Thursday, February 28, 2013

Recipe Spotlight: Wheat Pasta with Spinach and Feta

This is a go-to midweek recipe for me. It is so quick, easy, filling and healthy! I basically just combined three things I love—spinach, feta cheese and chickpeas and added it to pasta. You can substitute broccoli for spinach if you prefer. This recipe is enough for four people with leftover for lunch. Delicious!

  • 1 lb. wheat pasta
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • ½ bag frozen or fresh spinach (if frozen, defrost first and squeeze as much water out of it as possible)
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp. salt (more to taste if needed)
  • 1 tsp. pepper
Boil the pasta per the package directions. While boiling, put olive oil in a sauté pan on medium heat. Add garlic and stir. Add chickpeas and let sauté for 5 minutes. Add spinach and stir until wilted if fresh; if frozen, cook for approximately 3 minutes while stirring occasionally. Add Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Drain pasta and combine with ingredients in sauté pan. Sprinkle with feta and parmesan and mix to evenly combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Serve hot!

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.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Raising Children in a Changing, Complicated, and Sometimes Scary World

 The world did, indeed, become a scarier place after Newtown but maybe not for the reasons you have in mind. It’s not because we, as parents, can no longer think of our schools as safe havens.  It’s because our children can’t.   And that’s what should really worry – no, make that terrify – us as parents. Because when children don’t think they are safe, that alters the way they view the world and the way they behave in it. For children, Newtown was a personal invasion.

Please join us for our next lecture on Wednesday, March 6th and listen to Barbara Meltz, as she gives us the tools to help our children understand the world around them in a language that is appropriate and effective. To register please go here:

photo credit: Squid! via photopin cc

Monday, February 25, 2013

Local area skiing options for kids

Written by Sara Nechasek

Have you been thinking with all this snow lately that it might be fun to bring your kids skiing?   

We are fortunate to have a handful of ski hills close by in Massachusetts.  The local mountains are the perfect place to ski with younger children.  They offer lessons, rentals and easy access from Needham.  We also have a great cross country ski location just minutes away.  You and your family don’t have to trek to NH, ME or VT to have a fun ski day.

·       Blue Hills, Canton MA (about 15 minute drive from Needham) 
·       Bradford, Bradford MA
·       Nashoba, Westford MA
·       Wachusett, Princeton MA  The farthest drive away, Wachusett is also the largest ski area on this list.
·       Weston Ski Track (Cross Country), Weston, MA  Only minutes from Needham, the Weston Ski Track offers a great beginner cross country experience including lessons and rentals.   

This year we signed my four year old son up for weekly group lessons at Blue Hills, which I chose because it is so close to home.  Most places offer lessons to children age four and older (although Bradford starts at age three).  They offer one-time daily lessons or weekly lessons.  My son loves the lessons and I have found the instructors to be patient and upbeat.  Blue Hills, like the other downhill ski locations, rents skis, boot and helmets.  They offer rental and lesson packages too. Make sure you rent a helmet if you don’t own one.  New skiers fall down often plus the helmet helps keep your little one warm!  All you need to do is dress your child in warm clothes including snow pants, a snow jacket and water-proof mittens and you can rent the rest of the equipment.If you are more interested in cross country skiing, the Weston Ski Track is a few short minutes away from Needham and offers lessons and rentals too.  The Weston Ski Track also offers a child carrier to rent (much like a behind the bike carrier) where your child can sit while you pull them skiing.Skiing can be a fun outdoor activity for your kids during these long New England winters.  I love how tired and happy my son seems after a few hours of skiing!

I’d love to hear if there are other places you ski in MA.  Please tell me in the comments.

About the Author
Sara Nechasek lives in Needham with her husband and four year old son. She works part-time at a non-profit health care company and dreams of the day she can bring her son to ski big powder out west.

photo credit

Monday, February 18, 2013

Putting a Home in Focus

The experience of buying/selling real estate has changed greatly in the last 10-15 years. It wasn't too long ago that there were only two ways you could find out what homes were for sale. You could read the newspaper. However, newspaper ads had very limited information. Alternatively, you could head down to your local real estate agent's office where you could learn more about a home. Today, you don't have to leave your home or even buy a newspaper to find out in-depth information on every home for sale in your town and beyond. You can even search for a new home on your smart phone. All you need is an internet connection or an app. In fact, today over 90% of all buyers use the internet to search for real estate. From to there are literally thousands of websites which can give you quick access to detailed information about a property which often even includes satellite images of the property's location.

Aside from all the statistical information, the one thing buyers spend a lot of time staring at is the pictures of your home. When selling a home the photos your real estate agent puts on the listing are your best chance of making a good first impression with a buyer. In fact, a study recently published in the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics found that homes listed for sale without photos sell for 3.9% less than homes listed with at least one photo.  While buyers will quickly skip over listings without them, simply having photos is not enough.  Having high quality photos of your home will set your listing apart from others and attract more buyers to your property which will result in a faster sale. The Wall Street Journal reported in a recent article that “listings with nicer photos gain anywhere between $934 and $116,076 [in sale price.]” A national real estate brokerage firm went so far as to conduct a study examining the difference between listings whose photos were shot with a DSLR camera and those with photos shot using a standard digital camera.

Here's what they found:
  • Only 15.4% of homes in the data set (homes from the Boston area MLS and Seattle area MLS) were marketed using professional photography
  •  The majority of listings, 80.9%, were photographed using point-n-shoot photography
  • The remaining 0.7% used just a camera phone

Homes shot with a DSLR camera:
  • Receive an average of 61% more views than their peers across all price tiers.
  • Have a 47% higher asking price per square foot.
  • Have an increased likelihood of selling when the home is priced above $300,000.
Clearly high quality listing photographs give a property a huge advantage over competitors with lesser pictures. Here are a few tips that will help your property look its best not only in photos but also in person!

  1. Work with your Realtor to stage the interior of your home. The surprisingly simple acts of re-arranging your furniture and accessories along with de-cluttering and some depersonalization can work wonders in generating buyer appeal.
  2. Don't forget to stage the exterior of your home as well. Make sure your yard is nicely landscaped and that your home looks good as well. Address any peeling paint and power wash the exterior as necessary. The photo of the front of your home is often the first one a buyer will see.
  3. If your real estate agent shows up and starts taking photos with a cell phone or point & shoot camera for use in MLS you’re working with the wrong agent.

High end digital photography can mean more money for sellers but what does it mean for buyers?  Simply put, buyers must learn to properly recognize and interpret digital photography. Otherwise, buyers will find themselves frequently disappointed when comparing photos to the actual home.   Most professional real estate photographers liberally use super wide angle lenses for interior photography and even sometimes exterior photos as well.  While these lenses allow a photographer to capture a wider view of the room giving a potential buyer a greater feel for the space, the lens also naturally distorts depth perception.  In the hands of a less skilled photographer, the distortion caused by a super wide angle lens is often multiplied resulting in a room that looks significantly larger in the photo than it does in person.  Poorly shot photos often have other distortions like curved lines that should be straight like the edge of a wall for example.  Real estate photography is still a relatively young industry and currently there are far more bad practitioners than there are good.  Knowing how to recognize distorted  photos and set a proper expectation for the house based on that will lead to less disappointment at showing appointments.

About the Author
Michael Cohen is a Realtor with Prudential Advantage Real Estate located in the heart of Needham Center. Based on his high level of performance, Michael was named to the Prudential Honor Society in both 2010 and 2011. Michael has been certified as a Fine Homes Specialist by Prudential Real Estate and as a Seniors Real Estate Specialist by the National Association of Realtors. Michael leverages his knowledge of technology to provide an outstanding home buying/selling experience for his clients. He is a Parent Talk member, father of a 2 year old boy, and a resident of Needham.
(617) 233-5810 mobile

photo credit: FloridaSunSales via photopin cc
photo credit: vicki moore via photopin cc

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's Day Heart Craft

Valentines Day is just a few days away, and with all that snow outside, it's the perfect time for crafting up some love! My children had fun making these heart shaped bags to hold some special cards or candies.  They also looked great hanging on the wall as a decoration and one of my daughters liked wearing her's as a purse.

You will need festive colored paper, ribbon, scissors and a hole-punch:

1) Begin by cutting two hearts out of some pretty patterned paper- the thicker the paper; the more sturdy the end result will be.
2) Making sure the detailed sides of the paper face outward; align the  hearts.
3) Punch holes along the sides and bottom of hearts.
4) Using thin string or ribbon, have your child lace up the heart, weaving in and out of the holes.
5) Tie the extra ribbon together in a pretty bow.
6) Enjoy filling and showing off your masterpiece!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Have a favorite Valentine's Day activity or craft? Please share it in the comments!

About the Author
Amanda Liljedahl lives in Needham with her husband and five children (two boys, a set of identical twin girls and their newest addition, another girl). She chronicles her days which include arts & crafts projects, great recipes for the family and driving her kids from hockey practice and ballet to what's happening in her life as a mom, wife and friend on her blog The Little Lily Pad

Monday, February 11, 2013

First Summer Camp Fair a Success!

 Parent Talk’s First Annual Summer Camp Information Fair was a great success!! On the evening of January 31, area 25 summer camps from Needham, Dover, Newton, Wellesley, Dedham, Natick, Westwood, Weston, Sharon, and more gathered together in the Newman Elementary School Cafeteria in Needham to meet and greet with local parents and share information about their summer camp programs. Over 100 parents attended the event (Parent Talk members and non-members too!), and parents and camp representatives alike enjoyed a fun and informative night. 

Please visit to download a copy of the summer camp booklet provided to all attendees. Parent Talk is looking forward to next January, when we hope to host our 2nd Annual Summer Camp Information Fair!

A big thank you to the organizers this year! Jodi Rooney, Sharon Ellis, Naomi Goldman, and Sarah Dussault.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I Love Mondays~ Post Lecture Wrap Up

Written by Julia Sappenfield

We had a great lecture last week with Michelle Cove who talked with us about the challenges of juggling work and family successfully.

Michelle presented us with a lot of scenarios and asked what we would do in that situation, would you put work first or your child? It was great to hear so many different solutions from other moms and what worked for them and why.

I highly recommend her book I Love Mondays: And Other Confessions from Devoted Working Moms which is full of ideas and suggestions to keep a good balance between your career and kids.

The next Parent Talk lecture will be on Wednesday, March 6th when we hear Barabara Meltz talk about the challenge of Raising Children in a Changing, Complicated and Sometimes Scary World” 

Registration for this event is now open! Click here to RSVP.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Have You Tried UrbanSitter Yet?

Picture this. Your usual Saturday night babysitter isn't available and you already have plans. The back up babysitter isn't available either. Now what? Don't throw in the towel just yet. There is a convenient new option for parents in the Metrowest area to book a babysitter, UrbanSitter. The process starts online, but can quickly move to a more personal interview in person or over the phone.

I've had the opportunity to work with UrbanSitter on a few occasions. We had a Saturday night scramble and used the service to hire a babysitter who lived in Dedham. I had met the babysitter at a blogging event so I had a familiar face to choose from. My kids loved having someone new to play with and the babysitter jumped right into playing "school."

If you log in via Facebook, you will also be able to see who your friends have used at Urban Sitter. It's a nice way to make the booking experience more personal.

Two big perks come to mind after utilizing the service.

  1. You can pay babysitters by credit card. 
  2. You can post a job so sitters only get in touch with you if they are available, instead of you chasing them. I used this when I got stuck and needed emergency coverage. 

There are lots of new sitters being added that have their own transportation. Finding sitters that could come to Needham on the weekend, without the train service, proved to be a little difficult.  In the past two months, a larger number of sitters have been added that can service Needham, Dover, Medfield and Newton.

Want to try out UrbanSitter? They are offering a Parent Talk member a “date night” giveaway, which would be a $60 UrbanSitter credit (generally the cost of a $15/hr sitter for a 4-hr night out).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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 writes the blog Random Recycling, co-manages the Parent Talk Blog, and is a board member of the Needham Farmers Market.  Disclosure: I was provided babysitting credit to test out Urban Sitter's service. This in no way influenced my opinions shared here. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Puppet Show this Saturday at the Playspace!

Is your toddler/preschooler suffering from cabin fever or going a bit stir crazy?  Do you feel like you’ve exhausted the entertainment options to keep their little minds engaged and fascinated?  Then Parent Talk has the answer!

Join us next Saturday, Feb. 9th at the Parent Talk Playspace (classroom 109) in Dover, for an imaginary fieldtrip to Mystery Mountain.  Tag along with an adventurous Princess as she journeys to visit the Great Green Dragon.  Along the way, she’ll meet Zelda the babysitter, a silly bat, Sir George and his clumsy dog, and of course the lovable Great Green Dragon.  Will Sir George slay the Great Green Dragon?  No, of course not.  Everything ends happily in this fun puppet show.  So join us for an engaging show.  Registration is required.  Show starts promptly at 11 a.m.

RSVP through the link here.

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