Archive for March, 2011

Snow Falling on Cedars….raising funds for Japan
March 31, 2011

Captivating, heartbreaking lovely...

I went to see Snow Falling on Cedars last week at Center Stage…it was one of the most wonderful productions I’ve seen in a while. If you, like me, read the book some years back…and liked it…which I did…you will remember the story is set in one of America’s most shameful time periods… when thousands of Japanese Americans(many American by birth) were rounded up and sent off to internment camps. A murder trial, a love story, and a tale of friendship  lost and gained…all played on a single stage, which rotates! I loved it. 

And this Saturday night, April 2, you can support Red Cross efforts in Japan and see a wonderful play. Half of all tickets purchased to the 8 pm performance of Snow Falling on Cedars, will go to the Red Cross. And there’s a post-show party with the cast, where additional donations will be collected and all bar proceeds from the event will be donated as well. You can buy tickets at www.centerstage.org/snow. You won’t be sorry….

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All the world’s a stage….getting a house ready for sale!
March 29, 2011

House stager Lisa Bond, with all the things that have to go....

It must be said…this past weekend was a total schlog. By schlog, I mean something you just get through…there is really no fun involved, ’cause it is simply work that must be done. And that work was the beginning of getting my father-in-law’s townhouse in Birmingham….cleaned out of lots of stuff, and deciding how best to sell the place.

Don't we all wish our rooms looked like this?

The former was a lot of wrapping of old china and knicknacks and antique bric-a-brac by a group of us, for consignment or Goodwill, and the latter involved something I’ve often seen on tv, but never used personally…a house stager. Lisa Bond from The Stage Hand redesigning service(website herein Birmingham, came by on Saturday, and in the hour and a half she was there…whirled our little brains around with ideas about what to do and what not to do.

"Powerwash the boards, and ditch the doodads"

After the powerwashing...what a difference!

The first pronouncement was at the entrance patio area…”Powerwash all the weathered fencing around the patio and clean the siding too…you won’t believe the difference it will make! And get rid of  all the hangy things!”  A power washer was rented and while there was sweat equity involved here(not mine though)…as Lisa said… if you’re willing to do it yourself, you can save $$$$.

Some things stay(the sofa and secretary) and others go...

Then she toured the house…”keep this…that goes…save this, but use it over there…too much furniture in here, get rid of that, that and that….that’s a nice piece.. definitely keep”…and so on.

Silk flower spray...bye-bye... same for wallpaper...

Lisa(that’s her on the left in the picture, looking, not in an admiring way, at the silk flower thing-I jokingly said to her, “I know you’re gonna want that to stay!”) helped us with the new interior color(a coffee with cream light brown, white woodwork).

The new color looks like this...

..and she noticed things that we would have never seen(old looking light switch plates..dead easy replacement, dated ceiling fixtures…found new contemporary ones at Lowe’s for $13).

Lovely old wardrobe is headed for consignment....

 She helped us get our minds around our new vision for the place….and not so we can make a fortune on it… just so it will sell faster than the 6 other townhouses also for sale there! At least that’s what we all hope. 

Here are Lisa’s top five pieces of advice for people trying to sell a home…  1.  Make sure that all deferred maintenance is completed before your home goes on the market.  Thoroughly examine the roof, siding,  exterior and interior paint  for evidence of peeling paint, water damage or general repair

2. Have an electrical and plumbing inspection.  A good home inspector will identify the mechanicals so there are no surprises to you or the buyer once a contract is on your home.

3.  Updating your appliances is an excellent investment since they will convey with the home. The kitchen is a major attraction for most buyers.

4.  Inspect  flooring for any signs of damage or wear or stains and replace it if necessary. (We are putting inhardwood downstairs and new carpet up stairs) The rate of return on these investments is substantial.  The same goes for paint colors.  A neutral shade can be more appealing to buyers especially if they know they won’t have to repaint the walls and it will appeal to both male and female buyers.(Hello carob brown)

5.  Clean and declutter all rooms, closet and cabinet areas.  Buyers need to feel the space is worth the price they are paying. Consider hiring a professional stager to help convey room flow and  help define the rooms for your buyers.  Often times, buyers will pass on the home, if they can’t see the placement of their furniture within the home or if it feels odd to them.  Make it easy for your buyers to put an offer on the home. Think about your home through the buyer’s eyes.

 

What’s cookin’ this weekend???
March 25, 2011

Hello, lover....what's cookin'?

Ok, it’s not gonna be a spring weekend…so let’s just get the thoughts of something super-springy on the menu right out of your mind. With snow in the forecast..alas…it’s a weekend for something a bit heartier. So I modestly offer what I had last weekend…a perfectly braised and roasted chicken, surrounded by vegetables and pancetta. Super-easy, super-delish. here we go.

Love the witty Joseph Joseph glass cutting board...

First, quarter some new potatoes…..any taters will do, but red ones do add a dollop of color. And the toughened glass cutting board is from Joseph Joseph…it’s the queen made from vegetables, and I love it. They have all kinds of witty ones, including Elvis made from veges.(Update: just heard from a reader, Jamie, that glass cutting boards dull your knives pretty quickly…and when I googled it, found he was absolutely right…see this post on things that dull your knives! I’ll save the glass cutting board for serving something…maybe cheeses, or crudite?) Darn it, it’s still cute.

Onyums...

Then some onions….I think I cut these too small….quartered onions would be more substantial at serving time. My bad.

Carrots, and some chopped pancetta...

Add some carrots….and don’t be stingy, I feel like I never do enough carrots! Teh chopped pancetta I get from Trader Joe’s, already in this perfect little dice. I keep some in the freezer, for all kinds of dishes…adds a lovely flavor(duh, it’s Italian bacon). Here it is, ready for the oven after I added some garlic cloves, wine in the bottom, salt and pepper, and some Provencal herbs.  I covered it and cooked it for two hours at 325 degrees, then removed the top and upped the temp to 400 for another 30 minutes or until browned on top. Get some crusty bread and dinner is ready! Get crazy and invite your neighbors over for dinner….a new study out this week said that social connections…make you lots happier than money(ok, not happier, but as happy)….and when your friends get there, give them a glass of wine, don’t throw rocks or talk politics, and wherever you go, come home safe…’cause we miss you!

The Sweater Saver…and saying goodbye to La Liz
March 23, 2011

So little, yet so effective...Pills no more!

Ok, I really don’t know how I lived this long without my new cashmere comb. If you wear sweaters, and who doesn’t….whether it’s plain old wood or soft as a cloud cashmere or acrylic…sweaters get pilly(evidently they call the pills “bobbles” in the UK…those Brits). You know what I’m talking about, the little balls that wad up in places(especially under the arms) and make even the nicest sweater look like crap. No more.

The problem.....

I’ve tried a number of techniques over the years to get rid of the pills/bobbles…pulling them off by hand(effective but time comsuming), brushing the sweater with a hairbrush(it’s true, I’ve done it…it works a little at smoothing them out, but temporary), and I’ve heard you can shave a sweater with a regular razor, which I’ve never tried, but that just sounds dangerous….to me and the sweater.

I got all this off my grey sweater yesterday!

So when I saw the Cashmere Comb on the Pure Collection website-here-I ordered two…one for me and one for my daughter, who no doubt has the same “wow that sweater looks terrible”  issues. And guess what. It works like a charm…and the darn thing is only $6.50! Now I wish I had gotten an extra one to keep here at work, as everyone at WBAL could use it too. Yesterday Lisa Robinson stopped by my desk as I was…well, combing my sweater…and said she has a sweater she was considering getting rid of, because the pill problem was so bad. Keep that sweater, sister….I have the cure, and it’s cheap.

La Liz, in The Little Foxes in NYC....

And I can’t go without saying a word about Elizabeth Taylor, who died today the age of 79. She was just so heartbreakingly beautiful, and while her personal life was without doubt topsy-tervy…perhaps that’s the way with someone that beautiful and famous. And she was a darn good actress…and an amazing activist.  I saw her onstage in New York in 1981, at the Martin Beck Theatre in Little Foxes. Totally in awe of seeing La Liz, in the flesh, walking and talking…was mesmerizing for me, and she won a Tony for her performance. We’ll miss you Liz, and the world is less colorful without you.

Bracket Fever…Guess who’s tied for first??
March 21, 2011

There I am, tied for first!

Ok, let me say this right up front. I really don’t know anything about basketball teams, and I really don’t care. That said…I do know the sport pretty well. My high school boyfriend was a basketball player(and the football quarterback, but hey…that’s how I roll)….so I faithfully attended all of his games.

And I like basketball…it’s a pretty exciting game, but nothing gets me interested like…ummm….green cupcakes on the line. And guess who is tied for first place in our cupcake bracket here at work….that’s right. Moi….Hamma Dammatin(that’s my madeup transposing of letters name)  OK, in all truthiness, President Obama is in first place, but since he isn’t technically in our pool(more’s the pity)….he is in first in name only. No cupcakes for him.

Look how excited they are...so sweet...

So that leaves just 3 of us, at the moment…. Tim Tunison(who has Ohio St as finals champ) and meateater Matt Nixon(who has Kansas-really? Kansas? as champ). I have San Diego State and the Aztecs at the end. And while  it was a pretty ugly game they played on Saturday, they still pulled it out. And as my sports guru Chris Dachille says, “That’s the name of the game. Win and advance.” (He also finds it hilarious when people like myself talk about the bracket, because I don’t have the right terminology for it-for instance, I didn’t know that it wasn’t possible for San Diego to play Ohio St. in the final 2…but on the other hand, I’m beating him, so take that, sucker). I know the Aztecs have a long road ahead, but if they’re game, so am I.

Spring, sprang, sprung….
March 18, 2011

Look who's peeking, to see if the coast is clear....

I don’t know what’s happening where you live, but at my ranch things are looking up…definitely looking up. The daffies are a little taller than they were last week….I saw  a robin red breast just this week. Yep, while I know there will be more cold….winter’s days are numbered. Here are some of my fave images of what’s around the corner…

Crocus, crocus everywhere...

And the birdies are out…

Tweet...the old school kind...

Flowering trees…

So elegant....so simple...

You know I love moss

"Hey, buddy....you from around here?"

Ladybugs instead of  stinkbugs…

"You look so good in red!"

Does anything say spring more than lambs?

I wuv my wambs....

 Thanks to the Guardian UK for those photos….so very pretty. This weekend holds lots of cleaning up garden beds and a little planting….maybe some pansies. Joe Squared Pizza tonight for din-din(their Chicken and Bacon Pizza sounds too good to resist), and a nice bottle of red wine. It’s Friday, and darn it…I like it. Have something nice for dinner, buy yourself a bunch of daffodils for the table, don’t throw rocks and come home safe….’cause we miss you.

Freecycling….Those vhs tapes are gone!!
March 15, 2011

Some really great films in here!!

Remember all those VHS movies that I was desperate to ditch, I mean… find a loving home for, last week? Many of you laughed at me, derisively asking on Facebook did I know what year it was….you know who you are. Well smarties, those tapes are now on their way to a new home!!

Waiting on the front steps of WBAL....

A lovely lady named Rosemarie on FB sent me a message, saying that she still used VHS…and how much did I want for them. (that’s right….dollah dollah bills ya’ll). I almost fell over  myself sending a hasty message back that they were free….but that I would need her to pick them up at the station. Rosemarie said that was fine….and yesterday was the day we chose to make the handover.

The tape collection's new owners....

As I was hauling them out of my car, a guy who works in sales came by and noticing what excellent taste I have in film, said, “Wow, you’re giving away Gettysburg? That just seems wrong.”  Thanks. Whatever.  But Rosemarie (on the left) was very happy to have them, and when I asked where they were headed…she said she and her Dad would split them up, and she was thrilled to get Miracle on 34th Street. So off you go, my little theatrical chiclets…off to give joy to someone else. And my entertainment cabinet now only contains another conveyor of entertainment that is no doubt, soon to be outdated…my dvds.

Ten Tips for Surviving an Earthquake…..
March 11, 2011

Today's earthquake in Japan....

Living on the east coast, we are, for the most part, blissfully earthquake free…execpt for a little rumble now and then. The only “real” earthquake I’ve experienced was in 1987, in southern California…called the Whittier earthquake.

building collapse in 1987 Whittier earthquake

I was part of a week long Evening Magazine shoot there…we were staying on the fifth floor of the famous Biltmore Hotel…the time 7:42 am. I was  on the floor, exercising in my room, when a rumble started. At first it felt like a big air conditioner had come to life in the room underneath mine. the rumble got worse, and then the building started to pop and sway. My next thought was …explosion? I ran to the window but everything outside was perfectly normal, and it hit me…earthquake.

another building collapse -Whittier earthquake

I opened the door to my room and stuck my head out…as did several other heads….and then realizing I could use a little more clothing on…went back for a robe(wise move). After standing under the door frame for a minute, another woman whom I’d never seen before, grabbed my hand and we ran down the stairs and out into the street, along with tons of other people. We were all directed to a park up the street, away from glass windows that might pop and break. Honestly, it was one of the most frightening things I’ve ever experienced(though more seasoned earthquakers were pretty unfazed).

Yikes.....not good....Whittier earthquake 1987

It was a serious quake though…5.9…which gives me a clue as to how wrenching the Japan quake today was. Some 8 people died because of it, directly and indirectly….a parking deck collapsed on top of one woman, another man was buried by a landslide, and hundreds were injured.

And I’ve since learned I did lots of things wrong(going to the window, standing under the door frame, going down the stairs)…or at least things that did not enhance my best chance of escaping injury or death….but here is a link to a wonderful article-here- written by  Doug Copp, Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American Rescue Team International. He has ten tips for earthquake safety…read and learn…like me, you never know when you might be somewhere and the knowledge will come in handy.

But I’ve never smelled fear before that day….when I went back to my room after we were allowed back in the hotel(yes, I had been hanging out in the park in my robe)….the robe had the oddest scent on it. Not like a perspiration smell….it’s hard to describe, and I have never smelled it since. Thank God.

Thoughts and prayers to all the people in Japan…..and with that in mind, hug your family this weekend,  don’t throw rocks, and come home safe…’cause we miss you.

Suri and the binky….how old is too old??
March 10, 2011

Uh-oh....busted...

How many of you have seen this picture of  Tom Cruise’s daughter Suri…who at five, is obviously still attached to her paci? When I saw it, I, like many of you thought….come on TomKat! But let me say up front, I am not anti-pacifier….those things  are lifesavers when your kids are babies and even toddlers….we loved the paci at our house…BUT.

 It’s time to donate the binky to Santa’s baby reindeer!! That’s what my Mom did when my little sister didn’t want to relinquish her beloved pacifier….and the baby reindeer story seemed to do the trick.  I got some funny replies when I posted this picture on Facebook…and I’ll share for those of you who are FB free(and blissfully so).

happy baby....happy binky..

From Carolyn…”sometimes i think i should get one for myself.” This fromRobin…” Can you imagine the world if every 5 year old walked around with a pacifier in their mouth?”  Baltimore Beatdown said, “Being Tom Cruise’s daughter is way more scary than still chomping on a pacifier at 5!”  And from Lester… “goo-goo-gaa-gaa!”

You get the idea.  TomKat,  time to get real about parenting…which is about way more than buying your kid designer duds( want to bet that cute little coat Suri has on cost more than many people make in a week?). But there is something about her eyes that just looks so sad. A kid with too many clothes, too much pressure( from many sources), and too little time to grow up. Perhaps Suri’s world is more stressful than we can comprehend, and thus…the paci.

And health experts say once kids start getting their adult teeth(by age 5)…it really can change the shape of the mouth, and the child may end up needing braces later on because of it. But I’m sure some of you have had kids who sucked a binky later than you wanted, because, let’s face it, sometimes it’s just easier to give the kid what they want. Thoughts?

Baby Girl Melanoma!!
March 9, 2011

Get in the cat carrier, Baby...just get in please.

I noticed this strange thing on my beloved Baby Girl’s right hip maybe a month ago…and I thought at first it was a tick….about the same size, dark brown…almost black. So I got out my trusty tweezers and alcohol, ready  to do what I had done many times before on various animals…remove the darn thing. But I couldn’t get under it…. and B to the G made how she felt about me trying, painfully clear.

I attempted this again a few days later…same results. So clearly, if this is a tick it is deeply embedded, and Dr. Donna is not gonna be able to handle this one. Or…it’s something else, like a growth. So I made an appointment with my vet one morning before work….and off we go.

The trusty Pet Taxi....Baby hates it...

Dr. Cohen looks at it and says, “It’s definitely not a tick“…..and he squeezes it a little and rubs it …here’s the weird thing…dark pigment came off on his finger. Eeuuuw. He continued, “It’s definitely a growth of some kind…good you didn’t try to remove it(true dat-could have been messy)…..but what worries me is the pigmented nature of it.” He said to leave Baby there for the day, and they would remove the growth that afternoon….”Whatever it is, it probably needs to come off.”  Poor Baby Girl.

Baby's incision..stitches come out next week....

I picked her up that evening…she was a little sad and still a bit woozy, but otherwise fine(nothing seems to dent Baby’s appetite-that girl can eat!)….and it was yesterday that Dr. Cohen called me with the biopsy results. Benign melanoma,(have you ever heard of that on a cat?) but some of the cells in one part of it were atypical. Not good. But the doc had removed a wide margin of skin around the lesion, and all those margins were clear. He said, “Keep on eye on that area  in the future and let me know if anything appears anywhere else.” He was actually amazed that I found that one, because Baby is, as he referred to her, “heavily furred“. Yeah she is, Baby doesn’t fool around when it comes to fur…she’s all in.  So just a heads up to pet owners…it sometimes pays to do the thorough petting session. And B to the G sends her furry love….