O: Old Ellicott City

O is for Old Ellicott City.

I've already mentioned some of the history of the HoCo in my posts on Elkridge and Neighborhood. One of the best places to visualize some of that history is in Old Ellicott City.

There, you can see damage/flood marks from past floods - the mills (like Oella) are right along the water, and this has periodically been a serious problem. I heard a story long ago about the history of one such flood (possibly the 1868 one) on NPR, and the damage/loss of life it caused and one hero it produced. If I can find it I'll share it.

Old Ellicott City is also fun because it's good for quirky shops and tasty restaurants. It's apprently getting a Subway, which some people have been upset about... but honestly... if it brings foot traffic, it will hopefully be good for the area.

So, to conclude with another 1000 words...

Old Ellicott City today.
Image from WikiMedia Commons

O is for Old Ellicott City (and.. kinda.. for phoning it in. Oh wait, that's P. Sorry, be back and better than ever tomorrow. In the mean time... what do you love about Old Ellicott City?).


This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. (hocoblogs@@@) Click on The Link for more info and other participating blogs!


N: Neighborhood, The

N is for Neighborhood (the).

Hey.. articles just get in the way, right?

I already discussed the things I remember about being a kid in the HoCo. Today, I figure I'll talk about where I grew up: Long Reach.

I'll post script some pictures when it's a nicer day for taking them (tomorrow).

Some background for those readers not familiar with Columbia. Columbia is made up of ten "villages", each with neighborhoods: 

  • Dorsey's Search - Dorsey Hall, Fairway Hills
  • Harpers Choice - Swansfield, Hobbit's Glen, Longfellow
  • Hickory Ridge - Clemens Crossing, Hawthorne, Clary's Forest
  • King's Contrivance - Macgill's Common, Dickinson, Huntington
  • Long Reach - Locust Park, Kendall Ridge, Phelps Luck, Jeffer's Hill
  • Oakland Mills - Steven's Forest, Talbott Springs, Thunder Hill
  • Owen Brown - Dasher Green, Hopewell, Elkhorn
  • River Hill - Pheasant Ridge, Pointer's Run
  • Town Center - Vantage Point, Banneker, Amesbury, Creighton's Run, Warfield Triangle
  • Wilde Lake - Running Brook, Bryant Woods, Faulkner Ridge, The Birches

Incidentally, the bolded entries represent pools (with Dorsey Hall and River HIll serving as the only pool for their respective village).

Each village is organized around a village center. Common to most of those are (or were) a grocery store, a handful of places to eat (pizza, takeout, and at least one restaurant), often a community center of sorts, a liquor store, and a dry cleaner. These village centers are... well... tucked in at the center (or near) of their villages. Which I suspect is one thing that trips people up when they're trying to get from point A to point B.

The village centers are also connected by Columbia's extensive bike path system - more than 80 miles according to Wikipedia, although I haven't used all of them. I'm not sure about River Hill... anyone?

But I digress. I was talking about Long Reach.

Long Reach is an older neighborhood. And, compared to shiny new ones like River HIll, it's showing it's age. (this is something that has been noted elsewhere and by other bloggers/commenters).  Still, it's one of my favorites. I love the old neighborhoods in Columbia. They have huge, tall trees that remind me that Columbia has history. They have houses that aren't cookie-cutter repeats (even with CA covenant restrictions). 

Summarized from the village's website... Long Reach was originally hundreds of acres of tobacco plantation, eventually patented by Edward Dorsey in 1695. In the early 1700s, with Edward's death, the land was divided between his three sons and passed through the hands of other families afterwards. In 1969, the area had become part of Jim Rouse's plans and the framework for Long Reach was in the works. 

"In June 1971, Howard Research & Development (HRD) announced that Long Reach would be "the first comprehensively planned village in Columbia." Other villages had been planned neighborhood by neighborhood, but the total concept of integrating open space and dwelling space was considered in planning Long Reach. Although the neighborhoods would be planned prior to construction, resident input was still a vital part of the planning process. Cluster housing was used to preserve as much open space as possible and unique measures were taken to protect the Little Patuxent River from collecting sedimentation during the construction phase. Construction of Long Reach began in Spring 1971, with the first residents moving in the Fall of 1971. "
---The Long Reach Village site, "History

One more interesting bit of trivia (from the same site): many of Long Reach's street names come from the work of Robinson Jeffers. I had a drivers' ed instructor who stretched a conversation about Long Reach's streets into a twenty minute ramble. If only I'd known...

Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you fore-defeated 
Challengers of oblivion 
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down, 
The square-limbed Roman letters 
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well 
Builds his monument mockingly: 
For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth dies, the brave sun 
Die blind, his heart blackening: 
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found
The honey peace in old poems.

So what does Long Reach have going for it, besides history and poetry? Well, it's also got hidden gems. You know... the favorite haunts, the places people from elsewhere might miss, the details one figures out from running around the area for a while, etc. 

The hidden gems of Long Reach include...

  1. Chick 'n  Friends - best takeout chicken I've had in a really long time. Seriously. Drop everything and go there now.
  2. Locust Park Pool - a nice renovated bath house, a snackbar, and lap space... and it's not often mobbed. Masters has swum here in the summer as well, and there's an amazing view of the sunrise during practice. Also excellent shade when the sun hits the right points later in the day.
  3. Jackson Pond - a really beautiful spot accessible by path at many points. We used to catch fish here when I was a kid.
  4. Richburn Liquors - they expanded the store space and have a really nice selection of beer and wine at good prices. Also convenient hours on the holidays, which has saved me more than once when I needed to pick up a hostess gift.
  5. High Tor Hill/Eagle Beak Row/Phelps Luck Drive - There is some FANTASTIC hill-training on these roads, for you runner-ly types. I believe the Metric Marathon route runs through here.
  6. Stone House - I used to take dance classes in this community space. It's a nice building.

Pop Quiz: Name that Pool!

N is for Neighborhood, the place where I rode my bike, splashed in the pool, and ran around at dusk on summer days, playing street hockey or firing nerf guns or dodging water pistols.


This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. (hocoblogs@@@) Click on The Link for more info and other participating blogs!


M: Maryland Homebrew

We're pretty lucky in Columbia. We've got a lot of cool things - not the least of which is access to a huge, well-stocked store for homebrewing beer and wine (yes, wine). I meant to get over there, ask some questions, and take some pictures... but I didn't. 

So I'm turning the keyboard over to Matt for a GUEST POST all about MD Homebrew.

Dear internet people, 

Maryland Homebrew is in Columbia.  (If you are reading this please send help.)  The store is well stocked with beer and wine homebrewing supplies.  (I have been asked to write this post about Maryland Homebrew, but I am not feeling very creative tonight.)  I guess we are pretty lucky.  (Alas, it's far too late for me to put a paper mache head on my pillow and tunnel my way out.)  You should get over there and ask some questions, maybe take some pictures.  (Plan B, involving mostly whining, was also a bust...my pleas for clemency are returned with "the look".)  Did I mention that Maryland Homebrew is in Columbia?  (If I survive the escape, we will meet up in Switzerland for yodeling and hot chocolate.) 


From the MD Homebrew Site
(see other photos from the store and events here)

Swiss Yodelers
By Moen Photo Service, La Crosse, WI (Wisconsin Historical Society)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

M is for Maryland Homebrew, providing area homebrewers with supplies and information.


This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. (hocoblogs@@@) Click on The Link for more info and other participating blogs!


L: Libraries

L is for Libraries.

I say it a lot, and probably not often enough, but I love my library. Even if I'm always just a little short of mayorship. It's awesome.

The Howard County Library System has a number of branches, several of which are convenient either to where I live or along the routes I normally travel. They have an efficient, easy-to-use online request system which puts titles right at my fingertips. And the staff there are friendly and engaging - they notice when I check out stacks of books on a given topic (say, Bonnie and Clyde) and I've often had them ask questions or offer advice. One librarian even gave me encouragement as I checked out some writing books.

So not only does the library protect my wallet from my weakness for books, but it's always an enjoyable experience to just stop in and wander the stacks for a while.

Oh. And did I mention they have parties? Um... YES

That's right, Martinis. IN THE LIBRARY.
For SERIOUS. Taken at the 2011 Evening In The Stacks.
On to the more practical side of things... the libraries offer a huge range of programs. Coincidentally, Erinn at Something Else to Distract Me posted about some of them today. They offer regular events and classes for ALL ages. They are a hub of community outreach and education.

And... well, they're awesome, those library people. They do great things for our community - education, learning, resources, and a place to learn and explore are never wasted and (sadly) often not appreciated. Thank a Librarian today (or tomorrow... they might not appreciate a call at this hour).

L is for Libraries, some of the best places in The HoCo.


This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. (hocoblogs@@@) Click on The Link for more info and other participating blogs!


K: Kickin' it Old Skool

K is for Kickin' it Old Skool.

Well... sorta. If by "kickin' it old skool" I mean many of the things I remember about growing up in the HoCo (most of which are no longer around). And so we begin, in no particular order...

1)  Bob's Big Boy - it was in the now-empty space in Dobbin's old shopping center where Rocky Run used to be, and we would go there for breakfast buffets. And strawberry pie. Yum.

2)  Breakfast with Santa at the restaurant in Woodward and Lothrup (which closed in '95). I tried cranberry muffins for the first time there, and loved the pancakes rolled up around apple filling. And the older people in my family ordered liver and onions, which I never understood. Well... still don't.  But speaking of the mall...

3a) The Friendly's in the Mall food court,


3b) The Chinese restaurant on the upper level of the mall (I used to eat the mints in the community bowl, before I knew better).

4)  The movie rental place in the Long Reach village center with the "restricted" section. Not that I ever went in there... that would have been traumatizing. I just remember it had a beaded curtain and some "keep out unless..." signs. It taught me the definition of "shady."

5)  Walking to Palace 9 movie theater. More Old Skool? Hanging out at Cinema I, II, III. After a trip to Bennigan's at the lake front. Or maybe after a long day riding amusement park rides (County fair? County fair sounds right... all I know is that the tilt-a-whirl made one of my siblings vomit cotton candy, and we went to see Jurassic Park that night when she was feeling better).

6)  United Martial Arts.

Clearly a "bring it" pose. The finishing move was impressive.

7)  Jogger's ice cream, which used to be off Rte 108. Homemade peanut butter swirl.... have yet to have one better.

8)  Playing in the corn fields off of oakland mills road (and there might have been a peacock farm we were supposed to avoid... maybe... in the same general area. But that's kind of fuzzy and when I tried to get confirmation, I couldn't)

9)  The Putt Putt on Stevens Forest Road (vaguely).

10) The Enchanted Forest. When it was operational, not just a village center (or a scary abandoned site)

I know there are more (or possibly things I remember incorrectly). Feel free to add to/adjust the list in the comments below!

K is for Kickin' it Old Skool in the HoCo.


This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. (hocoblogs@@@) Click on The Link for more info and other participating blogs!


J: JW Treuth's

You never really know what you're made of until the cardiac tissue hits the cutting board. At least, that's what I found out this past fall when, as part of family vacation, we decided to do a "nasty bits" dinner.

Let me explain.

After one too many episodes of No Reservations (or one too many bottles of wine) Matt and I decided that we were going to try the "unusual dishes" that Bourdain talks up in his books. Then we decided we were just going to cook a whole bunch of "weird" things. Which is how I ended up at Treuth's, a butcher in Oella (Catonsville? Baltimore? Maybe this isn't strictly "hoco" but it's really close by).

Treuth's butchers on site, and they offer pretty good deals. I'd had filet from there before - Jeff brought it over the night several of us did a 100-mile dinner. When I asked, the staff told me the animals came from Pennsylvania (or nearby). The steaks were delicious.

So naturally, when I realized I needed to talk to someone about the dishes we wanted to make on vacation, I thought of them. And while the first visit was wholly exploratory - me asking questions, checking out what they normally have - the staff was really helpful. The woman I spoke with answered all of my questions and urged me to bring in recipes or ask for ideas if I needed them. 

A week later (just before vacation) I returned. I left with: a bag of beef bones, cut in 2-3 inch pieces, and a 4.5 lb beef heart. When the guys behind the counter found out my plans, they were pretty entertained - they brought out beef tongue for me to check out, and talked kidneys with me. Seeing as our menu already included fish head soup and chicken feet, I passed on those.

And I did get other things: a nice sirloin that was on special, some sweet italian sausage, and two pounds of bacon (which was amazing and did not last; I should have bought 4 pounds).

I will say that the roasted bone marrow (as I made it) was messy and overrated but the beef heart was pretty tasty - it tasted just like normal steak, perhaps a bit chewier, but perfect for a stew or long marinade (and dirt cheap). I'd buy it again.

But more importantly, I'll go back to JW Treuth's. It's nice to have a local butcher. It's nicer to have people who serve excellent products at high quality and good prices, and who are willing to engage their customers about the food. If you haven't made it to JW Treuth's, and you live in the HoCo, you're missing out. Make some time and visit them (seriously... the "weird stuff" is all optional ;) )

J is for JW Treuth's, an excellent local butcher shop in near the HoCo.


This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. (hocofood@@@) Click on The Link for more info and other participating blogs!


I: Iron Girl Women's Triathlon

I'm also late posting this.

You know the days when you feel tired, run down, stretched thin? Today was one of those, where even a short blog seemed like one more item on my too-long to-do list. I don't remember feeling this way ten years ago. I felt like I could do anything ten years ago.

That might go away when people hit their early twenties. Or at least, that's what I was thinking today until I realized that it's not 100% true. One of the last times I felt like I could do anything?  Well, that was when I finished my first Iron Girl.

For serious.

Iron Girl is a sprint triathlon - 0.62 mile swim, 17.5 mile bike, 3.3 mile run - held each August in Columbia. It's a huge event, 2200+ women, many of which are first time triathletes. The race sells out in hours, and brings tons of attention and interest to HoCo. And HoCo does (IMO) a good job of dealing with the people traffic.

So why did Iron Girl affect me so much? I mean, there are other events I could have attempted... maybe... not.

Well, a few reasons.

The biggest? It was a significant "I want to do this... I can do this!" moment. 

The event is just so supportive and awesome. Everyone smiles. Women cheer each other along on the course. This was an excellent introduction to the tri community.

There are many inspirational stories out there.

I knew so many people doing the race, it was cool to share that with them.

When I finished, I felt good. I felt happy. I felt like I wanted to do more. Oh yeah, and I wanted to eat a whole cheese pizza.

And even though I was feeling kind of down and out today, thinking of the years I've done Iron Girl, and how good it felt to  type "I AM AN IRONGIRL" as my status a few years ago... I got a little bit of that back. I remembered the experience, I took a breath, I found some perspective.

That's a powerful thing, and a cool one, when an experience stays with you for so long. And it's why events like Iron Girl are so important, because they challenge people to push their comfort zone and change their lifestyle in a way that brings them into a community. In a way that makes them feel welcome.

So this post is for Iron Girl. It's also for I can do it. So can you. 

Walking into the start, 2008 Iron Girl.

And they're off! 2008 Iron Girl

Hand held water bottle made me easy to track, according to Matt
2008 Iron Girl

One of my favorite photos, 2008 Iron Girl

I is for Iron Girl Women's Triathlon, empowering and inspiring people (not just women) in Howard County and beyond.


This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. (hocoblogs@@@) Click on The Link for more info and other participating blogs!


H: HowChow

H is for HowChow.

This might come as a shock, but I love food

Fortunately, the HoCo has a growing food blogger scene. And there's a comprehensive resource for quality, unique eats in Howard County - not just places to go, but also unique markets or unusual (to me) grocery items. That's HowChow.

The content is interesting and informative. It pushes me out of my comfort zone. On top of that, HowChow hosts guest posts, interviews, and links often to community food bloggers, making the whole scene that much richer.

Recently, I started planning a monthly "Restaurant Stop" for a HoCo Social group, many of whom are transplants to the area - and who wanted to learn about HoCo through its HoCo-specific restaurants, not monthly dinners at places like Friday's or Carraba's. Some of the places I've chosen were based on HowChow's posts, and when I linked back to them, people noticed the "food tours" and got excited. There's now talk of wandering some of these routes when the weather turns nice for good.

But it's not only restaurant reviews. When a food establishment shuts down or is promised, it's mentioned. The bigger picture of food as it relates to our community is not neglected.

And in the end, all of these things make HowChow a great resource

Food is elemental to community and identity - whether it's comfort food, or food that helps expand one's horizons. I truly believe that food can create connections between people with different backgrounds and life experiences, better than most other conventions. 

Howard County is diverse community, and though it can be hard to see past the big chain restaurants, that diversity is reflected in its food. HoCo residents should be proud of that. When guests come from out of town, I want to pick places that show how unique (and delicious) Howard County can be. Blogs like HowChow help me do that.

To get a taste of HoCoFood (haha, see what I did there?) check out some of these recent posts:

H is for HowChow, a blog that points people toward tasty treats in the HoCo.


This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. (hocofood@@@) Click on The Link for more info and other participating blogs!


G: Grandfather's Garden Center

G is for Grandfather's Garden Center.

I don't garden, really. But I am in the market for a bird bath, and I know at least one place I'll look. This place.

As for the gardening... well... it's kinder for the plants if I don't.

Grandfather's is located near where I grew up, at the intersection of High Tor Hill and Phelps Luck Drive. We used to walk past it on the way to Palace 9 for a movie. 

When I was a kid, I picked out plants for a science experiment there.

By Sanjay Acharya (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Pink plants. I was sold. (I was a girly-girl, what can I say?)

It was a cool science fair project - as a general summary, I watered plants with water and coffee, and measured to see if the caffeine in coffee stunted the plants growth (spoiler: it did). Of course, some logical controls were missing, if I recall correctly... Sanka or tea, for example. And I could have tried cola as well. And cold brewed coffee vs. drip vs. percolated....

...this is what grad school has done to me.

But that science fair project - maybe 18 years ago now? - is something I think about each time I drive past there. Grandfather's has been around forever, and offers landscaping services as well. 

G is for Grandfathers' Garden Center, the go-to gardening place that's served HoCo for years.


This post is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. (hocoblogs@@@) Click on The Link for more info and other participating blogs!

Food versus Food: Plain Cheese

You know the days: long, frustrating, and exhausting. And then you get home and realize that you can A) break your unproductive streak and make dinner or B) order in.

That's why we have Pizza. (hocofood@@@)

Not long ago, HowChow's food musings prompted some great suggestions for food fights. So I give you the first of what will probably be several faceoffs.... a pizza challenge!

To keep things simple, I focused on cheese pies for this round.

Which brings us to our contenders....

Contender #1: Large Cheese Pizza from Pudgie's Pizza in Clarksville.

A relative newcomer to the Howard County area, Pudgie's is a chain with a handful of locations in New York and one in Pennsylvania.  I'm not the first blogger to go on a quest for the orange box - HoCoRising has already ventured out to Pudgie's location, which is located at 12447 Clarksville Pike.

Pudgie's has tables and delivers (they take orders by phone or online), but I opted to pick up. I got myself (ok, well, not just myself) a large (17") pizza for $12.99. 

Large cheese pizza from Pudgie's in Clarksville.

My first impression when I opened the box was that I wished I had ordered extra cheese - but at $3.49/per on the large pie, toppings seemed really pricey. I liked that the pizza was cut into 12 smaller slices, and that the cheese that was there was browned and crisp in places. I'm also a fan of crust bubbles (see picture above, hopefully you know what I mean).

The crust - probably the most important part of the pizza for me - was browned and had a bit of a crispiness. It was coated with a light slick of grease that made the pizza taste awesome - kind of like a pan pizza from the Hut but with the lightness of a hand-tossed crust. The crust had a really pleasant flavor, too, like toasty bread.

There was a good amount of sauce on this pie, and that's generally my least favorite part, especially as Pudgie's tends toward the sweet side. But there was a nice sprinkling of seasoning (basil?) that gave the sauce a pop of flavor, especially when the pizza started to cool.

Pudgie's pizza (cheese) ended up being a tasty dinner for two (and subsequent lunch for one), which made me feel a little better about the price.

Fortunately, I can always eat pizza and I don't have to fit into a wedding dress for a while, which meant I still had appetite for...

Contender #2: Cheese pizza from Gateway Pizza & Subs in Elkridge.

Gateway Pizza and Subs serves up Pizza and Subs, but also Indian fare - and they deliver for orders over $9, perfect for a night when I was at home with the boys, was too tired to cook, and couldn't pick up. They're located at 6520 Waterloo Road. 

My order arrived early - less than 30 minutes, instead of the 45 I was quoted (I wasn't timing... I just knew how long I had left in an episode of Doctor Who). One medium cheese pizza (12") set me back $7.99 (but to compare price points, an extra large (16") is $10.99. Toppings are $1.20 and $1.70, respectively).

Tomato and Cheese pizza from Gateway in Elkridge. Pictured is a medium -
I downsized, since the dogs would not be sharing (they were disappointed).

I was really happy with the amount of cheese on this pizza - melty with little furrows where the sauce peeked through. I wished for a little more browning to give it more flavor, but there were some spots that got toasted enough so that was ok. 

The sauce was on the lighter side in terms of amount, as I normally like it, and it was... well... tomatoey. Very tomatoey. I didn't pick up on additional seasoning or herbs, just good honest tomato flavor (which.. I guess makes the pie true to name).

I loved the texture of the crust on the Gateway pizza. A commenter on HowChow described it as pillowy, and I can't think of a better word. The crust was light and doughy at the same time, with the air bubbles and fabulous texture of really good bread. In terms of flavor, it tasted rather doughy too - I think it could have used some additional flavoring like garlic or rosemary or basil. I ended up dipping it into some sauces (tamarind and chutney) that came with another item I'd ordered to punch up the flavor.

Gateway put up a solid pizza, with the perfect amount of cheese and a light, pleasant crust. 

The Decision: Full disclosure - when it comes to Pizza, I am a Trattoria fangirl. So I went in search of places I haven't been, and tried to approach the challenge with an open mind. Both Gateway and Pudgie's really delivered (ha..ha... yeah, sorry about that).  

I liked the crispiness and toastiness and even the grease on Pudgie's, along with the sprinkling of herbs in the sauce (which was great at offsetting the sweetness that can sometimes put me off). On the other hand, I loved the amount of cheese on Gateway's pizza, and the way they achieved an interesting crust-texture without grease. And while my initial reaction was that Pudgie's seemed expensive, when I looked at size/price comparison, the prices were similar.

After thinking about the two (and not thinking about how much pizza I've eaten in the last few days) I declare.... Pudgie's is the Winner!

Of course, Trattoria is still my pizza of choice.

Where do you call for your pizza fix? Where should I go for the sequel pizza challenge?  Tell me in the comments below!