Celebrating Friends

This past weekend I had the opportunity to celebrate some dear friends in joyous events. They are both genuinely two of the kindest people I know. While I am someone with some degree of social anxiety, who is terrible at small talk and feels like I never know what to say to anyone I’m not close friends with and thus whose first instinct is to run in the other direction when faced with talking with someone I don’t know or don’t know that well, they both seek to make sure everyone feels comfortable and included. They are both generous and welcoming in spirit in a way that I envy and it showed in the people they had surrounding them this weekend.

Friday night I attended my friends Lindsey and Andrew’s wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony performed by one of our other friends who did a wonderful job. I’m pretty sure it was the best food I’ve ever had at a wedding. I’m still dreaming about the little cheesy toast appetizer things. It was also super fun to dance the night away. I adore wedding dancing. I don’t have much opportunity to dance in my life, and I always find dancing with a bunch of friends to the kinds of music that gets played at weddings to be super fun. I even got my husband to dance with me for like half a song when they invited everyone to join them on the floor during the first dance. That was the first time he’s danced with me since our wedding over a decade ago, and I think that was the first time we danced ever. So I guess I can get him to dance again in another 10 years. I was a little worried that with all the stuff wrong with my right foot right now I wasn’t going to be able to dance that much without being in super pain, but my foot didn’t really bother me much at all on Friday night, though I did regret it a little Saturday. I’m past the point in my life where I get invited to a lot of weddings, so it was really fun to get to do some wedding dancing for the first time in awhile.

Friday night was also my friend Emily’s 30th birthday, but as we were all at the wedding she had her birthday party on Saturday night. We ate some delicious bbq all the way from her home state of North Carolina. This was a lot more of me being awkward and not knowing what to say to all the people I didn’t know or don’t know all that well until the party thinned out at the end of the night, but I had a good time anyway and was very happy to celebrate the birth of a wonderful person and friend.

It’s always nice to have times where you can take a step back and think about how lucky you are to have the people you have in your life. This weekend was one of those times.

Be More Chill

This past weekend I went up to New York with a couple of my friends in what has unintentionally apparently become our annual March Broadway trip since this is our third year running. I went into the show fairly cold. I had a general idea of what the story was about, but I hadn’t heard any of the music yet. I knew the backstory behind its run in New Jersey several years ago followed by a cult online following of the album recorded for that production that then propelled the show to off-Broadway and now onto Broadway. It just opened on Broadway this week, so it’s been pretty easy to avoid unless I guess you’re a theatre obsessed teenager on Tumblr or wherever the teenage fandom hangs out online these days. Most people I know have never even heard of this show before.

In my mind the show is a cross between the tv show Chuck (guy gets computer implanted in his head that makes him cooler, but then it causes mental problems), the movie Can’t Buy Me Love (teenage dork does something to try and make himself popular, but winds up blowing off his good old friend in the process), and the movie Labyrinth (because the representation of the super computer in the boy’s head reminded me of David Bowie’s character in Labyrinth even though it was supposed to evoke Keanu Reeves’ character in The Matrix). In non-pop culture references the show is about a nerdy teenage boy who wants to be more popular and finds out about some super secret super computers “from Japan” the size of a pill called squips that you can drink and they will implant in your brain and tell you what you should do to “be more chill”. Then of course all the lessons about learning how to like and be liked for yourself that teenage stuff like this likes to teach you.

I waited to read the New York Times review of the show until we were driving home last night because I didn’t want their critic’s view of the show coloring mine. I’m glad I did because his basic assessment of the show was teenagers get off my lawn. I guess he felt like he just couldn’t completely outright pan the show because it already has such a large following and it broke the Lyceum Theatre’s box office record for weekly ticket sales. So instead he basically just said it’s a terrible show by theat-ah standards, but I guess it’s okay for you teenagers. No one over 21 should bother.

Well, I’m 40 and I thoroughly enjoyed the show as did the other three over 40 adults and yes two 13 year-olds I was with. The other adults sitting around me all seemed to really like it too. I heard multiple people around me during intermission talking about how much they were enjoying it. So sorry it wasn’t up to your exacting standards Mr. NYT Critic. Sometimes you just want to go to the theatre to have fun. Is it the best show I’ve ever seen? No, but was I thoroughly entertained for 2 and half hours? Yes, I was. Plus I’ve had the song “Michael in the Bathroom” stuck in my head since the show. Also that song leads to perhaps one of my favorite theatre callbacks ever which I won’t spoil here. That’s pretty much all I’m asking for in Broadway show, and Be More Chill delivers it.

I will agree with him on one thing though. The show is needlessly loud. They definitely can and should take the sound down a notch or two. There’s no need anyone needs to risk hearing damage at a Broadway show. Yes, the music is more rock based, but that doesn’t mean the show needs to be rock concert loud. Concerts themselves are out of control with the sound levels, but at least there they can make the excuse that they have to overpower the ambient noise of the crowd and the bar, which is not an issue in Broadway theaters.

Is this a show I’m going to recommend to my 70 year old mother? Probably not, but if you still have a soft spot for teenage related pop culture like I do then this show is well worth your time. And obviously if you have some teenage theatre lovers in your life then apparently this show was made for them.

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Philly Trip

My husband and I took an overnight trip to Philly a couple days ago. While I look for concerts I want to go to in the DC-Philly corridor, he looks for computer security conferences. In this case our desires aligned. He told me he planned to go up to Philly for a conference and it just so happened to coincide with the night Dawes was playing in Philly. I had seen them at Wolf Trap last summer, but had left wanting much more as I felt like their set got cut short because of Wolf Trap’s curfew and Shovels & Rope playing longer than I think they should have as one of the openers. So I was eager to see them again and when I realized that I could ride up with my husband and drag him to the show I put that plan into motion.

We drove up early Friday morning and I dropped him off at his conference and then went to see if I could check into our hotel super early. They didn’t have any rooms available so I just dropped off the car and my stuff and wandered around for awhile. It was cold and snowing the whole day, so it wasn’t the best weather to walk around in but the wind wasn’t blowing so it wasn’t completely terrible either. I wound up sitting in Barnes & Noble for awhile reading to kill time before my first plans for the day.

It eventually dawned on me after I made these plans that I was going to be in Philly on a Friday afternoon. I have mentioned here on more than one occasion my love for WXPN, the University of Pennsylvania radio station. It’s what I listen to at work all the time, and every Friday they do a Free at Noon concert. I have obviously never been able to go in person, but as soon as I put two and two together I put this concert on my schedule for the day. They only announce who’s playing about a week beforehand and then open up the site for claiming your free tickets to it. I would have gone no matter who was playing, but I was pleased that it wound being Amy Helm who I like. She’s the daughter of the drummer from The Band, Levon Helm. She sang a lot with him and did a lot of backup singing, but now has two albums of her own out. My favorite song off the new album is actually a cover a Milk Carton Kid’s song “Michigan”. I was hoping she would play it and it was by far the best song of the performance. The whole thing was great though. She went from playing the mandolin to the keyboards and then just singing sweet harmonies in an acapella hymn with one of her band mates.

It was great to actually be in the room for a change instead of just streaming it from my office. I felt weirdly overly surrounded by old, white guys though. I finally decided it was because that’s who has time to be at a concert in the middle of the day, a bunch of old retired white guys. Some day I’d like to be able to do it again, but that’s obviously not going to happen any time soon.

After grabbing some lunch I headed to the Mutter Museum. It had been on my list for a long time, but was just something I had never gotten around to doing any of the other times I’ve been in Philly. My husband was mad that I was going without him, but I told him afterwards that I’m glad I wasn’t with him. I read most of what’s on museum placards, but I’m also a fast reader and do skim some of the finer details. He will literally read every single word on every single item on a display case. I probably would have been done an hour before him if we were together. If you’re not familiar with the Mutter Museum, it’s located at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and is a collection of medical specimens, equipment, and models collected by Dr. Thomas Dent Mutter. It was an interesting collection and I’m glad I went, but I don’t feel the need to ever go again.

Friday night we obviously went to the Dawes concert, which is what I went to Philly for. Every so often Dawes likes to do tours where they do a bunch of An Evening with Dawes shows, meaning that there’s no opening act and you just get them playing for 2 and half to 3 hours. It was my first time at the Fillmore Philly. If I ever go again I might pay extra money to get premium seats in the balcony. It’s a 2, 500 standing room only venue aside from a few elevated seats in the back of the main level and the seats in the balcony. I pretty much can’t see much at SRO shows unless I’m all the way up front, which doesn’t happen often. I’ve generally found if I can get far enough the back if it’s not a completely sold out show then I can see over the crowd, but if this wasn’t sold out it was close to it so even though I did stand as far back as I could I couldn’t get enough distance between me and people in front of me. I wasn’t completely out of luck, but I could pretty much never see more than one band member at a time depending on how the crowd moved and how I was craning my neck. Dawes was great as usual. I was happy to get to hear them play or a good long time. I was hoping that they would play my favorite song off of their new album, Passwords, but I figured it was a long shot and sadly they didn’t. That was my only real disappointment with the night. It seems like they’ve decided on the three songs their going to play from that album, and “Mistakes We Should Have Made” isn’t one of them. I always hate when I fall hard for a song that’s deep into an album that I know a band is never going to play live unless somewhere down the line they do a show where they play all the way through an album. Overall it was a good night though and worth going up to Philly for.

Saturday morning we met up with my friend Erin and her family for brunch at a place in Logan Square called Urban Farmer. If you’re ever in Philly and looking for some place to eat near the Franklin Institute, The Barnes Foundation, or even the Philadelphia Museum of Art I would recommend this place. The brunch food was great, so I’ll go ahead and assume their other meals are as well. I had brioche French toast with hazelnut butter and cranberry compote and some of the best breakfast sausage I can remember eating any time recently. It was of course great to catch up with my friends too. I’m glad we get to see each other generally at least once a year and sometimes more since Philly isn’t that far away. Who knew when we met in 8th grade and only living in the same city for 2 years that we’d still be friends and hanging out when we were 40.

Our final stop before heading back to Baltimore was the The Barnes Foundation. We wound up getting some hotel deal that was a partnership with the Visit Philly tourist bureau whereby participating hotels offered guests free parking, 2 tickets to the Barnes, a Lyft credit, a coupon for $20 off at some restaurant and 2 free ice skating coupons. We were mostly in it for the free parking because parking in downtown Philly is super expensive and most places don’t give you in and out privileges with your car which makes the parking rates rack up even more if you go in and out of the garage. We actually wound up picking our hotel partly based on the fact that the hotel had valet parking that gave you in and out privileges since we knew we wanted to drive to the concert. The valet experience was kind of annoying since it wasn’t run by the hotel and I wound up dealing with trying to drop the car off and get it back out again right at morning and evening rush hour with people parking their for work. At any rate the deal save us $50 in parking. The bonus for us was the 2 free tickets to The Barnes. I had just gone back in August, so I wouldn’t have bothered to go again this soon but I figured we shouldn’t pass up the free tickets. It was actually interesting to go back because even in these few short months since I had been there they had rolled out a whole new digital experience that was very cool. The museum is laid out so that everything is hung as it was in Albert Barnes’ original home, so there are no labels on anything on the wall. There are paper booklets in each room that will give you the title and artist of everything, but they have now created a digital site you can use on your phone. You just pull up the site and then take photos of the art and it will pull up information about it on your phone. Sometimes it’s just the bare facts about the piece, but other times there is a lot more context about the artist, art, or it’s place in the collection. I did have to catch myself to make sure I was actually looking at the art too and not just staring at my screen, but for the most part I thought it was great and really added to the experience. As my husband said it has now ruined him for all other museums. He of course also wanted to be able to dig into the code and find out how everything worked.

It was an excellent couple of days in Philly, and I’m glad I turned my husband’s one day conference into a fun overnight trip for us.

 

 

Year of the Cookie

I’ve made no secret here about how the past couple of years have really worn on me psychologically. At the beginning of 2018 I felt like I really needed to do something to try and bring a little bit of joy into the world while also doing something to try and get me out of my funk. Also, around the same time I got an e-galley of the Sally’s Cookie Addiction cookbook. There were many delicious looking cookie recipes in it, but there is no way I was going to have any reason to try that many cookie recipes. That sparked my idea for Year of the Cookie. I thought I love to bake and people love eating my baked goods so why not send a little joy out into the world by making people cookies.

I put the word out on my social media accounts telling people that I had declared 2018 the Year of the Cookie and if they wanted to receive some cookies at some point during the year they should fill out the Google form I created, which in addition to name and address asked people what their allergies and dislikes were so I could hopefully make sure people got cookies they would like and be able to eat. I also found some take out containers that were cheap and would just fit inside the smallest USPS flat rate shipping box so that I could pay for all the shipping online for the ones that needed to be mailed.

I basically made cookies whenever I had a chance. Sometimes that meant several weekends in a row and other times there were long stretches in between batches due to travel and other life events. I tried to give everyone around a dozen cookies, but it mostly depended on how many fit inside the container I bought. Since most recipes make 2-3 dozen cookies multiple people got the same kind of cookie and I was able to give out multiple batches at a time. There wasn’t much rhyme or reason as to who got cookies in a given batch other than whether it didn’t have something they disliked or were allergic to in them, whether the cookies seemed like ones kids would like if the receivers had kids, and whether I just wanted to be able to drop cookies in the mail or whether I had time to drive around Baltimore dropping them off in people’s mailboxes.

My only other rule was that I wanted people to be surprised when they got them. Several people said oh I figured you would just bring me cookies at some point when we were already getting together, but I wanted people to receive a nice surprise one day when they opened up their mail (Year of the Cookie also taught me some of y’all don’t check your mail on the regular based on when I know they were delivered and when you let me know you got them.) or walked in their front door. Multiple people let me know that their cookies came at the perfect time when they were having a really crappy week, and I’m glad that serendipity worked out but am also just as happy for the people who just got a little bit of joy in their day. It made me feel good to see my cookies pop up on people’s social media and know I made someone’s day.

I also loved the people who told me how much they loved this project and were really happy following along with it even though they didn’t want any cookies of their own. That was something I hadn’t anticipated, and it’s nice to know that I brought even more joy into the world than I thought I would be when I started this project.

I do have a list of all the types of cookies I made during the year, but I unfortunately don’t know what the exact recipes were for all of them. I often just googled for a recipe and didn’t keep track of which specific one I used when it was a pretty generic cookie. The list of cookies is below. I linked to the recipes I know that I used. The ones with (SCA) beside them are recipes that came from the Sally’s Cookie Addiction cookbook, and most of those recipes are not online.

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies (SCA) – These were the first cookies I made for the Year of the Cookie, and I think it was one of my favorites.

Funfetti Chocolate Chip (SCA)

Homemade Berger Cookies – I thought the cookie part of these was decent, but the cookie is kind of beside the point with Berger cookies. The fudge topping tasted nothing like a Berger cookie. I’ve been wanting to try these again but swapping in my own attempt at the frosting.

Ginger Pistachio (SCA)

Rolled Sugar Cookies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip – These tasted good, but I thought they turned out a little flat.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chai Spiced Shortbread (SCA)

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cookies (SCA)

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Chocolate cookies with Chocolate and White Chocolate Chips

M&M Cookies

Lemon Ricotta Cookies 

Lemon Sugar Cookies

Funfetti Cookie Pizza (SCA)

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies – I’m not sure what recipe I used for these, but you wouldn’t want to use it anyway. They were blah enough that I wound up not even sending these cookies to anyone.

Koulourakia (Greek Easter Cookies) – I don’t know what recipe I used, but it was one without sesame seeds

Toffee Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies – These were probably my favorite cookies that I could make for any occasion.

Brownie Cookies

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie – This recipe says you can use a 10-inch or 12-inch skillet, but I made it in a 12-inch skillet and I wouldn’t make it in anything smaller.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – I hate oatmeal raisin cookies. Raisins are the devil’s fruit and these cookies are evil because they too often masquerade as chocolate chip until you’ve bitten into one. I swore when I started this project that I would not bake any cookies with raisins in them, but when my uncle, aunt, and parents visited me in May they were all going on about how delicious it oatmeal raisin cookies are and how it is really too bad I wouldn’t make any, so because I love my family I went against my own rules and sent the these cookies.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Soft Ginger Cookies – These cookies were probably my favorite overall cookie from the year, but they seem very season specific so they can’t be an all around go to cookie. They are super soft and almost melt in your mouth. This recipe is definitely a winner.

Eggnog Cookies – I don’t really like drinking egg nog because I don’t like the consistency, but I like the flavor of eggnog. These cookies are the perfect delivery system for that eggnog flavor.

It was a really fun project and I’m glad I did it, but to answer the question everyone has been asking as the year comes to a close, no I will not be doing it or something else in 2019. I will still be baking, but not on this scale. Also cookies are really the only realistic food I could do this with. Nothing else mails as well. It also was not a cheap project between the supplies for the actual baking and spending $7.20 on every batch that had to be sent via the mail, so I think I’ll be giving my wallet a little bit of a break in 2019 too. I’m super happy I made 2018 the Year of the Cookie. It did exactly what I wanted it to do and more.

Girls’ Weekend in Richmond

Three of my friends and I try to do a girls’ weekend away every fall. This year we chose to go to Richmond. Almost every single person who I told that I was going on a girls’ weekend in Richmond scoffed at me, including one of the people I went with when it was initially suggested. I had never been there before aside from driving through on I-95, but it was in a good driving distance for a long weekend and looking it up there seemed like there would be enough to keep us occupied for a weekend. So to everyone who looked askance at me I can tell you that you were wrong. We had a very fun time in Richmond.

We rented an AirBnB in a neighborhood called Church Hill. It’s pretty much a residential neighborhood, but it was very cute with lots of beautiful Victorian style homes. It was also very historical because when I went for a walk around the neighborhood I saw lots of historical plaques on houses. Even though it was mostly residential there were a number of delicious restaurants within walking distance of the house. We wound up eating most of meals nearby.

After we got in on Friday night we walked over to the Liberty Public House in time to take advantage of some happy hour specials and eat dinner. On our way back to the house we stopped by this little place called the Union Market, which was a little sundry shop/restaurant of some sort. We stocked up on some alcohol, cheese, crackers, and some amazing ice cream sandwiches from a local ice cream place called Nightingale ice cream. We tried 4 different flavors (key lime, orange creamsicle, cookie monster, and salted caramel). They were all amazing. I wish they had them here so I could try some of the other flavors. We wound up going back to the house and playing Uno because we were all exhausted. I swear I looked at my watch thinking it was time to go to bed and it was only 7:30.

I always like to try and get my exercise in, so I got up and went for a walk around the neighborhood before everyone else got up. I like walking around because it gives you better sense of things than just driving by. After we all got ready for the day we grabbed breakfast at a little bakery/coffee shop near the house called Sub Rosa. The baked goods were amazing. I ate a sour cherry and pistachio pastry that was crazy delicious.

After breakfast we headed to the Carytown neighborhood. There is a cute little main street there with tons of shops and restaurants. We spent several hours wandering around there popping into stores. We of course spent a long time browsing in the new and used bookstore. For some reason it was called Chop Suey. My best guess is maybe there was a restaurant in the same location by that name and they decided to go with it. At any rate they had a store cat whose name was WonTon, which I thought was super adorable. I managed to leave the kitchen store without buying anything, but I did get some spices at the Penzey’s.

We headed back to the house for a few hours in the afternoon where we snacked on our cheese and some fruit for a late lunch and played Phase 10. We went to dinner at a place in some other neighborhood, though I’m not sure which one, that several people had recommended called Lunch. or Supper! We wound up having to wait an hour for a table, but they had a nice beer garden to wait in so it wasn’t terrible. In addition to the recommendations we also chose the restaurant because it was just a block down from the Blue Bee Cider tap room, which we also wanted to go to. We got some cider and sat outside in their I guess cider garden and enjoyed the beautiful evening.

During our travels on Saturday I realized that there was a canal path about a half mile from our house, so I decided to check it out for my Sunday morning walk. It was a great walk along the water that took me through a lot of different areas. Where I started it was a path running under some train tracks with a lot of beautiful trees along the water. As I got closer to downtown it was kind of like walking through some various locks, which was kind of cool. Then it turned into an actual canal walk like cities sometimes try and build up with some restaurants though in this case not that many, and some place you could get on a sightseeing boat on the canal. At the point I turned around the path was in some park. So it was great little walk where I felt like I got to see a lot of different things. We grabbed brunch in our neighborhood at a place called the Roosevelt, which was delicious as well before heading back to Baltimore.

Everything about the weekend was helped by the beautiful weather. It was perfect for all the time we were able to spend outside walking around and enjoying food and libations al fresco. Aside from the traffic driving there and back (suck it DC beltway) we had a great trip and I would definitely recommend Richmond to anyone looking to get away for a long weekend.

Deep Creek Lake

Last weekend we spent a long weekend in Deep Creek Lake with some friends. They had stayed at the Lake Pointe Inn back in December and had a deal to return for 3 nights for the price of 2 and asked us to join them. It was an absolutely lovely weekend.

The Lake Pointe Inn is great and I highly recommend it as a place to stay if you’re looking for a romantic getaway or just a nice place to relax for a few days. I’m not generally a fan of American bed and breakfast places because it always seems like there’s something weird about the rooms or the bathrooms or the decor is way too froofy. And as an introvert I am not a fan of what too many times seems like forced breakfast at one big table with people you don’t know with no real choice as to what you’re being fed.

The Lake Pointe Inn was not like that at all. We stayed in the Buffalo Marsh room, which was quite spacious. It had a king bed, which I think all the rooms do, plus a nice sitting area. The bathroom was also quite large with a big jacuzzi tub, which it was way too hot to use, and a shower. I wish there were a few more surfaces to put stuff on in the bathroom though. They did have a thing with shelves above the toilet, but I kept being afraid I would knock all my stuff into the toilet because I’m talented like that.

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Terrible picture of our room, the Buffalo Marsh room, in the Lake Pointe Inn

The breakfast was delicious. Every meal started with a cup of fruit and a little skillet of baked oats. Based on what my friends said they had more baked goods in the winter at breakfast, but I suspect the common items awaiting everyone were geared towards the vegans we heard were staying there. They did go out of their way to make sure there were options for vegans, vegetarians, and gluten free people without them having to make special requests so good on them. There were 7 options for breakfast every morning. I ordered the avocado toast every morning because it was really good, and I was trying to avoid the heavy carb laden breakfasts given the amount of food I was eating the rest of the day.

There were also freshly baked cookies plus another little snack of some sort set out at 5pm every evening. There were also jars with pretzels and biscotti you could get at any time. They even made homemade marshmallows to roast over the fire pit and make s’mores. You had access to coffee, tea, and fridges full of water, La Croix, and soda too. They even sent us off with a little big of homemade snack mix for the drive home when we checked out. Basically you’re not going to go hungry there.

If you just want to lounge around there are plenty of places to do that at least during the warm weather months. There is a lovely front porch looking out over the lake with rocking chairs on it. They also have little decks built for 2 around the property with Adirondack chairs and lounge chairs on them. It’s great if you want to be off somewhere by yourself or with just your companion. I also spent an afternoon reading in a hammock on the edge of the water. As I mentioned there was a fire pit out back that we sat around every night and mingled with some of the other guests.

person lying in hammock by lake
Enjoying the afternoon reading in the hammock with a view of Deep Creek Lake
patio by lake
View of the back patio of the inn from our room. The roof line cuts out the fire pit.

The inn is set back in Marsh Cove, which is a no wake zone so it’s nice and quiet and great for swimming or paddling around without worrying about getting run over by a speed boat. They have canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards you can borrow for free. There’s also a jet ski on the property that you have to pay to use. Every evening from 6-7 pm they also have a boat ride out onto the lake. It was great to actually get out in a real boat and check out more of the lake than what we could just see from the inn.

Even though the inn was lovely we did actually leave it to do other things each day. Thursday night we grabbed dinner at Mountain State Brewery. They have some great pizzas and we were able to sit out on the patio and enjoy the sunset.

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Sunset view from Mountain State Brewery

Friday we started off the day hiking at Swallow Falls and Herrington Manor State Park. Swallow Falls was great. I liked the trails and all the water falls were beautiful. With it having rained so much in the last few months there was a lot of water flowing. I didn’t care that much for Herrington Manor State Park at least for hiking. Our friends decided to stay at the swimming beach there. I unfortunately for a lake vacation was unable to swim as I had an ingrown toenail removed a few weeks ago and there are still open wounds on my toe. I decided it was not a good idea to expose those to lake water. At least I was finally able to put on closed toed shoes for the first time on this trip or hiking would have been an issue as well. The trails at Herrington Manor were kind of muddy and covered in grass which made me paranoid about ticks, so we started out on several trails and then sort of just walked around the road for awhile.

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We grabbed lunch in downtown Oakland before heading back to the inn. Friday night we ate dinner at Moonshadow. They had a live band playing. We unfortunately wound up sitting at a table directly in front of their speakers, so it was way too loud. The band was okay, but I was definitely ready to leave when we decided to head out and get some ice cream at Lakeside Creamery.

Saturday we started off the morning on the lake using the canoes and kayaks. Unfortunately while we were out on the lake my husband got a call about a family emergency and he wound up having to leave the trip early. Luckily we had driven up in two cars so he was able to leave and I stayed and got a ride home with our friends on Sunday. We had a delicious lunch at Canoe on the Run and then my friends humored my love of mini-golf. I’m not sure why we decided the hottest part of the day was the best time to go mini-golfing, but we did. Perhaps it was all part of my evil master plan to win by taking them out with heat stroke. I love mini-golf but I am terrible at it. I can’t say I was good this time, but I did win. After mini-golf we decided it was necessary for scientific research purposes to try out the other ice cream location we spotted even if they only served Hershey’s ice cream and it wasn’t homemade. We finished off the day with dinner at Ace’s Run. The food was really good and we got to sit outside with a lovely view of the lake on a nice summer’s evening.

Sunday morning after checking out of the inn we went on one final hike in Deep Creek State Park before heading back to the heat in Baltimore. It was a relaxing, wonderful weekend with friends. I wish my husband had been able to stay for the whole thing, but other than that it was the perfect weekend. I definitely look forward to returning to the Lake Pointe Inn at some time in the future, and if you’re ever interested in going let me know and I can get you a deal with a referral code.

40th Birthday Celebrations

I turned 40 a few days ago. I’m not bothered by turning 40, but I know it’s one of those ages that’s supposed to be a big milestone birthday (although by the amount of 50 related birthday things compared to 40, I think 50 may be the new 40). Honestly the only birthday that ever really bothered me was 36 of all ages. I think because that felt firmly middle aged and sent me into a new demographic category that did not include any 20s.

Anyway, I used turning 40 to have some fun celebrations. I know a lot of people do big trips or something like that for their 40th, but I wanted to do something that let me celebrate with all my friends. I knew that if a good number of my friends were going to come I had to make it a kid friendly event, so I decided on renting a pavilion at a park and having it catered.

Really I had been literally thinking for years about having blacksauce kitchen cater a 40th birthday party. Alas that dream was not to be fulfilled as they suffered a fire a few months ago and told me they currently didn’t have the capacity in their temporary space to cater a party that size. As my second choice I went with Blue Pit BBQ, which lets be honest is still a great option. I rounded it out with fruit and veggie trays from Eddie’s. I also got my cake from Eddie’s because I’m not going to lie as much as I love more sophisticated cakes I will forever and always associate birthday cake with sheet cake. Give me that overly sweet frosting with tons of it piled on in roses and other decorations. I mean not all sheet cake is good. Some of it’s pretty terrible, overly dry or made with that oil slick whipped frosting which should be outlawed. Eddie’s however makes an A+ sheet cake and it was exactly what I wanted for my birthday cake. And because my friend Alison is the best she surprised me with tons and tons (I have no idea how many, but there were a lot) of biscuits from Mason Dixon Biscuit Company to make up for my inability to have my blacksauce biscuits for my birthday.

I wound up renting a pavilion in Wilson Point Park in Middle River. I had never been there before or even heard of it as I have spent little to no time in Middle River in all my years in Maryland. I was just searching around online trying to find a park that had a pavilion big enough. A lot of them topped out at 40-50 people. Ultimately one of those would have been fine, but since I was inviting around 80 people I wanted to get something big enough in case most people showed. I found the website for Wilson Point Park that said they had a pavilion big enough, but I wasn’t sure since I didn’t know anything about the park. God bless the person who posted this video on YouTube because it’s pretty much what sold me on it. I did a quick drive by in February to make sure it did look okay in person, which it did. After going out there and realizing its location near I-695 and I-95 I also thought it would be a nice sort of central location for my friends who would be coming from all over the Baltimore area. It also had a nice big parking lot so there were no worries about parking. And there was also a nice big playground near the pavilion for the kids to play on. There was also plenty of lawn space to set up various lawn games as well.

I couldn’t have asked for nicer weather. After months and months of seemingly endless rain here in Baltimore the weather on Saturday was gorgeous. There was a nice breeze and the shade of the pavilion made it the perfect temperature.

It was so nice to have so many of my friends gathered in one place. It made me feel very special to have so many people come out to help me celebrate, and made me realize how blessed I am to have so many wonderful people in my life. The day went by way too fast and I definitely didn’t get to spend as much time with everyone as I would have liked. I feel like there were some people I didn’t really get to talk to at all, but I hope they had a great time and know that I appreciate them being there. It was the perfect day and just what I wanted.

The party on Saturday was my big celebration, but I of course had to celebrate on my actual birthday. I took the day off work because I try to never work on my birthday if I don’t have to. I started the day off with a massage. Then I took myself to the movies to see Hearts Beat Loud. It was a sweet little movie starring Nick Offerman as a single dad whose daughter is about to leave for college. They manage to write a song that gets some traction on Spotify causing him to try and use that as an excuse to keep her at home while she’s still trying to spread her wings. There was lots of great stuff for the music lover in me along with a wonderful story about family and support and letting go.

My final birthday fun was making my husband take me out to a fancy dinner at The Charleston. It’s been Baltimore’s most renowned fancy restaurant since I can remember helmed by multiple James Beard Award nominee Cindy Wolf. The menu is presented as a tasting menu with around 20 dishes on it and you decided how many courses you would like from 3-6. It’s not like a prix fixe menu where you get one appetizer, one main, and one dessert or something like that. With this you could order 6 meats if you wanted. Their dessert is also included in the meal and not counted as one of your courses. Even so it is definitely pricy and something I always had a hard time justifying to myself. In addition, the menu is definitely meat heavy so it felt doubly hard to justify going with my vegetarian husband. He even whined about it when I told him we were going. But as with all fancy restaurants where they are actually prepping the meals from scratch and not reheating something they ordered from U.S. Foodservice or somesuch, they were able to make him something not on the menu. He ultimately wound up having a better experience than I did. I had notified them during the reservation, and they addressed it as soon as we got there and walked him through the veggie friendly options already on the menu and then pointed out some of the things that could be easily converted to vegetarian. And then said they could put something else together with any other ingredients on the menu. He wound up getting essentially one dish from each category.

Ultimately I think he enjoyed his dinner more than I did mine. Either it didn’t say on the menu or I missed it but I didn’t expect the seafood in my second course to be curried. If I had known I would have ordered something else so that was disappointing, but completely my fault. Even though I don’t love that curry flavor the dish was still good and probably would have been great to someone who loves curry. The bronzino I ordered as my third course was delicious until I got the very center and it was not as done as I would have liked. There wasn’t enough left to bother saying anything about it. I have no doubt that if I had they very quickly would have brought me another piece of fish or replaced it with something else of my choosing as the service was very attentive and they even removed the beer my husband spilled from our bill. I am kind of still dreaming of the blue cheese that was in the salad I ordered as my first course though. My husband left extremely pleased with everything he ate. We’ll probably make it back for another special occasion at some point.

So far 40 has been a great year. Hopefully it keeps up.