Sunday in the Park (Not with George)

As I’ve previously mentioned I love Druid Hill Park, so I was quite excited to spend the afternoon there. My friend Lindsey rented one of the pavilions to celebrate her birthday. Despite the predicted hot and humid forecast it actually turned out to be a very lovely afternoon. The shade of the pavilion kept the sun from beating down us and there was a great breeze that made it just about perfect weather. The pavilion we were in overlooked the reservoir so we even had a lovely water view, which is kind of hard to see in this picture but it’s there.

Of course being in Maryland, what better way to celebrate than with crabs, which I also love. I got to enjoy my first crabs of the season. They surely won’t be my last.

I offered to bake a cake for the birthday girl. She requested a funfetti cake, but I don’t do boxed cake mixes if I can help it. Thus I went on a quest to find a recipe for a homemade funfetti cake recipe. There are a number of them out there on the internet, but I settled on using this one. It was very tasty and I’m sure I’ll wind up using it again in the future.

The birthday girl “blowing out” the candles. There wasn’t much to actually blow out since the lovely breeze that was keeping us so cool also made it impossible to keep the candles lit long enough for her to actually having something to blow out.

It was an excellent start to the summer. I look forward to much more summer fun in the upcoming weeks. I love summer!

My New Patio Table and Chairs

My husband bought the house we live in shortly after we started dating in 2004. I moved in after we got married in 2008. Yet, somehow it has taken us until this to get a table and chairs for our back patio. My husband is not likely to buy something like this for himself, so I’m not surprised that he never suggested it. I think I never thought it would work because our back patio is teeny tiny. Not to mention that for much of the time it always seemed like a place no one would really want to spend much time. It looks out into the alley. Plus my husband like with all things doesn’t seem to notice the horrible clutter he leaves about that I don’t want to deal with but makes me write off entire portions of our house (see the basement). Until I finally decided to do something about during the nice early spring we had this year, the back patio was littered with detritus of old plant life and stuff from various construction projects over the years and who knows what else. After I cleaned it all up I decided I really did want a little table and chairs back there. I found a little set at Target that is the perfect size for us and also nicely folds up so we’ll be able to store it during the winter. I’ve been spending a lot of time out there since we set it up. It’s great to sit out there and read under the shade of our umbrella, and the one little Japanese maple we have back there really does block much of the view into the alley. I’m rather kicking myself for letting it take almost 8 years before we did this. Now if I could only get my husband to stop throwing crap around back there and actually throw it away. I already yelled at him last night for plant detritus he has already tossed about since I cleaned it all up a few weeks ago.

Songs I Love: Dancing on My Own by Robyn

I just recently became acquainted with this song via the HBO show Girls. I was not sold on that show after the pilot, but if a show seems like it might have promise I usually give it a few episodes beyond the pilot to grab my interest. At the end of the third episode (which I just watched, we’re still three episodes behind), the main character Hannah is dancing alone in her room to this song after a really crappy day when her roommate comes home looks on amusedly before joining her. It’s the scene that kind of made me fall in love with the show.

The song Dancing on My Own by Robyn is the perfect song for that scene, which is partially what makes me love the song. Also, it seems to be yet another song that has grabbed my attention recently with it’s poppy, upbeat rhythm that can’t help make you happy despite its rather depressing lyrics. I like the juxtaposition that somehow feels like it leads to a sense of empowerment to me.

I’m including links to both the music video for the actual song as well as the scene from Girls, so you can choose to watch either or both as you are so inclined.

Songs I Love: Run by Matt Nathanson featuring Sugarland

It is yet another gloomy, rainy Monday here in Baltimore so that means its time for another installment of songs Danielle likes to hopefully brighten up your day with some good music.

I actually thought about posting this song today because I heard it for the first time at this time last year at a Sugarland concert I was at. Matt Nathanson was one of the opening acts, so it’s only natural that they would sing this song together. It was a great concert, and I have fond memories of being sprawled out on the lawn at Merriweather Post Pavilion listening to some wonderful music on a gorgeous spring night. Sadly the Sugarland tour for this year is hitting Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, VA for their area stop instead of Merriweather. I’ve made the trek down for other concerts before, but unlike Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA which is equally far but a venue I love, I kind of loathe Jiffy Lube Live. It is just not a fun location to try and get to. Also, I don’t have many friends who like country music, so that concert is probably not in the cards for this year. For now I’ll just enjoy them singing to me over my speakers.  I really like both Matt Nathanson and Sugarland so put them together and what’s not to love.


Annual Preakness Party

When I was growing up my parents used to throw Kentucky Derby parties. I like the idea, but I repurposed it to fit the fact that I live in Baltimore where the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown races, is run. Our Preakness party has become an annual tradition, with this year being the fifth one we’ve thrown. Like the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness has an official drink, named The Black-Eyed Susan after the state flower. (Supposedly they drape a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans over the winning horse, but they’re in fact not in season this time of year so they actually use painted daisies as a stand in. Just a little bit of trivia for you.) There are a number of different recipes for the drink floating around out there. We tend to make a couple of different versions for people to try. We always make the official version that they serve at Pimlico during the Preakness as well as the version published by The Washington Post. We often make a third version as well, but it has varied over the years.

The race itself only lasts about 2 minutes, so it’s really just a good excuse to have a party. I do enjoy watching the race though, and yesterday’s was great fun with a come from behind win by the Derby winner, I’ll Have Another. I always cheer for the horse that won the Kentucky Derby to win the Preakness as well so that there is a chance for a Triple Crown winner. I’m sure the people who run The Belmont Stakes do too, so that people will actually bother to watch their race. There hasn’t been a Triple Crown winning horse during my lifetime. The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed, who won in 1978 just about a month before I was born. I hope every year for there to finally be an end to the drought, but so far it hasn’t happened. I’ll be cheering on I’ll Have Another during the Belmont in a few weeks.

I had a great time hanging out with friends yesterday and stuffing myself full of lots of great food. I’m already looking forward to next year.

My Cat is Cuter than Your Cat

The cats aren’t normally allowed into the bedroom, but Charlotte snuck in the other day and made herself quite comfortable in the bed. She was even cuter when I first walked in sleeping all tucked in under the covers, but by the time I got my camera she was ready to run. Also enjoy a few more pictures of Charlotte being super cute that I took over the past week. I know you wish your cat was as cute as mine, and if you don’t agree she’s the cutest cat ever she will shoot you with her laser eyes.

Harvard Baseball Team Van Dance to Call Me Maybe

Ok, if you haven’t actually already seen this delightful little video of the Harvard baseball team doing a choreographed dance in their van to Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe, then you travel in very different internet circles than I do. Despite the fact that you’ve probably already seen it posted in a thousand places, I wanted to post it here. This blog is all about things that make me happy, and there is nothing that is not happy making about this video. The van dance is just plain goofy fun, and Call Me Maybe is a peppy little pop song that is sure to brighten your mood. It’s a gloomy, rainy Monday here in Baltimore which doesn’t make for a great start to the work week, but watch this a time a two and you’ll be sure to be dancing in your chair with a smile on your face.


Friday Morning Breakfast

I have no idea why it has taken me so long to include Friday morning breakfast on this blog as it is something that makes me happy almost every week, but better late than never I suppose. Unless something at work interferes or I’m out of town, pretty much every Friday morning I meet up for breakfast at Roland Park Bagel with some friends from church. I can’t say much for Roland Bagel because their bagels are not great (far too doughy), but it’s super convenient for most of us and is really one of the only places I could make breakfast since it’s on my way from my house to work so despite the subpar bagels I’m glad it’s where we go.

My friend Lindsey and I manage to make it most every week because we’re usually just stopping by for an hour or so before we head off to work. Sometimes it winds up just being the two of us, which is fine but other weeks there can be as many as 5 or 6 of us. Many of the rest of my friends that come are nurses so they have rotating schedules that allow them to come some weeks but not others. There are also a couple moms with kids who come when they can. I love when the kids are there because they are hysterical and always send me off to work with a smile. It’s a great way get the weekend jump started and I look forward to it every week.

My New Phone (HTC One S)

I don’t tend to write about “stuff” very much on this blog because I find that experiences and people make me happier than things. I’m definitely blessed to have grown up in a well off family and to be living very comfortably right now such that I generally can afford most material possessions that I want. That being said I think long and hard about making major purchases and don’t buy stuff for the sake of buying stuff. I don’t consider myself to be a very materialistic person. As I mentioned I was lucky to grow up in family that could provide for all my needs and many of my wants, but I also think my parents did a good job of raising me to value the things that matter most in life which aren’t in fact things at all.

That being said, of course I do get great pleasure from material things from time to time. A little over a week ago I upgraded my phone from the MyTouch 3G Slide to the HTC One S. My husband and I are apparently 2 of the about 10 people left in the country still using T-Mobile for our cell phone service. They were the company I signed up with (well actually Voicestream at the time), and I have always been happy with them. I’ve always received good customer service from them and unlike people I know on AT&T, my phone actually works. They may not have access to the iPhone, but as I have no interest in owning an iPhone I’m perfectly content.

While I was very happy with my MyTouch 3G Slide, I was anxious for my 2 year upgrade this go round. When it came out it was the phone I had been waiting for. I had waffled about getting a smartphone for awhile, but really wanted one with a physical keyboard. There just weren’t any available that I was happy with for a long time, until the 3G Slide hit the market. Because I am a genius (or lucky) I managed to get it for only $30 after my husband threatened to leave T-Mobile if they didn’t honor the new customer promotion they were running. However, after 2 years the phone was past its prime. The internal space on the phone was not sufficient for the size of current apps and I was constantly running out of space. Plus, about a year after buying the phone I dropped it and the camera broke, so I missed having a camera in my phone for about the last year I owned it.

With my 2 year contract on that phone and the chance for an upgrade imminent I started keeping an eye out for new Android phones on T-Mobile. I was wary of getting a phone without a keyboard as the physical keyboard was one of the things I really liked about my previous phone, but those are very few and far between and I wasn’t pleased with any of my options. After reading lots of reviews though, even with its lack of a physical keyboard I started leaning towards the HTC One S. Many of the reviews I read deemed it the best Android phone on the market. Thus, last Sunday we went to the T-Mobile store at our local mall to take a look at the phone in person. (Sadly the T-Mobile store blocks from our house isn’t open on Sundays.) I did really like the phone after playing with it for a few minutes, and I decided to go through with the upgrade. Not to mention my genius phone buying abilities also got me the phone for $150 off because of 2 concurrent short-lived promotions being run by T-Mobile that got me a $50 rebate plus $100 for trading in my old smartphone. Even the sales guy was impressed.

I have now been using my phone for a week and I love it! It is so much faster than my old phone at everything it does. Not that the interface on my old phone was horrible, but there are just some changes that make using the phone so much easier and more intuitive. Granted much of this is really just due to the upgraded version of Android I’m running on the new phone (Ice Cream Sandwich as opposed to Froyo).

I also have a working camera again! In fact it has come to the point where my actual camera is so old, and the camera in my phone so good that my camera phone is better than my real camera. I didn’t even take my actual camera with me on our vacation to Oklahoma last week. I just used my phone to take pictures.

Oh, and on that keyboard issue…it’s not one. The phone is slightly larger than my old phone in all dimensions but thickness (it’s crazy super thin) so the screen is larger which makes the onscreen keyboard easier to use. Plus I find it to be super responsive. I’ve always had issues typing on onscreen keyboards including the iPhone, but this one I have very few problems with. Additionally, I’m finding the spellcheck/autocorrect features that are part of Ice Cream Sandwich to be genius. So much better than what I have ever dealt with on my iOS devices or my older version of Android.

I’m sure that in 2 years when my contract is up, this phone will too seem horribly outdated and in desperate need of an upgrade, but for now I’m loving it and hope to for some time to come.