Sunday, July 29, 2012

Balsamic Raspberry Chicken

Easy summer dinner!

This is really easy to make and one of my go-to recipes during the week. For the kids, I cut the chicken up and put the sauce separately on their plate and have them dip the chicken in, which seems to make it more appealing to them! Enjoy.
1 tsp. Vegetable oil
¼ cup chopped red onion
½ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. salt- divided
4 chicken breast halves
1/3 cup raspberry jam
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp. black pepper
Sauté the onion in the vegetable oil on medium high heat until soft, about 6 minutes. Meanwhile, season chicken with thyme and ¼ tsp. salt. Add chicken to the sauté pan with the onions and cook on each side until done, about 7 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the rest of the salt, jam, vinegar, and pepper. Stir constantly until the mixture melts into a sauce-like consistency. Spoon over chicken and serve!

About the Author
Joy Errico Seusing lives in Needham with her husband and two young children. She is the Vice President for External Relations at Jumpstart, a national early education organization headquartered in Boston. In addition to being a happily busy working mom, Joy loves traveling to new places, reading on her Kindle, interior design, power yoga, and of course, cooking!  Joy is a monthly contributor for the Parent Talk blog so be sure to check back for new recipe ideas each month.

Friday, July 27, 2012

July Reading Spotlight

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society 
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I really enjoyed this book; I like books that entertain while also teaching me something I didn’t know about history or another part of the world.  This book does all of that, while being completely charming.

Bookmarks Magazine review:
“Traditional without seeming stale, and romantic without being naïve” (San Francisco Chronicle), this epistolary novel, based on Mary Ann Shaffer’s painstaking, lifelong research, is a homage to booklovers and a nostalgic portrayal of an era. As her quirky, loveable characters cite the works of Shakespeare, Austen, and the Brontës, Shaffer subtly weaves those writers’ themes into her own narrative. However, it is the tragic stories of life under Nazi occupation that animate the novel and give it its urgency; furthermore, the novel explores the darker side of human nature without becoming maudlin. The Rocky Mountain News criticized the novel’s lighthearted tone and characterizations, but most critics agreed that, with its humor and optimism, Guernsey“affirms the power of books to nourish people during hard times” (Washington Post).

(Order the Kindle version on Amazon here.)

Kid book: On Market Street 

by Arnold Lobel and Anita Lobel

This is an oldie but a goodie.  It’s a Caldecott Honor book, and the illustrations are fantastic.  It is technically an ABC book, but so much more than that, and good for kids a bit older than your usual ABC audience.  A youngster goes shopping on Market Street and buys one thing that starts with each letter of the alphabet.  Each merchant appears essentially made out of the item they sell.  Hard to describe, but it’s very cool, and my son loves to name all the items.

About the AuthorKatie Edwards lives in Needham with her wife and two children, ages 13 and 3.   She has a Master’s Degree in Library Science, but has been a stay at home mom for many years, so she is happy to have an outlet to share good books with others.  She loves to read [obviously], travel, try new restaurants, and gab with her friends.  Luckily she is in a book group where she can simultaneously eat and talk to friends about books.

Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this post for Amazon. If you purchase a book through Amazon, Parent Talk gets a small portion of your sale.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Parent Talk’s new Board of Directors

Meet the 2012-2013 Parent Talk Board of Directors, the most committed volunteers in this volunteer driven organization.  Co-Presidents Mary Richman and Kate Owens remain for their second year in that position, as do Mary Beth Remorenko as Clerk, Betsy Miller as chair of Community Relations, Myrna Zakarian as co-chair of Events, Katie Alwart as co-chair of Fundraising, and Ann Lyons as chair of the Membership committee.

Joining them for the 2012-2013 board:
Nar Lee is our new Treasurer.
Nicola Dempsey is joining Myrna Zakarian as co-chair of Events.
Julia Sappenfield has taken the lead on the Lecture Committee.
Melissa Crowe has taken on the Chair of the Marketing Committee.
Tricia Burch is joining Katie Alwart as co-chair of Fundraising.
Wendy Todd has taken on the Playspace Committee Chairmanship.

Parent Talk’s fiscal year begins in June, as does the board year.  Board positions are held by the Chairpersons of key committees; people who also commit to monthly board meetings and supporting one another’s work by volunteering with projects and events throughout the year. 

Parent Talk encourages committee chair people to co-chair their committees, ideally having overlap from year to year between a new co-chair and a co-chair who has a year of experience.  Outgoing board members include Ryan McDonnell, who served for four years as treasurer, Cathy Memory, who served as Marketing Chair, Sari Musman as Lecture Chair (though she filled the 2012-2013 schedule with lectures before turning the position over to Julie Sappenfield!), Lollie Weeks as Communications Chair, Nicole Maffeo as co-chair of Events, Sarah Dussault as co-chair of Fundraising, and Ginger Bunn and Lauren Koweleski as co-chairs of the playspace. We thank them all for the work that they did for Parent Talk in these positions, wish them well in new endeavors, and look forward to working with them in other capacities at Parent Talk. 

To learn more about Parent Talk’s board members, see our website at, click on board under the About Us tab.

About the Author
Mary Celeste lives with her husband and three children in Boston and is very excited to be working with Parent Talk.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Volunteer Spotlight: Sari Musmon

When you talk to Parent Talk members, many will say that one of the member benefits they value most highly is the lecture series. July’s Volunteer Spotlight highlights the woman who has made those lectures possible these last two years, and whose dedication and commitment to Parent Talk are an inspiration to us all. 
Sari Musmon moved to Needham in 2006 and inquired about Parent Talk even before her first child was born. In her words, “I knew I was going to need a network of people going through the same rollercoaster I was going to be going through.” After Talia was born in 2008, Sari joined Parent Talk and became involved in a playgroup. Her second daughter, Jolie, was born in 2009 and Sari looked forward to the days when her daughters would be old enough to take advantage of more Parent Talk activities. 
As a stay-at-home Mom who was looking to get more involved, Sari was approached about taking on the Lecture Chair position. It proved to be a perfect position for her and gave her the chance to feel professional, connect with grown-ups, and build her resume, all while staying at home with her children. Being part of the Board gave her a chance to meet great families and make lasting friendships. Being Lecture Chair gave her the chance to “become star-struck by authors” and meet many well-known experts. 

Sari showed her dedication to Parent Talk when she agreed to run Flicks on the Field last year in addition to her role as Lecture Chair. While the weather was less than cooperative, and ultimately the event had to be cancelled, her dedication and organization ensured the event would have been a huge success. We are lucky that she agreed to chair the event again this year (and hopefully the weather will cooperate). Thanks to her persistence, we’ll get to enjoy a viewing of the Lorax on Memorial Field in August. 
Sari is always the first one to sign up when we ask for volunteers, and she always has a smile on her face. We’ll miss her enthusiasm on the board this coming year, but we know we’ll see her at Parent Talk events for years to come! 

Parent Talk  is always ready to welcome new volunteers. To get involved, click here to see our open opportunities. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Written by Nikki Amara Myers

Close your eyes.  Now, think about corn.  What do you see?  What thoughts or memories come to mind? A favorite recipe?  A family tradition?  Butter and salt?  Summer days?  Picnics?  Yes, yes, and yes. All those visceral responses are correct; however, in the context of this article, you would be absolutely wrong as I was a few months back.

As some of you know, I love food and I enjoy cooking.  Finding new recipes for my own weekly menu planning is constantly on my mind.  Feeding my family healthy, delicious meals is a priority.  With that said, I was reading Emily Roach’s blog, Random Recycling, and she had the word CORN listed as a meal on her weekly menu planner.  CORN?  What the heck does that mean?  How is she going to create a whole meal using corn?  Knowing Emily, as well as I do, I know this IS possible but what is she going to make?  Could this CORN-thing be an acronym?  If so, what, what is it?  Reading further, I learned in Emily’s house, CORN represents a weekly CLEAN OUT THE REFRIGERATOR NIGHT.  Ah ha, yes, this makes sense now.  Accordingly, Emily found this inspiration from a wonderful post on Life as Mom’s blog.  In both instances, cleaning out the refrigerator nights provide opportunities to use leftovers as well as to clean and organize the refrigerator.  Brilliant. 
So, CORN has really taken its place in my weekly menu planning as it does at Emily’s house.  Once a week, I stand, usually listless, in front of my opened refrigerator making peace with whatever leftovers remain.  Sometimes, I reconstitute the leftovers into something interesting while other nights the leftovers are either simply combined with one another, if the flavors warrant, or they are individually plated, heated up, and served immediately to anyone hungry enough and hanging around the kitchen table.  These are the nights I chuckle silently because a lot of times I don’t even like to eat leftovers but I enjoy cooking so this is the price I pay for regularly cooking too much.  Eating, cooking, CORN, meal planning, the kitchen, and the opened refrigerator all have a special place in my day, in my week, and in my life. 

How do you deal with leftovers?  Are you one to cook just enough or do you typically have extensive leftovers in your refrigerator?  Have you established a CORN-ritual?  If so, please let us know what you do and if you have any tips or tricks to share. 

Enjoy your CORN either way – yellow, deliciously buttery with a hint of salt or clean and organized with enjoyable, reconstituted leftovers.  Whatever you do, make it fun, make it enjoyable, and always make it delicious.  

About the Author

Nikki lives locally with her husband and two children.  She is a self-proclaimed foodie, photographer, and blogger.  Now a SAHM, she was a school counselor and cast member of Joey & Maria’s Comedy Wedding for many years.  Nikki currently consults as a private, independent college counselor.  She also writes her own personal blog, Days With Us (follow her at or @dayswithus).

Monday, July 16, 2012

Palettes Natick Review and Giveaway!

Written by Emily Roach

When was the last time you painted?  Not color-by-number, or painting alongside your child.  Real painting on a canvas.  Maybe never, as was the case for me.

My Parent Talk playgroup chose Palettes Natick for our June Mom's Night Out. Nikki Myers suggested it, and many of us jumped on the chance to be a little creative.  Eleven of us got together to enjoy a fun night of painting, cocktails, and old-school girly music. (Think Dirty Dancing tunes)

We got step-by-step instruction on how to create the Mod Flowers painting.  Everyone in the class paints the same thing, yet they each came out slightly different.  We even spied on what looked like professionals in the class who created hardwood floors in their paintings.
My work in progress of Mod Flowers
I think the best advertising is the other pictures up on the walls.  There were so many that I wanted to come back and paint...lobsters, buoys, boats.  See a theme here?
If you are looking for a new place for a girls' night out, check out Palettes in Natick center.  There are also kid friendly painting opportunities.  Who wouldn't want to move the painting mess out of your house?!

We have a $70 gift certificate to giveaway to one of our members!  Please enter through Rafflecopter below.  Contest is open to Parent Talk members only and is open until midnight, July 27th.  I'm sure our playgroup will be entering so we have a good reason to head back in the fall!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Are you looking for a playgroup? Check out the current assortment here to find one to fit your child's age. 

About the Author
Emily lives in Needham with her husband Jim and two children.  After working in retail for 10 years, she decided to stay home with the kids and bake.  Emily is also engaged in the world of social media, helping both Parent Talk Marketing and Needham Farmers Market. She also writes the blog Random Recycling: Green Living for Modern Families.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Local Summer Swimming Options

Need to cool off during these hot summer days and looking to learn more about local swimming options? A group of Parent Talk moms put together a list of our favorites in the area. We'd love to hear from you -- where do you take the kids for some fun in the water?
Rosemary Pool, Needham
Rosemary Pool is a conveniently located and economical option for summertime swimming and fun. It is open from June 18-August 24 this year, from 12:30pm-7:45pm. The pool offers ample shallow water areas for smaller children, and a deep-water area with diving board for older children/stronger swimmers. A deep-water test is required before children can use that area. There are also lanes for lap swimming and a lane for water walking. Rest periods where everyone under 18 must be out of the water are the last 15 minutes of every hour. Swimming lessons are offered in the mornings, as well as a swim team. A family pass costs $175 if bought before the end of May, or $210 if bought later [for Needham residents]. There are individual season passes offered as well. Alternatively, if you would rather not commit to a season pass, daily rates are $6 [$3 for seniors], and only $3 after 6pm [a great option, lovely to go have a dip after dinner on a hot night]. Children under 2 are free. There are showers, changing areas, vending machines, grassy areas for sitting, and sandy areas for digging, as well as a volleyball court. There are usually several special themed events throughout the summer. You’re very likely to run into someone you know, so give it a try!

NPRC (Needham Pool & Racquet Club), Needham
NPRC is well worth the wait! It is a private, Needham-resident only swim and tennis club - open Memorial Day to Labor Day, from 9:00am-9:00pm. With 12 clay tennis courts, a baby and "big" pool with two diving boards and a slide, plus a snack bar, playground/swings and basketball hoop, it is the perfect place to spend hot summer days. The Club offers tennis and swim teams - and lessons - and a "teen night," family fun day and synchronized swim show, which are just some of the many highlights of the summer. In order to join, you need two member reference letters. Note, currently, there is approximately a 3-6 year waiting period to get into the Club so get those applications in soon! Additional information can be found at

JCC Outdoor Pool, Newton

The Outdoor Pool is a fun, family-centered place to meet, lounge, swim, socialize, and enjoy a kosher lunch, dinner, or snack with family and friends. Enjoy the large zero-depth entry main pool, kiddie pool, inflatable water slide, and lap swim lanes—then take a break in the ample shaded areas and at the picnic tables, playground, and foosball and ping pong tables. Outdoor Pool activities include a member barbecue and staffed programs for kids. Open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. There are a variety of families that are members and you do not need to be Jewish to join. It is somewhat pricey but comparable to other pools in the area. They also have several different options for membership -- it is worth checking out. Outdoor Pool membership is available to JCC members and nonmembers. Contact 617-558-6411 or

Morses Pond, Wellesley 
Morses Pond is exactly that, a pond. It has both a sandy beachfront and a grassy area with some tree cover, alert and active lifeguards (thank you!), a water slide in a roped off deeper section, a swing set, covered picnic tables, charcoal grills, clean bathrooms, outdoor showers, trails in the surrounding wooded area, swimming and sailing lessons, and canoes and kayaks for rent. This gem of a find has been a great place to visit anytime during the day or early evening. Morses Pond opened officially on Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 and its hours of operation are from 10 am to 7 pm, seven days a week. It cost $5pp/per day guest fee (children under 1 are free). You may pay per visit or purchase a season’s pass. The pond’s season is a short one as last year it sadly closed on August 21st. Many of the lifeguards are college students so it’s time for them to pack-up and head back to campus even though many of us are still enjoying the beautiful, balmy days of August and September. Whether you go with your children and family, with your playgroup, or by yourself with a good book, you can’t go wrong by giving this place a try. The Pond presents various wanted aspects on a summer day or evening: water, beachfront, swings, clean bathrooms, safety, close proximity to home, easy and free parking (short walk from parking lot to the beach, and yes, it is stroller friendly), low cost, and it is another wonderful place to take the kids and your family once or twice, or perhaps all summer.  

Boston Sports Club, Wellesley

Located on the Needham line on Great Plain Avenue in Wellesley, the Boston Sports Club outdoor pool facility offers everything you need for fun in the sun all summer long. The complex features 5 different pools: an 8 inch toddler pool; a heated main pool with swim lanes and a deep water diving well; two kiddie pools- one with a froggy slide and one with a whale slide; and a large walk in pool featuring three water slides, a fountain, a waterfall, and a run-through sprinkler section. There is a poolside snack bar and dining area, sundecks, including an adult-only section with a whirlpool, two outdoor showers, and towel service. There are also men's and women's locker rooms with showers and separate changing rooms. Swim lessons are also available. Memberships are flexible, and a discount is offered to members of the gym.

Hale Reservation, Westwood

This unique private woodland beach on Noanet Pond is just 5 miles from Needham Center and has a large contingency of Needham families. It offers a rustic and relaxed family environment and a wide variety of activities and programs for all ages (starting as young as 2 years old) -- swim lessons, boating (canoes and kayaks, rowboats and sailboats), fishing, nature walks, and hikes (on winding hiking trails thru its 110 acres of unspoiled woodlands), arts and crafts, family parties, cookouts, and campouts. The beach has a large open swimming area, as well as four "pools" (sectioned off by floating docks) of varying depths, so even the youngest family members can enjoy a splashing good time. And its well-trained staff does an excellent job lifeguarding the waters, supervising the activities, and making it all fun. Adjacent to the beach is a picnic area with tables and grills, as well two playgrounds and basketball hoops. One thing it doesn't have is a snack bar, which eliminates the potential endless nagging for snacks and treats, offering parental control on what the family eats and drinks. Weekdays tend to be the busiest -- with plenty of playmates and activities for everyone, meaning parents sometimes even get a few moments to have a conversation, read a few pages, or just relax -- while weekends can be blissfully not crowded. The annual family membership fee is all-inclusive, and membership is limited to 420 families. Hale Reservation swimming is open 7 days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Call for 781.263.5700 for more information.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What do I do with all this artwork!?!

Written by
Alexandra Etscovitz

Are you overwhelmed with too many papers, paintings, collages and more? It is a lot to deal with when you want a clean and organized house. As an art teacher, I hope that students keep every last piece that we worked so hard on, but as a mother and an admitted neat freak, I understand that creating a balance can be a dilemma to manage both.

As the proud parent you are, I’m sure you want to acknowledge and honor your child’s talents. Of course, choosing a piece to frame for the wall is the best way to do that. There is something so magical and confidence boosting about seeing your own artwork framed! But for those who do not wish for their house to turn into the MFA, here is a list of some other ways to celebrate your child’s creativity in a special way....

-Create a binder.  Have your child choose a drawing a week (or month) and put it into a clear binder protector and file it away!
-Give it away! Take a photo and then give it as a gift to a grandparent. Or, use the extra drawings as wrapping paper.

-Host a “one man or one woman” show. Have friends and family over, serve some tea and cookies, and hang artwork on the walls. Guests can ask the artist (your child!) about how they made their work and which parts are his or her favorite and why.
-Create a book. This idea is so much fun! Take digital photographs of your child’s artwork and then make a book (or another product) on Snapfish, Shutterfly, Kodak, CaféPress or your favorite website.  You could have a book for each year of their work and put it on the coffee table or give it as a gift.
-Create a calendar, a placemat, a mug, a magnet, a puzzle, a quilt, or notecards! Again, a website company will make this very easy.
-Create a stuffed “animal.”  Such fun....this company will  make a personalized doll or stuffed “animal” of the artwork your child made! There are many artists to explore, here are some good websites: or
-Create a piece of jewelry! What a stylish way to show your child’s talents off! Send your child’s artwork to this website and they will help you design a piece of jewelry inspired by your child!

About the Author
Alexandra Etscovitz lives in Needham with her husband and her daughter and teaches elementary art in the Newton Public Schools.  In addition to art, she is passionate about healthy cooking and eating, friends, family, and travel!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Packing Snacks and Lunches

Written by Beth McCarthy
“Are you saying that I actually have to pack her lunch, two snacks and drinks every day?” I said to a friend of mine as we were talking about sending our kids to camp.  I realized that I was now going to be in charge of deciding, buying, cooking and putting together my daughter’s snacks and lunches for the first time in my life.  I had been spoiled as my daughter’s daycare had provided all of that for the 5+ years that she was there.  I did not realize how good I had it and was in a panic about how I was going to fit this into what already felt like a busy schedule.  But like everything we do as parents, we need to educate ourselves a bit and adjust to the new situation.  So where did I go when I needed some advice?  To my faithful and knowledgeable support group – Parent Talk online.  I received some great responses and compiled the list below. 

I am happy to report that I have made it through two weeks of camp, and, after some adjustments after the first week, we are doing well with our new routine.  I now sit down with my daughter on Sunday nights and make all the food decisions for the week as well as package up the snacks, fruits, and veggies she is going to need.  I think she likes being a part of the decision and packaging process and it is nice time for us to spend together.  I did let her know that once we decide on Sunday, she can’t change her mind (ok, maybe she can, but I was trying to preempt this), because Mommy would need to buy and/or cook these items so we needed to stick to our decisions.  So far, so good.  And this is good practice for us as we will need to continue this when she begins kindergarten in the fall.  Always learning!
More kid friendly ideas over at
Thanks to those who sent me information to help put this list together.  Please add to this list and share with your friends.


·         Cheese sticks

·         Squeez applesauce

·         Baby carrots

·         Banana

·         Granola bars / cereal bars

·         Yogurt

·         Trail mix or make your own mix (and have the kids help make it)

·         Dried fruit

·         Pop-Tarts

·         Cheez-Its

·         Fishies

·         Pretzels or chips

·         Mini muffins

·         Fruit – apples, bananas, strawberries, cherries, watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches (they have peach halves in the jar at Trader Joe's)

·        Yogurt tubes

·         Frozen grapes

·         Hummus and carrots

·         Cucumber and dip


·         Deli meat – rollups on own, in a tortilla, on pita or bread (i.e. turkey and cheese or baloney)

·         Tuna Fish on crackers

·         Smuckers PBJ Uncrustables

·         Hardboiled egg

·         Cheese and crackers (add deli meat and make your own Lunchables)

·         Pita (or use this great naan bread that I get now in the Trader Joe’s bread section – thicker and softer than some of the other pitas), hummus and carrots and/or grape leaves (also from Trader Joe’s)

·         Bagel and cream cheese (with lox if your child will eat it)

If you are able to send food in a thermos (see tips/tricks below), add these options to your list:

·         Chicken nuggets

·         Fishsticks

·         Pasta – orzo, raviolis (I get the small round frozen spinach and cheese kind so I don’t have to worry about adding a veggie to this meal), or perogies (cheese and potato)

·         Rice and black beans

·         Mac n cheese or mac n cheese bites (Trader Joe’s)

It all depends on whether you have a fridge available to you or not.  If you don’t, getting the right insulated bag, using the right type of ice packs or freezing some of your food/drinks to act as ice packs is the key.


·         GoGurt yogurt tubes (freeze these and use as ice pack / helps them last a few hours)

·         Get the snack size Ziploc bags and package all of your fruits/veggies and snacks up on a Sunday night so they are ready to go and easy to grab during the week (make this your Sunday night activity with your child(ren))

·         Freeze water bottle and/or juice box and use as ice pack

·         Thermos  - I bought a Hello Kitty Funtainer from Target.  Just about $14 and is a half size thermos (10 oz) that keeps chicken nuggets, fishsticks, etc warm for 5 – 7 hours.  For a kid who does not always like cold food, this is awesome!

Good Items to Buy or Places for Good Information

·         Insulated bag or box (Target, Pottery Barn for Kids,, etc)

·         Buy some ice packs (circular kinds with characters on them go over big)

·         Check out (the carrot-pineapple mini muffins are delicious.  If you decide to try them, the suggestion is to add an extra Tbsp of melted butter to help hold them together) 

About the Author

Beth McCarthy lives in Needham with her daughter Hannah (turning 6 in September).  She   has been working with the same tech company for almost 14 years as a project manager.  When Beth isn’t working or spending time with her daughter, she enjoys volunteering/planning events (such as the PT Sale), crafts, exercising, Israeli dancing, travel and theatre.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fourth of July Craft and Fun!

Fourth of July is the time to show your American pride and display that red, white and blue.  A high flying patriotic wind sock is just the thing to let those colors soar!

 My children (ages 2-11) and I created these using colored paper, a glue stick, crepe paper, scissors and ribbon.  We cut strips of red paper and glued them horizontally onto a large sheet of white construction paper, then affixed a thick blue rectangle to the top.  The kids traced and cut out stars then glued those onto the blue paper.  We then rolled the flag into a cylinder and glued the edges together.  Using a hole punch, the children threaded a blue ribbon to hang the wind socket from a post outside.  For a finishing touch we cut eight strips of crepe paper and glued them to the inside to catch the wind.  Proudly display your patriotic wind sock outside whether your house is on the 4th of July parade route or you just want to celebrate the official start of summer and our Nation's Independence Day!

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