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The Charmery

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I love my neighborhood.  Since having moved into Hampden proper, I’ve really been trying to take advantage of everything it has to offer.  One of the most amazing parts is “The Avenue“.  While touristy, it’s also really fun for locals as well.  There are plenty of shops and really amazing restaurants.  But one thing that has been missing in the neighborhood has been icy treats.  Well, now there is a new shop in town.

The Charmery

The Charmery

 

The Charmery opened up this past weekend.  If the crowds on Sunday at 5pm were any indication about how much the residents in Hampden were excited, I’d say that The Charmery will have no issues.  All the ice cream is made in store.  The dairy is locally sourced as is most of the other ingredients.  They definitely do a nod to Baltimore style flavors including an Old Bay caramel flavor and a Berger cookie flavor.  But what I found MOST exciting is that the store is offering vegan options!  After having some regular ice cream for the first time in a very long time two weeks ago and having a violent reaction (SORRY!), I was really happy for this option.  The option(s) could be a sorbet, a home made soda, or even coconut milk ice cream.  Luckily for me they had the coconut milk ice cream!

Toasted Coconut ice cream

Toasted Coconut ice cream

The flavor was toasted coconut, and it was DELICIOUS.  The texture is not as solid and creamy as what traditional milk ice cream would be, but it’s still so good.  The single scoop was for sure enough for one person to eat.  The ice cream was still so rich due to the fat content of coconut milk, plus the toasted coconut adds an interesting texture and deeper flavor to the cream.  I was told that the cones are currently not egg free, but they are working on getting a vegan option, plus they are working on creating their own vegan chocolate sauce.  I’m SUPER stoked to see this place grow.

Restaurant Review: Indigma

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Martinis

Martinis

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and LOVED the food, but vowed you would never return again?  This was one of those places.  I bought a Groupon a bit back for this place as I had been a few years before.  I enjoyed the food on that occasion, but the service had been terrible.  I figured they had been open for this long, they had to have gotten better.  I was wrong.

Fried Naan and chutneys

Fried Naan and chutneys

We were a bit early for our reservations, so I asked the hostess if we could get a drink at the bar (it was happy hour still).  She told us we could not, that the bar was backed up….  Ok…  Well, we were shown to our seats and we waited.  We got our water.  We were asked for our drink orders.  Ernie ordered a French martini and I ordered the Hot and Dirty martini (made with pepper vodka and with a pickled spicy pepper garnish).  We waited….  We were asked for our dinner order. I had some questions about the options.  I enjoy Indian food and have eaten a fair amount of it.  But this place had some different options than what I’ve been used to.  They had this Thali option for ordering where you got an appetizer, rice, salad, raita, main, roti, and dessert.  The vegetarian option was malai kofta, so I decided to go with it.  Ernie got a three course prix fixe dinner and some chapati.  We got our drinks and toasted.  Ernie’s drink was mostly juice.  My drink was fine…  But it wasn’t made with pepper vodka.  Again, nothing really wrong with my drink, but it just wasn’t right.  The problem was that the server never really came back until much later for us to even complain, so it was useless at that point…

Coconut shrimp

Coconut shrimp

We got fried naan with three chutneys and preserved lemon.  OMG.  That lemon was the most delicious few bites.  I mean, I made preserved lemon, but this wasn’t really salty.  It was spiced and a bit sweet.  SO GOOD.  I liked the cilantro chutney, but Ernie did not.  We both liked the tamarind one, but only Ernie liked the onion (too oniony for me).  Ernie’s coconut shrimp came next.  and I just sat there.  He eventually ate it, but we thought my appetizer was coming as well…  Nope.  But he said the coconut shrimp was SUPER tasty.  Next, Ernie got the lamb korma.  It was spicy according to him, but very very good.  NOW my food all came at once…  I had no idea.  The waiter never explained how this was supposed to happen.  I specifically asked what the Thali was about, but he didn’t really explain it.  If I knew that I was going to get EVERYTHING at once, I would have been fine with it.  But not so much….  On my “plate” was a samosa, daal, channa masala, saag paneer, rice, malai kofta, rice pudding, and raita.  ZOMG.  That saag paneer was absolutely amazing.  It was just spicy enough so that it just burned at the back of my throat…  so good.  The channa masala was nicely spiced, but not hot.  The daal was not really spiced at all.  I was a bit underwhelmed with it, but again not bad.  I gave the rice pudding to Ernie as he really wanted it (and so I could have his dessert).  I got to eat the chapati and Ernie ate the roti.

Lamb Korma

Lamb Korma

The last sort of dig at the end of the night was that I asked our waiter (who finally showed up) if I could have the recipe for the preserved lemon.  The waiter was unsure, but went to ask.  He came back and said the owner/manager would be out to talk to me.  He never came. We were there for over an hour and a half, much of it just waiting….  Again, the food was VERY good.  It was definitely a step above a “regular” Indian place.  But I would rather pay less and get a slightly “lower” quality of food and better service.  For sure.

samosa, daal, channa masala, saag paneer, rice, malai kofta, rice pudding, raita

samosa, daal, channa masala, saag paneer, rice, malai kofta, rice pudding, raita

ArtScape 2012

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ArtScape 2012

One of the many things I love about Baltimore is its quirkiness.  There’s a fairly large arts scene and it’s not necessarily all about the classics.  I first came to Baltimore 8 years ago in the beginning of July and heard about this arts festival that was held every year.  It’s called ArtScape.  It is the largest free arts festival in the U.S.  In the years that I’ve lived in Baltimore, the festival has expanded to include a whole area around the Station North area.  I might argue that there used to be better artists that would show in the main strip around MICA, but I do like the diversity that the festival brings.

One of the things about ArtScape is that as it’s always in mid-July, it is always BALLS hot.  Last year Ernie and I went and within an hour of us getting there, we had to leave it was so hot.  I did end up going back by myself as Matisyahu was doing a show (for FREE!).  Ernie is out of town this year, so I went by myself to check it out.  I wanted to see the band Clutch this year, so I went on Saturday after all the rain ended.  It was nice as it wasn’t hot.  I actually had a sweater with me!

I started out by exploring the Station North area first and was really happy I did.  This is where I first encountered the Baltimore Rock Opera Society.  They were having an air guitar contest.  It may have been pretty awesome.  Right next to the Rock Opera, there was what would have been Ernie’s favorite part had he been there.  Yes, it was a rhino with wings.

Flying Rhino

It’s not something you see every day.  So, I moved on and wanted to check out the other exhibits in the Sideshow area.  Next up was this strange wooden “village” built by architects from Morgan State.  I really wasn’t sure what the point of it was, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Wooden structure built across from The Charles

I turned around and saw John Waters!  Well, it was John Water’s face….  And a huge one at that.

John Waters’ face

After listening to a band that included a guitar, drums, a trumpet, and an electric cello, I decided I’d had enough of the sideshow area and wanted to check out the main area.  On the way back to the main area, I encountered some very strange “exhibits”.

Yarn bombed toilet

And this one…

Yarn bombed toilet #2

Yes, those are port-a-potties covered in knit/crochet.  I think I’ve seen everything.  I headed over to the newest exhibit that I’d seen reported in the news.  There is this huge metallic face structure with a bunch of different control boxes so that observers can make the different aspects of the face move.  It was pretty fun to watch all the expressions being made.

Face sculpture

I went up and down the street in front of MICA to see the vendors.  I didn’t see anything that I hadn’t seen in the past.  Plus, I knew I wasn’t going to buy anything, so I would feel bad if I just took pictures to show of stuff that I wanted to reproduce for free.  So instead, I headed over to the main stage to hear Clutch!

Clutch

They totally rocked!  It was a great show.  But I did feel a bit out of place.  I didn’t have enough tattoos, nor was I a guy with a long ponytail.  Yes, the show was a little Dundalk-ish.  But it was a good show.  So, I did what any other classy lady by herself would do.  I went to the corner store and bought myself a beer :).

My classy beer in a bag from the corner store.

Vacation

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Vacation

So sorry that I haven’t been around, but I went on an AWESOME vacation!  My parents invited my siblings and I (and our significant others) to go on a cruise.

Parents chillin in the room

My brother opted out, as he wants to save his vacation days for later, but my sister and her husband did go.

Ish and Allen

The nice thing about this trip was that it left out of Baltimore, so no pre-travel for me!  This was actually the second time I’ve taken this same trip on the Carnival Pride.  I’ve heard from other people that they prefer other lines such as Royal Caribbean, but I had a good experience on Carnival both times.

What I love about cruises is that you have to worry about NOTHING.

Towel Monkey

You have your room, you get a card that is your key, your payment method, and your ticket to getting on/off the boat.  That’s really all you need, other than a bathing suit, a towel, and sunscreen.  Plus, there is no real traveling.  I didn’t have to fly to the islands, I just boarded a boat and ended up at the beach.

Towel Bunny

LOVE it.  Some down sides to cruising is the timing of the excursions and the cost of extras.  I dislike arriving at a gorgeous beach at 7am on my vacation and then having to be back on the boat by 2pm.  What is that???  I’m on vacation!  Also, if you want to buy a mixed drink, be ready to shell out $10 each.  It stinks.

My parents are professional cruisers, so they have imparted the tricks of the trade on us.  You can bring

Towel Dog

some water bottles on the trip, so my advice is to pour some clear liquor in some water bottles to bring on.  I was able to get a full bottle of Captain Morgan Spiced

Towel Dino

Rum on in my suitcase as it was hidden within my shampoos and stuff.  Ernie tried to get some bottles on, but since he didn’t pack any toiletries (I had them all), the bottles were easy to find, and they were taken from us. (My bad)  Lesson: put your liquor in empty water bottles.

Anniversary Serenade

We celebrated our two year anniversary on the trip.  After a rocky start to they day, I got to lay on the beach, check out a conch grave yard (awesomeness!), and hang out at a shack.  This was not any shack.  This shack had every version of conch you could

Rum punch!

eat.  Which, my mom managed to do…  I ended up getting some fried plantains and I may have also drank two

Me (doing something)

rum punches…  Unfortunately there was probably orange juice along with pineapple juice in the rum punch.  I was done for the day.  Not because of the alcohol, but because of the juice.  So, it kind of sucked at dinner when I couldn’t eat anything but some cake (I couldn’t NOT eat my anniversary cake!).

Port Lucaya (Freeport)

It again rained while we were on Half Moon Cay, which sucked.  I did get to snorkel

Flowers

for a bit, so that was awesome, but the rain was pretty steady for more than an hour and a half, so it wasn’t just a quick passing shower.  There really isn’t much to do on the island anyway, as it is owned by the cruising industry.  I do

Flower

like Freeport, mostly because you get that “I’m in a foreign country” experience.  To get to the beach/shopping, you have to take a taxi.  It’s a $5/person charge, but the funny thing is that the taxis stuff as many people as possible into a single taxi.  It’s hilarious.  There’s also usually no air conditioning.  And you may stop on the way to buy like $5 in gas so you don’t break down….  Ah, foreign

Debating drinks

travels :).  We discovered when we got into the straw market that the bar where we had the buckets of rum had closed down :(.  Not cool.  We did enjoy a drink called a painkiller, which was delicious.  We tried to get another on the way out from this discount bar.  But he made us long island iced teas instead.  Not what we asked for, but really cheap….  My mom may have stopped for another drink in the terminal area as well….

Vannah

Drinking while being T-Rex

As for the activities/entertainment, I think you get what you want to make of it.  I went to trivia pretty much every day.  I love trivia, so that was a great late afternoon activity for

Ladies Night

me.  I don’t play Bingo so much, nor did I want to pay money for it, so that was out.  I did go see the comediens that were on board.  Two of them were ok.  They each had their moments.  But the third was a lady and she may have been the funniest person I’ve seen in real life.  She was awesome.  The

Ladies Night Food Aftermath

shows at night are only ok.  I do love musicals and all, but review shows aren’t my thing.  Though the last night was the show where some of the guests play different stars and sing.  OMG, awesome!  Elvis was so bad yet so good.  I enjoy cruising, but Ernie didn’t like it as much.  Even with the boat as big as it was, he still felt confined.  Plus, he’s not a lay out/get sun/read/listen to music kind of person, so the days at sea were extra difficult for him.

This is what I came home to:

PUNIM!

And Garden updates:

Zucchini and cukes

Japanese eggplant, radishes, lettuce, yellow squash

It’s Gardening Time!

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It’s Gardening Time!

Earlier this year we (my husband, cat, and I) moved to a new place.  I loved our old place.  It was in the Hampden/Roland Park area of Baltimore.  It had a deck that you could see all the way to the harbor.  We had a parking lot that usually one of us could park in.  I could walk to two different grocery stores, numerous shops, restaurants, and bars.  But the place was getting pretty cramped and it only had one bathroom, which can get a bit problematic when two people want to use it at the same time.  So, now I’m living in the county.  It’s really just outside of the city and is still just off 83, which allows me to get into work pretty easily, plus it is much closer for Ernie to get to work.

One of the perks about living in the county is that we have space.  We live in a duplex with 2 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, and a yard.  This space will hopefully mean we can get more animals (dog!) and I can plant a garden.  I tried a community garden a few years ago.  I got some radishes, beets, a few tomatoes, lettuce, and surprisingly some carrots.  But I failed at it.  The garden was in a park, not by my house, so I had to detour every day to go water.  That got old REALLY quickly.  So every day became every other day, became every third day….  You get the picture.

This year I am DETERMINED to get this right!  I am loosely following the Square Foot Gardening method by Mel Bartholomew.  I bought my dirt, which was a mixture of potting soil, peat moss, and some mulch.  I’m also terrible about following planting schedules, so I’m hoping my plants survive.  Lastly, I really really REALLY hope that I’m going to have enough fruit and vegetables that I can try canning/pickling.

Here’s the basic layout:

Full Garden

Big plants: (Clockwise from top left) Zucchini, spaghetti squash, japanese eggplant, and yellow squash.

Big plants

Small plants (clockwise from bottom left): beefsteak tomato, cucumbers, yellow tomato, yellow pear, empty, mesculun greens, arugula, onions, beets, beets, radish, jalapeno, empty, empty, onions, radish.

Oh, and I bought a blackberry plant.  I have no idea if it’ll take or when it will start producing fruit.  I’m assuming not til next year at the earliest.

Herbs (parsley, oregano, sage, thyme, basil, and chives)

Cucumber container plant

Little babies!

Any suggestions for my empty square feet?