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Looking Forward to the New Year

I think my husband said it best coming home today from a visit to my mom. It is so nice not to have to go back to work Wednesday. The fact that we are retired has really finally sunk in. This is his second year of retirement. I will hit three years in April. Last year there was much upheaval, with my impending surgery, and uncertainty. We both are grateful I came through it, and slowly am mending, but mending nonetheless.

sunrise new year's eve

sunrise new year’s eve

The sunrise today was impressive. It inspires me to look forward to the coming year, a new beginning, and full of choices. I already came up with those sixty things I want to accomplish. They are my resolutions.

I will still plan projects for the year, just not calling them resolutions. Projects like decluttering. Home improvements.

And, I want to be more focused in my volunteering. Expanding what I do.

And, get back into walking and hiking again. Maybe do some county hikes. So many things. I just need to focus.

Here’s to 2013, the blank slate we write upon, the 33rd year of marriage, and the 38th year in Howard County. I think it’s time to watch a few bowl games. Even though they now have stupid names. Like the Autozone Bowl? Really??

new years eve 018

A few more nights, then the decorations will come down. I leave our decorations up until the Epiphany. It still feels like the holidays until I have to put them away.

new years eve 042

They survived the wind, rain and snow, even though I had to batten down the deer more than once. And, I just noticed one string of lights on the tall tree shaped stakes burnt out. I suppose we will be restringing those before they get stored away.

Random thoughts, these are. Random thoughts in our corner of the world. A corner where both the Ravens and Redskins made the playoffs. Water cooler conversations should be fun all around DC and Baltimore this week. Let’s also not forget that the Orioles and Nationals both exceeded our expectations last summer. Here’s to continued success for our local teams. May they meet in a Super Bowl or World Series sometime soon!

Hope all our friends and family stay safe tonight, and stay healthy for 2013. Happy New Year, Howard County!


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.


The Geminids

With a bonus. A comet has left behind some debris. If you come out to the Howard County Conservancy Thursday night, you could find a rare treat.

The weather is supposed to cooperate. Clear, cold. Very little moon light.

Dr. Alex Storrs and Dr. Joel Goodman (stardoc) will be there. Starting at 9:30 pm until you can’t stay awake. After all, the site is nice and dark, and the astronomers are an awesome set of teachers about the night sky.

transit of venus 001

Don’t miss it.


A Trip Down Memory Lane

I have been working on a series of posts about life in Howard County. We are cleaning things up and whenever I find something from years past, I think: I should do a post about this.

So, I am. The trigger for this post was the cleaning in the files in the study and finding a box in the corner with old ADC maps in it. There must be five different Howard County maps in there, but my favorite is this one.

ADC map of Howard County 1976

In 1975 I moved here, right out of college. My husband moved to his place in 1977, before I knew him. This is his map, bought to find his way around here, since he used to live in Montgomery County, where he worked.

Interesting little things from the index, like the total number of schools in the county then. Germane to see how many fewer schools there were back then, when the entire county probably had less population than Columbia has now. Columbia back then was just a small percentage of the land.

The shopping center list was pretty sparse as well. It shows four village centers for Columbia.

One of my favorite pages is the one of Clarksville, before River Hill. Notice that the old Rte. 32 jogged right then left around Rte. 108. No highway then.

“downtown” Clarksville

My first roommate when I lived in Wilde Lake worked here. Who remembers this? What is there now?

I moved to Columbia hoping to find a job at APL, but the recession of the early 1970s made it hard. I taught school for a while at a Catholic school, and lived with multiple roommates in Partridge Courts, then in an apartment in Long Reach. My husband’s townhouse was one of the Howard Homes camp out town houses in Owen Brown. Remember those?

Thirty years I lived in Columbia. Half my life, as I turn 60 next month. It was definitely an interesting place to be, but now I have to admit I far prefer leaving a city to live in a mostly rural area. I realized that after 22 years in Baltimore and 30 years in Columbia, that these last eight years were the only time I didn’t live in an apartment or row house, fashionably named town houses somewhere along the way.

Anyone else have older Howard County artifacts or photos around?


The Envelope Please

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So, I have been nominated again for a blogger award. The last time floored me, and I didn’t know what to do about it. This time, I actually have a plan. I realized I shouldn’t go and get all analytical and worry about having to name other blogs. Since I was so scatterbrained last time, I didn’t do what the award “chain” wanted, and the sky didn’t fall.

This time, I am going to have fun with it. Thank you A Table in the Sun for nominating me for the Beautiful Blogger award.

Because of her chain back to The Great Dorset Vegetable Experiment, who nominated her, I found an interesting blog to read from one of my favorite places on earth. Dorset. And, I found other great blogs to read, to find inspiration and just to entertain me.

I love reading blogs. I found a new one the other day thanks to wordbones blog, Tales of Two Cities. UKDesperateHousewifeUSA

So, for this blog award, you need to tell seven things about yourself and nominate 15 bloggers. Oh, and then tell them you nominated them by linking to this post in a comment on their blogs.

The seven things:

I am ambidexterous becuase the nuns beat me when I put a pen in my left hand in second grade. First grade I learned to print with my left hand.

When I traveled all the time for work, we lived on Stouffer’s. How’s that for the past of a confirmed locavore and hardcore foodie?

The only fast food that still calls me back to being bad, Krispy Kreme hot donuts. Thankfully, they are pretty much out of business around here but there were times when that sign pulled me into Dobbin Road right after leaving my dentist.

I was born and raised in Baltimore City. Right across the street from Mt. St. Joe.

I have lived in Howard County 38 years come January 1st.

We have a brick bought eons ago just down from the People Tree. Friends send us pictures of it when they find it.

In my original job out of college, I taught high school mathematics.

There, that’s seven useless pieces of information that haven’t been discussed in my blog. Not earth shattering but fun. Oh, and a bonus, today included I have voted every Presidential election, never missing one, from 1972 until the present. Twice it was an absentee ballot as I was in Alaska in 1984 and Florida in 1988. Both times, work related. I take that privilege seriously.

As for the 15 blogs to nominate, obviously nine of them are my food challenge compatriots. I read these blogs all the time, not just for challenges, but because I love hearing what my fellow locavores are doing.

Backyard Grocery Northern VA
Bumble Lush Garden near DC
Eat. Drink. Nourish. South Carolina
Eating Appalachia Blue Ridge VA
Eating Floyd Southwest VA
Family Foodie Survival Guide Northern VA
Sincerely, Emily Texas
The Soffritto right up the road in Woodstock
Windy City Vegan North Carolina

Liz, at Family Foodie Survival Guide, nominated me for a blog award a while back and I got caught up in other things and never followed through. I wish I did, now.

Number ten is an awesome lady, who set up our CSA link party. Heather at In Her Chucks. She kept commenting and commenting to set up that link page, and I use it all the time to see how to use those strange veggies in my CSA box.

Number Eleven is one of the guys over at hocoblogs. I hope he takes the nomination in the spirit intended, as he is one beautiful person when it comes to helping others. Whether it was the fund raising for the security deposits for the group homes, or his recent “fill up the Subaru” for his wife to drive to Jersey and help hurricane victims, hocorising is something special.

The Foodie Farmer is number 12, and Soulsby Farm number 13. I read both these farm blogs. Foodie Farmer is on the Eastern shore of MD and Soulsby is a tiny farm in Ohio. I love reading what they are doing.

Number 14 would have been Tammy, at Agrigirl but I see A Table in the Sun nominated her along with me. Tammy comments all the time around here. I love her perspective. So, in her place I nominate another desert country blog I read regularly. Fresh Veggies in the Desert, from Nevada instead of Arizona. Another frequent commenter and co-poster at In Her Chucks.

And, last but not least, the newly discovered UKdesperatehousewifeUSA. I love reading her comments about Howard County. I love that she found my neighborhood only a few months after moving here. There are people in Columbia who couldn’t find the Crossroads Pub if their life depended on it. Nor would they willingly travel the back roads out here. And, I love her comments about life around here. A great new blog, adding fresh air to Howard County blogs.

My blogging compatriots. Know that I nominated you because I read you all the time. I find you entertaining, enlightening, kindred spirits. If you aren’t into doing the blog chain thing, I get it. It freaked me out a little the first time someone nominated my blog.

But, at the end of the day, if someone comes and reads your blog and subscribes, and I sent them there, it is all good. We just like to see others appreciate what we write.

Cheers! Now, off to tell all the bloggers I nominated them.

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.


The View from 20,000 …

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… views, that is, not feet. 20,000 views. Yesterday morning the geek in me saw my dashboard on wordpress read 19,999 total views. I was going to write a post next Friday when my blog is one year old, but who knows, with Sandy heading in our direction, and the talking heads on TV telling us power outages possible past November 5th, I may or may not have power next Friday.

20,000 views in less than a year. I don’t know if that is good or bad, but it does tell me that there are definitely people reading what I write. I am also happy to say I still have new things I want to write, and have been pretty good at posting almost every day.

I was a mathematician (my degree major) for many of my early career years, and numbers fascinate me. Statistics of course can always be interpreted the way we want. Still, it is nice to see my numbers increase as my blog “ages”.

Thanks mostly to hocoblogs and to howchow, in the beginning, who linked up my blog when it was just one month old. HOCOBLOGS is where I went to find local readers.

And, there was the Dark Days Challenge, where I found fellow locavores.

local ingredients for dinner

Setting up a local resources page was a good move, too. I found many people came there to search for grains, products, and farms in the area.

local foods

I have to admit though, being interested enough to check out my most read posts, that I did not expect which ones continued to gather views. If you are new to blogging in Howard County, and want people to find you on google or other search engines, I can tell you two phrases that guarantee traffic around here.

brighton dam azalea gardens


tractor supply baby chicks

The most read posts on my blog. I still get hits every week on the tractor supply post. And, I had hundreds of searches registered for azalea blossoms being at peak, or still blooming. Weeks went by and they still were being viewed. I know that I will be monitoring those blossoms again next spring. They are only five miles down the road and we go there often.

Besides those, the series on amateur radio in Howard County got a huge number of views thanks to being placed on a feed for amateurs around the country and the world to see. W3AO gets lots of hits still, when clubs and operators look to see the Field Day records for one of the biggest radio operations in the country. Right here in Howard County.

Here’s hoping this hurricane fizzles out, far from land, or just glances us. Now, off to fill up a spare propane tank and get a few more gallons of spring water. I know if we are totally prepared for “Frankenstorm” as they are calling it, then it will definitely become a non event. It is only when we don’t get ready, that we get slammed.

Stay safe and dry, all our friends near and far.


My Cyber Circles

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I have been meaning to write a post about the three different circles where I travel in cyberspace, in other words, talk about my cohorts in posting. I started my blog in November 2011, mainly to document my CSA, and to learn how to use social media. Something we didn’t do all those years I worked for Uncle Sam. The Navy wasn’t keen on us using social media.

Now that I am retired and looking around to expand my circle of acquaintances I found this blog has triggered email correspondence, and in many cases, it has resulted in meeting people, as we do in the hocoblogs community.

I think we are due for another get together soon, as it has been awhile. Linking and reading each others’ posts is how I keep updated on what happens around here. Food, politics, social events and life in hoco in general. Plus, it got me into using facebook, and twitter, with connections made on both. Including Marshmallow Man and Gingerbread Girl.

The second circle is the locavore circle. I got into it, with a Dark Days Challenge, by attempting to find local meats, dairy, produce and staples during the down period when farmstands and farmer’s markets are not available. I learned that there is actually quite a bit around here in the county and surrounding Maryland counties, that make it easy to cook at least once a week using locally sourced items. My local resources page was built during that challenge.

Now, our group of ten women, who blogged all last winter, are continuing to read each others’ blogs, swap recipes, learn new techniques and keep in touch. The Soffrito, another hocoblogger, and I have met for coffee at the farmer’s markets and keep in touch by email. I have the list of all ten of us on my challenges page, and we have a file folder on the google reader, where we keep up with posts. Their blogs touch DC, VA, MD, SC, NC and TX. Rebecca at Eating Floyd is my source for learning to preserve foods. Emily at Sincerely Emily was our coordinator in last year’s challenge and kept us motivated throughout the long winter season. We intend to keep posting even if the Dark Days Challenge doesn’t materialize this winter.

AnnieRie Unplugged – me
Backyard Grocery Northern VA
Bumble Lush Garden near DC
Eat. Drink. Nourish. South Carolina
Eating Appalachia Blue Ridge VA
Eating Floyd Southwest VA
Family Foodie Survival Guide Northern VA
Sincerely, Emily Texas
The Soffritto right up the road in Woodstock
Windy City Vegan North Carolina

My third circle is the “What’s in the Box” circle. Started by Heather at In Her Chucks, this circle is the CSA and farmer’s market bloggers who link up weekly. I get a good source of information on what to do with strange new veggies, and have expanded my resources. Plus, In Her Chucks is a fun blog to read.

my CSA box

I almost feel like these blogging circles are the modern day equivalent of pen pals. I know that really dates me, to remember when we had pen pals and we, ***GASP***, sent snail mail, only we called them letters back then.

On November 2nd, my blog will be a year old. I am surprised that I still find enough to write about. Thankfully, there are lots of opportunities around here, and lots of inspiration. Thanks to the community here for linking us up, and spreading our thoughts around the area, and far beyond.


Choosing Community in Howard County

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Last night’s bloggers party in Second Chance Saloon in Columbia reminded me of why I love living here, and wouldn’t change it without serious thoughts on what could possibly be better. I moved out here in 1975 to find a sense of community. In those early days, it was really small here, and felt like a small town with that sense of community. I mean, I still have my original ADC map from 1976, back when there were just a fraction of the number of people in Howard Couny than today. In 1975, less people lived in the entire county than there are now in the city of Columbia.

The Choose Civility bumper stickers miss the point, I believe. Civility isn’t enough. Community is.

The bloggers here are incredibly welcoming, friendly, willing to assist new bloggers, welcome readers and bloggers equally, and so much more. If you read hocoblogs, you can see that. Until you attend your first get together and are welcomed as if “Everybody knows your name”, you won’t understand the power of that community.

My hubby came with me last night. He was a bit worried that he would be bored by all of us talking blog stuff. He didn’t need to be. He came home and told me he had a great time. Everyone was friendly. Talkative. Mixed and mingled. No cliques. No awkward silences or sense of exclusion anywhere.

Ask Nicole of HoCo Loco, our newest blogger, who has been welcomed just like I was at my first party in February.

When I first contacted HowChow and got linked into his blog roll, the welcome was amazing. We exchange emails, and do pingbacks to each other’s blog. He told me he was helped immensely in the beginning by bloggers like Jessie Newburn who is behind the curtain at hocoblogs. Jessie helps all of us by keeping us out there, keeping us motivated. And for organizing the bloggers parties over how many years now?

So, last night I met Marshmallow Man, Sarah and Julia, who cohosted this party, Duane of HoCo Connect, Matt of the newly restored Lost in Columbia blog, Anne from Annethologie, Jeff from Green Floss, Frank from FrankHecker, and others whose names escape me at the moment. Ginger Breadgirl was there as well. Love the pic tweeted last night.

I missed talking to LisaBMrsS, I think I saw Dennis of To2C fame pop in but never got to say Hi, and I was surprised at how many people I remembered from February. As you can see, there are dozens of active bloggers in Howard County who turned out for this event.

One by one, we are losing papers and magazines around here. More and more, we turn to social media to stay in touch, but we don’t always connect. I think this community of bloggers here, connects. In a good way.

Hoping to attend many more get togethers and keep Howard County as great as I personally think it is today.


Second Chance Today

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OK, when I moved here it was about to become the Last Chance when Claire Lea named it that. They already had JK’s in Wilde Lake, which we loved to frequent.

When it closed in 2004, many of us mourned the loss of another of our favorite watering holes.

Tonight at the Second Chance, in Oakland Mills, the local blogging community is converging to raise a pint or two (or 53) and share stories, tips, enjoy the face to face camaraderie of being local writers about All Things Howard County (and beyond).

And, for us locavores, maybe buy a pint of local beer. One of my favorites. Love the names of Flying Dog beers.

See you there!