Very Empty Nesty of Us, Again

This is an amazing photo of the Big Dipper Taken by John Kozlowski, August 12, 2015

This is an amazing photo of the Big Dipper Taken by John Kozlowski, August 12, 2015

Sometimes you just have to step out of your comfort zone and say, “What the heck.” Or, in our case, “Who needs sleep?” For years, many of them, I have wanted to see actual shooting stars during a Perseid Meteor Shower. I thought I had a great opportunity two years in a row when we vacationed at a dude ranch in the Adirondacks. But, despite the comfortable lounge chairs and the uber dark setting, we weren’t able to see any either of those weeks. Zero shooting stars. Last night’s meteor shower was getting the pre-event hype of a World Cup soccer match. At least according to my Twitter feed. So, since we are still working to regain our top Empty Nester form, we made an impromptu decision to have a date night under the stars in hopes of finally seeing the elusive shooting stars. Clearly, we are on a empty nester roll!


At 10:00 PM, I had packed a bag of water, snacks, a sweatshirt, and bug spray. The chairs and blankets were already in the car. And, we were heading off to the Howard County Conservancy, which was having a Perseid Meteor Shower viewing party. We found a spot among a large group of folks that we couldn’t really see, in a field that we couldn’t see. It was very dark, except for the cars streaming in and out of the grounds. I was really excited. It seemed like a great night for some meteors!  And it was. We saw our first shooting star within 10 minutes of sitting down. It appeared to us almost in slow motion and took its time sailing across the sky. We were both shocked that we saw it so easily. Then, we missed a couple, as evidenced by the oh’s and ah’s from the folks who were looking in the right place at the right time. After waiting minutes on end without seeing any, we became a little frustrated at the sporadic nature of these buggers. It’s definitely not as easy as sitting in a crowd for a fireworks display, where most people are unlikely to miss any of the pyrotechnics. Especially, because of the telltale “whump” sound that gives you a second to look up. There is no warning “whump” with these meteors. You’re either looking in the right place or not. We did manage to catch a couple more and a couple that may or may not have been ones.

Actual Fireworks That are Easy to See and Photograph

Actual Fireworks That are Easy to See and Photograph

The wisps of light flitting fleetingly through the night are a joy to witness and, frankly,  annoying to miss. Our need to be able to function today prevented us from staying too late, but we had a great time staring off into the beautiful night sky. We appreciate the Howard County Conservancy for hosting this event! It was a great date night and very Empty Nesty of us.

 

 

@HoCoBlogs

 

Our Empty Nest Game is Strong

 

We had a chance to take a page out of our Empty Nest playbook this weekend and it was fantastic, dare I say, glorious. As a couple, John and I went into empty nest-hood with a basic survival plan, some vaguely articulated hopes, and a determined flexibility. We did great! Although, I didn’t fare as well, at least initially, but that’s a topic for another post.

Since that momentous August two years ago, the kids have come back and gone again and come back and so on. Thus, the parenting territory has become murky or murkier than pre empty nest. It has required many adjustments on our part. Currently, the biggest one being how to handle the limited amount of “empty” in our house. We have found ourselves being less motivated to be the foot loose and fancy free empty nesters we were in the beginning, in exchange for spending time with one or both of the kids. Despite the soundness of our thinking, we were a little stuck.


That is, until this past week. We learned that very dear friends were going to retire on Friday. We knew immediately upon hearing the news that we wanted and needed to be there. “There” being Buffalo, NY. We were able to clear our schedules in under a week and head up to Buffalo. Our friends, Tom and MaryJane, have owned a pizzeria in the town my husband grew up in for 31 years. He actually worked for them 30 years ago. They are about our age, and when John finally moved to Maryland, he kept in touch with them. My first trip to Buffalo included a required stop at the restaurant and introductions. MaryJane and I hit it off instantly, and I would look forward to getting together with them during our Buffalo visits. To think that we wouldn’t have their restaurant as a stop during future visits was so sad. We had to get there one more time. Plus, they were planning a big party Friday night.


We ended up making the trip without the kids, which was a little strange since they were both technically at home. But it was also really empty nesty of us. We realized how much we had needed to get away almost the minute we arrived at the restaurant, which was our first stop upon arriving in town. We had a great visit and we’re thrilled to get to Torella’s one last time to wish our lovely friends happiness and lots of spur of the moment fun!


 

 

 

 

 

 

This Time It’s Not Me

Hearth and Home

Hearth and Home

I started out having an exceedingly difficult time accepting that my son is going to be leaving for Spain for his semester abroad program soon. But, I was not having a difficult time for reasons one may expect from an Empty Nest mom. No, I’m not worried about missing him too much. Of course, I will miss him a lot. I’m not afraid for any struggles he may have getting accustomed to living in a foreign country, as that is part of studying abroad. I’m not concerned about being able to keep in touch with him, as there are dozens of ways we can communicate these days. No, my problem is me, actually. I have been struggling to accept that I am not the one going. I had tried to figure how I could go and stay for the semester, too. Although, like the mouse who gets a cookie, I was definitely going to want more. Like staying for the whole school year. I know this because I’ve done it before. I spent my Junior year abroad in Pamplona, Spain. Am I excited about my son’s upcoming experience? Yes! But, it’s an excitement that is tinged with what I must admit is jealousy. 

Lladro From Spain

Lladro From Spain

Fast forward a month or so and I think I’m finally making the transition from being jealous and bummed it’s not me going to being very excited and happy for my son. The excitement is stemming from the waves of memories I’m having about my Junior year in Spain. I’m remembering details about the people, and lifestyle, and how different I found it from my own; realizations I made while abroad that haven’t occurred to me in years (decades, actually).

The memories began flooding back to me at a rate in which I honestly did not think my brain could produce, from the minute Alex came home from school for the summer. Dozens of them. Some with accompanying advice. And, I am so excited to share them I can barely contain myself. As we sit at the dinner table a memory will pop into my head, and I will say, “You may want to start listening to a Spanish language radio or television station to get your ear accustomed to hearing the language. It’s really hard to get the feel for how fast Spaniards speak in real time from the classroom.” And, “Don’t be alarmed by the crazy dreams you may have in the beginning. It’s just your brain trying to process your second language.” And, then there are the stories of what I experienced and how funny or charming or nerve wracking it was.  

Now, although it has taken several weeks for me to reign in my zeal about Alex’s trip, I think I’ve just about come to terms with it. It is his trip after all. And while I can’t wait to find out what aspects of Spain and Spanish life my son notices, likes, appreciates, and Etc. I must stand back and let it unfold as it did for me all those years ago.

Bull Fight Madrid, Spain 1982

Bull Fight Madrid, Spain 1982

#MyGlobalLife

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A Picture Perfect Day For a Bike Ride

Picture Perfect Day in DC

Picture Perfect Day in DC

Today the Empty Nest vibe was in full force, which is to say that we planned a bike ride and executed said plan. We chose the Capital Crescent Trail, a wonderful Rail Trail, that took us from Bethesda, MD all the way to Washington DC. It was a picture perfect day to ride this beauty of a trail. We did the same ride last Memorial Day weekend, but today was better. I remembered being a lot hotter and sweatier last year. It’s 82 degrees and sunny today. We were not surprised to see lots of people along the trail and enjoying the monuments in DC. Some points along our route were trickier to negotiate on a bike than others, but for the most part, we were able to enjoy the city and monuments and the trail with no problems. This time, the restrooms at Fletcher’s Cove were open and I was happy to find they were air conditioned.

Fletcher's Cove

Fletcher’s Cove

The area was teeming with folks enjoying both the river access part and the canal part of the Cove. We got into DC and the line to rent kayaks, paddle boards and other watercraft was the longest we’d ever seen there. So it looked like the Potomac River was as busy and crowded as the bike trail.

View of Trails at Fletcher's Cove

View of Trails at Fletcher’s Cove

John was commenting about what a great ride it was given the variety of sites and effort level required. We were rather tired by the time we started back to Bethesda, as the ride back is mostly up hill. But it was a great day and a great way to Empty Nest. 

Capturing Two Monuments in DC on Memorial Day

Capturing Two Monuments in DC on Memorial Day

Painting (in) the Town

 

I love it when I discover something really fun to do close to home. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have seen some of my paintings. And, I know I have a long way to go to be an artist, but I'm trying to not let that deter me. I have never been good at art. In fact, I intensely disliked elementary and middle school art classes growing up. I couldn't draw or create to save my life. Well, with age comes a certain willingness to try new things. I was invited to a painting party at my friend and fellow blogger, Terri's house last year and it awakened my inner artist. Since then I've hosted a painting party and then set out on my own…with mixed results. I'm pretty critical of my own artwork. And, I still fall into the trap of wanting everything to look like a photograph. But, today, for Mother's Day, my daughter and I tried a new paint party studio in Turf Valley called Pinot's Palette. It was awesome. We both loved the atmosphere and the music they played. We were able to relax and be guided through painting a pretty spring scene. There was a wide selection of beverages and some snacks available for purchase. The room was filled with mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, grandmothers, and grandchildren. The two hour time slot flew by, as we were intently focused on our canvases from the moment we started. We were pretty brave to pick the painting we came to do (painting butterflies is trickier than it sounds). And, despite our butterflies over painting the butterflies, we did just fine. It was such a delightful way to spend the afternoon – surprisingly relaxing and yet exciting at the same time. I think we will both be planning to paint at Pinot's Palette again soon.

#HoCoBlogs

 

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