GIVEAWAY: 2 tickets to Baltimore Bar Guild’s + Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s annual Ryes Up

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Coming from a family of random diseases (plus being a bit of a hypochondriac), I know my medical disorders pretty well. That’s why, after hanging out with Katharine a few times when we first became friends, I wasn’t shocked when she told me she has cystic fibrosis.

What did shock me is how much it impacts her daily life. The medications, the drug trials, the hours of breathing treatments every day … (Plus, she’s recently added in exercise to her routine!) Then there’s the mental side: Does it get worse? Is the cure coming?

I’ve tried to raise awareness of and advocate for and donate to CF research. My favorite event, Ryes Up, is next Sunday, March 5. Fifteen (15!!!) of the city’s best bartenders come together and sample rye whiskey-based drinks and paired bites. The best part is Katharine’s speech. Each year, without fail, I cry.

DON’T YOU WANT TO BE THERE?!?

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With the lady of the hour at the 2014 Ryes Up event

You can! Brendan Dorr, the amazing head bartender at B&O (the host venue) and head of the Baltimore Bar Guild (the event sponsor), and Sue Nolan of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Maryland, offered me two tickets to give away for the event. (As Amy says, I love my people.)

How can you win? Just follow the giveaway rules in my social posts and cross your fingers. If you don’t win, I highly suggest buying tickets. The event will sell out and it’s one of the most fun nights for an amazing cause. Eat and drink well and feel good.

2016 in Review: Top 4 books I read

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I did a bad job at reading this year. Each year, I set a goal to read [blank] number of books. I didn’t even set a goal this year. Womp. BUT I did manage to pick up a few, and here are my favorites. (Want to see my favorites from last year? Check ’em out.)

A Little LifeFour friends move to New York broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel painter; Malcolm, a frustrated architect; and withdrawn, brilliant Jude. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, especially with Jude. By midlife, he’s a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.  

A Little Life is HEAVY, both in actual weight and in intensity. It’s not an easy read and it took me some time to get into, but WOW. It’s good. I love coming of age books and this one is no different. You will gasp. You will cringe. You will be shaken and intrigued and in need of a little time to process the story. Don’t expect puppies and butterflies at any point, but expect this one to stick with you.

The Royal WeAmerican Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, she’s propelled into world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

I am shamelessly obsessed with the British royals, especially Kate Middleton. I never wanted to be a princess, but she makes me reconsider. I cannot imagine the stress and microscope she’s under every day, but this book allows a little glimpse. It’s basically the more gossipy version of Will and Kate and what we imagine might go on behind closed (palace) doors. I read this while in Turks & Caicos; it’s the perfect beach read. (Side note: The authors are the creators of the blog, Go Fug Yourself. That should help you understand the humor.)

The Little Paris Bookshop: Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. 

This one is another good beach read (although I actually read it in London).  It’s a cute story of an older man who has held onto his long lost love and he deals with it by “prescribing” books to help others heal. I love the idea and wish I could find a bookseller to do the same. It’s a beautiful love letter to books and those who enjoy them.

Between the World and MeTa-Nehisi Coates writes a letter to his adolescent son and shares the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

This book has been everywhere, named to every list, nominated for every prize — and is so deserving. I, like so many others, have tried to figure out what the hell has happened in the past year (in many ways), and books like BTWAM give a little clarity. I was shocked to read about the pure prejudice and injustice Coates faced growing up and how he managed to overcome so much and go on to teach others.

Honorable mentions:

 

 

2016 in Review: The best (sometimes random) food in Baltimore

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What better time to come back to blogging than to talk about the best (and most interesting) food in Baltimore in 2016?

Best Fries: The skinny fries at CaliBurger remind me of McDonald’s. They so thin and salty and delicious and so addictive.

Best Classic Cocktail: Bee’s Knees at B&O American Brasserie is a light mix of gin, lemon, and honey. Does Brendan ever create something that isn’t amazing?

Best New Restaurant/Bar in Canton: Lee’s Shell and Pint is way nicer than I expected. I was actually able to order a decent bottle of wine!

Best New Restaurant/Bar in Federal Hill: Urban Deli has so many delicious sandwiches AND sells THB bagels! The owner is so nice, too.

Best New Restaurant/Bar in Harbor East: Sweetgreen may be a chain, which I’m generally against, but IT’S SO GOOD.

Best Go-To Restaurant: Wit & Wisdom always makes me happy. I like the drinks, I like the food, I like the view, I like Zach, I like Julie. It’s all good.

Best for Celebrations: Gunther & Co. has so many options! I’ve been there for a company holiday party, a girls’ dinner, several lunches, and my OrderUp goodbye happy hour.

Delicious #charcuterie board at @sobomarket 👌🏼 + $5 house wines during #happyhour!

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Best Competition for Ryleigh’s Orange Crush: Boathouse has a variety of crushes, and the orange crush is pretty close to Ryleigh’s, which is my personal favorite in Baltimore.

Most Exciting OpeningR. House in Remington is another welcome Baltimore food market. Mt. Vernon Marketplace and R. House seem to have spurred unrest in older markets, with Broadway, Cross, and Lexington Markets all in renovation talks.

Best Surprise: Arba opened at R. House! Farid opened another restaurant! I’ve frequented Baba’s for years and always said we couldn’t leave the neighborhood because I’d miss it so much. If we ever end up back in North Baltimore, at least we have Arba.

Best Wine Flight: La Cuchara has a flight of three delicious Tempranillos, my favorite Spanish red. Paired with their delicious pinxtos, you have a hit.

It's a beauty unlike any other.

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Best Baltimore Dessert: Kinderhook Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies are the best thing ever and I miss them dearly. The Kinderhook crew would deliver them fresh to the OrderUp office, while the layers of chocolate were still warm. The most amazing treat.

Most-Liked Baltimore Food Instagram Pic: Fancy coffee at the opening of Order & Chaos had everyone pretty excited.

He ❤️ me.

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Best Way to Eat My Feelings About 2016: Machado’s soft serve ice cream is made of the tears of butterflies or something else magical. It’s apparently just soft serve Hershey’s with sprinkles, but I think there’s some kind of crack in it.

What were your favorites in Baltimore this year?  

3 Days in Amsterdam: Canals, Cuypmarket & Cannabis

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Waaaaaaay back in June, Steve and I spent a week in London, I hopped a train to Paris for two days, and now, months later, I realized I never wrote a recap of our 3-day weekend in Amsterdam. Since it’s been so long, I don’t recall the exact timeline, so I’m just recapping places to stay, things to do, and where to eat — plus, obviously, a little cannabis info. It is Amsterdam, after all.

A quick 2-hour Eurostar ride put us in Brussels (where we had time for a brief layover dinner) and another 2-hour Thalys train had us to Amsterdam Centraal, one of the most architecturally stunning stations I’ve seen.

WHERE TO STAY

Those who had been to Amsterdam recommended two areas: The Jordaan and De Pijp. The former is more residential and centrally located, while the latter is a little farther from most attractions, and we found an awesome Airbnb (on Rombout Hogerbeetsstraat, which I loved saying).

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Everything in the main part of Amsterdam is very walkable, and there’s reliable public transportation and trains. Everyone speaks English, so you can stay in most places and be able to get easy access to the major sights.

WHAT TO DO/SEE

First thing: Get tickets to the Anne Frank House as far in advance as you can! We had one month’s notice and still couldn’t book them.

We skipped biking, Amsterdam’s most famous activity, because our Airbnb hosts told us that if you’re not super confident on a bike, you’re basically just an asshole in the way. No thanks. We’re big walkers and planned to see miles of the city that way.

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If you’re a runner, Amsterdam is amazing. It’s so scenic and there are great parks. One morning, we ran through Westerpark, near where we stayed. Another day, we ventured a little farther to Erasmuspark. Both were beautiful with plenty of room to log a few miles without too many loops.

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We did venture into the Red Light District during the day. (Our hosts advised against it at dark; it’s perfectly safe but full of drunken tourists.) It’s home to Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest building and parish, which is absolutely stunning — and directly across from women posing half naked in windows. (You can’t take pics. Sorry, kids.) Right by the church is also one of several public urinals in the city. (Really.)

Albert Cuypmarket in De Pijp is an open-air market of over 100 shops spanning several blocks. Wander Albert Cuypstraat and Ferdinand Bolstraat, the main streets, and check out all of the vendors. (There are plenty of places to grab your t-shirts and keychains, too.)

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Bloemenmarkt flower market is basically all of the world’s tulip bulbs in one place. Row after row of beautiful flowers and bulbs line a canal. I considered bringing some home to my mom, who loves tulips, but I worried about getting them through customs.

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We walked by Koninklijk PaleisLeidseplein, and Dam Square and checked out the i.amsterdam sign behind Koninklijk Paleis. (It’s impossible to get a cool pic like you see on websites; it’s crawling with people.)

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Vondelpark was one of our very favorite places. We walked this one rather than run and it was turn after turn of gorgeous greens, beautiful rose gardens, and amazing architecture. Even in the slight mist, it was really a sight to see.

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We bought tickets to the Van Gogh Museum and had about 45 minutes before our entrance time. We popped into the local Albert Heijn and grabbed cheese, bread, olives wine and beer and had an amazing picnic on Museumplein, the gorgeous green space outside of the museum. The museum itself was pretty cool, but not as exciting as we’d thought. (I’d also just seen Starry Night in Paris, where it was on loan to the d’Orsay.

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Hempstory is a cute boutique full of all of the legal hemp products you can take back to the States, like soaps and candles. We stocked up on a few souvenirs for family here.

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We wandered through Haarlemmerbuurt, a cute neighborhood of shops and cafes, most of which line Haarlemmerdijk. As always, though, don’t skip the side streets in Europe. There are so many hidden walkways with amazing  boutiques and restaurants.

There’s also a cool area called The Nine Streets made up of (you guessed it) nine streets of great shopping. It was late on a Sunday when we were there, so most places were closed, but it was fun to do a little window shopping.

WHERE TO EAT

I had to look back at my credit card statement to jog my memory on some names, but here’s the rundown of our culinary adventures in Amsterdam:

Harar Coffee: We quickly learned that many of the small neighborhood cafes in Jordaan only took cash (euros) and we were mostly credit-card based, but the woman at Harar Coffee gave us a free cup when we didn’t realize they didn’t accept cards. We promised to come back the next day to pay, she graciously agreed, and then was closed. Please pay the cute shop a visit if you’re in the city!

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Foodhallen: An awesome indoor food market that also has artisans selling wares on the weekends. I had AMAZING jamon tapas from Jabugo Bar Iberico and a delicious fruit tart from Petit GâteauSteve enjoyed a few beers and the bahn mi from Việt View, which he remembered when I asked him right now — it was that good. If you’re there on the weekend, check to see if Koi d’Azur has a table set up. I bought an amazing stamped initial necklace and actually just ordered another necklace.

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At one point, we needed a break and Steve wanted to catch some of the Euros. We grabbed seats at Regular & Jack and were entertained by both the game and the patrons who were in full Euro gear. Per the norm, Steve has a massive beer and I had a pretty decent red wine for a sports bar.

Cafe Sonneveld was less than impressive. The food was mediocre and the service was really, really slow. We left after a little and wandered into The Huyschkaemer, another canalside cafe, I don’t recall what we had, but this location is fantastic and the restaurant is really cute and cozy.

We had a great flight of beers at Brouwerij De Prael, one of Amsterdam’s breweries. (I can’t drink beer, but did sample these. There was a slightly floral one that was so good.) There’s a great shop downstairs where you can sample and buy things like beer liqueurs.
La Perla pizza sits on two sides of Tweede Tuindwarsstraat, a street full of restaurants and bars in the Jordaan. I don’t remember Steve’s pizza, but I know that I had the Prosciutto san Daniele because I always order the prosciutto.

I picked up a delicious 80% dark chocolate bar at Vanroselen Fine Chocolate (which smelled better than you can imagine) and found the best stroopwaffel place in Amsterdam, Lanskroon. While most are smaller in size, Lanskroon’s stoops are HUGE and so amazing slightly warmed.

We had one of our favorite meals at Morgan & Mees, a hotel close to our rental that also has a restaurant. There’s a stunning courtyard at the entrance where sipped drinks and watched people go by while the sun set over the canal.

And remember, Albert Heijn is an awesome grocer with many stores throughout the city. As mentioned above, it’s great for grabbing picnic essentials and other items you need, food or otherwise.

CANNABIS CENTRAAL

Yep, it’s very legal in Amsterdam. Basically, coffee shops (not cafes) are where you go to buy weed. There are more than 200 in the city and you’ll know if you’re at one by the green and white license sticker in the window. Everyone is super knowledgable and cool about it. There’s even Cannabis College, where you can vape, have THC tested, take classes, and more.

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General tips/observations

  • Everyone is really tall and really blonde. Sometimes it felt like Steve was on the short side — and he’s 6’3″.
  • An ideal way to figure out where you’re going is to count canals … but it’s very easy to lose count, as well.
  • Most bathrooms in places like Burger Kings (hey, when you gotta go) are pay to use. It’s just some pocket change — but have some on hand.
  • Amsterdam is pretty compact and easy to hit a lot of main areas in a weekend. More time is needed to get to neighborhoods on the outskirts and the ‘burbs.

Would I go back?

Absolutely. I feel like we only scratched the surface on Amsterdam. I love cities on water, and Amsterdam is so water-centric. I still want to go to the Noord area, go on a boat, run through more of Vondelpark, and venture outside of the city to see the windmills and tulips.

Baltimore gains new wedding/event venue at Quarry Lake

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Charles Levine announced today that in conjunction with the November opening of Citron at Quarry Lake at Greenspring, he will also open The Cove at Citron, a special event venue that will be available for corporate and social events beginning in January 2017.

Located next to Citron and overlooking Quarry Lake, The Cove at Citron will offer patrons stunning lakefront views, one-of-a-kind menus created by Levine himself, and a wide range of options for corporate and social events. The spacious interior will accommodate up to 150 for a seated event and 200 for a cocktail reception, and the private deck will seat up to 100 or accommodate up to 200 for a cocktail reception. Experienced staff will be available to assist in planning corporate, social or fundraising events at the venue.

Both The Cove and Citron are currently under construction on the north side of Quarry Lake. Upon opening in November, Citron will feature a dining room, bar, outside patio and waterfront deck seating overlooking the lake. The Cove is currently accepting bookings for private events starting sometime in January. Citron will offer a seasonally changing and approachable contemporary American menu with a subtle French twist.

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Those interested in learning more about The Cove at Citron and employment opportunities at Citron can visit www.citronbaltimore.com.

Review: Stitch Fix #17 (WITH VOTING!)

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If you recall, my last Stitch Fix was just a total bust. I was ready to give up and emailed them, exasperated. They offered to waive my styling fee to give ’em another shot, so here I am. Ready for #17?

HAILEY 23 Kerrigan Dress, $78

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Steve: “You could get this at Old Navy, right?”

Yes, he’s kind of right. I love the top, but the bottom is a little heavy and maybe a little matronly.

 

BRIXON IVY Cristen Shirt Dress, $68

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I was so excited when I took this out because I love the pattern and shirt dresses are fun, right? The fit feels a little off, though, and I’m not sure how I feel about this much mint color.

Steve: “So they stopped sending prison stripes and are just sending flowers now? This looks like a Victoria’s Secret kitchen apron.”

SKIES ARE BLUE Pagan Back Strap Chambray Top, $48

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Sorry, not ironing these before posting, so wrinkles it is! I LOVE the chambray, but the metal holes in the bottom are a little odd. I like the t-back design. Would you pay $48 for this?

Steve: “This looks like it was made out of a pillowcase.”

 

MARKET & SPRUCE Benni Crossfront Knit Top, $48

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I love grey! I love the feel of this top! But again … $48? Seems a little steep for a plain grey top …

Steve: [Grabs the front] “You could put a baby kangaroo in here!”

 

SKIES ARE BLUE Klide Woven Back Knit Top, $48

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Steve: “This is the clothing version of a mullet — business in the front, party in the back.”

I can’t even talk about this. I dislike it even more after trying it on. The green is too bright, the sides are weirdly high, the pattern is not my style — negative.

 

I don’t know, guys. I’m torn on a few pieces. I was feeling really optimistic when I opened this one, but now — a little less so. Help!

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end …

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July 21 will be my last day at OrderUp. After a very, very tough deliberation process, I decided that this is the time for me to embrace a new opportunity. (I’ll talk more about that in another post; I want to give OrderUp my full love here.)

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Me and Dana, my partner in crime

My first company party. What a horrible, horrible day after.

My first company party. What a horrible, horrible day after

The day that Justin Forsett popped by the office

The day that Justin Forsett popped by the office

Almost two years ago, the two founders of OU took a chance hiring me to run the company’s PR and comm. I had a proven track record but was new to the startup world — and wow, did I get a crash course. The first month, I was terrified that I was going to be fired any day because the pace was so quick. I worried that I couldn’t keep up.

One of the most fun nights -- the night before the acquisition was announced

One of the most fun nights — the night before the acquisition was announced

When you sell your company, you get a unicorn

When you sell your company, you get a unicorn

I dug deeper. I put everything into promoting the company. I worked evenings, weekends, traveled to new markets, and chose to “embrace the crazy,” as Heather Whaling advocates.

In Chicago w/some of my gals

In Chicago w/some of my gals

Bye Michael

Bye Michael

We hired a ton of people; my favorite headline is still: OrderUp hires everybody. This team is truly remarkable. They’re some of the funniest, kindest, smartest people I’ve ever worked with. I laugh every single day. (I also eat and drink with them a lot, which is an added perk.)

And then JO ate pie

And then JO ate pie

At the Pratt Library Black & White gala

At the Pratt Library Black & White gala

After two years, I’ve learned a lot about what I want in my career and a working environment. It’s hard to imagine an office without a casual dress code, co-workers lounging in a hammock, beer in the fridge, and music playing. I know that I need autonomy and the ability to run with my ideas. It’s so important to me to be a part of building something, and I’m so grateful for the experience.

Celebrating my birthday with the team in Chicago!

Celebrating my birthday with the team in Chicago!

Birthday shenanigans

Birthday shenanigans

Awesome opp to have CJ on a Light City U panel

Awesome opp to have CJ on a Light City U panel

I learned how to keep really big secrets, about being a woman in tech, the importance of knowing and playing up your strengths, that I’m too old to throw down that hard, how to convince an athlete to take part in a pie-eating contest, that I should really be a life coach, and — as a wise man once told me — people invest in the team.

On the river in Chi-town

On the river in Chi-town

Pedal tour of Fells drinking spots

Pedal tour of Fells drinking spots

I’ve had one of the best teams.