11th Anniversary Celebration

My husband and I always buy each other gifts based on the traditional or modern gifts for each anniversary year. Usually they aren’t anything big, but we try to be creative and get something the other one will like. Sometimes more successfully than others. The traditional gift for the 11th anniversary is steel. It is also apparently the year where we almost wound up giving each other the same thing. The only reason we didn’t is because I was waiting closer to our anniversary to order my gift and when we got home from some trip and were going through the mail I saw the return address on the package. I immediately opened up my computer, spun it around, showed my husband the tab that had been sitting open my browser for weeks, and said I guess I know what I’m getting for our anniversary. Sorry for the terrible pic, but I couldn’t find a way to take it without the shadow in it. It’s a map of Baltimore cut out of steel. He also threw in an ornament of Maryland.

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Since I didn’t think we needed two steel cutout maps of Baltimore I had to come up with something else. I wound up getting him an engraved spatula. I couldn’t resist using one of the silly puns I had seen on keychains replacing the word still with steel.

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To celebrate our anniversary we went out to dinner at The Black Olive. Somehow even though I’ve lived in Baltimore for over 19 years this was the first time I’ve been to The Black Olive. I mean when I first moved here and I was a poor twenty-something grad student it made sense, but now I go to plenty of restaurants at this price point. I guess there’s always been something newier and flashier that I wanted to try, but I finally decided it was time we made our way to The Black Olive.

It’s a Greek restaurant known for it’s fresh fish. They prepare whole fish that you can see in their fish case beforehand if you want. They then filet it at your table for you. I kind of wanted to try the lamb chops, but I figured on my first visit I should get some sort of fish since that’s their thing. I went with the bronzini, which is a Mediterranean sea bass. I suspect it was prepared in a way that I was supposed to eat the skin as well, but that creeps me out so I didn’t. It left the fish kind of bland even with the added sauce they poured on for me. If we go back again I’ll definitely try the lamb chops next time.

My husband had the veggie combo. I’m actually not entirely sure everything that was on it. There were definitely some mushrooms and a piece of village pie along with some other veggies and something neither of us could identify but almost seemed like a slice of baked stuffing. He really liked it. We started with saganaki plate which contained pan seared, paper-thin zucchini, tzatziki, two Greek cheeses Kefalograviera and Haloumi. It was all delicious. I would go back just to eat that again. For dessert we had baklava and a tarte tatin. They were both delicious as well. It was a nice meal, well paced with good service. I would definitely go back again at some point.

February in New Jersey

My sister and her family moved from Arizona to New Jersey at the end of last year and they finally moved into their new house a couple of weeks ago. We hadn’t had a chance to get up and see them yet, but President’s Day weekend was the perfect opportunity. We were already in New York for a few days prior to that, so it was easy to hop across the river on the train to go visit. My parents were in town from Arizona as they had been out to babysit my nieces for a few days, and some of my sisters college friends who have become good friends of the whole family were up from South Carolina for the weekend with their two kids.

It was a great weekend spending time with everyone. Mostly there was a lot of card playing as that is what my family does when we are together. I also got roped into taking Year of the Cookie on the road and making chocolate chip cookies for everyone. I enlisted a few little helpers and baked cookies with my youngest niece and my friends kids. My mom of course made everyone happy making her homemade pizza. My sisters, our friends, and I have all tried to make it but none of us can get the dough right. In case you were wondering if this pizza is serious business our friends even flew with pizza pans on the plane to make sure my mom had enough pans to make pizza for everyone.

On Saturday night we got a whole lot of snow at my sister’s house. Depending on the forecast you looked at they were supposed to get either 3-5 inches or 4-8 inches. They got just under a foot. This year (at least so far) and last year in Baltimore haven’t really seen any large snow storms, so it was kind of nice to have a big snow. Even nicer because I had zero responsibility for shoveling, and got to leave before dealing with the icy, slushy, gross aftermath that always seems to linger for weeks on end and which is what really makes me hate snow. The kids of course were seventh heaven with all the snow. There’s a nice hill in the backyard for sledding, though we managed to make our sled path end so that you basically slammed into a tree, which we stuck a raft in front of to soften the blow. They’re going to have to work on that in future. I haven’t been sledding since I don’t even know when. Probably when we lived in Massachusetts, which we moved away from when I was 15. It was probably not the best for my still somewhat jacked up back, but it was fun and worth it.

We got dropped off at Newark Airport to catch the Amtrak train back to Baltimore on Sunday afternoon. It’s only a three hour drive (assuming traffic cooperates), so we’ll probably drive in the future but this time the train made sense since we were in NYC beforehand. It’s going to be nice having my sister and her family so close now. When they were in Arizona it took us a 5 hour plane ride, plus the extra time you have to allot to deal with airports, and then a 1.5 hour drive from Phoenix to Tucson. Three hours is practically nothing compared to that. It will be great to be able to see them more than once or twice a year.

 

NYC Weekends

I spent the last two weekends in New York City. As we often do we went up to the city for Thanksgiving with my sister-in-law’s family. The day after Thanksgiving we did a number of things around the city. We started off by visiting the Intrepid museum, which was my niece’s vote for what to do. We decided she made a good choice because the weather was actually pretty nice, but the museum wasn’t overly crowded.

As a perk from his company my husband gets into a number of New York museums for free along with a guest. This is the first time we’ve really gotten to put that into practice, since a lot of times I go up to New York without him and can’t take advantage of his discounts, or we’re up there with his family and aren’t going to the places where he gets a discount. He got the two of us into the Intrepid for free.

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I feel like we spent a decent amount of time there, but with two six year olds we didn’t really spend much time looking at anything and we certainly didn’t have to the chance to really stop and read anything. This was a good for a first pass, but some day I’ll probably go back and actually spend time looking at and reading the exhibits.

After the Intrepid we took the twins bowling for the first time. With all the back issues I’ve had over the past year I decided to sit out doing any bowling myself because I didn’t want to screw it up any more than it already is. I decided tossing heavy balls around was not the best idea. The kids did pretty good for their first time. My nephew even managed to get a strike in which the ball didn’t even bounce off of the bumpers on the way down the lane.

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Paul giving our nephew some sage bowling advice.

Friday night Paul and I headed out on our own. We ate dinner at Chai Thai. I’d eaten there with a friend before, and knew Paul would like it so I decided that would be a good place for us to grab dinner before our show. After that we had time to kill so we wound up walking over the Schmakery’s for cookies.

Our show this trip was The Band’s Visit. I had been waffling on what to see because I wasn’t super excited about anything, and there were several things that were possibilities but hadn’t been reviewed yet because they were just in previews. This show got a rave review in the New York Times when it opened a few weeks before Thanksgiving, so I finally decided on it. By that time tickets were few and far between, so Paul and I actually didn’t sit together. We sat in mirror image seats on the right and left sides of the theatre.

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I’m not actually sure how I felt about the show. I think Paul liked it more than I did. I know the New York Times reviewer definitely liked it more than I did. I didn’t dislike it, but I also didn’t love it. Even weeks later I’m trying to even figure out how to describe it. It’s a very sedate musical about an Egyptian Police Band that winds up accidentally stuck in a small town in Israel overnight. The experiences the band and the townspeople share that night seemingly both affect their lives while changing nothing about them.

Saturday before we headed home we took advantage of Paul’s work discount again and went to the New York Historical Society museum. I’m definitely glad we got into this one for free because I didn’t see anything aside from the children’s area in the basement.

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My niece’s favorite part of the museum was reshelving all the books in the kids’ part of the museum. A future librarian in the making perhaps?

I headed back to New York again a week later just for a day trip to meet up with my sister. She just moved to New Jersey, and while she’s waiting for the rest of her family to join her, she asked if I wanted to meet up with her to see The Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular. As many shows as I’ve seen in New York, I’ve never been to the Rockettes so I said sure.

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We had lunch at Brasserie Ruhlman down the street from Radio City Music Hall. The food was really good, but it was definitely a splurge as it was quite pricy. I don’t know if they’ve added new security to Radio City Music Hall since I’ve never been before, but I suspect that may have been the case and they didn’t anticipate how much it was going to slow down people getting in. They do 4 shows on the weekends and there is definitely not enough time in between them to turn the theatre over. We had tickets to the 2 pm show and after 45 minutes in line just barely made our seats right as the lights were going down. There were still a ton of people in line behind us, which was annoying because for the first part of the show you still had lots of people blocking your view as they found and got into their seats. I would have been even more annoyed had we had been one of the people who didn’t get inside before the show started. They definitely need to space the shows out another 30 minutes.

I can now say I’ve seen the Rockettes. I enjoyed it well enough, but I don’t think I probably ever need to see the show again. I mean if my nieces or nephew wanted me to go with them, I would. It’s definitely aimed at kids, but as an adult without kids I see no reason to go again.

After the show we just wandered around the city. Since we were right there and it was almost unavoidable we saw the tree in Rockefeller Center, which is something I once vowed I would never do again. Luckily this time it was a much less terrifying experience. The first time I went to New York with Paul after we started dating it was this same exact weekend, which is the first weekend the tree was lit. The crowds were insane and I got smashed in between so many people I literally got lifted up off the ground and was being carried along by the crowd. I had no control and had I fallen I would have been trampled. This year we were there before dark, so I suspect it was slightly less crowded than it might have been a couple hours later. At any rate, it wasn’t nearly as crowded, and I got to see the tree without thinking I might die.

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We did give up on walking down Fifth Avenue though because it was just too stupidly crowded full of people. Same with the Christmas Market in Bryant Park. We sort of looked at the Macy’s windows from a distance over the heads of the crowds of people. So basically we sort of did all the touristy Christmas things that the movies and tv make you think are so great, but are really terrible because they are way too crowded.

The weather was pretty good for this time of year though, and it was a pleasant day to walk around the city and catch up with my sister. It will be really nice to have her and her family so close by so that I’ll be able to see them more than the once, maybe twice a year I normally did when they were all the way out in Arizona.

Happy 9th Anniversary to My Husband

Nine years ago today I made one of the best decisions of my life and said, I do to my husband Paul. I am grateful every day to have him in my life, and not just because he cooks dinner and does the laundry. That certainly doesn’t hurt though. I love how he makes me smile, and how we share the same clever sense of humor that may amuse only us. I appreciate that he puts up with me and lets me drag him to tons of concerts he doesn’t care about because he knows that I love them. He’s the best husband I could ask for and the perfect mate for me.

Unfortunately, due to a family emergency we aren’t spending our anniversary together this year, but I raise my glass to our nine years of marriage and look forward to celebrating many more in the future. Cheers!

 

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Cape Cod

After finishing up my conference in Chicago, I flew to Boston and headed out to Cape Cod where my sister and her family had rented a house for the week. I had mentioned I had a lot of vacation time to use by the end of June so she said why don’t you come to the Cape. We have plenty of room, and indeed they did. It worked out well for the rotating cast of my brother-in-law’s family who came in for a day or two from Boston while I was there.

My nieces are 8 and 5 now. It was good to see them since it had been six months since the last time I had seen them. They had lots of cousins coming in and out to play with though, so Aunt Danielle was much less interesting.

The house was really nice. It was about a half mile walk to the beach, which was a little farther than one might have wanted especially with kids but it worked out okay. I didn’t mind the walk and the kids were mostly troopers about it. We didn’t really wind up spending that much time on the beach anyway as it was chilly. The temperatures were only in the low 70s and with the strong sea breeze blowing in on us it was cold to sit out there. We never spent more than two hours down there on a given day and most days we were only out there for about an hour. This is why I don’t normally take beach vacations in New England.

One morning we also went on a seal cruise on the Monomoy Ferry. That was very cool in all senses of that word. We got to see a lot of seals and our guide was very informative. I learned a lot about seals, sharks, and the way the coastline changes in that area according to a specific pattern.

We were staying in Chatham, so a couple of days we went into the downtown area and walked around the shops on Main Street and let the kids play on the playground down there. It was a cute little area full of things I’m too poor to buy. I looked at one dress I liked and immediately put it right back on the rack when I saw the price tag reading $268.

We also went mini-golfing one afternoon. I am decidedly terrible at mini-golf, but I love it. I don’t do it nearly enough. It’s been years since the last time I went.

I also enjoyed our delicious seafood dinners with seafood from the fish market in town. We had some great salmon, halibut, shrimp, scallops, and of course lobster over the course of the four days I was there. I wish we had a really great place to buy seafood. I usually wind up getting it at Whole Foods for a billion dollars.

It was a lovely trip and much better than going to roast in Arizona to see my sister and family in June like I normally do.

Conferencing in Chicago

Last week I set out on a trip that took me to Chicago for a conference and to Cape Cod for a short vacation with my family. I’m going to write about Chicago in this post and Cape Cod in the next one. This year’s annual American Library Association conference was in Chicago. As I am sure I’ve probably mentioned here before, I hate Chicago for this particular conference. Chicago is a fine city, but its convention center is in a terrible location not near to anything. You have to rely on shuttle buses to get back and forth from hotels as it’s not walkable to anywhere. After my last experience doing this a few years ago I decided I was going to skip the conference this year, but then an opportunity for me to be on a panel at the conference came up so I wound up going anyway.

It turned out to be a lovely conference, and I’m glad I went despite my still existing hatred of the logistics of the convention center. Luckily this time everything I had to be at and most of the stuff I wanted to be at was either scheduled in the convention center or the hotel attached to it, so I was able to just go over there in the morning and stay through the afternoon instead of trying to maneuver back and forth between the convention center and hotels for meetings multiple times per day. I also learned from my last trip and made reservations at a hotel that made it more convenient to get back and forth on the shuttle buses than the one I stayed at last time while also still leaving me walkable to lots of things to do in the evenings.

I had a great time at the conference. It was productive in that my panel went well as did the other program one of my committees was involved in planning. I’m not sure that I wound up going to anything that was super enlightening to me, but I left feeling good about my profession and my place in it so I’ll count it as a win.

The weather while I was there was pretty good. Friday night I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to play with me. My hotel was very close to Millennium Park where they were having a free Stravinksy concert, so I grabbed some take out and went over to listen to it. It was a lovely evening sitting outside in some beautiful weather listening to music.

Saturday night I got to meet up with an old friend who I used to work at Barnes & Noble with in Baltimore, but who moved to Chicago a number of years ago. It was great to catch up with her face to face rather than just over Facebook for a change.

I got to do the same on Sunday with another friend who just left Baltimore six short weeks ago for a job after finishing her masters at Hopkins. When she told me she was moving to Chicago, I told her I was going to be there for a conference and we should get together while I was in town because she wasn’t getting rid of me that easily. It hadn’t been that long since I’d seen her, but I got find out how she’s faring in her new life and then be sad all over again that this person I like very much is now so far away from me.

Sunday afternoon I also got to finally put a real face to a Twitter pal over lunch. She is also a big music fan like I am and we’re always making each other jealous of the concerts we’re at from across the country. Of course she lives in Colorado so always gets to pull out the Red Rocks card. One day, Red Rocks, one day. It was fun to meet up with her and chat in real life for a change.

I wasn’t really looking forward to this conference at all, but it wound up being a good time and I’m really glad I wound up going.

Thanksgiving 2016

For the past several years we’ve done Thanksgiving in New York with my husband’s family and Christmas in Arizona with my family. This my sister is going to her in-law’s in Boston for Christmas, so we decided to switch things up and go out there for Thanksgiving. The only way to make the trip affordable was to take vacation time on Monday and Tuesday and fly out the Saturday before and then come back the day after Thanksgiving.

My nieces are 8 (as of December 13) and 4 1/2, which are really fun ages. I spent a lot of time playing with them and thank god didn’t have to play Barbies one single time. The only time they were playing Barbies while I was there my youngest niece told me to go away and I gladly did.

On Tuesday while my husband and sister were working and my nieces were at school, I went on a hike in Catalina State Park with my parents. We did the Romero Pools trail, which was definitely one of the more difficult trails I’ve hiked between the rise in elevation and how rocky it was. We were kind of lame and turned back probably about .2 of  mile before we got to the pools. Once we reached the top of the ridge and realized we were going to start going down the other side of the mountain and thus were going to have to hike back up it again we decided to turn around. We had already hiked 5 miles, so I didn’t feel too bad about it. My husband, father, and I also did a quick 3 mile hike nearby where they live on Thanksgiving morning. It was a piece of cake compared to the other one we did.

Wednesday we took the kids to see Moana (or rather I really wanted to see Moana and suggested that we go). I enjoyed it and could definitely tell that Lin Manuel Miranda wrote the music for it, which was really the best part of the movie in my opinion.

We had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for which I was roped into making a pumpkin carrot cake. Since I’m more likely to make a cake than a pie, I decided to make straight up pumpkin pie my dessert and only tried a bite of the cake. It pretty much tasted like carrot cake for the most part, which is not a bad thing since it’s one of my favorite desserts. I’m not sure I’d bother with the pumpkin version of it again. There was lots of other delicious food and fun times with my family and friends.

It was a fun trip and it went by way too fast.