pink poof explosion!

I am lucky enough to live on a street lined by old cherry blossom trees - the city doesn't plant these anymore, since apparently they grow too laterally and get in the way of trucks and street cleaners. In fact, I've stopped city crews from hacking down branches on more than one occasion (one was especially awkward since I heard them starting up their wood chipper and had to leap out of bed and throw on whatever clothes were on hand and bolt out the door, hair everywhere, to literally beg them to go away. It worked) I also have scrubbed off their white spray painted marks meant to indicate future chopping, and bound a broken branch assaulted by a street cleaner truck passing by until it healed itself...Hey, whatever it takes. What the city and its wood chipping employees don't understand is that I value what the trees offer way more than the street cleaner's ability to hiss down my gutter. I can sweep up street trash, but I can't replace the immense pleasure each and every twig of that tree brings me.

You see, each spring my street is transformed into a fairy arbor, with ridiculous, almost unbelievable, explosions of the wildest pink you can imagine. Over the course of three days, the whole street is transformed from ho-hum winter branches to intoxicating color. Fluffy cotton-candy balls of flowers literally surround you as you walk out the door. Walking my dog at night, I pass beneath boughs that pulse pink even in the dark. It is magical. Even as the petals fall, the spell continues, as the entire sidewalk is transformed to a soft pink carpet, so much more dazzling than any hollywood red carpet walk could be.

The whole thing only lasts about one week, but it is my favorite week of the entire year.

love k

moving from local food desert to local food distribution

Let's just start by talking about how cool the American Brewery building is. Built in 1887 by a German immigrant, the Brewery was one of the largest in Maryland with a 10,000 bushel grain elevator, a 30,000 square foot Brewhouse and 60,000 square foot Bottle Building . It rocked and rolled until Prohibition shuttered its operations in the 1920s. In 1931 the building was sold the American Malt Company, who modernized the operation until 1973, whereupon it was listed in the National Registry of Historic Sites.

Over the following decades, this once bustling, beautiful building fell into disrepair and neglect in one of East Baltimore's most blighted neighborhoods. In 2004, the non-profit organization Humanim (a social and human services organization) secured $22.5 million to restore and renovate the building into
their new headquarters. It is truly stunning - you should really go by sometime and check it out!

Now that that is out of the way, I can actually talk about why I was there on Tuesday evening for, shocker, a Baltimore Green Week event. This one was a combo of a presentation by Baltimore Green Space followed by an awesome documentary crated by MICA students, entitled Baltimore Food Ecology Documentary (of, B FED - how clever!). Tracing the exodus of supermarkets from the city after the 1950s, as well as the disintegration of the city's systems of local food production, the documentary explored by the dominant food system falls short for so many Baltimore residents. With much of the city situated in what are known as "food deserts," the BFED team explored community gardens, produce warehouses, a local fish-farm, corner stores, and urban farms to find hope for a brighter food future for Baltimore.
The idea of community gardens was elaborated upon in the presentation by Baltimore Green Space. Working with residents throughout the city, BGS has helped fascinate the transformation of abandoned, desolate vacant lots into thriving community gardens that help nourish the neighborhood, both in terms of food and community-building. With help from BGS's land trust, communities can take ownership of these spaces and keep them safe from future development. With a future characterized by immense worldwide population and high transportation costs, the availability of locally grown food becomes an attractive, and necessary, reality. Additionally, green spaces create permeable surfaces for rain water to be absorb by the ground and make its way to waterways "naturally," as opposed to running off through storm drains. I just wrote a whole blog about this, though, so I won't go back into details again, so as not to bore you, my darling readers.
There was so much to think about, so many ways to improve, and myriad ways to take action. What are your ideas to reduce the "food desert" effect in Baltimore? I want to know!

love k

waste water magic (or, what the city is doing to try to stop us drowning in our own filth)

Are you sick of hearing about Baltimore Green Week yet? You better now be because you have some serious blogging coming your way about all things water-related: rain and runoff, sewage and streams. Let's get down to the murky business of what happens between a raincloud and a river.

Monday was my day-long BWG marathon, with two back to back "City Day Tours" collectively called "Energy and Stormwater Solutions." Oh man, were we all over town! We learned about energy saving technologies the city is implementing, such as those at the Back River Treatment Plant. There, they use the residual methane gas to power the treatment plant, and even put energy back on the grid in the summer! It's a little horrifying to me that we are producing that much grossness, but.... at least they're making good use of it. It was really neat to see how the whole plant runs, with myriad
steps to ensure that water being released back in to our rivers and bay are free of nutrients (that lead to algae blooms, and ultimately fish kills). Of course, we got to see the enormous golden digesters which have become infamous icons of Dundalk, as well as tour the engine rooms that make sure things keep flowing forward. One thing which was really disheartening was hearing about how our old sewage system is rife with cracking pipes, which inevitably lead to the cross-contamination between rain run off and sewage. With our bay already in dire straights, thinking about a constant leakage of sewage into ground water and run off drains is really....awful.

Our next stop was brand new, soon-to-be-opened LEED silver Homeless Services Center on Fallsway. It is just beautiful! With 275 beds, a green roof, reused materials, and a million other fancy energy efficiency features, this facility is truly inspiring on a lot of levels. What better way to help someone get back on their feet than giving them an address to temporarily call home with quality facilities, inspiring design, solid social services on hand, beautiful outdoor space and respect? As a society, this is what we should be striving to offer all our citizens. Way to go, Baltimore!

After some free lunch donated by Chipotle, we were off again to see various rain gardens and run-off control designs. Long story short, the more you can slow down rain run-offer and get it out of the storm drains and back in to the soil, the better we all are. Soil and plants naturally filter and clean the water they absorb, so that
by the time it gets back in to our waterways it is a lot more environmentally sound than if it just shoots in to a storm drain and out to the bay.

Additionally, projects to restore the health of our streams have aided in improving the health of our waterways, such as the restoration we visited in Mt. Washington's Western Run. Blue Water Baltimore and the Department of Public Works have been doing
great work creating bio-retention systems, tree boxes, community-lead storm drain initiatives and helping residents create low-cost rain gardens, such as the one pictured here (in Roland Park) which also had a rain barrel.

Start thinking about options and ideas you have for decreasing your impact on our waterways. Beyond using less water in your day to day life, could you install a rain barrel? Create a rain garden? Make a green roof? Replace pavement and cement with permeable surfaces to enable rain to seep rather than drain? Can you inspire others to do the same and more?

Oh man, I could go in to so much more detail, but I just wanted to give you all an overview of what we learned, what we saw, and what we can do to help! What questions do you have? What ideas have you implemented?

love k

living and loving local

Saturday's rain (or should I say monsoon?) threw a wrench in a lot of fun plans this weekend, not the lease of which was the cancellation of Baltimore Green Weeks' kickoff event, EcoFest. Set to highlight myriad enviro-friendly organizations and local vendors from throughout the city, EcoFest was going to be a rollicking good time with live music, fresh food, demonstrations and activities in Druid Hill Park. Alas, it was not to be. And no rain date. Boo hoo.

But Sunday saw an eruption of sunshine, and so Green Week's
activities marched on. I had read about and eagerly awaited "Localize It!", hosted by Baltimore Free Farm in conjunction with Baltimore Green Currency with the goal of showing how fun sustainability can be. And fun it was! We arrived at the moment of launch for "BNotes," complete with the release of green balloons and BNote currency. What on earth are BNotes, you wonder? So glad you asked! According to BGC's website, they offer an "alternative economic that will strengthen local businesses, create jobs, encourage the for formation of local supply chains, and ultimately rpovide economic opportunity and increased resilience to communities underserved by traditional economic
structures." Long story short, you trade "normal" money for "BNotes" which you then use at the 48 local businesses as cash (the list of businesses is growing all the time so stay tuned to the directory!). The goal is to get people to think local, buy local, and be local. Plus, the BNotes look pretty cool!

After much fanfare and cheering, the BNotes became official local currency and the festival got underway. At the core of Localize It! was a chili cook-off and home brew tap-off (I made that up. But I like it) called "ChiliBrew" - for a suggested donation of $10, you got a sweet tasting mug and all the chili and beer samples your heart desired. Oooh, how yummy! I don't even like beer and I enjoyed myself! Top prize in my books went to the Thai-inspired chili and to LOVEBREW beer. To round out the festivities, there was a line-up of neat local bands of all genres.
Localize It! took place on Ash street, which is where one can find the Baltimore Free Farm, a really neat organization striving to promote "urban agriculture and sustainability through the creation of green spaces and community sanctuaries which utilize reclaimed materials whenever possible." The huge hillside lot was open to the public to see how volunteers have transformed overgrown abandoned lots into wonderful and fruitful farming. It's such a neat project and incredibly inspiring to see what dedication on the part of so many has done to improve the lives of even more. I really suggest you go check it out!

Here are just a few other images from the day, to give you a feel for the fun and festive atmosphere!

Such a great and exciting day! I really didn't know what to expect this morning, but I'm so glad I seized the (windy) day and ventured over. I am even more excited to go to the other Baltimore Green Week events I have on my schedule this week!

love k

the young urbanite's spring shopping list

This post could, more honestly, be entitled "Things K wants to buy (or has already bought) and for which she is seeking justification." But that's a little wordy, no? I digress. Spring may be playing a really ill-advised and mean-spirited game of cat and mouse with us, but I've had just enough hours of sunshine and warmth to have my spring cleaning and preparation juices get flowing. You see, I hate winter in a way that is laughable. I refuse to buy winter clothing (I have about 4 outfits all winter. I'm almost not exaggerating). I hole up in a bear-like manner. I leave the country for
warmer waters at least once -and then act like a fate worse than death has struck me when I return. Winter is, in my opinion, an offense against taste and decency*.

Oh, but once it is warm! I want to go everywhere and do everything. Farmers' markets, bike rides, al fresco dinners, coffee shop strolls, picnics in the park, games of tennis, dog park outings, backyard bbq's, games of capture the flag... you name it. I want to do it. In one day.

All this makes one want a few choice accessories, however, to fully embrace the urban lifestyle. Here are a few items on my Spring wish-list - I think you'll want them, too:
  • How can I combine cruisin' on my sweet beach cruiser and coffee without a handlebar beverage holder? Now that I know this actually exists, the real question is, how have I been living without one? Coffee from Fell's Points' Daily Grind or a smoothie from Liquid Earth perched in there would really complete my lil' urbanite look, don't you think?
  • While we're on the topic of bicycles, I also think a couple of these bicycle clip on shopper bags would at least double my purchasing power at the farmers' market - clearly my front basket is not enough! Just don't look at the price tag and it'll be juuuust fine...
  • I believe that one should be prepared for a picnic at all times - that's why I keep a blanket in my trunk all summer, a woven wooden picnic basket with a red and white checked liner handy (this is, in fact, true) as well a rainbow Tiffen box. For anyone who likes their food separated and not touching I recommend purchasing one of these ASAP - plus you feel pretty snazzy walking in to work with one, too. Brown paper bag? Snooze. Rainbow Tiffen box? Cool!
  • Now that I think about it, I could really use an upgrade to a cuter picnic blanket - the gray cotton one from an academic camp I inherited from a long-gone roommate just doesn't scream "cool." I could probably make myself one, but then I'd need a sewing machine...and also learn how to sew. Etsy has some cute ones, though....
  • Finally, for the fashionable femme, give your urban lifestyle a pastural flourish with a ravishing sunhat. Just because we live in a city, doesn't mean we can't get over-sunned, so safety first and all that.
So there's your spring shopping list - errr, my spring shopping list. Now if only my garden and patio would plant and clean themselves...

love k

*bragging rights to whomever knows the book from which that quote is taken. Only cheaters Google. And everyone knows that cheaters are losers.

patterson park wins the prize - again!

We did it again! Patterson Park has got to be the reigning champion of underdog winners in media by now. Let's recap: We've been in Southern Living, Bang for Your Buck, local TV, The Urbanite, Baltimore Sun, Forbes, and I'm sure myriad others that I have either forgotten or never saw. And now? Well, now we're in Travel & Leisure's list of "America's Coolest City Parks." Bam!

In the list with us are 12 other city parks, including Grant Park (Chicago), NYC's Central Park (Snooze.Played out. Too crowded. Keep your park, New York), Papago Park (Tempe), City Park (New Orleans), and Golden Gate Park (San Francisco) - as you can see, we were in with the big dogs.

It's a short snipped highlighting our quirky features, such as the uber-long sculptures in the "little park" (apparently that long blob is, in fact, a caterpillar - who knew), the Kinetic Sculpture Race (coming up in May!), the Great Halloween Lantern Parade, BARCStoberfest, and the Pagoda. According to T&L, the best time to visit our beloved Park is in May, but I think ANY time is a good time - heck, even in the winter we have an ice skating rink! In your faces, other parks!

Yup, we're officially big time.

It's going to be nice out again today - so why don't you go take a stroll around our award winning park, huh?

love k

my birthday in a blog!

Yesterday was my birthday! I take birthdays pretty seriously - in college, we set aside the month of April as "Kimival" with different activities each night, posted on a whiteboard on my door - and this one was of specific excitement to me. Why, you ask? I've had some weird thing bout 27 for years now - it stands out as this really awesome age. It's the perfect balance of youth and maturity, leniency and legitimacy. I'm thrilled.

My family kicked off my birthday week with presents then dinner at Woodberry Kitchen, my fav restaurant ever. It was awesome, of course, and I was full for approximately 18 hours afterwords.
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Woodberry set the bar high, and I was determined to maintain that standard all week. With this in mind, I planned my work week around it. The entire day of April 12th was blocked off and scheduled around - I would have a day of fun and celebration. But in all my scheduling around the day, I didn't think to schedule my actual birthday. I mean, great, no appointments, but also no friends to play with! Well, not quite true, I had the early morning with Jules and N for coffee, breakfast (made my ned, YUM), house decorated by Jules, lovely note from Sarah. I'm a lucky one, I am.

But off they went, and in came the rain. Undeterred, I forged on. I decided I'd start my new year with perseverance and positivity (and apparently purple prose). Instead of kicking it on my couch bemoaning the rain, I set out on a mission to experience beauty in Baltimore. I threw on a raincoat, grabbed my camera (rainy pictures aren't the best, but better than nothing, right?), and set off to explore Druid Hill Park, Cylburn Arboretum and Hampden. I got really wet, saw gorgeous flowers, nooks and crannies of baltimore I'd never seen, got sad when the Conservatory was closed, rescued a LOT of worms stranded on pavement, and resisted the urge to purchase myriad cool things. So here you go - my day in photos:

To wrap it all up in a perfect day, I got this SWEET vintage print from N - I LOVE it!

All in all, it was a super sweet birthday. I am not usually one to do things by myself, but I'm so glad I seized the day and did some solo exploring. I hope that yesterday is indicative of how this year goes - full of fun, surprises, and really cool stuff.

What was your most recent birthday like? What was your favorite birthday?

love k