The rigid heddle loom is a relatively simple machine. Jennifer Baum, The Weaving Shed's owner and a juried fiber artist, likes it because a beginning student can set it up and start a scarf within 45 minutes. Along with the loom's simplicity, Jen appreciates the therapeutic value of its rhythmic, back-and-forth cadence. As students work the loom to steadily pull fiber threads into a hand-woven item, they also shed the stress of their day. Jen sees these transformations—both in the progress of the project and the demeanor of the student—as she guides the technique and lends tips to the up to eight students that attend each class in the newly-expanded studio.
Along with classes, The Weaving Shed also spearheads a Farm to Yarn program with local farms. The natural or hand-dyed sheep's wool or alpaca fleece becomes a sustainable, specialty fiber for weaving, knitting, felting, crotchet, and spinning projects. This interest in cultivating local fibers hits especially close to Jen's home, AKA Sunny Knoll Farm, where, with her husband and children, she helps raise an ever-growing alpaca herd. She describes the alpaca as a very "zen-lifestyle animal," even though scientific journals refer to them as "respiring shag carpets." Along with laughing at the "fun family adventure" that the experience has been, she also praises the hypoallergenic qualities of the fleece and its 22 naturally occurring colors.
Situated on 24 acres of woods and meadows in central Massachusetts, Cornerstone Ranch allows riders to savor New England's breathtaking foliage year-round with lessons, camps, and rides through scenic terrain. Owner Sue Connell and her family prep their fleet of horses with exhaustive training and pesticide-free fly-control practices, making the steeds even safer to ride than Smokey the Bear. Sue steers horse-drawn sleighs during winter months and gangs astride steeds during warmer weather, leading fellow riders through a labyrinth of woodsy trails. She and an equally experienced instructor helm riding lessons for all levels year-round and fold the same principles into weeklong summer camps. The camps cater to beginner and advanced equestrians alike, teaching kids how to catch, lead, tie up, groom, and outfit horses with bridles and saddles before mounting and riding them into kid-sized sunsets. Daily schedules consist of two rides, including group excursions and trail jaunts. At week's end, equestrians flaunt their new skills at a horse show for friends and parents.
Dining at a Mexicali Fresh Mex Grill is a different experience in every city. While every location shares the same Guadalajara based menu—with plates of authentic enchiladas, fajita burgers, and flautas covered in ranchero cheese—the decor of their dining rooms varies from location to location. In Spencer, Massachusetts, diners gaze at warm-toned desert paintings and statues of running horses, whereas the Ware, Massachusetts, location treats the eyes to views of blue-tiled divides and potted plants. In Holden, Massachusetts, a look around the dining area gives customers views of brightly painted walls on which ponchos and hats are hung, simultaneously providing colorful scenery and ideas for repurposing their old swimming trunks at home.
An olive branch painting adorns the dining room wall at Oli's Italian Eatery, but it's likely those nearby are already feeling pretty peaceful. Or at the very least, content over a meal. The menu packs in everything from specialty pizzas and pastas to seafood and burgers made in the open kitchen for lunch and dinner. The drink list offers specialty cocktails like watermelon martinis and sangria, along with draft beers and glasses of wine.
Founded by a childbirth educator recently profiled in Worcester Mag, Mothers & Company’s natural-parenting community center supports expectant and new moms with relaxing yoga classes while its store supplies them with organic and natural baby products. The store's collection of cloth diapers, baby carriers and slings, pumps, and other accessories facilitates a natural and organic transition into parenthood. The store’s homeopathic, all-natural Hyland's Calms Forté sleep aid soothes parental nerves with chamomile, slipping them into restful sleep filled with dreams about even more sleep ($7.50); a pair of absorbent, washable Bummis training pants stretches with Lycra to fit around little legs and bellies as they trot toilet-ward ($11).