Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Ferrying We Will Go...

Wanted to do something a little different with the kids on this last day at the beach and decided to take the ferry from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, New Jersey.

After we loaded our vehicle onto the ferry we then proceeded to wander about, enjoying all the little nuances on the ship. These boats are awesome - cafes, bathrooms, video arcades, gift shops, flat screen televisions, full bar! My family chose to sit on the outside deck - reading, relaxing, taking in the scenery.

After arriving on Cape May we were thankful we didn't leave the vehicle in Lewes and take only the bikes...the route is not very child friendly for sure. We continued to the beach area and decide to tour the historic district before eating lunch at an outdoor cafe on
Washington Square, the pedestrian mall.
After which we ventured to Sunset Beach, which is famous for a WWI shipwreck (The SS Atlantus), as well as rose quartz sand (we looked very hard but never did find those little 'Cape May Diamonds' ?)

We then had only about an hour before the last ferry back to Delaware, which wouldn't allow enough time to visit the lighthouse, so we decided to do a wine tasting at Turdo Vineyards, a small family owned Italian style vineyard just minutes from the ferry dock. The hostess was very gracious and accommodating even though we arrived 15 minutes before closing. She never rushed us, let us taste the entire available vintages and even offered my under-aged children a treat.

Once back in Lewes, we decided to stick around for a light dinner and some more wine before strolling the quaint streets and then heading back to the Maryland coast.

It was really a great day...the ferry ride, the historic towns, the lighthouses, the wine, the school of dolphins that the captain killed the engines for and pointed out to the passengers - what more could one want. We will definitely be back again someday...hopefully an overnight trip next time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Assateague Island

As always when we go to the beach, we venture over to Assateague Island where we get our fix of 'roughing it' in the wild with their very limited facilities. It just so happened that this past weekend was one of 3 FREE SUMMER WEEKENDS they are offering this year (6/20-21, 7/18-19, 8/15-16). Yea!!!

We typically pack a cooler full of food to grill, plenty of 'beverages', a change of clothes (we always wear our bathing suits), surf boards/boogie boards, all our bikes and a guitar into the back of a pick-up truck - and we're off!

There is so much to do here...besides the obvious driving through the State Park and looking for the infamous wild ponies that reside here; we build a fire or grill, swim, surf, fish, crab, clam, kayak/canoe (which are both rented here by the hour), bike ride, etc... unlike at the other Maryland beach where there are so many no-no's.

We have yet to stay through the night here and keep saying we want to... I tent camped as a child and want my children to experience that wonderful world of self-reliance and self-efficiency...BUT by the time the sun sets and those mosquitoes are in full swing - we usually can't wait to shower and get the hell off this island.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Art IS Alive...& Well

Every year I try to plan a trip to the beach around the Arts Alive Festival in Northside Park, Ocean City. It is by far one of my very favorite outdoor summer arts markets in the Mid-Atlantic area and the setting/location is perfect!

The weather forecast didn’t look good for this entire weekend, so I was keeping my fingers crossed. I woke up early Saturday morning and spoke with family members back home and they said it was raining heavily at 8am…and I knew it was heading east. I didn’t bother to wake anyone or even eat breakfast – I simply gulped down a cup of coffee and by 9am I was on my way….

There were so many great artists this year – old & new, and a few friendly faces I knew from ARTSCAPE, Bel Air’s Festival of Arts and/or the Havre de Grace show. Here are a few samples:

Robert Wieand from Sarasota, Florida’s Fantasy Forest ( ) metal and glass creatures w/ twinkle lights in their body cavities (below)was a very popular booth and I must admit, pretty cool. Finland born Nina Mickelsen’s Clarissa Studio decorative wall art designs/silk screening uses both traditional and technologically advanced methods ( ) . Silver Moon Studio's Ruth & Keith Krause from Walnutport, PA, use 100% pure silver in their metal and fused glass jewelry (I wish they had a website). Kenyan born Owino Martin’s K’Owino Batiks fabrics & prints were some of the finest I’ve seen ( ).

My ‘Best in Show’ would go to a Michigan couple, Ruth & David Jellema, with Fabrications ( ). Their original fabric mâché sculpture made from cheesecloth is like nothing I have ever seen before. Their ‘Bathing Beauties’ (above) were a big hit at this beach-town show. The pieces range from $70 for a small single bathing beauty to $1450 for a life-sized mermaid (below). You have to see this stuff up close to appreciate it.

According to the artists I spoke with, there were a lot of people looking – but not a lot of people buying (damned economy!). I wasn’t one of those non-buys…I rarely leave an art show empty handed. Even if I didn’t find anything for me or to give as a gift, I would donate to the show itself or an involved organization as a way of showing my support.

No worries today - I bought a tiny brown painted potters pitcher/gravy boat from a half- priced table for $5, a pair of hammered silver drop earrings from MiCielo ( ) that the owner tucked in a cute little re-usable tulle and ribbon gift bag, and a fired-glass pendant from fellow Marylander Matt Mathers of Dragonfired Glass Creations, who’s been coming to the local Harford County art shows for quite some time.

All together it was a great morning and as I made it completely around the entire lagoon…the rain came.

(these litle guys were just added entertainment for the crowd today)

Monday, June 15, 2009

It's Just Bawlmer, Hon

I wanted desperatley to show Baltimore to our Vet-Med student that's living with us for the summer. The 'real' Baltimore, a world away from Harbor Place - in the truest of all neighborhoods...Hampden.

Being born & raised in Baltimore city – there is no other festivity that highlights this great town more than HONFEST! I've traveled to many cities in over a dozen countries and have been to my fair share of festivals - this truly is a one-of-a-kind affair.

There really is no need for words here...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The 'Lost Deli' Is Now Found...By Me!

As always, when we have out-of-town guests, we are faced with the sad fact that there are not many choices for breakfast in the Harford County area. Sure there are fast food joints, bagel & doughnut stops, coffee shops and some commercial chain restaurants like Waffle House, Bob Evans, Cracker Barrel, etc…. but I am talking about a cheerful, cozy, locally-owned place with a full breakfast menu (preferably w/ outdoor dining in warm weather) to leisurely enjoy our morning meal.

We typically don’t go out for breakfast (none of us are really morning people), unless we are on vacation, so having guests gives us the perfect opportunity to be tourists in our own hometown…which brings us this early Sunday morning to the Little New York Deli on Main Street in Bel Air. It certainly fit the criteria – full breakfast menu, locally owned, outdoor sidewalk seating and you couldn’t get more cheery than the black & white checkerboard accents throughout the place.

The food here was pretty good too, and not very pricey - which is what really matters to us these days. I believe by the time we were done our group of 9 had tried everything on the menu; from several different omelets and egg dishes, to pancakes, French toast and waffles. Not to mention sides of toast, bacon and sausage along with coffee, tea, and juice.

There is certainly room for improvement here and I would start with three suggestions...
#1: No more Styrofoam cups – it upsets environmentally conscious customers (such as myself) and for those dining in - real cups saucers, as well as a waiter serving the coffee and tea, would add a great touch to the already wonderful atmosphere.
#2: Nothing makes a breakfast sunnier than FRESH SQUEEZED JUICE. Either do it yourself, or purchase in bulk before the weekends - orange and grapefruit will do - and will make a huge difference.
Finally #3: please please please – offer REAL butter and REAL MAPLE SYRUP! Nothing ruins a great piece of French toast like margarine and log cabin.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like this place and want to see more places like this succeed in Harford County. We really need more dining options (especially more with outdoor dining!) to open up and we could use better quality of food at our already established locally owned restaurants. There really is no excuse with all the surrounding farms and their abundance of fresh, local produce, meats, dairy, etc.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I ♥ Summer!

On the very last day of school, I usually like to treat my children to a movie of their choice…I have done this for many years, as my oldest is now entering graduate school. (Ugh, I just heard myself say that.) I really lucked out today as it just so happens to be the first Free Outdoor Movies @ Shamrock Park this evening.

What a great way to spend an evening…we got there around 7pm and since we are not the fortunate few who live within walking distance – we had to search for parking? Not sure if it was the great weather, the last day of school, or the ‘Kung Fu Panda’ film itself…but there was NO parking left along Lee Way where I usually have no trouble getting a spot for these.

This just goes to prove my point – America is changing. People are craving connections in their communities, especially in trying economic times like these. The lonely, empty, activity-starved subdivisions and McMansions are no longer the ultimate prize for success– people now want more. They want to live and raise their children in areas that are vibrant, active and they value activities such as this. Thanks to Bel Air’s Downtown Alliance for organizing this and other events…it really is a treat, even for us non-Bel Air residents.

Like us, most people arrived by 7 and for about 2 ½ hours they entertained their children…there was the playground of course, the volleyball court/sand box, Chick Fil-A & Smoothie King dinners (unless they brought carryout pizza – which seemed to be very popular and I must admit smelled much better than my packed peanut butter & jelly sandwiches). There was also the scheduled entertainment, Tae Kwon Do Masters, as well as a woman in the crowd doing free face painting?

By the time ‘Kung Fu Panda’ started and everyone had their $1 cup of popcorn, the littlest ones were either asleep on their blankets or screaming in their strollers… those poor parents had to pack everything up and leave without even seeing the movie - so much for summer fun.

Well, at least it was free and there is always next time…

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Music Mill?

With out-of-town guests in for the weekend, we were looking for the perfect ending to their very first visit to the area. After spending all of Saturday touring the historic neighborhoods surrounding Baltimore’s Harbor, I thought what better way to spend a warm Sunday evening than @ an outdoor concert - in the country!
So the 10 of us packed a huge picnic cooler full of wine, cheese, olives, fruit, etc., loaded lawn chairs in the back of our trucks and headed south…

After driving approximately 30 minutes, we crossed the Jericho Bridge (circa 1865 and the only remaining covered bridge in the tri-county area) and within a few hundred feet, we were at the quaint historic village of Jerusalem Mill. This tiny village sits alongside the Little Gunpowder Falls River banks and consists of several private historic homes as well as a grist mill/museum, blacksmith shop, and gun/copper shop. The Mill, built in 1772, was once known world wide for it’s prized ‘white silk ‘ flour and now serves as the Gunpowder State Park Headquarters.

This particular evening, Smooth Kentucky ( was the musical entertainment; a little folksy, a little country and loads of talent. Playing everything from Bob Dylan and Grateful Dead to authentic bluegrass classics.

I must add that the crowd here was the most laid back (in a good way) of ANY festival/concert scene I had ever experienced; moms swaying with their papoose’d babies, dogs playing fetch, couples stretched out on blankets, children skipping stones along the river bank, and friendly conversations in sync with not-too-loud music made for a very enjoyable evening. And since these concerts take place the first Sunday evening of every summer month, I know I will return – sooner than later I hope!

The Jerusalem Mill and it’s historic village shops are open every Saturday and Sunday from 1-4, staying open later on the Summer Concert Series evenings. For more info

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Secret No More...

Just a short ride east on Route 543 (past the commercial favorites of Cold Stone and DQ) lies one of the greatest summer pleasures in Harford County…Brooms Bloom Dairy Farm Store& Café. You would be surprised how many people I know that live in Harford County but have never even heard of this place – which leads me to my hesitation of ever writing about it in the first place.

Sometimes, when it is something you enjoy so much, you realize that it IS so great because of its obscurity; its complete local flair and small-town charm. When these things finally do become SO popular that you find yourself dreading the hassle it sometimes takes to get there (take Boordy Vineyards, for example – which I do still love and frequent and will obviously continue to write about – BUT Boordy has definitely changed since it’s ‘free picnic’ days). You want to keep such a treasure a secret to protect its charm, its simplicity, its magic – I mean, the line @ BBD on a summer Saturday or Sunday evening is out the door as it is – do I really want to blow its somewhat elusive cover???

Well, I have decided to share my affection for this place despite my previous selfish agenda…

In addition to the incredible ice cream (and the numerous ever-changing flavors to choose from), they offer a great lunch/ lite-fare dinner menu as well. There are individual choices starting at $2.75 and two, three or four-course ‘prix fixe’ meals that include some combination of quiche, salad, yogurt, sandwich, fruit, soup, cheese, nuts, wrap, etc…and ALL include a small ice cream for $6-$11. The food is fresh, healthy, entirely local and, oh yea…delicious!

Even though the farm store/barn is open year-round every day except Mondays, summer is the best time to experience Brooms Bloom at its finest…sitting outside on the covered deck or sunny lawn, in a rocking or Adirondack chair, or perhaps with the whole family at one of their huge picnic tables all while taking in the gorgeous rural views of the countryside - this is THE greatest way to do so.

And if you’re lucky, they may even have live outdoor music on the deck to enhance your experience…