Friday, December 21, 2012


I’m not talking bars, today, internet.  With Christmas just around the corner, and New Years on its heels, let’s get down to business.  The holidays are stressful.  It’s also cold.  A good bottle of wine does wonders to counter both of those things, and also serves as an acceptable holiday gift.

Maryland has frustrating liquor laws, at least for those of us coming from states that aren't Pennsylvania.  Wikipedia outlines them for the entirety of Maryland here, but I’ll break down the city’s laws for you, beyond the obvious, “Don’t drink if you’re under 21 unless you’re under your parents’ roof with their consent,” “Don’t drink and drive,” and, “You can have alcohol if it’s a religious service and that’s how y’all roll.”

  • You can’t buy alcohol at the grocery store (except for Eddie’s of Mt Vernon and Roland Park.  Raise your hand if you know why, because I have no earthly clue).
  • Bars/taverns can’t sell you alcohol after 2am.
  • You can’t buy alcohol on Sundays, except for any Sunday that lands between Christmas and New Years.  At least they’re not barbaric about it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Hapsburg Palace Adventure

This is a personal story, from far before my move to Baltimore.  If the oversharing of personal details makes you even vaguely uncomfortable or the use of a word beyond "damn" is not your cup of tea, I suggest you go back to Facebook or Twitter, or wherever you may have come here from.  If this has not deterred you, read on, and enjoy one of my most absurd moments.

There comes a point in many a middle class college student’s life where they are bitten by the study-abroad bug.  Professors and parents persuade you that a few months of heavy drinking in a foreign country will broaden your world view and do minimal harm to your liver.  While my semester in Spain is now but a far-off, distant memory, it did help me expand my horizons past that of a sheltered American student while teaching me the classic Spanish tradition of combining coca cola with my red wine.  
El Escorial

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pet Ownership: just as glamorous as you think it is

I am, as you are likely well aware, a pet owner.  I am a proud crazy-dog-mother to a lovable, stubborn and cheerfully chubby basset hound mutt named Bubba.  I adopted Bubba two weeks before moving to Baltimore from a shelter in Southwest Virginia where he'd been for six months.

Bubba (aka: Sir Bubbakins, Little Man, Bubs, The Bubster, El Bubbisito)
The local indie station where I'd lived highlighted local pets each week, and I heard about him months before I adopted him.  Upon learning I was going to move, I went by purely out of curiosity to see if he was still there.  "I'm just going to look," I told myself.  And then I walked out with a dog.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bike Party!

Let's say, hypothetically, that you like bikes.  Bikes are convenient forms of transportation, they're great for your health, and the people that ride them are generally pretty awesome.  I don't bike, but I have professed my love for them and the people that ride them.  In this hypothetical where you love bikes, you also want to meet the awesome people that ride them.  It would be ideal if you could perhaps even bike with these awesome people.

Enter Bike Party.  The Baltimore Bike Party meets on the last Friday of every month at the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon.  The group gathers at 7:00p and hits the streets of Baltimore on a pre-determined, 10 to 15 mile route by 7:30p.  Afterwards, the bikers gather for a post-ride party for good food, good beer, good camaraderie, and good times.  In October, the ride was attended by 1,300 bikers, the largest group ride on the east coast.

This month, Bike Party is pajama-themed.  Show up this Friday in your best pjs to the monument at 7:00p with your bike, bells and whistles, and get ready to meet some awesome fellow-bikers.  For more information, check out their Facebook page or email them at  I'm debating whether or not to force myself onto a bike this Friday, or just volunteer for the after-party.  This month, the ride will end at Pratt Street Ale House by Camden Yards.   I am down for anything that supports my wearing elastic-waist pants on a Friday night, because I'm a classy lady.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

All Aboard: A Nondenominational Light Show and Train Display in Montgomery County

I grew up with model trains.   I associate them with the holidays, with tiny ceramic Christmas villages, and sweeping away avalanches of pine needles from train tracks.  The migraine that results from the scent of artificial smoke takes me back to the days of candles, nativity scenes, garlands, and egg nog.

My father was raised on Lionel trains, and therefore so were my siblings and I.  I love that we were, I love that we don't put presents under the tree because then we'd be placing barriers to the train's route.  We are no longer allowed to gift my father ceramic houses for the village, because at some point the village began to morph into a metropolis much larger than our living room could handle.

As a family, we've partaken in an array of train-themed activities.  Train shows, train rides in the midwest with questionable food carts that made me ill as a child, train rides in the Adirondack Mountains where we had to carry canoes and there was many a raised voice.  I most vividly recall various adventures to a train store somewhere in Maryland (I have no idea where) that sold collectible trains alongside shotguns.  Because, why not?  It's the epitome of one-stop-shopping.

A day or two before I left to see my family for Thanksgiving, I was at home, delirious with a cold, hopped up on DayQuil and dousing my tea in a solid amount of Jameson after 6pm.  I received an email from my father that succinctly read:

"Suggest we have family time this Friday here: "

I was assured a light show of sorts, along with a large-scale (G-scale) train display.  I have done light shows in my past; the one in Manassas is practically tradition at this point.  You pay money, you sit in your car like good Americans, and enjoy drive-thru holiday festivities like you're ordering a Big Mac.  Santa, elves, reindeer, snowmen and toy soldiers are lit up with thousands of tiny light bulbs and move around, ensuring that everyone at the local gas and electric company has a very merry Christmas, indeed.
G-Scale Train Display
About 30 miles from my folks' place in Virginia, and a solid 30 or so from Baltimore, are Montgomery County's Brookside Gardens. Imagine my surprise when, as soon as one pays, you have to park. 
"Why are we parking?" asked all the ladies in the car, "Don't we just drive through the light show?"
"No," my patient father asked, "I think we have to walk through this one."
A collective groan emitted from the car.  

Gay pride?  Rainbow connection?
Wizard of Oz?  You decide!
The entrance to the walk-through holiday light show was ... a caterpillar.  We're talking Absolem from Alice in Wonderland here, except possibly more trippy, if that's at all possible.  He is also the caterpillar you have to walk through in reverse to exit, which made me feel like I was a human colonoscopy for the guy.  Why it was a caterpillar and not, say, a train or a reindeer or what have you, I couldn't say.  I mistakenly assumed that, "Holiday Light Show" implied all of those various holiday cliches we've come to love and/or abhor over the years.

No holiday is complete without the Festive Sea Creature.
As the walk continued, I became more perplexed, as did my family.  There were orange lights around, a lit up figurine that could have been a gardner but resembled a grave-digger, and the whole thing just reeked of "Haunted House" more than "Holiday Extravaganza."  There was a rainbow, along with a raincloud and what was trying to be a recording of thunder but bore more resemblance to a low growl.  Later, we saw a kangaroo, giraffe, lochness monster, two dolphins, swans that I thought were wonton soup spoons, a beehive (that totally looked like a basketball hoop) and a frog.  I found the entire experience oddly disorienting and perplexing.  How was this holiday themed?  Why were there so many orange lights?  Why did part of it, as my sister noted,  look like a cheap beachfront resort?  In the attempt to be nondenominational, it was just weird.

The train display in the greenhouse was lovely, albeit also a little weird.  Less weird in comparison to the confusing light show outside, but I didn't get why Woody and Buzz Lightyear were in a town with Disney princesses and some random sunbathing girls.  I maybe was looking for a congruent theme where none was to be found.  The trains themselves were wonderful, and it was adorable to see the faces of the small children, in complete awe of the entire thing.  I bet they didn't think twice about the odd characters in the train's town.  

If you're new to Bmore and want to see a train/light show combination, but are just completely sick of the holidays, this is the one for you.  Only $25/car.  Make the hike out to Montgomery county, and you won't have to suffer the sight of a single snowflake.  If you want something slightly more holiday-themed and much more convenient, sit tight for an update on Christmas Street in Hampden.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Duckpin Bowling: A Baltimore Pasttime

Anything related to sports or general athleticism never has been and never will be up my alley.  I've written about this in other places, but it bears repeating. It's not that I'm against fitness or some good 'ol fashioned athletic competition, it truly is that I'm just bad at it.  I'm bad at all of it.  I hike because it takes serious skill to mess up walking, even though I managed that back in September when I sprained my ankle on an eight-mile solo hike in the rain in the Blue Ridge.  Safety first, everyone.

Scrabble, proudly singing all the lyrics to R. Kelly's "Remix to Ignition," and eating are all forms of competition I can get behind.  A trifecta of the aforementioned would equate to something that resembles my nirvana.  When I'm feeling particularly limber and in-shape, I'll try putt putt or bowling.  

Baltimore is home to Duckpin bowling.  Wikipedia informed me that other locations claim to be the founders of duckpin, but I'm standing with Baltimore on this one.  The best place, hands down, for duckpin bowling in the city is the Patterson Bowling Center. It's a wonderful dive of a place where you BYOB and occasionally have to precariously walk down the gutters to retrieve your balls that haven't quite made it back to you.  The bathroom stall doesn't lock and sometimes you get to bowl an extra frame because the computer just didn't pick up your last one.  It is one of the best places in the city.

If you like fancy bowling with bells and whistles, definitely keep going.  If you're all about old-fashioned, shoe-spraying, grease on your hands from the never-cleaned balls while you enjoy the well-priced beverage of your choosing that you brought (gluten-free beer from the Wine Source, since you asked), Patterson Bowling Center is the place for you.  It is, in fact, the oldest operating duckpin alley in the country!
Important pointers provided for free.
I went this past Friday night, stopping at Johnny Rad's for dinner.  One of the folks in our party was a duckpin novice, and while we were giving him the rundown of all the glories that awaited him across the street, our server goes, "Are you going to Patterson Lanes?  I LOVE THAT PLACE."

Everyone loves duckpin.  Don't you love duckpin?  You should love duckpin, and if you don't, it must be because you have yet to go.  So call ahead and reserve your lanes at Patterson Bowling Center.  I promise you the battle for parking by the park is absolutely worth it.
Friends taking their duckpin seriously.  Duckpin is no joking matter.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Where to Live: A Tangential Discussion of Neighborhoods and Later I Mention Bikes For Some Reason

One of the biggest hurdles I encountered before I even moved here was where to look for housing.  I knew absolutely nothing about this city beyond the aquarium, and was relying on what Wikipedia had to say.  This conveniently pointed me away from the Bayview region, but didn't give me any idea of the difference between the ones I could seriously consider.  Having lived here for a bit now, I know the differences are vast.  I just needed someone to tell me.  A friend of a friend from many lifetimes ago lived in the city and suggested her neighborhood to me.  That is the very anticlimactic story of how I ended up in lovely Mount Vernon - someone I hadn't spoken to in years said, "I like it!" and that was good enough for me.  Luckily, she's a great person with wonderful taste, and I love it here.  While I appreciate and love the appeal of other neighborhoods in this city, I am proud to be a Mount Vernonite and have no plans of changing that anytime soon.

If you're new to Bmore and know little about this city, know this: Neighborhoods are a big deal.  This city is essentially comprised of a ton of small towns within an incredibly close vicinity.  Hampden has its quirks and hipsters, Highlandtown has a large concentration of latinos.  Station North has the artsy hipsters and MICA kids (look mom, I made a synonym!) and your frattier post-college scenes are more likely to be found in Canton, Fells Point and Federal Hill.  I feel like I've shared this link on every possible social media site, but I wish I had this map when I first got here.  I can't accredit who made it, but I found it via the amazing City That Breeds.

Washington Monument in Mount Vernon
Think about what you enjoy, where you are in life, how close you want to be to your office, your price range, what proximity you prefer to be to violent murders, etc.  What I love about Mount Vernon that I can walk to museums, an array of great bars, have access to a free bus, and regularly decide to be lazy and not go to yoga, but know I have the option if I want to! Artscape is right outside my door, I can walk to the massive Farmer's Market (no, you can't make me shut up about the market.  My love will not be silenced!), I can hop on a Bolt Bus to New York or nab Amtrak to anywhere I don't feel like taking my car.

The cons. 
Street parking is horrible.  Well, it's not horrible per say, there is available parking.  The consequences of street parking aren't lovely.  My poor little car has had it rough since moving here.  It's been scratched up, dented, broken into, knicked, bumped and bruised.  I've only gotten one parking ticket, but I know others who have had it far worse.  Baltimore does not mess around with its parking, and I'm fairly certain this is because they need to find creative ways to pay for our newfound inundation
I dislike that the only grocery store is Eddie's of Mount Vernon, and that it took me MONTHS to discover it.  Eddie's, while wonderful, convenient  and sells wine and beer which is a rarity in Maryland grocery stores, is expensive for what they're selling you.  I have purchased more last-minute produce of questionable quality for far more than I should've paid for than I care to admit.  Look, a girl can't make a lemon torte without a lemon, okay?

My Mount Vernon complaints become null and void when one introduces a bike into the mix.  With a bike, I could get to other stores more easily and not have to worry about losing my awesome parking spot.  I could join the Bike Party every month for more than just their after-party, and not have to feel guilty about regularly skipping yoga, because my transportation would also be my exercise!  Alas, bikes are not presently in the cards for me for unexciting reasons, but you should get one!  Cut back on emissions, get fit, make fun friends, don't buy overpriced, under ripe lemons.

So you're new to Bmore?  Research neighborhoods!  Make a pros and cons list, know your price range, and find people on Twitter/the Blogosphere to ask.  LiveBaltimore has a thorough list, but I personally found it a little overwhelming when I first started the hunt.  Just stay calm, research and ask questions.  The best way to get to know these neighborhoods is to talk to the people that live in them.  The people make up the neighborhoods and help shape them into the communities they are today.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Unless you live under a rock and don't have a killer router getting you wifi, you know it's election day! I've always been one of those people who's obnoxious about getting out the vote.  I have a tshirt from the 2008 elections that I wore the entire day that says something akin to, "HEY, VOTE!" in slightly more campaign-like, yet nonpartisan, terminology.

I woke up this morning with a spring in my step, excited to vote in yet another historic election.  Steve Inskeep was talking about 2-hour waits in Florida.  Friends in Virginia were noting at least 45 minute-long waits at 7am.  I made sure to pack a book and some snacks for what I assumed would be a lengthy line later in the day.

Growing up, my father always volunteered at the polling stations.  I remember walking to the local public elementary school with my mother to deliver him lunch.  This is where I'd vote in high school, and where I cast my primary vote for the 2008 elections.  I've voted absentee for president and governor, all from the great state of Virginia.

It should be noted that the only reason I'm a registered MD voter is because I needed a MD license to get a city parking permit, and figured, "What the hell?"

My polling place here in Baltimore... is a public housing unit.  Gone are the days of shiny elementary schools paid for with tax dollars.  Gone are the lines of people with their $12 sandwiches and Coach bags.  Everyone in Northern Virginia seemed to treat voting like a chore, whereas here everyone seemed excited to vote.  All those around me seemed so gracious for this great right, that they treated like the privilege it is.  It was such a diverse group of Marylanders, all coming together to play a roll in this democratic system.  Because I'm getting way too preachy and "Hooray for America!", I'll just note that my friend told me today, "I just wanted to moonwalk out of the polling place, I was so excited.  I didn't, because I don't know how to moonwalk."  It should also be mentioned that my wait was maybe ten minutes.  No books or snacks were needed.

So you're new to Bmore - I sure hope you registered to vote.  I hope you looked for your polling place in any of the fantastic locations (here, here, here, or my favorite (NSFW), here).  I hope you read up on all the issues, all the candidates, and I hope you made an informed decision.  I hope you realize the significance of your decisions on local issues, from the Dream Act to Prop 6 to the casinos in Prop 7.

Most of all, I hope you made sure you got a sticker.  Mine is being worn with pride on a dorky vest by a patient basset.  We'll be watching the results come in with good friends at their house, ready to celebrate (or get super glum.  Results TBD).

Don't forget that it's still not too late to cast your (DAILY) ballot for So You're New to Bmore in the 2012 Mobbies!  Keep the votes coming in until Friday!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Who Wore It Best? ... and other, far more important, things

The past week has been a whirlwind of activity.  Sadly, if you're here for an extensive(ish) write-up of something new to do in the city because you just moved here, I cannot do much for you beyond send you here.  You can thank me for the intro to the Fishbowl later.

While yesterday may have been Halloween, I spent it inside, working, and marathoning Freaks and Geeks on Netflix.  I celebrated Halloween (and my birthday!) last weekend, never once allowing myself the opportunity to sleep in.  That's for the youngins, right?  I spent Friday night setting up for and later attending (and judging phenomenal costumes) the Baltimore Bike Party's after-party (and after the party?  The hotel lobby) at Union Craft Brewery on Clipper Mill.

Saturday I went for another hike, this time to Loch Raven, with two friends and the dog.  Loch Raven was phenomenal, incredibly scenic, and the perfect fall hike to view the foliage before it all got ravaged off branches when Sandy came to town.  Little guy romped off his leash the entire five or six (purely a guesstimate here, as none of Loch Raven's trails are blazed or anything) mile hike, with only one near-submersion into the lake.  Success!

That night was another Halloween party, but at a friend's house in York, PA.  Sunday morning was the market (of course) and my birthday shindig where my wonderful friend provided me with gluten-free belgian waffle sundaes and great people came up/down/over/preposition for good times.

Then it was Hurricane time.  Sunday night, I hunkered down with the dog, Netflix, two random gallons of water, my parent's pilfered camping lantern, a constantly refreshing twitter feed, and every item in my kitchen that I could possibly remember existed, being thrown into a curry dish.  Mmmm... curried can opener.

This unnecessarily lengthy intro was to set the stage for what occurred.  After a busy, tiring weekend, Sandy came in and created the hype of Frankenstorm.  Baltimore shut down.  My office was closed (telecommuting!), public transit stopped running, my corner store pulled down its metal entry way blocking thing, ensuring that my wine stash was my wine stash, and there would be absolutely NO supplementing it.  Sandy was Serious.

Do you know what happens to people who spend entire days indoors, save for walking a dog in hurricane?  People who neurotically check their windows for leaks, with good reason, neurotically change the sopping towels on their windows, and engineer umbrellas to block the leaking rain from splashing onto you/your furniture/your electronics?  They go stir-crazy.  I worked, yes, but I also made scones.  And roasted my first chicken (with pomegrante seeds!  and help!  because nice people help you roast chickens in hurricanes!).  I also.... I also considered making a "Who Wore It Best?" for Bubba and I.


I became that crazy woman who lives alone and has a creepy relationship with her pet.
That being said, you know you're curious.
"Who wore what best, MV?" you're asking.  "Why are you being so cryptic, MV?" you ask.  "No, I really don't care, MV.  Please stop," you implore.
Excellent questions.

I bring you two images:
Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Sound off in the comments on who makes a better hotdog, and don't let the presence of relish and extra toppings sway you one way or the other! I tried to make you folks a handy poll, but it kept linking to what I think is the equivalent of a Polish Etsy.

Finally, and arguably far more important than the fact that my dog and I both wore hot dog costumes this October, dear, amazing, witty and informative Baltimore Chop apparently nominated me for two Mobbies, or Maryland's Outstanding Blogs.  I am embarrassed because I don't do well with compliments flattered, and torn between urging you to vote daily for me or daily for the Chop.  (Lucky you!  You can vote for both!)  I really am so grateful for how much everyone in Baltimore has made me feel so very welcome in the past year, even the twitter and blogospheres.  For those of you who know me, I'm constantly talking up the Chop and how he helped me get acquainted to this city when I first relocated, and even more so, how he keeps me up to date on wonderful things each day.  Good 'ol buddy Clube can attest to this.

This really serves as a great incentive for me to keep better tabs on this little blog, and not go so long between updates.  I was so much better at being a consistent blogger when I was in AmeriCorps, so hopefully now I'll get myself back into the swing of things.  I'm still in shock that I'm up there with the likes of the Chop, City that Breeds, Charm City Cook, Pigtown Designs, the Fishbowl, etc etc.  Amazed, and again, flattered.  So, go!  Vote!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Camping at Assateague

A few months ago, I decided I wanted to go camping.  Not real backpacking, poop-in-the-woods camping, although I would love to do that if I could find a willing partner and a trusty frame pack.  What I had in mind was the camping of my youth - car camping. 

As a child, when most families would load up into their sporty Dodge Caravan with a tv in the ceiling to spend a weekend in a multi-roomed mansion at the Outer Banks with a pool and hot tub, my father would pile the five of us and the dog into our mid-80’s Taurus station wagon (lovingly referred to as “The Hearse” and later, “The Clunker”) and caravan us eight hours north to the Adirondacks for two weeks where we’d live out of those multi-room, multi-family tents and eat spam out of a cooler.  Our pool was the lake adjacent to our campsite, our hot tub the shallow area where our family beagle would pee out of fear of water.  It was all quite exotic.

I remember canoeing a lot, I remember hiking, and I remember sitting around picnic table, bored out of my mind, tired of playing the same three card games with my brother and sister hour after hour, day after day.  I remember being fairly miserable, but I remember it so very fondly.  Miserable in that way that most things are miserable when you’re a pre-teen, not legitimately miserable.

When I gchatted a dear friend a few weeks ago, “I wanna go camping,” this is precisely what I had in mind.  I wanted to store snacks in the trunk of a car, I wanted to tie a dog to a tree and watch them get stuck, I wanted to make marshmallow torches and I wanted a toilet with toilet paper within a decent vicinity.  My friend was game, and created the facebook event.

The other weekend, I took off a Friday from work and went camping in Assateague with two dear friends and Bubba.  I sang unnecessary car solos, which sadly did not include Phil Colins this time around, I snacked, and I generally was just presumably irritating to travel with. 

“Guys, guys I dropped my thimble!” 
“MV, why are you sewing in the car?”
“Otherwise I never will! Is my thimble under your seat?”

After reveling in the beauty of the Ranger’s Station, and Bubba claiming stake to a post by peeing on it, we were off to find our campsite.  Enroute, we had our first horse sighting, which led the three of us to simultaneously exclaim, “PONY!”  Fact: after three days, the horses become far less exciting and endearing.  We pitched our tent, and I set up my parents’ glorious 1981 camping stove while the fire was started by much more competent people than myself.  After a satisfying meal of brats and potatoes, we came to an unfortunate realization.  Camping in October, while assuredly rids you of the pesky Assateague mosquitos that everyone curses, is quite frigid at night.  As the sun went down, so did the mercury in our hypothetical thermometer (read: iPhone).  I was layered up, ready to fight the oncoming gusts of wind.  Soon, I looked at Bubba tied up to the tree, curled in a ball, shaking.  My maternal pet guilt kicked in, and I asked my friend if I could put Bubba in the car to fight off the wind until, at least, we went to sleep.

It got cold, the fire died out, and like on all good camping trips, we were in tent/sleeping bag by 9:30p or so.  I had fished the dog out of the car and had unsuccessfully tried to use his little sausage-shaped body for heat, and gave up when I received a swift back paw to the lower intestines.  I fitfully fell asleep with the wind threatening to collapse our cloth structure upon us and the dog pacing around nervously. 

I woke at first to the unmistakable sound of my dear little basset throwing up.  I fumbled for my glasses, and once on, I realized that clear vision does one no good in the dark.  I fumbled for my flashlight and by the time I illuminated the region where the noise was coming from, Bubba had gotten around to cleaning up his own mess.  Worried, confused and cold, I shut my eyes to try for sleep.

Within what seems like minutes, I heard a muffled thumping on the ground by my head.  I put my towel-sweatshirt-backpack-pile-turned-pillow over my head and willed myself to fall into a REM cycle.  Almost instantaneously, I heard the neighing.  Cute ponies, no more.  They had morphed into, as my friends would later call them, Nocturnal Hellspawn.  Jekyll and Hyde style, these seemingly peaceful and nonchalant creatures during the day become attention-whores and evil doers once night sets.  The thumping and neighing, in tandem with the high winds and nervous, whining dog, ensured a night of, at best, fitful sleep ahead of me.  

“Get back to nature!” I had told myself.  “You love the outdoors!” was my mantra.

I do love the outdoors, and I did need to get back to nature, but at the moment I wanted nothing more than a mattress and soundproof walls.

Eventually, my mind began wandering.  It was windy.  Did we put the tailgating chairs back in the car?  Would they blow into the tent and rip it, so the ponies could get in and eat my dog?  (While my mind was creating such logical hypotheticals, my friend later told me she feared we would all be trampled in our sleep. This is only implausible to me, because I don't think any of us were asleep.)  I could take it no more; I got up and left the tent to face the wind, the upright chairs, and the horses.

Keychain flashlight in hand, I spotted them.  The two chairs were next to the firepit, completely upright, threatening to be blown into my standing form.  Horses, from what I could see, were nowhere in sight. 

Luckily, I smelled it before I saw it.  Right in front of the tent, right below where my foot was hovering for my first step down, was the world’s largest, most hay-filled horse turd ever seen.  I stepped around it, feeling a little like Kim Possible, probably resembling something more like a drunken sorority girl on an icy sidewalk.  Once I got the chairs folded up and secured next to a tree, I got back into the tent for the remainder of the night’s terrible excuse for sleep.

I gave up once the sun began to greet the morn.  I informed Bubba that I had been cold and he had failed at his pet duties of keeping me toasty, and that now we were going to go for an early, cold walk before breakfast.

I’m not sure what time it was.  Perhaps six or seven.  The morning was beautiful, and even my grumpy, sleep-deprived self could not help but acknowledge the serenity of the sunrise over a calm bay.  Feeling a little more optimistic about life and the outdoors in general, we returned to the campsite so Bubba could enjoy his morning kibble.

I unlocked the car and searched.  I found the bag his food had been in, but it was empty.  I felt like a resident of Whoville on Christmas morning; the remnants of it were there, but not the goods themselves.  Except, while there is more to Christmas than gifts, but there isn’t more to a dog meal than kibble.  We had no one to join hands with around a tree and sing a festive song.  I was completely perplexed.  The food had been there last night when I fed him.  How did it disappear?  Did the horses somehow get into the car and JUST eat the bag of dog kibble, leaving the marshmallows, the sausages, the rice, the apples, the oatmeal?  At that hour, with as little sleep as I had had, that was the most logical explanation I could think of.  It also solidified my belief that the horses were in fact evil, and not to be trusted.  The signs in the bathrooms warning me of the dangers of wild horses and how they can bite you only further confirmed my suspicions.

When my two friends awoke, I brought up the Mystery of the Missing Kibble, equal parts concerned and excited about the prospect of Nancy Drewing it up on my camping trip.  I wanted to pin down the misfit pony and make him admit to his wrongdoings.  He’d talk.  Oh, he’d talk.

“Didn’t you put Bubba in the car last night?”
“Yeah, so?  It was cold.”
“Right.  But.  You put him right next to his kibble.”
“No, you’re not saying...”
“MV.  Bubba ate all his food for the weekend.”
“You know I’m right.”
“But that’s six cups of dog food.”
“MV, he ate it all.”

I looked at him, tied to the tree, sitting up, tail thumping, making direct eye contact with me.  His tail was saying, “I’M OUTSIDE, THERE ARE LOTS OF SMELLS!  DID YOU SEE THAT MASSIVE HORSE TURD? I LIKE PEEING ON THINGS!” but his eyes were saying, “Silly human, now you’ll have to feed me your food.  This was my plan along.”

The rest of the weekend was lovely.  We kayaked, hiked, hunted wayward frisbees out of trees, made obscene amounts of food, ate shared meals out of a pot to avoid having extra dishes, played card games, and made Bubba potatoes and fried rice.  While I kayaked, my friend got to run after Bubba who was not okay with Lady-Who-Feeds-Me venturing off into the water on a piece of plastic.  This apparently ended in his cell phone getting run over.  I have good friends.

It was my first foray into camping on the Eastern Shore, and I do not expect it to be my last.  If you’re new to Bmore, go camping in Assateague!  I recommend the fall to avoid what I hear are horrific mosquitos, but bundle up, bring earplugs for when you sleep, and keep your pet’s food in an airtight, pet-tight container.  You also need to be okay with semi-hygienic circumstances, as the showers are circumspect and the bathrooms only have crappy hand sanitizer and no soap.  Definitely not a deal-breaker for me, but definitely a deal-breaker for some.

Happy camping!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

So You're FROM Bmore: A Who's Who of Notable Residents

Life has indeed become incredibly hectic as of late, so I do apologize for my disappearance.  If you are indeed new to Bmore, at the rate I’m updating, you’re likely to learn the majority of this information on your own, and for that I am sorry.

So we’ve accepted that you’re new to Bmore.

Do you know about the awesome people that are from here?

Ira Glass, who accompanies me via podcast every Monday while I prepare dinner, is from outside this fair city.  I tell myself that one day he’ll pop into Paper Moon while I’m there and do a local version of his episode “24 Hours at the Golden Apple” entitled, “24 Trippy Hours at the Paper Moon.”

This picture makes me want to give Ira a big hug and have some coffee with him. Source:
Phillip Glass, brilliant composer, is also from Baltimore, which makes sense since family stays together and all that jazz.

Michael Phelps, world-record holder for most Olympic medals ever won.  In the history of the Olympics.  That’s a big deal.

Edgar Allen Poe.  Sure, he was born in Boston and lived a good while in Richmond, but he died in our gutters.  We have his grave and the house where he penned so many historical words, so I say it’s fair game to call dibs.

The original Baltimore Hipster, Dan Deacon.
Dan Deacon, kind of a big deal on the electronic music scene, hails from Charm City.  On his new album, America, he has a song entitled, “Guildford Ave Bridge” which makes me smile.  He considers this wonderfully decrepit bridge to be just as worthy of homage as our country’s larger, more well-known landmarks.  

Tori Amos was raised here, Spiro Agnew lived in Baltimore before heading below the beltway to be Nixon’s VP.  David Bryne, who was a songwriter for the Talking Heads, is from Charm City.  Tom Clancy, author extraordinaire, and Brian Dannelly, director of Weeds, both are Baltimoreans at heart.

Wonderful, still notable, fictional characters are from Baltimore.  Dr. Gregory House got his MD from Johns Hopkins, Elaine Bennet from Seinfeld is from Towson and a diehard O’s fan.  

Frederick Douglas, Antonion Freeman, Billie Holiday, Henrietta Lacks. Thurgood Marshall, Bessie Moses, Ogden Nash, Nancy Pelosi. Cal Ripken Jr., Mike Rowe, Babe Ruth, Pat Sajak (!!), Elizabeth Ann Seton, Tupac lived on Greenmont Ave for two years when he went to the Baltimore School of the Arts, where Jada Pinkett Smith is also a notable alum. David Simon, Upton Sinclair, Sisqo (!), Gertrude Stein (! for different reasons!), John Waters, Montel Williams, and Oprah even worked here briefly.  

The list goes on and on, and the details get better and better.  The fact of the matter is Baltimore has bred some awfully talented individuals.  If you’re new, you are now among the rankings!  Congratulations, you now live in the same region that Pat Sajak hails from.  That’s rubbing elbows with some seriously big folks.

Next up: where to camp and how to avoid stepping in horse turds first thing in the morning!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Oregon Ridge

To say I am not an athletic person would be a gross understatement.  I learned early on that sports were only fun if you had a chance of winning, and as a person with zero athletic prowess, sports were miserable for me.  I would sit on the sidelines at little league soccer games, praying my coach wouldn't put me in, so that I could continue to sit on the sidelines and eat orange slices.  Why the other kids even wanted to leave the oranges was always beyond me.  There are, however, physical pastimes I will partake in A) for my health and B) because I do enjoy them.  These include occasionally going to yoga, walking home for work/the farmer's market, and hiking.  If I can force myself to walk home from work at least three times during the week, I give myself a large pat on the back and then cook myself some bacon.

Having lived in the Blue Ridge, I have high hiking standards.  I expect panoramic views of valleys with only a farmhouse or a silo.  I expect at least a four mile hike up that includes some semblance of rock climbing.  It's almost as though, because I don't really exercise at all, that I want to push myself more when I hike.  When I moved to Baltimore, I assumed hiking was off my list of physical pastimes, and I would have to start counting taking the stairs up to my apartment as exercise (I definitely do this in the winter).

Today is a beautiful day.  It's about 73 degrees outsides, there are scattered clouds, and I couldn't spend it indoors.  At least not all of it.  After the market, I put some snacks and water in my daypack, and Bubba and I headed north on 83 to Oregon Ridge Park. I have no idea where we hiked or what trails we took.  I took one glimpse at the map that said the longest hike was 1.6 miles, and immediately decided we'd just wing it instead and get some more distance in.  This is a decision that was much better for me and far worse for a dog with tiny, stubby little legs.
Not pictured: my shooing the dog away from eating dirt.
Oregon Ridge was busy today, presumably on account of it being a perfect Sunday.  We ran into many a couple, family or solo hiker on the trails.  There were people on the beach at the lake, a million folks having picnics by the stage, and many dogs to intimidate Bubba through the entire place.  It was lovely, though.  The two overlooks we came across weren't quite as majestic as the ones in the Blue Ridge, but that is to be expected.  They were lovely in their own right.

True majesty is a basset hound.
These trails are not demanding.  I saw plenty of children on them, not remotely struggling.  Bubba maneuvered the trails fine - he just struggled with the distance I forced upon him.  Lesson of the day: when I hike without a dog, I move twice as fast.  We were still able to stop on the old ski slope and enjoy some sunshine, snacks and a book.

An eerily empty lake: the telltale sign that it's no longer summer. 
So if you're new to Bmore and itching for some nature beyond the concrete jungle, head north on 83 to Oregon Ridge.  Be sure to bring a picnic to enjoy by the lake, and a swimsuit, if it's that kind of weather.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Cone Collection

I've professed my love for art in the past. This afternoon, after picking up my weekly produce and happiness from the market and taking the dog to a park, I figured I'd go see the new exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art.  I love the BMA and was excited to see the Baker Artist Awards.  As expected, there were wonderful exhibits from local artists which once again verified my belief that Baltimore artists are equally as talented, if not more so, than artists in larger cities.  Today I am not here to regale you with tales of the wonders of the BMA, though.  The BMA is undergoing some serious renovations and will be reopening their Contemporary Wing in November, at which point I'll scope it out and bore you with details then.
Today, I am here to tell you about the Cone Collection at the BMA.  Sometimes a girl just needs to revel in Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne, Van Gogh and Rodin, and the Cone Collection allows me to do just that.  So, many thanks to the wealthy Cone sisters who decided that Baltimore should hold onto their collection so that "the spirit of appreciation for modern art in Baltimore became improved."  Because the BMA is free, it allows people like myself to go in multiple times a month for the sole purpose of staring at late 19th Century sculpture on a whim, and for that I am incredibly grateful.  

Please be sure to support the BMA, or any art institute, and not just for my own selfish motives.  The arts are one of the main reasons Baltimore is such a great place to live, and keeping the arts affordable/free means keeping it accessible to everyone.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Free Seafood

Every week at the Farmer’s Market, the Seafood Man stands proudly with his coolers full of the week’s catch, as he should, knowing fully well that he and the Mushroom Ladies have the hottest, priciest commodities at the market.  I stare at him longingly as I fork over $1 for a pound of kale and another $1 for two eggplants from other, more affordable vendors.  This is my price range at the market.  Sometimes I’ll splurge on berries or peaches, but generally I have a $3-per-item limit for myself, and seafood just doesn’t fit into my budget.  It kills me, a little bit, to pass his freshly caught crabs or see my friends buy tilapia for fish tacos later in the week, but I’ve prioritized an omelet and kettle korn over fish, yet again.

He always has a trivia question, which, if answered properly without the aid of a smartphone, generally wins one a lobster tail.  I glance at the question every week, hoping that one Sunday, I’ll just instinctively know the answer.  It’ll just come to me because, that week, I’d be destined to have lobster tail for dinner.

I go to this market every. Sunday.  Never have I guessed the question properly.  Most weeks I don’t even bother, while others I’ll stand in front of his table for a good five minutes and wrack my brain for memories of Seinfeld episodes or basic American History facts.  Perhaps my losing streak is a sign of why my trivia team did so poorly in its one week of existence.  

And then last Sunday, everything changed.  I was forcing my kale into my resuable bag, when I overheard, “Wait, so what’s the answer?”  
I looked up at the board before I looked up at the inquisitive soul.

“No, l know this one!  ...may I?”
I’m not aware of what I’m saying, my body’s just going with it.  My mind is hours ahead of me, already submerging my free lobster tail in large saucers of butter with a large glass of pinot grigio in the other hand.  What a lovely Sunday evening was in store.

The Seafood Man signals for me to answer, gesturing that he’s given me the floor, the opportunity to prove myself worthy of his trivia.  My Venezuelan roots have prepared me for this moment.  After 24 years, I was going to milk my heritage for a free lobster tail, and I internally acknowledged that it was some perverse form of affirmative action that I fully supported.

“Angel Falls.  The world’s highest waterfall is Angel Falls and it’s in Canima - the rainforest in Venezuela!”  I sputter it out quickly, as though if I don’t, I’ll forget that I’ve been to this massive waterfall.   He nods, but not enthusiastically.  He looks amused, but not in a Bob Barker “Let’s look at what you’ve just won!” kind of way.

I look back at the whiteboard where the question was scrawled hours before.
“What is the world’s highest waterfall and what country is it in?  Guess correctly and win a free … NOTHING.”

My heart sinks.
Affirmative action is a lie.
I will be eating kettle korn for dinner, if I can ration it to last until 6pm.
I won’t be buying that bottle of pinot grigio.  
I’ll submerge my sorrows in saucers of butter.
I’ll never win that lobster tail.

“It was too easy this week,”  Seafood Man lets me down gently.  “Everyone was getting it right and we ran out.”

I was shamed.  I quietly walked away, my head low, to buy four bell peppers for $1 - left to wonder what it would be like to one day be able to leave the Seafood Man with my head high, and a plastic bag full of aquatic goodness.

Until next week, I suppose.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Patterson Park

The weather in Baltimore is finally returning to normal.  I no longer have to run my AC 24/7 to prevent my apartment from turning into a crock-pot and coming home to a slow-roasted dog.  This also allows me to walk the dog for more than one block before he goes on strike and retires to his vestibule of refreshment, as if my even considering to take him out was the world's rudest, most thoughtless inconvenience.

No, now that the weather has come down into the comfortable, low-humidity 80's, I can once again join the ranks of dog owners who walk their dogs further than a block.  In an effort to see more of the city, I often chauffer the dog around to various parks that are beyond reasonable/safe walking distances.  My preferred park is Patterson Park, for so many reasons.

Photo from:
A) Bubba's best friend Pete lives one block from the park.  (Best Friend: noun.  Dog who is owned by my close friend.  Dog friendship determined by convenience and proximity to park.  Impromptu, potentially racy, displays of affection not taken into consideration when determining best friendship.)
B) The Pagoda.
C) The pond.
D) That creepy ice cream truck that plays what sounds like the song from Katamari, but more sinister. Please don't ask me how I am even aware of Katamari's existence.
E) The sheer expanse of space.
F) The proximity to Creative Alliance (another post for another day).

When you spend your days in a cubicle, vying for the slivers of sunlight that make their way through venetian blinds and open office doors, sometimes a fire escape just doesn't cut it for outdoor space come 5pm.  Walking through Patterson Park with Bubba and sitting under a tree for a bit with a good book does wonders for mental refreshment.  For amusement, I could maybe try to make it to one of their free events, or just allow myself the simple pleasure of watching Bubba get truly confused by the ducks.  The pagoda is lovely, the pond is always surrounded by small children adorably throwing bread at overweight ducks, and the greenness of it all is just so welcome to me.

If you're new to Bmore and looking for a great place to bike around, go for a run, walk your dog, or just simply have a picnic or get a sketchy ice cream cone, head over to Patterson Park.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The American Visionary Arts Museum

My sister came to visit me this weekend from DC and I had planned a whole slew of Baltimore-specific activities for us.  Many of these were tabled due to midday margaritas at Holy Frijoles that led to midday naps, and discovering while walking the dog this morning that some lovely human being had broken into my car last night.  After rummaging through my old receipts, gum wrappers, reusable grocery bags and broken FM adapter, my belongings were deemed unworthy of theft, and I've just been left with a broken window.  On the bright side, I've been singing, "Walking on Broken Glass" all day and am now sporting a trash bag over my window until the glass replacement man comes tomorrow.  It makes my car look ultra-urban.  I feel as though I've passed Baltimore's hazing process and can now proudly say that I've fully acclimated to this city.

All that being said, we still did many wonderful things on our Sister Adventure Weekend in Charm City.  We perused the shops of Hampden, I stocked up on well-priced whites at the Wine Source, visited the Book Thing, bought more produce than I could ever consume at the Farmers Market, and took the dogs for a stroll at Patterson Park.   We also visited the American Visionary Arts Museum, a place I've been pining to go to since the day I moved.

I am an art museum junkie, and the AVAM did not disappoint.  While the BMA and the Walters offer wonderful collections, the AVAM offers works that otherwise would never be curated.  It's appreciating that art can come from anyone and anywhere, not just those who have the means and circumstances.  Their collection absolutely blew me away.

I absolutely bought myself a one-year membership.  I couldn't not.  Especially after going to the Kinetic Sculpture Race this past May.

Other Exciting Baltimore Activities to Do with One's Sister
-make risotto
-drink wine
-not leave the apartment on a Saturday night
-tape a bag to a car
-play with your respective pets
-rate different brands of Greek yogurt (Oikus > Safeway Select.  Always)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


There are few things I support more than the plight of the artist.  I think art, in all of its forms, is a crucial component of a civilized society, and I regularly make a point of exposing myself to it in Baltimore.  (Look for posts on museums, theaters, local venues and bands, etc on another yet-to-be-determined date)

I don't know if you know this, but Artscape is kind of a big deal.  Back in 2009, I made the drive up from DC suburbia with some friends because I desperately wanted to see Cake.  I knew nothing about Baltimore, I knew nothing about Artscape, I just knew I wanted to see Cake.  We were an odd group, and while seeing Cake was fantastic and I remember thinking Baltimore was quirkier than I had given it props for in the past, what I most recall from that day were high temperatures and short tempers.  When house hunting with my sister last September, two weeks before I was to start my job, I remember walking down Charles Street and it all hitting me like I'd just walked into a wall - I'd been here before.  I'd seen this hideous statue before, I'd seen this theater.  Fate would have it that I'd move into this area, and I would come to love it.

I love Club Charles, I love that heinous statue, I love the sound of Amtrak as I go to bed, I love Brewer's Art, I love Single Carrot, I love everything that made me reconsider Baltimore three years ago.

But this is not about my love for midtown and Station North.  No.  This is about Artscape.

Artscape is massive.  As their website brags, "3 Days, 350,000 people."  It's the largest free arts festival in the United States.  This is fantastic.  No, honestly, it is.  One of the things I love so much about Baltimore is how well it treats its artists.  We give them nice spaces like this (and this!) at affordable(ish) prices, and sometimes they even let us come over and see what they're up to.  Artscape allows local artists the opportunity to showcase their work to a massive audience, whereas otherwise they may not have gotten so much publicity.  This is all fantastic - honestly.  As someone who loves and appreciates both art and artists, I think Artscape is commendable and I am personally looking forward to attending it.

Now, here is my beef.

I live in the surrounding regions of where Artscape is held.  I have plans Saturday night in the 'burbs.  (I can't miss Wine Club AGAIN!  Who will do the dramatic readings of the descriptions on the bottle??)   Between Artscape, my dog, parking, street closures, water main breaks downtown, and Netflix filming "House of Cards" in the city this week, I'm pretty much trapped.  Those 350,000 Artscape attendees?  They'll be in my neighborhood.  They'll be drunk on my front stoop at godforsaken hours of the morning.  They'll be stealing my prime parking spaces.  They'll be wanting to talk to me about my dog when I just want him to take a dump and keep moving.  They'll move into my bars (stay away from Dionysus!) and clog my bus

This weekend, as a result, is going to take impressive maneuvering on behalf of myself and my dear, dear, patient, friends.  The dog is being shuttled out of the city before Artscape begins.  I am evacuating on the Light Rail, to return in time, god willing, for the Farmers Market.  I do want to see Artscape, and  again, I'm excited and proud that it's in Baltimore.  All I'm saying is you never see them shut down the streets  and make a huge deal out of showcasing what I do for a living.  Do you know what neighborhoods I inconvenience with my livelihood?  NONE.  

That being said, if you're new to Bmore, get yourself to Artscape!  Go see what awesome talent lies in this city.  Go take my parking spaces.  Go innundate my bartenders with your questions like, "What's Natty Boh?"  Go enjoy yourself!  (but seriously, don't you dare drive in)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Baltimore Farmer's Market

Almost every Sunday, a dear friend of mine picks my lazy self up from my apartment and we head to the Farmer's Market under JFX.  This has become my happy place in this city.  For the brief, shameful, three weeks I tried my hand at online dating in Baltimore, the market was front and center on my profile.  "What do you do?"  Answer: I spend time at the market.  "Where are you on a typical Friday night?"  Answer: Thinking about the market.  

Perhaps it wasn't quite that bad, but nearly.  I mentioned it quite a bit and got many, "What do you like to cook??" messages.  Rolling in a little later than usual this morning, my kale guy was fresh out.  Devastated, he promised me he'd set a pound aside for me next week.  Still, I was able to walk out this week with zucchini, lesser kale from a different farmer, green beans, an eggplant, peaches, tomatoes, bell peppers, blueberries, my usual bag of kettle korn and a bouquet of flowers for under $25.  All fresh, all local.

To the right is a photo of Baltimore's most handsome basset hound mutt with my fresh flowers.  As you can tell, he just adores the forced glamor shots.

I can't give the market enough praise.  I love the omelet guy and the goodness you can buy from him for $7, I love that $3 will get me a bag of fresh kettle korn, I love the ginger cardamon lemonade when I'm sweating through my clothes, I love the man who plays his trashcan-turned-guitar, I love the children hula-hooping, the bike smoothie guy, the smoke from the pit beef, the man who's been giving me free samples of corn the past few trips, and just the energy of this city that pulsates throughout the bottom of the expressway between 8am and noon every Sunday.  

After the market today, I caught up with a friend at Charmington's,  hit up Wyman Park with little guy (little guy pictured above, and parks will be another post for another day) and then went to the BMA to check out the Sondheim exhibit for the finalists (and winner!) for this year's prize.  I ended my afternoon at the Whole Foods in Mt. Washington, where I realized that not only was my ten year-old Corolla to sketchy for the area, so was I.  I picked up another loaf of gluten-free bread, some goat's cheese, tofu, tamari for my asian kicks, and returned to downtown where my car and I fit in just fine.

For the first time in a long while, I was overwhelmed at my options come dinner time.  I settled on this frittata, regretting my lack of dill, and adding slices of my amazing tomatoes, plus an on-hand lemon to it.  Paired with a glass of sauvignon blanc and a cuddly dog, it was a lovely way to toast a relaxing weekend.  I'd say I'll eat my blueberries for dessert, but I've been snacking on them all day.

So, if you're new to Bmore, get yourself to the market!  Sundays 8am-noon, April through November.  I realize I have now made myself a resuable-bag-using, kale-purchasing, Whole Foods-patronizing, NYTimes Recipes For Health-making cliche, but I'm alright with that.  I also compost now, so I may as well just embrace my inner hippie and start making my own kombucha.  It's only a matter of time. (Sarcasm!  ...sort of)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Book Thing

Let me introduce you to the best thing in this city, bar none.  This is saying quite a bit, because I really do have serious love for the farmer's market.  The Book Thing , located on Vineyard Lane on the outskirts of Charles Village, is a magical place where you bring old books you no longer want and can pick up new ones for free.  Or, perhaps you just want to pick up books.  That's completely fine as well. It's all provided at no cost whatsoever.

I recently heard a Stoop Story podcast where Russell Wattenberg, creator of The Book Thing, explained the story behind what is now what other, larger cities lust after.  It's not only a wonderful concept, it's completely commendable.  Why not give up your old books to people who may want to read them?

The whole set-up is just like walking into the Christmas Happiness Warehouse for Nerds.  Just this past weekend, I found an almost-mint condition of Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods."  I always explore the humor section, the classics, the cookbooks, travel books that are 20+years out of date...  Scouring the shelves is an adventure in and of itself.  So, if you're new to Charm City, hit it up.  Get some free books!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

An Oven

I cook quite a bit.  There are few things I love more in the world than coming home, putting on a podcast, and cooking up a storm.  My only roommate is my dog, but I still manage to cook for four to five people a night.  A few months ago, my 1973 (rough estimate) oven went on strike.  It was a crapshoot every time I turned it on, and I had to have a clever back up plan for every meal that called for baking.  I sauteed a lot of kale.

My landlord concurred that it wasn't just a broken oven, it was an old, decrepit oven that needed to be replaced.  I thanked the kitchen appliance gods that had also gotten me a new fridge a few weeks before hand, but not until I had two straight months of mysteriously chunky milk and thawing frozen vegetables.

I came home from work two hours early today; I haven't been feeling well and was hoping I could just nap off what I theorize is an impending cold.  As I was approaching my block, I wondered why on earth there was a massive 18-wheeler on the corner, and when I got to my building, I knew what it was.  My oven had arrived.  After weeks of bookmarking recipes that called for an oven, it was finally here.  But it had arrived the same day I just wanted to turn my room into a cave and sleep until it was dark.

I tried to take the dog for a long walk to give the maintenance guy some privacy while doing the 'ol oven switcharoo (he declined my offers of assistance), but a chubby, short dog is not inclined to walk for longer than 30 minutes when it's 88 degrees out.  When we got back, I tried to do some more work, because napping while a man installs your new oven just feels weird.

He left at five.  I should've just stayed at the office.

All my kvetching aside, I still got a solid two-hour nap in this afternoon and am feeling slightly less "ehhh."  The sneezing and runny nose persist, though.  I now have a functioning oven, after months of being relegated to the stovetop!

So you're new to Bmore.  May I suggest some gluten-free baking options for when you find some wonderfully priced avocados at Safeway?  (Inspiration found here)  I didn't have chevre or parsley on hand, so I used swiss cheese and some smoked Chipotle hot sauce.  Bacon would've been phenomenal on it, as well.  If you're new to Bmore and sick in colder weather months, I cannot recommend Soup's On highly enough.  They make my ill I-don't-want-to-cook-but-need-to-eat-something-lest-I-disintegrate heart happy.

Fun aside: my new oven came with a "Recipe for Safer Cooking!" pamphlet, complete with colored illustrations on how to keep an eye on your food.  It's also designed as though it could be on a Tampax box, with some violet tones and swirly pink font.  Wonderful.

Monday, May 28, 2012


I first came to Charm City in October of 2011, meaning that I'm a relatively young Baltimorean.  When I moved here, I knew the Inner Harbor, where my office was, and the The Wire had been filmed/based off of Baltimore, without ever having seen the show.

I wanted to get involved, so I went to the Baltimore Sun.  I was aghast, or am too cheap, when I heard they charge $0.99 for a monthly online subscription.  What is this, the New York Times?  Get outta here, Bmore Sun.  I went to the intertubes for my news and found an array of fantastic area blogs.  None of them were a step-by-step guide of how to get acquainted with the Baltimore I've come to know and love through trial and error, so here we are.  That, and I've missed blogging.

I was recently told that I'm "boring on paper," in what I was assured was a complimentary fashion, but those things stick with a girl.  If this bores you, consider yourself warned.  It'll probably get awfully banal at times - I won't lie to you.

A brief summary of what I wish I had known coming here, and what I'm still looking to learn are as follows:

-This city has an arts scene that ought to be the envy of the mid-Atlantic.  With Gaia, Dan Deacon, Beach House, Single Carrot Theater, MICA, the BMA, the Walters, the AVAM, Artscape, good 'ol John Waters, and so much more, Baltimore offers a huge variety of artistic options without the price tag of New York.  And, dare I say it (dare I do!), I think they're more original and talented here.
-The people!  They're fantastic!  Having grown up right outside DC, I was accustomed to type-A personalities and cutthroats.  Baltimore doesn't take itself seriously, and I love it for that.  The city is more laid-back and happy to see where the tide will take it; Baltimore is always open to new suggestions.
-The restaurant options here have been disappointing.  Maybe it's because I was spoiled in DC, maybe it's because I love food, maybe it's because I was recently told to go gluten-free by my doctor and the options here just aren't cutting it for me, but whatever the reason, I'm disillusioned.  All my coworkers kept talking up places that are fine, but I get my hopes up each time.  I'm also on a hunt for some solid gluten-free food options around here.  In general, the bars have proven to be wonderful, but the fine dining is always "meh."  No worries, because...
-The Farmer's Market under the expressway is PHENOMENAL.  It may be my favorite thing in this city.  I love to cook food (see: gluten-free, disappointed in other area offerings), and the $1 kale man, 2 for $5 asparagus, $1 radishes, my beloved omelet and kettle korn men are all enough to make me never want to leave Baltimore.  Ever.  Yahoo recently ranked it the best Farmer's Market in the country - take that, Portland!
-Hikes.  Or just outdoors space in general.  As much as I adore my apartment, my "outdoor space" is a meager portion of my fire escape that I have to crawl out of my bedroom window to get to.  I share it with my neighbors, and that hyacinth I left to die out there.  It's very spacious and luxuious in that way that I've enjoyed a glass of wine out there a few times, but the dog gets antsy that he can't join so I'm forced back in.  As a result, I'd like to find more places to take my little basset, and maybe even find some good hiking in the region.  I briefly called Roanoke, VA home, and miss the proximity to amazing hiking very much.
-Club sports here are a way of life.  I convinced some coworkers to join the Bocce League in Federal Hill, and my life will never be the same.  It seems that almost everyone is in a social sports league, so if you're new, I can't recommend this highly enough.  Everyone is there to be social - they're all open to meeting new people.  When bocce season is over, I'm hoping to join a trivia league, because that's as athletic as I get - bocce and trivia.

This list seems paltry, but there is more that's just not coming to mind at the moment.  Welcome, though, and if you have any fun Baltimore tidbits to share, I would love to hear them!