Archive for October, 2008

Captain Underpants and the Angry Angel!!
October 31, 2008

Nooooo...I dont like this costume!!!!!

"Nooooo...I don't like this costume!!!!!"

I’ll be honest, I don’t much blame this little boy on The Today Show, for being thoroughly disturbed that he was… not only in his Dad’s tightie-whities….not only was he in public…now he had to go on national tv! Maybe when the idea was first presented it sounded like fun, but no doubt, the reality of what would have to lived down his entire life, hit with the clarity of a ton of bricks when it time for his grand appearance. The dad made him go on…I guess that’s ok(?), but it felt just a little mean to make this kid stand there, clearly unhappy about the whole thing…just ’cause dad said they would for a show segment.

And really, what is the Today Show’s fixation on Halloween?  Is it just me ,or do they spend WAY TOO MUCH TIME ON THEIR COSTUMES AND SHOWING THEM OFF?? Right before a national election, I just found it a little annoying today, that we had to sit though this interminable setup fairy tale. Sure, the costumes are fetching….hey, mine would be too if I had  professional costume designer. How hard is that?  I know, I know, they do this every year, and surely some people really enjoy it, but this morning I found myself fingering the remote.  Ok, I feel better now.

But the little kid screaming thing reminded me of a “child changes mind on wearing costume” episode of my own. My daughter was about five and was in a church Christmas pageant. And pretty happy about it…she got to wear angel wings,  which we found at the Disney store…but that day was a hard day. There’s always one day from hell right before Christmas. Sorry about the hell-Christmas in the same sentence thing, but it is the only term that applies here.You know that day….. there are two open houses to attend, there’s holiday concert at one child’s school, and oh yeah, your most temperamental child is in a church pageant that night when they are done. Just done. Parents know what I’m talking about. So she has a little nap first, wakes up totally cranky, and now Mommy(me)-dearest, says brightly with a big smile, “Now it’s time to go be an angel !!”

My baby girl is the one the middle with the snarky look...

My baby girl is the one the middle with the snarky look...

Noooooooooo, I don’t want tooooooo“, is screamed in your face. In all honesty, I donwanna either. But this angel is scheduled to appear. But I made what I think was the right decision. I told her that we were going to church, but if she didn’t want to be an angel, she didn’t have to….banking on the idea that when we got there and saw all the other angels, there would be no way on this earth she wasn’t putting on those wings!! And I lucked out. She did angel up….but as you can see in the picture, she’s , oh, let’s say an angel with an attitude, ok? She didn’t scream (oh, she could have, she has it in her)….just put a little snarky look on her face to show me I didn’t hold all the cards. Take that Mommy.

Melissa Carlson and her new baby boy Liam!!

Melissa Carlson and her new baby boy Liam!!

And look who just showed up at work this morning, pirate-baby in arms…..the lovely Melissa Carlson (how does she look like that after just having a baby-no fair!), and her brand new son Liam….who had to don his pirate costume after pooping through his first choice of Superman….hey, **it happens. We miss you Melissa…

Happy Halloween everyone….and remember candy at my house is limited, so don’t too many of you show up!

The heated debate over cell phone and vaccine safety…
October 30, 2008

See the finger? Matts getting a lecture....

See the finger? Matt's getting a lecture....

Wow…did you see the barely civil debate on The Today Show between Matt Lauer and Dr. Nancy Snyderman?  It was a little reminiscent of the Lauer-Tom Cruise dustup over antidepressants.  This time, the story was about vaccines, and how even though the preservative thimerosal has been removed from vaccines (except for flu vaccine-and thimerosal free doses are available for children), the rates of autism have continued to go up. Every 20 minutes, a child is diagnosed with autism…can you believe that? Dr. Snyderman made the point that science just does not back up any theory that vaccines cause autism and that babies need their shots, for their own good.  Matt called it controversial…the good doctor says  no it’s not controversial, and them brings up how doctors who speak out for vaccines are ambushed, physically, by anti-vaccine groups, and some doctors have even received death threats.. Matt replies that yes, it is controversial with parent who believe vaccines have caused or may cause their child to become autistic, then Dr. Snyderman in her lecturing tone now, note the finger…”Not controversial Matt, it’s time for children to get their vaccine!.” Lauer-“If it weren’t controversial, you wouldn’t be ambushed“….Dr. Snyderman, “Not controversial, I really mean that, the science is the science. We’re going to start to see outbreaks of polio and measles in this country if we don’t start talking about the real problem. It’s not controversial.” Lauer, a little tight now..”We’ll talk about it more here Nancy, thanks.” Her, also tight,”You bet Matt.” He throws to break with a telling lift of the eyebrows that says…yeah, lady..whatever.

It made me think of our story on cell phones and brain cancer that airs tonight at 11 PM On WBAL TV. Here is another issue where many say the science doesn’tback up the idea that cell phones may cause brain cancer, gliomas in particular. And I really hope you’ll watch the story…sometimes there are so many promos that appear for the first story of book, that I fear it’s annoying(not exactly the desired effect)…but I truly believe this is an important story that you need to see. I feel bad you’ve had to wait for it, but that’s the biz….and here’s the thing. Present science may not prove that cell phones cause brain cancer(but new research is coming out is very disturbing)….but here’s the difference between cell phones and vaccines. Vaccines are something that really do protect children from diseases that can harm them, even kill them. And none of us want the return of the days when kids came down with measles, whooping cough, polio…God forbid. Do vaccines cause autism? I don’t know, but I am not one to say balderdash to the belief that they do. Just because the science doesn’t prove it….doesn’t mean that future research won’t find some kind of link. Same with cell phones.  Proceed with caution when dealing with radiation next to your head. And in the case of cell phones, there really are things you can do to protect yourself….I suggest you take it seriously. I have.

Did Michael Phelps pull a Vinnnie Chase?
October 29, 2008

Read in the Baltimore Sun this morning, that the New York Times was reporting, that they heard…(wow, can this get any more passed along, he-said, she-said, heresay?)….that Michael Phelps was paid $100,000 for appearing at a (presumably)big party thrown by a tv network head’s wife, and all our boy had to do was show up, and swim a few laps in the pool. Hmmmm. Has Michael Phelps pulled a Vincent Chase?

Vinnie didnt mind making a few extra bucks....

Vinnie didn't mind making a few extra bucks....

Those of you who love  the HBO show Entourage like I do, will know the episode I’m talking about. It was the season finale last season, where movie star Vincent Chase was down to his last dime, literally, because of a run of bad luck and bad movie choices, and to make a quick few bucks, accepts a gig at a man’s opulent bat mitzvah  for his very spoiled daughter, for a few hundred thousand.  At first, they want him to sit in the pool dressed at Aquaman, his famous movie character. He is understandably humiliated by this and says no way, that he will come to the party and sing a little love song to the bratty daughter, but that’s it. No costumes. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, I won’t spoil the ending for you, but his brother Johnny Chase really makes the party one that people will talk about for years. And years. I’ll say no more.

So, did Michael Phelps decide to make a few quick bucks at a party doing what he does best….swim? Dunno, the Sun says his rep didn’t return calls. That isn’t surprising. And if he did, so what? Not a lot of people will laugh off 100 grand, and maybe, he was also doing it as a favor to the network head. That’s not a bad friend to have on your side, even if you’re Michael Phelps….hey, especially if you’re Michael Phelps.

And confession time.  I actually stumbled over Michael Phelps just this morning. Well….practically. It was a total accident…I had gone downstairs to the accounting department to ask them for something, and I glanced into the lobby and there stood someone who looked like a delivery man…kinda…dressed in a baggy hoodie and baseball cap, but he also looked like Michael Phelps. I opened the door to say, “Hey, does anyone ever tell you you look like Michael Phelps ?”, when our lovely receptionist Gwen put her finger to her lips, “Ssshhhhhhh. He doesn’t want anyone to know he’s here.” ….so I know it’s him!!  Like an idiot, I ask my question anyway….and he said people do actually ask him that all the time, and he usually says, “Yeah, I get that a lot.” So in a moment of celebrity to celebrity commaradarie, I admitted that I get asked that too. Not that I look like Michael Phelps, but that I look a lot like Donna Hamilton.  He smiled and was very kind. That was about it….Michael told me he was headed up to radio for an interview, and I moved on to accounting…for some non-glamourous paperwork.  But I really thought I’d had been pretty cool about the whole thing. You know, not too gushy…not too friendly…didn’t ask for an autograph…nothing like that. And then I remembered that I had been so…starstruck, it must be said..that I forgot to ask him about pulling a Vinnie Chase, as this blog was already half written when I ran into him. Did he go to the party, dressed as an Olympic swimmer, for 100 grand? Alas, we may never know….

How to throw a big party without spending a lot of money…..
October 28, 2008


Whose chili is best? Pick mine, Pick mine!!

Whose chili is best? Pick mine, Pick mine!!

In these days of people keeping a close eye on their wallets…in some cases ever shrinking wallets….you may be thinking about a way to get friends and neighbors together without spending a bundle. No worries,  I’m here for you…. First you find a free venue…like a park, or your backyard…invite your friends and neighbors….and make it a cooking contest. That way they bring all the food, and oh yeah, make it byob! Fiendishly clever, don’t you think? I got the idea from a shindig in my neighborhood this weekend…now this is not unusual for where I live….we have these kind of things every so often, but it always takes someone who’s willing to take the time and effort to make it happen. 

An energetic neighbor named Martha  stepped up to the plate this time, with a fabulous chili cookoff….you bring the chili! And if you didn’t prepare feel up to preparing a big batch of chili, bring a dessert, or chili fixings like grated cheese and sour cream. Yum. 

I made Silver Palate Chili for a Crowd recipe, though I cut the amount of food of it in half, and there were still 20 servings. And I took quite a bit home, but as you can see above, there were tons of entries. And while I love the Silver Palate chili, it’s not too intense for a crowd..some people don’t like the hot…and you can always douse it with Tabasco.

A pulled pork chili...

A pulled pork chili...

There was even terrific bluegrass music provided by another (musical) neighbor, and a roaring bonfire. I wore some old castoffs of my daughters….a much loved school sweatshirt hoodie that is huge, sweatpants, Uggs…..someone asked, “Who underdressed you ?”

The perfect bonfire for roasting marshmallows...

The perfect bonfire for roasting marshmallows...


A pretty good line really …and right on the mark, but who wants their clothes all smoked up? I just threw mine in the wash. Also overheard, some sage advice for parents who have either grown or almost there offspring…”I don’t say why don’t you, or why haven’t you, or you should do this or that…I simply say , let me offer another perspective.” Hmmmm. I like it, and will use it soon.  Or, as soon as I need to give some stealth advice.

Reconsidering the lay-away…
October 27, 2008

Had some interesting feedback on the idea of the lay-way making a comeback, being the exact opposite of credit which we all have too much of these days….here’s one from “Pennypincher”…you and me both, brother, love the moniker!!

I made my first layaway purchase recently. I wanted to buy a good mountain bike. A local store was selling off its stock of bicycles from the past year. I was able to buy a bicycle that was selling for $1200 for $650. The advantage with buying this bike new over a used bike was that this store is small, with friendly staff and they offer lifetime service on the bicycles they sell. I talked to the guys and they told me I could buy the bicycle by putting 10% down. I would then have 6-months to pay off the balance and pick up the bike. It was a perfect solution. I could buy a good bicycle at a great price and pay it off over the winter when I would not be riding my bicycle anyway. The store charged so fees and I have to pay no interest. I will certainly be using such deals more often in the future.”

This is from Mike, who’s a romantic remembering his first set of furniture…

Having worked at Kmart in the late 70’s, I remember layaway well. It was a huge thing in the store. Kmart never had the store revolving charge card like Sears or Hechts but they had layaway instead. I remember my wife and I purchasing our living room furniture from Levinson and Klein on layaway. We bought the set about a year before the wedding and each month we would go to the store and pay $60. Then we would wander the store looking at all the furniture we couldn’t afford. I heard about this on the news the other day and it made me think about those days.”

Banana leaf wall sconce

Banana leaf wall sconce

This is from Heather…..who has a tres’ cool website, which I’ve already been to….good work Heather! And I’m digging the banana leaf wall sconce from there. Would look cute in a bathroom….

I have enjoyed your blog for months and have gotten some great tips and recommendations from reading it- thank you. I’m a small e-retailer and I’m not too sure about this e-layaway. It’s very expensive for the retailer to participate- up to $50-75/month. Those monthly fees will kill you. If you have a moment, have a look at our site at, an eco-friendly lifestyle website. No layaway, yet, but we think it’s worthwhile just the same.”

And isn’t it it interesting that Walmart, discontinued their layaway from all I’ve read back in 2006…to the dismay of many customers who felt they were being left to get a credit card, or shop somewhere else. Perhaps they will bring it back, as K-mart has.

Layaway’s back baby!!
October 24, 2008

Many of you may have no memory at all of layaway….but I do. The idea that you buy something but you can’t take it home  ’cause it ain’t paid for, is fairly exotic to many, but layaway used to be quite common…and simple really. You pick out your Easter dress…or a new refrigerator, and put some cash down on it, but you don’t take it home. It’s really the exact oposite of credit but with the same result in the end, only with credit, you  get the item then and pay for it later. With layaway, you pay for it in installments first, and then, you take it home. My co-anchor Stan Stovall and I were chatting at the newsdesk yesterday about layaway….we both remember it well. “Gotta pay on it”, he said, “Pay on it or you’ll lose it!” And now, layaway… born of times when people were short of cash… is reborn.

What happened to immediate gratification??

What happened to immediate gratification??

Actually K-Mart, which is making layaway a big part of it’s holiday ad campaign, has always had layaway…they’re just promoting it now. It will be interesting to see if other retailers get on board….lots of stores don’t have the space for it of course…think of hundreds of soft, cashmere sweaters at J.Crew in the back room on layaway, oh, and the record keeping it would take. Though come to think of it, computers should make that pretty simple….”Hey, I just dropped by to put 10 bucks on on cashmere cardigan.”

Sometimes there is a fee attached to layaway…if it’s very much, it may not be a very good buy….but if it isn’t, it allows you to buy something you might need or just want…especially at holiday time…and pay it off a little every week or month…and here’s a bonus. You don’t have to store it. Might come in handy if you’re wondering where on earth you’ll keep that bike for your kid’s Christmas without him finding it. Let K-Mart store it until Christmas.

And of course, there is online layaway… says on it’s website….”Our intuitive calculator allows you to break down your order’s purchase price over 3 to 13 monthly payments. eLayaway™ will automatically deduct the payments from your checking account and you will receive your order once it’s paid in full. ”

We’ll see if it catches on. Really a big part of the enjoyment of  buying something new is the anticipation of it….once we actually get it…well…maybe it’s not all that after all. Any of you have fond memories of layaway?? Or not so fond?

What the heck is that on my eyeball??
October 23, 2008

Argh!! Bloody spot on eyeball!!

Argh!! Bloody spot on eyeball!!

OK, I get up this morning, go through my usual routine….coffee, Today Show,  newspaper, exercise, cereal, blah, blah, blah, and finally I look a little closer in the mirror as it is time to do hair …and…what…is…that..BLOODYSPOTON MY EYEBALL???? I consider calling my eye doctor, but it’s early, they probably aren’t in, and really, I would never have know it was there except that I saw it. Doesn’t itch. Doesn’t hurt. I haven’t scratched my eye or anything. Surely it’s nothing. Isn’t it? Isn’t it? What if it’s serious? What if I become one of those people  who after surviving some catastrophic thing like a heart attack or stroke, say…”Oh, I just felt embarrassed calling the doctor, I figured it was nothing.” You always want to say….what were you thinking??
But… I didn’t do anything until I got into the office and rather than call my doctor, I go to Dr. Internet….and found out I was right (probably). I have what’s called a subconjunctival hemorrhage. Sounds just awful doesn’t it? But that’s a big word for a blood vessel break under the thin membrane covering the eye (the conjunctiva..thus sub). It stays bright red because it gets so much oxygen. And newborn babies get them a lot….but for most people, it just happens from rubbing your eye, sneezing or coughing, maybe lifting something heavy (like my cat?).
They can also be caused my uncontrolled high blood pressure(mine is low, actually), or if you’re taking a blood thinner like Coumadin(which I’m not). So the Family Medicine Column says, relax girl. You’re fine. Your subconjunctival hemorrhage will go away in a week or 10 days.

C-mart…. do-it-yourself version??
October 22, 2008

C-Mart...You bring it and you cart it away?

C-Mart...You bring it and you cart it away?

It caught my eye, yes it did this morning, as I was reading The Baltimore Sun,  that sweet familiar handwritten notice.  Only one place has ads that look like that and smells of….ooohhh, bargains. C-mart!! Kind of.

This is a do-it-yourself  kind of C-Mart….it’s a flea market, ok? I  can rent space and sell all the things I bought at C-Mart that perhaps I shouldn’t have ( the Marc Jacobs Venetia handbag comes to mind). They’re calling it The Big Tarp, and it will be not at the latest C-mart location but at the old Forest Hill one….the one I always got lost trying to get to. Anyway, someone…I’m assuming the original owners of C-Mart as they still own this property….is opening up and is renting table space now…75 cents a square foot. Not bad  I guess.

And here’s the great thing about it it….. in a down economy, when people are hurting, this place will provide a place not just for people to spend money, but also a place to MAKE SOME MONEY…..that can’t be anything but providential.  The Big Tarp will be open every Saturday and Sunday. So, there it is. No, C-Mart isn’t returning, but I’m keeping the door open and the welcome light on. See you there!

Laundry redux….
October 21, 2008

I’m not the only one with conflicted feelings about hanging wash versus using the dryer….this from Trish…

While I have great memories of running through the sheets with my friends in the backyard after my mother had hung them out to dry, I have no desire to recreate this experience for my son’s enjoyment. (Come to think of it, I don’t think today’s kids would find much enjoyment in running through wet sheets hanging on a clothes line!) Besides, it never failed that when I would hang something on the clothes line, the birds would make it their own personal bathroom! And the item would have to be rewashed. I’m with you, Donna…the dryer stays!”

Brian proves laundry  isn’t just for the girls….

About a month ago Donna, I just put a brand new clothes line up for my mother. Her old one, after 30 yrs, finally collapsed one day. Mom has a Dryer, but still loves to hang her clothes up, when she can. I too can remember times of hanging clothes up as a youth. I was one of four boys ( no girls in the fam. ) that had to help with that task. I asked my wife if she wanted me to put a clothes line up for her. She said Quote ” Don’t you Dare ” unquote. She too had that wonderful experience. We have a small line outside she uses for some things, but for the most part we love the Dryer.”

Nicole lives in a neighborhood that fancies itself not a hanging laundry kind of place…..I get it.

My Mom has 2 wash lines in her back yard, and still dries the laundry that way. However, my HOA won’t allow for any laundry drying outside AT ALL.”

This from Tara….

I grew up hanging laundry on the line. Can’t say I miss folding frozen sheets and finding a little friend (spider) in bed with me at night after the sheets had been on the line. However, my Mom was still hanging out clothes at the age of 82 !!”


From my childhood in Texas, I remember 1/2 of our backyard ended up devoted to hanging clothes out to dry with the 2 posts and 2 lines strung between them. My mother would hang the laundry out there during the summer until we got an infestation of sowbugs (what my dad called them) one year. It was mating time for them and they covered our clothes. We ended up washing them all again and drying them in the dryer (it was for winter use at that time). The poles came down soon after that.”

And Monica, such a romantic….

There is nothing in the world like the smell of clothes dried outdoors. However when I was a young mother I had my husband make sure that I had clotheslines in our back yard. He poured 50lbs of cement to hold the posts for the lines. Worked his butt off.
After hanging out diapers, towels, sheets, clothes, etc outdoors on bitter cold days I decided a clothes dryer would be a blessing. And I was right

Ummmm, I gotta go throw in a dry sheet.

A New Kid in Town, and no I’m not getting married
October 20, 2008

Went to the Performance Workshop Theatre in Federal Hill Sunday afternoon for the last performance of  A Time to Speak, based on the Holocaust memoirs of Helen Lewis, a one woman show starring Joan McCready, a long time friend and neighbor of mine. She was fabulous, as always….I only regret that there are no more performances for any of you to see. PWT is as intimate a theatre setting as you will ever see….only room for about 25 or so people.

Theres a new chef in town...

There's a new chef in town...

We wandered for a while in Federal Hill on South Charles…and stopped in at Junior’s Wine Bar….hadn’t been in since it was an Italian place that closed a long time ago….I had forgotten what a great space it is. In the center of the restaurant, a step up from the front section is a HUGE round table that seats at least 10 and maybe 12-14. As I was staring at it(the place had just opened for the day and no other customers were there yet), a man comes over, sticks out his hand and says, “Hi, I’m the new chef here, Anthony Marini….can I help you with something ?” He then explained how they hope to do chef’s table dinners at that very big table….arranged in advance, of course, for groups or parties….and small world…he’s from Birmingham Alabama…my hometown, and had a couple of restaurants there! We chatted for just a moment…he’s only been in town for a week….but his new menu looked very interesting . I looked him up on line and found a review from a restaurant of his in Birmingham that talked about the 10 course dinners….sounds fabulous and daunting.

Oh, a couple of days ago, a very nice woman came up to me in the supermarket, and said, “Donna congratulations on getting married !”…..and when I told her that it is my son getting married, not me (already there), she seemed a little disappointed, but pleasant about the whole thing. And yes, wedding plans are now coming fast and furious…I’m just keeping my head down.