Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Now would be the time to prepare...

Hurricane Earl
While Hurricane Earl is not likely to make a direct hit on the Chesapeake Bay, it still has potential to cause some rough weather, and if it doesn't make that right turn when expected, it could be even worse.  Not to mention Fiona hot on his tail.  It would be wise to at least start thinking about anything that you might need to do in preparation.  I'm NOT encouraging a run on Graul's for bread, milk and TP, but if you have a boat in the water, just consider what might need to be done if the wind starts blowing and the water gets high.

I found this article online and recommend checking it out if you have a boat.

Hurricane Earl nearing the Chesapeake - Prepare your boat now - Baltimore sailing www.tips-fb.com

Monday, August 30, 2010

'Tis the Season...

Anybody else keeping a wary eye on Earl down there in the Caribbean? It's moving pretty fast, and if it doesn't make that dogleg right off the coast of Hatteras like the current forecast says, could get ugly. Let's hope he's chasing after Ms. Danielle and stays harmlessly off the coast. The last thing the Cape needs is another Isabel...


www.tips-fb.com

Last A10 Post - Photo and Video Goodness!

Ok, this is the last time I'm going to post about the A10.  Just wanted to share some pictures from yesterday morning.  Henry, Laika and I parked down at the WWII Memorial and walked down to the Naval Academy bridge to cheer on my husband and a handful of other friends.  It was a beautiful day for it.  I took a few pictures of the fun and one video of a guy who was playing steel drums at mile 8.  He was great!  My husband said he was fading just before that point, and the steel drums were just the ticket to get him through the last 2 miles.  Enjoy the pictures and video!

First guy to cross the bridge.  Think he was the winner.

Close up.  This guy is MOVING.


First of the ladies, I believe.  Awesome!

And the rest of the pack starts to cross the bridge.

More happy runners.

Coming down the hill - almost at mile 9.

Laika laying low.

Henry and Laika watching for Dad.




Steel Drum Dude www.tips-fb.com

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Boys - and Girls - are Back in Town...

I was down on Main St., Annapolis this afternoon buying a new pair of running shoes - baby steps towards getting back to running in big new size 11 shoes (for the record, I'm a size 10, but losing a nail or two has taught me that running shoes need to be a size up!). I also wanted to check out a shop that is going out of business to see if they had any good deals - knock off a few Xmas gifts ahead of schedule.  No luck on the latter.

At any rate, while that particular shop wasn't doing great business, Main St. as a whole was CRAWLING with people. The nice weather brought folks out of the woodwork, and there were lines out the doors of the ice cream shops. Most noticeable of all were the swarms of Midshipmen out and about. Classes started for them, too, this past week, and it's great to have them back in town. They always look so sharp in their white uniforms, but they are especially glowing the first week of classes. It's yet another of my favorite things about living in this town - bright men and women in perfectly pressed, pristine duds.

Cape St. Claire has strong ties to the Naval Academy. We have people in the community who graduated from the Academy and stayed in or returned to the area to work and raise their families. We also have neighbors who work or teach at the Naval Academy. Several of my kids' coaches and music teachers have been Navy grads, and the campus offers a slew of great summer camps for kids of all ages. It's no small accomplishment to get through four years of training and coursework at the US Naval Academy. It's a test of solid character, and we are fortunate to have many of the folks who attended the Academy choose Cape St. Claire as their home.

Welcome back to our boys and girls in white. Good luck with the year ahead. GO NAVY! www.tips-fb.com

D'oh! New Cape Blogger URL

Sorry to do this again, but the new address for the Cape Blogger is:

http://www.cape-blogger.com

You can also use cape-blogger.com on its own, and the old address should still work as well (but it looks like there might be a problem with the list of Recent Posts on the sidebar).

www.tips-fb.com

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Weekend Fitness - Shakti Studio and the A10

I'm not much of a fitness buff.  I try to stay just active enough to keep my problem areas in check.  Blogging and a nagging foot injury are interfering with that at the moment, but given the choice,  my two favorite ways to exercise are running and yoga.  For me, running is the biggest bang for the buck with respect to a cardio workout, and yoga is great for balance, flexibility and peace of mind.  My perfect maintenance fitness routine is a 3 or 4-mile run 3 or 4 days a week and an hour of yoga twice a week.   My goal is to get back to that in the next month (as it's been for months).

This weekend, my favorite running event and my favorite yoga person both have big days in store.  On Saturday, the new Shakti Studio on College Parkway will have its Grand Opening from 12 - 4.  It's in the office complex at the corner of College Parkway and Bellrive Rd. They will have mini yoga sessions and demos along with some raffle give-aways and henna art.  My friend, Cheryl Arends, is an instructor at the new studio.  I know from first hand experience that she is a wonderful yoga instructor and a delightful person.

http://www.shaktistudiomd.com/

I've been doing yoga off and on for 10 years.  For me, it's been a great compliment to running when I'm in a good fitness routine (which I'm not at the moment).  I benefit from the stretching and from the emphasis on balance and core strength.  I've taken a variety of classes at Big Vanilla.  They have something for everybody except perhaps the yoga purist.  And I've dabbled in Bikram, or "hot", yoga, which is a whole other can of hot, sweaty worms - not for everybody, but I'm perversely drawn to it.

I've also taken classes with Cheryl at the Cape Clubhouse.  Her enthusiasm for yoga is infectious and refreshing without being goofy or overwhelming.  I came away from her classes with a much better understanding of the subtleties of yoga postures.  Wherever I do yoga now, I hear her coaching in the back of my head reminding me to lower my rib cage or spread my toes and get properly grounded.  It's a testament to the quality of her teaching and commitment to proper form that I recall it so readily.  The new studio so close to the Cape will be a terrific addition to the fitness and wellness options available to us, and they are fortunate to have Cheryl on board.

Switching gears, my favorite running event is the annual Annapolis 10-miler which will be run for the 35th time this Sunday morning.  The course starts at the Naval Academy Stadium and winds its way through downtown Annapolis before heading out over the Naval Academy Bridge and up through the neighborhoods on the opposite side of the Severn.  Then it heads back down Ritchie Highway, back over the bridge and skirts West Annapolis before returning to the stadium.

Supporters turn out in great numbers for this race.  Last year there was a chamber music group playing next to St. Anne's on Church Circle as we passed through the downtown area.  The home owners in the residential neighborhoods are always ready with a cool spray of the garden hose, an encouraging word, and even a cup of beer.  It's a good time whether you're a world class runner or a casual jogger like me.

I'm not a jogger of any sort at the moment thanks to a wicked case of plantar fasciitis.  I think the seeds of this injury actually were a result of overtraining for last year's A10.  I've been off of it for several months now, but my stubborn refusal to wear anything but flip flops during the summer months has not helped in the recovery.  I'm hoping to get back out running in the next month, but it will be a very gradual ramp up to just a couple of miles a few times a week.  Maybe I'll make it back for next year's A10.  I will have to settle this year for cheering on my husband and friends.

Check out Shakti Studio on Saturday if you're so inclined, or head downtown and cheer on the runners on Sunday morning (race starts at 7:45AM).  If anybody wants to run in the A10  and didn't register before it filled up, I have a number free for the taking.  Your results will be under my name, so you need to be a woman (I guess), and you need to be a really fast runner!  Whatever you do this weekend, get outside and enjoy the pretty weather! www.tips-fb.com

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stolen Car Found Submerged in Creek • Public Record (www.HometownAnnapolis.com - The Capital)

Ah, so here's the answer to our sunken car mystery at the Deep Creek boat ramp.  Nice to know the Cape has become a dumping ground for stolen cars...

Thanks to my friend Eric for the scoop...

Stolen car found submerged in creek • Public Record (www.HometownAnnapolis.com - The Capital)

www.tips-fb.com

Boat Ramp Follies

Does anybody know what this was all about yesterday?  Apparently sometime during the middle of the day on Tuesday, a car went into the water at the Deep Creek boat ramp.  Our neighbor across the creek took this picture.  It looks like it was taken before the car was pulled out judging by the attentiveness of the DNR guys, but the boat is blocking the actual ramp.  Hopefully it was just someone who forgot to put their car in park before getting out of it.  I don't know if anyone was in the car or even near it when it happened.

Our house sits just above the Deep Creek boat ramp.  We have a partial view of what goes on down there.  When we were initially looking at the house, the guy who was selling it had written out a list of "house likes" - things that he enjoyed about the house.  One of them was what he called "Boat Ramp Follies".  We weren't entirely sure what he meant until the first summer holiday weekend after we moved in.  A lot of funny stuff goes on at the boat ramp - from people falling into the water to boats falling off of trailers.  I know much of this is not funny at all when it's happening to you, but hopefully it makes for a funny story down the road.

I would not feel entitled to chuckle if I hadn't been there myself and put in my time at the boat ramp.  When we first moved to the Cape, my husband and I were desperate to get on the water by whatever means possible.  Access to the water was the main reason we chose Cape St. Claire, but we didn't have a boat of any kind (a small 1960s Montgomery Ward outboard motor that my husband would lovingly run in a large garbage can full of water to tune it up, but no boat).  We would crab off of the Lake Claire pier and swim at the Main Beach, but we were desperate to get out on the water.

Our first attempts were small inflatable dinghies.  We would paddle off of the Lake Claire beach with a plastic tub between us to hold the crabs and a cooler of beer and throw chicken necks over the edge.  It was a very tight fit, and if a crab ever got loose or we missed the bucket, it became a fiasco.  It was NOT ideal.  We recently saw a young couple out doing something very similar, and we smiled knowingly.

After living in the Cape for two years, we bought a 21 foot used Crownline from a guy over on the Eastern Shore.  We were beside ourselves.  We had no idea what we were doing, but we finally had access to that whole other world of Chesapeake Bay life that happens out on the water.  We didn't care that our boat was kind of an ugly red and that it was a million degrees in the heat of July.  We were boating on the Chesapeake.  How much better does it get than that?

We fished out by Baltimore Light and overnighted behind Dobbins.  We navigated Kent Narrows to get to Red Eye's on weekends and made our way up through Eastern Bay and down the Miles River to St. Michael's to reach the Crab Claw.  We even tied up in Fell's Point for the night (always risked waking up with a stranger sleeping in the cockpit in Baltimore).  And most importantly, my husband earned his Annapolis boating "wings" by negotiating the fraught waters of Ego Alley.

All of these adventures started and ended at the boat ramp (and sometimes the ramp was part of the adventure).  We're VERY lucky to have this ramp in the Cape.  There are not a lot of public access points to the Bay, which would become abundantly clear if the piers committee didn't do such a good job of monitoring the parking lot for stickers.  I can remember when we were first using it, and it wasn't being watched as closely, there were times when we couldn't find a place to park our trailer.

The bulkhead and pavement have recently been replaced down at Deep Creek, and it's in better shape than ever.  Even if you haven't found a way to get out on the water, a stroll down to the boat ramp and marina is a great pastime.  You can always find someone to chat with about the comings and goings.  There are a few "regulars" down there who keep it from floating away.  As soon as you're able, get yourself a boat and come be a part of the Boat Ramp Follies.  Notice I said boat and not car... (hope nobody was hurt). www.tips-fb.com

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Which is the way to London Town?


This old English nursery rhyme with origins in the late 1600s refers to a different, more well-known London Town, but here in Annapolis, we have our very own London Town that dates to the same period as the rhyme.  While London, England is still a thriving, major world city, our London Town, which was founded in 1683, faded into obscurity within a century of it's birth.  For nearly a hundred years, though, it was a hub of colonial trade and shipping (tobacco, cotton, and probably slaves) on the South River, and briefly served as the Anne Arundel County seat.  The town declined after the Maryland State Legislature did not include it as one of the officially designated tobacco inspection ports in 1747.  By the end of the Revolutionary war, it was all but abandoned.

While it is no longer a center of commerce, London Town, which is off the beaten path in Edgewater, has emerged in recent decades as Maryland's largest on-going archaeological investigation.  Anne Arundel County acquired the circa 1760 William Brown House, a beautiful brick tavern overlooking the South River, in 1828, and it was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1970.  At the same time, the Woodland Garden was created - an eight-acre botanical collection along a one-mile trail.  In addition, there is a seasonal Ornamental Garden overlooking the river, and a new Environmental Garden project that embraces the practice of using native plants to create environmentally friendly landscapes.  The 23-acre site is owned by Anne Arundel County and operated by the London Town Foundation.




Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

In recent years, a modern Visitors Center with exhibits and a gift shop has been built that accommodates large events, weddings, and educational opportunities.  In addition, based on archaeological evidence and historical records of the town, several of the original colonial buildings have been reconstructed to give visitors a taste of how life in London Town might have looked and felt.  There are gardens, a functioning hearth, and a carpenter shop.

We learned about London Town through a program at Cape Elementary.  The folks at London Town came out to the school, talked to the kids about the site and set up colonial activities for the students.  They also promoted their one-week summer Colonial Camps that are hosted at London Town.  Henry came home from school that day with a flyer asking if he could do Colonial Camp this summer, and since it overlapped conveniently with my daughter's Theater Camp (bonus), I happily signed him up.

The Colonial Camp is run by an organization out of North Carolina that operates three such camps - one in North Carolina, one in New York, and London Town.  The Colonial Camp employees set up on site with tents and costumes for the duration of the series of summer sessions.  Campers spend the day from 9 - 4 in colonial garb participating in a variety of colonial activities (preparing meals, collecting wood, making leather pouches and jewelry, playing colonial games).

I've heard mixed reviews from other kids that have been to Colonial Camp.  Some liked it while others found it boring and hot.  The point is to get a taste of actual colonial life, and there was nothing in colonial times to compete with the stimulation of video games, TVs and cell phones.  Peeling potatoes and stitching leather pouches doesn't appeal to everyone.

It did, however, appeal to Henry.  He couldn't wait to get to London Town each day.  I'm not sure if it was participating in the colonial activities, interacting with the kids and counselors, or dressing up in the puffy shirt and tricorner hat, but he immediately started making plans for the following year and asked how old I thought he needed to be to work as a counselor.




Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer


On the final day, I inquired in the Visitor's Center about volunteer opportunities for young people at London Town, and the lady put me in touch with the coordinator for the junior docent program that has been initiated in the last year or so.  A docent is a tour guide at a museum (so I now know after doing a little homework).  Many museums have junior docent programs which enlist young people to learn about the museum exhibits and then interact with visitors.  I read an article in the Washington Post recently about the junior docent program at the Holocaust Museum in DC, and several of the local museums in Annapolis use junior docents (Banneker-Douglass Museum, for one - perhaps the William Paca House/Gardens).  I think this is a fabulous opportunity for young people to learn some history, make a connection with a valuable local resource, and hone their "people skills" by interacting one on one with visitors.

Henry went for his first morning of "training" to be a colonist this past weekend.  He was really excited to return to London Town.  Along with a couple of other new junior docents, he practiced some colonial games, toured the facilities, and came home with his puffy shirt and tricorner hat (better quality than the camp versions!).  They got to choose fabrics from which new tunics will be made for the girls and a new waistcoat for Henry.  They will spend a Saturday or Sunday at London Town once a month or so during the season that runs from March through November either cooking at the hearth, tending the garden, or playing games while answering questions that visitors might have or engaging them in conversations about colonial life at London Town.

Even if camp doesn't appeal, I highly recommend a visit to the site. It's a lovely setting, and the people running it do a nice job. You can get information about directions, hours and admission at their website:

www.londontown.org

If you're viewing this in Facebook, the photo albums will not show up. Go to the actual blog to see pictures:


cape-blogger.com www.tips-fb.com

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back to School Bling

Check out these sparkly office supplies. My husband brought them home from Staples for my daughter. I think I want some for my desk! Stapler, pen and calculator - Glam Rocks by Inkology. Also on Amazon.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.5.3.1
www.tips-fb.com

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Beholed the Donut!

I don't want to make this blog too much about foods that are not that great for you, but I have to take a moment to rave about my favorite donuts.  Krispy Kreme, you say?  Well, when they're hot out of the oven, they're pretty darn good, but we don't have one of those close by (thank goodness).  No, my all time favorite donuts are Carlson's from Carlson's Donuts and Thai Kitchen on West St.  They are some of the best things on the planet.

Most of you have probably had one of these at some point.  They used to carry them at Cravings.  I'm not sure why they made the big donut switch, but my kids (and I) were sorely disappointed the day we walked in and our donut world was turned upside down.  We would go to Cravings every Friday morning before school, get a platter of scrambled eggs with bacon to share and a couple of donuts for dessert.  Then one day, the Carlson's donuts were replaced with another variety, some new pastries, and a selection of fudge.  This was about the same time that the Dunkin' Donuts went in.  I don't know if there was any connection.  We love Cravings, but it's not our goto donut place anymore.

So now when we are in need of a donut hit, I make the drive across Rt. 50 to West St. and bring home a dozen.  You need to get there fairly early.  If you wait until after 8 AM, it can be slim pickings.  They open at 5:30 (after baking donuts through the wee hours of the night), and there's a constant flow of customers all morning.  I meant to take a picture of my dozen this AM, but Laika stepped on the box on the way home and they weren't as nice to look at as usual (though just as good to eat!).  Here's a picture I heisted from the Internet.




The shop is my favorite type of local place - unassuming and friendly with terrific food.  Just a few tables and booths for those who choose to dine in and then the donut counter.  We have never eaten in the restaurant, but we've carried out the Thai food, and it is delicious.  Thai is my favorite type of food (my Dad spent a year in Thailand with the Air Force when I was a kid, and he brought home a love for the food that he passed on to us.  He makes a mean Thai curry!).



The family that owns and runs the place is delightful.  Only the younger generation speaks English well, but the grandma behind the counter is a doll.  She loves to give out free donuts when the occasion arises (I scored a couple on Mother's Day).  I hear if you eat dinner in, they often send customers home with a bag of donuts left over from the morning.

If the mood strikes, head out early, take the Rowe Blvd. exit off of 50, make a right on Taylor Ave., then right onto West St. off of the traffic circle.  Carlson's is on the right a half mile or so down West St.  It's easy to miss, so watch closely.  They also have shops in Edgewater, Glen Burnie and Severn, but I think Annapolis is the only one that has Thai food.  Lovely Thai people at all of them!  Enjoy!

Carlson's Website

www.tips-fb.com

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cool Bag



My best friend, Helen, from CA (same friend from cupcake post) came to see me this summer and brought me this great tote as a gift. It has been my goto bag ever since. Very cute, but more importantly, very functional. It's lightweight, waterproof, and made from environmentally friendly materials (I can always count on my CA friend for that!).

It's a Scout bag made by Bungalow Co. You can recognize them by the puppy dog logo (Dachshund?). I got a coupon magazine in the mail this week (The Best of Broadneck) that had a Whimsicality coupon - 20% off one item - and the ad featured Scout bags. If you got the same magazine and are looking for a cool tote - for you or a gift - you should pick one up. I'm not sure how much they cost. If they're crazy expensive, then I have a very good friend, and you can use your coupon for something else.

For the guys who have read this far, there is a coupon in the same magazine for 10% off beer at Port Tack.  Not that guys don't like a cute bag and girls don't like beer.  Whatever floats your boat.  If you guys are really on the ball, you'll go buy that cute bag for your girl and put it away until the holidays.

I hope the picture comes through OK. I'm out fishing with my husband on the Bay. He enticed me to come along with, "You can blog on the iPad while I pull lines!" I appreciate his desire for my company and his support for my current obsession with blogging, but the reality is a poor signal out here off of Rock Hall and a glare from the afternoon sun that prevents me from seeing the screen and instead reflects my wrinkly neck (can you Botox your neck? kidding). As it turns out, the iPad, which I adore, is not a great tool for blogging with Blogger. I've resorted to my Droid. It was a challenge getting the picture with the boat rocking.

It's actually lovely out here now that the sun is getting lower in the sky. Time to stop blogging and enjoy the sunset...
Published with Blogger-droid v1.5.3.1
www.tips-fb.com

Friday, August 20, 2010

The leaves are falling, the leaves are falling!



I don't want to pull a Henny Penny and send you all into a panic, but leaves are falling on my end of the Cape. The tulip poplars are always the first to go. The kids will have some leaves to kick on the way to the bus stop Monday, as the inevitable change of seasons begins. This will be Laika's first taste of cooler temps. I think she's going to be a happy puppy...
Published with Blogger-droid v1.5.3.1
www.tips-fb.com

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer of Cupcake Love

Cupcakes, cupcakes, cupcakes.  Who doesn't love cupcakes?  The goodness of cake in a satisfying handheld version that's cute as a button.  Those of us who have just cleared the elementary school years have made our share for birthdays and school parties - usually the box mix variety, although I have been known to make my own frosting.  And in a pinch, you can run down to Graul's and buy a diabetes inducing cupcake with a matterhorn of sugary icing.  The flavor and decorating possibilities for cupcakes are endless, and they keep well, even if they're a little tricky to transport.

Well, lately, the art of making cupcakes has risen to a whole new level of haute cuisine.  Cupcakes are all the rage in high end restaurants and bakeries.  There are TV shows (Cupcake Wars, DC Cupcakes) and baking competitions all dedicated to cupcake artisanship.  Caterers whip them out in high style for anything from weddings to corporate bashes.  I recently attended a 49th birthday party where cupcakes were brought out for the final course.  They are true crowd pleasers.

The other phenomenon associated with the cupcake craze that's taken the nation by storm is whole stores dedicated to cupcakes.  You can find one of these cupcake boutiques in almost any city, and the places are making a killing.  We're talking best-you-ever-had cupcakes in endless varieties at $3 plus a pop.  People can't get enough of them.

Earlier in the summer, my good friend from California was going to be in DC visiting with family and invited us down for the day.  When I mentioned this to my kids, they happened to be watching the TLC show, DC Cupcakes.  It's about a pair of sisters who opened a cupcake shop in Georgetown on a side street and thanks to a cult following, genius marketing, and funding from a new TV show, now have a storefront on the main M St. drag.  The kids said simultaneously, "Hey, we should stop by the Georgetown Cupcake shop and try one!".

I was game for the adventure, so we went online to check out the available flavors.  We planned to take a cooler and buy enough to share with my friend and her family in DC and some friends here in the Cape.  My observant son noticed on the web site that you can place orders the day before and skip the ever-present line that snakes up the street from the shop.  We placed our order for nearly three dozen cupcakes in a variety of flavors and went to bed dreaming of the cupcakes we would eat the following day.

My daughter and I ended up making the run for the border the following morning.  Henry was tied up with sailing camp, so we struck out for Georgetown with a jumbo cooler in the back of our minivan.  Traffic was terrible, but we finally made our way across the city to Georgetown and parked in the bowels of the parking garage beneath the shopping mall.  We emerged directly across the street from the cupcake shop, and it was a site to behold.  An airy, bright, white and glass corner shop with black awnings and an endless line of people waiting outside in 100-degree Washington DC summer heat.  We popped in the front door, waltzed to the front of the line, paid for our booty (as in the extra pound that was going to be on mine, soon), and walked out with a shopping bag full of goodness as the sweating masses looked on with envy (so we liked to believe).


Some of our loot.
Kathryn in front of G'town Cupcake (note the line).
Busy shop.
Me, happy to be at the front of line.

We took our precious cargo back down into the bowels of Georgetown to leave safely in the cooler while we did a little shopping on M St.  Before we left the minivan, we each picked a cupcake - Kathryn a red velvet and a vanilla/vanilla for me - and snarfed it in the dark and damp of the parking garage.  Our eyes lidded over with delight as we compared flavors and raved about the little beauties through mouths full of icing and cake.

When we guiltily came back out into the light of day, we started to see signs (heavy, gray sky) and receive warnings (urgent texts from my husband) of the inevitable thunderstorms triggered by the sweltering heat.   We quickly realized our shopping would have to be cut short if we were going to make it home in time to get Henry from sailing camp.  By the time we made our cupcake drop to my friend in DC, it was already raining buckets, so we dropped the goods and made a beeline back to the Cape.

After eating several of the Georgetown Cupcake cupcakes over the next few days, we all agreed that while they are certainly fine cupcakes, we were a little overwhelmed by the amount and sweetness of the pillows of icing.  My kids scraped it off of their last couple and just enjoyed the cake.  I wasn't completely comfortable with the notion of scraping the icing off a $3 cupcake, but I had to agree, it was a little heavy.  Their signature icing is cream cheese based (rich!), and their buttercream is like eating a sweet stick of butter.  The chocolate icing is VERY dense and chocolatey - almost like a dark chocolate fudge.  We didn't get any of the chocolate ganache variety, but those might have been a little more manageable.  My daughter and husband were partial to the red velvet.  I liked the coconut the best.

A week or two later, we were down in Annapolis on Main St. and came across Nostalgia Cupcakes.  We were still on a high from the Georgetown Cupcake expedition and couldn't resist giving a local shop a try.  Kathryn selected her trademark red velvet, and I went again with coconut.  We both agreed that we liked these cupcakes better than the Georgetown Cupcake versions.  The frosting was airier, and while there still was a lot, it wasn't as overpowering.  This shop has a LOT of interesting varieties (I still need to go in on a day when they have the salt caramel ones), and to me, these were the prettiest I've seen.


We've been to Nostalgia Cupcakes twice now, and both times, we were the only ones in line - good for us, but perhaps problematic for them.  I guess they don't have the benefit of a TV show to draw the masses, and the economic downturn has taken a noticeable toll on Main St. - in Annapolis and elsewhere.  I think their mainstay is probably catering as opposed to the storefront.  We wish them luck with their business.  It has become one of our standard dessert places to visit after a meal at Joss along with Kilwin's for ice cream and candy or Uncle Bob's Fudge Kitchen for cookies and fudge (Storm Brother's ice cream is Henry's favorite, but it's off the beaten path after sushi at Joss).

BUT WAIT, that's not the only cupcake destination in our area.  The other day, I was in Severna Park waiting for Henry and Laika to finish their obedience training class.  I drove by the shops on B and A Blvd. across from Adam's Ribs (Jeno's, Pedal Pusher's, Squisito's, etc.) and noticed a new shop called Annette's Cakery.  In the window was a turning refrigerated case filled with rack after rack of cupcakes.  The descriptions sounded wonderful, and I resolved to bring the kids by for yet another taste test.

Yesterday was the day.  The three of us went in and since it was Two-for-Tuesday cupcakes, we picked out a dozen little beauties to bring home.  These cupcakes were more petite than the Georgetown and Nostalgia Cupcake confections, and we were encouraged by the smaller swirls of icing.  We picked out the obligatory red velvet and coconut, some basic vanilla with chocolate icing and then lemon curd, almond and raspberry varieties.

Henry opted for gelato (turns out, Henry doesn't really love cupcakes, and they have a huge selection of great looking gelato flavors and other baked goods), but Kathryn and I once again didn't make it far without breaking into our treasure box.  We sat down at the cafe tables outside and selected a cupcake to eat on the spot.  True to form, Kathryn chose a red velvet while I went for the lemon curd.

The first bite caught us a little off guard because they were very cold.  I'm not sure if they had been frozen overnight or if the case was just that cold, but it made the frosting, and in my case, the lemon curd, a little firmer than we expected.  Once we got past the surprise of the temperature, we focused on the flavor, and we both agreed that this was our favorite cupcake yet.  The cake was denser and probably more moist than either of the first two shops, and more importantly, there was less frosting.  The frosting also seemed creamier and a little less sweet.  The layer of lemon curd between the frosting and my cupcake was wonderful, and the little bite that Kathryn gave me of her red velvet was lovely.

While I suspect they would have been even better at room temperature (they have some in the case at the front of the store that might have been), Kathryn commented that the cold cupcake was refreshing on a hot day, and we kind of found ourselves liking them that way.  I let them sit at room temperature when we got home, and the icing gets quite soft, so the cooler temp is better for transportation and storage.  I pulled out a raspberry cupcake from the frig this AM and microwaved it for 10 seconds, and it was WONDERFUL with my cup of coffee.  It reminded of my wedding cake - also with raspberry filling and buttercream.  I'm not sure if the lady who helped us was Annette, but I expect so because she was busy baking cookies and very friendly.  We will be getting to know her better.

Kathryn and Henry outside Annette's Cakery.
Annette's cupcakes.

So while we throughly enjoyed our Georgetown Cupcake adventure, it is nice to know that we won't have to make such a grueling trip to get a really delicious cupcake.  Both Nostalgia Cupcakes and Annette's Cakery have something to satisfy any cupcake connoisseur.  It's probably not a good thing that our favorite cupcakes are so close by.  If you still cringe at the idea of spending $3 or more for a cupcake, hit Annette's on Tuesday and stock up.  We got our dozen for $9 and will eat like kings for a few days.  Actually, her's are half as cheap even at full price!

Other cupcake options in the area with which I am familiar would include Caroline's Cakes over on Whitehall Road (she's known for her cakes, but has acknowledged the cupcake craze) and Cakes and Confections Gourmet Bakery (the cute little shop on St. Margaret's Rd. at the turnoff to Cantler's).  We haven't even touched on Baltimore, which is home to Charm City Cupcakes (no relation to Charm City Cakes of Ace of Cakes fame), and Caroline's Cupcakes.  A road trip adventure for another day.

Addendum 8/19/10:  We took Caroline of Caroline's Cakes up on her offer to stop by and try her cupcakes.  We had a craving for a lobster roll, too, so we brought home a couple of those and a half dozen cupcakes (two grand marnier, one vanilla with caramel frosting, one vanilla with vanilla buttercream frosting, and two chocolate with vanilla buttercream).  Her's are the most cheerful we've seen yet, and I have to agree that they are very special!  The cake is perfection, and the frosting is like velvet that melts in your mouth.  Absolutely fantastic and just minutes away from the Cape - truly dangerous.  There is absolutely no reason to travel far for a spectacular cupcake (not to mention whole cakes, by the slice, or made/decorated to order - Henry didn't make it out of the store without digging into a slice of Southern Chocolate cake).  The link to her website is below.  Here's what the beauties look like:

Caroline's Cakes cupcakes
Caroline's lobster roll (see comments below).

And here's what you need to know to get some of your own:

Georgetown Cupcake
Corner of M St. and 33 St. NW, Washington DC
Make sure to order the day before up to 9 PM! (unless you like standing in line)

Nostalgia Cupcakes
188 Main St., Annapolis

Annette's Cakery
562 B and A Blvd., Severna Park
Two for Tuesday cupcakes!

Caroline's Cakes
1580 Whitehall Rd., Annapolis

Cakes and Confections Gourmet Bakery
1841 St. Margaret's Rd., Annapolis www.tips-fb.com

Monday, August 16, 2010

One Week to Go!

Cape St. Claire Elementary
Exactly one week from today, the doors of Cape St. Claire Elementary will open for 1st through 5th graders for the 2010 - 2011 school year, and our kids will leave behind their lazy summer days and vacations for the business of learning.  It's a big day in the year for everyone, but perhaps the even bigger event that marks the end of summer and the return to school is the "Meet and Greet" at the school on the Thursday before school starts - this Thursday for those of you in denial.  This is the opportunity for kids to learn their class assignments and meet their teachers.  Kindergarteners are the only ones privy to this information before then.

In years past, the class rosters were posted on the doors of the school the Friday afternoon before school started on Monday, and as soon as it went up, the school administration would lock down the school and race for their getaway cars.  Parents would start prowling the school parking lot or doing Blue Ridge drive-bys in the early afternoon, looking for any sign that "The List" had been posted.  Kids rode by on their bikes doing the same.  I don't know who was more eager to find out.  Families who were out of town on the all important day left instructions for a friend to get their assignments.  I have been known to photograph the entire List and e-mail copies of it to anyone desperate for the information.

In recent years, the Meet and Greet has been implemented in order for kids to have a chance to not just learn who their teacher will be, but actually meet them face to face.  It's a better system, but for those who are unable to attend for whatever reason, they will not know what class they are in until Monday morning when they march through the front doors of the school.  It would be a nice improvement if the old List could be published online at the school website once the Meet and Greet is over so everyone has access to the information.

Once the Thursday Meet and Greet is over, students and parents wander off to start preparing for the first Monday morning of many to come.  Any remaining shopping for school supplies, first day outfits, haircuts, backpacks and lunch food has to be done in the next 72 hours.  Bedtimes start to get earlier as kids try to sneak in a last few jars of fireflies or beach outings.  It's hard to let go of summer, but most kids and parents are ready for the structure of a regular routine and find comfort in the day to day rhythm of the school week that lies ahead.

This is the first year that my kids and I will not have to find out elementary class assignments as my youngest starts middle school at Magothy River this fall.  We are all ready to leave behind those years but will miss the comforting cocoon of Cape Elementary.  Both of my kids had six wonderful years there, and I couldn't be happier with their elementary school experience.  It far surpassed what I can recall of my first six years of school.  CSC Elementary is fortunate to attract and retain some of the best teachers in the area, and with the added support of a phenomenal PTO and a slew of great extracurricular activities, this makes for one terrific time for the kids.

For more information about the Meet and Greet, visit the Cape St. Claire Elementary website at:

Cape St. Claire Elementary

For those who will be bus riders, the bus schedules were released today on the Anne Arundel County Public School website:

Anne Arundel Public Schools

Here's to a happy and successful 2010 - 2011 school year for all of our kids, wherever they attend school.  It's an exciting time of year! www.tips-fb.com

Friday, August 13, 2010

Water from a Deeper Well - Seriously?

The sun burned hot, it burned my eyes
Burned so hot I thought I'd died
Thought I'd died and gone to hell
Lookin' for the water from a deeper well
I went to the river but the river was dry
I fell to my knees an I looked to the sky
I looked to the sky and the spring rain fell
I saw the water from a deeper well

- Deeper Well, Emmylou Harris - Wrecking Ball






So my Dad outed me as a blogger on Facebook, and now I guess I have to keep posting in case anyone actually checks in.  If a blog is posted on the internet and no one is around to read it, does it make a sound? ...

Ah well, lets talk about wells.  One of the less appealing features of life in Cape St. Claire is that the nearly 3000 households in this community all get their drinking water from wells.  Yes, that's right, we're all on well water.  Irony, acidic, sulphur-stinking well water.  When we first moved to the Cape, I was stunned to learn that we would have a well.  It was inconceivable to me that a middle class neighborhood in the 1990s would not have public water.  In the California track home suburbs where I grew up, I never knew anyone with a well.  The only experience I had with well water was when I visited my grandparents in rural South Carolina.  The old circa 1900 farmhouse had toilets with rust rings, and we smelled like a fork after showering, but surely not in the Annapolis area in 1993.

In the state of Maryland, about 16% of households are on well water which is higher than the national average, but I'm pretty sure that number must be higher for Anne Arundel County.  The best I could find was this 2007 map of county water service:

AA County Water Service

The waterfront areas (older in many cases) seem to account for a lot of the wells (gold for "planned" water service, blue for "existing").   Many of the newer cookie cutter neighborhoods have public water - in fact the Atlantis community (little blue sliver on the map within Cape St. Claire) which is completely surrounded by Cape St. Claire has public water - and public water even reaches within a half mile of us to Broadneck High School and down to our shopping center and elementary school, but not so for us.  That's what we get for wanting an "eclectic" (not Monterey, CA eclectic but more "redn'ecklectic") neighborhood.

SO when moving to the Cape became a reality, I quickly planned to get up to speed on owning a well.  Wells have been around for a very long time.  The earliest discoveries date back to something like 8000 BC, and they are documented throughout the earliest of written records.  I tried to find some enthusiasm for well ownership by telling myself I was sharing a common bond with ancient civilizations that drew their water from the earth.  That didn't get me very far.  Even the Romans figured out public water...

Our first house in the Cape on Latrobe had a wellhead in the front yard and some kind of mysterious chemical tank under the stairs that I never really took the time to figure out.  I was still unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the whole notion of a well and just hoped it would do its job.  The well part did, but the chemical tank, which was supposed to neutralize the acidity of our water, was either not set up properly, or we weren't using it right.  It took me a while to figure out that my rashy skin was a result of the very low pH of our well water, and even once I made the connection, I wasn't really sure how to go about fixing it.  I might have tried harder if the kids had been affected by it, but they apparently inherited their father's tougher skin.  I just slathered on an arsenal of lotions and steroid creams when my skin tried to bubble off my body.

Seven years and oceans of lotion later, we moved to our second house in the Cape, and it wasn't an option to turn a blind eye to the well situation.  In order to close on a mortgage, a house's well has to pass a potability test, and the one in the new house did not.  Acid was bad enough, but now we were dealing with bacteria.  The seller attempted to "bleach" the well (I'm more familiar with the whole bleaching procedure now, but at the time, it seemed just wrong to pour bleach in your water source).  In the process, he managed to break the pump, and still, we had bacteria, so we split the difference on an ultraviolet light to fry the bacteria.  We would still be drinking bacteria, but dead bacteria.  Got our mortgage and blocked out any thoughts of drinking dead bacteria.

Now this second Cape house came with a pretty major water treatment setup (see picture below), and I resolved that I would finally embrace well ownership and learn how to manage our water quality.  This involved learning how to:  change two different types of carbon filters, add salt cubes to the water softener to remove the iron, replace the bateria-busting UV light, add sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) to the chemical feed tank to neutralize the acidity, and then some bleach to the tank for good measure (helps keep that sulphur smell at bay).  In addition, we installed a reverse osmosis system in our kitchen for extra drinking water filtration (that's a whole maintenance nightmare of its own).  I like to believe that all the effort results in reasonably safe drinking water, but it's kind of a leap of faith.  I do know that I'm no longer rashy, and I'm pretty handy with a water test kit now.

The things I still HATE about having a well:
  • Hearing the telltale chink, chink, chink of the chemical feed pump when the tank is out of solution followed by the aforementioned fork smell and crispy orange hair after a shower
  • Hair color that always fades to orange.
  • Water softener breakdowns resulting in thick orange rusty water in our sinks and toilets of biblical proportions.
  • Losing water pressure when the power goes out.  We each get one flush before we have to plug in the generator.
  • Spilling sodium hydroxide on my hands and feeling it eat my flesh (the inspiration for today's blog post!)
  • The sickening list of possibilities when we lose water pressure.  Is the pump not working?  Is the footer broken?  Is the well going dry/water level too low?  Is the pressure tank failing?  Is the chemical tank leaking?  None of these are easy or cheap fixes, and we've experienced them all at one time or another.
When we remodeled our house a couple of years ago, we had to dig a new well because the old well head (once we found it below our existing deck buried three feet below the ground in a cheese cloth that resembled the Shroud of Turin) was too close to the addition - under it actually.  As bad as all the above repair jobs had been, none was as hideous as digging a new well.  Talk about a dirty job, and despite hitting and cutting both phone and electric lines, and drilling into an old buried septic tank (thank God public sewer was put in before my days in the Cape!), digging it was the easy part.  The well digging rig bored down about 198 feet to the Magothy Aquifer (or perhaps the Upper Patapsco?) to reach our new water source.  The fun came next with months of testing and repeated bleachings of the well and our household pipes to try and kill the ever present bacteria.  We finally managed to kill the dern bacteria, but destroyed our old copper pipes in the process resulting in pinhole leaks.  It drove me to tears on more than one occasion.  All this before we actually even started the remodel.

So after 17 years of being on one well or another, I'm reasonably confident that we have decent water, and I'm not as afraid of the concept anymore, archaic as it is.  Still, I dream of the day when the public water lines will come flowing down the road into my house washing away my well water worries, and the basement water treatment plant can be disassembled.  I think it is probably a pipe dream (get it - a PIPE dream) because there's no way the requisite percentage of Cape residents is going to agree to the outlay of funds to bring it in, and the county doesn't seem to be in too big a hurry to force the issue, but a girl can dream.

Basement Water Treatment Plant
Picture on Right - My Hand This AM
www.tips-fb.com

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Peaches!

One of our favorite songs by one of our favorite bands is "Peaches" by the group the Presidents of the United States of America.  The lyrics of the chorus go:


Peaches come from a can
They were put there by a man
In a factory downtown.
If I had my little way
I'd eat peaches everyday
Sun soakin' bulges in the shade.


Well, that is true 10 or 11 months of the year, but for one, maybe two months in late summer, the only way to eat a peach is hanging over the kitchen sink so the juice doesn't get everywhere.  There is NOTHING juicier or better tasting than a fresh, ripe summer peach, and part of what makes them so appealing is the very short time that we have them at their peak.  For the rest of the year, you might as well reach for the can because all you'll get in the produce aisle is a hard, tasteless mouthful of fuzz from South America perhaps.


No, the only way to really enjoy a fresh peach is to wait for that window of opportunity in late July and August and then eat them like there's no tomorrow.  I'm averaging one a day - sometimes two.  If they start to get too ripe and bruised, I slice them up, but I do my best to put in some time over the kitchen sink before they go too far - often late at night when the rest of the family has gone to bed so my slurping doesn't offend.   I'm personally too lazy to peel them, and you know they have to be good to make me bite through that thick, furry skin! 


So run down to Graul's and get yourself a brown bag of summer perfection, or better yet, hit one of the local Farmer's Markets or the Pennsylvania Dutch Market where you can actually talk to the folks who picked them.  Check out the link below for times and locations.  Check out the other link to sing along about peaches as you're slurping one down, "Millions of peaches, peaches for me..."

Maryland Farmer's Markets




Presidents Of The Usa - Peaches
Found at Peaches on KOhit.net
www.tips-fb.com

Monday, August 9, 2010

Laika Kayaka

Our new Australian Shepherd puppy, Laika (named for the first dog in space), is just over 4 months old, and she goes just about everywhere with us.  Unlike the Great Dane, Maggie, she fits in tighter spaces and is much more agile.  Here is an example of something I could never consider doing with Maggie:

Laika Kayaka
www.tips-fb.com

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sailing Away

In a community surrounded by water as our is, it stands to reason that boating and watersports would be a favorite pastime. I grew up in California with a father who loved to sail. My husband on the other hand, is more of the power boating and fishing persuasion. Ever since we moved to the water, I've secretly harbored a wish to have a small sailboat but could not interest anyone else in my family.

Lucky for me, the Cape has a terrific Youth Sailing Summer Program. My daughter would have none of it, but finally this year, I managed to get my son enrolled. It's a very popular activity and with good reason. The kids spend two weeks sailing small boats both inside and outside the boundaries of Cape waters with trusty instructors patiently tagging along after them in skiffs. Henry emerged from his two weeks on the water with newfound confidence in his boating skills and an appreciation for sailing.  Now if we can just get our hands on the right used sailboat!

I'm posting a couple of pictures of his adventures and a short video below.  For anyone interested in Cape Youth Sailing, you can find information on the Yacht Club of Cape St. Claire website (yes, the Cape has an established Yacht Club!)  They even have a class for adults.


Yacht Club of Cape St. Claire



video



Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer



www.tips-fb.com

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Welcome!

Welcome to my Cape St. Claire blog! I thought I'd play around with posting my thoughts, musings and observations on life in one of the Chesapeake Bay's finest communities.  We are just north of the Bay Bridge on a peninsula of land bordered by the Little Magothy River, the Chesapeake Bay, the Magothy River and Deep Creek.  My husband and I have lived here since we married in 1993 and bought our first home near Broadneck High School. In 2000, we moved a mile down the road to a place on Deep Creek.  After 17 years of married life in the Cape, we have two kids (Henry-11 and Kathryn-12 yrs), two dogs (Maggie - a 6-year old Great Dane and Laika - a 4 month-old Australian Shepherd), a cat called Dinky, and some fish to show for our time here.  To say this community is "water privileged" is a tremendous understatement.  We are fortunate to have three marinas, one boat ramp, and two lovely beaches at our disposal.  I've yet to see a community with such terrific access to the Bay.  We are truly delighted to be raising our family in such a wonderful place.

www.tips-fb.com