Giving Thanks to Mongolia

 

 

Flaming Cliffs

Flaming Cliffs and I

In this time of giving thanks for all that we have, I can’t help but focus on the incredible trip I took this past summer to the planetary middle of nowhere. It was one of those trips that hits everything on a traveler’s to do list and then some. And while I call Baltimore home, this begins the season of home being where you heart is, and my heart is now scattered all over the world thanks to this land called Mongolia.

 

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I say that my heart is scattered and not left in Mongolia because this trip opened more of the world up to me than my previous travels, and I have traveled a LOT. I’ve hosteled my way through Europe, snorkeled reefs at home and abroad, and spent more hours of my life than I care to count in airports. But this trip was different than the rest. Sure, I saw the incredible landscapes of the steppes, drank hot milk tea and marveled at the music of throat singers—and I do not want to belittle those experiences. Trust me, never say “No” to the chance to visit the land of the blue sky. But for me, the thing that made all the difference was the people I met and lived with along the way.

Travel means meeting new people and seeing new ways of life, but honestly how often does it mean new friends? With all the travel that I have done I can’t honestly say that I’ve collected a ton of friends along the way. Yes, I’ve broken bread or swapped a social media handle, but rarely have I made a connection with anyone that turned into true friendship. That changed in Mongolia, where making friends seems to be the unofficial national sport.

Mongolia Crew

#mongoliasquad

In a land where you can literally drive up to anyone’s ger, knock on the door and be treated like family, making friends was the norm. By the end of my two weeks, I realized that the people I spent this time with squashed in Soviet vans, waiting out dust storms and counting lichen on rocks, had become my international family. These were the people I never thought I needed to know but now couldn’t fathom my life without. When we went our separate ways to our true homes in different parts of the world, my heart went with each of them and I knew it would stay that way.

I’m so thankful for that trip because it gave me more to be thankful for than food, electricity and travel. It gave me an international family to follow and love and proof that no matter where you go you will never truly be alone—there will always be an open door.

What could just ‘B’ more great?

Cat Squad

Gotta Rep the Cat Ears

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It’s Halloween – Here’s the Party!

Halloween decore

Getting my decore on at Paper Source in Pikesville!

As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to enjoy Halloween more and more. Not that I ever had a problem with the idea of getting candy for dressing up, but when going door to door was no longer an option I was less into the festivities. Luckily, that was a short-lived phase and now I look forward to what the season of spooks and scaries brings.

Being in Baltimore, there’s a lot of fun things to do on Halloween night. Who doesn’t enjoy a good walk around Fells or Canton to see the creativity that is the local Halloween scene?

However, I’m challenging you to think about the days before the big night and get into the thrills and chills a little earlier. Here are some things to help you get the most out of the season of Halloween!

Time Warp with Creative Alliance

Rocky Horro Picture Show

If you’ve seen Rocky Horror Picture Show you know it is a timeless cult classic that is best seen with a few dozen or more strangers. If you haven’t seen Rocky Horror Picture Show there is nothing better than seeing it for the first time with those previously mentioned strangers. Honestly, search RHPS costumes or put on your PJs and head to The Creative Alliance for showings, complete with dancing and sing-a-longs. What makes this even better is that there are showings Thursday, Friday AND Saturday night so once you realize you have to see it again – with friends – you can easily do so. Or do back-to-back showings on Saturday, October 21. Or go to them all, I won’t judge. (But I will see you there.)

*Rocky Horror picture show, October 19-21, 2017. Admission $15, see link above for times.

Go Brunching with your Witches

Halloween Brunch

I know that dressing up is thought of as more of a nighttime activity, but I challenge you to think outside the box. With Halloween on a Tuesday this year, the weekend before is the unofficial-official party scene. So go out to brunch on October 29 with a bunch of your best witches in full-on costume glory. Plus, if you hit parties the night before you’re already dressed and ready for some hair of the dog.

OR you can switch up your invitation-only Halloween Party in the evening for a Costume Brunch at your own haunted house. And there’s plenty of time to plan this out: just send the invites, make some themed food and don’t forget the Bloody Marys.

Do the Monster Mash with WTMD

Shake your bones on October 26 at the first ever Spooktacular hosted by WTMD. Local Baltimore musicians will be covering Halloween songs sure to make you howl with delight. With tickets starting at $15, you get great music, a little spooky poetry, scary stories and maybe even a ghost or two. Costumes are encouraged – don’t be a scaredy cat!

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get some treats!

What could just ‘B’ more spooky?

 

 

Hey Baltimore, what ever happened to those New Year’s Resolutions?

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Recently I was home, frustrated that I wasn’t able to complete the goals I wanted to accomplish for this blog over the summer. This was because of unforeseen surgery complications and major life events that were beyond my control. The fact that these hurdles popped up and were indeed more important than my self-imposed deadlines was something I recognized, but it still hurt that my plans had been derailed yet again.

Dealing with an injury that won’t go away has been a real challenge for me the past two years and I was feeling like I had achieved nothing, both professionally and personally. After all, how do you write a blog about the goings-on in your hometown when you often can’t participate in the goings-on?

So I got to thinking about my January post on goals for the new year and whether I had actually accomplished anything.

Imagine my surprise when I found that I had! Since 2017 is now over half-way through, I thought I’d share my progress. Plus, the  new school year is (unfortunately) upon us and is a perfect time to remember and restart those goals you made at the beginning of the year that may need a little push to the finish.

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Travel (around town) and Support Local Businesses

Being unable to get to places has been a struggle for me. I had plans to have some fun day trips and extended weekends – I’m looking at you Ocean City. Clearly, that didn’t happen, and sadly, my Thrashers fries appear to be more of a 2018 goal at this point. (Funniest part? I was able to get to Mongolia. Life just makes no sense sometimes.)

BUT I was able to check out local businesses and organizations, which happened to take me all over Baltimore and parts of Maryland. So far I have racked up: visiting the awesomeness that is The Foundery, seeing art among flowers at the Rawlings Conservatory, treating myself to local art at Charm City Craft Mafia events, getting my science on at Baltimore Underground Science Space (BUGSS), attending the opening of Hysteria Brewing Co, and chilling with Baltimore’s newest Zine Queens over at Nasty Press. And that’s not including the local restaurants and beers I purchased. I feel that’s a respectable showing from January to August.

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Add a Skill

When my best friend suggested I get my Katniss on with her and take an archery class, I had only one answer, “Hell yeah!” And so, with mandatory braid in place, I went with her to *forgotten the name so must look up and tried to find my inner tribute. I was not a natural, but by the end of the lesson I could hit the target 9 times out of 10. Not bad for one hour’s worth of work. Since that March outing I’ve been back and intend to continue – I have a bullseye that needs to be hit.

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Hit the Books

Last year I read a total of 2 books. It hurts just to type that. So my final 2017 goal suggestion was to try to up my book reading this year to one book a month for a grand total of 12 entire books. In the end I just made it a point to make time to read (sorry Netflix binge weekends!) and didn’t count the books as I went. I did keep a list though, and when I went back to count I found I’ve already read 14 books! I smashed my goal and there’s plenty of time to add more.

All in all, I’d say it’s not too bad of a goal run for a person who had stretches of time where she couldn’t leave the house or drive. How did you do on your goals? Did you reach any? Have a way to go still? Like I said, it’s not too late to pick them up again or even make new ones. You just have to try.

What could just ‘B’ more encouraging?

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I also made it to Light City.

Flower Power: Best Thing to Do this Earth Day

octopus garden

It’s April! It’s Earth Day! It’s my Birthday!

If you can’t tell, April is my favorite month of the entire year. The weather warms, the O’s are back at The Yard, I happily become a year older and the flowers come out in force. It’s the season of renewal and restarts and there’s no better way to celebrate than with a trip to the Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens of Baltimore. And there is no better time to stop and smell their flowers than this weekend, for the following two reasons:

  1. It’s Earth Day on April 22, 2017.
  2. It’s the last weekend of their Annual Spring Flower Display.

tree jelly

If you’re a loyal follower of just B more blog, then you’ll remember my past visit to the Spring Show which took you to outer space. This year, they’re keeping it closer to home and traveling under the sea to discover An Octopus’s Garden, with help from the National Aquarium and the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Trust me when I say that this is where you want to take family and friends on your Earth Day adventures.

eel and tulips

That’s because there’s more than just flowers to gaze upon at this show. Follow the paths and you’ll find an eel peeking between some petals, jellyfish hanging from trees and an octopus chilling with the succulents. Just be sure to take a close look at the animals – you’ll find that most of them are made of trash – reminding you to think green this Earth Day and every day. There’s a scavenger hunt for children of all ages, or if you’re less actively inclined you can curl up under the tentacles of a jelly and read a good book. Either way, you’ll get happily lost for an hour or two checking out this amazing show.

Reading

Love it so much you can’t bear to part ways?  Take some greenery with you – there are lots of plants and succulents for purchase that would love a new home. (I couldn’t help but bring this little guy with me!)

 

Succulent

Can’t wait until Saturday for your dose of flower power? The Conservatory is open late tomorrow, April 20, allowing you to tip-toe through the tulips until 7 p.m. If the weekends are more your style, then stop by between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for your last chance to see this special display. The Octopus will be leaving on April 23, 2017.

What could ‘B’ more green?

Rawlings Conservatory

 

Seeing the City through a Newbie’s Eyes

amazon fish

At the beginning of the year I set out to achieve four goals for 2017. (If you missed it, you can read about it here.) Recently, I met one of those goals — Travel (around town) — in the most interesting of ways.

Last Friday, I received an alert on my phone from Couchsurfers: Jonathan has requested to stay with you. Seeing as my weekend was pretty empty and I had the room, I enthusiastically hit the “Yes” button. What happened next was not having a person crash on my couch, but even better. I made a new friend and gained a new perspective on the place I call home.

If you really want to fall back in love with Baltimore, then show around an out-of-towner.

jellies

The first place that Jonathan and I hit up was the National Aquarium. One of the city’s jewels, we decided to take advantage of the Fridays after Five deal and enjoy the underwater world without having to get soaked. (It was already raining, so staying dry was a bonus.)

Now, I will say that I am biased when it comes to visiting the Aquarium because I work there on occasion. But due to a pesky broken ankle that’s made walking a literal pain, I haven’t been back in six months. There is something about seeing a familiar place with a person who has never been there, which allows you to notice things that you may not have noticed — and get points of view on things you have always wondered. (For instance, Jonathan being an Aussie native, enjoyed the Australia exhibit and was delighted to get to see the archer fish being fed. Although, when you get to watch fish spit water to knock crickets out of the air, it’s hard to be disappointed!)

It also shows you that, even when you live on the other side of the world, some things are universal — like getting your picture taken at the bubble tubes, something I’ve seen every visitor do at least once. We spent a good two hours wandering the Aquarium, so Jonathan was able to see Maryland rockfish, sturgeon and horseshoe crabs. He appreciated all of that, since he wasn’t able to hit Ocean City on this trip.

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Jonathan really wanted to know about the city as well as the animals. He already knew to grab a crab cake, try Old Bay with fries and buy a box of Berger cookies. I figured we could make some of it happen that night.

crab dog

He wanted to get a real Bmore feel, but had to be at an event in an hour. I knew that if he wanted local Maryland beer and seafood, the best place close by was none other than my fave, Heavy Seas Alehouse.

Our awesome waitress helped Jonathan choose between the oyster poor boy sandwich, crab dog and crab cake sandwich — gotta go crab cake, man! I went with my own tried and true dinner of a foot long crab dog. We swapped stories of our homes while dining on lots of crab cakes, crab dip, Old Bay and beer. Just like a normal Bmore night, right? Well, with one Aussie twist: Jonathan brought Tim Tams from the land down under, so we swapped those in for dessert instead of searching for Berger cookies.

(By the way, tipping your waitress with an additional Tim Tam surprise is totally worth it!)

tim tams

Over the next few days, I wasn’t able to physically show Jonathan around (jobs are pesky like that). Instead, I steered him towards Hampden for some great music and dinner at The Food Market. And he enjoyed his crab cake so much, he hit up the Papermoon Diner for a crab melt. Before he left, he bought his own box of Berger cookies to take home. Rumor has it, his coworkers thought they were delicious.

I’m hoping that Jonathan and I cross paths again on the travel trail. And I must tell you, having grown up on crab cakes and Old Bay it was fun to watch someone experience the flavors for the first time. I was a little jealous! So if you ever get the chance to take someone around town, I say do it! You won’t regret it!

After all, what could ‘B’ more adventurous?

heavy seas

 

5 Places to Check Out this Restaurant Week

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not the time of gifts and lights and pretty wrapping paper, but the time of three course meals for affordable prices at some of Baltimore’s best restaurants. That’s right, friends: it’s Baltimore City Restaurant Week 2017 – Winter Edition!

Starting this Friday, January 13 and ending on January 22, you can skip around some of the best eateries the city has to offer. (That’s 10 days of glorious eating, for those of you counting.) If you have yet to hit the streets and fill your stomach during Restaurant Week, this is the year to do it. (Although, I put it on the list of things to do in 2016!) Being a seasoned patron of Restaurant Week, I thought I’d help you to narrow down the list to a few great eats. What makes these places worth mentioning over the rest? Three things: great food, great vibe, and great value for the price. So while it’s a steal of a deal during this week, if you venture there any other time (like the day after because you made a mistake or couldn’t get a reservation) you’re still going to have a full belly.

This is, of course, just one gal’s opinion, so if you feel I overlooked a great option please let me know! Chances are I just haven’t eaten there yet.

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Blue Agave

I’m going to be straight up honest and tell you that tacos, burritos and nachos are my life’s blood, so there was no way a place with Mexican cuisine wasn’t making my list. This fantastic tequila bar and restaurant in Federal Hill has everything you need for a Restaurant Week experience to remember. The staff is friendly, helpful and always game to share a great story or two, and the inside has just enough going on to keep a wandering eye busy but not overwhelmed. And then there’s the food. My best foodie friend still has dreams of their Mushroom & Garlic Empanadas and I’m sure that when we make our plans, this is the place we’re hitting up. While I mentioned the staples of Mexican food, this is where you go to try things that are a bit different, like their puerco cocoa or lamb birria. And of course, treat yourself to one of their 130 tequilas.

Bond Street Social

Bond Street Social

Want a place to hit up after work? This is your destination. Located on the water in Fells Point, this is the place with the upscale industrial vibe and fun bites. I once had an entire meal of just their appetizers and would gladly do so again (I’m looking at you house pretzels and mac n cheese bites). Adding to the posh vibe is the ultra cool staff who manages to make everyone feel like VIPs. If we have unseasonably warm weather during your trip – and that’s not impossible – grab some outdoor seating. If not, chill at the bar or by one of the multiple fireplaces. Yep, you heard that right, multiple fireplaces.

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Jack’s Bistro

There’s nothing quite like Jack’s Bistro, the little eatery in Canton with a lot of personality. The small space is decorated with slight retro vibes and lots of funky art which helps to match the unique cooking style. Specializing in sous vide (pronounced soo vee), the food is prepared by placing it in airtight plastic bags and heating in a hot water bath for long periods of time. With a changing menu, you can visit often and never have to order the same thing twice. Although some favorites, like the 100% Pure Ground Bacon Burger, is almost always listed.

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Salt

You want some duck fat fries? This is the place to get them. Located in Butcher’s Hill, this local art showing, green lit, white-washed brick walled converted rowhome is a place that you MUST try. Multiple times. A week. But if you can only manage it once a year, this is the week to do it. The vibe is hip, but not obnoxious; the staff is knowledge but not stuffy; and the food is marvelous, without exaggeration. I had the best octopus in my life at this restaurant and a risotto that I wanted to savor for hours, but scarfed down anyway. The menu here is constantly changing, so unfortunately nothing I mentioned is currently there. But that just means it’s time to go back and try something new. The hardships of life, am I right?

waterfront-kitchen

Waterfront Kitchen

If you have to see the water even in the dead of winter, you can’t do better than Fells Point’s WK; their one wall is an actual floor to ceiling window overlooking the harbor. The view is only one of the many things to love about this alphabetically last-on-the-list stop. All of the food served here is locally sourced and in season, so it’s the definition of fresh. This is not a line, as much of the produce comes from greenhouses right around the corner on Caroline Street. Still not impressed, you say? What if I told you that same produce is grown by Baltimore City students as part of Living Classroom’s BUGS program? A great meal and a great cause all rolled into one. Now that’s something worth chowing down for.

What could ‘B’ more delicious?

*Photos by my awesome editor, Melinda Campbell
*None of these are paid advertisements. As always, these are things I know of that I want to share with you!

 

4 Goals to Bmore in 2017

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Now that the year that was 2016 is blissfully behind us, we can get onto the business that is 2017. And I don’t know about you, but 2016 was a bit rough for me personally. It’s quite hard to write about all the fantastic things you can do in Baltimore when your driving foot, ankle and leg are casted, thus grounding your car as if its got a permanent boot attached. While friends and family were TOTALLY helpful in getting me to work, food and a holiday party or two, it just wasn’t an inspiring time to write about our great city. (Unless you wanted a run down on the lack of handicapped amenities – which still isn’t out of the question.) So it’s with much relief and a healing body that I look toward 2017 and what it may bring.

When 2016 started, I gave you a great list of things to do for each month of the new year. Trust me when I say that the suggestions on the list will be just as great for 2017 if you missed it. But a new year means a new direction, so this year I’m giving you some tips I plan to use to help hit some New Year’s Goals. (Because no one keeps resolutions anyway.)

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Travel (around town)

Some years the round the world trip is just out of reach. That doesn’t mean that travel has to go out the window. Make this the year you check out a different part of the city, county or state. That new neighborhood bar you keep meaning to get to? Make that an after work happy hour spot one night. Never seen Western Maryland and unsure if it really exists? Take a weekend to explore the western unknown.

The best part about Maryland? It’ll deliver photogenic getaways for any season. Hit some slopes in winter. Check out cherry blossoms in spring. Beach bum it out in the summer. Admire the foliage in the fall. Just remember that travel isn’t something that only counts if you change time zones. Have an adventure a little closer to home. Still need inspiration? Check out vistmaryland.org for more great ideas.

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Support Local Businesses

There are so many great things about the region and one of the best is that if you need it, want it or don’t know about it yet, there’s a good chance you can find it locally. I doubt I need to remind you that our food and drink scene is ever-growing and on point. Stepping out of the city won’t lead to your hunger pangs growing, as there are places to eat in every hill and valley of this great state. With restaurant weeks around the corner, there are plenty of opportunities and deals to help you eat local.

But what about the other things in life – home decor, clothes, books and the rest? Don’t worry, you’re covered. Pick up all of these and more at the next Charm City Craft Mafia craft fair. Or wait until Artscape and snag some local wares there. There is so much talent in and around Baltimore that you just might get the urge to up your hobby game. And that brings me to my next 2017 goal.

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Add a Skill

So many local businesses offer classes that 2017 is definitely the year to add to your skill set. Learn to decorate cakes like a pro with Lotz of Sweets or make pasta with Baltimore Chef Shop. Become an expert at climbing mountains with a class at Earth Treks or become an equestrian at one of the many horse farms. Create your own museum after you’ve mastered how to blow glass and create ceramic sculptures.  Or give an Oscar worthy Shakespearean monologue for your friends.

If you simply search “classes in Baltimore” you will be given multiple options, price points and locations to just about anything you could think of and more. (Hey, I didn’t even know Baltimore had glass blowing classes until I searched two seconds ago!) And if you’re more of a learn on your own type, my final goal for 2017 will help you out.

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Hit the Books

Got stacks of books catching more dust than dog-eared pages? Magazines so old you still don’t know what was fashionable to wear for summer of 2016? Or am I the only one that owns 70 unread titles, courtesy of The Book Thing?

Well, even if you don’t have my bibliophile tendencies and still want to up your read-word count, here are two easy tips to help you reach the “Well Read in 2017” badge.

First, find 12 books for the year. That’s one book a month. Any title, any page length, any anything. Now gather them up, make a stack and place them somewhere you’ll see them. Now you have a visual reminder to whittle down that pile, and the bonus of seeing it shrink over the year. Got an e-reader? Purchase or borrow the one you want to read for the day and add it to your library. Or make a list on GoodReads to help get you in the reading habit. *Bonus* Post a picture to social media to let everyone know about your year-long library.

 

*None of these are paid advertisements. As always, these are things I know of that I want to share with you!