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Street Walkin’ in Annapolis.


I have a secret.

No, I’m not a street-walkin’, stick-legged, glowy-eyed hooker, as evidenced by that last photo.

It’s worse.


Here goes.

I don’t always love to carry my DSLR camera everywhere.

It’s bulky.  It’s heavy.  I have to mess with lens switching and cleaning and worrying about breaking something or expensive equipment getting stolen.

So sometimes, sometimes I just use my phone’s camera.

And you know, it’s not so bad.

It’s grainy.  And gritty.  And dark and unfocused.

But there’s something… raw, you know?


It’s what I used while wandering the streets of Annapolis.

Not hookin’.

My Travel Guidelines: How to Balance Work and Play

The biggest challenge, I think, that most people have with traveling, is finding the ability to strike a healthy balance between squeezing in all of the high-energy sightseeing they can possibly manage and actually getting a little R&R.

If they’re not careful, their vacation can turn into work.


I don’t have that problem.

I know when I’m feeling energized, and I know when it’s time to stop, find a cafe with outdoor seating, and sip a glass of wine.

Striking this balance can be particularly difficult on a road trip when, if you’re spending extended periods of time in the car, it can feel like you’re resting because you’ve been sitting for several hours, but in reality you’ve been a highly concentrated ball of compact energy — shifting music whenever the mood strikes; passing, passing, passing on the left; belting out the lyrics you remember to Billy Joel’s “My Life;” almost peeing your pants when you pass a cop and realize how fast you were going; spending the next half hour daydreaming about living in Europe and doing nothing but driving the Autobahn for days on end; telling yourself you don’t need any more homemade trail mix; and matching your vibrations to those of the vehicle while guzzling your double-shot skinny mocha.

When I left Angie’s place in Virginia, I felt refreshed.  Energized.  Her perfect energy of physical labor combined with wine-laced porch-sitting was exactly what I needed to rev up for the second leg of my trip.

I knew Erin would still be at work when I arrived in Annapolis, so I took my time getting there, opting for back roads (Hwy 310, anyone?  Highly recommended if you’re making a journey up or down the east coast.) over the congested interstates with never-ending repeats of McD’s, T-Bells, and Flying J truck stops.

My method for road trip food selection is simple:  If I see a place I like the looks of, I stop.  If I see a sign that catches my attention, I stop.  If Urban Spoon happens to tell me there’s something along my relative route that’s worth stopping for, I stop.

No need to overthink it.

That’s how this happened.

When I arrived in Annapolis, I decided to stop at a Trader Joe’s for the first time ever to pick up some of their infamous “3-buck Chuck” wine to bring to my compadre’s place.  I wandered the aisles, impressed-yet-refusing-to-be-sidetracked by the numerous offered delicacies.  I finally asked a sample girl where a sister could find some booze on this lovely afternoon, and she looked at me with what can only be described as an expression of the sincerest empathy.  “In Maryland,” she said, because clearly I was a foreigner, “grocery stores can’t sell alcohol.”

Say what?

Having lived in various states and counties south of the Mason-Dixon line for quite some time, I thought I’d already witnessed the gamut of restrictive alcohol sales.  In Georgia I performed the grocery store walk of shame on more than one occasion — carrying my case from the registers back to the darkened shelves on a Sunday afternoon.

But this?  This required people to make a whole other stop.

“But I just came from Virginia,” I whined.

She looked at me like I probably should’ve stayed there.

No matter.  I stopped at an upscale winery and delicatessen where they wearily eyed my selection, poised to judge.  “Hey!”  The counter lady’s eyes lit-up.  “This one’s a very popular choice!”

Apparently my skills are improving.  Or rather, my luck was improving, since I randomly selected the bottle based on price and the label.  But I smiled anyway, like I hear that all of the time, and went on my merry way.

Now let me just say this.  Erin doesn’t actually live in Annapolis.  She lives on an island just across the Chesapeake Bay, on the other side of one of the coolest bridges I’ve seen in my life.  I’ll have a photo in another post, but hear me: If you have a chance to cross this 4-ish mile bridge in your life, do it.

That is all.

I arrived at her adorable house, ready to curl up on the sofa with a book and a beer I knew she’d left me in the fridge.

But then I saw it.

Her view.

I was shocked.

Not just by the generosity of the Red Stripe, but by the fact that she lives on an inlet that leads out to the Chesapeake Bay.

In fact, if I would’ve stolen her canoe and paddled out just past that last house you see on the left, I would’ve had a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge.

Then I probably would have drifted out to sea, never to be seen or heard from again since I have zero upper body strength, but at least I would’ve died happy.

Instead, I spent the rest of the afternoon curled up in a lawn chair alternating views of my book and the water.

Hey.  Don’t judge.

I’d already had a long day driving and shopping for wine.

And that’s the thing — when you find yourself alone in a new place, or especially with people in a new place, it’s easy to run yourself ragged trying to do all there is to do and see all there is to see.  At some point, you have to force yourself to accept the fact that you’re never going to do and see everything.  That life is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of actions and reactions, mirage-like events that sometimes you see and sometimes you don’t.  And sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride.

So to me, I wasn’t wasting time.

I was enjoying the moment.

As Billy would say,

I don’t need you to worry for me cause I’m alright —
I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home.
I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life —
Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone.

Thanks, Mr. Joel.  I’m glad someone gets me.

What’s your travel style?  Would you have camped out with a beer and a book, taken the canoe, or hopped back in the car to explore the town?  How do you strike a balance between work and play when you’re on the road?

Let Me Tell You About This Trip.

No, not a psychedelic shroomie trip I maybe once had back in college.

I’m talking about this trip:

The one I’ll be taking in approximately one month.

The one where I’m driving, because I like to drive, and Justin will be flying to the endpoint, Philadelphia, because he’s a cheater and doesn’t understand the beauty of the road.  And also because he can’t take that much leave from work.

I’m incredibly excited about this trip for 2 reasons:

One, I will be going somewhere.  That’s right — it doesn’t take much to make me happy in this world, and ‘going somewhere’ usually does the trick.

Two, I will be visiting some of my favorite people on this planet.

Angie, the saucy Aussie, lives in Williamsburg, VA.  We studied rocks and maps together in college, and apparently Geology and GIS have tighter bonding power than whatever JLo used to stick her dress to her boobies at the Oscars last weekend, because even though sometimes whole oceans have separated us (her husband is in the military, too), we still always find a way to come back to our friendship.

Me ‘n Angie.  She’s trying not to look at my peeking areola.

Now.  If you’ve been reading this blog since my quarter-life-crisis days (which, let’s face it, will probably linger on into my midlife), you already know Erin.  If not, she’s the one who quit her job with me so we could move to Costa Rica for 2 months.  All it took was one trip to visit her in Frederic, MD and several cocktails, but eventually she caved.  And although she won’t admit it, I’m pretty sure she knows it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to her.  You know, aside from meeting her husband and moving to Annapolis and buying her awesome fixer-upper and going back to school to follow her life dreams.  But whatever.

And finally, there’s Anna and her family, who live in Philadelphia, PA.  What can I say about Anna?  Well.  The first year I visited Justin’s family for Christmas was a little… overwhelming.  My family is very small, not to mention divorced, and with just a handful of cousins, our holidays were pretty low-key even back in the days when we all got together.  So, imagine how I felt when I entered his grandparents’ enormous house filled to the brim with family.  Aunts, uncles, and 23 (or so?) cousins.  And that’s just his dad’s side.

When I met Anna, she took me under her wing.  One of Justin’s aunts through marriage, she knew what it was like to come from outside.  What’s more, we’re very similar in beliefs and personalities.  And while I love visiting that huge family whenever we can, I’ll admit it’s nice to know there’s someone there who understands a little about from where I come — and why, sometimes, I just need more wine.

The thing about large family holidays is that, while you can spend all of this quality time with people, you still might not really know who they are.  Think about it.  If you’ve never seen the place someone calls “home,” do you really know that person?  I loved visiting some of Justin’s other aunts in Colorado one year because we finally were able to see what home was like for them — and they weren’t these bustling, crazy houses full of people, but  normal family homes.  Just them surrounded by the things they love.

This is why I’m looking forward to seeing Anna and her family in their own element — just them, their city, and maybe a couple of Philly Cheesesteaks.

And maybe… maybe


Kids, I have never been to NYC.

Not once.

It’s shameful, I know.

I kept waiting for that publisher or agent to call me out of the blue and invite me up for cocktails and a book deal, but it never happened.


So here I’ve been sitting, less than 12 hours away from this country’s most defining city, just waiting for an invitation.

And guess what?

It just arrived.

So those are the major planned stops so far, but I’m open to visiting some other sights along the way.

Anyone know of something along this route that’s worth the stop?  An amazing restaurant?  The perfect thrift store?  The world’s largest ball of twine?  Do you have or know of a wonderfully designed home that I should photograph for Apartment Therapy?

Hey.  I’ll admit.  While I love a good road trip as much as the next girl, I’m not going to turn down the opportunity to make a little money.

Guilty Pleasure

One of my all-time favorite foods is the avocado.

Case-in-point.  Here’s the DELICIOUS avocado salad I ordered at a sushi restaurant in Frederick, MD a few weeks ago:

Avocado Salad

If I can eat – and love – a “salad” comprised almost entirely of avocado, you know I love ’em.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that it was followed by this:


(Sorry, took the sushi photo with my phone.)

And this:


But anyway.  You wanna make me happy?  Don’t bring me flowers.  Don’t bring me jewelry.  Bring me a couple of ripe avocados.

(Or a can of black olives.)

But today, I’m talkin’ about the avocado.  A luscious, buttery, and green (happens to be my favorite color) fruit that tastes great plain, but even better when adorning a BLT, salmon, or whipped up into a dip for chips.

I make avocado dip all the time in the summer.  It’s my favorite weekend snack, especially when the hubs is out of town.  It’s not exactly a healthy treat, but a girl’s gotta have some guilty pleasures, right?  Right?!

I’m sure you’re all familiar with guacamole, which is made from avocados mixed with various seasonings, tomatoes, and onion.

The dip I make is quite a bit simpler because it’s really just all about the garlic.  And I usually have all of the ingredients on-hand (besides the avocados).  I play with the proportions all the time – you’ll notice the amounts in my photos don’t exactly match the amounts below, but below tends to be the proportions I stick with the most and should give you a good base to adjust according to your tastes.

What you need:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (or more if you love garlic like me – less if you plan on making out with someone who didn’t eat this with you)
  • 6 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper

1.  Start by dicing up your garlic.  Mmmm…. garlic.  They say garlic smell starts coming out of your pours when you eat it.  I say, why is that a bad thing?  There are worse things to smell like than garlic.

minced garlic

2.  Then slice your avocados length-wise (you’ll have to circle around the seed), chop your knife into the seed, twist, then pop it out.  Use a spoon to scoop the delicious avocado innards into a bowl.


3.  Add the minced garlic to the bowl.

avocado dip

4.  Then add the sour cream and lemon juice.

avocado dip

The lemon juice helps keep your avocado from turning brown.

avocado dip

5.  Mix everything together with a fork.  (You can also do this in a food processor if your avocados are still slightly hard, but usually mashing it up with a fork works pretty well.)

avocado dip

Okay I realize this doesn’t exactly look appetizing, but trust me.  It’s yummy.

6.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, dip in a chip, and enjoy!

avocado dip