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Making Resolutions … Or Not

Last year I replaced resolution making with my “Sixty@Sixty” challenge to do in my 60th year. I found it was much more fun but still productive.

Like in my rightsizing challenge. Taking on the kitchen and pantry, the overload of books not needed, the work clothing we had in the closet.

I made it through most of those categories, failing when it came to finishing six items in traveling, birding, festivals and diners.

I blogged a few days back about whether I would forego resolutions again in the upcoming year.

I decided on a hybrid of the two. A couple of challenges, mixed with some real resolutions.

We need to clean out our garage of things that don’t get used. Or that should be stored elsewhere. I think it’s one doable goal. That we can get done.

I want to expand my baking. Using yeast for things like bagels, pretzels, and some other challenges brought about by reading Smitten Kitchen after finding that great granola recipe from Deb’s cookbook.

I am also committed to break out of my rut and get us to those new destinations, even if just for an overnight trip.

I want to redo the garden, and I have seeds for some challenging plants, like cardoons and Malabar spinach.

I want to go to The Common Market once a month and bring home something from the bulk food bins that I have never cooked myself, like those exotic rices, beans, grains and nuts.

As for blogging, I made it through the year (well, I have three days left) with blogging daily. Sometimes it was posted after midnight, but there are posts for every day.

Next year, cutting it back, to eliminate some redundancy, to 4-5 times a week and focusing on local things to do, places to go, and my farm series needs to be resurrected.


I also need to update those pages here on the blog, and finish the two draft pages I want to add.

As for time volunteering. The big challenge this year is the food preservation program I am working on. Plus, more time out on the trails around the Conservancy.


It is good to be busy. To have goals. To keep retirement interesting. 2013 has been pretty eventful.

Here’s to turning 61 in a few hours. That’s not old. That’s just getting started in the seventh decade. And, soon it will be 2014. Amazing how time flies when we’re having fun.


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Remember when. When I was a child and the Colts came to town. They were our team then. Joined two years later by the Orioles.

It was strange today, for some reason. Watching them. In their blue and white uniforms. Remembering Memorial Stadium. Johnny U.

My family had season tickets. We grieved the loss of the Colts. Still hate Robert Irsay. But respect the Colts.

Thankfully, we move on to the next round.

Watching the Redskins was hard. Before we got the Colts, our families cheered for the Redskins.

It would have been fun to see a Ravens and Redskins Super Bowl.

The Colts came here the year I was born. Left when I had season tickets. I have mixed feelings about them, but they are now a class act. I am glad we won.

Here’s to next week.

The Year 2012 In Review, from the Blog

I was going to do a highlights post. Lo and Behold, WordPress did a year in review for me. Weird that I clicked on my dashboard and found the year summary just as I was sitting down to write about the most popular posts.

In my summary page, it showed many views of the local resource page, and my About page. I decided this afternoon to update them to make sure they were current. Including more detail and a few more pictures.

As for my most popular posts, the top five came out this way.

Number Five — Baby Chicks at Tractor Supply — people still click on this one. It is from last April. I suppose this year I need to take pictures of the chicks. I only did a superficial summary last year without finding out how many people buy chicks from them every year. They certainly had a nice variety, and they sold out quickly.

Number Four — CQ Field Day, CQ Field Day — my account of the amateur radio weekend at the local school yard, with the local clubs. I cook for them, and I blogged about it. It got picked up on a national radio club feed and it still gets views, when people search on their call sign, W3AO, or Whiskey Three Atlantic Ocean. We won this past year. We are used to winning. A large group of very competitive hams.

W3AO Field Day 2012 Class 27A

W3AO Field Day 2012 Class 27A

Number Three — Brighton Dam Azalea Gardens — I shouldn’t be surprised by this one. Lots of people want to know when the azaleas peak. This year, again, I will be monitoring them and taking pictures, and posting them. We live right up the road from the gardens and visit them frequently. We also have been all over the property doing bird counts with the local club. One of my favorite places in Howard County.

Brighton dam azaleas

Brighton dam azaleas

Number Two — The YEMMies are Coming — Why? I have no idea, but lately every time I look at the sidebar where it lists most recent popular posts, the YEMMie post is there. It has over 200 views, most of them recent. Obviously, there is adequate discussion on the media about the Young Educated Millennial Mothers. I discussed in my post about mothers in my CSA making baby food themselves from the organic veggies and fruits, and of former coworkers looking for pasture fed, and/or free range meat and eggs and dairy. We certainly see an increase in younger patrons at the farm stands and markets we frequent.

larriland and hocohospital market 059

And, the Number One post for the year, my personal view after the fatal accident that closed rte.32 in November, that was picked up by the Preserve Woodmont facebook page, was My View from West County. That was one of the crazier days out here, with people we know stranded, or rerouted, or lost trying to get through the clogged roads.

Our visit that night to Bistro Blanc included conversations with a number of people who had real problems getting anywhere that day. If we had medical emergencies, or a fire out here, the gridlock would have made it next to impossible to get emergency vehicles in. It took people three or four hours to get through west county that day. I lamented the fact that our infrastructure upgrades that were in process when we moved here in 2005, have pretty much not materialized.

They are only now working on the second interchange up near us, with the Rte. 144/Rte. 32 one still in the planning stages. Even then, the two lane road is still overcrowded, and has been overwhelmed by commuters traveling from north and west of Howard County.

It will be interesting to see what happens once they finish the Linden Church interchange next fall. Will the clogged up area move north to 144? Will they see the bailing out of traffic on roads like Pfeffercorn? We see it now on Triadelphia, Linthicum, Burnt Woods, Ten Oaks and Howard. I think it will just make the funnel move further north, but still create hazards for those living here.

I really wish they would just at least do something about the mailboxes, trash collection and recycling. Having only one way delivery for mail, and one way pick up for trash and recycling has made driving even more dangerous due to the sheer number of cars, trucks and buses on our roads.

fall foliage and traffic 142

I find it interesting that my most viewed post had to do with west county infrastructure. I have noticed, reading the local blogs, that most of them focus on Columbia and Ellicott City. I am not sure how many of my fellow local bloggers have been out here other than to pick strawberries at Larriland. At eight years in, we have seen many changes, but also have seen much that keeps us rural and disconnected. Not a bad thing, most of the time. It still is a lovely place to live. And, to blog.

Have a safe New Year’s Eve. We are staying in, eating well and popping the cork on a split of champagne, if we can stay up until midnight. A few people will shoot off fireworks at some of the more remote properties not far from us, if the weather cooperates. We hear them and see them every year.


Sixty @ Sixty

Yes, sixty years young, today. This is one of those significant birthdays. Worthy of doing something different to commemorate.

I recall one of my fellow volunteers talking about traveling to celebrate a milestone birthday. Something like 50 days for the 50th birthday. We traveled way too much when we worked. We are really enjoying our surroundings and doing things we never got to do while we were in the work force.

So, I decided. Sixty is, of course, six decades. Six times ten. Six things, ten times. Or, ten things six times. I settled on more experiences with less to accomplish in each. It looks simpler to do. We shall see. I have been doing research already to find things that interest me.

sixty sixty 006

This year, no New Year’s Resolutions, just the pursuit of these stretch goals, for lack of a better descriptor. Some are fun, some may be difficult. If I enjoy this journey, I may make it into a page. A journal of sorts. Since I am an avowed locavore, locapour, and still a foodie, many involve cooking, eating, gardening, farming, the county and nearby places.

dessert wine and trip to VA 150

My list —

Visit six festivals and/or fairs that are new to me
Taste at six new wineries never visited before
Seek out six new farmstands or markets to expand my locavore network
Do something different or visit someplace new in six states other than MD
Eat at six small business restaurants and/or diners
Eat/drink or experience six childhood memories
Log six new birds not seen before
Cook and eat six new proteins, i.e., meat, seafood, beans or nuts
Grow and/or eat six exotic fruits, veggies or herbs
Tackle six rightsizing projects

Some are self explanatory but others will take some initiative. Rightsizing projects include things we inherited from our families and things we accumulated over our 60+ years. Things like pictures, CDs, books, tools, clothes, shoes, whatever lurks in closets and cabinets. Having the space here makes it one of those often avoided projects.

The childhood memories include things like — riding a ferris wheel again, or a merry go round, or eating cotton candy, or a root beer float. Things we did as kids.

fair and anniversary and csa 083

For my first project, my husband bought a pomegranate at Wegmans yesterday. I have had pom juice, and pomegranate balsamic, but never tried getting the seeds out and using one in cooking. Tonight’s salad will have pom seeds on it. Maybe using my fennel we bought, and oranges. I am making my own birthday dinner, doing things I want to eat. Rockfish. Salad. Roasted cauliflower. None of it hard to make, and no worries about driving in the slush/snow/ice/whatever we have on the ground tonight.

It is still snowing out here. The red bellied woodpecker and one of the squirrels were out there chowing down this morning while I was prepping the fish in a marinade.

sixty sixty 010

This is a new young red bellied woodpecker, who is more skittish than the older ones are. He bolts when he sees the reflection of my camera. As for the acrobatic squirrel, he is lucky today. I don’t have the two layer baffle system on the large suet holder, and he can defeat just one. Besting the squirrels is a major undertaking here. Or, at least keeping them under control.

Who knows what this year, 2013, will bring to us here. I do know I intend to make it somewhat memorable, and certainly don’t intend to be bored.


What Goes Around Comes Around

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I have to admit, learning the new shorthand used in tweeting and in texting, as well as some of the acronyms around here has been interesting at best, and downright confusing at times.

It used to be that we, the govvies in the area, i.e., government employees, were the best at making entire conversations using acronyms designed to confound our non-govvy friends and family.

“I work at NHTSA on IVBSS and I will be at UMTRI next week”. “I work at NSWC on the MK 116 ASW FCS”. Our pasts. The DH and me.

What’s a DH, you say? Same as an OM. Dear Husband. Old man. One picked up on web forums years ago, the other an amateur radio standard. It is why my gmail account has xyl in the address. I am the wife, aka x-young lady, of a ham.

Now, my blogging friends here in the area are working to get uniform hashtags that we use when we tweet. Whenever I put up a post I sent it off to twitterland using #hoco. These days #hoco is overrun by colleges and homecoming, and we are getting lost in the noise about whose dress is best, and who can get more drunk. It seems to be time for us to find a new place to “hang out”, and we have graduated to using #hocomd more.

Jessie over at Jessie X, who also cofounded and administers hocoblogs where about 300 of us are more or less active about blogging in the County, or about the County, is working to get us to use more specific hashtags.

I feel like I am back at work, learning new acronyms after changing jobs. What used to be the geekiness of our govvy lives is now the new normal of social media. Like, learning a whole new language.

Add to that, in our world, where we have been active in amateur radio, a “shack on a belt”, or HT (handy talkie), once a sign of real nerdiness, with the hands free headphone really stood out. Now, you can lose yourself in the midst of the bluetooth crowd. What was once cause for comments, and a little ridicule, is now mainstream.

As I said, what goes around comes around. The entire world has become geeky. What the heck. If you can’t beat them, join them.

So, Jessie asked me to become the queen of #hocolocavore and #hoconature on the spreadsheet being assembled for county tweets. I promise to try and remember to use them. At least I do remember to use my hocoblog hashtags appropriately, like the one at the end of this post.

So, when I post about local foods and farmers, I will be using #hocolocavore.

And, about the Conservancy, or the birds, or the garden. #hoconature

And, since I am attempting to complete NaBloPoMo (look that one up!), there will be lots to read about Howard County.


Nothing to Do? Interesting Discussions.

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Around the hocosphere these past few days has floated a discussion about the lack of activities out here in the hinterlands, far from the big cities.

I have to agree with Barbara Kellner in her comments to Matt, at Lost in Columbia.

I moved here in 1975, when there really wasn’t much to do. I was 22, fresh out of college, with a low paying job, and two roommates. We did lots of free things, mostly picnicing or hiking in the parks, like Patapsco State Park. Ellicott City is where we went for a treat. Or, Laurel. Until we got Roy’s Place Too and JK’s to hang at.

The reason I bring up Laurel was triggered the other night as I flipped the TV on early to catch the news. This did it. Lionel Richie singing a song from my youth.

Why? The Adult Catholic Singles. A club started at the Interfaith Center, where my roomie dragged me to a brunch in 1979. The club went the following Friday for an evening out at Randy’s California Inn (now this really dates me here). At the Sunday brunch I first met a young man who was the host. He was also at Randy’s. He got enough courage to ask me to dance to Three Times A Lady that evening. A year later, we danced to that same song at our wedding.

We did lots of local things that dating year, and during the 1980’s as a young married couple. Lots of inexpensive things, too, while living in Columbia. Racquetball, tennis, swimming pool Sundays. Jogged Lake Elkhorn almost every day. Discovered Centennial Park.

Lots of outdoor things. We eventually found Les Amis du Vin, and learned about wine, although we could only afford the occasional tasting on our budget back then. We did discover more in Ellicott City those days, where tastings were held.

We bought our first place together in 1982, during the 14-16% interest days. Yep, we did get lucky and sold our Howard Homes camp out home (who remembers those days?) for a decent profit to get us the down payment for our new town home.

Yes, we could have bought in Montgomery County where we worked, for lots more money, less space and more traffic. More to do, close to DC, it was a tradeoff.

We had great fun in our town home. Lots of young couples just starting out. We did pot luck dinners, including an annual crab feast, New Year’s Eve Party (great idea, all you had to do was weave your way across the cul de sac), and various other themes. The town houses held a spring and fall clean up day. And, a picnic.

We got into the Howard County Rec and Park hiking programs and walked the length of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. All 42 miles of it, from High Rock to Harper’s Ferry. We did parts of the C&O Canal, too. And, various other hikes. We started these in 1989. They still do many of the same events.

Now, we spend just as much time outdoors, doing the bird walks, volunteering, gardening, walking, star gazing, and visiting the numerous wineries in the area. Friday nights at Black Ankle, for example, are a great evening out, to picnic, listen to music, as is Wine in the Woods and Wine in the Garden. I’ll be at both this year.

What could be better? Lovely locations. Good wine. Friendly people.

What other things can you think of, locally, that you do or did, in and around Howard County?


Twenty Minute Clean Up Day

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Check out Live Green Howard. Today is Twenty Minute Clean Up Day. This is the third year.

Spend twenty minutes doing something, anything that benefits you and your community by cleaning up your little influential circle in Howard County.

I can’t do much with lifting restrictions but I am spending my twenty minutes picking up trash along the guardrail on our road,

and all the paper and stuff that blows around on recycling day and ends up in our bushes. There are cans, bottles and paper all along there, and you can still reach enough of it to make a small difference. The old barbed wire fence that surrounded the horse pasture on the late 19th century farm that preceded our home being built here, is quite the trash catcher.

I also think I will wander across the road from the mailboxes and clean up the stuff people throw out of their cars there. Every little bit of cleaning helps, as we lost our Adopt A Road sponsor years ago.

If you get a chance, take a small bag and pick up the easy stuff around you. You know, the Choose Community thing is a good start.


Revisiting My New Year’s Resolutions

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Well, it has been three months since New Year’s. I revisited my post made on the 30th of December to see if I actually am doing what I said I wanted to do this year.

Resolution #1:

    I do resolve to be more creative and expand my culinary boundaries to include more baking, and more ethnic foods outside our European heritage. I do intend to continue being more and more of a locavore, and use up as much processed stuff in the pantry, and not replace it.

Well, the Dark Days Challenge was a way to expand what I eat locally. I haven’t been baking much, unless you count those black bean brownies a few weeks ago.

And, the pantry is still pretty full of processed stuff, because I am eating mostly CSA and local meats. I need to continue to clean out what is in there, and not replace it with more of the same.

As for ethnic foods, haven’t done much there either. I will challenge myself from the spring/summer CSA to use those Asian vegetables in ethnic dishes, not simple stir frying, but really trying something new. Not chicken chow mein with the bok choy. And, I resolve to not swap the peppers, like the habanero or jalapenos we get. Make my own salsas. Attempt a mole sauce, too.

Resolution #2:

    I intend to can more things, pick more veggies and fruits, and process them. I need to get a freezer and buy something at the fair, from the 4H’ers. Maybe lamb, or goat, or part of one of the steers or hogs. Our friends’ children raise animals to bring to the auction. We want to support them more by making it worth their efforts.

Not there yet. This is a summer time thing. I do need to get off my butt and buy a freezer if I want to do this. Larriland for strawberries isn’t that far away. The auction at the fair is on our list to do this year as well. Last year we just observed.

Resolutions #3 and 4:

    Is this the year we get the chicken coop? Haven’t made that decision yet, but we are working on it.

    I want to build a cold frame. Will I find the time?

Not gonna happen, due to my health changes. Recovery from surgery got in the way of doing these. Plus, I need to make sure we don’t have problems with predators, and research the best coops to buy. We have a new addition to our predator community.

Not the best picture of the red fox who has been hanging around. I took it through the screen so as not to spook him. He was hunting something in the meadow and paced back and forth many times. Yesterday I wasn’t fast enough to grab the camera as he ran through our yard carrying something large in his mouth. I think it may have been one of my neighbor’s chickens. It was just before sunset, and if you leave the chickens free range too late in the day, they become dinner for the fox.

As for the cold frame, it will get put off until fall.

Resolution #5:

    We still need to clean out the stuff we accumulated at our jobs, which sits in boxes in the attic and garage. That is a priority.

We are making some progress here. The shredder is working overtime. And, at Greenfest I will be getting more out of the house and garage. I have been going through old pictures and keeping those I want by scanning them into the computer. Less paper around here will be a good thing.

The Summary:

    do new things including expanding what I do in my volunteering, like geocaching and giving presentations. Another priority. Looks like I have enough to do, and I’ll see how it turns out in my second year of retirement.

There are numerous programs at the Conservancy this fall where I will be doing presentations, and where I will be using the geocaching skills I am learning.

All in all, not a bad start to doing what I want in 2012. Putting them down in writing here in the blog makes it harder to ignore them, or lose them. Let’s see if I do more in the next three months.


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Today is a special anniversary for me. Two years ago, on April Fool’s Day I got up and went to work for the very last time. That was it. My thirty year and one day anniversary of Federal employment. I would have reitred the day I was eligible but adding one day gave me the total, including unused sick leave, needed to add another month to my pension calculation.

I always said I would only work thirty years and then walk. I wanted to work, but no longer needed to, once we got our town house paid off. We were lucky that we bought our town house before the crazy real estate market in Maryland. We were smart to keep cars for 12-15 years, and never buy on credit.

We saved like crazy to buy this place we wanted for our retirement, so we could enjoy it and our hobbies, away from the traffic and the noise. The view from the front porch alone is worth it, most sunsets are spectacular.

I know I am lucky to be retired so young. I was 57 when I retired. I started working in 1968 when I was 15 1/2, in order to afford Catholic schools. Worked through college. Became a teacher. Met my husband, and at 27 fell into a mathematician job that had me coding computer models and traveling the world. I loved what I did back then. Of course, 30 years later, I was tired of bureaucracies, but the early years were fun.

My job took me cool places, so that now people say “Are you going to travel?”, and I say “No, not for a while.” Been there, done that, as they say. I spent so much time on the road in the 1980s and 90s, I was glad to take a headquarters job at the Navy Yard and stay in my office. Working for the Navy meant cool travel. Hawaii, San Diego, Bremerton, Port Canaveral, Ft. Lauderdale, the Bahamas, Newport RI, the Arctic, and the UK. Bath Iron Works in January stunk, but the rest was pretty amazing.

Add to that, the cruises and trips with friends while we were unencumbered by a mortgage and we have hit four continents and about 60 countries.

Later, when we are finished enjoying the nearby attractions, we may go places again. Now, it doesn’t seem to matter if we hang around here for a while. We have done all sorts of projects, like the roof and the siding.

I just like staying home and tending my gardens.

Cooking up a storm.

Going to the Conservancy a few times a week.

Taking day trips.

Visiting wineries.

Whatever strikes us as interesting. Driving to Chicago for a week, for example. Or, taking trips to markets.

My recent surgery and the extended recovery is a wake up call as well. Health is something we should never take for granted. Putting off retirement if we have the means to do it is risky. I have so many old coworker friends who had health problems soon after retiring. All those years planning and dreaming, then endless doctor visits, surgeries and treatments. Life is precious and not predictable.

Today, one of our closest friends retires after almost twenty five years at the hospital. She is six months younger than I was when I walked. She knows she is lucky to get to do what she wants. She also started working at 15, and like me, worked at one place or another for 42 years. Never taking a break.

I wish her well, and hope we all have years of good times to come. Taking that big step into retirement is scary, we know. Those last few weeks test you as you keep wondering if it is the right thing to do.

I know it was for me.

The Next HoCo Bloggers Get Together

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Howard County Bloggers are a sociable group. Every few months we get together for a “Blogtail” party at a local place that can set aside room for social networking. I went to my first one in February at the Corner Stable. I even won a gift card at the event, and picked up a few cards from local bloggers to keep in touch. I now know, as a relatively new blogger that I need to make business cards to give out to people who are interested in what I blog about.

This next one, on April 11th, is at the Second Chance Saloon in Oakland Mills, from 6-8 pm.

Check out hocoblogs for info, and sign up either if you blog or read blogs in Howard County. Registration link at the top of the page.

Thanks to the organizers and sponsors of these events. We just keep growing and getting better as we write about our home county, and all the topics of interest to our blog readers. Come join us!