Wednesday, June 25, 2014

North East, Maryland

I love reading articles written by local residents about their hometowns. They have a perspective that is so different from some of the touristy articles about the same areas. Since I love writing and live in a beautiful little town that folks love to visit, I thought I would pen my thoughts about the town. First of all, although I have lived here for almost ten years, the real locals still consider folks like myself as the newcomers. No, I did not go to high school here and I do not have any family in the vicinity so therefore I am new.

North East, Maryland is right smack dab between Philadelphia and Baltimore just about a mile from Exit 100 on Route 95. As you come down Route 272 which runs straight south through the town, you will come past the commercialized area where you can get your fast food or stop in at a 'big box' store and then the road narrows as it comes over the train bridge and you get your first glimpse of the quaint homes that have lined the street since the early 1900's. As the economy improves, the state of disrepair of some of the buildings continues to decrease as the whole town seems to slowly lift from the grip of poverty and its charm comes back to life. 

The bridge that carries you over the picturesque North East Creek is a fine place to get stuck in the traffic that builds up in the summer months before the light. Fun fact: when you leave town, you might notice that the sign for the creek says, Northeast Creek as one word. It seems that there has been a long standing disagreement as to the name of the creek - North East or Northeast. One day we might get it sorted out.

Port House Grill Crabcake
So now you are passing a little shop on the right that used to be a gun shop. After a complete tear-down, there is a new modern sandwich shop, the Port House Grill that serves delicious, made-from scratch salads, sandwiches and entrees. They make a filet sandwich with swiss cheese that is my favorite, but their crab cake is also wonderful.

The Black Pearl
Speaking of new, just kitty-corner from them, what used to be the town gas station is now the Black Pearl Surf and Turf Grill where seafood reigns supreme. Think of homemade lobster ravioli or coconut scallops. There's a laid back atmosphere with a pirate theme where you can enjoy a good meal without feeling rushed all while watching through the large picture windows the cars rolling into town. This is a great place to bring people for special occasions as they also have a larger room just for groups and the owner is more than willing to accommodate.

North East Chocolates Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt
As you meander farther down Main Street (Sorry, I forgot to mention that Route 272 turns into Main St. at the light in front of the Black Pearl Surf and Turf Grill.) there are some inspiring shops: The Fine Thyme where you can find fine furniture and accessories - both old and new, Saffron Creek which offers unique gifts - including Vera Bradley items, and also a tiny little clock shop that is now a chocolate shop, North East Chocolates that also sells Jelly Belly candies.

Now you have arrived at one of the most well-known restaurants in town - Woody's Crab House and Ice Cream Shop where brown paper covers the tables and fresh Maryland crab is the highlight of the menu.
Woody's Crab House
This place has been the draw for tourists since the 1970's when Pete Wood saw North East as a place to start his restaurant. People from all over the world have visited the iconic place and most locals leave it for the tourists to enjoy or as a place to bring their out-of-town guests. My personal favorite is the Dungeness Crab and their bag of perfectly steamed broccoli, but their menu is large and you have to visit there at least once in your life.

Pickled Herring Pub
If you step across the street from Woody's, there is a large building called the West Street Village. In the daytime, this is a fun place to stroll through in the air conditioned hallway and look at the clothing shops. But in the back, there is a jazz club - the Pickled Herring Pub where you can listen to some really good groups perform on most nights. They do have a fun pub menu and a full bar as well. Visit their website for a schedule of upcoming events.

So obviously, you would be hard pressed to stop in at every shop in one visit. However, there are still some amazing shops that are a must stop. Let's get on with it.

Steak and Main, Steak House, Oyster Bar, Sushi Bar
As you pass the crosswalk (yes, it is a law to stop and allow pedestrians the right of way), you will notice some cast iron chairs in front of a window seat. The small door sign says Steak House, but at closer look, you will see that the door is not in use. No worries, the entrance is next door under the awning of the Oyster Bar sign. Two old buildings make up this restaurant we all know as Steak and Main/aka Tony's Place. Yes, you get oysters and steaks here, but plenty more. You can count on excellent food cooked right and consistently.The oyster side is the bar side while the steak side is the fine dining side. The locals like hanging out on the bar side for great food and a casual atmosphere but plenty of regulars from up and down the East Coast make this their stop off of 95. Tony Covatta, the owner, is often seen here talking to the guests and overseeing the place. Sushi is one of the new highlights of the menu with specials rolls offered on Mondays and Thursdays. Happy Hour is just that with discounted drinks and half price seafood, depending on the night of the week. This is my go-to place for when I am too tired to cook and just want good food and great atmosphere.

You might notice that I have not said a word about dessert at any of the restaurants and that is simply because I almost never get it. I am a fan of appetizers, occasionally an entree and I always fill up before I can think of eating sweet things. That being said, each of the restaurants in town offers a nice assortment of sweets that you can sample and review yourself.

Okay, onward! After leaving Steak and Main, you will see across the street a porch filled with fun signage for your yard - Kathy's Corner Shop. Inside is a wonderful array of artworks from locals, hand made jewelry, t-shirts and sweatshirts, and books about the Chesapeake, (including my own, The Meanderings of a Pen, A Collection of Short Stories). It is well worth your time to check out the treasures she stocks.

Turkey Point Wines
Next is the newest shop in town (as of 6/25/2014) The Turkey Point Vineyard Tasting Room and Gift Shop. I was able to attend their opening celebration and they do have some delicious wines. My favorite was their Chardonnay, even though I usually am a red wine drinker. This is a fun family business that is sure to succeed.

5 and 10 Antique Market
As you pass the Town Hall, formerly an old automotive shop, you will see a large three story building across the street called the 5 and 10 Antique Market. This is a great stop for antiquers as the building is filled to the brim with collections from various consignees - the largest antique market in the county. As you walk through the store, you will wonder if you are going to fall through the old floors with their wide pine boards that squeak with every step. Take your time or you might miss that special treasure tucked back in a corner. And if you don't notice or smell the wonderfulness, there is a large glass case of chocolates and candies just waiting for your attention as you walk in the door.

Beans, Leaves, Etc...
Speaking of chocolates, I almost forgot the most wonderful smelling shop in town, Beans, Leaves, Etc. situated right next to Woody's. This is a gourmet coffee shop with shelves lined with teas, coffees, herbs and spices. I recommend you stop in here for a cup of your favorite java and sip it as you walk through town. Right next door in the same building is an old book shop/antique shop where they have a box of books out front for a dollar. Perfect for a vacation read. You will often find a few locals in here just killing time that will fill your ear with the local news if you listen carefully.

By now, you probably want to come back another day, but there are still some interesting shops as you continue south on Main Street. Within this section, stores change owners more often than other parts of town but a couple have been there for a while - The Silver Buckle - a stop for women's jewelry and handbags, Bay Billy Boards - filled with outdoor enthusiasts' toys and the School House Gift Shop which is logically in an old school house.

The North East Grocer
Now you have reached the Deli or more formally, The North East Grocer, the spot in the middle of town where you can get whatever you forgot for making dinner, sandwiches, soups, ice cream, fresh meat and seafood as well as household and camping items. You can sit inside in their newly renovated dining area decorated with artwork from locals or sit out front on their picnic tables. I love their generously sized ice cream cones but have been told by others that their crab bisque is the best around. They have a great website for ordering online as well.

Herb's Tackle Shop
A couple of doors down is a nondescript building with an old barbershop light outside and a vending machine for bait. This is the establishment that every fisherman knows for hundreds of miles. You can get your hair cut (guys) on certain days or pick up some fishing tackle or bait from Herb's Tackle Shop.
This is a family-run shop where everyone who works there knows the current regulations on fishing, who is catching what or where to go on the water to find the fish. You can charter a fishing expedition with Mike, Herb's son and let him show you where the fishing is good. Eleanor, Herb's wife is almost always there and don't be fooled thinking that fishing is just for guys - she is more knowledgeable in the subject than most folks you will ever meet, especially when it comes to local fishing.

The next couple of blocks are just for walking as it is primarily residential with churches and the town post office. Englands on the Bay is a great shop for nautical gifts, but alas she is in the process of closing so it may not be there for long.

Finally, the last restaurant on the strip of Main Street is the Paradise Grille.
This is a hamburger joint famous for its weeknight specials and cold beer. It is easy to get in and out of and they serve breakfast during the summer weekends. Again, this is a family run business by long time locals who know everyone and everything that is going on in the town of North East. They are appreciated for their Thanksgiving Feast that they provide free of charge during Thanksgiving for anyone who needs it.

By now, you are exhausted and you have only walked about half a mile down Main Street. There is much more to be known, but for this article, I will end it with a link to the town's website,  North East Maryland, where you can check the calendar for local happenings.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The June Travel Bug

Travel bugs! I get bit every year about this time when the weather inches up into the 90 degree range. The heat becomes too much for me to spend too much time outside and I don't like being confined to air conditioned rooms. However, travel costs money and more often than not, I spend more time dreaming about travel than actually leaving our address.
On a side note, when I say travel bug, I simply mean the urge to travel. Apparently the word is now a registered trademark of Groundspeak and refers to an actual 'registered dogtag' used in geochaching. It is a pretty cool idea. If you have never tried geochaching, you should check it out as it is quite fun.
I love reading folks reviews on Tripadvisor when I look at places like Seattle,Washington or Montreal, Quebec where the temperatures are a little cooler during the summer months. Then I usually realize that trips to these destinations are not in my immediate budget and look for weekend trips to the mountains. Google Maps is a great place to get an overview of my general area and I pan out from home to see what looks like an interesting place to go. In the last few weeks, we have done weekend trips to Lewes, Delaware, and Smith Island, Maryland, but my travel lust is not quenched yet. I want to check out Berlin, Maryland for its 55 restaurants and the hotsprings in Allegheny County in Virginia and I could go on but I am tired of writing about places and want to actually make reservations somewhere...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Getting Inspired

One of our train stops on the way to Canada
I was traveling over the weekend and was not able to watch the Academy Awards until the following night on HuluPlus. What an amazing collection of talented and creative people from all over the world! To see the imaginative work produced and the honor and respect that the industry gives to the winner is such an inspiration. It is no mistake that movies like the 12 Years a Slave or Captain Phillips  won such high honors. The whole process of creating the story line, choosing the actors, designing the scenes, the actors learning their characters and so on is a very complex process requiring excellence on every level to produce the caliber of movie that they are. I cannot help but be so inspired and with that inspiration comes a flood of creative ideas for stories to write.

You would think that with the thousands of years of stories between humans that there wouldn't be anything left to tell, yet the field is limitless. Love, hate, jealousy, greed, chivalry, passion, generosity, anger - all qualities we experience individually yet somehow we really enjoy watching the reactions of others to these intangible auras.

Not only are there innumerable real stories to tell, the category of fictional stories based on true stories is simply exponentially larger. As a writer, I can change outcomes, manipulate the motives and create a story that I like or that I think you might like.

There are so many movies I need to see, but for now, I have a story I would like to finish...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Year Thoughts

I have been silent for a while but it was not because I had nothing to say. The holidays were quite busy with a houseful of kids and friends and relatives. Once we got over the celebrations and the house quieted down again, I left with Eric for our annual vacation down south. Sunday was my first day back and it was quite an adjustment to come back to the reality of daily life, working and cleaning and cold temperatures.

Now I have the time to think about just what I want to do this year. And....well, I don't know! The regular stuff like getting our debt load reduced, making plans for renovating our house, upgrading some of my plantings outside - that all comes easily. The fact that I am a writer seems to slip away from my resolutions - the obvious should be all kinds of new ideas for writing, but not yet. I guess I need to do more imagining and get my fingers dancing on the keyboard.

Maybe I could combine all my plans and focus them towards writing - like renovating our home a little to make a writing room with plants and without spending much money....

So, maybe I don't have my act together yet, but it will come to me when I am ready. Time to get inspired!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Writing Reviews

New York City from the car window...
One way that you can practice your writing is by penning reviews for restaurants or other businesses that you visit. Some will actually pay you for being a mystery shopper, like A Closer Look, while others, like TripAdvisor simply want you to volunteer information for the good of other citizens looking for a good time or bargain. Recently I took a trip to New York City for dinner out with relatives and a Broadway show (Newsies). Of course, we took taxis and walked a lot so each spot we stopped was an opportunity for writing. On the one hand, there was no money to be made, but I am still spreading my name on the web while I learn how to describe and express my experiences.

When you are going out for dinner or even to a unique shop, keep your eyes open and pay attention to details about the place, things like cleanliness, uniqueness, service, prices, etc. Use these observations to write up a review that will hopefully benefit the establishment. Only once in a while do I write a negative review and then I try to be very careful in choosing my words to
not voice my opinion but rather to state the facts as I saw them, and only if I think the review might benefit another traveler like myself in the decision making process.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Who knows, maybe a major outlet will ask me to write reviews for them on a regular basis...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to Make Beeswax Candles

Today I am going to try something a little different by writing about something I do at home. My project over the last week or so has been to try my hand at making beeswax candles. So many times people ask me for instructions on how to do things, so since it falls within the category of writing, I will explain it here.

First of all, why beeswax instead of paraffin or soy wax? Well, once I found out that beeswax was considered the premium substance for burning in a candle, I thought, why not? There are lots of claims about problems with the smoke from paraffin and soy but I have not made the time to research them out to see if they were true.

Second, get your supplies. I searched online and found a candle supply company I liked, Candle Science. They seemed to have the best price for the wax in a granular form and plenty of information for learning. Check out their list of fragrances for inspiration, too. While you are waiting for the order to be shipped, come up with the logo for your candles (if you want to). 

Clean a work area in your kitchen and set up your supplies. You will need to have a large pot about a third full of water heated to a simmer. Place a smaller pot on top for melting the wax (creating a double boiler). Use a candy thermometer to watch the temperature of the melting wax as you don't want it to go over 160 degrees (F) or it tends to darken the color of the candle.

Cut your wicks to the right length for your container. Use a hot glue gun to glue the wick to the bottom center. Wrap the wick around a pencil or through a clothespin to hold it in place.

Warm the jars in the oven at 140 degrees. When the wax is melted, add your fragrance (if any) and stir gently.

Pour the wax into the containers, trying to stay as neat as possible since the wax is sticky and hard to clean later. Don't fill it all the way as you will do a second layer after the first is cooled. Leave a 1/4 to 1/2 inch space for the second layer.

Pour the second layer over the candles after waiting about 5 or 6 hours for the wax to harden. If any cracks have formed, this is when you can fill them in.

Leave the candles overnight so they can fully harden.

That's it! You now have a nice beeswax candle that will burn longer than most other types of candles.

(Of course, use caution when working over a stove with hot wax and never leave a burning candle unattended, near children or where it might catch something on fire.)

For those of you who would rather someone else make them for you, you can get them here, on Amazon, Maskyelen Candles.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Daylight Savings Time

Although I live in a very lush area for growing vegetables, fruit trees and flowers during the spring and summer, there is something unique about fall and the rich colors everywhere.

Tonight we change our clocks back for Daylight Savings time so tomorrow will really feel like we are heading into winter. As far as today goes, it was still warm enough to get out in our kayaks and go fishing and hang out on a secluded beach accessible only by boat.

The clouds have since rolled in and the temperatures are supposed to drop down into the low 30's by tomorrow night. So tonight we will celebrate life with friends and sit around around our fire pit roasting some kielbasa over the flames.

As you can see, I am trying to live by my own motto, "Don't forget to live!" Happy Daylight Savings Time...

Friday, October 11, 2013

Get Around Someone Bigger Than Yourself

grasses, chesapeake bay, inspiration, water, wind
Bay Grasses by Heide Braley
I was just sitting in my living room looking out at a huge maple tree in my front yard and found myself inspired by its simple grandeur. The massive size of the branches stretching out and up hundreds of feet, yet still swaying in the wind. How can something so amazingly massive still be so graceful? I was inspired and realized that I need to spend more time around things and people that are larger than me. They tend to see life from a different perspective and can be less stressed about problems and challenges that always come along.

One example of a person that I want to learn more about is the recent Nobel prize in literature winner, Alice Munroe. Like myself, she wrote short stories when she could, thinking that it was a way to practice her talent until she was ready to write a novel - after all, that's what all good writers do, right? She wrote about life, its ups and down and the feelings that came with them. Now she is in her eighties and thinks she is finished writing, but what a wealth of feelings must be in her by that age.

I can remember sitting down to write a love story when I was twelve and I put my pencil to the paper for a few words, only to realize that I was not mature enough to write nearly enough material about the subject. Today, after twenty-seven years of marriage to an amazingly loving guy, I find myself so much more experienced in the art of love than when we first started and yet somehow know I still have so much to learn. I remind you, writer or not, as I remind myself - find people who are bigger in heart and emotion than yourself and glean from them some of the special facets of life that make them beautiful.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


One of the things that I find interesting is to watch people's faces when I tell them I am a writer. Of course, the words that come out of their mouth are usually admiration and praise, but there is this pause - sometimes just a fraction of a second long, but usually longer, before they respond. It's as though they think, "How could you?" Writers are historical titles on paper, you know - Sam Clemens, the Louisa May Alcott and lists of others as long as there is paper. How could I, a regular girl, from regular life be a writer? What do I have to write about?

People. I write about people and their reactions to life but in stories. I absolutely love people watching. In writing, I have to actually become vulnerable to the fact that readers will not like me and be okay with that. I was listening to a TED talk this morning by Brene Brown on the Power of Vulnerability. During her research she found that we as a society in the US tend to want to numb ourselves from vulnerability and thereby cover up our feelings that we might not be as acceptable to others as we would hope.We say our religion is perfect, we serve the real God, our politics are the best, our food is so healthy - all so black and white yet are they really? Can we really say that everyone else is missing the mark? Where is humility (or common sense)?

What are we afraid of? That we won't make the mark? What mark? I want to have the freedom to make mistakes and not live under the fear that I am not good enough. If you don't like me, that's fine because you know, I might not like you and that is okay too. Who says we have to all like each other? I will still be kind and polite and respect you and possible even learn from you, but I will gravitate towards people I like.

To sum up my thoughts, let loose and become vulnerable. Let us see the real side of you with freckles and chipped teeth and even better, the tears that flow when you hurt or the spontaneous laughter that comes from making a fool of yourself. We all live in naked skin in a flawed world - so why pretend that we are better than others? I am me and you are you - deal with it and let's get along and enjoy this life.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Accidents Happen

sparrow, fall, pines, birds
White Throated Sparrow
A couple of days ago, I was anticipating my husband, Eric's return home with a rush of activities so dinner prep would be ready. Only a few things were left to do, including chopping some green bell peppers for our roasted pork tacos. The combination of my haste and a slight dullness on the blade of my largest knife culminated in me chopping a good chunk off the end of one of my fingers. Now several days later, I still have difficulty using that hand.

I am amazed how such a small incident can affect my whole outlook on my day. This is not my first accident and I have actually had many surgeries, but each time I am reminded of just how frail we are.

But enough of that, I am really anxious to get back to writing stories as it has been several weeks since my last one, Payter's House. My right hand is fine and I can use a couple fingers on my left to peck away. I have been able to get in a little traveling and some new experiences to add to my bucket of ideas. September is a month of change in so many ways from school starting and summer winding down to leaves changing and the air cooling. Winter is on the edge of my horizon and plans need to start soon...

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