Kid alert: This well-laid-out shop in Inman Square has lots of room for wandering feet, plus fun and interactive on-site activities for curious minds. There's a play area with a crawl-through tunnel; a plastic structure holding more than 200 balls for jumping around in; a large-piece floor puzzle; a plastic house for climbing in and out of; and, most important, a storyteller the first Wednesday of every month at 4 p.m. And those things aren't even on sale! Stelabella has top-notch goods, including the usual suspects, like Radio Flyers and Lincoln Logs, as well as an impressive selection of arts and crafts kids. Open seven days a week. 1360 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA stellabellatoys.com/.
When your abode has become inhabitable, call on this Boston-based cleaning service for quick, friendly, and professional help. Founded in a small Beacon Hill storefront 10 years ago, MaidPro now keeps houses spick-and-span here and in 10 other states. With its 49-point checklist (are the baseboards clean? Lamp shades dusted?) there will be no surface left uncleaned. of all, MaidPro's team is well versed in the art of straightening, rather than putting away, so that all of your belongings will be exactly where you expect to find them—only neater. 180 Canal St., Boston, MA maidpro.com/.
Schumacher has been the grad Poo-Bah of flora for the past 31 years, and is largely responsible for bringing a healthy dose of green to Boston's asphalt avenues. Its creative ingenuity can be appreciated throughout the city at the Fraser Courtyard in the Museum of Fine Arts, the Snell Library Plaza at Northeastern University, and Post Office Square Par. But don't be intimidated if your yard is more like a foot. These doctors of the green thumb are equally adept at smaller residential projects— say, planting pansies around the porch, installing sod over that crabgrass, or mowing your lawn when you just don't feel like it. 17 Electric Ave., Brighton, MA .
You won’t find any rainbow-hued cakes in Jenny Williamson’s portfolio—and that’s on purpose. The Amesbury baker takes a more refined approach, lending her pared-down aesthetic to bespoke confections almost too pretty to eat. Her penchant for art shines through in meticulously crafted florals and ruffles, while her 20-plus years of baking translates to perfected flavors. Whether you choose a cake filled with strawberry-champagne buttercream or layered with chocolate ganache, these extra-special desserts hit the (sweet) spot. MA jencakes.com.
Let's get one thing straight: Fringe isn't synonymous with small. In fact, the fringe companies in town are all about big ideas, big risks, and big heart, none more so than Company One Theatre, a long-standing resident of the Boston Center for the Arts. Dedicated to performances you aren't likely to forget (did you see the perfectly perturbed Shockheaded Peter ?), Company One should be celebrated not only for its adventurous theatrical achievements, but also for its efforts to carve out a more diverse, informed, and open-minded city. 539 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02116, companyone.org.
What's the use of having disposable income if you go and blow it on disposable style? For accoutrements with staying power—and that won't show up on Bluefly three weeks later—look to Matsu, where owner Dava Muramatsu has been growing and refining her accessories collection for years. In a season of understated dressing, her look-at-me handbags, jewelry, and hats make everything around them pop. Leather and embellished totes by Jamin Puech and M0851 are works of art, while mixed-metal jewelry by Heather Moore, Chan Luu, and Ten Thousand Things are far sounder investments than a statement necklace with an expiration date. 264 Newbury St, Boston, MA 2116, matsuboston.com.
Only enlightened children need apply. Stellabella, you see, is a completely gun-free shop that specializes in educational toys. But before you start criticizing what political correctness has done to childhood fun, check out the selection: nature projects, musical instruments, colorful science puzzles, and bulk art supplies. Better still, look at what the kids are doing. They're singing songs, painting, listening to stories, riding on oversized stuffed animals: just plain playing. Prices are reasonable, and the staff is beyond helpful. It's like one big PBS special come to life. 1360 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA stellabellatoys.com/.
Being a great chef isn't just about respecting good ingredients or cooking with passion. It's also about being a good manager and building relationships with the guests you serve. Michael Schlow is all of the above, and more. With three restaurants in his expanding stable (Radius, Via Matta, and Great Bay), Schlow may not be the man who personally prepares you dinner, but he juggles each of his top-notch kitchens with aplomb. Schlow understands the culinary parameters of his ventures better than anyone—he knows, for example, that at Radius, less is more; that at Via Matta, cooking pasta is an art; and that at Great Bay, it's all about the bounty of our local waters. Radius, 8 High St.; Great Bay, 500 Commonwealth Ave.; Via Matta, 79 Park Plaza, Boston, MA michaelschlow.com.
Care to try some terrier-misu? Or perhaps the matching pet-owner jewelry is more up your alley. Regardless, the two-legged and four-legged alike are barking up a storm about DogSpa, Beverly's grooming, retail, and nutritional haven. For the languorous pooch, there's an aromatherapeutic quiet room; for the vivacious pup, "Smelly Dog" deodorizations; for all of man's best friends, a chrome state-of-the-art grooming zone with anti-fatigue padded mats, HydroSurge spa baths, and expert stylists. All dogs may go to heaven, but really, what can heaven have on DogSpa? 45 Enon St., Unit 5, Beverly, MA beverlydogspa.com/.
Yes, it's a chain. But our search for comparable quality and variety in the area always leads us back here. Visit the artfully arranged shop in person and you'll come face to face with bushels of oversized dahlias, silky long-stemmed roses, and of course, dozens of the store's signature, precisely designed arrangements. The space feels like a Tuscan villa, with topiary trees and buckets of seasonal blooms. As for out-of-state delivery, the staff's well-deserved reputation for attention to detail means you'll never have to worry about red carnations getting in the mix. 31 Central St., Wellesley, MA winstonflowers.com/.
These pies clearly show a passion for the art of pizza-making without being too precious for a Tuesday-night snack. Toppings are top-notch and cover every craving: There’s the ruddy spice of house-made red-wine-and-garlic sausage. The sweet-and-salty dialogue between bacon and drizzles of chili-spiked maple syrup sourced from a sugar shack in the Adirondacks. Even citrus accents to balance the richness in Dragon’s lemon-chicken pizza, a nod to the signature dish at the late, great Hamersley’s Bistro. Read more 233 Elm St., Somerville, MA .
Rather than furnishing newlyweds' houses from top to bottom, Bliss concentrates on outfitting them with some of the most exquisite and stylish tableware available. Feeling overwhelmed by the shelves of Alessi kettles, graceful Iittala glasses and vases, Bernardaud china, and CJ Vander flatware? Worry not. The staff here not only knows everything about this merchandise but also is well trained in the art of guiding couples through the selection process. Furthermore, the Web site lets guests easily make their purchases from afar, all registry gift wrapping is complementary, and there's a registry completion program that includes 10 percent off anything a couple purchases themselves after the wedding. 2257 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA blisshome.bridgecatalog.com/.
This is the kind of place where Harry might have stopped to buy a bunch for Sally. The look and feel of Charles Street Flowers is old Boston, as is much of the clientele—but the shop serves its share of young lovers too. Strolling by on Charles Street, you'll be lured into this secret garden by its floor-to-ceiling windows, which are filled with hanging ivy and artfully arranged pots of flora. The small interior is packed with everything from daisies and sunflowers to lilies and orchids; it is clean, bright, and a pleasure to navigate. A vase of crisp cut flowers starts at $40 (it's a small financial jump to a $50 arrangement, but worth it). There's also a bookcase filled with glorious pots of hand-arranged dried roses. 115 Charles Street, Boston, MA .
There are floral bouquets, and then there is floral art. Ilex is in the latter category, orchestrating fields full of fresh blooms—luminescent calla lilies with orchids and fluffy penoes with full-petaled, butter-hued French tulips. Even the simplest of arrangements are minimalist treasures, such as one with mango-hued garden roses, glossy green anthurium, and pale apricot hypericum berries. The staff, talented as it is, couldn't be more helpful or down to earth. When you're handed your arrangement, you won't know whether to put it on the dining room table or in an exhibit case. 73 Berkeley St., Brookline, MA ilexflowers.com/.
Raise your hand if you're tired of the same standard sushi, meal in and meal out: tuna maki, salmon sushi, tuna sushi, salmon maki. We're tired of it, too, which is why we thank our lucky stars for the Chinatown flagship branch of Ginza. This restaurant proves there's life beyond the basics with artful orchestrations such as Boston maki—lobster, salmon, rice, lettuce, and a smattering of salty roe. Lest you assume that creativity eclipses flavor here, it doesn't. Everything from the cooked octopus to the seasonal raw seatrout is sweetly fresh, cut to order, and best washed down with any of the 12 varieties of sake. 16 Hudson St., Boston, MA ginza-boston.com/.