Picking Crabs

Maryland is known for it’s blue crabs steamed and seasoned with Old Bay. I mentioned in a previous post that I have a list of things I like to make sure I do every summer and picking crabs is one of those things. I usually only do it once though because it’s pricy and a lot of work for not that much food. It is the quintessential Maryland thing to do during the summer though and I love it. Tonight I spent a beautiful evening on the deck at Bo Brooks picking crabs with friends while watching the sun set over the water. It was a perfect summer night.

Baking

I love to bake.  There is something I find very cathartic about baking. I like measuring out the ingredients and mixing them together to create something delicious. It’s amazing that a few simple ingredients like flour, sugar, and eggs combined in different ways with a few other ingredients can result in so many tasty treats.

Let it be known that this feeling does not apply to cooking in general. I am not a fan of all the cutting, chopping, sauteing, and stirring that goes into cooking. I wonder if my love of baking and not cooking stems from my childhood. My mother, sister, and I often baked to together when I was a kid, but we didn’t cook. It makes sense since it’s easy to have kids help out with measuring flour and sugar, but you would never hand a small child a knife and ask him or her to help cut up the ingredients for whatever you’re cooking. Plus baking is more of a special treat in that most people don’t do it every day, while most people perform some sort of cooking in order to eat every day.

I was baking brownies from scratch on my own before I was out of elementary school, and I’m still at it. Tonight I’m baking these cookies to take to for dessert for the dinner I’m helping serve at Baltimore Station on Wednesday. I’ll probably feel compelled to eat a few as well because I of course want to make sure they won’t kill anyone.

Rainy Sundays are only good if you don’t have any outdoor activities planned for the day. I don’t today and am not required to leave the house, so I can enjoy sleeping in and listening to the sound of the rain on my windows. Of course it would be nicer if the sound of that rain was not being marred by my husband watching some ridiculous show called Whisker Wars. Sadly it is not about kitten wrestling because I could probably get behind that. Instead it is a show about facial hair growing competitions. In any case yay for rain forced lazy Sundays.

Playing Tourist in Your Own City

If you live in a place that is any sort of tourist destination there are probably a number of things that were designed specifically to entertain tourists that you as a local avoid like the plague. Here in Baltimore the Inner Harbor is the touristy area that most locals avoid unless they are hosting some visitors to our fine city. Most of the touristy type things I’ve done have been because I’ve been entertaining non-locals, but every once in awhile it’s fun to strap on your tourist hat and do some of things even when you’re not hosting out-of-town guests.

Baltimore being on the water as it is has no shortage of water/boat related tourist activities. I have done most of them. I went on the Spirit Cruises dinner cruise with an ex-boyfriend and his mother. I took my visiting family on the Duck Boat Tour and the Clipper Ship, neither of which exist in Baltimore anymore. My husband I also did the living history cruise on the S.S. John Brown liberty ship. That is less of a tourist thing though because it only sails a couple times a year and is rather pricy. It was really neat though, and I highly recommend it to anybody who is into history.

However, thanks to Groupon I have also enjoyed some of these activities for random fun with friends because why not take advantage of really cheap deals to do fun touristy type things even if you aren’t one. A large group of us bought the Groupon last fall for the Urban Pirate Cruise, which was silly but quite fun. Then recently there was a Groupon for the SeaDog Speedboat Tour. So this morning four of us headed down to the Inner Harbor to enjoy an hour tour and speedboat ride. Even after all the other boat tours I’ve done, I still learned some new things about Baltimore…maybe. Being a longtime resident I definitely caught some factual errors in our tour guides spiel, so perhaps the things I didn’t know aren’t really true but oh well. It was still a fun activity and well worth my $12.

There are a number of other places that are less tourist trappy, but still places tourists are inclined to go that I should really visit. When you live somewhere you tend to think that these places will always be there and you’ll get to them some day but then never go. A number of years ago I had a list from somewhere (Baltimore Magazine perhaps?) that listed 100 things you should do in Baltimore. It’s actually where I heard about the S.S. John Brown. I was trying to work my way through it at one point and did a decent job for awhile, but then got busy and let it fall by the wayside. I know a number of things on the list are no longer possible to do, but I should really hunt it down and make an effort to do some of the things I still haven’t done.

What are your favorite ways to play tourist in your city?

Librarians’ Happy Hour

The second Friday of every month of contingent of Baltimore area librarians meet for happy hour at the aptly named Librarians’ Happy Hour. The tradition started with the former director of the University of Baltimore Library who would have happy hour on the first Friday of the month with some of his staff and would send out an invitation to the rest of the Maryland library community via the state library listserv. I think most of those gatherings remained pretty much his staff until a few years ago when a number of area academic libraries hired a bunch of new librarians in the 20s and early 30s who started attending the happy hour. Soon after that the UB library director retired and one of the new librarians took over hosting the happy hour.

Given the happy hour’s UB roots we meet in the Mount Vernon area, but we have moved around a bit. We started off at Brewer’s Art, but it was always way too crowded in there and our group can get rather large at times, so we decided we needed a new location. As the dorky, research-minded people that we librarians are we actually created a rubric and went on an assessment crawl to a number of bars in the Mt. Vernon area to scout out a new location. We wound up meeting at Doherty’s for a little over a year before deciding we wanted to try out another location. We of course reperformed the assessment crawl scouting out new locations and wound up with our current location of Club Charles.

It’s a great way to interact with fellow librarian colleagues, and has allowed me to meet other librarians in the area to a degree I never would just through work. Some of these people I just see at happy hour once a month, but others have become good friends. I think it has definitely been a great way for new librarians to the area to meet people and make friends. We’re mostly academic librarians at the moment, but are certainly open to librarians from other areas joining us. So if you live in the Baltimore area and work in a library or just love librarians come out and join us on the second Friday of the month at Club Charles starting at 6pm.

Random Games

My husband I play a random fun little game every night. We watch the NBC Nightly News every night while eating dinner (at least when we’re eating at home obviously), and at some point we started a little competition to see who could guess what the top story is going to be that night. We’re both online a lot during the day and keep up with what is going on in the world so by the time we’re actually watching the 6:30 televised news we have a pretty good idea most nights what the main stories covered are going to be. Some nights it’s really obvious what the top story is going to be, other nights it’s a toss up between a couple stories, and some nights there’s nothing that seems obvious. The best nights are when we both have ideas that are a toss up and really get to see who is right about what the top story is going to be. I have no idea how this got started, but I love that we keep it up. It’s just a fun little game that we play with each other.

It reminds me of the “Who Sings This” game that my sister and brother-in-law play with each other in which one of them challenges the other to name the artist of a song that they are listening to when that person knows the answer and suspects the other one doesn’t. It’s just a random game that they started playing with each other and now it’s a little thing that they do.

What random games do you play with your significant other or your friends?

Book Clubs

I’m actually in two book clubs. One is a fairly casual meeting with a group of my friends. We meet once a month usually at a restaurant and have drinks and dinner while discussing our book of choice…kind of. In this book club we usually spend only about a quarter of the time actually discussing the book and the rest of the time just enjoying a night out together. There is invariably always someone there who hasn’t finished the book or sometimes even started it. It’s my casual book club.

My other book club was started by one of my coworkers and is composed of mostly her group of college friends plus a few add-ons. It’s been great getting to know more people through this book club. This is my serious I feel like I should have been an English major book club. It meets every other month at the host’s home where that person has usually prepared a lovely spread of food that is somehow thematically tied to whatever book we read. It’s always fun to see what people come up with especially when mentions of food are entirely lacking in the book. As I mentioned this is my serious book club. We pretty much spend the entire time discussing the book in some form or fashion and often get deep into the kind of things you have to think about when analyzing stuff for English classes. It’s always a good discussion and I often leave with a new respect for the book even if it wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed.

One of the things I enjoy about being in book clubs is reading books that I otherwise wouldn’t read. Since we take turns choosing what books to read and people have different favorite genres this often means I wind up reading books I don’t like, but sometimes it means I wind up reading an excellent book that I never would have read. My serious book club is getting ready to start a round of classics, which means I’ll wind up reading a bunch of books I feel like I should have read buy probably would never bother picking up on my own. It will be fun.

If anyone in the Baltimore area is interested in joining a book club we’re always open to new members.

Booze Cakes Cookbook

This Booze Cakes cookbook is what is making me happy today (and many other days). When it comes to required gifts like birthday, Christmas, and anniversary presents my husband is usually pretty horrible (love you, honey), but he’s really good at just randomly buying me things throughout the year. Oftentimes he seems surprised at how much use I get out of the gifts he buys on a whim. This cookbook was one of his random purchases that I love.

It’s one of those cookbooks that has a picture for every recipe, which just makes me want to bake everything in it that much more than I already would. I have been trying my darndest to bake my way through the cookbook. I still have a long way to go, but I’m making progress. Yummy, yummy progress. So far I have baked a mudslide cake, a tequila sunrise cake, a margarita cheesecake, chocolate covered cherries, and screwdriver cupcakes. Tonight I am trying my hand at a tres leches cake to take to my book club tomorrow night. My friend Karen is hosting and it’s her birthday on Wednesday, so I’m baking it to celebrate a day early. If it’s anything like the other recipes I’ve tried from the cookbook, it should be wonderfully delicious.

What are your favorite things to bake?

Outdoor concerts

I’ll probably wind up writing a lot about music on this blog because it is something that is always making me happy. I love how music can suit your mood perfectly, change your mood, or evoke nostalgic memories. It should be no surprise then that I adore going to concerts and hearing live music. I haven’t gone in recent years nearly as much as I would like because I often have difficulty finding people to accompany me. My husband and I don’t share the same taste in music and even when there is an artist that we both like he isn’t a huge concert-goer so I have to choose my battles in that area wisely. I also don’t seem to share the same musical tastes as many of my friends, so needless to say I don’t make it to nearly as many concerts as I would like.

This year I’ve kind of been making up for lost time though. I’ve been quite a few concerts since April. I somehow wrangled my husband into flying out to Arizona to see the Railroad Revival Tour concert in Tempe, which was Old Crow Medicine Show, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and Mumford & Sons. My sister lives in Arizona and the concert was over Easter weekend, so we wrapped all up in one big visit.

This summer I have also seen Sugarland, Mumford & Sons (again), Adele, and U2. Tonight I’m adding to the list, and going to see Guster with my friend Alison. I’m not the hugest Guster fan. I don’t dislike their music. They’ve just never managed to grab me enough to really follow their career or buy any of their albums. I know some of their music from radio play and have some of their older stuff that I downloaded off Napster when I was back in college, but I probably won’t know most of what they play tonight. No matter though because there is nothing I like better than going to a concert at an outdoor venue where I can throw a blanket down on the grass and listen to some live music. Plus I get to make my friend Alison happy by accompanying her to a concert she wants to go.

This is the last concert I have on tap at the moment. Although I would like to see the Brandi Carlisle/Ray LaMontagne and the Avett Brothers at HFStival, but again I’ve unable to find anyone to go with. But I’ve been able to enjoy far more live music this year than I have in a long time so I can’t complain too much.

What are your favorite live music experiences?