Happy Graduation Day, Eric!


Eric & Katie


Happy graduation day to Eric, my sister’s longtime boyfriend (can I say “longtime” if it’s been four years?) — he’s worked hard to leave the University of Maryland, my alma mater, with glowing marks and a degree of which he can be proud. And he’s an environmental scientist, so . . . you know. That sounds cool.

We’re very proud of him and happy that we can stop sending him frantic text messages reminding him to complete papers, homework assignments, etc. That really frees up a large chunk of my day.

No, in all seriousness . . . a very fine job, sir. Welcome to the Terp family!

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Duff visits Maryland

My obsession with all things Food Network is no joke. Despite the fact that my own culinary skills are, um, limited, I can never get enough of Guy visiting “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” or tire of listening to Alton explain all sorts of scientific stuff behind things that, to me, just plain taste good.

So when my sister told me Duff Goldman, owner of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore and star of Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes,” was coming to speak at the University of Maryland last week, I was on it. Not only was the event at my alma mater (I graduated in 2007), but it was in early evening and, after commuting there for three years, I totally know how to get there! Even with a Garmin, traveling to new places can be a little scary.

We get to College Park, excitedly take our seats and get ready for the show to begin. I was shocked at how many people were there! I mean, Duff is great — and I certainly love me some “Ace Of Cakes.” But I had no idea so many students would be interested in seeing him. The ballroom was filled with people, everyone chatting excitedly and snapping photos before Duff even walked out. Probably a sold-out crew — or close to it.

duff_crowd1

We find some seats up near the front, stage right, and I immediately set about trying to get a photo of the cake he brought with him — complete with a guitar-playing Testudo topper! I apologize for the blurry image — I was getting jostled by a hundred other people with camera phones trying to get the same shot. But the idea is there! The front had “SEE” written across — an acronym for the university’s student entertainment group, which hosted Duff.

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The man of the hour then appeared, looking genuinely taken aback by the size of the crowd and all the hollering going on. He came through a door immediately to Palmer’s left, a sheepish smile on his face. Once he made it to the stage in the center of the room and had three water bottles to get him through the talk, he slipped off the leather jacket he’d been wearing — and revealed his trademark white chef’s coat! Everyone yelled some more.

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Duff talked for about an hour and a half, and I have to say — the man is hilarious! He told us about all the adventures leading up to where he is today — his time spent doing graffiti (and being caught) in high school; his love of art and creativity; wanting to be a “serious chef” and attending culinary school; making cornbread and biscuits exclusively at a fancy restaurant; eventually discovering that baking, and cakes, can be an incredible way for him to channel his creativity. Airbrushing appealed to him, especially. We got a glimpse of his life as he first began competing in challenges with the Food Network, eventually winning them over with his unconventional baking style. And there was plenty of Geoff talk in there, too! Mary Alice, another show favorite, was “phoned in” to the event — she’s a Maryland alum, too! Duff put her on speakerphone and she said hi to all of us, bidding goodbye with a resounding “Go Terps!”

All in all, a really fun experience! Despite a little awkwardness during the final question-and-answer session where students were basically trying to network the poor guy to death, I had a great time. Duff seemed totally at ease speaking with everyone, told plenty of anecdotes and came across as a really grounded, fun person. Probably would have been the perfect experience . . . if only I could have gotten a slice of that Terp cake.

I managed to shoot a tiny bit of video from the event! But, like my photos, the quality isn’t so great. Still, you can hear him talking a little bit about one of his early gigs . . . making the aforementioned cornbread and biscuits for a restaurant, and the trouble he got into with a local professor in college. Check it out here!

Getting on a track

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My current read -- and record on the treadmill!

I’m not a runner. Not only am I not a runner, I think it would be pretty generous to say that I’m even a jogger. Heck, I’m barely a walker — except to walk from my cozy front door to my car, then to my office and back again. That usually results in, oh, twenty minutes or so outdoors.

And I’m usually sitting cross-legged at my desk for eight hours or so, shifting my weight around when my ankles start to bother me. I don’t move around much. My hands are always flying, of course, clicking rapidly on my mouse or typing up a hundred e-mails or answering the phone. But my legs? Not so much.

I’ve never been very active, and I’ve always been just slightly on the plumper side. I wouldn’t say I’m heavy, but I’m definitely no stick. Despite being a sportswriter’s daughter, I have no athletic ability whatsoever — and rarely do anything at all “athletic.” The best shape I’ve ever been in in my life came as a result of a horrible parking lot assignment my sophomore year of college at the University of Maryland. UMD is a pretty enormous campus and, as a transferring commuter student, I was assigned to the dreaded Lot 6. Anyone who has ever had to park in that garage, right next to Comcast Center, can relate exquisitely well to my pain. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say I would have to walk a solid half hour, and more than a mile or so, from my car to my first class every morning. One way.

Did it suck? Yes. Absolutely. I still laugh with my family about my first week on campus. I had a 45-minute drive to and from school and, after that very first day of driving to College Park, cruising home and walking my little butt all over campus with a heavy messenger bag, I came home and literally collapsed on the sofa. My legs went flying, I covered my face with my hands and bemoaned the fact that there was no way I could make those climbs every single day.

Of course, I look back on all of that fondly now! It was rough, but I made it through — and I lost ten pounds my first semester. I lost even more, and kept it off, my remaining years of school. Even after I got a better parking assignment for my junior and senior years (Lot 1 — sweet!) I managed to keep my weight in check.

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Hoodie love

Happy New Year! I hope everyone managed to get some rest last night, didn’t find themselves in any sort of trouble and woke up today ready to tackle a fresh year of new challenges. Or… you just had a good time! You know, whichever.

terps_hoodieI’m off today and plan to spend most of it cleaning up around the house, going back through all of my great Christmas gifts and pondering when to take down all of the decorations. And I’m going shopping, too. Some of these gift cards are burning a hole in my pocket… and I could really use some new casual clothes. Since I became one of the legions of women sauntering around in “business casual” clothes a year and a half ago, I’ve been stocking up on dark separates, slacks and boots ever since. The problem there? I’m managed to completely overlook my “evening wear.” I wear silky tops and heels all day long, and when I get home I just want to throw on something and be comfortable. This usually results in that most dreaded of all pieces of apparel post-college: the hoodie.

In my pink Maryland hoodie... and being beat up by my dog

In my pink Maryland hoodie... and being beat up by my dog

Let’s be honest: hoodies are great. In the fall, walk around any university campus in the country and you’ll be assaulted by the fleecy goodness of school pride. The first crisp day in which you can wear your school sweatshirt is a very happy day — and college freshmen everywhere make purchasing their school’s hoodie one of their first orders of business. And what’s not to like? They’re warm, they’re comfortable, they allow you to express your collegiate pride or joy about a band or remind you of a great vacation you took. On our way to Europe in May 2007, my sister was freezing during a lay-over in North Carolina. What did she buy on our way to Italy and England? A North Carolina hoodie! With flip-flop decals! So now when she wears that N.C. sweatshirt, I think of Europe. See? Memories!

But I’ve been told by friends — and, well, Stacy and Clinton on TLC’s “What Not To Wear” — that the modern woman can’t survive on hoodie apparel alone. I would never go out for a family function or an evening out or some sort of “sophisticated” gathering in one of my many UMD hoodies, but the fact is that when I get home at the end of the day, that’s the first thing I’m pulling on. Usually with pajama pants, no less.

No, I’ve got to class it up a bit. I have a few gift cards, some free time and the will to make a positive change in my appearance this year — and I’m going to put it all to good use at Kohl’s, I suspect. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even get really crazy and cut my hair — or try to lose some weight. Anything is possible!