Friday, June 25, 2010

Brownie Magic

Baking days with my grandma are so special because not only do I go home at the end of the day with multiple pies, I also always learn a new cooking technique. Today's lesson was on brownies - one of my favorite topics! My grandma received for Christmas the coolest brownie pan I've ever seen and it makes 18 perfectly cut brownies every time. So the pan itself is probably an 11 x 7 size, nonstick of course, with a removable bottom and a dividing-grid-thing that bakes with the brownies. Let me explain......first you grease the pan and the divider, then you mix your brownie batter, then pour into the pan, then place the divider thingamajig into the batter and put the whole contraption in the oven. When it's finished, you simply take the pan out of the oven, let cool for 5 minutes, remove the divider thingamajig (you now have 18 perfectly cut and equal brownie pieces), and then place the whole pan on top of a stand object thing and the sides of the pan slip down, leaving a tray of brownies. Voila! I had so much fun with this brownie pan that my grandma and I decided to make 2 batches.....along with 2 apple pies and 3 butterscotch pies :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Brotherly Bonding :)

My brothers are awesome. Let me just start with that. There's never a dull moment in my house when all of us siblings are together. As we get older, we get slightly more zany and we appreciate the little things in life ~ such as exercising with a cardboard packaging tube and a pair of legs for resistance. Why buy a set of weights when you have a brother??

Reasons to Live in Ohio

I've been on vacation the past week and have had lots of time to mull over the beauty of Ohio. It really is a good state and I think it's even better once you've lived away and then return....makes you appreciate it even more! So, for anyone out there who has never been to Ohio and is thinking of visiting or moving, here is a list of why I love Ohio!

1. People are friendly. They ask if you need help when walking into a store, when driving they are pretty good about letting people cut over in long lines (just be sure you're the car trying to cut in, otherwise you might get mad about all the cars cutting in line in front of you!), and when you're walking down the street and say hi to strangers, they actually say hi back!
2. No traffic. I suppose to people living in Ohio they might think there is traffic, but really to anyone who has driven in DC, the 5:30pm "traffic" of Ohio is like the 2pm traffic of DC.....enough cars on the road to slow you down, but not so much that it takes 1.5 hours to go 20 miles.
3. A sale is a real sale! When something is on sale in Ohio, it really is marked down to make you feel good about purchasing it. In DC, when something is on sale, it's still too expensive to get.
4. You can go to Target and NOT have to park in a parking garage! Wohoo! How nice it is to drive anywhere in Ohio to any store and not have to first pay to park, and then go inside and spend money. For a while there, I was starting to lose my shopaholic nature because it's just such a pain to drive in traffic and then park in a garage to even go to Bed Bath and Beyond in DC, but since my respite in Ohio, I'm feeling much more revived about shopping! Whew!
5. No high-flutin, organic, all natural vegetable bought in a store comes close to the fresh taste of a homegrown farm vegetable. Ohio has plenty of farm stands along the road with the most delicious homegrown strawberries, tomatoes, and other yummy goodness. I've never seen a farm stand in DC.
6. No tourist buses and taxis clogging the roads
7. Ohio doesn't have HOV lanes ~ thank the Lord! What is with these "high occupancy vehicle" lanes?? Makes perfect sense to me to take an already crowded highway and remove a lane during the busiest times of the day. Ugh! Annoying!

Hmmm there are so many more reasons to love Ohio but I think those are the main ones and will do for now.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Last stop....

And to round out the day in Charm City, a visit to none other than Charm City Cakes bakery - home to the "Ace of Cakes" television show on Food Network! Wohoo!!! This was a HUGE moment for me to see the outside of the actual bakery where my favorite Food Network show takes place. Had it not been for the fact that Duff and Geoff (my favorite bakers on the show) are on a two week road trip, I would have been tempted to camp out in front of the bakery for the chance to see them all go into work :) Obsessed??? Possibly :) But you should see the cakes they make! The bakery is not open to visitors ~ only those who have an appointment to pick up a cake ~ and all the windows have black coverings on them to keep the gawking fans away, I suppose, but it didn't deter me from finding the one window not covered (tinted, yes, but covered, no!) where I saw a bucket of vanilla icing! Epic moment!

So, this is the final entry for my Baltimore trip. It was amazingly fun and I can't wait to go back and keep exploring....Sam said there is a science museum rated in the top 10 in the US!!!

Charm City part 2

Look at the above picture very closely...

The second half of the day in Baltimore was spent visiting the National Aquarium. Awesome! It's so popular that when you buy your admission tickets, there is a time stamped on it that tells when you are allowed in the aquarium. Guess this staggers the crowds but it certainly threw me for a loop! The aquarium is very dark inside but the fish tanks are lit, so it really pulls your attention to the animals. Dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, stingrays, all types of fresh and salt-water fish, snakes, alligators, octopus, etc. etc. etc. Plus a very large gift shop :) I highly recommend the aquarium to anyone visiting Charm City. I feel like I need to go back to Newport Aquarium in Kentucky and the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to compare all of them!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Charm City charmed me :)

And we're off!!
The brick house is the smallest home in Baltimore at only 9.5 feet wide! It was originally an alleyway, but the two neighbors on either side were feuding, so the one who actually owned the alley property, turned it into a house to prevent the other neighbor from using it as access to his place. Brilliant use of property law at it's finest!
Notice anything different about the building? Take a look at the corners....or lack of corners! The architect believed ghosts could live in corners, so he never designed his buildings to have actual corners. Instead, all the edges were rounded!
The Domino Sugar factory. The large ship is carrying sugar cane from the Caribbean and once it reaches port at the factory, giant cranes unload the bundles. We saw the cranes in action!

Saturday was one of the best days I've had since moving to DC....although the day actually took place in Baltimore, MD :) But nevertheless, it was a fun-filled, action-packed day in "Charm City" beginning with a Segway tour of Inner Harbor and Fells Point. The celebrate Sam's birthday (a month late! Ha!) we did a 2 hour Segway safari, which was an absolute blast! After riding a Segway, I've decided walking is way overrated :) We did the 10am trip and there was only one other person besides the tour guide in our group ~ perfect before the weather got too hot. Funny little side note: after we got a 10 minute Segway lesson on how to work it, I went back inside the place and changed my waiver form to include the $5 insurance :) There's a whole lotta water in the harbor area and there are no brakes or kill-switches on the Segways, which cost $5,000 to replace! Haha! Those who know me know I have...."issues".....with being graceful :)

Okay, so the Segways were awesome and Sam and I got the hang of them very quickly. Our game on the tour soon became seeing how far we could lag back from the group just so we would have a reason to ride top speed and catch up! Operating a Segway is fairly simple ~ lean forward to go, lean back to slow, and lean sideways to turn. The tricky part is stopping completely because you have to perfectly balance in the middle to actually stop. However, once you're on, the Segs are so much fun you won't want to ever come to a complete stop, so I just leaned back and forth to stay in relatively one position at crosswalks and such :)

The Segway tour was just part 1 of our day in Baltimore. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 to come!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It's a shame...

You know how some people say not to give money to homeless people because they will spend it on alcohol and drugs, and other people say be generous because of the Beatitudes in the Bible?? Well, how do you know which is correct? It's quite the quandary, especially after I tell you this next story....

I was driving out of a store parking lot last night around 7pm when I noticed a guy dressed in nice khaki shorts, a short sleeve oxford shirt, and leather boating sandals holding a cardboard sign that read "Need Help." He was standing on the side of the road at an intersection. Just as I pull up to the light, I see that man stand up, and walk to a nice SUV while another more raggedly-dressed man with a similar sign gets out of the SUV and goes to take the first man's place on the side of the road. As the men are passing one another, the first guy mimes "50" with his hands to the second one. I watch as the second guy holds up his own handmade, cardboard "need help" sign and then I look over to to see the first guy counting his wad of cash. Clearly a scam for money. I was infuriated! God knew that as well, because He turned the light green before I had a chance to roll down my window and tell them what I thought of their little scandal....and likely get shot! Grrrr I was furious!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Driver's Ed According to ME!

I've decided to write a book for the drivers of DC for their own well being and the sanity of all those on the road with them, namely me :)

1. Drive with the flow of traffic regardless of the speed limit ~ going slower than that causes TRAFFIC!
2. Use your turn signal when you are actually turning, and when you're not, turn it off!
3. When a sign says "yield" you should yield - not stop! It is not a stop sign; it's a yield sign.
4. An ambulance with its lights and sirens on going in the OPPOSITE direction on a road divided by a cement wall does not require you to pull over and stop....nice thought, but hate to break it to you, the ambulance is not going to jump the cement wall into your lane of traffic to find the best route.
5. Taxi drivers are the worst of the worst drivers and should only be allowed on certain streets that are closed to normal cars....lets put all the bad drivers together on just a couple streets rather than spreading them throughout town.
6. Stay out of the left lane if you are going the speed limit or slower; one car can back up an entire freeway. True statement.
7. If you fail to get over in time to exit where you want, do not simply stop in your lane and wait for an opening ~ go to the next exit and turn around.
8. If you can't follow these simple directions, do everyone a favor and don't attempt to drive. That's why we have a bus and metro system!

This message is brought to you by DC's unofficial traffic lawmaker.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Watch Out for the Flood!

This is a picture of Noah's Ark. Yes, you read that correctly, it is Noah's Ark currently being reconstructed in Frostburg, Maryland on the side of the freeway by a church. I have driven past this a couple times now but this was the first time I was able to snap a quick pic of it out my car window. And while it looks like the structure of an office building or something normal like that, the sign in front confirms what I just typed - "NOAH'S ARK Being Rebuilt Here".

So, the fact that there is an ark being built in Maryland raises all kinds of questions for me:
1) Am I living near a flood zone? Should I take out flood insurance?
2) What does this church know that I don't?
3) When will the ark be finished? What is the construction timeline so I know when to start driving back to Maryland?
4) Are there 2 of every kind of animal also living close by?
5) Do you have to be a member of the church to be on the ark guest list?
6) The ark is being made of it rust-proof?
7) Does the pastor write for the National Enquirer newspaper?

But mainly I feel sorry for the ark builders because someone apparently didn't tell them the rest of the Bible story ~ God promised to never again send a flood to destroy the earth :)