Not So Picky After All

A "Green Bag" from Whole Foods

A “Green Bag” from Whole Foods

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I learned something quite astonishing about myself this past evening. I’m still in a bit of shock. John was also amazed when I told him the news. It happened during a food tasting event. I was invited to attend the exclusive sneak peek tasting of the new menu offerings at The Counter. The Counter is the in-store diner at the Whole Foods Market in downtown Columbia, MD.

Breakfast Sandwich at The Counter "Counter Fave"

Breakfast Sandwich at The Counter “Counter Fave”


I am not a adventurous eater. In fact, I’m a straight up picky eater, who tries to act like a normal eater. I can pick the smallest particle of black olive from an empanada with my eyes (partially) closed. I can remove onion or pepper pieces from just about any dish with the surgical precision of a brain surgeon. I rarely order anything off a menu that I don’t modify in some way. And this picky gal found herself at a food sampling party. It was great. I ate breakfast sandwiches with cheese on them (I don’t eat cheese on any sandwich unless it’s a grilled cheese sandwich.) But that wasn’t even the amazing part. I ate braised kale and caramelized kielbasa. My husband is Polish and can attest to my non-sausage eating ways. But, this breakfast sandwich, called “Counter Fave,” was very tasty. Another, “The Biscuit” was also very good, and it had fried spinach and chipotle remoulade.

Breakfast Sandwich at The Counter "The Biscuit"

Breakfast Sandwich at The Counter “The Biscuit”

I tried everything, as if I wasn’t a picky eater. Next up was Southwest Tofu and aged Cheddar Scramble. Yes! I ate Tofu! I ate kale and tofu and everything had cheese on it. It was really good. I’d order it and eat it again.

The Scrambler Breakfast at The Counter Southwest Tofu and Aged Cheddar Scramble

The Scrambler Breakfast at The Counter Southwest Tofu and Aged Cheddar Scramble

Another shockingly delightful offering I couldn’t believe I ate and really liked is from the lunch and dinner menu. It is the Avocado Tacos. Deep fried avocados, cabbage slaw, chipotle remoulade in a soft tortilla shell. The avocado has a plain breading and is deep fried. It has the most interesting and tasty textural contrast with the cabbage slaw. It’s a must try, if you’ve never had anything like it before. The chef who was introducing the samples told me that it is a customer favorite and was rolled over from the previous menu. So, you are in luck if it was one of your favorites.

Avocado Tacos at The Counter

Avocado Tacos at The Counter

For me, the best sample of the event, was the “Columbia Burger.” It is a blend of short rib and ground chuck. It was served with caramelized onions, mushrooms, special sauce on a Brioche Roll. I did not remove the onion. It was delicious. It was so delicious. I highly recommend trying it. The Counter also offers desserts. But what caught my eye was that they serve Milkshakes and MALTS. Yes, malts.  And, it is very hard to find malts around here. And an awesome malt…well, let’s just say, I’m in the Market for one (no pun intended!). I am looking forward to pairing one of those awesome burgers with a chocolate malt. 

The Columbia Burger at The Counter in Downtown Columbia, MD

The Columbia Burger at The Counter in Downtown Columbia, MD

The evening was obviously all about the new menu offerings, but I was equally if not more impressed with the Whole Foods Market Chefs and marketing team. They eagerly and thoroughly explained every item, answered questions, and made sure everyone had a chance to sample everything. It was an absolute joy to be there. I am grateful to have been invited to this sneak peek and can’t wait to bring my family back for dinner.

 

@HoCoBlogs

A Winter Trip to Buffalo, Yes, Please!

Beautiful Canal and Bridge, Buffalo, NY December 2014

Beautiful Canal and Bridge, Buffalo, NY December 2014

Thinking of taking a trip to the Buffalo/Niagara area, why not do so over the winter?

Yes, I just suggested that you should plan a trip to one of the reputed snowiest places in the U.S. that is not known for its skiing. To the very city where, on November 18, 2014 , a heavy snowstorm left a 7 to 8 foot swath of snow, courtesy of Lake Erie, on neighborhoods and highways in Buffalo suburbs in surgical fashion. The places that were hit, were hit hard. Others just minutes away got a dusting. The snow has long since melted. We were trekking up to visit family just after Christmas. The weather was mild and perfect for travel.

Most of the folks I know that go to Buffalo, go to visit family or have planned a family vacation to Niagara Falls. That is all well and good. However, I want to give you an awesome tip on a fun, family vacation in which Buffalo is THE, if not A destination, as well. There are plenty of fun things to do there now, including skating, curling, or biking (yes, I wrote biking. Ice biking, to be specific) on the new and recently opened Canalside ice rink. It is, as they say,  “on fleek”; awesome and amazing and wonderful all at once. I was very eager to skate on the rink, as soon as I saw pictures of it. I found, tried on, and then packed my skates. I was so excited.

Canalside Ice Rink When Closed.

Canalside Ice Rink When Closed.

Unfortunately (and fortunately all at the same time), the weather was very mild. It was too mild to skate on Saturday. The rink was closed, but because we were going to the Buffalo Sabres hockey game that night, we went downtown early to check out the recently developed Canalside area and the new HarborCenter. We walked around the waterfront and then ambled over to where the ice rink is located. It looked really nice and was a good size. We walked around it and moved on to our next stop: the new (716) Food and Sport restaurant in the HarborCenter that John really wanted to try. (716 is the area code for Buffalo.)

We had heard from family members that the restaurant is a huge hit and there is usually a wait. So, we thought we had planned accordingly. We got to Canalside around 3:00 PM and wandered around. There were a lot of people everywhere. This is a complete change from before the downtown redevelopment started. It used to be more like a ghost town than a destination.

But, clearly, it has become a destination. We walked over to (716) to put our names on the list at about 3:30/3:45 PM. There was a line of people snaking around under a pop up tent outside the door. As we were getting our bearings and finding our way into the line, we heard the young lady with the clipboard saying, “There is a three to four hour wait for a table at this time.” Wut?

Yes, she said that. Our perfectly planned outing hit another snafu…the first being the ice rink was closed due to the mild weather. It was not going to work for us to get a table, eat and make it to the hockey game on time.

Waterfront, Buffalo, NY December 2014

Waterfront, Buffalo, NY December 2014

 

Happily, with the help of John’s sisters and a nephew, we were able to find another restaurant that could seat us almost right away. We ate at the Liberty Hound, a quaint restaurant situated in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, at the original terminus of the historic Erie Canal. Afterwards, we walked over to the First Niagara Center for the game. It was a great game, which ended in a Buffalo win in a shootout.

 

Canalside Ice Rink Open! Buffalo, NY December 2014

Canalside Ice Rink Open! Buffalo, NY December 2014

Fast forward to Sunday. We found out that the rink was going to be open that afternoon. Hurrah! I was very excited, although some in our party were less than thrilled with the idea of going ice skating–at first. As soon as we got there and saw the throngs of people, the excitement spread through our party.

All Smiles!

All Smiles!

The ice was filled with people skating. We saw the ice bikes and they looked fun and manageable. We also saw a group getting a curling lesson and really wanted in on that activity. It was almost too much to take in, but we focused and found our ticket line. It seemed really long, but it went really fast. There was such a steady turnover of skaters that we hardly noticed the wait. I had my skates, but everyone else needed to wait in a second line to get their skates. That line didn’t take long either, thankfully. John zipped over to (716) to put our name on the list again and was told there was a 2 hour wait, which was perfect for us to skate then head over.

 

We all had so much fun on the ice. It was a blast. Some of us hadn’t skated for several years, so we were lucky to stay on our feet the whole time.

Happy Skaters!

Happy Skaters!

 

 

 

 

 

The entry fee and rental fees were very reasonable. I wished we had more time to take the curling lesson and to try the ice bikes. But, just about the time when we were starting to get fatigued, John got the text from (716) that our table was ready. Alyssa was able to get her skates off and sprint over to the restaurant first, to ensure we didn’t lose the table. The rest of us moved as quickly as we could to get there too. And, we were not disappointed. The food was fantastic. I had a house salad with steak on it that was delicious. There is no doubt that we will get back to Canalside on our next visit, and we highly recommend it – even in the winter.

 

Me and John Skating Together, Canalside Buffalo, NY

Me and John Skating Together, Canalside Buffalo, NY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canalside Ice Rink at Night Buffalo, NY December 2014

Canalside Ice Rink at Night
Buffalo, NY
December 2014

 

Historical Society Holiday House Tour Was a Hit

Maycroft Elkridge, Maryland

Maycroft
Elkridge, Maryland

I am so glad that I learned about and was able to participate in an annual holiday event in my hometown this past weekend. I am often surprised at the multitude of activities and events that happen virtually right around the corner from me that I don’t hear about until they have passed. So, I’m feeling very happy to be in on this one. My mom and I attended The 38th Annual Howard County Historical Society Holiday House Tour. This tour took a very large group (there were five Eyre buses!) to tour five sites in Elkridge (formerly Elk Ridge), which is the oldest settlement in Howard County. And, interestingly enough, almost where my family and I lived. Apparently we could have had an Elkridge address when we moved into our home; however somehow our neighborhood ended up requesting and getting an Ellicott City address. So, we are very physically close to the sites on this tour, but I had only heard of two of the five beforehand. The tour was wonderful. We checked in at 12:30 PM and were warmly greeted by both the Historical Society and the tour’s main sponsor, The Bob Lucido Team. We had not pre purchased a snack, so we headed straight for the buses. Each bus was following a different itinerary, so as not to overwhelm any one location by our large numbers.


Our first stop was Maycroft. A lovely home with gracious homeowners, who introduced us to the property and its history. It was modernized, but yet still is quite close to the original house. 

Original Stained Glass Maycroft Elkridge, Maryland

Original Stained Glass
Maycroft
Elkridge, Maryland

 

Our next stop was Elkridge Assembly Rooms in the “Lawyers Hill” area of Elkridge. Both my mom and I were impressed by the strong connection to the past family owners and tight-knit nature of the community. This building is undergoing renovation and will continue to be a focal point for neighbors and anyone wishing to join in their seasonal and monthly activities. It even has a website. Visit www.elkridgeassemblyrooms.org to find out more about this warm and welcoming group of friends and neighbors.

Elkridge Assembly Rooms Elkridge, Maryland

Elkridge Assembly Rooms
Elkridge, Maryland

Our third stop was Grace Episcopal Church, which originally sat along the railroad tracks until two fires in the same year led the congregation to move the building to the top of a nearby hill. It is a lovely church with a working pipe organ and a congregation eager to grow its membership.

Grace Episcopal Church Elkridge, Maryland

Grace Episcopal Church
Elkridge, Maryland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our fourth stop, Rockburn, another occupied home, dates back to 1695. In the 1980s, the current owners and neighbors established the Rockburn Land Trust and the property was then placed in the Maryland Environmental Trust’s perpetual conservation non-development program, which keeps it and the surrounding area, including Belmont, safe from development. This house once held early Grace Episcopal Church services, and a private school, where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s brother Samuel tutored children. It was so interesting. 

Rockburn Elkridge, Maryland

Rockburn
Elkridge, Maryland

Belmont Elkridge, Maryland

Belmont
Elkridge, Maryland

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a wonderful day and learned so much.  It was a great way to spend the afternoon, indeed. I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for next year’s tour, for sure!

 

 

 

@HoCoBlogs

Belmont

Belmont

 

 

Taking Time to Enjoy Holiday Happenings

My First (non-artist guided) Painting!

My First (non-artist guided) Painting!

I’m trying to keep myself from the usual adrenaline rush that comes when I think about how close Christmas actually is to today. No matter what day it is after Thanksgiving, I usually find myself in the sprint to Christmas. This year, as in most years, I’m trying to slow it down and take it all in and enjoy it. No sprinting around and not taking time to fully appreciate everything I love about Christmas for me this year. Nope. I’m going to take time to see, smell, taste, and enjoy the season. So, I have been looking for holiday-themed concerts and activities to enhance the jolly in my holiday. My mom had been looking for a holiday activity or two, also. Thanks to a new on-line community events calendar  and the outstanding community building and communication efforts of HoCoBlogs, I was able to hear about a neat holiday event: the Howard County Historical Society 38th Annual Holiday House Tour. It sounds like a very delightful way to spend an afternoon.  Happily, mom agreed. So, we have made plans to go. We can’t wait! The tour takes place Sunday, December 14, 2014 and is an opportunity to see five historic Howard County properties, while traveling comfortably in an Eyre bus. There is still time (but not much!) to get tickets! Visit the Howard County Historical Society’s website for details. Will we see you there? 

 

 

Family Traditions: Glue? Glitter? A Little of Both

The Delicious Fresh Turkey from Maple Lawn Farms

I am feeling so grateful and blessed for this past Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I am still silently giving thanks. Our son surprised us by coming home a day early, and we were all beyond thrilled. Alyssa was thrilled (though she didn't say so) because she finally had someone else to absorb our constant attention, and because she missed her brother. John and I were thrilled because the weather was supposed to be horrible the day Alex told us he was coming home, and because we also missed him. However, I was a little bothered by the fact that I had not had the chance to give the house its final cleaning before Alex came home. We also had planned to have our from scratch, family recipe beef and vegetable soup ready for him when he walked through the door. My mom was taking care of soup duty, so I could prepare for cooking the Thanksgiving dinner. So, the soup wasn't even at our house yet. Those two things, a clean, “company ready” house, and a special soup dinner don't sound like big deals. But, since Alyssa left for college, I tried to do at least those two things every time she came home, and especially when she came home for holidays. I wanted her to know how special it was to us that she was coming home. I am continuing this tradition with Alex's visits. However by the sound of it, neither kid has picked up on any of my attempts at tradition. Alyssa said, “Mom, Alex doesn't care if you vacuumed. He is just happy to be home.” He also knew the soup would not be ready a day early. And, while I still have a bit of a knot in my stomach at not having the picture perfect, June Cleaver welcome for him, he was happy. The soup on his second night home was delicious and loved by all, and I did finally vacuum the next day, too.

Our Traditional Thanksgiving Feast
 

This new information does not deter nor disappoint me. I think having a few, well-placed, nicely-timed family traditions are part of the glue that keeps families happy and together. They are also that little something special, like glitter, that says, “You are loved!” “And, we are happy you're here!” I have wonderful memories of clean houses and special dinners for holidays from my parents and grandparents.
So, I know that, eventually, our kids will delight in these little acts of love. And, that these traditions will be meaningful to them when they come and visit us with their families.

 

Money Saving Tips for Swimmers

Indoor Pool

Indoor Pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s that time again. Many folks are starting indoor swim programs, including high school teams, year round club teams, lessons and Aqua fitness classes. For all of you who are going to be hitting the pool for exercise, competition, or just any day fun, here are some tips to help you save money.

 The Swim Suit – Usually the most expensive piece of “equipment” for swimming.


A) Fabric:You want to buy the best suit for your needs. How often are in the pool? If you are swimming one or two times a week, you are probably okay purchasing a suit that is made of Lycra. However, if you are in a pool that is heavily chlorinated and/or you are swimming more than two times a week, you should strongly consider purchasing a suit made from polyester. Each of the major swim suit manufacturers: Speedo, TYR, Dolfin, Nike, and Arena have a polyester suit option. These suits may cost a little more up front, but they more than make up for it in the length of wear you can get out of them.

B) Care: I’ve mentioned this before in a previous blog post (you can read it here), but it can’t be said enough: rinse your suits in cold water and hang them to dry. Do not use detergents, rinses or soap. Do not machine wash or machine dry. Just don’t do it. Your suit will last longer if it is properly cared for.

C) Wear/Fit: The fit of your suit also plays a role in the longevity of your suits’ life. Wear a suit that fits snugly and does not have wrinkles or extra fabric hanging around. Avoid suits with significant gaps between the suit and your skin. There are many, many suits types and styles. Find one that fits your body to a T. Proper fitting suits last longer than ill fitting ones.

A Handful of Practice Suits

A Handful of Practice Suits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Goggles 

Wearing goggles is a must for lap swimmers. Finding a comfortable and well-fitting pair is essential to an optimal swim experience.
Again, there are a multitude of styles and types. You will want to find a pair that fits your face. They are not one size/type fits all. Try them on before you buy them.
I could write an entire post on googles alone. Maybe one day, but for the purpose of this post find a pair that fits and will be comfortable to wear for the length of time you plan to wear them. Then, take care of them.

Don’t put your fingers in the eye pieces to wipe away the fog. Don’t spit in them or roll your tongue around in them. (Yes, this is a “thing.”).  And, don’t spend a ton of money buying “Anti-Fog” solutions and cloths. Most goggles say they are anti-fog. It lasts about a week, if that. My solution is to make an anti-fog mix of your own. (Note: This was told to me by a friend long ago. I can’t remember who. Was it you? Let me know and I’ll give you the credit for this fun swim hack.)  

Anti-Fog Goggles and Baby Shampoo

Anti-Fog Goggles and Baby Shampoo

In a spay bottle of your choosing (I used an old hair product bottle that I washed out), put about 1 to 2 parts Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and add about 10 parts water. Shake it gently before use. Spray the solution into your goggles before you start swimming, dip your goggles once into the pool, then put them on. You should have fog free lenses for most if not all of your practice. You can repeat this process as often as needed.

Keeping your fingers (and tongues) out of the eye pieces will extend their wear. Using this inexpensive anti-fog mix will also allow you to get longer wear from your goggles.

 

 

Swim Bags

The best way to extend the life of a swim bag is to allow it to dry as quickly as possible after it gets wet. This means that if you shove your wet suit rolled up in your wet towel into your swim bag after practice, make sure you pull it out as soon as you get home and hang the suit to dry (you rinsed it in cold water or showered in it at the pool, right?). Leave your swim bag open so the inside can dry completely. Moldy swim bags are gross.
You may also want to consider having two bags, one for clothes, towels, toiletries, and one for your equipment: fins, pull buoys, paddles, caps, and goggles. All the equipment that gets wet, but dries quickly. I use two bags. A backpack for toiletries and dry clothes and towel and a mesh bag for all of the above mentioned equipment.

 

I hope you find these money saving tips helpful! Let me know if you have other ideas. I’d be happy to pass them along in a future post. 

 

 

 

 

Truly A Treat

HoCoBlogs Party at Seasons 52
 

I kicked off my birthday month by attending the HoCoBlogs party for bloggers and blog readers at Seasons 52 in the new outdoor wing at The Mall in Columbia. What a great decision that was. I had been fighting a cold for a week, so I wasn't sure I had much energy to mix and mingle with my fellow bloggers and blog readers. But, I been very eager to check out Seasons 52, so John and I went. The Howard County Library, a co-host, greeted us at the entrance with a Choose Civility wristband and information about an upcoming Choose Civility Symposium panel discussion, The Ball's in Your Court: Can Civility and Sports Coexist? This symposium is on Thursday, October 9 at the Miller Branch of the HoCo Library System. Find details about this event at Choosecivility.org.

Our group, apparently 80 plus in number, had the outdoor seating area and it was a perfect evening to be outside. I was happy to see a few familiar faces right away. As we made our way back to the bar, we chatted with a few folks. By the time we made it there, we were ready for a cold beverage.

 

Seasons 52 Signature Flatbread

 

Seasons 52 was a delightful host. There was beer and wine at the bar, and the friendly and energetic staff quickly brought water and sodas around, as well as signature flatbreads. We were thrilled to try the flatbread appetizers we had heard about, and we were not disappointed. I liked the Garlic Pesto Chicken flatbread the most.

In addition to the familiar faces, there were quite a few new ones, too. Just as John and I were about to head back into the “mob,” a new blogger, Jamie, approached us and struck up a conversation. Her blog thepurposepages.blogspot.com is about two months young. We had a really nice time chatting, and we enjoyed introducing her to some of the long-time fixtures in the HoCoBlogs community.

Meet New HoCoBlogger Jamie!

We had a wonderful evening and are looking forward to our next HoCoblogs event.

@HoCoBlogs