Join Me on Tuesdays for Writing Outside the Fence

I know it’s been a while since I’ve last posted, but life happens.

Today, I started another volunteer teaching stint at the Writing Outside the Fence workshop at the Re-Entry Center in Mondawmin Mall. I’ll be there for the next three Tuesdays from 5-7 p.m., leading workshops on writing dialogue, free writing, among other things. The workshop is free and open to the public.

To learn more about the program and its community of fabulous and amazing writers, check out this feature article that ran on Examiner.com or this podcast from the Enoch Pratt Free Library:

Writing Outside the Fence Reading at the Pratt

If you are a writer in the Baltimore area, and are interested in sharing your love of writing, we’d love to have you join our dynamic team of volunteer instructors. Hit me up in the Comments section below.

16th Annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference

Source: en.citizendium.org

This one‘s for you writers in the DMV…

Mark your calendars for 16th Annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference set take place on Saturday, February 23, 2013 at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, MD. The 2013 conference will feature sessions and workshops on internet tools for writers, editing, pitching, publishing, marketing along with workshops on genre writing (fiction, poetry, essay, non-fiction, etc.).

For those who wish to have their manuscripts reviewed, one-on-one sessions with published authors will be available.

The 2012 Bay to Ocean Writers Conference drew over 200 writers from five states and the District of Columbia. This event is sure to be a sellout, as it has been for the past six years. Registration is $99 for adutls and $55 for students (with valid ID). Register now at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference website: http://www.baytoocean.com.

For more information, email btowriters@gmail.com.

Follow @baytoocean on Twitter.

Source: Bay to Ocean Writers Conference press release

Baltimore Book Festival This Weekend!

If you live in the DMV and have never been to the Baltimore Book Festival, then you need to head to Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon neighborhood this weekend to see what the fuss is all about.

From author appearances and book signings, to cooking demos, open mic opportunities, historical tours, storytelling, street performances, music and food, there is something for everyone at the Baltimore Book Festival.

This year’s author lineup includes “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Teresa Giudice (Fabulicious: Fast & Fit); Grammy-nominated singer Ledisi (Better Than Alright: Finding Peace, Love & Power); bestselling author Ann Hood (The Knitting Circle); Laura Lippman (And When She Was Good) and Jessica Anya Blau (The Summer of Naked Swim Parties).

To check out the full lineup of authors, performances and events (including the City Paper’s super cool Book Swap), check out the Baltimore Book Festival’s website.

Check out these highlights from last year’s Baltimore Book Festival…

Follow @BmoreBookFest on Twitter, hashtag #2012BBF.

Breakfast Bliss

First Watch, 1431 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville. 410-602-1595 | http://www.firstwatch.com | On Twitter: @First_Watch

There’s nothing I love more for lunch than breakfast. There’s just something about a forkful of fluffy scrambled eggs followed by a forkful of yummy, buttery french toast drenched in good maple syrup. Just writing about it makes me want to eat breakfast right now.

I don’t know when my love for breakfast started. Nor do I care. It’s just something about the symphony of flavors and textures of breakfast foods. Maybe it also has something to do with the symbolism a fresh, flavorful breakfast holds: renewed optimism at the start of a new day. I can get very quixotic about breakfast foods, so let me stop now before I lose my train of thought.

I met my mother for an impromptu lunch at First Watch in Pikesville the other day. I love First Watch for its simple yet sophisticated wholesome breakfast menu. Their food is made fresh and there’s a certain sense of healthfulness that I get in each bite. I’m not just eating french toast. I’m eating french toast that is good for me. First Watch’s fare is a long way from the greasy, oversized portions you’d get from the local diner. Don’t get me wrong. First Watch has some of the most generous-sized pancakes around. But they’re not gluttony-inducing, artery-clogging pancakes; they’re just good for you.

Perfect example: yesterday I ordered First Watch’s Banana Crunch Pancake with Granola. (First Watch boasts an impressive assortment of whole grain pancakes, BTW.) Everything about that pancake — the sweetness of the banana and the savory crunchiness of the granola — was perfect, blissful. So what it’s 890 calories. Those 890 calories were holy and pleasing and acceptable to my stomach. I felt smarter, happier and healthier for having eaten them. I know you’re probably snickering, thinking about the butter and syrup (and extra calories) that obviously accompanied the pancake, but I am refusing to mention. Unspoken calories are just that: unspoken.

The point I am trying to make is that First Watch’s breakfast food is divine. From their light, airy egg dishes, to their healthful (read: well seasoned, not greasy) First Watch potatoes, to their wonderful array of fresh sandwiches, soups and salads, First Watch gives standard fare a healthy twist.

The interior decor was bright, cheerful and comforting. The soothing greens, subtle oranges and sunny yellows on the walls and accents reflected the bright, sunny promise of the morning. First Watch, named for the first shift of a sailor’s day is all about getting the best and most out of the morning…with syrup on top and some fresh fruit on the side (my words, not theirs.)

My only complaint about First Watch is that they’re only open for breakfast and lunch. As someone who believes in the virtues of eating breakfast any time of the day, I wish they were open for dinner.

In any event, they’re still a winner in my book.

Grade: A+

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Cinnamon, With A Side of French Toast

Pike’s Diner, 921 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville. 410-653-5545 | http://www.pikesdiner.com

I have heard a lot of buzz about Pike’s Diner in Pikesville. “It’s an experience,” one person told me. Someone else said, “Girrrrrrrrrrrl, you gotta try their Henny Penny Fried Chicken.” So my husband and I ventured to Pike’s Diner recently to see what all the buzz was really about.

We pulled up to the restaurant on a cold, rainy Sunday morning after church. We were a little concerned that the parking lot was almost empty at that time of day. Where was everybody? Surely people were out and about looking for a good, hearty weekend breakfast at 10 in the morning.

I didn’t quite know what to make of the Hollywood-on-steroids dΓ©cor. Life-sized figures of the Blues Brothers looked down on the dining room that was full of movie memorabilia and blinking lights, but sparse on diners. Walking to our table (the hostess told us we could sit anywhere), all I kept thinking was that Gordon Ramsay or Robert Irvine would love to rip a place like this apart and rebuild it.

Being a french toast connoisseur, I ordered their French Baguette French Toast, along with a side of bacon and breakfast potatoes. What I ended up getting was an order of cinnamon with a side of french toast. The flavor was overpowering, and quite disappointing. The texture, which should have been rich, light and eggy was dry and just plain sad. The baguette slices were not soaked in the cinnamon-egg batter long enough, leaving the middle dry and uncooked. If only they had let the bread soak in the batter just a few minutes longer. Insert sigh…

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My husband ordered eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast. Neither of us enjoyed the potatoes. They had a strange gritty quality. I wondered if they had been reheated.

It’s a shame that Pike’s Diner didn’t meet my expectations. The diner is in an excellent location and has a lot of potential. I’d really hate to say it’s past its prime, but it’s definitely not a go-to spot for a weekend breakfast

Grade: D (for dismal)

In the Name of the Butter, the Syrup and the French Toast

Ah, breakfast. The most important meal of that day. That’s because of the syrupy, buttery goodness that makes breakfast worth every bite.

I don’t know when or where my love affair with breakfast began. Perhaps it was in college when they would serve midnight breakfasts in the cafeteria during midterms and finals. I always loved breakfast. I had fond memories of the breakfasts my mom prepared for my sister and me. From the eggs to the pancakes to the french toast, everything she made was divine.

I love all things breakfast, but French toast? Oh, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. There is something about the fluffy, buttery goodness blessed with sweet maple syrup that makes my stomach smile and my heart skip a beat.

And so I’m starting a special series on the blog, “In the Name of the Butter, the Syrup and the French Toast”. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be posting reviews of some of my favorite breakfast spots in the DMV, as well as some new ones, too. If you have a favorite restaurant that you think I should check out, let me know! I’d love to hear from you.

Now let’s hope I don’t gain too much weight from this project…