Thursday, September 30, 2010

Put your Blog Where your Mouth is...

So this blogging thing is pretty interesting.  I'm not really sure what I envisioned when I started lobbing my seemingly benign observations out there for public consumption, but so far I've been called a candy ass (kind of embracing that one) and now unwittingly injected myself into a local political skirmish.  It's not all flowery prose and "attagirls" out here in the blogosphere, is it? :)

In my enthusiasm to promote the General Election Candidates Forum to be held in Cape St. Claire this Saturday, I waxed poetic about the importance of taking advantage of these opportunities to get up close and personal with our local candidates (See Sept. 27 post - Democracy in Action 10/2 in the Cape) - something about "the survival of our democracy", blah, blah, blah.  I echoed the guest list and format for the Forum which was posted on the CSC Public mailing list and then proceeded to comment on the importance of the event and my thoughts on the state of our political system in general.  I meant every word of it and have now been held to account - put my blog where my mouth is - by a fellow Annapolis area blogger who follows these things more avidly than do I.

Paul Foer who writes the Annapolis Capital Punishment blog quotes me pretty heavily in his article posted this morning entitled, "Again Broadneck and Cape St. Claire Cut Out Own Arnold Resident from Candidate's Debate".  I guess my words lent a voice to his indignation at the "exclusion" of some third party candidates from the Forum this weekend.  I was unaware that candidates had been turned away.  Apparently his requests for a response from the organizers did not receive a reply, nor did mine.

I don't know that I share his indignation without knowing the other side of the story, but he challenged me to "weigh in" on this, so for what it's worth, it does seem to me that us constituents would benefit from hearing from a wide spectrum of candidates.  Why not?  We hear a lot about the dissatisfaction with our two major political parties in this country.  Is this the time to weed out additional voices, however big a long shot they may be?  OK, frankly, there are some that I'd just as soon tune out, and I also know there are significant challenges to hosting such an event, and maybe criteria had to be established to simply handle the logistics.  Perhaps the organizers will clarify this now that the question has been raised publicly by Mr. Foer.

I still believe the Forum is an invaluable tool for us voters, and I stand by my endorsement of it.  I applaud the organizers for putting the event together and would love to learn more about the planning process and criteria for participation.  It may be as simple as, "It's our Forum, and we'll invite who we want to."  Or perhaps to draw the front runners, they had to make concessions and had to agree to leave out the small guys.  This is the kind of thing that is good to know as we try to make informed decisions.  Ultimately, I feel sure they want to serve their communities by providing this venue and would be interested in our feedback.

So what do you Capers and Broadneck Peninsula constituents think? Would you be interested to hear from more than the two major party candidates?  Does having third party candidates participating in the Forum stand in the way of expediency and just muddy the waters unnecessarily?  Or does their participation raise issues to which the front runners are then forced to respond, giving us even better insight into their positions and ideas?  Does the Forum still have value even without the third party candidates?  What would you like to see?

OK, need to get back to clearing the #*$&#%* acorns from my driveway drain to keep my garage from flooding again.

(Note to self, stick to posts about puppies, sunrises and sunsets from now on...)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Red Skies at Night...

Did everyone get a load of that sunset last night?  Wow!  Spectacular.  We sure needed the rain, and the remnants of the exiting weather system provided us with a technicolor sky.  I almost wrecked my car trying to soak it in when I was picking up Henry from soccer.  I rushed home to get a picture before it ended, but my point and shoot didn't do it justice.  Actually, my Motorola Droid did a better job.

Sunset over Deep Creek 9/28

BIG rain and wind are on the way tomorrow in the form of Tropical Depression 16, so make sure your drains are clear and loose items are stowed.  Maybe we'll get another lovely sunset once the storm has passed (Tropical Depression 16 sounds like some kind of jungle mental illness diagnosis...).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Democracy in Action 10/2 in the Cape

This weekend, Capers and our Broadneck Peninsula neighbors will have a rare and valuable opportunity to meet face to face with many of the major candidates for key office in the upcoming general election.  The Cape St. Claire Improvement Association, in cooperation with the Broadneck Council of Communities and the Arnold Preservation council, has organized a General Election Candidates Forum for this Saturday, October 2nd at 7 PM at the Cape St. Claire clubhouse.  Here is the notice that was posted on the CSC Public mailing group:
The Cape St. Claire Improvement Association, in cooperation with the
Broadneck Council of Communities and the Arnold Preservation Council, invite you to attend the General Election Candidates Forum to be held at the Cape St. Claire Clubhouse on Saturday, October 2, 2010. Doors will open at 6:45 PM and the forum will begin at 7:00 PM. The Clubhouse is located at 1223 River Bay Road, Annapolis, MD 21409. The Broadneck Council is an umbrella group representing the communities of Amberley, Pendennis Mount, Atlantis, and Homewood Landing and the Arnold Preservation Council, represents the growth and environmental concerns of communities at the western end of the Broadneck.

Confirmed attendees include: 
  • US Representative Frank Kratovil - MD Congressional District 1 Candidate - incumbent
  • Dr. Andy Harris - MD Congressional District 1 Candidate - challenger
  • Dr. Ron Elfenbein - District 30 State Senate candidate
  • State Senator John Astle - District 30 State Senate incumbent has sent his
    regrets.  He is chairing a fund raising dinner for a health-related charity that evening.
  • The Honorable Michael E. Busch  - District 30 State House of Delegates - incumbent
  • The Honorable Virginia P. Clagett - District 30 State House of Delegates - incumbent
  • The Honorable Ron George - District 30 State House of Delegates -  incumbent
  • Mr. Judd Legum - District 30 State House of Delegates candidate
  • Mr. Seth Howard - District 30 State House of Delegates candidate
  • Mr. Herb McMillan - District 30 State House of Delegates candidate
  • The Honorable John R. Leopold - Anne Arundel County Executive
  • Ms. Joanna L. Conti - Anne Arundel County Executive - candidate
  • Mr. Paul Rudolph - District 5 Anne Arundel County Council -candidate
  • Mr. Dick Ladd - District 5 Anne Arundel County Council -  candidate
The format will be to group candidates by office... County Executive,
House of Delegates, Senate, etc.  Each candidate will have five
minutes to make their presentation highlighting either past
accomplishments or their priorities for the coming term.  After the
presentations, there will be a question and answer session.  Questions
will be written and screened by the moderator.  There will be a time
limit on the Q and A session.  If a question is asked and it is directed
to both candidates, both will be given a chance to respond.  There
will be no rebuttal statements.
This event has been well attended in the past, and for good reason.  You will not find a better opportunity to learn about these candidates and size them up firsthand.  Whatever your political views, these candidates have all stepped forward to serve their counties, state and country and work for the people that they represent.  There are few things we as citizens can do more patriotic than to take the opportunity to hear what these men and women have to say and ask them questions about the issues we care most about.

If you are free this Saturday evening, come by the Clubhouse and show these candidates that Capers care about the decisions they make for us.  We owe them our time, attention and respect, but mostly, we owe ourselves the effort to participate in the democratic process.  I can assure you that you are not going to learn anything useful about the candidates or the issues from their lame and misleading TV ads.  You need to take advantage of this "face time" to get a true sense of what they're all about.

I have to say, I fear a bit for our system of government these days - that it has evolved in such a way that makes it incapable of addressing the problems that face our country in any meaningful way.  My gut response is often to turn away from it altogether - tune out the counterproductive dysfunction and anger - but I know that isn't the correct reaction.   We need to set aside our cynicism and anger and find constructive and mature ways to participate in the discussion.  And we then need to form our own thoughtful opinions based on facts and firsthand knowledge as opposed to basing them on the ratings-driven, sensationalist, and divisive coverage from the cable news outlets and their blowhard performers.  I think meetings like the General Election Candidates Forum are a great way to start and critical to the survival of our democracy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Signs of Fall in the Cape are either dropping on your head or blinding you on the road as the days start to turn brisk.  It's a hazardous time of year.  I'm thinking someone should be handing out hardhats to protect us from this hailstorm of acorns.  I haven't been hit yet, but there have been some close calls, and it's only a matter of time.  As I'm sitting here writing, I can hear them thudding on my roof and driveway.  Anyone suffering from PTSD would have gone off the deep end by now.

Fall begins this year on September 22nd - today.  Specifically, we pass from summer to fall at 11:09 PM tonight when the plane of the Earth's orbit around the sun (the ecliptic) intersects the plane of the Earth's equator for the second time in its yearly loop.  We call these two yearly intersections the vernal (spring) and autumnal (fall) equinoxes (equinox meaning literally "equal night" or equal daytime and nighttime).  The starts of summer and winter are marked by solstices (from Latin sol - "sun", stices - "stands" - or when the sun appears to stand still in the sky after it's reached its furthest point north or south).

Celestial Diagram of the Seasons

So back to being blinded on the road in the Cape in fall... We're coming up on the worst days of Blue Ridge Blindness that hit twice a year in fall and late winter.  As the location of the sunrise shifts south to north and back again during the year, there are points where the sun, low in the sky just after sunrise, lines up perfectly with Blue Ridge Dr. and makes it impossible to see driving eastbound as you approach and pass Cape Elementary.  This also happens with the sunset driving westbound a couple of months before and after the worst of the sunrise times, but it doesn't seem as severe as the mornings.

I commented once to a friend that Blue Ridge Drive is like the Stonehenge of Cape St. Claire.  As most of you know, Stonehenge was laid out thousands of years ago in what is now England in such a way that the sun rose through a certain stone window on the first days of summer and winter (the solstices).  It was a ceremonial location for the ancients, and their lives and beliefs were integrally tied to the changes in seasons.

Sunrise at Stonehenge

In the Cape, Blue Ridge Dr. (the part that runs by Cape Elementary) is my celestial harbinger of seasonal change - in this case, the equinoxes.  There are other roads in the interior of the Cape that run true East and West and line up with the sunrise and sunset on the actual equinoxes, but these are almost all tree-lined and protected from the blinding morning and evening glare, and they are also less traveled.  Blue Ridge, a main Cape artery which runs slightly askew of true East-West, is wide open as you pass by Cape Elementary, and on the dates when the sunrise aligns with it, you are driving on pure blind faith for a good couple of hundred yards.

I found this really cool utility online called The Photographer's Ephemeris that was designed to aid photographers in establishing lighting conditions for photo shoots.  For those of you who work for NASA, you will recognize the word "ephemeris" which is a table of coordinates over time for a given celestial body or satellite.  The program shows the time and position of sunrises and sunsets superimposed on a map for a given location and date.  

I downloaded the free utility (also available as an App for iPhone and Droid) from  It's really easy to use and was just what I was looking for to help me illustrate the seasonal phenomenon of Blue Ridge Blindness.  Below are snapshots of the sunrise (yellow) and sunset (orange) lines for four different dates superimposed on a map of Cape St. Claire zoomed in to Blue Ridge Dr. (Blue Ridge is labelled just below and right of the red pin)  The shots also show moonrise and moonset (don't think it's possible to turn those off - just disregard the blue lines).  

The first picture date is for today, September 22, 2010, the first day of Fall.  You can see how the sunrise and sunset lines lie almost directly due East/West (the moonrise and moonset lines coincidentally fall almost directly on top of them so they don't look exactly yellow and orange).  The second and third snapshots are each a week further in the future showing the progression of the sunrise and sunset lines.   You'll notice the sunrise line getting closer in alignment with the Blue Ridge section that runs past the elementary school.  The fourth picture is for October 12th, 2010, the date which appears to me to be the peak day this fall for eastbound Blue Ridge Blindness - the day when the sunrise line directly aligns with Blue Ridge.  

September 22, 2010 - First Day of Fall

September 29, 2010

October 6, 2010

October 12, 2010 - Full On Blue Ridge Blindness

Like I said, the sunset can also be a problem on Blue Ridge, but it's the morning that always seems to give me more trouble.  The sunset lines up with the stretch of Blue Ridge that runs past the elementary school in August and April, I believe, and I'm usually tucked away safely at home by that time of day.  The other time of year that the morning sun will again align with Blue Ridge is in late February.  My date for maximum blinding may be off a little since it's not at its worst right at sunrise.  The sun has to be up in the sky a little to clear the trees.  You can play around with The Photographer's Ephemeris yourself if you're a dweeb like me and want to check out.

Laika and I took a spin around the Cape this AM looking for some good sunrise shots, and came back with these (if anyone saw a disheveled woman in her PJs and slippers at the Little Magothy pier, it wasn't a crazy lady - or maybe it was, but she doesn't pose a threat).  The Little Magothy is the Cape's best eastern exposure.  I think I have my photo for the Cape Calendar Photo Contest!

Sunrise over the Little Magothy

Laika Admiring the Sunrise

I guess there's nothing that can be done to counteract this biannual hazard.  It's a feature of Cape life that will never change as long as Blue Ridge Drive exists and the sun keeps rising.  The best we can do is be extra careful driving during these periods knowing that they will pass as the seasons change like so many other things in life.  As B(lind)-Day approaches, everyone take your time on Blue Ridge in the mornings as our kids are getting to school and our neighbors are getting to work.  And if you like, say a little Pagan prayer to the ancient gods in thanks for the bounty of the season behind us and for comfort through the cold season ahead - marked by our very own Capehenge.

For a good laugh, watch this classic Spinal Tap Stonehenge clip (beware a couple of F-bombs if you have little ones around). Jump to 2:07 to see the 18 inch Stonehenge descend from the ceiling. It never gets old...:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cape Clean-Up Time!

OK Capers, I know one thing this community has in spades is JUNK, and I include myself in that assessment!  This Friday and Saturday, September 24th and 25th, is your chance to lighten the burden of crud in your life by taking it all down to the corner of Broadview and Cape St. Claire Rd. to dispose of at this year's Cape Clean-Up.  The County is sending dumpsters ready to accept all (well most) of the large and small-scale debris that is cluttering your world.  This is a terrific service provided by the Cape and the County for Cape St. Claire residents, and I highly recommend taking advantage of it!

Things should be cranked up by 11 AM on Friday, and they will accept trash until 4:30 PM unless the dumpsters fill up.  On Saturday the hours will be from 7:30 AM until 2 PM, again, assuming they don't run out of space.  Your recyclable trash will have to be separated, if not before you get there, then before it can be left.  There will be County personnel there to help if there are any questions.  Here is a list of items NOT accepted:

Junk Automobiles
Gas and Propone Tanks
Tree Trunks
Oil Drums or Tanks
Hazardous Waste
Air Conditioners

And if you don't want to even be hassled with taking your trash the mile down the road yourself, you can call the Boy Scouts to come haul it for you! The Scouts of Troop 783 are at your disposal (no pun intended) both days of the Clean-Up.  For a donation of $40 for each truck load  (which must be easily accessible or at your curbside) they will come to your house and take it all away.  Let them know if you need assistance to prepare for your pick up.  For more information or to schedule a pick up, call Jim Lanoue at 410-349-9015 (between 8 am and 8 pm please) or email him at

It does not get any easier than this to lighten your load.  Take advantage of it Capers!  I do not want any of you showing up on Hoarders or Hoarding:  Buried Alive...

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Oysters are Coming, The Oysters are Coming!!!

"The life of man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster."
-- David Hume, 18th Century Scottish

I don't know if Mr. Hume thought less of man or more of oysters, but from the Chesapeake Bay's perspective, oysters are unquestionably of greater importance.  While man is the great polluter of the Bay, oysters are the great purifiers - nature's filtration system that we have done our best to decimate in modern times through over-harvesting and poor stewardship of our resources.  When Captain John Smith arrived in the Chesapeake Bay at the beginning of the 17th century, he commented that oysters "lay as thick as stones".  Back then, oysters filtered all the water in the Bay in just three days to a week.  Now the oyster population is struggling for survival, and it takes the remaining oysters over a year to filter the same amount of water.

It's not clear that the powers that be have the political will or resources to make the tough decisions that are needed to make the Bay healthy again, but as individuals, there are small things that we can do to help.  The state of Maryland has taken the initiative to back a grassroots oyster restoration campaign called Marylanders Grow Oysters, and it's time once again for all us Chesapeake Bay Oyster Farmers to pick up our new crop of baby oysters.  This is part of an effort to restore the oyster population in the Bay, and as a result, improve the quality of the Bay's waters.  NPR did a great story on oyster farming just last month that can be found at:

My family participates in the Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO) program through our local Magothy River Association oyster gardening coordinator.  Oyster shells that are seeded with "spat" or baby (larval to be technical) oysters are placed in small 18x12x12 inch cages and hung off of docks to grow for a year until they're old enough to be released on a reef in the Bay or a river.

Last year around this time, my daughter and I picked up four cages of seeded oyster shells over by the Little Magothy beach/park in Cape St. Claire.  We were frankly looking for a volunteer opportunity to put on her National Junior Honor Society application and thought this might be a nice thing to try.  While our initial motivation was not purely altruistic, we have since become big fans of the project and are delighted to continue our participation.

Oysters loaded for the ride home.

Dad lends a hand.

Henry lends a hand.

Ready to hang off the dock.

Over the year, we occasionally pulled the cages up to give them a rinse - knock off some of the goo growing on the cages and scare off some of the critters that seemed to think the cages made a mighty nice home.  We made sure they were deep enough in the water to avoid a winter freeze but not right on the bottom.  In the spring, we received an e-mail with GPS coordinates for the reef in the Magothy where we were to release the oysters.  It was marked with a big orange MGO buoy.  It was really a fairly minimal effort to participate in something that is hopefully beneficial to the Bay.  Check out the video below of our oyster release back in May.  

People can argue until they're blue in the face about the causes of and solutions to Bay pollution, but at a point, you feel like you have to do something, and maybe even this small contribution can make a difference.  After watching the terrible events in the Gulf of Mexico this past summer, I feel all the more protective of our unique resource here in the Mid-Atlantic.  If nothing else, participating in this program has raised the awareness of my kids about the poor condition of the Bay and trying to play a part in its recovery.

To learn more about the history of the Chesapeake Bay oyster population and current efforts to restore it, you can find lots of great information at:

If you have a dock or access to one and would like to be an oyster farmer/gardener, check out the Marylanders Grow Oysters website:

Or you can visit the Magothy River Association site which explains the details of our particular program:

There are a couple of different avenues for participation.  I know one program sponsors a clinic where you actually make your own cages.  In our case, the cages were provided last year along with the oysters.  After releasing our oysters, we brought the cages back to our dock and rinsed them off to use again.  We will pick up bags of seeded oyster shells over at the Little Magothy this afternoon and put them in the cages when we get home.

Even if you aren't a fan of oysters as a food as I am, you have to appreciate their value to the ecosystem, and you also have to envy their lifestyle.  As Hector Bolitho, a prolific 20th century author, novelist and biographer, once said,

"Oysters are the most tender and delicate of all seafoods; They stay in bed all day and night; They never work or take exercise, are stupendous drinkers, and wait for their meals to come to them."

Oysters don't have it quite so easy these days, but I know four cages worth that will be partying down at my dock for the next year...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

All's Fair(e) in Late Summer and Fall

We are well into the local fair season with the Maryland State Fair already behind us and the Anne Arundel County Fair starting today and continuing through the weekend.  Also, the Maryland Renaissance Festival has been underway for several weeks with several more to go before it closes up shop.  These are all terrific family events that appeal to a wide range of ages and showcase tons of local hobbyists and craftsmen.

The Maryland Renaissance Festival is the second largest of its kind in the United States, and has a national reputation as one of the best in the country.  I don't know who has the number one spot (Texas and Minnesota both make big claims), but if you've never been, you will be amazed at the size and scope of this operation.  It's the size of a small Renaissance village, a full 25 acres, and there is no end to the shopping, food, and entertainment.  It runs weekends from the end of August through the middle of October, so you'll have ample opportunity to visit.

I first attended the Renaissance Festival when I was just out of college, working my first real job, and dating my future husband.  Us 20-somethings would go for the day and frankly spend a big part of it camped out at the onsite pubs.  This was in the late 80s/early 90s, and even then, it was a pretty good sized festival, and a really good time.  Many of the acts have returned year after year.  We always make a point to see Johnny Fox, the sword swallower, juggler, magician and seasoned showman, in his cute little leather shorts (don't worry, he wears tights underneath...).

Cool Renfest Facepaint,
Bad 80s hair and jewelry...

Over the years, Johnny has grayed, as have we, and the focus has shifted for us from the pubs to the kid and family-friendly activities (we still enjoy a beer or two and the oyster shooters at Middleton's).  The jousting is always entertaining, and there are games, shows, and activities for kids of all ages.  I could honestly spend the whole day just people watching.  It's a riot to see all the folks in costume - everything from Renaissance finery and peasantry to a spattering of Conan the Barbarian and Fairytopia.  Some of these are VERY elaborate, and many Renaissance Fair groupies take the whole atmosphere to the extreme.  Several weddings are even hosted at the fair each year.

My daughter's birthday falls in October, and last year I took a group of her 12-year old friends to the Festival for the afternoon to celebrate.  They painted their faces and dressed up in a variety of costumes here at the house before we left.  Once there, I tailed along behind and let them make their way around the place.  Despite weather that was not ideal, they had a wonderful time browsing the shops and entertainment.  We may have to make it an annual birthday outing.

As for the Anne Arundel County Fair, I haven't been since my kids were in pre-school, but it also is a great chance to get outside with the family and check out what our local farmers and craftsmen are producing.  In addition, there are hayrides, tractor pulls, tug of wars, pie and watermelon eating contests, local bands, and carnival games and rides.  All the standard county fair hoopla.

I've been meaning to get back there, but it always sneaks up on me.  It was a regular fall outing in the preschool years.  One year we went, it was the week after the September 11th attacks.  We tried our best to put on a brave face and enjoy an all-American outing, but it was almost too tall an order for a shaken group of parents and teachers.  The following year was much easier to enjoy.  The kids had a blast.

Both of these fairs are great options for this weekend, but since you have more chances at the Renaissance Festival in weeks to come, you might want to take the opportunity to hit the County Fair.  Again, it starts today and runs through Sunday at the County Fairgrounds in Crownsville.  Admission is free for certain times of day, and cheap for the rest.  You can find hours and a schedule of events at:

Anne Arundel County Fair

The Renaissance Festival is not quite as cheap, but well worth the price of admission.  It is open weekends through October 24th, rain or shine, also in Crownsville.  If you want to dress up but don't have a costume, you can rent one inside the gates or buy them at several of the shops.  All you need is a Robin Hood cap or flower garland to get in the spirit.  (I know Robin Hood is not a Renaissance character, but again, pretty much anything goes!)  Details can be found at:

Maryland Renaissance Festival


Sunday, September 12, 2010

River Bay Roadhouse Is Up and Running!

After a summer of anticipation, the River Bay Roadhouse opened this weekend in the Cape St. Claire shopping center.  The new owners hosted a couple of private evenings for family and friends before throwing open the red doors to the public on Saturday the 11th.  We've been watching it emerge from the bones of the old Bella's for months now, and the time has finally come, just in time to welcome college and professional football fans on Saturday and Sunday and Ravens fans for their first Monday night game of the season.

When I first heard about the sale of the place, I feared that the new owners might not go far enough with a redesign to banish the ghost of Bella's.  I know there are many who are sentimental about the closing of Bella's, but personally, I think it was overdue.  The place catered to just a small clientele, and the rest of us only dared to pop in for a carry-out order of wings (the wings WERE good).  Broadneck Grill was the only other Cape option for a good dinner out with friends and/or family.

Well, I certainly don't see Bella's anymore when I drive by the new exterior of the River Bay Roadhouse.  The rustic wood siding looks terrific, and I love all the little touches - the wrought iron hardware holding up the beams, the red tin awning and red door, the little black outpost lights.  The place has great character from the outside that invites you in.

River Bay Roadhouse

As for the inside, I got a sneak peak on Friday night, and by now some of the rest of you have had a chance to check it out as well.  It's really remarkable what has been done to the interior.  I was impressed by the amount of space, both wall to wall and floor to ceiling.  The exposed duct work looks sharp and adds a lot of height to the place, and they have room to accommodate a crowd.  A garrison of ceiling fans and rows of track lighting keep the air moving and the room well lit.

Roadhouse Interior

Gone is the too-dark and hazy ambiance of Bella's and in it's place, fresh, clean, and open walls with more rustic wood panelling up to chair rail height and pleasingly worn wood floors that cut the newness of the place.  The decor is a work in progress and the walls will eventually be covered with an assortment of memorabilia.  The all important flat screen hangs above the fireplace where it can be viewed by all, and if you want to see what's going on in the sports world at large, you can mosey over to the cool bar area which has bar-height tables and walls lined with flat screens tuned to a variety of sporting events.  I was told there are 16 beers on tap, including my favorite, Sierra Nevada IPA.

Dinner service on Friday evening was also a work in progress, which is to be expected from a spanking new restaurant the day before the Grand Opening.  The owner, Danny Miller, jokingly commented to our table that this is why it's called a "soft opening" on his way to the restroom with a plunger in hand (good thing he's a plumber by day!).  I personally would not want to know the stress of being the owner of a new place.  We laughingly noted that we felt like we were eating at Hell's Kitchen - Gordon Ramsey's show where you never know what a dinner service will produce - where the kitchen and staff are racing to hone their skills on the fly and serve an impatient crowd of self-proclaimed food critics.

My wish for the the Riverbay Roadhouse is that it becomes a terrific gathering place for Capers and our neighboring communities - a place where families and friends can meet for a dinner out occasionally, enjoy a good band, stop in after a ball game, watch one on the weekend, celebrate happy occasions, and enjoy some good food or maybe even an occasional chili cookoff.   It's got the makings of just such a place.  The Broadneck Grill has served that role solely over the years, and I think the addition of the Roadhouse will be a terrific compliment.  The Cape can certainly support two community friendly, well-run establishments.

If you haven't done so already, stop in and see for yourself.  I'd love to hear your impressions and constructive comments, as would the owners, I'm sure.  This is no small undertaking, and we all want to see them succeed.  The winning formula for a restaurant/bar can be tough to pin down, but we all recognize when a place gets it right.  Fingers are crossed for the Riverbay Roadhouse to establish its place in the hearts (and bellies) of us Capers.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Navy Home Opener!!!

If anybody's looking for a weekend event, you don't need to go any further than Rowe Blvd. on Saturday afternoon.  It's college football season, and our hometown team plays just across the Severn.  Navy had a rough time on Labor Day against Maryland, but they will play at home for the first time this year tomorrow at 3:30 against Georgia Southern, and I'm expecting a different result.

The Midshipmen will march into a Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium that has seen some improvements during the off season.   A new tower has been added atop the East side of the stadium that houses four new suites and more importantly camera crews who will now be able to broadcast games with the Midshipmen in the picture.  It's only fitting that the pride and joy of Annapolis, who by tradition attend every football game and have to do pushups for every point Navy scores, should be in the picture for the nation to see (well, they might not see tomorrow with Georgia Southern for an opponent).

Putting the Final Touches on the New East Tower

Navy Flags Flying on Main St.

With a sunny day forecast for tomorrow, there's no excuse to sit home and watch it on TV.  Tickets are available online at:  (you can print them at home or pick them up at the stadium)

Navy Home Single Game Tickets

Tickets cost $33 for reserved seating, $20 for the grass hill seats in the North endzone for adults and $12 for kids.  If you've never been in the stadium or haven't been there in the last five years, they've really fixed the place up.  It was totally renovated and then rededicated in 2005.  It's a great looking stadium.  Get there early to watch the Middies march on the field before taking their seats and to see the low-level flyby of the stadium.  Very cool!

Oh, and check out Bill Wagner's Navy Sports Blog post on below for information about a special guest at tomorrow's game!

Georgia Southern Mascot to Make First Road Trip

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kossuth Cake and other Maryland Desserts...

My husband's company has its annual office picnic at Sandy Point every year in September.  We always look forward to the chance to visit with employees and friends who we don't often see otherwise.  In addition to being a tight-knit group, the people who work for the company also tend to be a competitive group, and this is never more apparent than when it comes to the food contests that have become a traditional part of the picnic.  Last year, there were two contests - best dessert and best guacamole.

For the desserts, there were two categories - clever decoration and delicious taste.  I can't recall who the style winner was, but I think the chocolate cheesecake edged out the blueberry pie for taste.  Here are some pictures of the standouts:

This year, the two contests are Maryland themed desserts (either by decoration or tradition), and appetizers that use Old Bay as a noticeable ingredient.  I make some mean deviled eggs with lump crabmeat sprinkled with Old Bay, but I'm concerned that won't be original enough to compete with this crowd.  I decided to punt on the appetizer course and put all my eggs (and flour and sugar) into the dessert basket.

So my search began for either a wonderfully clever Maryland design, or a traditional Maryland dessert.  I'm a complete sucker for tradition and old-time recipes, so that was my preference.  If I had a signature dessert, then I would have figured out a way to dress it up Maryland (Navy logo on a cheesecake, MD flag on a cobbler, Thomas Point Light rising from a trifle, Blue Crab atop a blueberry pie, no - I won't put a terrapin on ANYTHING), but I really don't.  I've just about mastered my mother-in-law's cherry pie, but I'm not consistent enough with it for a contest.

Soooo, what exactly are some uniquely Maryland desserts?  I suppose most people are aware that Smith Island Cake (that wonderful 7-layer chocolate concoction) recently became the official dessert of Maryland.  I've tried to make such a cake before (my daughter requested it for her birthday last year), but it was not a terrific success.  Mine turned out sky high and dry - beautiful to look at, but not as great to eat (see picture below).  Also, my sources tell me that one of the winners of last year's contest is entering one, so I'm staying away from that beast of a cake.

Sky-High-and-Dry Cake.

Lady Baltimore Cake?  Well, its origins are actually in Charleston, SC, so despite the uniquely Maryland name, it is not a uniquely Maryland cake.  Plus, it has figs in it, and most folks these days don't love figs.  The only other uniquely Maryland dessert that I could think of was maybe funnel cake, and I couldn't figure out a way to get a deep fat fryer to Sandy Point...

I finally turned to an internet search engine, and after a few keyword variations, I came across something called a Kossuth Cake on a cool recipe blog called ACCRO (I've added the link to my list of favorite websites on the sidebar - everything I see on this blog looks yummy and interesting).  Anybody ever heard of one of these cakes?  From the tidbits I found on the web, I learned that in 1851, a Hungarian patriot/freedom fighter, General Lajos Kossuth, visited Baltimore after being forced from office as the first President of Hungary.  He was hailed as the "Washington of Hungary", and was wildly popular in American and British political circles, considered to be a "bellweather of democracy in Europe".  He was the second foreign citizen ever to make a speech to a joint session of the United States Congress (Lafayette being the first), and a bust of him is housed in the United States Capitol (thank you Wikipedia).

General Lajos Kossuth

To honor his visit, a Baltimore confectioner created a dessert and called it "Kossuth Cake".  Apparently they were individual sponge cakes filled with whipped cream and covered in chocolate sauce.  From what I can tell, they sound like chocolate covered Twinkies.  The recipe I came across on ACCRO was for a single large sponge cake baked in a melon-shaped pan.  The cake is cooled, cut open and hollowed out, then filled with cream, reassembled, dusted with powdered sugar, and drizzled with chocolate sauce when served.

Kossuth Cake

Kossuth Cake Recipe on ACCRO

THIS is the dessert that I will attempt for the company picnic contest (assuming I get the pan I ordered in time)!  It is exactly what I was looking for - a tasty, simple dessert steeped in obscure Baltimore, Maryland tradition and history.  The story behind the dessert probably won't win me any points, but for me, it's about originality.  I'm curious to see if any of the hardcore Baltimore folks at the picnic have ever heard of it.  I'm also curious to see if any of you have heard of it, or if you know of any other uniquely Maryland desserts that escaped my research.  I'm thinking this may become my "signature dish" if all goes well...

Friday, September 3, 2010

See Ya, Earl...

Hurricane Earl as viewed from the ISS
Check out this cool picture of Hurricane Earl from our friends at NASA.  It was taken from the International Space Station while the hurricane was still a category 4.  I'm always awed by the size of these storms.  You can see the Russian Soyuz vehicle docked to the right in the foreground.  It will soon be our only means of transport to the ISS...

Other than some clouds/rain today and wind tomorrow courtesy of Earl, it looks like we dodged this one.  If that track had been a little to the left, this puppy would have roared over Hatteras and down the throat of the Chesapeake.  Would not have been pretty.  Let's hear it for those Westerlies that blocked for us and pushed Earl relatively harmlessly out of bounds!  (Can you tell I'm gearing up for some football!!!).  Enjoy the Labor Day weekend everyone.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cape Calendar Photo Contest

For any of you aspiring photographers out there, the Cape St. Claire Calendar Photo Contest is accepting entries for this year's community calendar.  I saw a sign on the window at True Value. Photos are due by October 7th and can be turned in at True Value.  You can get details about the contest there as well.  In the past, they've required an 8 X 10 color or black and white photo (it will be printed in black and white on the calendar).  The prize is (or at least it was) $100 for the winner.  Nice!  They also used to print the finalists in the Caper, but we don't see as much of the Caper these days.  Perhaps I can get hold of the winning shots and post them on the Cape Blogger.

I'll take this opportunity to toot my horn by mentioning that I won the contest several years back.  I had just bought my first digital camera and had delusions of being a photographer (just like I bought my first laptop and have delusions of being a blogger).  It just goes to show, if you snap enough pictures (and you have that luxury with a digital camera), you will inevitably take a good one.  It also helps to have good photo editing software (all the old school photographers are cringing...).

Take your camera with you if you're staying close to home over Labor Day weekend, and look for a winning subject.  The weather should be great if Earl minds his own business.  Or, take a look through your summer photos and see if you caught a quintessential Cape moment this summer.  We all have one buried in our My Pictures or iPhoto directories, somewhere...

Cape Calendar 2003