Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Abbey Burger Bistro

mmmmmmmmm... meat
I enjoy meat.
At home i mostly do chicken, turkey, eggs, soy and beans for my protein cause that's what is easiest for my lifestyle, but man, i loves me some meat- beef, lamb, venison, the occasional goat- so imagine my joy at discovering a pub in the city that specializes in delicious and exotic burgers.
The Abbey Burger Bistro is in Federal Hill, an easy walk from work, right next to my favorite mexican restaurant downtown, the No Way Jose Cafe. Coworkers Jami and Will were always talking about this place that had meats-of-the-month and invited me to go with them a few weeks ago.
It is carnivore heaven.
They have a menu of burger variations, but what you really want is the Build A Burger checklist.
Do you want Piedmont  black angus beef (that's the standard), Kobe beef, local bison, virginia lamb, chicken, elk, wild boar, ostrich, one of the meats of the month? BTW, there are three vegetarian options as well.
How would you like that cooked? BTW, there is smoked beef, too.
Which of the seven bread choices would you like?
How about cheese? There are ten to choose from.
Wanna customize your burger? There are over a dozen add ons, including peanut butter, white truffle oil, fried egg, onion rings and crab dip, each only 75 cents. Plus there are almost 20 different free things like veggies and condiments to choose from. Add you can get them on the side so that you can try different combinations.
Here's what we got:

Will wanted the smoked burger, but they were out (i really like that they only have a certain amount of each meat fresh each day so you know you aren't getting some frozen crap) so he went with an angus black and bleu burger. Jami and I each went with a meat of the month. She had the duck with red hawk brie, mushrooms and avocado in a lettuce wrap while i had the kangaroo with provolone and spicy creme fraiche on a pretzel roll.
Did i mention the tater tots?
Yes, i had tater tots with my kangaroo.
And the garlic stuffed olive on top was like a wee present.

There are other non-burger food like wings, salads and waffle fry nachos for the less carnivorous, plus a plethora of beers and wines.
I highly recommend this fan-damn-tastic place.
 I can't wait to try the elk.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Niki nirvana

This is the staff bulletin board.
It gives you something to look at while waiting for the elevator.

Sometimes there's even things of interest, like this - 
CDs for sale - for a dollar.
A whole CD for the price of one song on iTunes?
The list was four pages long as a coworker was getting rid of her entire collection.
I tried to control myself.
I tried to be sensible.

Twenty dollars seemed like a small price to pay for this much joy.

Look at all the music.
Some are albums i'm replacing, some i'm trying for the first time, some i only like one or two songs, but you can't beat the price, and some i have always wanted.
When i look at that pile it makes me giddy.
I want to roll around in the music like a kitten with catnip, but with the sharp corners and breakable plastic i will settle for an all-night new music-a-thon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

quadruple digits giveaway

So my quickee post about the earthquake yesterday was apperantly my 1000th post!
Goodness gracious, i talk a lot.
I'd like to thank you for spending time here in the Nikiverse, so comment on this post and i will send you three custom-made Thank You cards to use.
It will be like a happy circle of gratitude.
Be sure to tell me a color that you love and a fun fact about yourself.

Thank you, people!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Niki's First Earthquake

I live in Baltimore, a place not generally known for earthquake activity.
Imagine my surprise at today's super shallow 5.8 quake that was felt up and down the eastern seaboard. Of course, i didn't know it was an earthquake. Not only have i never felt one before, i wasn't in the best situation to experience it.
Imagine yourself on a Segway, carrying supercold liquid nitrogen in a glass elevator. Now shake said elevator like a dog worrying a squeaky toy. That was me. I honestly thought the elevator was malfunction and dropping. Then once the doors opened i realized that everyone else had felt it too.
We had a ceiling light fall in the building, but that is the only apparent damage. Though several of the offices evacuated, we just kept on doing science and sent people to our earth science hall to check the seismograph.
Aaaaaannnnnddddd... i get to count it as a new thing for this month!

Anybody else feel it?

...the heart finds its morning and is refreshed

Perhaps you saw yesterday that my big brother came to visit me yesterday; here's the same goobers from a different camera:

Spending the day sharing my life with my brother, introducing him to the chaos that is museum education my heart was filled with joy and it got me thinking. I have been so focused, so on-track with work and lists and goals and staying healthy that i have let my personal interactions drift in the last month. I met some new people recently and fTM Matt has finally arrived on the East Coast with his lovely wife Sara so i need to make time to be more available in person, not just electronically.
This week's quote from Kahlil Gibran is to remind me to be more thoughtful in my relationships:
In the sweetness of your friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasure. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

is being a goober genetic?

My big brother came to visit me at work today.

Can you see the resemblence?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

the photo shoot that went on forever

It was a lovely, sunny Saturday in the spring and i needed a picture of an angel.
To be more specific, i needed a photograph of a statue of an angel and if i ever finish the project i'll tell you why. Suffice it to say that i needed to go on a photo shoot in a cemetery.
There is this great old cemetery on Rt 40 that i pass driving the back way into the city that has always fascinated me, but i've never visited so i set out purposefully with water bottle and camera in hand.
Just to find it closed.
Really, people? Really?
This was not just a random stop by me. I had planned this shoot and by jiminey i was not going to be twarted.
I'd only ever seen the side that faces Rt 40, so i figured i'd drive around to see if there was another entrance.
All i had to do 
was follow the wrought iron fence.
Little did i know that this cemetery is humongous. I made my best guesses about following the perimeter when i hit curves or one way streets,
so sometimes the fence was barely visible in the distance, but when i found this really old patch of fence i knew i had to be getting close.    Voila! Open gate.
The main entrance is on Monastery Rd, across from -you guessed it-
a monastery.  Thing is, i never knew this monastery even existed. It is only 10 miles from where i live and i had no clue. It is no surprise, though, cause Maryland was the only original colony founded by catholics so there are monasteries and seminaries and basilicas and convents a plenty.
I love finding new things in my own backyard.
But no time to dawdle; I was on a mission to explore and find the right angel statue for my project.
I started to drive through slowly
  but was quickly overwhelmed by the vastness of the place; it seemed to go on forever:
and ever 
and ever! 
I just kept winding up more and more hills until i could look at distant sights,
including the monastery at the entrance 
and the city docks.  (click to spot them)
There was a newer section that was totally uncool (can you say uniform and boring?), but the vast majority of the cemetery was old enough to have a lot of character.
Check out this civil was dude -

A statue on a draped pedestal on a crypt on a base with urns.
Wow. Somebody had a healthy self-image.
How about these low mausoleums 
that look like tiny houses?
Or these that are built into the hill?
There was a plot of uniform little crosses.
Turns out they are the nuns. Something about the way they are all lined up together in the green grass makes me smile; like the sisters are still cloistered together.
While shooting angels, i'd stop to admire interesting or different monuments, like this brown cylinder which is both an unusual shape and color.
Or i might stop to wonder at monuments that seemed senseless to me: a sphere on a platter on a column on a base? I feel like i should like it, but i don't. I just don't get it at all (though don't those clouds look great behind it?).
I also don't get this cross  that is shaped like it grew from a tree. Trees don't grow branches like that. Stop it; put that away.
But even when i see monuments that might not appeal to me aesthetically, i still generally enjoy the stillness and the peace that seems to settle over old cemeteries on sunny days.
Not to say that there isn't the occasional completely alarming moment:
  What the...??????
It is a creepy statue of creepy dead kids covered in creepy fake flowers.
And the creepiest part?
These kids died over 100 years ago as children so its not like their kids or grandkids left those flowers. I mean, who put those flowers on them? I don't even know where my great-great-great-great-grand aunt's grave is, much less care enough to take flowers.
After a few minutes to shake off the heebie jeebies i pressed on cause you know,
there was still more to be seen.

Can i tell you how happy it makes me to know that her parents named her Bessie?
Not Elizabeth, Bessie. That was her given name.
And she lived to be 90. I bet she was a kind, old dear who had ribbon candy out in crystal dishes year round and would offer you cookies and lemonade when you'd walk the mail up to the porch for her cause her gout was flaring up. Oh, Bessie. I never knew you yet somehow i miss you.
I thought i'd gotten to the far edge of the cemetery when i hit a bit of woods,
, but look - somehow there is more.
And more 
And even more
 Plus more.
Great googley-moogley - does this place have its own area code?
Honestly, i feel like it is bigger than my neighborhood.
It was so vast that there were big sections that you couldn't get to by car,
so i had to climb.
Doesn't it look like these stairs just lead right up to heaven?
Helllllloooooo, little car -
I finally, finally made it all the way to the section that borders Rt 40, the section that i have seen through the fence for years. I realized that one of the things that has always caught my eye when driving was this lovely bronze statue: 
She's so lovely and though full bronzes are pretty rare because of the cost, i did also see an awesome monument with bronze insets as well:

In searching for angels i did find one other bronze figure as well:
That's big. Really big to be full bronze.
Oh wait, the name on the base is Key. That explains it, then. The Keys were a prominent, wealthy family around these parts.
See this bridge in the distance? 
That would be the Key bridge that completes the Baltimore Beltway.
Mayhaps you've heard of one of the Key cousins from Frederick : Francis Scott?
Anyhoo... it was a lovely day in the cemetery and a very productive shoot.
I am still working my way through all the angel pictures i took, working on... well... its kinda hard to explain the concept, but when its done i'll share.

Friday, August 19, 2011

guerrilla knitting

Outside of a library in Virginia we see this:

looks like an ordinary water plug
until you get closer and realize that it is wearing a sweater
Then casting my eyes around i notice that the trees are also yarn adorned

and the best part is that no one in the library knows anything about it.
The knitting just appeared.
With no explanation.
I mean, i could understand if trees got cold or if they cared about fashion or if it was December.
The library is next to a senior center so all i can imagine is some awesome spry granny or group of grannies sneaking about do drive-by guerrilla knitting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

think about it, have you ever seen a rusty guard rail before?

It is well known that i love my state and one of the greatest things is that it is steeped in history. Maryland was one of the original 13 colonies, 7th state in the union, caught in the middle of the Civil War (philosophically and geographically), involved in the War of 1812 and surrounds the nation's capitol (which is built on land given by MD).
You can't swing a dead cat without hitting some historic site, marker, plaque, etc, all of which need to be photographed by yours truly.
Take, for instance, this large chunk of pink rock hanging on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere:

That's a big chunk of rock, people; i mean look at how tiny TM Amy is in comparison.
This rock marks... let's see...

...some trail that Braddock and Washington took in 1755.

We definitely need a marker for that.

My favorite thing about this historical marker -besides its mere existence- is that it is carefully surrounded by a rusty guard rail.
 I don't recall ever seeing a rusty guard rail before.
I mean, they are made out of rust resistant material, aren't they? You'd think they were steel, but pay attention next time you are out on the road; those things don't rust.
Since the marker is from the Daughters of the American Revolution (whom i could join, if i was so inclined, BTW) Amy and I figure that it is intentionally rusted cause that looks more... well,.. rustic. We can just imagine some local DARs coming out on a Sunday afternoon to polish the marker, anti-polish the guard rail and then have a lovely picnic tea.

[note: this is the last picture of TM Amy; from now on she'll be fTM Amy as she's moved onto a teaching  position]

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

because it can always get worse

You know that i like the Nikiverse to be a place of joy, a learning place, a friendly place, a place where you can frankly point and laugh at me.
As you gaze at the picture to the right, can you even imagine what the story might be behind it?
One of the laws in the Nikiverse is that we never, ever, ever say But at least it can't get any worse, because people, it can always, always get worse and why oh why would you tempt the fates like that?.
Over the weekend i had a terrible stomach thing. I'm not sure if it was food poisoning or a virus or a mutant alien baby trying to claw its way out. Whatever it was, it was awful. Wretchedly awful.
Around 2 or 3 am Sunday i was spending time really getting to know my beautiful black and white tile floor, curled up in wracking pain. I knelt up suddenly to pray to the porcelain goddess and the entire toilet seat/lid assembly ripped off in my hands. Not expecting that (who would be expecting that?), it then came crashing down on my head as i started yarfing.
But the great thing about this type of it can always get worse story is that by the next day it is already funny.
Don't think this is a funny story?
Say this out loud:
The toilet seat ripped off and hit me in the head while i was throwing up.
That's freaking hilarious people.
Almost as funny as washing your remote.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

oh that's right... i do like to cook

Between the house sitting at the beginning of last month and working a lot i've fallen into very bad eating habits: fast food, take out, skipping meals, the works. I don't think i've done proper grocery shopping in over a month.
Tonight my wallet and my stomach joined forces and mutinied. There needed to be actual food with actual nutritional value consumed in my actual dining room without spending any actual money, or else.
If i've learned nothing else from the last several years, it is to listen to my body when it gets persnickety.
There was a small problem, however:
 Let's see, condiment packets and  2 week-old rice.
I was tempted to call Papa (John's, that is), but you know how much i love a challenge.
There was a can of black beans on the shelf and i tossed it into a sauce pan with another can of water on medium heat.
Corn is always paired with black beans, so frozen corn went into the pan.
I'd normally saute onions, but a handful of dried, minced had to do.
Anything even vaguely Tex-Mex must have cumin.
May as well toss in cilantro as well.
Regular Tabasco for heat.
Green Tabasco for flavor.
Soy bacon bits for saltiness.
Several packets of Taco Bell Roasted Salsa for deliciousness.
After all of that came to a boil i slowly broke apart the rice, adding half of the large take-out boxful.
Once most of the liquid was absorbed, i took it off of the heat to rest for about 10 minutes.
Served with a dollop of sour cream:
It was really good, there's enough for tomorrow and it reminded me that cooking can be a fun, creative process if you just go with it.
Now i need to make myself go grocery shopping.