An Uber Treat

My Friend Erin's Tie Dye (Roll Up N Dye and Colorful Abandon)

My Friend Erin’s Tie Dye (Roll Up N Dye and Colorful Abandon)

I was born in the 60’s. As I grew up in the 70’s and early 80’s, I think there was a lot of residual hitchhiking going on. It must have been leftover from it’s heyday in the 60’s. I, however, was told to not hitchhike. I was raised with the notion that hitchhiking is very dangerous. You don’t know whose car your getting into. It could be a murderer! Well, truth be told, I don’t believe I was ever told that folks picking up hitchhikers were murderers. I’m sure I just assumed that was the worse case scenario of dangerous. And, I probably saw a scary news item or two to that effect. The bottom line message was that hitchhiking was dangerous.

Over the years, I was never tempted to hitchhike, nor did I run with a hitchhiking crowd. We had the “mini buses” or ColumBus buses. So, if I needed a ride to The Mall, for example. I could jump on a ColumBus. I didn’t use it often, but it did save me from hitchhiking a number of times, I’m sure. If we needed a ride to the airport, we would call a taxi. Taxi’s were driven by strangers, but had the benefit of being vehicles labeled as such and being backed by a probably big, well known company. They were just smaller versions of the mini bus. Right?

So, imagine my consternation upon hearing about Uber. My kids were the ones to clue me in on this new ride sharing experience. The first exchange with my daughter went something like this:

Wait. What?

You get in an unmarked car with a stranger?

That’s not safe.

That’s crazy.

No. No, I’ll pick you up. Night or day. Anytime. Just call me or your father. Nope. It’s fine. I’d much rather you get home safely…

The popularity of Uber soared and so did the opening of my mind. I became a hip mom who confirmed that my children would be taking Uber, or Ubering, after a night out on the town. But, even though my children were experiencing Uber firsthand, I was not really accepting it into my world. That is, until my friend and fellow blogger Jessie became an Uber driver. “Whoa,” I thought. “What? Is she nuts?” It’s like picking up hitchhikers, I thought. That’s not safe, I said to myself. So, the same argument for why I wasn’t supposed to hitchhike growing up was, not surprisingly, the same as it was for why I shouldn’t pick up hitchhikers. But, Jessie has always been an early adopter. She not only embraced being an Uber driver, but she blogged about it. I was hooked on her posts. I enjoyed hearing about the people she picked up and her interactions with them. I loved the realness of her trying to find her way through tricky city streets. It was so entertaining. I would read one post and could not wait for the next one. I was thrilled to hear she was planning to publish an e-book based on her experience. It is available now and I highly recommend it.

Are you interested in checking it out? Please click here or visit Amazon.com and look for: Uber Chronicles: Field Notes from the Front Seat  Kindle Edition by Jessie Newburn. You will not be disappointed!

UberChron

@HoCoBlogs

Olé!

2016 Feria de Abril Plaza de Toros Poster; Official Program and Feria Daily Insert

2016 Feria de Abril Plaza de Toros Poster; Official Program and Feria Daily Insert

 

One of the highest accolades a bull fighter can receive for a valiant well fought fight is una oreja, an ear of the bull he killed. Sometimes, for a particularly well fought battle, dos orejas or two ears of the bull he killed are given. More rarely than that two ears and the tail is granted to the bull fighter. It is quite rare and a real honor to witness a bull fight in which the latter two awards are bestowed. However, the most rare and amazing event to witness at a bull fight is when both the bull and the matador have fought exceptionally bravely and the crowd petitions for an Indulto or pardon. When a bull is pardoned, he is lead from the bull ring and lives out the rest of his life on the farm of its owner as a stud.

Family Photo from our Seats

Family Photo from our Seats

I was excited to have the opportunity to see a bull fight with my family during the Feria de Abril in Seville, Spain. It is, to me, a must see. My son had been to his first bull fight the week before and was enthralled by it. But, April 13th in La Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla was special. We arrived early to take in the atmosphere. Everyone dresses very nicely for this event, and we did too. So, we took a lot of photographs before it had even begun. There are so many things to notice. Seat cushions are for sale or rent (which benefited the Spanish Red Cross), as the seating is on brick and cement. Many folks purchase snacks and drinks before they enter the Maestranza.

We also immediately noticed that there was no jumbotron. No announcers. Not much room to move once seated. But, there were two vendors walking through the seats yelling what they were selling, one had roasted almonds and one had drinks. There was a decent size band on the upper level across from the box where the dignitaries sit. We were seated in the Sombra section, which is the shade side. We were happily on the side where most of the action took place. The opposite side of the ring was in full sun and was the Sol or sunny section.

Bullfight Bullcropped

The music began and the action followed almost immediately.  The first bull was not a very good fighter and the matador did not appear as polished as I’ve seen. My husband and kids were glued to the action. The third bull was better and so was the matador. He received dos orejas. I kept saying, “This is a great honor. I’m so glad we got to see this. This is relatively rare to see.” And etc. The next bull came out and he was fierce from the start. He and his torero performed very well, each one matching the other with moves and counter-moves. Pretty soon, it became obvious (to those who have seen bull fights before) that this was a special bull. The crowd began to wave white handkerchiefs. Those of us without them used the programs we had about the night’s bull fight. The whole place was waving and the matador walked over to the judge and he granted the indulto or pardon. Immediately, eight large light brown and white bulls were ushered into the ring. They patiently corralled the bull and then all walked back out of the ring. The crowd was cheering wildly. THIS was the pinnacle of bull fighting. We witnessed history. It was so thrilling. The matador received dos orejas (from a previously killed that night bull) and he walked around the ring, proudly holding up the ears and waving at the exuberant crowd. The owner of the bull also joined him in taking the lap around the ring. It was so awesome.

Helping the Pardoned One Out of the Ring

Helping the Pardoned One Out of the Ring

There were two more bulls, but the evening belonged to the Matador Manuel Escribano and the indultado (the pardoned bull), “Cobradiezmos.”

Glossy Photo of the Matador Manuel Escribano

Glossy Photo of the Matador Manuel Escribano

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was so much history, culture, passion and art that we all came away exhilarated by the experience. John was taken by the music which served to connect the three stages of the bull fights. It was so old fashioned. I felt like we were non-speaking extras in a movie, sitting quietly expectant until we were cheering and yelling, “Olé” on cue. There was no evidence that it was 2016, except for the cell phones we held up to take pictures of the spectacle. We thought we might have feelings of, “Oh, my gosh! I feel sorry for the bull!” but did not.  It was too ceremonial to feel that way. The prevailing thought was, “This was so cool!” And, of course, it was nice to focus on knowing that one of the bulls would be spending his remaining years out to stud on a farm.

Bullfight ring

 

Swienconka for Two?

The Real Butter Lamb

The Real Butter Lamb

My husband and I awoke to an empty house today. We think it might be the first time in over 20 years we haven’t had at least one of the kids here with us on Easter morning. We are fine with it. My husband is in his Polish food glory. I’m happy that I’m not staring down two candy-filled Easter baskets knowing that I’m going to end up losing the battle of willpower and diving in to them. It’s a happy empty nest.

Preparations for Easter or, in our case, a Polish Easter can take days. Hard boiling eggs, buying and cooking up the Polish sausage (the holiday variety, if we can get it around here. Side Note: Yes, we know about Ostrowski’s, but they do not use the same recipe as Redlinksi’s (in Buffalo, NY), which is my husband’s favorite, so we usually just get a decent stand in from Wegman’s.), getting the butter lamb (Side Note: We got a “REAL Butter Lamb this year!), getting the ham, getting the seedless rye bread, and that is the bare minimum for the Polish traditional meal of the day on Easter Sunday: Swienconka.*

The food for this meal is usually blessed. In the Buffalo area, churches are overflowing with folks bringing huge baskets, stuffed with everything for the swienconka to be blessed the Saturday before Easter. I’ve heard that at some churches, the priest has had to come out and do a mass blessing in the parking lots to all the folks trapped in the gridlock in their cars. Around here, our church has done the Blessing of the Food Mass but attendance is considerably lighter. In fact, the few times we’ve gone, there have been probably fewer than 30 baskets. This year, with just the two of us, we did not make it to have our food blessed. I often wonder how many years of blessing we can get out of, say, our salt and pepper shaker’s contents…I guess I would need to pay attention to how often I refill them during the year. Anyway, the lack of actual, current blessing, however, did not stop us from having the traditional meal. 

The Basic Traditional Polish Meal

The Basic Traditional Polish Meal

I was happy to not have to dye the eggs, buy candy, or decorate the house. Our daughter made it over to our house in time for church, which was nice. We got a nice Easter note from our son. My parents are having us over for Easter dinner. It’s a very happy empty nest, indeed.

 

*Swienconka – I do not know how to speak or write in Polish, so I’m using the word tweeted out by my sister-in-law, who will know better than I the ins and outs of Polish Easter words.

 

Thirty Years Later

La Sagrada Familia Barcelona, Spain

La Sagrada Familia
Barcelona, Spain

Rocky, exasperating, frustrating, overwhelming, and hard are a few of the words I would use to describe my first few weeks in Spain, where I was transplanted for my Junior year of college. However, those aren’t any of the words I actually use to describe my study abroad experience, mind you. I look back on my study abroad experience with happiness, excitement, pride, and a deep yearning to go back. In fact, I have a number of stories about things that I experienced when I first arrived that I laugh about now, but that I did not find funny at all at the time. So, having a child go overseas for his semester abroad program, has reminded me of the not often talked about parts of study abroad: the culture shock. We used the terms “culture shock” and “reverse culture shock” before and after my study abroad experience, back in the day. But, talking about it and learning what types of feelings are bundled under the umbrella of the term “culture shock,” does not prepare you for it happening to you. Funny thing about feelings. And, while I believe that everyone experiences some sort of culture shock, not everyone’s culture shock manifests in the same way. But, I guess, it was helpful to have the idea that what one is experiencing is normal. Although, I don’t once recall thinking, “Oh, yes. This is my culture shock talking,” when I was having a frustrated moment.And, communication has changed so much since I lived in Spain, it is mind-boggling to me. While I had pushed all of my entry into Spain and Spanish culture issues (READ: my culture shock) well to the back of my mind, I was brought back face to face with them through my son.

And, while it was a bit uncomfortable to hear he was experiencing his culture shock, it was nice to be able to say, “Yeah, I remember that. I felt that way, too.” So, while the sum total of our parenting advice has been something along the lines of, “Hang in there!” and “You can do it!” I had more peace about the place my son found himself in those early weeks of his Junior year. I knew that he was so close to getting over the biggest hump and would be fine. It just takes time.

While I mentally wrestled with ways I could “help” him, I began thinking about thirty years ago. One thing that came to me was an analogy. Undertaking a study abroad program is like panning for gold in the late 1800s. The conditions are physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. You’re standing in unfamiliar waters, performing unfamiliar tasks, like bending down and scooping up rocks and dirt and water and shaking out the unwanted parts. It’s demanding all of your attention to find the gold nuggets. But, you find them. Some are small, some a little bigger, and every now and then, you find a sizeable chunk of gold. You put all the nuggets that you find in a pouch or off to the side and continue panning. When you stop at the end of the day, you may not find that you have many nuggets. But, at the end of the week or month or semester, you will have lots of gold nuggets. Those gold nuggets are what you will be proud of, thankful for, and will be what you remember about your study abroad experience. The lack of reliable 24/7 WiFi will fade into the deep recesses of your mind, crowded out by the awesome, shiny gold nuggets you are holding.

Another thing that came to me was a word of advice: Don’t compare your insides (READ: what you are feeling) to somebody else’s SnapChat stories, Instagram pictures, Facebook posts, or tweets on Twitter. Seeing people who are also studying abroad appearing to be having an amazing time without any of the culture shock piece does not mean they are not also struggling to come to terms with their new environment. They are. And, just a P.S. Everyone is thinking the same thing about your cool photos and posts on social media.

And finally, I thought, it’s important to find your inner warrior. Be fearless. Face the day resolving to do your best, make the best of every situation, and have fun. I used to picture a map of the world and then picture where I was compared to my family and friends. I used that image to propel me through days I didn’t want to get out bed, as well as days I was having so much fun, I didn’t want to go to sleep.

Monserrat Catalonia, Spain

Monserrat
Catalonia, Spain

 

 

 

 

#MyGlobalLife

 

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.

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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!

 

 

 

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Belmont

Belmont