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A Story About a Cheeseburger

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There wasn’t much time for being a tourist this past weekend, which isn’t a bad thing because I’ve been to L.A. a handful of times and the only thing I can really say was ever worthwhile on the tourism front was a day spent at the Getty. So I wasn’t bummed.

But spending your entire business trip locked in a room with no windows in the middle of the L.A. convention center leaves much to be desired. So, I did what any normal pregnant woman would do when work got out early (err, 5 p.m.) on Sunday. I high-tailed it to the closest In-N-Out. Duh.

Considering the other times I’ve been to L.A. I was either a kid or a vegetarian, I really can’t be blamed for never having an In-N-Out experience before, right? Good.

So, there I was, handing $25 over to the cabby, hopping out onto the curb of Sunset Boulevard, and waltzing right into the madness that is In-N-Out at dinnertime on a Sunday night. 

And here’s the verdict.

While I love a greasy Five Guys cheeseburger, In-N-Out kind of won me on their spread. What IS that? Amazingness in some sort of unhealthy, fatty sauce, that’s for sure. So, if I ruled the world, we’d have ourselves a Five Guys cheeseburger with that spread slapped right there on the bottom bun. And then we’d dance in circles with flowers in our hair and declare world peace.

But, in all seriousness, the highlight of the $25 cab ride to Hollywood for the cheeseburger of the decade actually goes to the chocolate milkshake. The cheeseburger’s going to have to take the silver medal here. 

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Life Moves Pretty Fast…

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…. so check your leftovers….

Between the 9 to 5 and the errands and the Christmas shopping and the sleep and the workouts and the extra jobs and the life we’re trying to live, sometimes things just sort of, well, fall to the wayside. Like grocery shopping.

Thank God for Thanksgiving leftovers. May they carry us through this week with ease, satisfying our empty stomachs with reheated wonders. Or… not.

You see… my husband ate the gravy. He thought it was the butternut squash soup. And he joyfully ate that glass of turkey fat and flour while catching up on The Walking Dead the other night.

And this is how I know life moves pretty fast, friends.

It’s surely moving fast when you don’t even have time to scan the fridge to make sure what you’re holding is the butternut squash soup and not the gravy. And it must be moving at supersonic speeds if you’re too busy multitasking to realize that, why no, this does not taste like butternut squash

The moral of the story? Check your leftovers before you reheat them. Mystery leftovers aren’t always what you think they are….

& know that a quick game of Falldown on your new iphone will cure even the worst stomach ache once said gravy begins to digest….

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(he’s obsessed, I swear)

Maryland’s Secret City Gem

So today I’m delighted to introduce Sando, my Frederick, MD counterpart. We must’ve been separated at birth, the whole teacher marrying a teacher and living in Maryland thing. The blonde hair, too…

Anyway, my mom and I used to take day trips to Frederick to go antiquing and boutiquing (is that a word?). Two of my all time favorite items of purchase in my ENTIRE life come from Frederick. One is a white lace shift dress from the Velvet Lounge (don’t worry, Sando will clue you in) and the other is a vintage white lace duvet cover I used on my bed throughout college that came from the Antique Emporium (again, she’ll clue you in). A vintage white lace duvet during undergrad? Yes. I was very responsible…

I digress. You must check out Sando’s blog, The Daily Deelight. Be sure to do it with a full stomach because it’s sort of like visiting the grocery store. You’ll want to make EV-ER-Y-THING on her blog. Yummm. But, for now, she’s here to tell you a little about Frederick. And take it from me, it’s worth a trip!

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Hi there! My name is Sando and I write over at The Daily Deelight. Tina has very graciously asked me to do a guest post on her lovely blog. I was much obliged. Tina and I have a lot in common actually. Although we’ve never met in person, I feel a special connection to her because she and her husband are both teachers also! AND they both live in MD, also. Things I’m sure you’re well aware of, but now you know that we share those same attributes. While Tina and her hubby are off enjoying their vacay this week, I’m gonna stick with the travel spirit and take on you a virtual vacation in my hometown [[and current residence]] of Frederick, MD. I am a born and raised Fredericktonian who dragged my husband back [from North Carolina] here to settle down. Or did he drag me? Eh, details details. Any who, ever since moving back I feel like I’ve fallen in love with my hometown all over again. When you’re a child growing up you know no different. You think every small town/city has what yours does. Not the case my friend. After living abroad and going to college 3 states away, I very quickly learned that there is something very special and unique about my hometown.

Frederick is a very historical place. I grew up in a house that was built in the 1850’s…dirt basement and all! So it has that certain element that makes it feel ___________. I don’t really know what to call it, other than the “it” factor. Over the years Frederick has become a bustling little city [[2ndlargest in MD]] that attracts weekenders from Baltimore and DC in need of a little ____________. Whether it’s a quiet lunch at one of our many [many, many] amazing restaurants, a stroll around one of our gorgeous parks, a hike through a rustic trail, a first class shopping experience at one of our specialty boutiques or antiques shops, or a chance to dive into the past and walk amongst historical landmarks. Whatever it is, Frederick has risen to the occasion. Just in the past 5-7 years I feel like Frederick has taken an extra interest in revitalizing and revamping. It’s very easy for towns like Frederick to slip into the ‘sleepy-old-town’ category. But trust me when I say, there’s nothing sleepy about this place. There is always something going on and always restoration projects popping up everywhere. Whether it is a free concert in the park, a gallery opening, pub-crawl, walking-tour, flash-mob, or street festival. Frederick is a great place to visit and an even better place to live!

So if you’re in the area, come for a visit. Even if it’s just for a day! In fact, I’ll make it easy for you… I’ll plan an ideal Frederick day for you.

Come on a Saturday. Let’s say around 10am. Dress comfortably casual, because we’re gonna be doing a lot of walking. For your first stop come to our ever-growing West Frederick Farmer’s Market. Very easy to access thanks to it’s close proximity to the highway. This place will be hopping! But to put your parking anxieties at ease, drive into the parking lot as far back as you can. Newbies to this market don’t realize all the available parking that stays hidden near the vendors. Consider this a tip…from me to you. After grabbing some gorgeous produce arrive in downtown Frederick and make your 1st stop @ Beans and Bagels on East Patrick Street. Enjoy one of their fresh bagel sandwiches. My current obsession is a toasted salt bagel with egg salad, bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Grab a cup of joe too, because you have a fun day ahead of you!! Then while on Patrick Street, make your way down towards Market [heading west] and pop into the shops along the way. Some of my usual stops include Fabulous Finds, Home Essentials, Venus on the Half Shell, and the Antique Emporium. Before you hit Market Street, on the left you’ll find Café NOLA. It’s gotta be lunch time by now, right? Thought so. Stop into NOLA and get ready for a treat. This café is known for it’s urban-suburban feel and offers up fresh-farm raised super-duper local food that will knock your socks off. Their fried green tomato sandwich with sweet potato French fries is a personal favorite and friend of mine. I think you should get to know her too.   Ok, after lunch you’re going to head up Market Street and hit up some more fantastic boutiques! Traveling up and down Market you will find some one-of-a-kind shops that I just adore; Velvet Lounge, Sky’s The Limit, Metro Retro, The Muse, Pitcrew, and Simply Beautiful. Also a few must stops while on Market include Lebherz Olive Oil and Vinegar Emporium and En Masse. The olive oil shop is like none other. I actually grew up with the owner. She has created such an amazing niche for herself. You can sample and buy freshly bottled [in front of your face] specialty olive oils and vinegars. Beyond delicious and so fun to experience! En Masse is a gorgeous flower shop. The scents alone are worth stopping in for. Grab yourself a bouquet or just a single flower. The sweet owners/employees will happy to answer any of your gardening/ foliage questions and package up a hand picked bouquet complete with it’s own plastic-bag water vase. Lovely! On your way back down the street, stop into Zoe’s Chocolate shop for a treat! They are incredible! Their dark chocolate salted caramels are to-die-for!   Ok now you’re going to head toward East Street. Walk up either East 2nd or East Church Street and check out the gorgeous historical homes and churches [I grew up on 2nd]. When you get to East street you’ve arrived in an area called Shab Row. There are tons of little places to grab a bite around here and great shops, especially the custom makeup shop; Smooch Studio. Here you will be greeted by lovely ladies who will customize everything from foundation, to eye shadow, to lip-gloss for you. Pretty awesome, huh? After grabbing your makeup goodies, head south East Street back towards Patrick Street. Take a right and head toward Market. Then make a left on Chapel Alley after the Post Office and head towards the creek. I’m taking you to the Delaplaine Center. Here you’ll find local artist’s latest collections. After browsing the beautiful works of art, head out of the Delaplaine and down the creek area towards Market again. Here you’ll notice more beautiful artwork and gorgeous bridges that have been created just in the past 10 years or so.

For dinner I’m taking you to Acacia; which is located on Market Street between Church and 2nd. As a former employee and frequent patron, I can honestly tell you from behind the scenes and in front of the dinner plate that this place is the best! The food is just outstanding. Once again, this restaurant offers up local-farm raised food. Nothing ever comes in frozen and the menu changes daily. Treat yourself to a micro-brew when you’re here by Brewer’s Alley. Brewer’s actually owns Acacia and Isabella’s[a Spanish Tapas style restaurant, also on Market Street]. If it’s a nice evening, sit out on Acacia’s back patio and enjoy the herb garden, which is personally taken care of by the owner’s mother. Little touches like these, make this place quite special.

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In the mood for an after dinner drink? Head to The Tasting Room; on the corner of Market Street and Church; for a chocolatey martini and the best people watching spot in town. End your evening with a stroll around Baker Park. With the Bell Tower lit-up, and the fountains glowing, Baker Park provides the perfect backdrop and end to a fabulous Frederick day.

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Whether you come alone, with girlfriends, or your beau you’ll have a day to remember.

And hopefully a taste of many more visits to come.

The Carnivorous Beast in Me

It all started on November 21st, 2011 with this:

No, not the goofy guy cheesing for a picture. This:

I present the Rosa Blanca Burger. Ground Filet Mignon served with your choice of cheese, bacon, sauteed mushrooms & leeks, tomato, red onions (not pictured because my husband dispises them) and avocado. Seriously, my mouth watered. Alex offered me a bite but I refused under concerns for getting sick on my honeymoon. Two days later, I ate sushi at the brand new Sushi Amor de La Fortuna in the middle of the rainforest like an idiot, woke up with food poisoning all night and negated my argument for skipping Alex’s steak burger offer altogether. Alex was a perfect 1 month old husband and went down to the concierge at 6am and told them that he was having bathroom troubles, thus the need for Imodium. But, that story is for another time.

I’m a vegetarian because cutting meat out of my diet cut out bi-monthly migraines. Now, occasionally I run into a person who thinks they have migraines. A migraine, by the dictionary of Tina, is a headache that leaves you debiliated, nauseous, screaming in agony, shoving needles through your swollen, bumpy brow ridge, all while cursing at whoever invented light and heat. Then, just when you think it can’t get any worse, you vomit, releasing the pressure for a mere second, before getting even worse than before. Again, I digress.

I could care less about the slaughtering of cows and pigs. I wouldn’t do it myself, but I’m okay with that. It’s not for health purposes, either. Luckily, maintaining my weight has never been that big of a problem for me, regardless of what I put in my body. No, I just learned that cutting meat out of my diet also cut migraines out of my adolescent life.

It’s been twelve happy, meatless years since that day. I always knew I’d go back to the “dark side” eventually. With my luck, I’m going to be Phoebe Buffay, craving steak during my pregnancies. Plus, I won’t be raising my children vegetarian. I don’t want to be the mommy who sends her kid to day care with a “special snack” because I’m overbearing in dietary demands for my toddler.

Enter the honeymoon steak burger. Mmmmm. Mouth watering, juicy, quality, organic meat. After months of concerns that I wouldn’t be able to physically put meat in my mouth, chomp down onto a texture I haven’t experienced in over a decade, I did it. With an angel sitting on my shoulder reminding me that I have Type O blood, which thrives on red meat and intense exercise, (thanks to my lovely neighbor, Brie), I gave into my burning cravings. On Mother’s Day, down at my mom’s house, she grilled me up a wee baby burger, topped with cheddar cheese, carmalized onions, lettuce and some ketchup.

Completely ignoring the 45 minute time period where I wasn’t entirely sure it was going to stay down, I have only one thing to say:

It was everything I had imagined it to be. And then some.

Me, on that fateful November day, trying to convince myself that crab gazpacho could hold a candle to Alex’s steak burger. We’re just going to have to go back to Costa Rica, now.

*Filed Under Personal Life and Home Life*

Keeping it a Surprise…

Our dining table, like the overwheming majority of our furniture, is a multigenerational pass down from my mother’s side of the family. I’ve seen it used as a business center, piles of documents, bills and newspapers overflowing onto the chairs. I’ve celebrated nearly every one of my birthdays, as well as those of my parents and siblings, around this table. The bottom left corner is worn with years of homework, hand-written assignments and test preparation. After graduating from JMU, in a hazy moment of post graduate thrills, Alex and I painted the table black. Less than two years later, Alex was on his hands and knees stripping the table back to the wood. This is the state it is in today. It is a good table, filled with many memories, making it the appropriate location for my mom’s surprise going away party.

We didn’t have much time, considering we only found out weeks ago that she was leaving. Combine that with our ridiculous schedules, and you’ve got yourself one, just one, day we could throw her a surprise party. It wasn’t easy- my mom is strong willed and hates being out of control. Thanks to some scheming, as well as a lot of help from our stepdad who played a big hand in making this a success, we pulled it off! Our original plan was thrown to the side, as were plans b, c and d. In the end, it was a great success. The kind warmed by bursts of giggles, a plentiful table filled with soul saving food, and a fountain of great wine. In an effort to document the night for my mom, I took a few shots throughout the night. Enjoy!

Getting everything ready:

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The second pie I’ve ever made (quickly made in the few tiny hours between leaving work Friday afternoon and the guests arriving Friday evening, so please, be nice on your critique):

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The wonderful friends and family who helped keep it a surprise and who helped make it all possible:

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And, of course, my lovely mother with her awesome children:

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(L-R: My little brother, Stephen, my little sister, Sara, my mom, and me!)

We’ll miss ya, mom, but we can’t wait to visit you in Michigan. Thanks for the help, Jim ;)

*Filed under Personal Life & Social Life*

Tsunami's Sriracha mac-n-cheese. Ahhh. So here it is, 1:00 a.m. on a Saturday night.  We've left our friends' house where we've spent an entire evening pretending to play Apples to Apples.  Really, we spent the evening catching up and drinking a ton of wine. Then, Alex says “Let's go to Tsunami”.  I'm such a push over.
We’re closer to breakfast time than dinner.  I feel ashamed.  But we did it.  For a meer $5 you, too, can have a huge bowl of sriracha mac-n-cheese at 1 a.m.  (please excuse the mess… Alex was enjoying his mac-n-cheese like a 1 year old enjoys his birthday cake).  And try not to think too hard about how easy and inexpensive it would be to just dab some sriracha on your homemade mac-n-cheese and have the same experience for less than $1 at home…. no, that ruins all of the fun.

Tsunami's Sriracha mac-n-cheese. Ahhh. So here it is, 1:00 a.m. on a Saturday night.  We've left our friends' house where we've spent an entire evening pretending to play Apples to Apples.  Really, we spent the evening catching up and drinking a ton of wine. Then, Alex says “Let's go to Tsunami”.  I'm such a push over.

We’re closer to breakfast time than dinner.  I feel ashamed.  But we did it.  For a meer $5 you, too, can have a huge bowl of sriracha mac-n-cheese at 1 a.m.  (please excuse the mess… Alex was enjoying his mac-n-cheese like a 1 year old enjoys his birthday cake).  And try not to think too hard about how easy and inexpensive it would be to just dab some sriracha on your homemade mac-n-cheese and have the same experience for less than $1 at home…. no, that ruins all of the fun.