Remember approximately one million years ago when I said I was going to start blogging about things in Baltimore that make me happy and I then managed to write maybe two posts before never writing another one? Yeah, it’s been so long, me neither.
I actually had a couple of posts in the works way back when that I never wrote but took pictures of things for. I ran across them in my photos the other day when I was looking for something else and thought, hey I should write those posts. They might bring the tiniest amount of joy into our currently hellish world.
This one has a little bit of sad tinge to it in that the Gnome Garden is currently on hiatus because the gnomes have had to social distance, but one day it will hopefully be back. Someone in my neighborhood has created this little Gnome Garden in her front yard and invites little kids to play with the stuff in the garden and to take things home from it for a short time.
She would post updates and gentle reminders about the garden from the perspectives of the gnomes on Nextdoor under the title Gnome News. It was pretty much the only good thing about Nextdoor. For whatever reason, even though my settings in Nextdoor were set to get a daily digest of posts I stopped getting them eons ago and never bother to go to the site because it’s mostly garbage. I did go and search for Gnome News to confirm that the reason the garden disappeared as in fact due to COVID and was informed that that it was because the gnome doctor insisted the gnomes follow CDC guidelines.
It was a delightful little spot in the neighborhood. I always enjoyed walking by it even though I don’t have kids and thus never played with anything in it. I appreciate the joy that it brings to be people, and I hope that it won’t be too long before the gnomes can come out of quarantine.
By the way I took these photos way back in September in case you were wondering how long ago I thought about writing this post originally.
Don’t worry I didn’t forget about my goal of doing 20 things in and around Baltimore in 2020. I thought maybe it would get me out of my February hibernation mode for a change, but it didn’t. February is still dark with gross weather and I was sick for part of it, so I didn’t wind up doing anything new and different in February. I did actually eat at a new restaurant in my neighborhood, but since part of the reason I’m doing this is to get me out of Hampden on occasion I’m not counting it. I do have several things lined up in March though, so I’m getting back into things now that spring is coming.
Last Thursday I went to the Luann Carra Gallery in Fells Point to see my friend’s first solo photography show. I’ve never been to any art galleries in Baltimore. It was fun to go out and support my friend and see all her lovely photographs.
First in my 20 Things in 2020 was an easy one in that it was going to eat at a new restaurant. I had made plans back in December to get together with some friends for brunch this past weekend. We were trying to figure out somewhere to go, so I was looking at lists of brunch places in Baltimore and stumbled upon Rye Street Tavern. It worked well as a location for us since I was in the city, but everyone else was coming from elsewhere from DC up to Harford County. So Rye Street Tavern’s location right off I-95 made it an easy get to location for us all.
I don’t recall hearing about this restaurant opening although I’m sure it was in the local news when it did. It’s located in the new Port Covington development being spearheaded by the Under Armour folks for their new campus. Eventually it’s seemingly going to be a little city unto itself within Baltimore. Don’t even get me started on my feelings about this development and the tax credits it’s gotten. That’s not what we’re here for.
It wasn’t very busy when we there. At this point it’s a little off the beaten path unless you’re planning on going to the Sagamore Spirits Distillery, which is right next door. So I’m not surprised. It might be busier on weeknights when you have more traffic from the Baltimore Sun or Under Armour employees in the area.
The food was good. I appreciated that they had a nice mix of savory, sweet, breakfast, and more lunch type foods. I am an avowed hater of eggs when they are recognizable as eggs, which makes brunch a tricky meal for me at a lot of restaurants especially if it’s late enough in the day that I am not actually interested in whatever token pancake/waffle/French toast dish they have on their menu is.
We started with their cream donuts with chocolate whisky sauce. They were pretty good, but I’m not sure I would bother ordering them again. I had the pit beef sandwich, which was tasty though not what I would really call a true Baltimore pit beef sandwich. It came with a stupid amount of french fries, which were also pretty tasty. My friends had huevos rancheros, shrimp and grits, and fried chicken and everyone seemed to be pleased with their meal.
It’s definitely more expensive than some places, but I would say on par with or slightly cheaper than other popular Baltimore brunch places like Woodberry Kitchen or The Food Market. I would eat there again.
One of the things I like about Baltimore is that it’s a fairly green city. I know not every part of the city has easy access to green space, but there are a decent number of areas that do. In my little part of the city within a mile or less of my house I can walk to Druid Hill Park, the Jones Falls trail, or the Stony Run Trail.
The Stony Run Trail, which is the focus of this post is a short little trail that runs along the Stony Run. The trail part is only about a mile long from end to end, though I gather there’s a walking path that goes almost all the way up to Northern Parkway. I’ve never gotten farther than Coldspring Lane, so I’m not quite sure how it travels north of there even though I’ve looked at the online map a number of times. Someday I’ll do the whole thing. For now I’m just enjoying the trail.
Even though it’s short, it’s a very peaceful respite in the middle of the city. It’s very calming to be surrounded by the trees and walking along the water. I am a bit disturbed by how many people I see let their dogs run into that water though. It is for sure polluted. Please don’t let your dog (or god forbid your kids) go in that water. It’s pretty to look at though.
It’s about 3 miles for me to walk the trail from one end to the other and back again and add in the walk from my house to the nearest trail head. It makes for a nice bit of afternoon exercise. Soon I’ll be relegated to the gym for the winter because it will be too dark (and soon after that too cold) for me to walk on the trail or outside after I get home from work once the time changes. I’m enjoying the trail as much as I can until I get to that point and then I’ll be counting the days until spring.
This past weekend marked the second anniversary of Ida B’s Table, a modern soul food restaurant in downtown Baltimore. It’s named after Ida B. Wells, famous black journalist of the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s actually owned by a news operation called The Real News Network. The menu is divided into sections based on newspaper sections like features, op-eds, and by-lines.
I actually still have yet to get there for dinner, but I’ve been there for brunch many times. My friend and I have season tickets to Center Stage on Sunday afternoons and we take turns going to lunch beforehand at Ida B’s and Iggie’s Pizza. The food at Ida B’s is delicious. I pretty much always get the chicken and waffles, but sometimes I branch out and get the fried chicken dinner. Maybe one day I’ll try something that doesn’t involve friend chicken, but probably not.
The chef David Thomas won the episode of Chopped he was on last year. I haven’t participated in anything yet, but I also appreciates that he holds special events and dinners to teach about the history of Africans, African-Americans, and food. He did a series early this year on the African diaspora and did something recently for the 1619 anniversary of the first slaves being brought to America.
What I really enjoy about Ida B’s Table though is that it far beyond any other place I go in Baltimore actually feels like what Baltimore should be. Baltimore is an incredibly segregated city. There aren’t many places where black and white people mix to any real degree. In a city that’s 63% black and 30% white I can’t think of any other place I go that actually represents that breakdown. Most places I wind up going are majority white with maybe a small percentage of non-white people and when I’ve gone to places in black neighborhoods I’m part of the small percentage of white people. More places should be like Ida B’s Table and bring the rich tapestry of the people in this city together rather than separating them. Hopefully Ida B’s Table has many more years ahead of it.
So I’m guessing no one thought my first post about Baltimore would be a random post about flags, and not even the Maryland flag which is a pretty cool flag that we love to put on everything. I can tell you what you’re going to get in at least the first month of these posts are a lot of little things that I’ve noticed and that make me happy. It’s important to enjoy the simple things, and I’m trying to be better at doing that. Plus over the many years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve already written about a lot of the big things about Baltimore that people might actually expect me to be writing about. I’m sure I’ll write about some this eventually, but don’t expect to get a bunch of posts about things to do in the city. You can go search my archives for that.
What I’m writing about today is my neighbor’s flags. Someone who lives near me has a flagpole that they constantly change the flag on. I first really noticed the flags changing on a consistent basis a couple of years ago during the Men’s World Cup. He (I’m making an assumption it’s a he, though I don’t really know who lives there) started changing the flag to whatever country he was rooting for.
Sometimes I’m able to figure out what the flags are and sometimes I’m not. Sometimes it’s hard to see what the flag is because there’s not enough wind to make it unfurled. Sometimes it’s obvious like this past June when he had the rainbow flag and the trans flag flying for Pride month. The title of this post is a reference to the YouTube show called “Fun with Flags” that the character Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory has. Whenever I can’t figure out what a flag is I joke that I need to watch “Fun with Flags”. For flags I don’t know I’ve made the assumption that they have something to do with soccer teams so I’m guessing that Sheldon actually wouldn’t be able to help me either.
Sometimes I’m able to get a good enough look at the flag and can Google what it is based on a description of it. Recently he had the Tennessee state flag flying for some reason, which I was able to find out through Google since I don’t know all the state flags.
Right now he has flags for the New Orleans Saints and the New England Revolution soccer team. It took me forever to confirm that New Orleans Saints flag. I felt like a very terrible librarian because I couldn’t figure it out. I spent a really long time searching for that one and couldn’t figure it out. I tried again yesterday after I saw someone else a few block away with the same flag flying when I was out on my walk. I still couldn’t locate it based on any efforts at describing what it looked like. I finally based on timing, the fact that multiple people were flying it, and what I know about the Saints that it might be a Saints flag, so I Googled New Orleans Saints flags and after a bit of scrolling did eventually find that flag. So mystery solved there.
I started this blog years ago to try and be mindful about the good things in life. I have obviously gotten very bad at posting about anything other than music. Music is still something that makes me extremely happy, so I don’t feel bad about those posts. I would just like to try and get into a better habit of posting about other things. Part of the reason why I am better about writing about music is that I have some set music related things I post about like New Music Fridays and reviews of all the concerts I go to. I don’t have that routine for anything else.
After about 6 months of not really being able to exercise due to various issues, I was finally able to start getting back into my daily walks this summer. As I’ve been out walking I’ve been trying to be more mindful about what’s around me and have thought of multiple things that would make great posts, but as is often the case I never take the time to sit down and actually write about them. I even have pictures for three blog posts that I’ve never written.
There’s no denying that Baltimore is a hard city with a lot of problems, but it also has a lot of really wonderful things. At some point in the last year my husband and I watched an episode of Samantha Brown’s Places to Love featuring Baltimore. After watching it I was like wow that does remind me that Baltimore is a great place. My husband replied something to the effect of that’s the thing about Baltimore. All the bad stuff is true, but all the good stuff is too.
It’s so very easy, especially these days, to let the bad outweigh the good. Baltimore has always had it’s issues, but the past three to four years have been especially brutal and the tide does not seem to be turning. It’s for sure the worst it’s been in the 19 years I’ve lived here. It’s easy to look at everything that’s wrong and feel hopeless and forget about all the things that make this city great. Hopefully these forthcoming posts will be a reminder to myself and to others that there are great things about Baltimore and that it’s worth fighting for.
Last night I went with two friends to check out Charm Kitty Cafe, the new cat cafe, that just opened in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps the best thing about it is the name. If you’re not aware, one of Baltimore’s nicknames is Charm City, so I’m a huge fan of the clever play on that to call the place Charm Kitty Cafe. I’ve never been to any other cat cafes so I don’t know if the way this one works is comparable to others. It’s not so much of a cafe as a place to go hang out with some cats. You can get a cookie or a cup of coffee, green tea, or hot chocolate, but that’s it.
You have to make a reservation to go. It’s $10 on weekdays or $12 on weekends for 70 minutes with the cats. They get the cats from the local SPCA, so all the cats are 100% adoptable. Most of them were super sweet either letting you play with them or pet them a lot. There were two that were not really interested in anyone at least by the time we were there, which was the last session of the day.
My only complaints were that they didn’t have enough toys that you could actively engage the cats with and the kids. There were plenty of toys around that were more like things that cats would chase on their own like the little toy mice or balls, but there was only one dangly feather thing for humans to really use with the cats. That seems very short-sighted. Also having kids there was not great. They allow kids over the age of seven. There was one family with 2 while we were there. They were probably both under 10 years old. It’s a nice treat for them because apparently their father is allergic so they can’t have pets of their own, but also they were kids so they were doing what kids do with animals. They were chasing them around and being more aggressive than the cats really liked, thus making it less than ideal for everyone else there trying to interact with the cats. They left from the session early, so we did happily get some time with things being more chill.
It’s not somewhere I’d probably go on a super frequent basis, especially since I have a sweet, adorable cat at home, but I would definitely go back again at some point.
After a terribly cool, grey, and rainy spring we seem to have finally turned somewhat of a corner and are getting some warmer sunnier weather (of course as I write this it’s supposed to rain and be cooler this week) at least for the past week. It’s been wonderful and has done wonders to improve my mood. Life is just so much more pleasant when the weather is nice enough to do things outside.
The previous weekend there was a 30th birthday party for one of my friends. We got to sit outside on a lovely screened porch and enjoy a firepit out on the patio. I love sitting around a firepit on a summer night.
The following night one of my friends from college got married at The Elm, which is an event space a few blocks from my house. I was always kind of curious about it, so I’m glad they got married there so I could finally check it out. It was rainy off and on earlier in the day, but it cleared up just in time for them to have their ceremony outside as planned. It was a lovely wedding, and I enjoyed getting to walk there and back. I don’t think I’ll ever go to a wedding closer to the place I’m living than this one.
On Thursday one of my coworkers and I finally got to try blacksauce kitchen for lunch. I’m a long time lover of their food from the farmers markets and festivals, but I hadn’t yet managed to make it over to the storefront they opened a few months ago. It’s only opened on Thursdays for now and it’s carry out only, so we were waiting for a Thursday when we were both free and the weather was nice enough for us to eat outside. We took our delicious food (blacksauce never disappoints) and ate it on a bench in Sherwood Gardens. It was perfect, at least until the part where we had to go back to work.
This past Saturday I went down to Georgetown to meet another friend from college who was there for work. We had brunch outside and then wandered around Georgetown for awhile. It was great to catch up with her, and it was nice to walk around Georgetown. It’s been a really long time since I’d been there.
Yesterday my church held its service followed by a potluck brunch outside at the pavilion at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Last year the school that we normally meet at had a water main break and some enterprising person managed to think of and snag the BMI pavilion for our service instead. It worked out so well they decided to do it once every summer. The weather was perfect for it this morning, and it was lovely to sit out and stare at the water and the boats.
I didn’t get all my steps in earlier in the day, so we went for a walk after dinner. I love that it’s still light enough at 7:30 to go out for a walk. It’s a billion times better than when it gets dark hours earlier in the winter. Everything in this post is why summer is better than winter and why I love it so much.
Remember how I keep saying I already have too many podcasts to listen to and I can’t keep up, but that I couldn’t resist listening to another one? Well you can add one more podcast to that list because I am now in love with Baltimore: The Rise of Charm City, which just started its second season. It airs locally on public radio station WEAA every other Friday, but then like many radio shows these days is available in podcast form which is how I’m listening to it. It’s part of a documentary radio series called Finding America produced by AIR and funded in part by the Corporation of Public Broadcasting (insert something here about why funding for public media is important).
Host Stacia Brown provides an oral history of Baltimore institutions and places via interviews with people involved with them. It provides a look at some of the things that make Baltimore truly great and the history behind them, but she does not sugarcoat anything. The problems of the city both historically and at present are incorporated into the stories. She’s done stories on things like Shake & Bake Family Fun Center, the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, Druid Hill Park, and my own neighborhood Hampden, which is obviously a favorite episode of mine. Episodes are under 30 minutes and there’s only 14 of the at this point, so you can very easily catch up. I highly recommend doing so. I somehow missed that this existed until 2 weeks ago when someone who is not even from Baltimore recommended it on Twitter, so don’t think you need to be from Baltimore to enjoy this. Obviously Baltimoreans will have a different appreciation for it, but anyone who is interested in cities and people should enjoy it. Go give it a listen.