Salute to my Father….on Daddy’s Day
June 17, 2011

This was on my sister's wedding proud!

He was a pretty quiet man, not by any standards loquacious….he never hit me or my three sisters(that I remember), he never raised his voice(though his looks could mean business), and he loved a good joke.

That's him on the right...I looked just like him as a toddler...

He was one of three boys… never went to college….finished high school in Birmingham Alabama, and after coming home from WWII, went to work in his own back yard. I mean that literally, American Cast Iron Pipe Company was a block down the street from where he grew up…a street that was gritty from the cinders that flew from the furnace that melted and molded cast iron pipe. He worked there until he retired…..over 50 years at one company….can you imagine?

In World War II, he, like so many others, enlisted after D-Day….he and my Mom married quickly…(hey, it was war-time and why not get a little lovin’ in before who knows what happens!). He traveled all around the world as an M.P. My Mother told us a story when we were adults(my Father would never mention such a thing) about when my Dad was stationed in India….he passed by an alley in Bombay, in which a soldier had his fly open and a little Indian boy was……to use the proper term… fellating the soldier. The boy had tears running down his cheeks. Some MPs might have looked the other way…hey, a war is on and this is trouble I don’t need…but not my Dad. He arrested the guy and threw him in the brig, pronto. Good on you, man.

A man and his Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses....

Some of you may remember this wonderful picture of my parents,  and the story of my Dad and how he obtained  his beloved Ray-Ban aviator glasses from this prior post….the pic was taken on the shores of Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana where he was stationed…and my Mom followed and worked at the airfield. I love that story.

My Daddy guarded this plane....

And perhaps because he was such a straight arrow(?), he was one of the men who guarded the famous, or infamous Enola Gay airplane…which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. He and his squadron were flown to the tiny island of Tianan in the Pacific, from which practice and the real runs were staged. My Dad had no idea what they were guarding, or what was so special about the plane at the end of the runway, all by itself…they only knew NO ONE was to get close to it. I never knew how he felt about being indirectly related to an event that killed so many people. I wish I had asked, but there it is. I didn’t. And he wasn’t one to speak of such things.

He came home…still a simple guy who went to work every day, raised his kids, put all three of us through college, never left us and was a good husband…did pretty much everything my Mom told him to :)….and he loved fishing and swimming in his beloved Smith Lake. He died of Parkinson’s Disease, certainly not the way any of us would have chosen for him, nor he for himself… but he was pretty stoic about the whole thing. I only remember him saying once, “I can’t even wipe my own butt“.

Here’s to you my Father…lots of men could learn a thing a two about service, about loyalty, about kindness, and about being a dad, and a man. He got it right, all the way to the end.

Hope all of you celebrate your dads this weekend….especially those who deserve it. Call him…take him out to lunch…let him know you love him while he’s still around. Make it a great day and come home safe…’cause we miss you!

Scoop on the Big Easy…..
June 29, 2010

Welcome to New sauce anyone?

The last time I visited New Orleans was three long years ago….just a couple of years after Hurricane Katrina had wreaked such havoc on the place. And there were large swaths of the city, outside the French Quarter and downtown, the parts you see driving in on I-10, that looked like the disaster had happened a few weeks ago, not (then)two years ago. This visit things were much better…still some boarded up houses(but hey, we see that  here in Baltimore)….but on the whole, the city seemed much more restored. 

Now of course, they’re dealing with a slow motion disaster…one that is no evident on the surface…no roaring winds, no flooded streets, no washed away houses, no people standing on their roofs begging for help. A silent, deadly, oily assassin, gushing out in millions of gallons a day, and it doesn’t make a sound. Yet it will damage the economy as much or some say more, in the long run, than Hurricane Katrina. 


Get 'em while you can.....

Still nothing keeps the Big Easy down…the party goes on, no matter what. If you’ve been watching HBO’s Treme, you know that the people who live in NOLA, are devoted to living there, and no where else. It’s a quirky city, no doubt about it. And I love it. We actually considered going to Venice…the fishing town that has become a ground zero of sorts for the oil leak….but the concierge at our hotel said, “Honey, it’s two hours down and two hours back, and all your gonna see is military people and fishermen looking for work.” And as all I had was one full day in town, we ditched the idea, fast. Better to spend it pumping money into the economy, oui? And that’s what we did.

Here are some of the more interesting signs I saw around town….. 

Blackboard art at a Scriptura paper boutique on Magazine Street...

sounds pretty good, yes?

Laissez les bons temps rouler ...where else but NOLA

Our hotel garage quaint, so old-school, like the place..

We didn’t spend as much time eating in the Quarter…a friend had recommended Martinique Restaurant on Magazine(here’s a link), way out Magazine really….quite close to Tulane University and the beautiful Audubon Park. 

Sea scallops Nicoise....who knew scallops and black olives are so good?

There I had the most amazing Creole and yellow tomato  Panzanella (here’s a recipe) with wild arugula…and seared sea scallops Nicoise…they were cooked with tomatoes, shallots, garlic and capers and topped with little dabs of black olive tapenade. Yummy. Cute little place that reminded me of the small restaurant in Treme that the female chef finally closes…she just can’t make it. Martinique is one of those small, excellent restaurants not on the beaten path, but so well worth a visit.  

I saw it across the street and just had to try it....

And just catty-cornered across the street,is another super-charming place(seriously, NOLA has a ridiculous amount of great eateries) that we just had to try the next night….Bistro Daisy….opened by a husband and wife chef team who named it after their daughter. The night we went(without reservations, it should be said)…the place  was packed, so we ate at the bar, and happily so….heirloom tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and basil….so fresh, so nice. And gulf shrimp saute(again, get ’em while you can)…in an Herbsaint(NOLA liqueur), tomato buerre blanc with toasted fennel, red onion and yellow grits. Yeah, I know….totally sick, right? Just a fabulous dinner. 

The Columns Hotel...classic New Orleans

Went to a couple of interesting bars.  The Columns Hotel…in the Garden District, is a famous place to linger over a cocktail, preferably on the lovely veranda, languidly watching the St. Charles Street streetcars go by, but when it’s hot as blue blazeswhich it was…the inside is dark and cool. Gothic really…Pretty Baby with Brooke Shields(remember the uproar over that film!) was filmed there. I ordered a Sazarac…which is, well, interesting anyway. 

The Bar Uncommon...and it is...

Another bar I highly recommend is at the Pere Marquette Hotel on Common Street…the Bar Uncommon is skippered by mixology master Chris McMillian, who makes quite simply, the best drinks(s) I’ve ever had. Best ever, and I’m not a mixed drink girl. And he’s a fascinating guy, (who looks a little like Garrison Keillor from Prairie Home Companion), who helped found The Cocktail Museum in NOLA(great in its own right)….if you’d like to read about him, here’s an interesting article in Imbibe Magazine(hiccup). Order the Drowning in New Orleans….it’s a drink he invented….but imbibe only one, or you could drown too.

Back from vacation!!
June 28, 2010

Strange bar we went to in NOLA.....

I have a lot to share with you…which I will dutifully do this week…but today is a busy day..hundreds of emails to sort through and eventually trash. And all the stuff that had been under my desk I came to find piled on TOP of my desk….I am surmising a thorough vaccuming was going on, or it’s a not so subtle sign to get rid of this stuff, which I did. I must admit, it does look better.

Let’s see, I hopped around a  bit on this holiday…two days in New Orleans, two days in Biloxi(for a wedding) and a week at my family’s place on  Smith Lake north of Birmingham, with my sisters and their husbands, though my baby sister left a couple of days in for a trip to Africa to see her son who’s on a mission trip there. And it was very interesting seeing a little of what’s going on at the Gulf Coast. I read just this morning, oil has washed up at in Mississippi in Ocean Springs, a darling little town right next door to Biloxi. Not happy news.

Fresh shucked oysters....a NOLA tradition....

But in New Orleans, I didn’t find people obsessed with the situation…sure they talk about it and worry about what it will mean, but life rolls on in the Big Easy…they’ve already seen a lot of suffering after Katrina, and while there were signs in a few restaurants that they weren’t serving Gulf seafood(makes some people nervous I guess)…..we went to an oyster bar in the quarter for some fabulous oysters on the half shell. I asked the bartender where they were getting their oysters these days. He said, “Oh, they’re still from Louisiana, so far…some of the beds are closed, but some are still open. We have to go a little farther sometimes, to Mississippi or Texas, but we can still get  ’em.” I don’t know how long that will last, but I enjoyed them while I could…Gulf oysters are  fabulously salty bivalves.

And the food there….if you’ve been to New Orleans you know of what I speak…it’s just amazing , though I didn’t have dinner in the Quarter, believe it or not. Tomorrow we’ll take a little food trip to NOLA….Ok?  It’s good to be home.

Red Beans and Rice Weekend….
March 2, 2009

Red Beans and Rice....

Red Beans and Rice....

There is something about an impending snow storm that makes one want to cook something that is soulful, hearty, hot, and stick to the ribs….know what I mean? Almost some primal survival sense that kicks in and drives you to the kitchen to cook something dense and filling. Chicken and dumplings would certainly fill the bill, as would the other famous bean dish I did recently….cassoulet.  But yesterday…yesterday just seemed like a red beans and rice day. So we called some friends and neighbors, and said come on over for some NOLA  cooking….

The ultimate red bean-Camellia...

The ultimate red bean-Camellia...

Most recipes call for soaking the red beans(preferably Camellia red beans which come from Louisiana-I know some people who won’t make red beans unless they are Camellia-I am less picky)overnight, but you really don’t have to. Just plop your beans in the pot(two packages if you’re cooking for a crowd), put in enough water(some people use chicken broth but you don’t have to) to cover, bring to the boil, cover the pot and take off the heat and let them sit for 2 hours. There’s your overnight soak.

Then pick you recipe and begin….the basics you really need are onions, green peppers, ham hock, sausage(andouille or kielbasa), green onions for serving…and rice of course. The only thing you can’t do without is time. It takes a several hours for the beans to begin to thicken and release their starches and become what they are supposed to become. And the end dish is definitely worth the effort. All you need to go with it is a simple green salad, and some French Bread. Done. Friends brought some homemade peanut butter cookies, homemade pralines(how appropriate is that?), and a lovely fruit salad…..and we feasted.

I’m not gonna write out a recipe…..we just kinda make it up as we go along, but at, you can take a look at several different recipes and then pick one, or do a combo. It’s what’s so great about RB & R…a forgiving dish if there ever was one. Love it! And best of all? We have a big dish of leftovers to heat up this week….and it was easy on the budget.

Because of consumer demand: cool gifts III….
December 11, 2008

Alright you chipmunks, ready to sing your song? Ready Simon? Ready! Ready Theodore? Ready! Ok…..because of demand for additional gifts ideas….I have more for you. Why, you ask?
Jessica wrote this: “Thanks for all of the wonderful ideas Donna! However…I think you need to change this to the top 12 gifts! It’s alright though…just 2 more wonderful gift ideas! Have a good holiday and happy shopping!”

Then Paul, (aka Simon) added” Yes Donna, Like Jessica said. You could do the twelve gifts of Christmas ! ! Have a great Christmas !!!”

And Katrina on the chorus..”Thanks for all of the fabulous ideas!!! I am convinced you have been to every store, boutique and restaurant in the Baltimore market. Oh…and while your at it…any good ideas for a reherasal dinner?? Roughly 50-75 people and we would like to keep it close to Mt. Vernon since the out-of-town guests will be at The Peabody Court and rehearsal will be at St. Ignatius 🙂 Thanks much!!! I think you would be a good wedding planner.…”
You guys, it’s not that easy to come up with different ideas….especially when I have to now plan Katrina’s wedding…I’m already  on it. But I do have another couple of things up my magical sleeve!….Last  items, and this time I mean it. I think.
11. This one has lots of ideas inside it….a gift list within a gift list….it’s the lovely Jennifer’s Excel Rainman newsletter gift list…You can sign up for the newsletter if you like and get free Excel tips…I still don’t understand what Excel is, actually. Some of these gift ideas will be great if you have friends or family who live in NY…where she lives…and you’ll notice we have a couple of the same things…..great minds think alike, and we steal liberally from each other. (Oh, and if you are a great Excel spreadsheeter and looking to make some cash, they are looking for some help…)
 Just go to the Submit Request section of
Excel Rain Man’s Top 10 Holiday Gifts  

1.  Personal cooking lesson and/or dinner with Tall Order – select a 4 course menu that suits your needs and taste and Tall Order Chefs will bring everything needed for a customized cooking class/dinner in your kitchen! (Learn more at

2.  Gift certificate to The Kula Yoga Project – Best hipster yoga in NYC, and by far the most talented instructors around!  Every class is a great class (28 Warren Street near Church Street in TriBeCa) 

3.  Gift Certificate to Jack’s Coffee – Organic, Fair Trade, Shade Grown Coffee and so much more (West Village: 138 West 10th St btw Greenwich Ave & Waverly Place/South Street Seaport:  222 Front St btw Beekman St and Peck Slip)
4.  Dinner at Bobo – The West Village’s hottest new restaurant. Open every night for Dinner and Brunch on the Weekends (181 West 10th St at Seventh Ave South in the West Village)
5.  Gift Certificate for work requests and private tutoring from the Excel Rain Man. Sorry for the shameless plug 🙂 !! (888-598-9992,
6.  Personal Yoga lessons from Jen Guarnieri. What’s even better than yoga at a studio?? Yoga in your living room!! (Check her out online at
7.  Beautiful hand-made jewelry from Lark and Lotus -Designer Suzannah Murray finds her inspiration from the mysticism and culture of New Orleans, grown from West African Voodoo… Now you have to check it out! (Available Online and at 8310 Willow St, in New Orleans)
(AND I should add Suzannah is a Baltimore girl….and several of her beautiful creations donate to Habitat for Humanity and Susan G. Komen….DH)
8.  Reusable shopping bags from Gecko Traders – Skillfully crafted by a Fair Trade Co-op in Cambodia, these bags are made from recycled rice & feed bags. Perfect for Green grocery shopping! My future mother-in-law (Donna Hamilton) found this before all of the stores… as she does with everything!   
For more excellent and chic gift ideas (her famous list will be out this week), check out Donna’s blog ,… she even blogged ExcelRainMan!!
9. An engagement ring from Marisa Perry What better way to suprise that special someone than popping the question over the Holidays!! (154 Prince Street in SoHo)
10.  The New York Times Weekender – get the best paper delivered to your door on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. (Save 50% @  
Ok, but there are more ideas people have sent me…I like these….don’t you love it when we gift-pool??
From Susan: ” We can’t change the smell, but we can help change the look of your UGGS. Check out these great new accessories for your boots.
Dr. Kim Hammond-saving lives again!

Dr. Kim Hammond-saving lives again!

And last but not least, you can give a gift that could save someone’s life. The always dashing Dr. Kim Hammond from Falls Road Animal Clinic brought one in today for us to look at …it’s a Fire Escape Smoke Hood,  that will allow you to breathe in a house fire, for up to 60 minutes.  You keep it where you can get to it, maybe in the bedroom. Every home should have one…maybe more than one.

Ummmm....fudgey brownies!

Ummmm....fudgey brownies!

No, actually brownies are last.  Not just any brownies….no, no, no!  In fact , I just heard two people (whose judgement I respect)  discussing these very brownies  today and how fabulously fudgey they are…just the way brownies should be. Lady Baltimore Brownies  are the creation of Joan Allen, from her Grandmother’s treasured recipe…they come in chocolate SINsation, chocolate peanut butter, Gran Marnier macademia, and decaf espresso. Made fresh and shipped to you pronto, a pan that serves 15 is $37.50. How good are they? When Joan was getting her car detailed, she told a woman about her brownies, as an older gentleman sat a few feet away. “Usually when women eat my brownies they just repeat the same nine words..’Oh my God, oh my God,oh my God.” The man took two dozen…he hadn’t made his wife say that in years! Ba-tump-tump!

Happy holidays everyone….

Love means a pair of Ray-Bans!!
May 15, 2007

At least that’s what love meant for a splendid moment back in 1943. This is a picture of of Mom and Dad, standing on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, in’43…he was waiting to be shipped overseas, as New Orleans was a POE, port of embarkation. Here’s what inspired my Mom to tell me a story I had never heard before…..
I sent her a Plexiglas magnifier, made by Bausch and Lomb, for Mother’s Day….hoping it might be just the thing to help her read….she’s an avid reader and pores over the Birmingham News every night before she goes to bed, but her vision ain’t what it used to be.
She called me, saying that seeing the name Bausch and Lomb reminded her of my Dad….
She and my father, Bobby, were both in New Orleans, and they both worked at the airport there….she as a secretary for Chapman Air Services, he for the U.S. Army as an M.P.. They rode to work every day together, and met each night for dinner at an open air restaurant that is no doubt long gone, right on Lake Pontchartrain, for an open face roast beef sandwich with gravy, cole slaw and mashed potatoes….for 75 cents each. So romantic, yes?
Bausch and Lomb, the companythat at that time, owned Ray-Ban(now owned by the Milan based Luxottica Group),  had developed anti-glare sunglasses specifically for pilots in 1937….My Mom desperately wanted a pair for my Dad before he shipped overseas, which was to happen any day but while they were free for pilots, for everyone else, like a foot soldier such as my Dad, they cost the astounding sum of  $7.50… in 1943, that was a handsome chunk of change, especially for a soldier and his secretary wife. But she scrimped and saved, finally enough to buy the coveted aviators!
That night at dinner, she wordlessly pushed the famous leather case across the table to my Father, who opened it,  and said in an almost whisper, “Did you steal them?”
Mom, (the upright daughter of a Methodist minister), was a little indignant, and assured him that they were legally purchased. And they were his. 
Dad was shipped to India shortly after, and while he was there, broke a lens. Heartbreak. So he wrote Bausch and Lomb a letter, asking for a replacement lens, explaining that he would pay whatever it. They sent him the replacement, with a note saying that they would never charge a serviceman. Alas, it was the wrong size lens.
So Dad boxed his precious aviators and sent them to B & L. They broke in transit. But the company sent him a new pair of Ray-Bans, again explaining that it was their pleasure to help out a serviceman….no charge.
I don’t know what happened to those Ray-Ban aviators, except that they are still the epitome of classic style and one of the most imitated around the world. My daughter has a white pair of aviators that she adores, but she doesn’t know her Papaw wore them first,  long before they became a fashion statement. And my husband and son also wear Ray-Bans, now that I think of it. Must be a family thing.