the one tip that wasn’t included in our package.

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CHECK-IN and CHECK-OUT

Be careful to check the times for these. I also read reviews about the LONG wait times for check-in. That was one thing we didn’t have to deal with because we didn’t get to the hotel until 10pm. We did miss out on having dinner that night though. WATCH OUT FOR THE TIMESHARE PEOPLE From the reviews, these timeshare people are at several resorts. Just be aware at the resort that there could be a timeshare business center operating out of the resort and try to get people to their VIP lounge and get hooked into hearing a presentation to get their special gift.

WRISTBAND

Most of the resorts had wristbands. This determines which restaurants and bars you can go to. Whatever you do, do NOT lose this. It could cost hundreds to get a new one. They talk about a daily $50-90 charge for it.  

PRIVATE VIP LOUNGE

See if your package includes lounge or VIP check-in.  Ours did, but we arrived late in the evening and it was closed. But the good thing is that the regular check-in line was nonexistent, so we didn’t really miss it.  We did use it to check out and it was an express line and they served water and fruit, and also let us keep our bags there until our shuttle back to airport.

ROOM/RESORT AMENITIES  

Check for what is included in the room itself. Is a balcony important? How far of a walk to the beach is the room/building? If it’s important to you, does it have a TV with cable?Air conditioner? Tub or just shower? Hair dryer?

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Our package also include a mini-bar with water, beer and soda for FREE. Restocked daily.  Now, it was small and only held about 4 bottles/cans of each type, but it included!

Does it include towel service? Does it include any shows or entertainment? Kids activities or workout sessions? Does it include a gym?

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Is your resort part of a chain/group of hotels from the same company where you can use those resorts? It’s a good option if you want to check out other places.  Just check to see if you need to make a reservation, whether you need to plan your own transportation there,  and what is included once there (food, drinks, alcohol, shows).

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Lots to think about, but its good to find the answers to these questions before you book or before you board the plane!
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