In the age of social media, when parenting has become a kind of performance art, it seems we’re often made to feel inadequate over all the things we don’t do.
I don’t feed my kids all organic food. I don’t cut the vegetables in their lunchboxes into magazine-worthy shapes. I don’t craft adorable homemade Valentines. I don’t prohibit SpongeBob.
But in the end, we’re probably obsessing over minutiae. That’s why there’s some- thing perversely reassuring about seeing a parent who really messes up—well, at least as long as no one is seriously hurt, that is. It’s a special brand of schadenfreude: I may be doing things wrong, but at least I’m not as bad as that mom…
That schadenfreude revved up for me this past winter when a couple was arrested for leaving their two toddlers unattended in a parked car in northwest D.C. for an hour while they went to a wine tasting at a restaurant around the corner.
The story read like a parody of clueless, entitled parents, with the father explaining to police that he was using an iPhone— an iPhone!—to monitor the kids, aged 22 months and 2 1/2. Perhaps the parents might have elicited more sympathy if they’d left the kids while, say, delivering meals to the homeless or checking on an elderly shut-in. But wine tasting? Seriously? The pair was charged with two counts of attempted second-degree cruelty to children.
No matter where you sit on the parenting spectrum, from the hovering meddlers known as helicopter parents to the hands-off “free rangers” who believe children need to exercise more independence, I think we can all safely agree that using a smartphone to babysit two toddlers in an unheated car so you can attend a wine tasting is just…not OK.
It was harder to find consensus about the case of the Meitiv family of Silver Spring, however. Last December, someone spotted their children, 10 and 6, walking alone along a busy thoroughfare and called police. Alexander Meitiv acknowledged he’d let the children walk home alone from a park about a mile away, prompting a Montgomery County Child Protective Services investigation. In March, the Meitiv parents were charged with unsubstantiated child neglect. The case has generated heated national headlines, with many saying the family was unnecessarily reprimanded.
“How have we gotten so crazy that what was just a normal childhood a generation ago is considered radical?” Danielle Meitiv asked in The Washington Post.
My own brush with this issue came last year, when I headed up to my childhood home on Long Island with my boys’ bikes in tow. Living as we do in Baltimore City, where large swaths of flat, untrafficked road are at a premium, I thought the boys could take advantage of riding up and down the sleepy suburban street where I had learned to ride almost 40 years ago.
The bikes turned out to have been an inspired idea. My younger son crossed that all-important threshold from tentative rider to fully confident one. And the sight of my two boys pedaling down my childhood street was pure magic. But then my 9-year-old son wanted to start riding his bike around the block by himself, something I am absolutely certain I did countless times the summer I was 9. The streets of Old Bethpage were certainly no more dangerous last year than they had been in 1975, which is to say not at all.
But I was suddenly frozen with uncertainty. Did people…still do that? Was I supposed to follow him in the car? Would the neighbors look askance at me, that woman who swooped in from Maryland and let her kids ride their bikes unsupervised?
I could argue that we keep a closer eye on our kids at home in Baltimore for all the obvious reasons: we live in a major metropolitan area with its share of urban troubles. But here we were, in one of the safest places in America, and I was still torn.
What really bothered me, though, was that I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that the only thing that had objectively changed was not the real risk of letting my son ride around the block, but rather parental attitudes toward that risk. I wasn’t actually worried that something untoward could happen to Ethan; I was mostly worried what people might think of me.
I was reminded of a moment a few months earlier when we were on vacation in Puerto Rico. While in the hotel lobby, we realized we’d forgotten something in our room. Ethan asked if he could go back by himself to retrieve it, a trip that involved riding an elevator and then a cable car down to a different part of the resort. My natural instinct was to say no, but I acquiesced. I held my breath, a nervous wreck until I saw him bounding back through the lobby, beaming with pride at his independence. I realized that I needed to sacrifice those five or 10 minutes of feeling uneasy, because what it brought Ethan was far more valuable than what it had cost me.
The early years of parenting are all about literally holding your children tight: nursing, swaddling, harnessing in car seats. As they grow, parenting becomes about a graceful letting go, about finding that elusive sweet spot between being reckless and being over-cautious, between satisfying your own need for control and meeting your children’s need to explore the world on their own. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes along the way. I just hope you don’t end up reading about them in the pages of a national newspaper, tut-tutting while you say, “Well, at least I’m not as bad as that mom.”
Jennifer Mendelsohn lives with her husband and their two boys in Mount Washington. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, People, Slate and USA Weekend.
Sofa So Good
Nouveau Home and Interior Design has moved back to its old stomping grounds in Mount Vernon. You can still get everything from elegant to kitschy to trendsetting, but co-owners Steve Appel and Lee Whitehead also are offering personal decorating services. Appel describes the shop as “reclaimed meets glamour.” Go Home champagne glasses are etched with toasts in six languages, Uttermost mirrors sparkle and you’ll even find retro typewriters and telephones re-purposed for the digital age. “I want the store to be like nothing else in Baltimore,” says Appel. Welcome home.10 W. Eager St., 410-962-8248, nouveaubaltimore.com
At the Boxwood Collection in the tiny hamlet of Glyndon, owner Sandi Kroh can’t wait to show off the colorful, intricate Polish pottery by Boleslawiec that’s become a signature of her newly expanded store, which just moved around the corner. Other standouts include metalware by Beatriz Ball, cheeky Words With Boards cutting boards made here in Baltimore, botanical-inspired bracelets by Michael Michaud and beach-inspired tote bags by Spartina (the Kiawah pattern is darling). Has Savvy dropped enough names yet? Not nearly; you’ll see. 15 Railroad Ave, Glyndon, 410-526-2220, theboxwoodcollection.com
Spa Week Specials
Savvy will never forget the spa experience she had in Calistoga, Calif.; the masseur was so superb she almost married him. So how come she doesn’t treat herself all the time? It’s expensive. That’s why she’s thrilled over Spa Week. From April 13 to 19, select beauty services at participating spas and salons are only 50 bucks. At Glow to Go Skin Bar in Federal Hill try the Fitness Facial, laser teeth whitening or eyelash extensions. And here’s your chance to get the 50-minute Signature Stress Melter at Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas in Cross Keys for less than half price.spaweek.com
I Dream of Jeans
It’s the perennial quest—on a par with “I’ll never find a bathing suit that fits!”—the search for the perfect-fitting pair of jeans. Well, mourn no more. At Liquid Blue Denim (one of our perennial faves in Fulton), they’ve got your number. You can now Skype a staff member with your measurements and preferences (don’t worry; they’re discreet) and get guidance on which cut, style and color will best suit you. Shipping is free and if you don’t like what you get, you simply send it back. For men and women. Or schedule an in-person consultation by appointment, so you can reach out and touch the store’s new spring arrivals, from boho-chic embroidered blouses to BCBG jumpsuits. Other savvy stops in the same spot: Bra-La-La (for lovely lingerie) and Hyatt & Co. (upscale menswear). 8191 Maple Lawn Blvd., Fulton, 301-317-0241, liquidbluedenim.com
Looking to celebrate like you’re Peggy Olson who just landed that coveted Burger Chef account? Or just drink in style like Joan Holloway? Embark on City Food Tours’ Mad Men Era Cocktail Tour, an Old City excursion that gives you the chance to sip on some tasty cocktails with ties to the era of the critically acclaimed AMC drama, which begins its final season April 5. Be it a sweet, sour and bubbly French 75 at Stratus Rooftop Lounge, a Tang-y Astronaut at the Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar or a refreshing mojito at Cuba Libre, the tour will introduce you to (or help you revisit) the groovy libations of the 1960s. Sure, these drinks are a far cry from Don Draper’s go-to whiskey on the rocks. But who wants to drink like him, anyway? Select Saturdays through April 25, at 2nd and Market streets. $49, per person. cityfoodtours.com
New York City
We’re still scarred from the way Peter Sarsgaard discarded Carey Mulligan in “An Education,” the 2009 film that introduced the English ingenue to mass audiences. Now the bona fide Hollywood A-Lister is pairing up with another older gentleman—Bill Nighy (“Love Actually,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”)—on Broadway in David Hare’s Skylight. Mulligan plays a badgered schoolteacher living in a freezing London apartment who’s paid a visit by her former lover—a charismatic and arrogant restaurateur—which ignites an evening of heated (and humorous) banter that brings both characters’ past to light, along with commentary on society, politics and our sexual appetite for old flames. Don’t go hungry; rumor has it Mulligan actually cooks spaghetti on stage during the performance. April 2-June 21, at John Golden Theatre. skylightbwy.com
Shopaholics can already smell the fine French leather at Longchamp, one of the first luxury retailers to open shop at the District’s chichi CityCenterDC, a 10-acre development, set to become a mecca of chic, from swanky condos to adventurous restaurants and, of course, shopping galore. Spring day-trippers can score sleek, fashion-forward finds at Rodeo Drive darling Zadig and Voltaire, classic footwear at Salvatore Ferragamo and Allen Edmonds, high-tech outerwear (perfect for April showers) from Arc’teryx and more before dining at chef Daniel Boulud’s DBGB Kitchen and Bar or eating frozen treats at Rare Sweets. Coming in future months: CH Carolina Herrera, Hermes and the famed Momofuku noodle restaurant and Momofuku Milk Bar. citycenterdc.com
When I was about 9 or 10, I fell in love with feminist movies. “Silkwood,” “Norma Rae,” “The Color Purple.” Basically, if you were a woman who fought against adversity, I wanted to be you.
I vividly remember nearly going to fisticuffs with a third-grade boy over how “Nine to Five” was way better than “Caddyshack”—with or without a dancing gopher. “Don’t you get the subversive humor?” I probably said, while pretending to pull out blond strands from my Dorothy Hamill ’do.
So you can imagine my joy when interviewing Lily Tomlin (page 84), who’s coming to town on May 7, the night before her new Netflix series (co-starring Jane Fonda) premieres. Lily and I gabbed for almost an hour—and bonded as fellow movie cryers. In fact, she told me a cute story about how her mom took her to see “Imitation of Life”—a 1959 tearjerker with racial undertones—starring Susan Kohner, whose son Paul Weitz just directed Tomlin in the new Sundance flick “Grandma” due out in August.
“Before the movie started, my mom opened up her purse to show me she’d brought three washcloths [to use as tissues],” said Tomlin with a laugh. “I CRINGED, but they came in handy. I’ve been waiting my whole life to tell someone that story.”
You may need a washcloth after reading about 13-year-old Mekhi Ferguson, a brave and funny kid who’s received amazing care at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital (see “Modern Miracles,” page 64). He should become a professional happiness guru. I’m also a big fan of Changa Bell, who revives tired souls at Sunlight & Yoga (page 46).
Is being constantly connected to your boss (and everyone else on the planet) stressing you out? Be sure to read “Driven to Distraction” (page 68), where tech writer Andrew Zaleski goes “off the grid” for 48 hours. Well, almost 48 hours. Plus, we pick 12 smartphone apps—ironically enough—to help you chillax.
I suffer from tech perfectionism. I put off sending emails/texts because I want to craft a Pulitzer-worthy missive that makes the other person feel like they just won the lottery. Unfortunately, sometimes that means I don’t write back at all. (I’m working on it, promise.) That’s why I love getting out of the office to scout for stories like “She’s Gotta Have It” (page 72). It’s fun to see friends at all the local boutiques—such as Hannah and Martha from JG Sassy (a preppy-chic wonderland in Ruxton), who came back to unlock the shop at 9 p.m. after I left my keys on the counter. (Thank you, ladies!) After all, spring trends may come and go, but kindness is always in fashion.
$3,395,000 Delightful Deception
Bedrooms: 4 | Baths: 4 | Square Feet: 4,410
“Located on a steep grade on the water, the v-shaped house is four times the size of the front in the back. It was intentionally designed to not look like Versailles from the street, offering a discreet glimpse of what’s to come. Thanks to an enormous dock, the property fits right in with the Annapolis boaters’ lifestyle, as owners can sail right out of the Severn River into the Chesapeake Bay.”—Ron Mangas Jr., TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, 703-298-2564
$589,000 Canton Cove
Bedrooms: 2 | Baths: 2/1 | Square Feet: 2,180
“Many condos are pretty to look at and perfect for entertaining friends, but they aren’t actually ideal to live in. This condo in downtown Baltimore is perfect for hosting a cocktail party, but it’s not all for show—it truly is a home. Another plus is it comes with two free parking spaces and it’s pet- friendly.”—David Curtin, Henslee Conway Real Estate, 443-803-8175
$1,445,000 Suburban Style
Bedrooms: 4 | Baths: 6/2 | Square Feet: 7,384
“This magnificent Pikesville home is very open—the interior is extremely bright and there is a lot of light, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. Even with that, it still maintains a private atmosphere. Other perks include a four-car garage and the gorgeous waterfall in the rear.”—Libby Berman, Long & Foster, 410-978-4920
$1,780,000 California Dreaming
Bedrooms: 6 | Baths: 4/2 | Square Feet: 6,800
With expansive decks, a pergola, an outdoor pool and a hot tub, it’s hard to believe this stylish and stunning home is nestled within city limits. “This contemporary California-lifestyle home is located in the heart of Green Spring Valley. The outdoor living setup will have you craving summer all year long.”—Heidi Krauss, Krauss Real Property Brokerage, 410-329-9898
An old horsewoman who came here from Ireland on the cusp of World War II told me once that she remembered riding a horse from Monkton to what is now the traffic circle in Towson. Imagine doing that today. That’s an easy 20 miles—and you’d have to ride back, too—and some of it was hard going. I tell you this chiefly to remind that someone still remembers a world before the Beltway or Interstate when it was possible to ride a horse over a landscape little changed from Colonial times.
Once upon a time everyone rode a horse even if they did not ride very well. No question about it, the horse knows the way; our history tells us this. Over the hills and through the woods to grandmother’s house or across the Great Divide. Some of our noblest national heroes are four-footed—Seabiscuit, Man o’ War, Dancer’s Image, Kelso, Citation. Paul Revere was in the saddle (even if Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made up a lot of his ride.) Lewis and Clark would have never crossed the country, a journey of some 8,000 miles (they were occasionally lost), without horses. The Pony Express (they were not riding ponies) moved mail across America in 10 days or less at a time when it took a letter six months to travel from Boston to San Francisco by ship. Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders. And let us not forget cowboys. The image of the rider on the horse is a powerful one (hooray for Hollywood).
The image of the horse in the national imagination remains powerful even if most Americans are no longer sure which end kicks. And so it is spring and steeplechase season in the Tidewater.
The Grand National is the second of three major timber races, sandwiched between My Lady’s Manor and the Maryland Hunt Cup. But it is my favorite because old friends host a luncheon at their farm on the race course (and I am too old to sit in a field with drunken prep school students).
The road to the races is a bit melancholy for the lush green countryside containing what remains of the hunt country is fast-vanishing despite efforts to preserve it. Once a traveler gets past what H.L. Mencken called America’s “libido for the ugly”—strip malls and clusters of Targets and Taco Bells, Bedding Barns and Bob’s Big Boy and the warrens of townhouses—the road snakes across a landscape largely rural and mostly agricultural. It just seems to take a little longer each year on the way to the race course to finally reach open countryside.
Soon suburbia slips away and there are open fields rolling off into the distance, lush and soft spring green, dotted with flowering dogwoods and cherry and apple trees. The roadsides are a riot of forsythia and a tangle of bright yellow daffodils. But there are fields of McMansions now, too, in what was not long ago farmland; badly sited and poorly landscaped, like pieces from a child’s board game. Revenge of the Parker Brothers.
But it is still possible to glimpse a rapidly vanishing world that may be gone in another generation and gone for good despite efforts to preserve it. Soon, many of these fine fields could be dotted with developments—Tally Ho Estates, Fox Trot Garth, Huntsman’s Glen. Developers like the words garth and glen. Nice, cruel touch, that.
Steeplechases are mostly just a good excuse for a lawn party, or a picnic, and they are not nearly as exclusive as they once were, but what harm is in it? Many of the race-goers never bother to even walk up to the course to see the horses run. But the turnout for the steeplechases is greater each year and if the weather is good, so much the better.
Another tiny restaurant—26 seats in all—opens in Hampden, and this one is a Fabergé egg. Clearly a driven man, Arômes chef/owner Steve Monnier puts together complex small plates with whatever the market offers on a given day, supplemented by exotic flourishes from a collection of tins above the stove: dried chamomile, bottarga he made himself from dried Maine sea urchins, curry powder, matcha tea.
Food. If you’re a fan of tasting menus, this is your place. On an early visit, options included cauliflower risotto with lemon balm jus and a crunchy scallop chicharrones, tender lamb with curry butter and sweet carrot ravioli, a crispy potato nest with a scoop of dulce ice cream sprinkled with bottarga and lemon ash—a midflight mix of savory, salty and sweet that could have been dessert. Dessert reversed the stunt with white chocolate ice cream surrounded by sweet parsnips and tonka beans—topped with a sheet of caramelized milk skin, sweet and crumbly. Fussy but not overdone. “This is minimal,” says Monnier of his six-plate format. “If I were only cooking for 10 people, I’d do more.”
Chef. Monnier, 38, grew up in France’s Champagne country of Reims and started cooking at 16. Stints in Cannes and Paris included working under highly regarded chefs like Philippe Braun and Michel del Burgo at Michelin-starred restaurants. He moved to Los Angeles in 2002 and cooked at French restaurants there (including L’Orangerie) before becoming a personal chef to the likes of Jerry Bruckheimer, Goldie Hawn and Charlie Sheen (“a great guy,” Monnier assures). His training with “modern” chefs in Paris taught him to move the vegetable to the center of the plate. “A lot of scientists are saying that by 2050, we won’t have meat and fish,” he points out. “Why not treat vegetables the same way you would lobster or foie gras?”
Location. Monnier and his wife, Florence, moved east to be closer to her family in Pennsylvania when their son (almost 2) was born. They looked at D.C., he says, but real estate was too expensive for a self-financed undertaking. He’s impressed with the Hampden camaraderie. After he had trouble with a contractor, he says, “Everyone stepped up. It was amazing.” Besides, he enthuses, “Baltimore has everything—great farming, the soil is so rich. You got the ocean, the forests.” He’s enlisted a forager to bring him mushrooms, fiddleheads and indigenous wildflowers and herbs.
Sourcing. The meat comes from Liberty Delight Farms, the dairy from Trickling Springs Creamery. Even the elegant space, like the menu, is locally sourced. Tables hewn by Josh Crown from reclaimed wood and a parquet floor pieced together from Brazilian cherry found from a supplier in Timonium. Hampden designer Jesse Harris’ minimalist lighting design has wires cascading like Maypole ribbons from the center of the ceiling to illuminate each table with a single Edison bulb.
Drinks. It’s a BYOB place with a $5 corkage fee per bottle. A selection of nonalcoholic drinks, created by front-of-the house manager, Gilles Mascarell, includes aromatic concoctions like lavender and Meyer lemon; ginger, turmeric and grapefruit; and hibiscus, mint and lime.
Final Verdict. An early surge in reservations and one look at the gorgeous plates on the restaurant’s website indicate that a seat at Arômes will be coveted. Make a reservation. Soon.
3520 Chestnut Ave., 410-235-0035
Stop, Breathe & Think.
Skip the therapy sesh and find inner Zen right on your smartphone. Created by Tools For Peace—a nonprofit dedicated to emotional and social intelligence, as well as professional success—this app is designed to enliven the mind through meditation and emotional guidance. It asks you to assess your current state of mind, then provides relevant meditations to bring you to a place of equilibrium. Available free in the App Store, Google Play and via web for your computer. stopbreathethink.org
Consider it spring cleaning for your inbox. Created by Baltimore-based 410 Labs, this email management service enables you to clear out clutter (one gleeful reviewer boasted deleting 22,000 duds in 30 minutes) and successfully unsubscribe from junk email lists—shrinking your inbox to…wait for it…ZERO. Worried about privacy? We feel you. Mailstrom doesn’t read your personal emails, or sell your data. It sorts emails by finding patterns in subject lines. Free trial (up to 5,000 emails). After that, $5 per month. mailstrom.co
Prepare for some gross self-awareness. This app keeps track of how many times you check your phone a day—and even points out, via GPS, where your phone-checking habit (i.e., addiction) occurs most. The bathroom? Maybe. Another great app in this category is Moment, which boasts a family version that can track your entire household’s screen time across multiple devices—and helps you schedule down times for family dinners or game nights. Moment, available free in the App Store. Checky, available free in the App Store and Google Play. checkyapp.com
1 Minute Desk Workout.
This app allows you to de-stress during office hours, featuring more than 45 exercises and a “secret mode” that keeps things discreet. Did we mention it will remind you when it’s time to take a breather and stretch? Perfect for those die-hard desk jockeys who never take a break. Available free in the App Store.
Officially the smartest jewelry ever. These 18K matte gold rings—featuring precious and semi-precious stones (we love the Black Onyx) —sync to an app on your smartphone, so you can decide which notifications are worth knowing about in real time—and which to ignore. So when your babysitter texts you during dinner, the ring vibrates softly, but when your old college roommate invites you to play Candy Crush, you won’t be bothered. Hallelujah. $195 to $260. ringly.com
Procrastinators, meet your new best friend. This simple-to-use app enables you to create a to-do list, then set up a timer for completing each task. When time runs out, 30/30 moves on to the next task—and hopefully you do, too. Plus, you can schedule in much-needed brain breaks after serious crunch times. Our favorite feature? The “gesture-based” interface. Just keep it clean, people. Available free in the App Store. 3030.binaryhammer.com
Make the airport your happy place, seriously. Created by Trip Advisor, this app keeps you updated on the latest info about your flight. We’re talking gate changes, delays, layover adjustments, even security wait times. The app also allows you to navigate through the airport using maps, and check out the amenities closest to you. Just say no to the Cinnabon. Available free in the App Store, Google Play and Windows Store. gateguru.com
My Migraine Triggers.
Like MyFitnessPal for headaches, this Excedrin-funded/neurologist-developed app helps identify what leads to migraines by tracking daily activities, diet and stress levels. The most unique aspect of this app is its ability to email or print out charts of the collected information to share with your doctor. Available free in the App Store.
A hands-free app we’ve been waiting for. Originally created to reward employees for safe driving practices, it’s great for personal use, too. When you and your friends and family install the BRB app, you can customize an automated message to be sent while driving to let others know you’re occupied (and not giving them the silent treatment). It also turns off incoming alerts and calls so you aren’t tempted to peek or answer while on the road. brbapp.com
Find a home for you—and your car. Local real estate agents Ronald Monk and Nick Hardisty created this brand-spanking-new app that only shows you urban homes with off-street parking spots on the market. (Where was this guy when we moved to Canton?) Filter results according to your preferences—home type, price, location, etc.—then score turn-by-turn directions so you can take a peek at each property. Plus, request more info and schedule viewings effortlessly from your phone. Available free in the App Store and Google Play. parkre.com
Now available in 37 markets, the Charm City-born food delivery app lets you score naughty treats (think Chick-fil-A waffle fries), haute hangover helpers (say, the Scrappledelphia sandwich from Shoo-Fly) or even a romantic dinner for two (from the likes of Fleet Street Kitchen or Bond Street Social) without even leaving your couch. Our current go-to: Sofi’s Crepes for our weekly “Scandal” watching party with the girls. Delivery fee, up to $4.99. orderup.com
For $10 you can “ground” yourself from the Internet for up to eight hours a day. A favorite of authors Zadie Smith and Nick Hornby (which makes it good enough for us), this productivity-focused software temporarily blocks your computer’s Internet access, so you can lay off Facebook-stalking your ex and (finally) finish that big business report or your first novel. And, yes, if there’s an emergency, just reboot. macfreedom.com
In 2013, in his grandfather’s workshop in Annapolis, Andrew Guthrie, now 24, was about to push a wooden board across a planer, a machine with two exposed blades on top that flattens the wood’s surface. The board would become part of a desk that he was building, his third woodworking project. But when Guthrie began to guide the board through the machine, he says, “my hand was too close to the blade.” It shaved off his middle finger, ring finger and pinkie finger on his right hand, the hand he writes with. In pictures, it looks like an ice cream scoop was dragged along the length of his fingers, digging up arteries, veins, bone, tendons and skin on the palm side but leaving the skin on the back of his hand somewhat intact. Despite the horrific nature of his injury, Guthrie says in the instant that it happened, he felt “absolutely no pain.”
By the time he was in the ambulance, however, the pain was so strong that even painkillers weren’t much help. When he arrived at Union Memorial Hospital’s Curtis National Hand Center (CNHC), a medical fellow looked at his hand and said he was likely to have his three fingers amputated. “I was prepared to accept this,” Guthrie says. Because of the capabilities of modern medicine, though, Guthrie has 10 fingers today, and miracles like these are happening at hospitals across the Baltimore region.
In Guthrie’s case, he made an extraordinary recovery, but the type of procedure he had done—known as a toe-to-finger or toe-to-thumb transfer—is not new. It’s a treatment that is often available at specialty centers like CNHC, and is most commonly an option for patients who have amputated thumbs. For Guthrie, Dr. Ryan Katz, along with Dr. James Higgins, chief of CNHC, took tissues from two toes to reconstruct his middle and small fingers. (They covered his ring finger with a skin graft-type product.) “The toes have everything that the fingers have,” Katz says. “We [could] basically provide all the tissues that [Guthrie] lost by going to his feet.” Known as a “flap,” this procedure involves transferring tissues that come with their own blood supply from one site to another. (This is different from a graft, such as the bone graft that was done on Guthrie’s ring finger, which does not come with a blood supply.) During surgery, Katz and Higgins detached Guthrie’s second toe from each foot, leaving at least one artery and one vein protruding from each toe. Using a microscope, micro-instruments with fine tips and sutures that are “thinner than a human hair,” Katz says, they sewed the artery from the toe onto an artery from the hand, and a vein from the toe onto a vein from the hand. When the surgeons released the clamps that held everything together, the new fingers “turned pink immediately, and [they were] alive from that point on,” Katz says. Compared to a graft, “the bone will heal faster; the nerves will start feeling.”
Today, Guthrie, a Ph.D. student in computer science at Stony Brook University in New York, has even regained some range of motion in his two fingers: The middle finger can bend 90 degrees and the smaller finger can bend 10 to 15 degrees, both at the first joint. (His compromised toes, of course, will never function the same.)
Having resumed woodworking just four months after his surgery, Guthrie also finished his desk. It’s a beautiful, gleaming structure with a flattened hexagon top, and a base comprised of five panels with walnut trim, arches of cherry wood and molding everywhere, “even on the edges of the shelves,” Guthrie says with obvious pride.
Like Guthrie’s love for woodworking, Mekhi Ferguson, 13, has a passion, too: “I love airplanes so much,” he says of the interest born from the yearly trips he takes to Chicago to visit family with his great-aunt Priscilla Giles, his caregiver here in Baltimore. (Mekhi’s mother died when he was 6.) He wants to own a large airport someday.
It’s a big dream, especially for a kid who has faced many medical challenges throughout this life. Part of the 0.5 percent of children in the U.S. who are considered “medically complex,” according to the Children’s Hospital Association, Mekhi was diagnosed with diabetic embryopathy at birth. This condition affects babies whose mothers have severe diabetes, as his did. He had a cleft palate and a skull that fused too early, and he still has arthrogryposis, or frozen joints, meaning that he cannot bend his left knee.
Providers have opened up his skull so his brain could grow and performed around 20 surgeries, four of which required year-long inpatient rehabilitation stints at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital (MWPH). Today, Mekhi, who has written a book about his experiences at MWPH that he hopes to self-publish, still walks with two Lofstrand crutches and has to sit on the edge of chairs because he is not able to keep his balance when bending his hips.
Children like Mekhi can face longer hospital stays and an increased risk of medical errors because so many specialists are involved in their care. But Mekhi’s providers have always worked together to coordinate his treatment plan. He goes to MWPH on Fridays, for example, for physical and psychological therapy. His two providers, Sonya Johnson-Branch, physical therapist, and Dr. Bradley Schwimmer, pediatric psychologist, coordinate their schedules so they can see Mekhi back-to-back and “make things easier on the family,” Johnson-Branch says. “If he has a bad therapy session, we can [also] meet and talk about how to get over a barrier he is facing.”
More recently, Mekhi has mainly needed orthopedic surgery, so his orthopedic doctors, physical therapists and teachers from his public school have worked together to make sure he has appropriate therapy afterward. “I’ll call his gym teacher, and we’ll talk a lot about the equipment he uses,” Johnson-Branch says. Then “we all meet Mekhi’s needs.”
Mekhi loves school, where he is the “fun guy,” says Dr. Virginia Keane, his pediatrician since birth. “When you see him, [he looks] like this little old man. He walks with a cane; he’s bent at the hips. [But] he’s got this incredibly
wonderful spirit, this can-do attitude. He wants to be the best he can be.”
Providers say the same thing about Jimmy Poleto, now 30, who was hit by a drunken driver in an SUV while riding his motorcycle on Harford Road around 1:45 a.m. in the summer of 2012. “He always had a lively spirit, even through his recovery,” says Alexis Lucas, a certified brain injury specialist and his occupational therapist at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, one of the LifeBridge Health Centers. “He was a go-getter before the accident, and he never lost that.”
Diagnosed with a slew of injuries—traumatic brain injury, an open book pelvis break, a shattered femur and kneecap, a broken tibia, a lacerated liver, broken fingers and more—Poleto was given a 3 percent chance of survival. He was in a coma for 96 days. Then, one Tuesday, his wife Kathryn noticed that he was nodding as she talked. He couldn’t speak, but “I knew he was awake,” she says.
Poleto stayed in the hospital for the next few months. “He was basically starting over,” Kathryn says. “He had to learn to feed himself; he had to learn to dress himself; he had to learn to go to the bathroom.” Poleto credits Lucas, his therapist,
for getting him to where he is today. Through daily, intense therapy sessions, the two developed a lighthearted, almost comedic, rapport. When Poleto started using a computer to type, for example, Lucas asked him what he thought of her and the other therapists. “He definitely typed a bad word,” she says, laughing. When he had to do range of motion stretching for his tight muscles—“which he couldn’t stand,” Lucas says—she made deals with him, such as offering to let him hit her after the stretching.
“He was like, ‘Deal. Let’s do it,’” Lucas says. At the time, “I’m more dying of laughter than anything else. He was trying to hit with such force, but it felt like when kids hit you: It doesn’t hurt at all.”
Poleto left Levindale in December of 2012 to go home. Then, in November of 2014, he moved into a VA hospital in Richmond, Va., where he is learning to be completely independent. As of February, he was still working on his speech—“Sometimes his mouth can’t coordinate fast enough to how his brain is working,” Lucas says—but his sister had raised more than $12,000 on GoFundMe, a crowdfunding website, for him to enroll in intensive speech and occupational therapy programs.
On the phone from the hospital, Poleto, who speaks slowly and carefully, says that Lucas is a “very caring person.” Later, he sends a text: “Alexis was more than good,” he writes. “She’s like a sister.”
As lead singer of the ’90s tribute band Rollerblades, Jim Dickinson, 35, has made a less dramatic but still significant recovery. Last spring, after a busy week, “I was losing the falsetto in my voice,” says Dickinson, who at the time played 35 to 40 shows a year on weekends and led leadership trainings during the week. “It was feeling like it was cracking, feeling fatigued. By the end of the second gig, I was really having a lot of trouble hitting the high notes.”
About 30 percent of people will suffer from a voice disorder at some point in their lives; for people like Dickinson—singers, trainers, teachers—that number leaps to 60 percent. A voice disorder or dysphonia could be characterized by roughness or changes in pitch; it could also mean a person is working harder to use their voice, says Dr. Lee Akst, director of the Johns Hopkins Voice Center, which has four locations.
Last year, the Hopkins Voice Center at Greater Baltimore Medical Center unveiled a new treatment space for people with voice disorders: The Fender Music & Voice Studio, the only space of its kind in any of the Johns Hopkins Voice Centers. The studio is stocked with guitars, a piano and other instruments, making it “great for musicians with performing voice complaints because we can allow them to perform as part of their therapy session,” Akst says. “It feels like a little bit of a rehearsal studio or a music room they may have in their own house.”
After Dickinson was diagnosed with a hemorrhage, or ruptured blood vessel, on his vocal fold and a polyp, or bump, on his vocal cord, he had about six voice therapy sessions in the new studio space. Dickinson sang while his voice therapist played scales on the piano, and she gave him tips about how to improve his posture and relax his muscles so he could decrease the wear and tear on his voice. “I would also pick up a guitar and run through some songs because it’s a really different experience to sing properly while you’re also playing an instrument,” he says.
Through the sessions, Dickinson’s voice healed. Though he did lose his voice again last fall after playing an extra long gig, “I kept from doing any real damage, probably because of the techniques I learned [at the center]. I took it easy for a couple of days and was able to sing again the next weekend.”
Adolf Levi, 83, of New York City. Diagnosed with Usher syndrome, an inherited condition characterized by deafness and blindness, Levi has been deaf since he was a young boy; later in life, his vision began fading as well. Known as retinitis pigmentosa, this visual defect causes the eyes’ photoreceptors or cells to gradually lose the ability to detect light. “There’s a tunnel vision effect,” says Dr. James Handa, the Robert Bond Welch Professor of Opthalmology at Johns Hopkins Hospital. “There’s first loss of peripheral vision and then it closes down on the central vision.”
When Levi lost his vision completely, “he felt like his life was being taken away from him,” says his daughter Judy Mazon. He couldn’t drive anymore or go outside alone. He couldn’t use sign language on his own; instead, his family had to bend his fingers into the signs they wanted to communicate to him. “He was very depressed and all he wanted was to see again.”
In the last couple of decades, a new treatment option has emerged, for retinitis pigmentosa: the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis Device, or the bionic eye, an implant that allows patients to see moving shadows and spots of light by electronically stimulating the secondary cells that still remain in the eye after the photoreceptor cells have degenerated. In December of 2014, Levi became the first patient at Hopkins to receive the bionic eye following the FDA’s approval of the device in 2013.
The actual device isn’t really an eye at all, but a chip that is surgically implanted into the eye. To do this, Handa makes an incision in the sclera, the white of the eye, then places the chip over the macula, “the sweet spot of the eye” in the center of the retina, and secures it with a tack. Underneath the device are 60 electrodes that touch the retina. “Those 60 electrodes make an image that the patient perceives,” he says. The device also includes a pair of glasses with a video camera, and a box or a computer—patients clip this on—that captures the images and converts them into nerve impulses that the brain and the eye can understand.
“[Patients] have to scan their head so the camera goes across the image, and then they interpret what they see,” says Dr. Gislin Dagnelie, associate director of the Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center at Hopkins. But “it takes a long time for them to learn exactly what they are looking at.”
A computer or cellphone would be comprised of around 1 million dots of light, but Levi is only able to see 60 dots in a 6-by-10 rectangle, about the size of a small letter. “It’s like learning to see all over again with a very limited amount of vision,” Dagnelie adds.
Three months after his surgery, this has been Levi’s experience. “He’s not sure what he’s looking at, so he’s upset about that,” Mazon says, adding that Levi practices getting used to his new vision by studying white shapes on a black magnetic board he got from Hopkins. Soon, the hospital also will set him up with a vision rehabilitation therapist. Still, “he expected to see more and understand more,” Mazon adds. “But he’s trying so hard. It’s a learning process.”
But once patients have adjusted to the eye, which can take three to six months, it can have a profound impact on a patient’s quality of life. Handa tells stories of a man who was able to see Christmas lights for the first time in more than 25 years and a woman who could finally marvel at the moonlight bouncing off waves.
Levi had his own profound reaction about two weeks after his surgery, when he went back to Hopkins for a follow- up. The team tested the 60 electrodes in his implant, programmed his computer with the correct currents for each electrode and turned on the camera for the first time.
“As they were flashing lights, he could see those lights,” Mazon says. “It was amazing. He was tapping my hand [as if to say], ‘Yeah, I can see.’”
Artist/chef Irena Stein is set to open Alma, her Latin American tapas restaurant serving comfy street food and artisanal drinks at the Can Company, in April. Stein, 61, the striking visionary behind all-natural Café Azafrán at the Space Telescope Science Institute—one of Baltimore’s best kept secrets—and Alkimia, a second locally sourced lunch spot on the Hopkins Homewood campus, was born in Venezuela. The daughter of a Polish father and Venezuelan mother, Stein grew up in Caracas and Brussels, both of which influence her diverse recipes.
You morphed from social worker to jewelry designer to chef—how did that evolution occur? I found myself in a very fragile situation economically after Sept. 11, and everyone encouraged me to open a place where people could enjoy my food. Eventually, friends started spreading the word that I was a caterer (I was not; I just adored cooking), and a number of clients started asking me to cater their parties. I said yes.
What sparked your passion for organic, locally grown food? I grew up in countries where buying local is normal because people cook seasonally and go to markets to buy fresh food. My mother cooked like that, so I never knew anything else. Never packaged, never canned. But it was not just our family. Most people followed a lifestyle that included pretty much a Mediterranean type diet—very balanced.
How did you choose the name Alma? Alma is a very beautiful name that represents the soul and the heart. This is a place where I can share everything I believe creates comfort and delight for the community. The menu will highlight Venezuelan and Latin American cuisine. It will include the famous and beloved arepas (crispy corn patties), empanadas, ceviches, stews and fish and meat dishes of the vast surrounding region. We have chosen to cook those popular foods with a contemporary approach.
Tell me about your duo chef team at Alma. I have the enormous good fortune to have two Venezuelan chefs with exceptional, award-winning careers: Enrique Limardo and Federico Tischler. Both have trained in the culinary schools in Spain, have worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants and have had rich careers in our home country as well. Together we will introduce a whole repertoire of flavors entirely new to Baltimore.
At Azafrán and Alkimia, you serve lots of scholars. Who do you envision as your clientele at Alma? Canton is a very diverse population in age and professions. We hope to seduce everyone with our full-flavor small plates and our bar.
Do you see a connection between your art and your cooking? Yes! Food is the biggest privilege in life, and the ingredients are beautiful. When you share it with your community, it is a pretty fantastic experience.
Photographed by David Stuck
When Margaret Wright, her mathematician husband Tim, and their three children moved to their 1910 Dutch Colonial house in Roland Park in 1965 she says, “There was one border in the back and bright, screaming red azaleas around the foundation.” A lot has changed in 50 years on the one-eighth acre around their spacious duplex.
The house facing Stony Run and the trail that follows the old Ma and Pa (Maryland and Pennsylvania) rail bed has a decidedly country ambiance. In the family’s early days there, it felt even more rustic. “The park was wild then, more trees and vines,” Wright says. “The kids fell in the stream once a day for 15 years. We used manure from a horse down the street in the garden.”
Wright started her garden in the backyard with no plan. She dug and planted favorite plants like hellebores transplanted from her family’s home in upstate New York. Little did she know that one day she’d have a prized hellebore collection that
includes many unusual varieties and some grown from seed.
In the mid-1970s, the family spent a year in Cambridge, England—a trip that would inspire fond memories…and plant the seed for a major garden transformation. “We rented a house with a big back garden, and that’s when the bug bit,” says Wright.
After returning to Baltimore, she called Kurt Bluemel, a young, rising-star designer and plantsman, who by the time of his death in 2014 was nationally renowned for his naturalistic use of grasses and perennials.
“I asked him to come make my backyard more interesting,” Wright says.
In 1976, Bluemel set about transforming the hardscape so Wright could begin the next stage of gardening on good “bones.” He moved the bike shed and back patio, outlined a curvaceous side garden, moved some trees and installed boulders in the back (a novel idea at the time). He sited a natural-looking pond and fountain in a spot that connected the side and back gardens. A neighbor’s mature oak tree continued to make it a shade garden, but Bluemel opened up the space, created movement and a graceful sweep around the house.
“The pond is still the main focus,” says Wright, who adds that Blumel also installed fine plants like long-stalk holly, sweet bay magnolia, autumn blooming camellias and a white crape myrtle, which was new back then. All still thrive today.
These plants set a benchmark for Wright’s intensifying passion. She joined the Horticultural Society of Maryland, where she learned from lectures, other gardeners and gardens. “We traveled so much with Tim, because of his work, so I started visiting nurseries and gardens during the days when he was at work.”
In the late 1980s, in an effort to reduce the lawn and grow more plants on the sunny front of the house, Wright and Andreas Grothe of New World Gardens, Inc., turned half of the front yard into a garden. This time she created more beds and a feeling of space with a winding flagstone path that connects in two places to the front sidewalk. Grothe also added a low drystone wall and more boulders to unify the front and back gardens.
Then, after her husband’s 1991 sabbatical in Oxford, England, the couple returned and built a family room/kitchen addition overlooking the back garden—bringing more of the “outside” into their home.
By then Wright’s plant knowledge and expertise had expanded to the point that she started her own garden design business called Great Gardens. “I’m interested in how plants grow and the different environments they like, so I advised clients on what sorts of plants would grow best in various locations.”
Although her plant collections are many, they do not look jumbled but like an artistic mosaic. They weave through the gardens and range from many varieties of cyclamen, epimediums, ferns, hellebores and species peonies to ephemerals like unusual wood poppies and mayapples. She also adds in numerous native, drought-tolerant, bird- and bee-attracting plants, plus many unusual bulbs, including some fellow plant-collecting neighbor, Tanya Jones, has given her.
“Tanya has taught me so much about amending the soil,” says Wright, whose focus is finding just the right spot to tuck an addition to an ever-growing collection.
With plants she can no longer use, Wright plants up a green strip by the Stony Run Trail. “With permission of the city years ago, I started planting what I needed to delete,” she says. She also pots up extra plants and sets them on the berm for others to take.
Fully planted gardens keep Wright’s maintenance down and lawn mowing to about 10 minutes. Her biggest challenge is: “Fitting in more plants. That’s why I’ve become very interested in small plants.” And instead of planting in groups of three, five or seven plants, as many gardeners do? “I plant in drifts of one,” she says, borrowing a phrase from esteemed North Carolina nurseryman Tony Avent.
The first time I visited Scottsdale, Ariz., I was in my mid-20s and catering for the rock band Tool (yeah, I know that dates me). One of my oldest friends, Sonia, and her husband had just relocated there from Los Angeles. I escaped work for a few hours to explore the city with them and I was immediately struck by the contrasts. The arid Sonoran desert and soaring mountains bumped up against vast swaths of cultivated, urban sprawl. Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece house/school Taliesin West, built in 1937, seemed forged from the very landscape, while elsewhere, so many shopping centers resembled Lego sets plunked down on a child’s play table. It was a place of raw and natural beauty, but also of highly tailored fashion and a preponderance of plastic surgery. I concluded that Scottsdale could be summed up with three S’s: sunshine, silicone and strip malls.
Fifteen years later, and the three S’s hold true, but on a recent visit I was impressed with how much Phoenix and its tony twin, Scottsdale, have matured into their own. Bonus: Direct flights out of Baltimore from carriers like Southwest mean that even a quick jaunt is doable.
In February, I hopped a flight to meet my four oldest friends, including Sonia in her adopted hometown. I first met these women growing up in Baltimore. We realized recently—to our joy and middle-aged horror—that we have known one another for more than three decades. Now, we’re scattered across the country and living busy lives, but we try our damnedest to meet up whenever we can.
Sonia suggested we make Camelback Inn Resort & Spa our home base for the trip. Located on 125 acres between Mummy and Camelback mountains, this is the kind of place where you could spend the whole weekend without leaving.
Individual sachets of dried lavender grown on the property greet you at check-in, and that’s just the start of the sensory overload. Orange trees, herbs, cacti bursting with flower all scent the property, while local ingredients, like Arizona prickly pear and dessert honey, find their way into cocktails or the treatments at the wellness spa.
Guest rooms are scattered throughout adobe-looking villas. All offer at least 500 square feet of living space, and a few come with their own private pool. JW Marriott recently invested more than $70 million to upgrade this 1936 resort, and it shows. Rooms are modern yet retain their Southwestern charm. There’s a range of restaurant options, like French chef Laurent Tourondel’s popular BLT Steak. For golfers, two new courses opened in 2013, including one called Ambiente, which offers native desert landscaping instead of the usual expanses of water-fed grass.
Into this desert paradise stumbled five overworked, overtired souls. Three of us had traveled from the East Coast, including our friend Erika who had stopped tallying the snowfall count in her Boston backyard at 80 inches. Now here we were in a place averaging 330 days of sunshine.
The first thing we learned at Camelback was that the orange trees dotting our veranda were “ornamental.” The fruit is incredibly bitter. “We use it for lemonade,” Sonia explained. Sonia knows food. She is the general manager of The Mission, one of the area’s best restaurants, and it became clear in our planning that this weekend would be less desert exploration and more culinary adventure.
Our first night, we drove into downtown Scottsdale for dinner. The Old Town neighborhood is one of the few walkable destinations in this car-centric city. You can take a guided 60-minute walking tour and see things like a historic mission built in the 1930s from over 6,000 adobe bricks. If you’re here on a Thursday evening, there’s a weekly ArtWalk. During spring training in March, the town is taken over by baseball fans ready to watch the San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks at the nearby stadium.
We headed to The House Brasserie, one of three restaurants in Scottsdale from chef Matt Carter, a Phoenix native who trained in Paris and cooked at the famed French Laundry in Yountville, Calif. At House, you feel like you’ve stepped out of the Southwest and into a cozy Parisian bistro. We dined on charcuterie of smoked Burrata cheese with black truffle vinaigrette, black kale salad with orange, feta and plum, and delicate pasta and seafood.
The next morning we half-heartedly debated a hike up nearby Camelback Mountain, but decided that a leisurely walk along the Mummy Mountain Trail at the resort was more our speed. Afterward, we lounged in the shade of a cabana by the spa pool. Elizabeth Arden opened a celebrity spa in Scottsdale in the 1940s and now the city is a destination for wellness retreats. We ate poolside from Sprouts, the healthy spa restaurant, where you can take your cocktail with a side of denial and order the hilariously dubbed “Detox Margarita.”
After a spa massage and steam, it was time to re-tox with dinner. We’d been directed to the latest trendy spot in town called Sumo Mayo, but as soon as we walked in, we knew we were in trouble. Daft Punk blared from the oversized TV above the bar and the vibe was more Forever 21 than fine dining. So we walked a few doors down to Vivo Ristorante for a delicious Italian dinner.
The funny thing about Scottsdale is that some of the best dining often happens in a strip mall. You can have a glorious meal across from a neon sign advertising the LunchBOX, where you can get your privates waxed on your lunch hour. (A 15-minute Brazilian? Wrong on so many levels.) The food at Vivo was nice, but the wine! We lucked into a 2008 “Super Tuscan” red from Umbria recommended by the restaurant’s wine supplier.
Sunday night we hit The Mission in Old Town where we sampled several of the 10 varieties of classic margaritas. The guacamole, made tableside, is also a must.
The gluttony continued right up until my flight left Phoenix on Monday morning. Next to my gate was an airport outpost of Chef Carter’s other French restaurant, Zinc Bistro. I returned home to Baltimore sated and sun-soaked and grateful for a satisfying weekend away with dear friends.
WHEN IN SCOTTSDALE…
Hike. Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve offers 120 miles of trails and excellent rock climbing. Camelback Mountain, located in the center of the Phoenix Valley, has an elevation of 2,704 feet and affords beautiful views. mcdowellsonoran.org
Spa. The lauded, four-star spa at the Sanctuary resort sits perched on the edge of Camelback Mountain. Chill in the Zen meditation garden—hit the spa tennis courts amid the mountains for a dramatic view. sanctuaryoncamelback.com
Stay. Massive resorts abound in Scottsdale, but boutique offerings are on the rise. The brand-new Bespoke Inn in downtown Scottsdale is a gem of industrious hand-built design. Hosts even lend out—free of charge—handsome (hand-built) British Pashley bikes for guests keen to explore. bespokeinn.com
Shop. Frances Vintage is hidden in a non-descript building on Camelback Road in Phoenix, but it’s a must-shop. Stocked with local jewelry, vintage and new clothing, it also carries beauty products from the local Flora Apothecary. francesvintage.com
Drink. There are some great vineyards in the region and the wines from Arizona Stronghold are a favorite of local chefs. azstronghold.com
Support for Victims of Sexual Assault.
Funded by Mercy Medical Center’s Forensic Nursing Program, bMOREsafe, a GPS-enabled smartphone app, helps victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. The app is organized as a list of questions—“What if I have been forced to have sex?” for example—that link to resources, including an explanation of what will happen during an exam. It also explains that Maryland is a blind reporting state. “People assume that hospitals are automatically going to call the police,” says Debra Holbrook, a forensic nurse and the app’s co-creator. “But no one will know about [the assault] until someone wants to report it.” As of February, bMOREsafe had been downloaded more than 60,000 times worldwide. —Jennifer Walker
Telemedicine Sweeps the State.
At the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, doctors and critical care nurses use telemedicine—i.e., computers and accompanying equipment—to remotely monitor patients’ test results, X-rays, vital signs and more in ICUs at 11 rural Maryland hospitals, including Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin and Union Hospital in Elkton. The program has been shown to decrease patients’ complications and reduce their hospital stay. Providers at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital also give remote consultations to sick kids at five Howard County schools, while Sheppard Pratt Health System’s telepsychiatry program provides 66 hours of mental health services weekly to children, adolescents and adults. —J.W.
Catching Lung Cancer Early.
Early diagnosis of lung cancer, which represents 28 percent of cancer deaths, has been shown to reduce mortality rates by nearly 30 percent. So Saint Agnes Hospital uses early detection technology to locate nodules on the lungs that were previously difficult to biopsy because they could only be reached with more aggressive surgical techniques. Called Electromagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy, the technology “is akin to a GPS for your car,” says Dr. Kala Davis-McDonald, chief of pulmonary medicine. “It generates a path through the airways to get to a particular nodule so we can do a biopsy.” Saint Agnes performs about 40 early detection procedures each year. —J.W.
Hope for Hep C.
It’s the most common blood-borne viral infection in the country, but around 75 percent of the more than 4 million people affected by the liver-damaging Hepatitis C—the majority being baby boomers—have no idea they have it. Past treatment involved injections of an immune stimulant, Interferon, which came with nasty side effects like severe anemia. Thankfully, research by physicians, including Mercy’s Dr. Paul Thuluvath, Dr. Hwan Y. Yoo and Dr. Anurag Maheshwari, has led to the development of a new class of Interferon-free drugs with very few side effects and a 95 percent cure rate—as long as patients take one pill a day for three months. All the more reason to screen today. —Ian Zelaya
Help for a Baby Born 17 Weeks Early.
Born at 23 weeks gestation and weighing 1 pound, 6 ounces—the size of a Coke can—baby Camilla would never have survived 20 years ago, says Dr. Carolyn Moloney, a neonatologist at Saint Agnes. Spending a total of four mouths in the NICU, Camilla was on a high-frequency ventilator for the first three weeks of her life. IV lines in her umbilical cord supplied her with nutrition, hydration and medication. She was placed in a special isolette to maintain her body temperature and humidity. Despite this, Camilla, who will be 4 in September, has no physical or developmental disabilities today. “That’s Camilla’s miracle,” says her mom, Shanna Evering. —J.W.
CEO and co-founder of 410 Labs, TEDx curator, and recipient of the world’s best text message: “Dave Troy lassos stork” (when his wife informed him she was pregnant).
Will technology save or ruin our civilization? The fact that Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has been named by ISIS as a target suggests that these tools are very powerful. I think we’re just starting to get a sense for how [impactful] technology will be in reshaping society. I’m optimistic about the future. Favorite app: Hotel Tonight. Being able to get a room in Manhattan on a moment’s notice is really freeing.
Program Manager at DreamIt Health, foodie, fashionista, political nerd, startup advocate.
How do you chill out? Once a month I go digital-free: no Twitter, no TV, no laptop. These offline weekends allow me to mentally recharge without interruption. I get reacquainted with my non-tech loves like painting, reading and biking. Fave tech feature: The “Undo Send” option in Gmail. Social media mantra: Don’t feed the trolls. Social media is a great communication platform, but for the sake of your own sanity sometimes it’s best just not to respond to comment bait.
CEO and founder of Groove Commerce, who cringes when adults use text slang and combats tech exhaustion by traveling to beaches where English isn’t the first language spoken.
Advice for managing phone addiction: I think hypnosis may be the only answer. Techie pet peeve: A salesperson not respecting my “Out of Office” message during my wedding, then calling my cell that same day. Clearly, he didn’t get the sale. Example of whether technology is good vs. evil. The poo emoji. Why did they put that power in front of me?
Community and Program Manager at ETC Baltimore and Loyola University alum.
Productivity survival tip: If it’s something you can do in under three minutes, like respond to an email with prepped materials or send a tweet, do it while it’s in front of you. That will cut down on some of the backlog through the day. I also love to schedule out. I will spend 30 to 40 minutes a day getting posts ready to deploy. Favorite app: Bodeefit! It gives you short, intense work- outs you can do anywhere, just using your body weight. They’re always a challenge.
“I see spirituality in your eyes.” That observation from Sunlight & Yoga owner Changa Bell lit a fire in me when we met at a Lululemon goal-setting party. I committed to trying yoga one more time—in hopes of reducing stress and feeding my soul. This time, it clicked. For three months, my friend Jen and I have taken Changa’s playful House Yoga class, which starts with a meditation then transitions into challenging poses set to funky music. We’ve gotten over the “ick” factor of touching other humans (read: planking on a stranger’s back) and just mastered headstands. (OK, Jen did.) The small, friendly Woodberry studio is ideal for folks seeking individual attention and authentic inspiration. Changa has seen some darkness in his life, but for his lucky students, the filmmaker-turned-yogi is a ray of light. sunlightandyoga.com
When designer Lauren M. Levine was asked to set the stage for a Silo Point model home overlooking the water in Locust Point, the sales director urged her to go big with color. No problem for the young designer, who gravitates toward bright, happy hues in her own home and many client projects.
The dining/living space’s dramatic centerpiece is the watermelon-red acrylic table, an element that anchors the open floor plan with a sense of Matisse-ian aplomb, but which might be scary for the civilian decorator to commit to. What does Levine recommend for such staging stage fright?
“Go with your gut,” Levine says. “If you see a piece in a bold color, and it scares you, just do it anyway. If you’re not ready for a pink table, then pillows, accessories, framed posters and paint are great options. Paint is the most inexpensive way to bring color into the house. And you can fix it if you don’t like it—it’s just paint.”
What else was critical in bringing life (and cohesion) to the chic, industrial space?
“Flow,” says Levine, pointing out the way the sleek, smooth surfaces echo each other—countering the effect of the rough natural rug—and the pop of pink in the pillows on the couch subtly refers back to the dining table. “Colors and textures should be carried through, though not necessarily shouted in your face.”
Lauren M. Levine Interiors
Couch, Dining Table and Chairs:
Home on the Harbor
Phina’s for the Home
Metal sculptures by Michael Enn Sirvet; paintings by Todd Gardner; cutouts by Sherill Anne Gross.
Are you the type who tidies up before the maid arrives? (I can relate. Not that I’m saying I have a maid.) Or are you embarrassed to admit you employ a helper at home? Or maybe you’re undeniably drowning in dirt, but don’t know where to start—or whether having a maid even works for your personality, lifestyle and worldview. If so, keep reading.
There’s no denying the word maid is loaded—with baggage emotional and societal, even historic. Especially in 2015, when many of us middle- and upper-middle-classers are striving to be evolved and egalitarian, or at least look that way. Let’s face it—or Facebook it—we’re also trying to look camera-ready.
“We treat having a housekeeper like a luxury, but for many families it’s kind of a necessity,” says Baltimore-based therapist Luna Hammond. “Everyone’s supposed to work and have kids and have houses that look like Pinterest. But it’s impossible to do everything.”
Maid is, of course, an oft-used but quite old-fashioned term for housekeeper, derived from maiden, a word first used in the 13th century to denote a young woman of virginal, unmarried status. These “clean” young women, some of them anyway, became the earliest housecleaners and ladies’ attendants. (What else to do whilst waiting around for the dude on a bright white steed?)
“Maid sounds to my ear like someone who’s expected to wear a uniform!” an anonymous homeowner in Guilford tells me. (She also admits to cleaning ahead of her cleaner.)
“Maid gives me ‘Entitled White Lady’ hives,” says a friend in San Antonio, Rachel Doyle, who has used the same independent housekeeper for eight years.
Yes, the housecleaning trade is alive and well—more robustly in the last few years—if not more elegant and politically correct in its terminology. (Until I began this article, I didn’t refrain from using maid, common speak in my native South and by my friends in Baltimore.)
“Thirty-five years ago, dual incomes became the thing,” says Debra Johnson, home cleaning expert for Merry Maids, a national corporation based in Memphis, who started as a housekeeper for the company 17 years ago. “Now it’s pretty standard [to have a cleaning person]. People are house-proud. Part of protecting that investment is having a clean and healthy home.”
Given all of the cringing around the m-word, our psychological baggage seems pretty standard, too, when we hire a cleaner.
“We do have real baggage from the ’50s and ’60s on this topic,” Hammond says. “There’s a race issue and a class issue. Then there’s: Am I spoiled? These overlap. There’s something about having a corporation come in that feels distant—and establishes a boundary. But still we want to be nurtured. And that in itself is emotional. Your house is your personal space.”
A busy co-worker of mine recently started using the newish corporate service Handy to clean her apartment.
An online company founded in New York in 2011 by two brainy 30-something buddies, Handy employs a roster of freelance staffers. My friend loved the idea of a rotating cast of (hopefully qualified) characters coming in, so she didn’t have to worry about creating a personal relationship with one maid—which she feared could lead to a sense of obligation, engage her tendency to over-tip or end up taking more time. What she got was a mixed bag.
“I found that some of the women were working for Handy temporarily while they looked for other jobs, so I got my heart broken when a few professionals I loved ended up breaking up with me,” says my colleague, noting that she’s also had a few maids come in who weren’t up to snuff. “One woman showed up acting like Crazy Eyes from ‘Orange Is the New Black’ and did a horrible job, but the company happily reimbursed me. But the next time, an amazing woman showed up. She took out the recycling, made my bed [without my asking], left a thank-you note on my pillow and even color-coordinated my magazines on the coffee table. It was so great to have someone take such special care of me. I immediately sent her a text saying she’d made a huge difference in my life.”
After I gave birth to twins last June, I felt overwhelmed and hired a housecleaner for the first time. My husband and I make an effort to clear tables and countertops so that our cleaners, Fiorela Belteton (referred by a good friend) and her revolving assistant, can work more effectively, but beyond that we don’t have time to help her much nor energy to worry. As Belteton leaves I do find myself shoving a protein bar in her hand —“You’ll need extra fuel!” I enunciate awkwardly because her first language is Spanish.
I always vowed I’d hire a self-employed housecleaner if I hired anyone. And I simply assumed that cleaners employed by a corporate agency were being exploited. Belteton, 40, an independent, hires one female employee at a time to assist her as she cleans houses in the Baltimore area. As two, they can tackle more territory in less time and earn more.
While I take comfort in knowing that Belteton will keep—and pay her assistant from—my biweekly check, without a middleman, I’m also distantly aware that I’m sacrificing any sort of insurance coverage for property damage, theft or injury by opting for an independent. I don’t care—I trust Fiorela. But for those, like my colleague, who prefer a more distant relationship with their housecleaner—plus, the guarantee of bonded employees—the mainstream corporate service option may not be as grim as I presumed on the pay-scale front.
Merry Maids, which is franchised, sends a sales rep to assess cost per household size and personal homeowner’s needs. Once the pricing is set, the service assigns a trained and vetted cleaner. Products are provided to the cleaner; eco-friendly options are available upon request. While the corporation won’t share payment details, Johnson says, “The cleaners wouldn’t come back if they didn’t enjoy it, and if it’s not meeting financial needs. At Merry Maids, we give vacation pay and holiday pay.” Certain Merry Maids employees even receive health insurance depending on the market and the given franchise, she says.
These details sound sunny—and make me think I might possibly opt for corporate someday. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, in 2013, housekeepers earned a median salary of $19,780—or roughly $9.51 per hour. The highest paid earned about $31,900, while the lowest earned less than $17,000. Too low for comfort in either case. But do any off-the-books independent cleaners fare better?
I pay Belteton $80 every two weeks for one 90-minute cleaning session, plus modest tips at holidays. She cleans the bathroom and kitchen thoroughly and vacuums every room of our two-bedroom rowhouse. (One week, I asked her rather apologetically to wipe off the microwave, and she has added the service.) Anything beyond these basics will cost extra. She brings her own products about which I’ve never inquired. She must make pretty good money provided she stays busy with houses, but I have wondered about her helper’s earnings. Belteton told me that she pays her assistant $400-$500 weekly, a sum that she grants would be somewhat tough to live on. (Not as low as Moppin’ Mommas, a well-respected small local cleaning company started in Baltimore in 1990, which pays cleaners between $60 and $80 daily, according to co-owner Raylene Wase.) When I did the math, I saw that Belteton, if she can book a full-time load, is earning about double her assistant’s wage, or $1,000 weekly. Not exorbitant by any stretch—but livable, lots better than 30K, the high reported figure from the BLS. If only her hire fared more happily in this equation.
“The Maids [another national franchise group] are paid hourly—no nights; no weekends,” says Wayne Phillips, a Baltimore-based franchise owner since 2002, when I ask about the appeal of a maid career at this point in time. “The alternative could be restaurants and retail—but most of our employees are family people.” He says that each franchisee follows a pricing/payment system handed down from corporate, but on average the typical Baltimore housecleaning costs $157 per session—the highest tag I’ve come across. The Omaha-based company was founded in 1979, the same year as Merry Maids. (If the slightly pricier rate didn’t stop me, Phillips’ strict reluctance to disclose his own franchise’s workers’ wages might prevent me from using this service myself.)
Handy pays its cleaners between $15 and $17 hourly, and they were perfectly comfortable telling me so. While all workers are freelance—and submit a 1099, earning no outside benefits—the flexi-bility is there. So is an earning potential greater than others. Maybe you’ve spied Handy on Facebook, where they’ve recently offered a $29 first-time cleaning offer. After that, the rate climbs, but most cleanings cost between $55 and $70 on average. Handy wants to be a cleaning service for a newish millennium—like Uber for cleaning, as they themselves note. They also employ men and women cleaners, as do all the other corporate services I spoke to. (I’m guessing no men work for Topless Maids—maybe you’ve spotted their highly “visual” vans downtown recently?—but I didn’t call to ask.)
Buffy Buchanan, 25, who has a 4-year-old daughter, became a freelance cleaner for Handy after working in Baltimore as an independent maid. She works a second job at a bakery part-time and appreciates that Handy will assign her work whenever she’s free to take it. (Clients book online, pay online and request repeat service or different maids online as well. Handy’s “professionals”—that’s what they call them—also are background -checked online, then interviewed and given a corporate orientation all via telephone.)
“The more houses you do, it goes up,” Buchanan says. “Every 28 days, they rate you. After the first 10 houses, if you get a good rating, you go into another bracket. If you clean 25 houses in 28 days, you can go up to $22 an hour.” (Buchanan is expected to buy her own cleaning products after Handy provides her first-time kit.) Twenty-two an hour isn’t too shabby. But Buchanan, who says she’s enjoyed cleaning since childhood, finds that her clients do sometimes strike her as feeling guilty.
“I went into a customer’s home, for example, and when I was cleaning, he was cleaning. Some people just feel bad. It’s not a burden for me. It’s like going to the doctor—look at me as a service.”
Brian Pelisek, 51, who has employed various cleaners from White Marsh-based Total Maid Services for nine years, says he has never felt guilty for having someone come in to clean his 900-square-foot house (he pays $65 per visit, the lowest rate I’ve come across). Nor does he clean ahead of the appointment.
“They wipe down every surface, cabinets, countertops, furniture and shelves,” Pelisek says. “They clean the microwave, sinks, toilets and bathtub. They vacuum and scrub bare floors by hand. They clean ceiling fans and change bed linens. Usually it’s the same three or four people. There’s no interaction beyond cleaning.”
Many more of us don’t find the experience so, well, emotionally neat.
“I think it had been instilled in me by my parents that you don’t hire someone to do something that you can do,” says Steven Hanna, 40, a Los Angelino who rehired his former Merry Maid, Ana, on an independent basis after the local franchise shuttered. He pays $160 per single monthly visit. (He admits to straightening his “slob” space before Ana arrives, which he calls an extra advantage.)
Maybe the ongoing emotionality is the price we’ll always have to pay—in addition to the hourly rate—for getting ourselves spic and span. On my end, if I arm myself nerdily with data on fair wages—and stick around for the appointment and express my gratitude—I’m more OK with the process. If my current pro Belteton ever finds greener (if not cleaner) pastures, I’d feel perfectly good about trying my luck with Handy now that I know their competitive hourly pay rates. I like the idea that I can book a maid (shiver) at a moment’s notice and change employees with the click of a button (and no awkward apology). But I’d probably still insist the new hire take a protein bar on her way out.
When I was a little girl, I fell in love with all these great feminist movies, like “Silkwood” and “The Color Purple.” I’m pretty sure I was the only kid who dressed up as Norma Rae for Halloween in 1979! But “Nine to Five” was my absolute favorite, it was just so smart and subversively funny. Do people still come up and thank you for that movie?
Lily Tomlin: Oh, that’s great! Yes, people still love it. I think the moment I realized it was catching on was the day I got a call from my Aunt Ellie May who was married to a pig farmer in Kentucky. She said, “Well, your Uncle Wallace put on a suit and tie and drove all the way to Paducah last Saturday night to see “Nine to Five.” He laughed so much he said he’s going back again next weekend.”
Way to show ‘em! Did you know “Nine to Five” was magic when you were making it?
You always hope you’re making a meaningful movie. But at the time, I remember they kept editing the film down to the last minute. Everybody’s agents and managers were very nervous and kept asking for changes. The first weekend, I think we came in third. Female-driven movies just didn’t go over well back then…they still don’t. But it caught on big and turned out to be one of the highest grosses of the year.
Have female friendships been important to you in your career?
Wow, I’m thinking back 45 or more years now, I’d say my earliest friendship was with Madeline Kahn. She saw me at the Improv one night and helped me get my first high-visibility [gig]. And, of course, I made a major friendship with my partner, Jane Wagner. The first thing we worked on together was my Edith Ann album.
I saw that you two finally got married after 42 years! Any wisdom you can share for making a relationship last that long?
Golly, I can only think that you have to come to terms with not being in a power struggle, as people in many relationships are.
You have a less harmonious relationship with Jane Fonda in your new Netflix series “Grace & Frankie” [set to release on May 8].
Right. In the show, she’s kind of uptight, very Republican and conservatively dressed. I’m a painter and very Bohemian and much more relaxed and easygoing.
I like you better already.
Our characters have been thrown together, because our husbands [played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston] are partners in a law firm, but we’ve never really gotten along. Then one night, the guys take us to dinner and announce that the two of them have secretly been having an affair for 20 years. They’re going to divorce us—and marry each other.
I can’t wait. So is it truth, rumor or fantasy that Dolly Parton might join you two for an episode?
Jane and I would like that. We don’t know whether Dolly should play herself, like she finds us backstage at a concert and we all become friends—or maybe she’ll work at a beauty shop and give us makeovers.
What if she performs the wedding when your ex-husbands get married? [laughs]
Yes, they could be obsessed Dolly Parton fans! Perfect.
I’m familiar with [co-creator] Marta Kauffman’s work from “Friends.” Does this show have a similar tone?
Maybe somewhat similar, but there are episodes that have more drama since we’re in a pretty dramatic situation. Seems like a scenario wrought with humor but also heartache. Yes. In fact, one of the last words I say in the first episode is “heartbroken.”
Being a Netflix show, I’m guessing we can expect some edge, too?
Definitely. It’s so fun for Jane and I to have a new series at this age—and to explore how these women rebuild their lives, find out what’s still viable and embrace what’s in store for them. We really want to honor the situation and keep asking, “Are we getting close enough to the bone?”
Of course, you’ve been doing groundbreaking work since the early days. I’ve read about your 1973 “Lily” special on CBS where you and Richard Pryor performed the “Juke and Opal” skit. Apparently, it blew people’s minds and was never shown on TV again. So what was all the hubbub about a kiss?
At the end of my specials, I used to thank all my guests with a kiss. Well, on the day of the show, the network sent down word for me not to kiss Richard.
[groan] I hate that. But you did it anyway?
I did. Of course! How embarrassing for them, right? I was really mad; it was just insane.
It’s interesting how perceptions of what’s “shocking” change over time. What did it feel like to do something so controversial back then? Lots of your work must have taken courage.
Sure. But in some ways it didn’t even feel like a choice. Certain things just seemed correct, inevitable. I just so believed in my sensibility—the way I saw the world—and my sensibility just happened to be a little ahead [of some other people’s] at the time. I didn’t see any other option but to stay true to myself.
Plus, you kept people laughing the whole time.
Yes, that’s the best part!
See Lily Tomlin at “Night of the Stars” at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation on Thursday, May 7, at 8 p.m. Tickets, $65-$200. bhcong.org
I had made plans.
In early February, STYLE magazine asked me to embark on an experiment: Spend 48 hours, an entire weekend, totally disconnected—no Internet, no laptop, no phone, no texting, no television, no device of any kind with a backlit electronic display. What might I discover, the editor wondered, if a technology journalist spent a weekend not distracted by technology?
For reference, this is antithetical to how I live my life now. While I don’t have Facebook installed on my phone any more (gave that up a few years ago) and I don’t use Instagram, I am a freelance writer, so I’m constantly connected to my work and email either through my laptop or phone. I type words for remuneration. I bookend my days with Twitter. I carry my phone into the bathroom. What I’ve found over the last year is that I’ve become increasingly groggy, twitchy and agitated by small things. If a website doesn’t load quickly enough, for instance, I grab hold of my laptop screen and start shaking it. I fight with my devices, which would be a mildly humorous scene if not for the fact that I sometimes find myself verbally scolding inanimate objects.
Think about your own usage, for a moment. Do you Instagram your meals when you’re out with friends? Do you record video at concerts, taking in the performance behind a tiny screen? Do you swipe Tinder faces at the O’s game?(Yep…Nope…He’s Out!) Or maybe you spend more time taking pictures of your kids playing than actually playing with them?
Our inability to separate from our devices is only growing. Consider numbers mobile analytics firm Flurry released in March 2014. The average smartphone consumer opens up apps 10 times a day, but mobile “super users” open apps 16 to 60 times a day, and mobile addicts open apps at least 60 times a day. Worldwide, Flurry concluded, there are 440 million super users and 176 million mobile addicts—totals that grew 55 percent and 123 percent, respectively, over the course of one year. And these figures cut across age ranges. Teenagers, college students and middle-aged people between 35 and 54 are becoming more and more intimate with their Internet-connected phones.
Studies over the years have begun delving into the effects of this sort of technological devotion. A study published in February in the Academy of Management Journal found that people become more irritable if they answer emails after the workday is done. “People who were part of the study reported they became angry when they received a work email or text after they had gone home and that communication was negatively worded or required a lot of the person’s time,” said the study’s lead author Marcus Butts. An associate professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, Butts surveyed 341 working adults over a weeklong period and found—counter-intuitively, one would think—that “people who tried to separate work from their personal life experienced more work-life interference.”
Another study, this one published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing in 2013, indicated that college students who might be classified as addicted to the Internet display similar traits: neuroticism, psychoticism (being aloof, anti-social or even aggressive), and greater “life stress.” And new studies examining the effects of electronic device use on sleep demonstrate that lack of sleep induced by hours spent staring at tiny, illuminated screens is biological, not psychological, in nature: A paper published last December in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that participants who spent four hours before bed reading on an iPad took longer to fall asleep and slept less deeply, specifically because they
generated lower amounts of the hormone melatonin, the production of which increases in the evening and helps you nod off.
Companies are popping up all over the globe to offer respite from (and make money off of) our thumb-tapping, cyber-addicted ways. Camp Grounded in Mendocino, Calif., promises four days of digital detox and activities designed to pull adults away from their precious Internet: Yoga! Archery! Non-violent Communication! Creative writing…on a typewriter! All that and more, including sustainable/allergy-friendly meals, accommodations (read: bunk) and live music, can be yours for between $445 and $645, depending on when you book. You could buy three iPad Minis for that amount of money, which prompts the inevitable question: Why the hell don’t we just unplug from our devices?
Maybe it’s because we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves.
So before I embarked on STYLE’s assignment, I planned out my weekend, trying to ensure that I wouldn’t succumb to the Internet. On Friday night I tucked my iPhone away on a bookshelf.
Saturday started out triumphantly enough: I awoke without my alarm, and during my scheduled 11 a.m. haircut, I drank a local microbrew as I boasted to my barber I was getting paid to not check email or my phone. When I returned home I did the laundry. I made it 75 more pages through a James K. Polk biography. Later that day it started snowing and, after several inches covered the sidewalk, I went outside to shovel. This is going well, I thought.
It’s cliché to say, but I really did feel as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The world wasn’t as foggy as I had remembered it. And then I started getting anxious. I tried reading again, but couldn’t make it more than a couple of pages before I put the book down and impulsively reached for an iPhone that wasn’t there. Eventually I found myself lying on the couch, aimlessly, just staring at the ceiling.
This wasn’t the first time a journalist was dispatched to live Internet-free for any period of time and then write about the aftermath. In the last couple years, Paul Miller and David Roberts each spent a full year offline. (Miller, formerly of tech news website The Verge, in 2013; and Roberts, still a reporter for environmental news website Grist, in 2014.) The general premise in all these experiments is roughly the same—that by going off-line, one is more mindful of and connected to the actual world, not some digital parallel universe, and better off for it. By eschewing the immediacy of the Internet, we free ourselves from what researcher Linda Stone calls continuous partial attention: paying a little bit of attention to a variety of things without interruption. “I was never completely where I was, never entirely doing what I was doing,” wrote Roberts of his 24/7 online lifestyle—and yearlong disconnect—for Outside last November. “I always had one eye on the virtual world.”
“The thing about the Internet is you grab whatever you want whenever you want it, and that’s just not good for our monkey mind,” says Christopher Mims, the personal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal. Mims, however, is the exception to the rule: He doesn’t have an Internet connection at his home in Bolton Hill, a consequence of living in a top-floor apartment cut into an old rowhouse where running wires for broadband access was complicated enough to the point of being impractical. He does have a wireless hot spot available, since he files columns over the weekend, plus a smartphone at his disposal. “But I’m still peering at this tiny screen and I feel like an idiot,” he says.
And there’s the rub. More and more I’ve come to feel increasingly stupid for being unable to break my habit of trying to be connected during every waking moment, an impulse that has thrown off my focus—on both work and life—innumerable times. Although I try to cut off my Internet consumption once the workday ends, there’s always one more email to answer, or one more tweet to read. For Christ’s sake, my phone follows me into the bedroom by default: It’s my alarm clock. (Wonder how many marriages suffer from that alone?)
I couldn’t even make it through a rather meager, limited experiment to live Internet-free for a weekend. Truth be told, I piddled around on Twitter late Friday afternoon, so I didn’t finish a weekly tech column I publish for Philadelphia City Paper every Monday, and so I had to get online Sunday afternoon. Guess I didn’t fully prepare for this experiment after all.
The previous night, however, determined to thrust myself into a public setting without an iPhone as a companion, I walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. I found a stool at the center of the bar, ordered a stout and a cheeseburger, and sat there alone. I felt weird and friendless, as if losing the opportunity to check Twitter was keeping me away from a joke, or a story, or an event the rest of the world was in on, even though I knew that wasn’t true. To my left and right were two groups of people—as well as two televisions, suspended from the corners. I tried not to cheat. I tried to keep my eyes facing forward. I wound up watching a college basketball game.
When it went to commercial, there was a telecommunications company shilling the reach of its wireless network. A family on a camping trip was using a small projector to watch a movie against the lining of their tent. Pretty cool—until you realize what they’re missing. Outside of that tent is a seemingly endless patchwork of stars aglow in a brilliant night sky. (And, of course, a giant corporate logo. How fitting.)
Since my weekend foray into living a disconnected life, I’ve tried to make small adjustments. Instead of scrolling through Twitter while lying in bed, I set my alarm before I walk into the bedroom and then place my phone on the floor. I keep my phone in the pocket of my jacket while out at a bar, whether I’m with anyone or not. I’m still yelling at the computer screen. But I’m hoping small adjustments over time will eventually lead me to where I need to be—that moment when the clock strikes 5, my laptop screen closes, and I just turn off my phone.
Some of the best aspects of modern living are simple innovations on a classic. Your grandmother’s armchair reupholstered to match your décor, an antique suitcase reimagined into a side table. Cocktails have a similar life cycle. Here’s an update on your dad’s Blood and Sand cocktail, named after Rudolph Valentino’s 1922 bullfighter film by the same name.
Blood & Sand
¾ oz Sailor Jerry rum
¾ oz Combier rouge cherry liqueur
¾ oz sweet vermouth
¾ oz fresh-squeezed orange juice
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake well for 10 seconds, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice and garnish with an orange zest.
Katie Boyts likes to peek into the Dooby’s dining room from the kitchen to watch people eating her baked goods. “It’s such a treat for me,” says Boyts, who also follows her goodies on Instagram under #doobysbreadclub. Here, patrons post photos of their BLTs and brunches. Dooby’s Bread Club was born last year when Boyts realized that customers wanted to buy her fresh-baked loaves to take home. “I didn’t have time to do retail every day,” she says. So Dooby’s started what she calls a “bread CSA.” For $35 a month you get four weeks of bread (one loaf per week), plus “a little accouterment.” The weekly add-ons might include a jar of apple citrus spice jam, roasted garlic olive oil or herbed butter. “Sometimes we throw in some cookies,” Boyts says. The choices generally follow a cycle, with sourdough, focaccia and par-baked baguettes upended by “a wild card.” That may be burger rolls in the summer or challah and hot cross buns during the spring holidays. “It’s funny how bread brings this happiness to people. It keeps me excited about the craft,” she adds. 802 N. Charles St., 410-609-3162, doobyscoffee.com —Martha Thomas
A ‘Seabiscuity’ Brew
In 1979, a year after Affirmed became the last thoroughbred to win the Triple Crown, the Mt. Washington Tavern began an acclaimed run of its own down the hill from the home of the Preakness. Rather than simply having a few beers to celebrate their recent 35th birthday, the bar owners decided to create one: Old Hilltop Amber Lager. Named to honor Pimlico’s original clubhouse and the Tavern’s ties to the track, this smoothly sessionable and mildly malty—one might say Seabiscuity—lager was developed by Heavy Seas’ Hugh Sisson and Joe Gold in conjunction with the Tavern’s owners. They then went the extra furlong and commissioned a one-of-a-kind tap handle for the beer’s permanent spot in the establishment’s otherwise rotating stable of brews. Southeast Baltimore woodcarver Mark Supik—creator of tap handles nationwide—crafted a custom wood base for a cast metal horse created by yet another artisan associate of the Tavern. “We spent months visiting both the brewery and the woodshop to get everything just right,” says co-owner Rob Frisch. Local institution, local brewer, local artist—now that’s the trifecta. 5700 Newbury St., 410-367-6903, mtwashingtontavern.com —Mark Tough
When Shake Shack opened in the Inner Harbor in February, folks lined up in frigid winds and impend- ing snow for the chance to, well, sip a frosty milkshake. If nothing else, this proves that Baltimoreans are as food-obsessed as anyone in Brooklyn or Portland. For their second annual Emporiyum Food Market on April 18 and 19, Mindy Schapiro and Sue-Jean Chun have invited some 75 food vendors and artisans—half local, half from places like Boston, L.A., Charleston and Brooklyn—to offer their wares at the H & S Bakery Distribution Center.
Last year’s Emporiyum, at half the size, was a sellout. Look for gourmet cotton candy from Sky Candy of Orlando, kale-scented candles from Produce Candles in Charleston and Pernicious Pickles from Costa Mesa, Calif. Many of Baltimore’s small-batch stars also will make an appearance, including Haute Mess rubs and seasonings, Hex Ferments, Pure Chocolate by Jinji , along with small bites from restaurants like Fleet Street Kitchen, the Corner Pantry and yes, Shake Shack. Tickets, $15-$40. 600 S. Eden St. (corner of S. Central and Fleet) theemporiyum.com —Martha Thomas
Use Your Noodle
Brian and Larry Leonardi have found their sweet spot in Firenze, their new Reisterstown restaurant designed by Brian Thim of Rita St. Clair Associates. The menu ranges from fresh pasta and panini to meatball sliders, veal piccata and a 100-bottle wine list. Back in the day, the Leonardi brothers (along with sister Suzy Maria) ran two grab ‘n’ go pasta shops for Casa di Pasta, a small wholesale noodle factory in Little Italy with a storefront on Albemarle.
Firenze, too, is a family affair. Brian handles operations while Larry helms the kitchen. On a recent visit, Larry’s wife, Kelly, stood over the pasta extruder coaxing out fresh ribbons of fettuccine and twisted commas of gemelli while their 21-year-old son, Zachary (about to graduate from a local culinary program), oversaw the cooks. Even the elder generation is involved. “When we first opened, my 75-year-old father was in here washing dishes,” says Larry. 2 Hanover Road, Reisterstown, 410-394-5577 eatfirenze.com –Martha Thomas
Unlike the rest of us who tend to go directly from point A to point B with the aid of a GPS, when artist Sara VanDerBeek navigates a city she’s “looking at different surfaces, textures, light and shapes” to wind her way through the urban landscape. That aesthetic plays heavily into “Front Room,” the former Mount Vernon resident’s first hometown exhibit since moving to New York in 1994 to attend Cooper Union college, where she studied using an interdisciplinary palette of film, photography and sculpture.
Opening April 12 at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the installation juxtaposes imagery of dancers, urban details of Baltimore and features a central six-piece sculpture, abstractly fashioned after the marble steps so ubiquitous on the streets of Charm City. VanDerBeek hopes moving through the environment will encourage visitors to “think about the power of observation” as they move throughout their daily lives.
Immersing herself in the BMA archives, particularly the Cone sisters’ Matisse assemblage, this work also is inspired by the details she noted and photographed during regular visits to the museum during the last two years.
VanDerBeek, 38, said coming back to Baltimore was an “interesting dynamic to come up against places that I recognize, but some others like I was returning to them in a dream.” So “Front Room” is “a lot about memory…but also about change, and the movement of time—how your memory can shift and evolve as you move forward in life.”
Learn more at artbma.org
We’re not letting April showers deter us from celebrating spring in style. And what better way to celebrate than by attending The Manor Conservancy’s annual Calcutta and Farm-to-Table fundraising dinner?
This year, the local tradition will take place April 10 at 6 p.m., at the Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton. Ladew will also host My Lady’s Manor Steeplechase Races the next day (another seasonal Maryland tradition we love).
While the menu options for the dinner are already making us salivate—highlights include local artisan goat cheese from Charlottetown Farm, wild mushroom ravioli and assorted cupcakes—the real treat of the night will be a painting by artist Meg Page.
The Conservancy will auction off a beautiful, botanical portrait of My Lady’s Manor Iris, a stunning hybrid iris that was created by Philip Remare to celebrate the tercentennial of My Lady’s Manor.
A renowned local artist, Page has painted nature-themed works inspired by places she’s visited, including the Ladew Gardens, Maryland Hunt Country, the Florida Keys and more.
Founded in 1993, The Manor Conservancy is a tax-exempt conservation land trust focused on preserving the rural character of the Manor Area. Ticket packages for the dinner are available for members, new members and non-member guests at themanorconservancy.org.
If your idea of a pizza party is a nightmarish afternoon spent at Chuck E. Cheese, trapped between a horde of sticky children and a gaggle of cranky parents, then get ready for a reboot. My version is a bit more sophisticated and modern—and it’s for adults only. (And no, I don’t mean that kind of adult party.)
I’ve added some fun and flavorful twists to the “stuff on carbs” paradigm that will appeal to a more grown-up palate. White pizza, for example, is often a rather bland and boring affair. Not so my white and green pizza. The garlic beans and gruyere combine to give it flavorful depth, topped off with delicate baby kale and fragrant sage. The mini muffaletta pizzas, meanwhile, are a reimagined version of one of my favorite sandwiches on the planet: the Mammoth Muffaletta at Central Grocery in New Orleans.
Zapiekanka is a popular Polish street food, and I’ve stayed pretty traditional with my version, only substituting barbecue sauce for the more standard ketchup. The ingredient combination might sound a bit strange at first—sautéed mushrooms, smoked sausage, cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce on French bread—but trust me, it’s popular for a very good reason.
Finally, the langos is my re-creation of a dish I enjoyed in Budapest’s Central Market Hall. The potato-based dough is deep fried in lard (though you can substitute vegetable oil), and topped with a very pungent combination of sour cream, Emmental cheese and raw red onion. One word of advice: You might not want to include this one at a pizza party for singles.
makes 4 langos
For the dough:
½ cup milk
2½ teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups of potato, boiled, peeled, mashed and cooled
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
¾ teaspoon salt
Enough high smoke point oil (such as canola) or lard for frying (enough to fill your skillet to a depth of 1 inch)
Toppings: (divided among the 4 langos)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup grated Emmental cheese
½ red onion, very thinly sliced
Warm the milk to about 100 F. and mix with the yeast and sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes. Mix the flour with the potatoes, oil and salt. Add the milk mixture and knead for 10 minutes. Place in a bowl and cover; let rise 1 hour. Punch down the dough, divide into 4 equal portions and form them into uniform balls. Let them rest for 20 minutes, covered, on a floured surface. In a deep-sided skillet, heat about 1 inch of oil at 350 F. Rather than roll out the dough, pick it up and gently pull it out into a circular shape (it’s OK if a few tiny holes appear in the dough). Next, gently lay the dough in the hot oil, and press the middle down with a spatula. This is important to ensure that the middle cooks properly. (You may want to wear an oven mitt to avoid oil burns.) Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove and drain on a rack lined with paper towels. Divide the sour cream among the langos, followed by the cheese and onions. Eat while still warm or at room temperature.
Mini Muffaletta Pizzas
2 ciabatta rolls, split in half
½ cup of a good olive salad,
such as Boscoli’s
2 slices Mortadella, chopped
8 slices Genoa or Calabrese salami, chopped
½ cup shredded provolone
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Evenly divide the olive salad among the 4 rolls, followed by the Mortadella, salami and cheese. Bake until the cheese melts, 9-11 minutes.
2 8-inch slices French bread,
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
½ medium white onion, chopped
10 ounces white mushrooms,
stems removed, sliced
Dash of salt
2 links of smoked sausage (or
approximately ½ of a rope
of kielbasa), cut into ¼ inch coins
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
Drizzle of barbecue sauce
Preheat the oven to 425 F. In a skillet over medium heat, saute the onions in the butter or olive oil until translucent. Add the mushrooms and a dash of salt and cook until soft and the moisture they release has evaporated. Evenly divide the cooked mushrooms among the 4 French bread slices. On top of this, evenly distribute the sausage coins, followed by the cheese. Bake until the cheese melts, 8-10 minutes. Top each slice with a squiggle of barbecue sauce.
White and Green Pizza
1 12-inch pizza shell (I like the rustic ciabatta from Trader Joe’s)
8 ounces ricotta
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ 14-ounce can white beans (such as cannellini or Great Northern), drained
¾ cup shredded gruyere cheese
Handful of baby kale
4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Spread the ricotta on the pizza crust. Add the garlic slices, followed by the beans, gruyere, kale and sage. Lightly drizzle olive oil over the pizza and bake for 10-12 minutes on a preheated pizza stone or tin until the cheese is bubbling. Top with salt and white pepper to taste.
Let’s not kid ourselves—we all have a touch of hipster inside that wants to make something nostalgic cool again. Enter the USB Typewriter, which pairs antique typewriters with iPads, laptops, desktop PCs and smartphones, so you can unleash your inner Hemingway, Stein or Kerouac in the 21st century. The company was founded by professional hacker Jack Zylkin, after he rescued an old Royal typewriter on the side of the road. His company has retrieved almost 1,000 once-obsolete typewriters from garages and attics and transformed them into laptop keyboards and tablet dockets. If you’re fascinated by the idea but not inclined to actually purchase a typewriter, the online store also sells USB conversion kits for those looking to put their stowed-away antiques to creative use. Because who wouldn’t want to hear those old-fashioned taps and dings while writing the next great American novel? Conversion kits, $99. Typewriters, $700-$1,000. usbtypewriter.com
With the ability to sync with any Bluetooth-enabled device, Stellé Audio’s new Mini-Clutch Speaker is the world’s prettiest way to party incognito. Available in silver, navy and gold and this “Blue Love” pattern, the chain-strapped little number plays music through a 2.0 stereo system that projects sound in 360 degrees—and doubles as a speakerphone (and charger), so you could have a clutch conference call with your boss then seamlessly transition into a full-fledged office dance party in minutes. Is it just us, or does this modern-day boombox make you want to go all John Cusack in “Say Anything”? We thought so. $149-$199, stelleaudio.com
Annapolis natives and Tessemae’s founders Brian (airborne), Greg (left) and Matt Vetter.
Want to know the secret recipe for creating a successful salad dressing business from scratch? One: Have a mother who makes delicious, homemade salad dressing. Two: Expand on the mother’s recipe to develop products with clean ingredients that are sugar-free, gluten-free and vegan friendly. And three: Make sure it’s run by three outgoing, handsome and business-savvy lax bros.
These factors are part of what make Tessemae’s All Natural the top-selling refrigerated salad dressing brand at Whole Foods and Safeway. Founded by Annapolis natives Greg, 31, Brian, 29, and Matt, 27, Vetter, the company now sells 12 unique dressing flavors, including the original favorite Lemon Garlic, Cracked Pepper, Lemon Chesapeake and Zesty Ranch, and various condiments and spreads such as Slow Roasted Garlic Spread and Chesapeake Mayonnaise. (Also available at Costco and Harris Teeter.)
Predicting $25 million in sales this year, it’s almost unbelievable that Tessemae’s—named after their mom, Teresa—formed because one of Greg’s friends stole a two-liter bottle of his mom’s lemon garlic dressing out of the fridge. “If a man is going to steal another man’s salad dressing, then I’m going to bottle it,” says Greg with a laugh. “I called my mom and said, ‘If I get us into Whole Foods, will you go into business with me?’ She said that would never happen.”
Greg wasn’t deterred. While the Annapolis Whole Foods was still under construction, the Washington College grad cold-called the grocery store’s team leader, Keith Spriggs—and walked in with nothing but a Tupperware container of romaine lettuce covered in the dressing, which got a rave review. Spriggs referred him to the produce coordinator of the Mid-Atlantic region who gave him the go-ahead to start production on a big order.
“I basically had to Google how to become a food manufacturer,” says Greg, who recruited his brothers, who were Towson University students at the time, to help out. The first time the three brothers whipped up a batch together was in the kitchen of a rib joint after hours—it amounted to four cases worth of salad dressing. After some practice, the product made it to the shelves in time for the Annapolis store’s grand opening on May 5, 2009, and set a national sales record for Whole Foods, selling 55 cases of lemon garlic dressing in one store over five days. Despite the initial success, Greg says the company floundered in the first year, as he was doing it part-time and there was no management. A year after Brian graduated with a communications degree, he came on board to become the first full-time employee, carrying out day-to-day tasks to make sure the company grew.
They came up with a plan to grow the company 20 percent a month for six months. To do this, Greg says the basics of the plan involved getting into additional stores, increasing the number of bottles sold in those stores and then introducing new products. It was a “do whatever it takes to not get kicked out” strategy, he says. Soon after, the product skyrocketed to become a top-seller in Whole Foods for the Mid-Atlantic region—and ultimately enabled Tessemae’s to become a global vendor, with products soon to be sold in Target, Fresh Market, H-E-B in Texas, Roundy’s in the Midwest and Whole Foods Canada.
“It’s crazy, but our Achilles’ heel is that we sell too much in comparison to our competition,” Brian says. “We’re always sold out and they’re always in stock. Our goal now with Whole Foods is to always be in stock and have a beautiful set of dressings that’s always there.”
As far as the roles they play in the company, the brothers joke that their official titles are “oldest” (Greg), “middle” (Brian) and “youngest” (Matt), but they are professionally known as CEO, chief of sales and business development and vice president of product life cycle/super chef, respectively. The trio employs 150 full-time and part-time workers in the company’s new Essex-based headquarters, a 36,000-square-foot manufacturing factory dubbed “The Tree Fort.”
“We call it ‘The Tree Fort’ because as kids, that’s where we’d go to plot the next great adventure, to scheme a sneak attack or to simply run wild,” Greg says. “It’s a place where anything is possible.”
The Fort is also where new products come to fruition. Along with the recent French and Italian additions, Matt says coconut milk-based Caesar and ranch dressings will be added to the new “traditional classics” line. But note: No new flavors go on the market without Mom’s approval.
“She’s our official taste-tester,” says Greg. “Before we release any product, we let her try it and she tells us whether it’s awesome or not.” (The brothers launched Poppy Seed Grapefruit and Oil-Free Italian, which Teresa didn’t like —and they both flopped.)
“We used to ignore some of her advice and we were wrong,” adds Matt. “Now we listen. Mother always knows best.”
1. Change your mani in the Uber with Ciate’s tiny Choc Pot polish remover that smells like orange and chocolate. $8, Bloomingdale’s.
2. Get “Kiss Cam” ready with Clarins Lip Comfort Oil, a triple player that plumps, softens and adds subtle shine. $23, Macy’s.
3. Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics’ long-lasting “Beta” nail lacquer goes into overtime. $10, Sephora.
Main Event: Wayward Witches
For those who still haven’t seen Gregory Maguire’s revisioning of literature’s two most extraordinary witches come to life in the stage adaptation (I’m guilty), now is your chance. One of the longest-running and most popular musicals of all time, the national tour of Wicked—produced by Pikesville native Marc Platt—has landed at the Hippodrome for a monthlong run, bringing with it Joe Mantello’s direction and Stephen Schwartz’s soaring musical numbers, including show tune staples “Defying Gravity” and “For Good.” This time around, Alyssa Fox goes green as the intelligent and misunderstood Elphaba, while Carrie St. Louis portrays her polar opposite, the popular and gorgeous Glinda. The show’s depiction of the two iconic “Wizard of Oz” characters’ unlikely friendship, quarrels and evolutions into Glinda the Good and the much-maligned Wicked Witch of the West is a fascinating and timeless before-and-after tale, sparked by Dorothy’s unforgettable entrance into the Land of Oz. April 1-April 26. Tickets, $43-$220. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com —Ian Zelaya
You betta werk! RuPaul, Dame Edna and Charm City’s late Divine are just a few famous drag queens on display in Ron Anthony’s All Dressed Up, a series of colorful, oil-based marker drawings and paintings that honor a diverse group of cross-dressing male entertainers—and addresses how they’ve influenced today’s high-heeled up-and-comers. Through April 25, at Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower. Free. 443-874-3596, bromoseltzertower.com —I.Z.
Signed, Sealed, Stevie
We just called to say…Stevie Wonder is coming to Baltimore! Catch Motown’s most soulful pop legend on his Songs In the Key of Life tour. With more than 30 top 10 U.S. hits and 25 Grammys to boot, the “Superstition” singer can groove like no other. Grab the sunshine of your life and dance the night away. April 9, at the Royal Farms Arena. Tickets $58-$1,000. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com —Shelby Offutt
Known for his award-winning essays and short stories that are defined by his self-deprecating wit, David Sedaris’ words on paper may be even more hilarious when he says them aloud. Whether he’s giving us an autobiographical account of finding a pornographic book as a child or describing animals in adult situations, we’re ready to laugh and feel a little uncomfortable. April 7, at the Meyerhoff. Tickets, $45-$60. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com —I.Z.
Come On Down!
The Price Is Right Live is “big-wheeling” its way on the local scene. Come prepared to play a mean game of Plinko (our favorite!) and win prizes like appliances, vacations or maybe even a brand-new-car! Drew Carey, eat your heart out. April 21, at the Lyric. Tickets, $35-$65. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com —S.O.
Love’s Great Tragedy
We’ve all had that one steamy romance that just didn’t meet our family’s approval. Its inevitable end was sad, but (hopefully) not as devastating as Romeo and Juliet. With feuding families, passionate midnight rendezvous and sword fights—all set to iambic pentameter—one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies is always a must- see. April 10-May 10, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Tickets, $15-$48. 410-244-8570, chesapeakeshakespeare.com —S.O.
Save The Birds
Lights Out Baltimore is collaborating with 17 artists to bring awareness of the dangers migratory birds face while traveling through the city. In Unfriendly Skies: Birds, Buildings, and Collisions, artist exhibitions will explore how a fatal combination of light pollution and glass is to blame for thousands of bird deaths in Baltimore every year. March 31-May 3, at Goucher College’s Silber Art Gallery. Free. 410-337-6477, goucher.edu —S.O.
A Man Like Any Other
The Maryland Ensemble Theatre depicts the difficult life of Joseph Merrick, whose severe—and unsettling—deformities made his existence amid 19th-century London society an extreme struggle. While this run of The Elephant Man doesn’t feature a scantily clad Bradley Cooper, this carefully crafted ensemble is sure to be affecting. April 10-May 3. $6-$25, 301-694-4744, marylandensemble.org —S.O.
A band that has had almost as many members as its name suggests, 10,000 Maniacs was one of the pioneers of the alternative rock we hear on the radio today. With 34 years of performing under its belt, the six-person band led by Mary Ramsey shows no sign of slowing its roll. April 4, at Rams Head On Stage. Tickets, $52. 410-268-4545, ticketfly.com —I.Z.
Break out your worn leather, dystopian armor, chains, fauxhawks and whatever else you need to survive the apocalypse for this year’s “Mad Max”-themed Marquee Ball—just in time for next month’s Tom Hardy-helmed “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Event features a dance party with the ever-charming Bosley, a performance by the Baltimore Rock Opera Society and a curated silent art auction. April 18, at the Creative Alliance. Tickets, $30-$90. 410-276- 1651, creativealliance.org —I.Z.
If you’re a fan of the Oscar-nominated flick “Boyhood,” check out the selected works of London-based photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten, whose surrealistic and dreamlike photo project depicting teenage girls’ transformation into adulthood spans eight years. Through April 18, at Randall Scott Projects. Free. 410-617-0091, randallscottprojects.com —I.Z.
For Baltimore School for the Arts’ multidisciplinary festival, Imagined Worlds, alumnae Nadia Sirota and Katherine Helen Fisher teamed up with composer Marcos Balter and art director David Title to create “Codex,” a 20-minute presentation inspired by Italian artist Luigi Serafini’s cult classic, “Codex Seraphinianus”—featuring orchestral and vocal music, dance and 3-D projection mapping. April 17-18. Tickets, $10-$15. 443-642-5167, bsfa.org —I.Z.
What served as a searing commentary on 19th-century morality, Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts centers on orphanage owner Mrs. Alving, whose late husband’s sins come back to haunt her when her estranged, terminally ill son reappears in her life. April 1-May 3, at Everyman Theatre. Tickets, $34-$60. 410-752-2208, everymantheatre.org —I.Z.
Like A Rolling Stone
Love him or loathe him, it can’t be denied that Bob Dylan’s timeless folk-rock anthems have been massively influential to music since his legendary start playing clubs in Greenwich Village. While we hope for classics like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” the 73-year-old icon also will play numbers from his 36th studio album, “Shadows in the Night,” which features covers of pop standards made famous by Frank Sinatra. April 11, at the Lyric. Tickets, $65-$145. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com —I.Z.
In Your Head
Stoop Storytelling’s Unquiet Minds presents emotive tales on the themes of mental health and mental illness. Preceded with live music by Baltimore folk duo Naked Blue. April 6, at Center Stage. Tickets, $20. 410-332-0033, stoopstorytelling.com —I.Z.
Up Close And Personal
Whether it’s a colorful close-up of a parking meter or hat-heavy fashion shots, the photography of Charles Jacobs is always captivating. The NYC native’s work is on display at Renaissance Fine Arts’ latest exhibition, Sidebar: A Series Of Observations. April 10-18, at Village of Cross Keys. Free. 410-484-8900, renaissancefinearts.com —I.Z.
Part of MICA’s annual Week of Fashion, MEDIUMRARE: An Experimental Fashion Event featuring more than 250 designers, models and performers—aims to push the boundaries of fashion and art, with individually crafted garment-based works that merge runway, stage and gallery. April 18, at Lithuanian Hall. Tickets, $7-$12. 410-669-9200, mica.edu —I.Z.
Beam Me Up
One of two galleries in the country representing the work of Sergio Sister, Goya Contemporary’s new exhibition features the Brazilian artist’s signature style of work—making Color Field painting three-dimensional by arranging wooden beams to create multicolor sculptural paintings. Through May 2. Free. 410-366-2001, goyacontemporary.com —I.Z.
Time To Jam
Since 1986, the Georgia-based jam band Widespread Panic—which earned its name from co-founder Michael Houser’s panic attacks—has been compared to the Grateful Dead and Phish because of its propensity for outstanding live performances. April 26, at Pier Six Pavilion. Tickets, $52. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com —I.Z.
Deep Vision Dance Company presents performances that embody the flux of human desire. The works highlight the choreography of artistic director Nicole A. Martinell, with Baltimore-based collaborators including Jamahl Abdul and Tim Nohe. April 24-26, at Baltimore Theatre Project. Tickets, $12-$22. 410-752-8558, theatreproject.org —I.Z.
Carbiter, twiticule and spawntourage aren’t real words, but according to Jezebel columnist Lizzie Skurnick, they may as well be since they describe relevant aspects of life in the 21st century. A self-proclaimed word inventor, Skurnick discusses the ins and outs of crafting her signature brand of jargon featured in her latest book, “That Should Be a Word.” April 30, at The Ivy Bookshop. Free. 410-377-2966, theivybookshop.com —I.Z.
Call your mother! Neil Diamond is hitting up the Verizon Center. At 74, the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer—responsible for hits like “I’m a Believer”—is on his 2015 world tour. Performing the classics and songs from his latest album “Melody Road,” this show will be a diamond in the rough. April 4. Tickets, $50-$950. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com —S.O.
Years ago, as my toddler nephew stooped to pick up a fallen morsel from the floor, his older brother intervened.
“You can never eat food that falls on the floor!” Peter warned knowingly. Then he added an important caveat: “Except at Aunt Marlene’s house.”
He was referring to my childhood home—a place so legendarily spotless and orderly that a friend joked you could actually locate a lost piece of lint there. Nothing in my mother’s house was ever out of place or (heaven forbid) actually dirty. My four brothers and I weren’t allowed to have so much as a messy drawer. After 50 years, the grout on the bathroom tile gleams as if it were brand new. The garage shelves are tidier than most people’s living rooms.
One of two things can happen when you grow up in a house that exceptionally clean and organized and then are left to your own devices: you can internalize and embrace the order, or you can flat out reject it, running screaming in the other direction. I am sad to report that I fall squarely into the latter category. For the almost 30 years since I left my parents’ house for college, never to return, I have cut an enormously messy swath through life.
It’s a part of me I’m not particularly proud of, one that doesn’t really jibe with my overall solid citizen status. I’ve always been the quintessential rule follower; the rest of my life is not even remotely disorderly. But when it comes to putting away laundry? Filing bills? Organizing the linen closet? That’s not—how shall we say?—my strong suit. Call it my one small form of rebellion. Paging Dr. Freud.
For many years I blamed the problem, as unrepentant messies will do, on my environment. It wasn’t my fault that I was disorganized, you see. It was that the places I lived in couldn’t contain my mess. If I just had the right living environment, I was certain that I would miraculously transform into a latter-day Martha Stewart. Though I started to become suspicious when every home I lived in, even as they grew in size, would inevitably devolve into disorder, I held tight to the fallacy. But then I realized that my car was messy. My purse was messy. My computer desktop was messy. And one day, as I surveyed my cluttered bedroom, I had an epiphany. I thought of my good friend Annie, whose house was always spotless. “This place would be neat if Annie lived here,” I realized dejectedly. So much for that excuse.
I don’t enjoy being messy: I hate myself for it. I’m all too aware of what it costs me. Things in my life disappear with alarming regularity, as if swallowed up by black holes, and I spend inordinate amounts of time looking for them. (First rule of messies club: the last place you look for something is the place where it’s actually supposed to be kept. That is, if there actually is a place it’s supposed to be kept.) It has caused unnecessary tension in my marriage.
The problem only got worse once I had kids, who add a layer of chaos to the lives of even the most orderly moms and dads. So I’ve tried to change. Really, I have. Twice I’ve hired professional organizers to try to rescue me from the Sea of Clutter and land me safely on the Island of Orderliness. But it’s as if I am immune to their charms, their systems. They speak a language that my brain just cannot decode. After 40-plus years of living like this, I’m thinking it’s just the way it’s going to have to be.
Or does it?
This spring marks a major milestone for our family. After 12 years in a cozy Mount Washington cottage, we are renovating a gracious American foursquare a few blocks away. It’s a historic house oozing with character. And space! We’ll actually have a full-fledged mudroom to house the backpacks and baseball gloves and shinguards. The master bedroom will have a roomy walk-in closet. I no longer will have to share a bathroom with my 7-year-old, whose propensity for leaving at least 400 times as much toothpaste in the sink as he actually uses on his teeth is truly a thing of wonder.
I’ve spent the last few months in a state of constant excitement, scrutinizing floor plans and perusing Pinterest, dreaming about how things will be in our lovely new home. There’s something undeniably powerful about feeling good about the place you live, a kind of magical inner calm that comes from having your space work perfectly for your family’s needs. I know I am extraordinarily fortunate to be able to turn this house into exactly what we would like it to be.
And part of that is knowing what I don’t want it to be: messy. I am vowing that when we move to the new house, I’m turning over a new leaf. It’s the end of the line for you, messy self. And this time I mean it. No, really.
Maybe one day my kids will joke that they grew up in a house so clean you could eat off the floors. OK, maybe that’s a little too much to ask for. But a girl can still dream, can’t she?
Jennifer Mendelsohn lives with her husband and their two boys in Mount Washington. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, People, Slate and USA Weekend.
You better believe it, hon. Thrillist recently published an article highlighting 12 of America’s coolest neighborhoods and our very own Hampden was included—alongside Highland Park in Los Angeles and the Alberta Arts District in Portland, Ore. While it’s a no-brainer that Hampden deserves the recognition, here’s STYLE’s take on why it truly is one of the coolest neighborhoods in the country.
Some of the city’s best eats. Be it a winter vegetable pot pie from Woodberry Kitchen, a basket of delicious, thick-cut frites at Le Garage or French toast for dinner at Golden West, whatever you’re craving, Hampden probably has it. And speaking of Golden West, we’re highly anticipating the local favorite’s new late-night and early-morning takeout window—which will offer waffles, chicken stew, breakfast burritos and more.
Eclectic shopping. With one-of-a-kind shops like Trohv, Caravanserai, Ma Petit Shoe and Kiss ‘N’ Make Up (cupcake-flavored toothpaste, anyone?), you can spend all day finding the most unique gifts for friends, family and yourself.
Lights on 34th. One of the city’s biggest attractions, the 67-year-old holiday tradition is always a site for sore eyes. While we’d enjoy some warmer temperatures right now, we secretly can’t wait until December rolls around.
Hipster heaven. Let’s not beat around the bush. If there’s any Baltimore neighborhood known for hot hipsters in coffee shops and book shops (Common Ground and Atomic Books, anybody?), it’s Hampden. Needless to say, we love it. Everyone looks better with a beard and some flannel.
Unapologetic culture. The giant, beehive-hairdo wearing pink flamingo atop Cafe Hon says it all. Hampden full embraces its “Bawlmer” culture, celebrating it with annual festivals including HonFest and Hampdenfest. We already have our leopard-print getups ready.
TO SAY THAT I WAS NERVOUS when I showed up at Reflex Functional Fitness for a 30-minute “Butts + Guts” class that turned out to be a 45-minute “Boxing Plus” class would be an understatement. There I was, eye to eye, with Reese Ashe (Black Belt and four-year NCAA Division I wrestler at Coppin State) who recently ended his 13-year stint as a top trainer at Federal Hill Fitness to open his own no-frills studio in the Southside Shopping Center with his wife (and triathlete/trainer) Amanda Poppleton. But I donned a pair of pink boxing gloves and hit the AstroTurf—not to mention the heavy bags and Ashe, himself, who couldn’t help but smile at my “nice girl” propensity to aim for his gloves instead of his body.
What I loved: After jump ropes and battle ropes, I was losing steam—feeling like I couldn’t push through another round of boxing. Reese cued into my comfort zone (the music: ironically, “Stronger” by Kanye West) and sweetly said, “We’re just dancing,” which helped me pace myself and punch to the beat until I had completed my most challenging workout in weeks. Reese teaches 23 of the weekly classes. (Amanda helms High Intensity Interval Training.) Their philosophy: “We won’t give up on you.” Unlimited classes, $99 to $119/month. Drop-in, $15 to $20. reflexfitbaltimore.com
SHORT PEOPLE. My fave part of working out with my 5-foot-short buddy, Jaime, is the “boost” I have to give her when we belly up to the ballet barre. Listen up, Nugget! There’s a new class in town—courtesy of the sexy, smoothie-swilling stars known as Soul Body (aka Ann Marie Barbour and Stacey Vandiver) whose custom “SB” fitness classes are offered at a growing list of gyms, such as Thomas Moreland Fitness and Merritt Athletic Clubs. Their latest creation: SB Body Barre boasts many of the same muscle-toning, profanity-inducing moves as traditional barre, but it’s performed while holding a 6- or 9-pound “body bar” in your own sweaty little hands. Let’s just say when I tried the class at BeachFit Baltimore, everyone was doing the “modified” version by the end. soulbodyonline.com
If you haven’t been to Sykesville lately, you’re missing Carroll County’s most happening spot. Main Street, charming as ever, is booming with new shops. Savvy lingered at home goods store Revive & Company with its rustic furniture, majestic European wall clocks and Sid Dickens memory blocks; tried on slim silver Aimez birth month cuffs (each adorned with a different flower) at A La Mode, then perused the makeup and tossed a flirty blue scarf over her shoulder at Gypsy Systers.
When Savvy noticed her boots weren’t made for walkin’, she moseyed into the expanded western-themed clothing store Cowboys and Angels, where co-owner Annie Kennedy assured her, “The boots pick the person.” Seeing dozens of styles from Stetson to Tony Lama, all made in the USA, she could well believe it.
Afterward, at Unwined, she tiptoed over boxes of donated wine bottles, which owner Dave Neith expertly cuts to contain his handcrafted candles. He can even custom-make one for you (spring lilacs, anyone?). At that point it was time to sidle up to the elegant English walnut bar at Market Tavern (formerly Salazon Chocolate Co.) and decide whether to have wine or tea with her cheese plate. Craft beer fans, they also sell growlers to go! sykesvillemainstreet.com
Next trip to the farmers market, Savvy will leave the canvas tote at home. Why rely on such a thing when she can carry a glorious hand-woven basket instead? At Charm City Baskets, she has her pick of blond-and-brown Nantucket styles in cane, Eastern Shore carryalls in oak, even smart handbags such as “Joni’s Opera Purse” topped with scrimshaw. Though Savvy has her heart set on an Appalachian Egg Basket ($325). Made in a sensuous saddle shape in rainbow colors, this is one basket she’d be happy to put all her eggs in. Owner and master weaver Kathleen Beauchesne also mounts historical exhibits and teaches classes, which fill up fast. 248 S. Conkling St., Highlandtown, 410-967-3585, basketresearch.org
Sweet! That’s what Savvy exclaimed when she heard Cupcake Boutique was moving from Fells Point to Green Spring Station—solidifying the center as a dream destination for gals looking to find the perfect LBD and other fab frocks (with retailers like Francesca’s Atelier, Panache and Trillium also in the mix). After nine years downtown, spirited store owner Lisa Schatz says she hopes to reconnect with many of her longtime customers who’ve relocated to the county after getting married and starting families. As for the young fashionistas who love Schatz’s well-edited selection of flirty Elliatt blouses, Central Park West sweaters and preppy chic Fornash ponchos, clutches and bracelets? She believes they’ll drive north for great taste. “It’s a short hop up 83, parking is plentiful and free and there are so many other cute places to shop,” she says. 2360 W. Joppa Road, Lutherville, 410-337-5255, cupcake-shop.com
Ditching sweets in preparation for swimsuit season? Then chances are you haven’t dived into Fractured Prune Doughnuts, the beloved Ocean City, Md., franchise that recently set up shop in Towson—with another due in Owings Mills later this year. Not to worry: STYLE’s staff writer took it upon himself to sample a dozen hot-n-fresh flavors off the specialty menu, which boasts 19 glazes and 13 toppings for a colossal 155,648 possible combinations. Here’s what came to mind after each (glorious) bite.
French Toast: The world’s best hangover cure in convenient doughnut form. Ask nicely and owner Valerie Aburn will top it off with extra bacon.
Cookies and Cream: Can they just sell these in bulk? Oreo would surely go out of business.
Morning Buzz: A mocha-glazed victory better than the day that piping-hot barista finally spelled your name right.
O.C. Sand: Who needs sex on the beach when you can just eat this cinnamon-sugary treat? Give us some privacy…
Black Forest: A big bad wolf’s worth of raspberry glaze, chocolate chips AND coconut. [Licks chops.]
Strawberry Shortcake: As sweet and innocent as Lindsay Lohan in “Mean Girls.”
Key Lime Pie: Remember those green lollipops you used to get at the doctor’s office when you were a kid. Say ahhhhh.
Salted Caramel: Like getting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from a retainer-free lifeguard at summer camp.
Carnival: Enough sprinkles to cure any man’s (legitimate) fear of clowns.
Blueberry Hill: I’m blowing up like Violet (from “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”) —and that’s a good thing.
Dulce de Leche: Powdered sugar perfection. All I can picture is Bradley Cooper dancing on a cloud.
S’mores: Like an impromptu camping trip…with Bradley Cooper. Do I have graham cracker crumbs in my goatee?
Fractured Prune Doughnuts. 3 West Chesapeake Ave., Towson.
I don’t play golf. (I was forced to take up the ancient and honorable game as a small boy and it turned me against it forever.) Tennis, anyone? No, thanks. As for messing about in boats, I understand the rudiments of watercraft, but having been before the mast I know that sailing is hard work and expensive and you could always drown. That keeps me ashore.
Spring comes and I am not dreaming of fairways or forecastles. Spring means that I can move out on to my front porch. It will be open for business.
Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House when the Roland Park Corp. or its minions built my house. They made mistakes. The house was not insulated. Without central air conditioning, which I now have, the interior was like a pizza oven in the summer. To compensate for that in a time when air conditioning was inconceivable the builders added a sweeping porch that runs across the whole front of my house and around to the side. It’s a grand porch, like the deck of a ship.
On my porch there is none of the work associated with being under sail. Here I am master and commander, although I occasionally shanghai a deckhand. And all my voyages are in the pleasant land of counterpane. My house sits up away from the street, a full story above the passer-by, an outdoor room that a lazy man may laze away on.
To this indolent purpose I have a roomful of ancient wicker furniture, some belonging to my wife’s late grandmother and dating to before Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House. I keep the wicker in top shape. An old lady who knew about wicker once told me that I had some beauties in my collection, which includes two long couches, ideal for napping—or resting my eyes, as I prefer to call it.
We use the porch to entertain. I can tell you that it is possible to have 34 Frenchmen on a porch this size. I know this because we had a rehearsal dinner for the daughter of a friend who was getting married (they are French) and a large contingent from France showed up. They declared the porch—which looks great under candlelight (don’t we all)—magnifique. It was a perfect late spring evening, warm enough to dine al fresco, but not humid nor threatened by thunderstorms or mosquitoes.
Rain and wind pose none of the problems that a turn in the weather would for a sailor or a golfer limping down the back nine. We remain underway, high and dry, no matter the weather, the roof overhead ample and sheltering.
Saturday mornings my old friends gather on the porch to drink coffee and discuss the vagaries of life in Charm City. We never lack for material. We have solved all of Baltimore’s problems on my porch. Several times.
When we bought this house there was a little birdhouse on the porch hanging from a wire. My wife took it down. (Don’t ask.) I went out and bought a better birdhouse (with a copper roof) and put it up in the same spot and am happy to say that the birds returned. I share this porch with Carolina wrens and starlings, not exotic feathered friends but my friends. A half-dozen huge Boston ferns hang on the porch and every year one bird makes a nest in one of the ferns and lays some eggs. It requires great care to keep the plant watered, but I do not disturb the mother or her eggs. So the porch can be said to have brought out the best in me.
I can use this porch eight months of the year—more than any sloop. I do not have to rent a mooring or slip. Nor do I have to drive any distance to get there. There are no greens fees. No one is asking to play through. As for membership, I am the chairman of the membership committee.
The porch is a powerful symbol in American life. Stories get told on the porch. Gentleman callers show up. When my daughter was young, scruffy teenage swains would come to see her on the porch. At Christmas the porch is draped with fresh greens and lights. At Halloween I put out five carved pumpkins.
Once my porch is open for business I feel obligated to use it. I’ll sit out in a peacoat to drink my coffee if need be. I like to watch the passing scene. It’s an observation deck. I see the neighbors charging off to play golf or tennis. I see the fierce cyclists. Someone is going camping. Yes, I know this is shockingly idle, but an elderly relative in Ireland, who spent his days at the dog track, used to say that it’s a poor town that cannot afford a gentleman of leisure.
What’s an entrepreneur and mom-of-three to do when she wants to drop a little baby weight? Develop her own line of athletic wear, natch. “I’m a fan of lifestyle brands with lots of color, like Trina Turk and Lilly Pulitzer, so I was bored to death wearing black stretch pants every day,” says Devon Mish, the USC grad who co-founded M-Edge—an Odenton-based company specializing in fashionable tech accessories that skyrocketed as soon as the Kindle took off. Her preppy-chic line, Devon Maryn, features workout wear with strategically placed prints that manage to be both playful and flattering. “In other words, I’ll never put some crazy geometric pattern across your entire booty!” she jokes. In addition to these “Stripe Down” running shorts ($55), we love the “Butter Me Up” yoga pants ($85) accented with adorable lobsters. devonmaryn.com
Walkers along the Stony Run Trail in Roland Park always comment on the adjacent gardens and prodigious berm of plantings by the park. Among a series of fine gardens along this section of the trail are two that belong to avid plant collectors, Tanya Jones and Margaret Wright. Jones and Wright live one house apart, each in a 1910 Dutch Colonial duplex known as one of the “railroad houses.”
The houses are so named because the Ma & Pa railroad (Maryland and Pennsylvania) ran parallel to their street until the late 1950s. With the tracks gone, and Stony Run and the park around it refurbished, the area still feels like a piece of countryside within Baltimore City. Wright, Jones and a neighbor in between merge their three front lawns into one large green bordered by low drystone walls and gardens. The three lawns are mowed together and fed and aerated by the same company. This creates a lush, green space at the center of intense planting at either end by Jones and Wright. These two women also share plants, seeds and horticultural information, go together on planting-buying trips and volunteer together at Cylburn Arboretum.
Jones, whose garden is featured here, is a dietitian and emergency room physician assistant. She and her physician husband moved to Roland Park with their two children in 2002—becoming fast friends with Wright and her physicist husband who purchased their home, two doors down, in 1965. (Stay tuned for their fine garden to be featured in the April issue.)
Both women are rabid plant collectors. “Margaret is more artistic than I am,” says Jones. “Her collections are spread throughout her garden. I like to group mine together and see them all lined up.” A licensed nutritionist, Jones focuses on soil composition and preparation for growing success.
“Succession gardening is also what Margaret has taught me—when you have something blooming January to January,” says Jones, who grew up in Portland, Ore., (a city known for its gardens) with a mother who had a green thumb. “Also, if something isn’t working, you move it or get rid of it.” To that end, the two regularly pot up plants they can no longer use and set them out in the berm for others to take.
When Jones, her husband, Bruce, and sons moved from Atlanta to Roland Park, the first order of business was to clear the overgrowth around the house. That included a high euonymus hedge in front with Leyland cypresses, a chain-link fence, dog run and deck in back. “We had major drainage issues,” she says nodding to a steep slope in back and the houses and lane above.
Bruce Jones and his father spent more than three years building a rock wall in front and terracing the back with more low stone walls that still serve as hardscape for the garden and a diversion for a stream that runs around their house when it rains.
“Next, I reconditioned and sifted the soil,” says Jones, adding that soil preparation is much like baking with ingredients like fresh yeast. “As my mother said, ‘You can’t put a $20 plant in two buck soil.’”
Then, in 2006, came the fun. “I like plants,” says Jones in an understatement for one whose alphabetized plant list now is 21, single-spaced typed pages. In her half-acre, densely planted garden thousands of plants ring the house and fill gracefully planted beds in front. Jones specializes in spring blooming bulbs, including many varieties of snowdrops and winter aconites, species daffodils and tulips; unusual dianthus; trilliums, miniature rhododendrons and azaleas, as well as Alpine plants grown in rock gardens and pitcher plants that are carnivorous. Stone troughs are full of these bug-eating plants.
After years of establishing her plant collections a major challenge arose: an old and towering oak tree in the back garden died and a neighbor’s equally large beech had to be removed. The once shady garden became one in full sun. “I quickly learned that growing sun-loving plants is harder than with variable sunlight,” says Jones. “They are a lot more work.” The back garden has now been rearranged to include sun-loving plants with some of the shade-lovers moved to the side and front.
Jones is already at work on her next project: expanding the back patio, making the path beside it wider, thinking about what plants will surround it and adding a walkway to the top. “We have always used the top of the stone walls as paths up into the gardens, but we aren’t always going to be able to do this,” says this vibrant, middle-aged horticulturalist, who finds digging in the earth and being outside in her garden every day, all year, the way she wants to continue to live. “You really experience the seasons this way. It is a nice way to live. You see things grow, there’s always something to look forward to.”
Cheers to mixology guru Ginny Lawhorn for spearheading Baltimore Cocktail Week (March 22-29), when Charm City’s finest bartenders will serve up signature drinks to benefit local charities. Join us on Sunday, March 22, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Pen & Quill, where STYLE’s editor-in-chief will help judge the inaugural cocktail contest. Plus, try making Lawhorn’s crafty concoction below. BaltimoreCocktailWeek.com
2 oz Pig’s Nose Blended Scotch Whisky
.5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
2 oz Fever Tree Spring Club Soda
2 oz Blood Orange Italian Soda
Combine spirits in mixing tin over ice, shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail coupe or in rocks glass over fresh ice. Top with equal parts club soda and Blood Orange soda.
They say moving is the third biggest life stressor. Possibly because it requires dismantling so much IKEA furniture. Jokes aside, I’ve moved a lot. And one year ago, I decided to do it again. It was a vulnerable time when I was conflicted about where I wanted to be. I just knew I needed a place where I could chill out and truly feel at home.
Though I was drooling over all the new top-dollar apartments downtown, I took a chance—answering a Craigslist ad from a woman named Noreen, who had turned her historic Mount Washington mansion into a five-unit residence, including a brand-new 1BR that was modern, chic, adorable and…within a few hours…all mine!
Turns out I was the first person to respond to the ad. And while my friend Deb and I went to Starbucks, Noreen interviewed the second: a doctor she said resembled a young George Clooney. “But I just have a feeling about you,” she said. “I pick you.”
Being a bit overwhelmed back then, I’m not sure I fully articulated how much Noreen’s kindness (which went well beyond the lease) meant to me. Ditto for Deb, who immediately started ordering me a food processor, soda maker, cocktail napkins and other single-girl essentials. (Thank you both for giving me a beautiful new start!) Noreen has since sold the property to a kind man named Stan, a retired dentist who takes great care of me. While communal living has its drawbacks—can we all just agree to clean out the lint filters in the laundry room?—it also has moments of epiphany. Like the summer nights when I come home and hear the musician upstairs playing Billie Holiday on his old school record player, or the time I noticed the following note taped to a cute, hippie couple’s front door: “Were you the person you wished to be in the world today?” (My heart melted.)
I hope you’ll be equally inspired by “The Stream Cleaner” (page 82), Irene Smith, who decided to clean up her life after divorce by collecting more than a year’s worth of trash from the Herring Run. It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself while sorting through what the rest of us leave behind. And I have a major crush on Bryan Voltaggio and his adorable brood in “Family Style.” (page 78). If the “Top Chef” celeb can find work/life balance, surely there’s hope for the rest of us, too.
Designer Charlene Petersen shares fab tips for decorating your home in “Country Chic” (page 72). And green thumbs are certain to envy Tanya Jones’ gorgeous garden (page 64). I love how she orders snowdrops from a nursery in Upstate New York with no phone or website. Just send $3 for a catalog. That seems like a detail our “Back Page” columnist (page 126) Chris Corbett will enjoy. Hopefully he’s reading this issue on his infamous front porch with a nice cup of coffee…or 34 Frenchmen.
Every year about this time I come down with a serious case of wanderlust. I begin to fantasize about various global destinations and the sights, sounds and, most importantly, the foods that I might encounter there. But sometimes fate has not seen fit to dovetail my wanderlust with opportunity, and at such times I turn my thoughts to past destinations and all of the culinary marvels I devoured there.
Hands down, one of my favorite places to revisit in my mind’s eye is Mexico City. The teeming metropolis of nearly 20 million people is an embarrassment of food riches, all to be had for mere pesos. And while some (misguided) guidebooks will steer tourists away from Mexican street food with dire warnings of digestive disaster, I ate my weight in the stuff and lived to tell the tale. Here, I’ve taken a culinary trip back to that amazing city with four of my favorite street foods: tacos, tlacoyos, shrimp cocktail (not always a street food but that’s where I had it) and potato chips with hot sauce.
Cochinita pibil is actually a dish from the Yucatan Peninsula; traditionally a baby pig is buried in a pit, smothered in piquant achiote paste and slow cooked in banana leaves. Don’t worry: I’m not asking you to make a pit in your backyard, but I do ask that you take a trip to a Mexican grocery to pick up some banana leaves and achiote paste. The juicy pork is to-die-for shredded and served in a taco topped with spicy
Tlacoyos are essentially football-shaped, thick tortillas stuffed with beans or meat. Here I’ve stuffed them with refried black beans and topped them off with Mexican crema, radishes and hot sauce.
If you’re used to the wan shrimp cocktail you may remember from your 1970s fine dining experiences, this Mexican coctel de camaron will be a pleasant surprise. It’s spicy, a little soupy and packs a nice kick. And finally, as I learned in Mexico City, if you haven’t been slathering your potato chips in hot sauce, then you’ve been doing it wrong.
Coctel de Camaron (Shrimp Cocktail)
4 - 6 servings
2 cups pico de gallo (I recommend the homemade pico de gallo available at Cinco de Mayo market)
1 cup V8 juice
Juice of 1 lime
1⁄2 cucumber, peeled and chopped
Handful of fresh cilantro, torn
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped,
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 avocado, chopped
1 pound cooked medium (40 count) shrimp, shelled
Combine all of the ingredients except the avocado and shrimp. Add salt and pepper to taste. Gently fold in the shrimp and avocado. Serve in chilled glasses accompanied with tortilla chips.
Cochinita Pibil Tacos with Pickled Onions
makes 8 - 10 tacos
For the cochinita pibil:
1⁄2 cup orange juice
Juice of 2 limes
11⁄2 ounces achiote paste*
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano*
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1⁄2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 pounds cubed pork shoulder
4 banana leaves*
*Available at Mexican groceries, such as Cinco de Mayo [1312 Eastern Ave.]
Whisk together the orange juice, lime juice, achiote paste, apple cider vinegar, oregano, garlic, cinnamon, cumin and salt in a bowl. Add the pork and stir to cover thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 6 hours.
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line the bottom of a Dutch oven with the banana leaves. (The leaves are large, they should hang well over the edges of the Dutch oven.) Pour the pork, along with all of the marinade, into the banana leaf-lined pot, and fold the excess leaves over the pork, tucking in the edges to make a packet. Cook, with the lid on, for 3 hours. Carefully open the banana leaves and shred the pork with 2 forks.
For the pickled onions
1⁄4 cup sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 serrano chile, seeded and chopped
Cilantro and lime for garnish
In a small jar or bowl, mix together the sugar and vinegar. Add the onions and chiles; allow to stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour. To assemble the tacos, place a handful of cochinita pibil on a warm corn tortilla, and top with pickled onions. Garnish with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime.
Papas Fritas (Potato Chips) with Hot Sauce
makes 4 - 6 ounces chips
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes
2 cups lard
La Botanera Hot Sauce (available at Mexican groceries, such as Cinco de Mayo; you can certainly use your favorite sauce but I urge you to try it with La Botanera—it’s muy autentico!)
Slice the potatoes very thin (less than 1⁄8 inch) using a mandoline Heat the lard in a heavy bottom pan, such as a Dutch oven, to 350 F. Fry the potatoes in batches, being careful not to overcrowd them, until light golden. Remove with a mesh strainer, lay on paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt.
To serve, generously douse the chips with hot sauce.
Black Bean Tlacoyos
Makes 4 tlacoyos, with black bean filling left over
For the black bean filling
1⁄2 small red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded
1 14-ounce can refried black beans
1 tablespoon oil or lard
Salt and pepper, to taste
Saute the onion and jalapeno in the oil until soft. Add the black beans, stir to combine and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside while you make the dough.
For the tlacoyos
1 cup masa harina (corn flour),
available at many grocery stores
and Mexican markets
3⁄4 cup water
Stir the corn flour and water together until completely combined. Work the dough for 2-3 minutes until it comes together. If it’s too dry, add more water. Form the dough into a ball and divide into 4 equal portions. Roll each portion between your hands to form smaller dough balls. For each tlacoyo, place 1 dough ball between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Using a cast-iron skillet or other heavy pan, press down firmly on the ball to form a disc, slightly thicker than a tortilla. Place a spoonful of black bean filling in the center of the disc, and gently fold the disc in half, into a half moon shape. Press the edges together and gently press down to flatten the disc into an oblong football shape. Repeat with each dough ball. Fry in a dry nonstick skillet over medium high heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until crispy.
To serve, top with Mexican crema (a sour cream and cream mixture available at Mexican groceries), chopped radish, hot sauce and fresh cilantro.
I’m a sensitive girl. Allergies are my Achilles’ heel. While shopping at Anthropologie, I have to mouth-breathe (so sexy!) because the store’s signature candle gives me a sneezing fit. Your new puppy? Adorable. Until I pet him and swell up like a blowfish. Three sips of the wrong cocktail turns my face fire-engine red. And twice I used body lotion by a famous eco-friendly brand (you know the one) and ended up with a week’s worth of bumps and “itchies” that nearly drove me clinically insane.
After the Rosemary Mint Incident as my (somewhat judgmental) dermatologist calls it, she leveled with me: “Look, you need to give up the fancy products and go fragrance-free on everything, from face wash to fabric softener.” How very…blah.
So I went cold turkey for a year—using only Cetaphil products from face to feet—and it worked! My skin calmed down even in the moisture-sucking months of winter. But I have to admit, my complexion looked as dull as my beauty regimen. And I started freaking out: Without any high-octane TLC, wouldn’t my face end up aging faster than Benjamin Button’s?
So on New Year’s Eve, I took a chance—heading to The Still Point (410-715-3030, thestillpointspa.com) to test-drive a gentle facial peel that could supposedly deliver profound results without angering my dormant epidermis.
Located inside Haven on the Lake (the glorious new 27,000-square-foot wellness mecca in Columbia), Still Point’s third location specializes in massage therapy, integrative medicine and holistic spa services—many of which incorporate the TOMA Skin Therapies line developed by co-owners Tori (“TO”) Paide and Marla (“MA”) Peoples, who met in acupuncture school.
What’s so special? “Well, everything,” says esthetician Kathy Williams, who chooses from 18 different tonics made from wild-crafted essential oils to customize treatments and take-home products to address her clients’ skin care woes. (For me, she picks the Harmonizing Tonic with lavender, ylang-ylang and cape chamomile to reduce inflammation and soothe sensitivity.)
During my 60-minute Rejuvenating Facial ($195), Kathy uses an ultrasonic wand to remove dead skin cells and perform ultra-gentle pore extractions (I don’t squirm once). The Signature Peel—featuring just the right amount of glycolic acid—tingles a bit, but Kathy quickly calms my skin with aloe vera-infused Refining Mist, then applies a luxe mix of seed-oil serums, antioxidant creams, even botanical lip balm.
“I can’t believe I love how these products smell,” I say, explaining that most scents make me “snarfy” (stuffy nose, watery eyes). Kathy surmises that synthetic fragrances may be to blame—noting that TOMA partners with a certified aromatherapist. Bonus: these products contain none of the dirty rotten scoundrels of skin care, like parabens, petroleum, sulphates or GMOs. The only preservative? Honeysuckle extract. And did I mention they’re batch-tested for purity by independent labs? Consider me a convert.
FINAL VERDICT: Before I leave—with dewy, plumped-up skin ready for a night on the town—Kathy gives me a few final tips, like washing my face with cool water to reduce redness, and using my new fave Exfoliating Fruit Scrub #11 (it smells just like a lemon stick) as a purifying mask once a week. And I’m convinced TOMA’s neroli-infused Reverse Luxury Night Oil actually helps me sleep —tomaskintherapies.com
In need of a film fest fix? The annual Baltimore Jewish Film Festival features 11 English and foreign language films that touch on themes such as Israeli/Palestinian relations, the Holocaust and its aftermath and contemporary Israeli culture. For its 27th year, the festival presents five Maryland premieres, including last year’s World War II documentary, “Above and Beyond,” and the powerful “Strangers,” a past Sundance Film Festival winner for Best Short, about two young men attempting to overcome their racial prejudice. Don’t miss the festival opener, “Hannah Cohen’s Holy Communion,” a funny yet touching international short about a spirited Irish 7-year-old whose excitement for her Christian rite is hindered by the fact that she’s Jewish. March 22-April 28, at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts. Tickets, $12 in advance, $14 at door. 410-599-3510, gordoncenter.com —Ian Zelaya
Get your jazz hands ready, folks. Chicago’s sexy and satirical tale of fame and crime will put you in the mood to release your inner bad girl—and not-so-inner dance moves—with classic numbers like “Cell Block Tango” and “All That Jazz.” March 3-March 8, at the Hippodrome Theatre. Tickets, $38-$128. 800-745-3000,ticketmaster.com —I.Z.
Who doesn’t enjoy a good love triangle? Or rectangle? In Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, lives become tangled as Jack Worthing decides to off his fictional brother to live life—well, earnestly—and marry his city love, Gwendolen. Be sure to pack your petit fours for this delicious Victorian farce. Through March 22, at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Tickets, $17-$45. 410-244- 8570, chesapeakeshakespeare.com —Shelby Offut
A recipient of both a Guggenheim Fellowship and a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation, Aleksandar Hemon learned English after he emigrated from Sarajevo to the U.S. when he was 27. Meet the accomplished fiction writer, essayist and critic when he speaks at the Johns Hopkins University President’s Reading Series: Literature of Social Import on March 31 at the Homewood campus. Free. 410-377-2966, theivybookshop.com —I.Z.
Attractive, brainy Millennials who can play string instruments? Sign us up. The Yale-founded Ensoō String Quartet, a Grammy-nominated quartet, performs pieces including Hugo Wolf’s “Italian Serenade” and more. March 21, at the Evergreen Museum & Library. Tickets, $10-$20. 410-516-0341, museums.jhu.edu —I.Z.
The work of one of America’s most vibrant young playwrights, Amy Herzog, comes to Baltimore in After the Revolution, revolving around an ambitious and politically leftist young woman— and an uncovered secret about her beloved grandfather that causes her and her family to grapple with their legacy. March 18-May 17, at Center Stage. Tickets, $10-$59. 410-332-0033, centerstage.org —I.Z.
Love is a Battlefield
Based on real-life interviews conducted by playwright Lynn Nottage, the poetic Ruined transports you to the Congo where a shrewd and business-savvy matriarch, Mama Nadi, struggles to hold on to her single refuge (a brothel) as war breaks out around her. Through March 8, at Everyman Theatre. Tickets, $34-$60. 410-752-2208, everymantheatre.org —I.Z.
The Kids Are All Right
The University of Maryland, in partnership with Big Ten Theatre Chairs, explores casual sex in the millennial era in its first commissioned project. Good Kids by Naomi lizuka plays out the many perspectives involved in a single night of passion gone wrong and the public aftermath that follows. Through March 7, at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Tickets, $10-$25. 301-405-2787, theclarice.umd.edu —S.O.
Damon McMahon, who began recording as Amen Dunes while curled up in a Catskills cabin, brings his brand of atmospheric folk to Baltimore for a must-see show for all the cool kids (of any age). His previous records have been first-take improvisations, but his intimate 2014 full-length record “Love” is the product of more than a year’s worth of collaborations with diverse musicians. March 26, at Metro Gallery. Tickets, $10-$12. 877-435-9849, ticketfly.com —I.Z.
As part of Goucher College’s theme semester on civil rights, the school will screen Yoruba Richen’s The New Black (2013), which focuses on the black community’s reaction to the gay marriage movement. Local minister and community activist Rev. Meredith Moise will lead a follow-up discussion. March 11, at Kelley Lecture Hall. Free. 410-337-6000, goucher.edu —I.Z.
Crystal Moll takes portraits to the extremes in Size Matters, an exhibition of works smaller than 100 square inches and larger than 900 square inches. Artists featured include Moll, Tim Kelly, Jill Basham, Bruno Baran and Beth Bathe. Through April 4, at the Crystal Moll Gallery. Free. 410-952-2843, crystalmoll.com —I.Z.
Black Box: Sharon Hayes presents the Baltimore-born artist’s 38-minute film “Ricerche: three,” a 2013 Venice Biennale entry that questions attitudes of 36 students at an all-women’s college in western Massachusetts on sexual and gender identity issues. March 15-July 30, at the BMA. Free. 443-573-1700, artbma.org —I.Z.
Chatham County Line, a four-man band hailing from Raleigh, N.C., is bringing bluegrass to Baltimore. Featuring songs from their sixth studio album, “Tightrope,” these accomplished musicians stay true to classic stringband instrumentation—using banjo, mandolin, fiddle, piano and harmonica and more—while infusing creativity and heart into their arrangements and lyrics. Opener: The Herd of Main Street. March 6, at the Creative Alliance. Tickets, $15-$21. 410-276-1651, creativealliance.org —S.O.
Touch Me, Digitally
The Contemporary’s first solo commission since 2013, Bubble Over Green—featuring California -based artist Victoria Fu—uses neon installations and multi-channel video to depict performers interacting with layers of digital effects, referencing our nonstop commitment to the digital image and touchscreen. Through April 3, at the former KAGRO building in Station North. Free. 410-756-0397, contemporary.org —I.Z.
So, this is epic. A colossal and trippy online experience, Malcolm Lomax and Daniel Wickerham’s Boy’dega: Edited4Syndication presents a fictional Baltimore that fuses TV crime drama tropes into a cast of 20 original characters, whose “Wire”-esque stories unfold across interconnected, simultaneously active screens. March 21-April 18, at the Springsteen Gallery. Free. springsteengallery.com —I.Z.
It’s an exciting time to work with clay. Juried by Jason Bige Burnett, Graphic Clay surveys everything happening now in studio ceramics, from sgraffito and mishima to china paint and image transfers. March 14-May 9, at Baltimore Clayworks. Free. 410-578-1919, baltimoreclayworks.org —I.Z.
Shots Ring Out
Three-time winner for Best Play at the Baltimore Playwrights Festival, Rich Espey has once again crafted an emotional portrait of life on stage. In The Revelation of Bobby Pritchard, Marta revisits her claustrophobic hometown with her wife, while her estranged brother faces his own demons—leading to an explosive conclusion. March 13-28, at the Iron Crow Theatre. Tickets, $17-$22. 443- 637-2769, ironcrowtheatre.org —S.O.
With more urbanization, planting might seem harder—unless you know the secrets of naturally occurring plant communities. Writer and landscape architect Thomas Rainer explains this phenomenon and gives strategies for more lush and layered greenery in his lecture, Planting in a Post-Wild World. March 18, at Ladew Topiary Gardens. Tickets, $25-30. 410-557-9570, ladewgardens.com —I.Z.
March is Women’s History Month, and the National Aquarium celebrates it with international flair, including live performances from Dance Baltimore, the Barakaat Middle Eastern Dance Company and the Lincoln University Concert Choir. March 6. Activities included with admission. Cash bar. 410-576-3800, aqua.org —I.Z.
… It Pours
Don your wellies and get ready for the quintessential movie musical experience, when the BSO performs the score from Singing in the Rain right alongside Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds on the silver screen. March 27-29, at the Meyerhoff. Tickets, $50-$110. 410-783-8000, bsomusic.org —S.O.
Al Dente Dentist
“Broad City” fans are in for a treat. The hilarious Hannibal Buress, who plays Ilana’s on-and-off love interest (and sometimes dentist) on the hit Comedy Central show, brings his smart standup routine to Charm City. March 13, at The Lyric. Tickets, $38. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com —I.Z.
We’ve long loved Ruth Shaw’s super-fly glamour. But can we confess a crush on her new little sister store fittingly named The Girl Next Door? Where Ruth is uptown chic, GNS is downtown real—side by side in the heart of Cross Keys. Girl is trend-driven, gamine, everyday elegant (and a little less expensive). Get your youthful fix—whatever the real number, darling— with a Jet jean jacket, Sundry slouchy tee or Iro cropped trousers for a casual-chic spring.
MODEL CITIZEN: Tobi Thompson may not look like the girl next door (we wish we were all so lucky), but she did come up with the shop’s super-friendly name. No surprise the Baltimore native—who has worked at Ruth Shaw for seven years, and is now a buyer-in-training—once dabbled in modeling (she walked the runway for Christian Siriano’s School for the Arts show). Thompson’s fiancé, Charlie Chiampou of cW Design/Build, came up with the idea of using a big steel “G” for the store’s cash wrap and designed custom tables for the space. “He created a downtown feel that is very open—it’s urban and industrial without being contrived, which mirrors the clothes,” says Thompson. —Betsy Boyd
$4,207,500 | Classic Beauty
Bedrooms: 6 | Baths: 5/1 | Square Feet: 12,000
“This four-level property, minutes from downtown Annapolis, is surrounded on three sides by the South River. Some of its striking features include a detached, winged eight-car garage, two boat barns and a large dock. Until we sold it to a gentleman from California last year, it was owned by the same family since 1941, and was originally part of a 250-acre farm where tobacco was grown and cows and horses were raised.” —Michael Moore, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, 301-967-3344
$4,250,000 | Grand Estate
Bedrooms: 6 | Baths: 10/3 | Square Feet: 16,955
“Pen-y-Bryn is one of the fabled estates of the Green Spring Valley, sitting atop the hill on Golf Course Road on a 14-acre site. It’s unique to find an estate property of that scale, scope and architectural stature, let alone one with an in-home movie theater.”—Karen Hubble Bisbee, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, 410-821-1700
$3,350,000 | Serene Splendor
Bedrooms: 4 | Baths: 5/1 | Square Feet: 5,268
“Located on the beautiful Spa Creek, the lushly landscaped property has the feel of Nantucket in downtown Annapolis. There’s a serenity of being on the creek year-round, from a snowy day to watching paddle boarders and kayakers in the summer. Another plus? The Annapolis Boat Parade comes right by the house during Christmas.”—Constance Cadwell, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, 410-263-8686
$3,550,000 | Waterfront Wonder
Bedrooms: 4 | Baths: 3/2 | Square Feet: 4,196
“Built in 1927, this house in a quiet cul-de-sac on the Chesapeake Bay has been painstakingly renovated, including a luxurious outdoor pool and an in-house elevator. The second-highest sale on Gibson Island in the past several years, we hope it continues the trend of the higher-end market gaining strength since the tough economic times of 2008.” —Corey Burr, Gibson Island Corp., 410-255-1341
Every day for more than a year, Irene Smith has been collecting garbage from the Herring Run in northeast Baltimore. Her die-hard stream cleaning started as a service project in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but when her marriage fell apart, she threw herself more deeply into the work. “Every time trauma happens to me, I find refuge in nature,” she says. “When my life is chaos, I take a walk in the woods.”
Nominally employed by the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, she is officially a “park steward,” and she takes the definition of “steward” — someone who cares for something important — to heart. Working for a very slim wage, she doesn’t haul a thousand pounds a week, expose herself to pollution and suffer snakebites for the money. “When you clean up trash, you are benefiting,” Smith says.
A mother of three girls, soccer coach and constant force for good in Herring Run Park, Irene’s had a varied career, from civil rights lawyer to owner of the Souper Freaks food truck and the Women’s Industrial Kitchen. When her marriage collapsed, she could only walk away. “I read ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’” she says. “But you just can’t go to an ashram when you have three children. I would love an ashram. My ashram is a garbage pile.”
Because of her work in the stream, she’s been stung by bees in the face, punctured by heroin needles and she contracted a rash from a fungus on a rose bush that gave her hives for a month. She’s bled a lot, and she’s been mugged, too. “I think I’m able to do this job because I have a lot of energy and I’m optimistic,” she says. “For me, it’s a pleasure and a joy to come across trash because it’s an opportunity to make a difference today.”
What she pulls from the stream, she says, tells us a lot about who we, the citizens of Baltimore, are. Every day she finds and bags diapers, condoms, fast food packaging, cigarillos, juice box foil pouches, pedicure toe grippers, miles of Styrofoam and a shameful number of plastic water bottles. More unusual finds include shopping carts, pianos, baby dolls, mountains of tires and nine cars abandoned in the Armistead Gardens section of the stream.
“I’ve learned so much about our community at the stream,” she says. “Our addiction to heroin. Our consumer addiction to fast and easy. I’ve watched joggers take one sip from a plastic water bottle and toss it.”
One of the more rewarding benefits to Irene’s work is that she’s gotten to know her community, and they’ve gotten to know her. “There’s a driver for Solid Waste—his name is Antoine—he’s put every single one of the garbage bags I’ve left for him on his truck. I’ve gotten to know the basketball kids, the people who have sex by the stream, the people who smoke pot there, the stroller moms. I say to the kids, ‘Honey, I love you. Would you please put your condom in the trash?’”
Working six hours a day, seven days a week, Irene has noticed that there isn’t nearly as much garbage to clean up at the Run anymore—but she can still guarantee four full 55-gallon contractor bags every day. She sorts everything that can possibly be recycled, and sells about 800 pounds of metal per week to Owl Metals, the profits from which replenish her supply of contractor bags and rubber gloves, which get worn through from pollution at a rate of about one pair per day.
Irene laments that the job of keeping our streams clean gets lost in a bureaucratic shuffle. The Department of Recreation and Parks, she says, wants the Department of Public Works to clean up the trash, but at DPW the Water Division only works with potable water (so not the stream water), and the Solid Waste division only works with the garbage in garbage cans.
“Parks should be where we showcase best practices for ecology and conservation,” she says.
How does she keep her chin up through it all? “It never, ever, ever gets to me. If I don’t pick up the Styrofoam, a turtle chokes. I wear a St. Francis of Assisi medal around my neck, and his prayer goes through my head. There are the moments with a fox, with a family of deer. Dog walkers and joggers look out for me. The miracle is there every day.”
Let’s face it, you’ve got game. And so does Oomph, the Connecticut-based furniture maker whose colorful casegoods are quickly becoming a designer favorite. The company’s new chess table boasts a tournament-size reproduction of the set used during the “Match of the Century” when 1972 world chess champion Bobby Fischer spanked Russia’s Boris Spassky. European-trained artisans construct each table from plantation-grown poplar, so no matter which of Oomph’s 16 high-lacquer shades you choose (this one is “Oceanfront”), the result will be green. Oh, and for mere mortals who’ve never caressed a hand-carved king or queen, they make an equally stylish backgammon table. $3,850, oomphonline.com
A promising design project always presents a puzzle at the beginning: a mishmash of elements until the perfect colors and shapes emerge. In sizing up the redo of a century-old farmhouse in Sparks for a young couple looking to create the perfect country getaway, Baltimore designer Charlene Petersen of Cashmere Interior didn’t wait for the usual visual patterns to emerge. As soon as she got a sense of their different styles, she knew the challenge was bigger. “If a home reflects a marriage,” she remembers thinking, “then I’d better find ways to marry their styles and make a home that suits them both.”
Call the country retreat she made from their various preferences and personal collections “eclectic” but that would be too predictable for the clever melding she engineered. “He’s an entrepreneur who loves the rustic beams, plain wood cabinetry and age of the house,” Petersen says. “She’s a former magazine photo editor and quintessential New Yorker who’s always on-the-go and loves entertaining with a touch of glitz.” The key to a design that worked for them both was grounding, and in some places showcasing, feminine furnishings, such as a crystal chandelier and furniture with flamboyant curves, in the solid wood-and-stone architecture of the farmhouse.
With only 18 months allotted from start to finish, Petersen divided the project into thirds and worked around the couple’s visits from their Baltimore condo home base. The largest piece of the puzzle was the great room they designated for extended family, as many as 15 relatives visiting on holidays. The wife was eager for a cozy, easy-care gathering spot beneath a vaulted ceiling and three walls of double-height windows. She acquiesced to Petersen’s suggestion for plaid curtains and beige walls and then watched, delighted, as patterns and textures came together to tame a huge central seating area.
Petersen channeled plenty of feminine vibe for the living/dining rooms in the house’s oldest section where double parlors probably once stretched across the front. She found the perfect area rug in a collection the husband bought on his Mideast travels, a Boccara that looks deeply brown in one light and tantalizingly purple in another. Aside from providing Petersen with the perfect yin-yang color palette for the couple, it fit perfectly under the dining table.
In the dining room, Petersen smartly centered fabric with a bold, embroidered medallion on the chair backs. “That enabled us to use a less expensive fabric on the seats where you get stains,” she says.
In the living room just opposite, Petersen gave a nod to that age-old fabric of country elegance, French toile. On closer inspection, though, the sofa pillows aren’t the usual French derivative. “It’s a Manhattan scene,” Petersen says, laughing. “Our fresh take on tradition.”
Pulling shades of lavender or pink through the master bedroom and the wife’s office was a no-brainer given how much it romanced the house’s earthy roots. The husband’s study and a home theater are deep-hued and weighty by contrast. To switch from water buffalo horns, rustic wooden shelving and leather upholstery in his study to pink upholstery and mirrored cabinetry in hers was not a stretch for Petersen. “You walk into the house now,” she says, “and you immediately sense personalities not bound by rules but celebrating the life they share together both in the city and country.”
5 Great Ideas From Designer Charlene Petersen
Ground Yourself. Rugs and window treatments create the foundation of a great room design. Start with these two elements and, if possible, splurge on them—don’t make them an afterthought.
Edit the Extra. Many rooms are crowded because we just don’t know when to stop. Upon supposed completion of your room, take a step back, look objectively and delete at least one thing.
Change Your Pattern. Scale is the most important thing to get right when mixing patterns. Same-size patterns will get too busy. So put some thought into mixing styles and sizes.
Remain Neutral. If you like to buy home accessories or change them up seasonally, stick with a neutral palette for your backdrop. Shifting pillows, throws and accessories can splash new color and activate style shifts.
Furnish with Care. Do not buy furniture unless you a) love it and b) it fits perfectly in your home. More often than not, clients ask me to make a room design around a piece of furniture they regret buying but feel too guilty to change.
We all know that traveling involves a bit of role-play, an escape, of sorts, from the mess of one’s real life. At home, most of us are encumbered—necessarily cluttered—with well-worn belongings and quotidian responsibilities (dishes to wash, oil to change). When we travel, we can borrow a sleek place to stay (just plunk those dirty dishes in the hall) and, if we choose, a sporty new car to take on the drive.
That’s precisely what my boyfriend and I had in mind when we got an irresistible offer last fall: the chance to borrow, free of charge, the brand new Audi RS5—a compact five-speed, turbocharged bruiser—and test it out on the open road for a whole weekend.
The RS 5 is no sweaty, eager boy-racer, but a luxurious rocket for grown-ups. Such design! The automatic transmission appears to know what you want before you do—it never fails to shift at just the right moment. The steering is precise, delivering detailed road-feel. The challenge, of course, was to find the right destination. A place worthy of the vehicle’s combination of luxury and function. We chose Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house in western Pennsylvania, where we could continue to revel in the freedom and order embodied in great design. And for the hotel? We picked the Stone House Inn, a recently renovated roadhouse about 20 minutes away on Route 40.
I love to unpack when I travel (metaphorically and otherwise). It’s satisfying to place just the right number of socks and underthings in a drawer, lay neatly folded cardigans on a cupboard shelf like a pristine display at the Eileen Fisher boutique. (As we return to the chaos of real life, wouldn’t it be nice to bring back the essence of those perfectly stacked sweaters?) So first thing, I did just that; then we headed off to meditate on the modern beauty that is Fallingwater.
Well-designed spaces don’t have to be grand. This one is not. More than shape and style make the home a work of art. There’s also a sense of serenity, enhanced by the constant gurgle of water flowing around its walls. Fallingwater was built in 1935 on top of a waterfall, the three levels of living space (and the adjoining guest house) a sleek amalgam of glass, concrete and steel.
Touring the house, one can’t help but envy the Kaufmann family, owners of the eponymous department stores. Liliane Kaufmann no doubt had plenty of gowns, furs, books and knickknacks back at home in Pittsburgh. Maybe she collected dolls or cigarette cases. I picture her husband, Edgar, returning each day from his job— which was all about the accumulation of stuff—to his own stockpiles. And for all I know, their son, Edgar Jr., made model airplanes or was obsessed with baseball cards.
In my fantasy, the Kaufmann family left all that behind when they came to their weekend house, where Wright left the boundaries between nature and human habitation famously blurred.
The architect added an organic-feeling reading corner, breakfast nook and low built-in bench with deep rectangular cushions for reclining or chatting. He designated low upholstered hassocks and coffee tables carved from tree stumps for extra derrieres or trays of strong coffee. He even left specific spots—between steel shelving, stone pillars and all those windows—for the art collection (about which Wright also expressed a strong opinion).
Frank Lloyd Wright designed these rooms with such meticulous plans for their use that the Kaufmann family probably didn’t have to make many decisions when they came to Bear Run. They showed up, lit a fire in the hearth, poured whiskey and watched the sky darken while they waited for dinner to appear.
Fallingwater is in Fayette County in the Laurel Highlands section of the Allegheny Mountains. It’s a popular destination for architecture buffs, but also for outdoor lovers. The Youghiogheny River runs through Ohiopyle State Park, great for whitewater rafting. There are also plenty of opportunities for cycling, on the south section of the Allegheny Passage, and hiking on the Laurel Highlands Trail. Along with campgrounds and motels, local lodging options include the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, a luxury hotel with a spa and golf course, about 20 miles from Fallingwater.
A required addendum to the Falling-water tour is a peek at another Wright home, Kentuck Knob, about seven miles away. Like its more illustrious neighbor, this usonian (or middle class) house seems to bloom organically from its setting on the side of a ridge. Isaac N. and Bernardine Hagan owned a dairy company in western Pennsylvania, and, friends with the Kaufmanns, enlisted the then-famous architect to design their home. Wright created the plan for the house, but was so busy with other projects—notably the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York—that he designed from a distance.
Never mind. His mark is clear in the open floor plan, expansive windows and native materials of red cypress and sandstone. The owner, Lord Peter Palumbo, collector of both art and architect-designed homes (he once owned Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House outside of Chicago), opens the house for tours when he isn’t in the U.S. Palumbo has installed a sculpture walk adjacent to the house, where you can wander among Andy Goldsworthy’s Wall, a circular construction of carefully placed stones, Claes Oldenburg’s giant apple core and Ray Smith’s Red Army, a regiment of more than 1,000 red steel silhouettes blanketing a meadow. There’s even a graffiti-scrawled remnant of the Berlin Wall.
We experienced an elegant (and, OK, ultimately unrealistic) merger of form and function throughout our stay at Fallingwater—and our ride home kept pace. You can throw the Audi RS5 into corners with authority, confident that the all-wheel drive and stability control will have your back. Acceleration is instantaneous. Don’t tell, but when David took the wheel, he had the car up to 115 mph on I-70 and the engine wasn’t even breathing hard.
Neither was I. In fact, I barely looked up from my book.
Stone House Inn
Stone House chef Jeremy Critchfield.
Spirit: We happened to show up at the Stone House at the tail end of co-owner and chef Jeremy Critchfield’s 42nd birthday festivities. We sat at a picnic table, sampling barbecue from the smoker he’d set up in the parking lot and helped him work on his birthday bottle of Jack Daniel’s. “That was the first National Highway,” he said, gesturing to busy Route 40. “All the settlers moving west passed right here.” The 197-year-old inn, according to Critchfield, “is one of the birthplaces of American hospitality.”
Space: The 12 guest rooms and one three-room suite in the newly renovated inn are comfortable and reasonably priced; they’re named for historic figures, like Lincoln and Harriet Tubman (whose room has a Jacuzzi). We unpacked in the Titlow room, with its pencil post bed, private bath and ivy-printed wallpaper, named for a local landowner from days gone by.
Taste: Critchfield, who has run massive kitchens from The Greenbrier in West Virginia to the nearby Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, became a partner in the Stone House Inn in 2012. He’s designed a comfort food menu to appeal to travelers and locals alike. “The folks who live around here won’t go to the Nemacolin,” he told us, “but they’ll go to Olive Garden.” His goal is to compete at the fast casual price point with high-quality home cooking done with local ingredients. stonehouseinn.com
When John Hufnagel was 20, his mom gave him an ultimatum—go to college when he turned 21 or get (lovingly) kicked out of the house. Building on his creative eye and connection to food (the Jarrettsville native’s family owned a local candy shop), he enrolled in what was then the Baltimore International Culinary Institute. Ten years after graduation, the 31-year-old Highlandtown resident has served since May as the executive chef of the Bagby Restaurant Group’s Ten Ten American Bistro, a contemporary farm-to-table spot in Harbor East.
I hear your wife is Thai and that has influenced your cooking. I met my wife about eight years ago and now I have a love for Thai food. I have Thai red curry mussels and Korean tacos on the menu. Last fall, I hosted a five-course, authentic Northern Thai beer dinner with Tim Riley, our beverage director. But usually when I do Thai food, I don’t like to mix it up too much because my wife gets mad at me.
Does she cook, too? She never really had to cook her whole life. When she lived in Bangkok, her mother did all the cooking. She knows the flavors and I taught her some skills, like how to sear and how to dice an onion. I let her taste my Thai food: She critiques me and that’s what makes me better.
Your previous gig was sous chef at Cunningham’s. How has your transition gone? Working in a big kitchen like Cunningham’s is great because you have everything to your access. But it takes more chefs to run an operation like that. Ten Ten is smaller and you have to utilize all your space. It’s actually the perfect sized kitchen. I can be a better chef and mentor to the cooks.
What’s one dish a first-time diner has to try? The Cunningham Farms pork, because it’s almost always a special. Every week we get different cuts of pig from the
pig farm. I can get tenderloin, pork shoulder or beautiful racks of pork chops. I play with different cuts and I add a delicious Parisian gnocchi.
Bagby Restaurant Group restaurants have a collaborative reputation. What is it like behind the scenes? You have Fleet Street Kitchen with fine dining. Ten Ten is casual, contemporary American food. I get pizzas from Bagby Pizza all the time. And Cunningham’s, of course. It’s nice that we can collaborate. For example, we’ll lend each other employees or a pork belly if it’s needed in another restaurant. We’re a bunch of young professionals trying to help each other out and make ourselves better.
What is your guilty pleasure meal? Pizza and chips. I love junk food, sometimes. Especially after work.
Amy Herzog wrote her first play sitting on the floor of a laundromat waiting for her clothes to dry. At the time, as a recent college graduate, she thought she wanted to be an actor. That’s precisely why she found herself traveling city to city stuffed inside a van with the cast of a children’s theater production (and doing her laundry on the fly). A 10-minute play festival got her writing mind spinning, and gave her an excuse to try something new. By the time her wash cycle had lurched to a halt, she was completely engrossed in the endeavor that’s brought her plenty of success already at age 36.
Herzog’s acclaimed “After the Revolution” (2010) and her 2011 Obie-winning play, “4000 Miles,” will be produced at Center Stage this spring as two halves of what’s been billed as the Amy Herzog Festival (March 18 to May 24). Though Herzog hasn’t spent much time in Charm City, she says she’s especially excited about collaborating with Center Stage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah.
“I think Amy’s at the vanguard of young, energetic and—this word may seem weird—butsoulfulwriters in America today,” says Kwei-Armah. “I also wanted to send a message out to the Jewish community in Baltimore that they, too, are part of the family, and that their story is part of the quintessential American story that I find myself fascinated by. The immigrants who did well, whose kids went to college. I also love the political nature of Amy’s work, and how that links to the Jewish story in America. That’s worthy of investigation.”
Both fest plays borrow significant autobiographical subject matter. Vera Joseph, based on Herzog’s real-life grandmother, Leepee Joseph—a radical, dedicated Communist—bridges the two works. “4000 Miles” imagines 91-year-old Vera’s nighttime dialogue with her grief-stricken, 21-year-old grandson Leo, while in “After the Revolution,” Vera contends with her granddaughter Emma’s solemn political doubts. Each play’s lens watches two generations genuinely interact, without sentimentality or condescension, just as Herzog says she could with her own grandmother who died a few years ago at 96.
“I think my grandmother stopped playing tennis when she was 91,” Herzog says. “She was a force to be reckoned with. She saw Vera Joseph onstage.
She saw ‘After the Revolution’ at Williamstown Theatre Festival, where it premiered, and all the incarnations of ‘4000 Miles.’ She had political qualms [about ‘Revolution’]. It was not positive enough about the legacy—much the same way Emma disagrees with the protagonist. My grandmother said to me, ‘You’re very talented but you’re a reactionary.’”
Maybe you could call Herzog a reactionary—at least a reactionary artist. She adores the experimental Louis C.K. sitcom “Louie,” calling it “better than most theater,” because it’s unpredictable and ignores conventional plot restrictions. And, as noted, she’s a writer who often takes the hottest realities of her life, questions them and transforms them into textured and nuanced dialogue.
“I guess my answers are largely about family,” Herzog says. “I grew up with these politics. Communist was a friendly word. It described a lot of people in my family and a certain utopian vision. But in 1999, we learned [my grandfather] was a spy for the Soviet Union, and blacklisting him maybe not such an injustice.”
While the subjective complexity of family lore keeps Herzog riveted, the repetition of memorized lines left her cold. Back in her collegiate acting days—she studied at Yale as an undergrad and a graduate playwright—she realized she found it tedious to say the same thing, the same lines, over and over again, performance after performance.
“Having acted and finding it so difficult, I have huge respect for actors,” Herzog explains. “The idea that they find a way to repeat their lines every night for months. I think about that when I write: People have to say this a lot.”
Perhaps it’s this admiration—or empathy—that reminds Herzog to keep her actors’ talk on the script page as lively as possible, as real. As surprising.
Husband Sam Gold, an in-demand young director who’ll helm the stage version of “Fun Home,” Alison Bechdel’s beloved graphic novel, this year on Broadway at Circle in the Square, contributes to the process now and then.
“He brings a good dramaturge and leader whenever I need one,” Herzog says. “He reads my early drafts. And I understand better the director’s process. I go to his dress rehearsal. It’s immersive. I love having that level of shorthand.”
Herzog pauses for a beat and adds this disclaimer: “But you have to make sure that your marriage exists out of the professional sphere, too,” she says.
What’s been Gold’s most helpful influence?
“One of the biggest is thinking about design,” she says. “It’s a major weakness. I didn’t think of the physical stage and designing it as I began writing. Now it’s an early thought. What is the physical environment?”
Perhaps the couple’s most important collaboration would be their two daughters, Franny, 2, and Josephine, 6 months —and Herzog wouldn’t disagree, though she admits she sometimes pines for the pre-baby writing days.
“Having the two is pretty brutal,” she says. “Things kind of get done. I have a baby sitter some days of the week. With kids, you write as you can.”
Does she expect her kids will be theater people, too?
“We joke that we hope they’ll be neuroscientists,” she says, a laugh waiting at the back of her throat.
What if you held a party and everybody actually came? What if you served up some food and drink, chatted and laughed with your friends and closed the door at the end of the night—tired, buzzed and a few hundred bucks richer?
Welcome to the world of multi-level marketing (aka direct sales). This model of moneymaking has come a long way since the Fuller Brush man went door-to-door or the Avon lady rang your bell. These days sales entrepreneurs rely on a network of friends eager to get together for some good old-fashioned girl time while shopping for cosmetics, clothing or jewelry. The fact that they don’t have to go to a store is icing on the cake (which is likely to be gluten-free, just like the cosmetics).
At a recent party in North Baltimore, a dozen or so women gathered at the home of Megan Oster to hear a presentation about health care company Arbonne and to try out some products. Oster, a 37-year-old mother of two, is just dipping her toe into the waters of multi-level marking and had enlisted two of her friends, both Arbonne reps, to do the initial pitch: Anne Puckett, a regional VP, and Genie Arnot, 40, an area manager. Although each woman works for herself, she also works for the woman above her, who brought her into the Arbonne fold. So Puckett gets a commission on Arnot’s sales, and Arnot will get a commission on Oster’s sales. Then Oster, if she recruits anyone, will get the same. Thus go the concentric circles.
Puckett, 38, a part-time music teacher at The Bryn Mawr School, has been selling Arbonne for nine years. When she started, she says, she and her husband were in debt. “He was in a Ph.D. program, and we needed more income,” she tells the assembled group. “I didn’t want to do any of the things teachers usually do to make extra money—being a waitress or bartender, dog walker or baby sitter. I didn’t want to tutor on the side or go to work at the mall.” She tried Arbonne’s products, liked them and began telling her friends about them. When they started buying, she started selling. Slowly, over time, she built up a part-time business to supplement her teaching salary.
A regional VP, says Puckett, can expect to make $5,000 to $8,000 a month. She has also earned several vacations (most recently a Caribbean cruise) as performance bonuses over the last nine years. Oh, and remember those pink Cadillacs the top Mary Kay consultants used to drive? Puckett drives a Mercedes Benz GLK 350—her third vehicle after after earning her first car allowance in 2008, just 13 months after joining the company. “We can choose any model we want; it just has to be white to represent the purity of our products,” she says.
The big dogs are the national VPs, who are reputed to make as much as $21,500 a month.
These kinds of numbers apparently are possible because of what’s known as residual income. Once you do the work of selling and, more important, recruiting other people “down-line” to sell, you get a cut. You get a percentage of everything your people sell (paid by the company, not taken out of your sellers’ profits). So that money just rolls in.
If all this sounds a little too good to be true, maybe it is. After all, if it were that easy, wouldn’t everybody be doing it, especially in these still recessionary times? Wouldn’t everybody be, well, rich?
“You still have to work at it,” says Arnot, who doubles as an art teacher at Bryn Mawr. “You have to put time into it. But you make your own schedule. You set your own goals. You could just buy the products and use them yourself and never sell. But if you want to make it a business, if you’re doing it because you believe in the products and believe you’re offering a service, you can make money.” (According to Arbonne, area managers like Arnot have the potential to make $1,200 to $3,000 a month within the first year.)
Krista Demcher, a direct sales stylist with jewelry company Stella & Dot, agrees. A 36-year-old stay-at-home mom of three small children in Bel Air, she has been selling Stella & Dot jewelry since 2010. She calls herself a skeptic.
“I kind of stumbled into it,” she says of her selling career. “I always thought of direct sales, like old school Tupperware parties, as pushy. I didn’t like it. But I fell in love with Stella & Dot jewelry. I really wanted this one chunky necklace. I thought I’d hold a party just so I could get it.”
Then she did some research. She discovered that the founder and CEO of Stella & Dot is a graduate of the Stanford School of Business and had also started WeddingChannel.com.
“I had a misconception about housewives with no career options,” says Demcher. “Then I realized that the women who run this company and work for it are high-powered, accomplished women. They could be doing a bunch of different things.”
From an initial investment of $199 for a starter kit of books, signs, catalogs—plus $350 for sample jewelry of her choice—Demcher started selling. (Arbonne’s initial investment is $79.) She estimates that by now, she’s spending 30 to 35 hours a week on the business.
“It’s work like everything else,” she says. “It’s not some magic trick. Hanging out with friends and drinking wine is fun, but it takes time and persistence to get the business to work. People fail
because they think it’s going to be easy. It’s not easy.”
Demcher says she now has a team of about 200 women and therefore spends only about 20 percent of her time selling and the rest of it managing her team—coaching, doing business reviews, analyzing sales and figuring out what promotions work best. She says she’s on track to make close to six figures this year.
Another woman making that kind of money is Courtney Creamer, 45, former owner of the Stoneleigh-area gift shop With Gratitude, and a representative of Rodan + Fields. Started by dermatologists Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields (you may know them from their “Proactive Solution” acne treatment commercials), the company also markets its products directly to women, à la Arbonne. Creamer recently closed her shop because she was losing money.
She was making more selling Rodan + Fields on the side—enough, in fact, to pay for her daughter’s private school tuition last year.
Also a busy mother, Creamer started out like everybody else interviewed for this article—dreaming and dabbling. She liked the products and started telling her friends about them. In 2013 she began selling. She soon discovered she was making a profit. But she didn’t start actually working on it, she says, until September of 2014. And she credits social media for helping.
“Facebook has transformed this business,” she says.
“I don’t do parties,” says Creamer. “I like one-on-one. I don’t push. I just tell people what I think about these products. I believe in them. This business is based on trust.”
Creamer said she tried at one point selling products from Melaleuca, the Idaho-based home and body products company. But she didn’t like what she sensed was a high-pressure selling model. Unlike with Arbonne and Rodan + Fields, once you sign up with Melaleuca, you’re forced to spend a certain amount of money every month, whether you want to or not. Your credit card is automatically charged. (Note: Rodan + Fields offers new consultants four initial packages to choose from, priced at $45, $395, $695 and $995.)
One difference between skin care companies and clothing/accessories companies is that the former make claims that the latter obviously don’t. You either like a necklace or you don’t. It’s not going
to do anything for your physiology.
Skin care companies, or “health and wellness” companies, as they prefer to be called, make all kinds of claims about their products and how they’ll transform your skin—or, in the case of Arbonne’s nutritional supplements—possibly your health and longevity.
“Pure,” “natural,” “green,” “plant-based” and “organic” are buzzwords here just as they are elsewhere in retail. The evils are said to be petrolatum, mineral oil, parabens, preservatives, synthetics.
But poison mushrooms are natural. That doesn’t mean they’re safe. And lots of plant-derived oils and fragrances can be irritating to the skin. Just because they’re “botanically based” doesn’t mean they’re soothing. Carol de Neufville, one of the women at the Arbonne party, learned this long ago. She says she has sensitive skin and has to be careful what she puts on it. When she sampled some of the Arbonne products, she got that familiar, stinging sensation she’s felt so many times before.
Steven Fletcher, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, cautions that “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “better.” Take salicylic acid, for example, an exfoliating agent contained in many products by skin care companies, including Arbonne and Rodan + Fields. It’s derived from willow bark (as is aspirin).
“Salicylic acid is a chemical compound,” says Fletcher. “Whether it’s taken from a plant or made in a laboratory, it’s still the same chemical compound, exhibiting the same chemical structure. If the natural compound is safe, then it stands to reason that the synthetic version, provided it’s synthesized and purified carefully, will also be safe.
Besides, our entire bodies are made of chemicals. Chemicals are the building blocks of life.”
But not the building blocks of multi-level marketing. For that, you need savvy, perseverance, networking skills and an indomitable belief in the products you’re selling.
Rodan + Fields offers “Empty Bottle Guarantee,” meaning it will refund your money—or give you a different product—if you stick with a certain skin care regimen for eight weeks and are dissatisfied. (We didn’t test the policy.) And all the women we interviewed, along with many guests at the Arbonne party we attended, say it’s the results they see that keep them coming back for more moisturizer.
Those products, however, can be expensive—along the lines of high-end department store brands. And anyway, aren’t you afraid of bugging your friends?
“That was a stumbling block at first,” says Arnot. “But you learn how to walk that line. You have to have confidence that what you’re offering is helping someone or changing someone’s life.”
Judging by the statistics, thousands of women agree. The Direct Sales Association indicates that direct sales grew 3.3 percent in 2013, and says the upward trend is continuing. The size of the direct selling sales force increased by 5.7 percent, to 16.8 million people, a record high. Not all those people will stick with it, of course, so the DSA estimates that 15.9 million people are engaged in direct sales in the U.S.
What can’t be quantified is the satisfaction women get from socializing through direct sales.
“That’s a big part of it,” says Oster. “I want to make money, but it’s fun.”
In his 20 years as a painter, Steven Pearson has transitioned from figurative painting to still life and, finally, to abstraction. According to the associate professor at McDaniel College, this evolution’s pretty atypical. “I have students who jump into abstraction and they just become abstract artists,” says the 46-year-old Westminster resident, who keeps a studio in Baltimore. “I learned to paint traditionally and then worked my way toward abstraction.”
Already a fan of tracing his paintings to make sleeker and shinier copies, Pearson decided to sift through two decades of different painting styles and derive an intuitive equation. He traced multiple paintings, combined and reconfigured them to create entirely new, colorful compositions that are on display in “Self-Reflection,” his solo exhibition at School 33 Art Center through March 22.
Pearson says for him these postmodern pieces work like a memory game. He’s intrigued when he spies fragments of his old still life paintings alive in the new creations. “I can tell in one painting, for example, a certain element came from a still life of paper bags,” says Pearson, who consciously picked the parts of the painting that felt most important to him when laying down the tracing paper on each past work. “That relates to anybody’s memory—remembering things in fragments and things most important to us.”
Was the process always easy? No, he confides. “There were a lot of paintings thrown in garbage bins to get to this point.”
See more of Steven Pearson’s work at srpearson.com
Pie in the Sky
Masterminds behind the mega-popular Iggies, Lisa Heckman and Peter Wood have relocated their pizza ovens from Mount Vernon to Towson, taking over the more intimate former Havana Road location. “We wanted a smaller space as we wanted to take our food and service quality to an even higher level,” says Heckman, who with Wood sold the roomier Iggies café to retired pharmacist Jim Pak in July. (Pak keeps Iggies alive, aiming to change not a pepperoni, incidentally.) The new Local Pie seats 30—or 42, Heckman says, in a pinch—and décor is bright, airy and unfussy. Schmancy, however, are the seasonal, farm-to-table ingredients that make for a menu that’s always changing. Right now, try the bison meatball pizza (Monkton bison, by the way) drizzled in a honey sauce, the duck egg pizza and March mushroom special. But, wait! What about the uber-light crust that‘s Iggie’s luscious trademark? “We’re still producing a thin crust pizza, but after that the similarities end,” Heckman says. 8 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Towson, 410-583-0008, localpietowson.com
Prem Raja Mahat is like the Nepali Bob Dylan—with concert dates set through 2015 and a tendency to get recognized in airports for his face as well as his extensive catalog of Nepali folk music. Mahat, who relocated here in 1996, and serves as Consul General to the U.S., thinks of his down-home new restaurant, Nepal House, as another ambassador of his native tradition. Now occupying the former Mugal Garden space—which Mahat managed for nine years (and meanwhile co-owned Himalayan House in Locust Point)—the spot also stars the owner’s wife, Kadita, who hosts with quiet warmth, and their four children. In addition to Indian standbys, chef Kansi Gautam serves up Nepali essentials: Dal lentil rice, lamb, mustard greens, black lentils and yogurt. Thakali Thali, Mahat’s top recommendation, can be chicken or goat kabob. “This food is good for your health,” Mahat adds. “And we eat what we cook—we eat together.” 920 N. Charles St., 410-547-0001, nepalhouseinc.com
Despite sweet success, Jason Ambrose was feeling a little tired…. Well, maybe tired isn’t the right word, says the 43-year-old, who opened the innovative Salt Tavern on an unlikely block of East Pratt Street nearly a decade ago. “I wanted to do something else. Nine years of any job, you get restless.” Besides, he says, “Salt had evolved into a place my friends couldn’t afford to go to.”
So Ambrose, with the help of Hencken & Gaines construction, converted the 700-square-foot ground floor of a corner rowhouse (at one time a bar called Down the Hatch) in Locust Point into 1157 Bar and Kitchen.
Like Salt, the place is a revelation. So much more than the tiny room (five two-tops, a table for eight and a dozen bar stools) would suggest. Ambrose, who still owns Salt, can be seen in his new miniature kitchen—with barely more than a six-burner Vulcan and Hoshizaki fridge only inches larger than a home Frigidaire—busily arranging his elevated take on bar food on smooth walnut boards (made by a friend), while two bartender-servers take care of things up front.
Location. The Haubert Street spot is pretty much across the street from Under Armour with its 3,000-plus mostly young, unfettered employees. Ambrose has been seeing plenty of young professionals amble in after work (happy hour starts at 4). Well-heeled empty nesters from Silo Point walk over on weekends. More low-key than Silo.5 and the Wine Market, more nuanced than nearby Hull Street Blues Cafe, 1157 won’t have any trouble finding a local audience. Too bad for the rest of us. Hoofing it out there to take our chances on one of the 30 seats might require a backup plan.
Food. “When my wife and I lived in the city,” says Ambrose, who has since moved to the Essex waterside, “we’d find ourselves walking into restaurants and sitting at the bar.” He says he started “getting a little obsessed with eating and drinking at bars.” The menu is heavy on small plates and sandwiches, with only two or three entrées (seared sea scallops and wild boar ragout in fresh pappardelle on an early visit). Chicken wings twice-fried in rice flour and smothered in Korean chili paste and sweet soy glaze, beef tartare dressed up with chimichurri and served with a pickled quail egg, crispy octopus with a swirl of tart orange dipping sauce—these treats are not your average bar food. Sandwiches like duck confit and gruyère on a crispy baguette with sour cherry relish and braised short-rib melt will no doubt make way for lighter combos with the arrival of spring. “March,” says the chef, “means ramps and morels and fun stuff like that.”
Drinks. A few sturdy shelves behind the bar proffer a preponderance of brown liquors, many small-batch domestics. “It’s the way I like to drink,” admits Ambrose. The eight taps crank out a rotating selection of brews and ciders—hailing from Belgium to Monkton to Hershey, Pa. The Bloody Mule is tongue-tingling ginger beer and vodka pierced with blood orange syrup, and the pre-mixed Negroni has a mellow, smoky flavor. There’s also a short but thoughtful selection of wines by the glass.
Desserts. Tangy Meyer lemon sorbet—made in-house at Salt—is fresh and palate-cleansing, while a banana-chocolate tart, drizzled with caramel, is sweet and creamy. The adult milkshake—
mezcal with spicy Mexican chocolate—is worth the calories (as long as someone else is driving).
Final Verdict. Jason Ambrose, who wowed us with Salt, has recently decided to simplify. Somebody please tell him 1157 is anything but simple. On the other hand, don’t.
1157 Bar and kitchen
1157 Haubert St.
New York City
You never know what you’re going to get from Björk. And that’s the magic. The “swan dress” wearing superstar’s adventurous electronic music (or is it alternative, classical, trip-hop?) has wowed global audiences for more than 20 years—and we can’t forget that she’s also a talented actress, producer and multi-instrumentalist. The Museum of Modern Art has drawn from the Icelandic wonder’s numerous eclectic projects—dating to her days fronting the Sugarcubes, when we first heard the voice that can go from guttural to gleeful in an eyeblink—to present a biographical and fictitious narrative installation told through visuals, sound, film, performances, objects and costumes. Co-written by Björk and acclaimed Icelandic writer Sjón, the exhibition caps off with an immersive film and music experience conceived with director Andrew Thomas Huang and 3-D design leader Autodesk. Begins March 8. moma.org
Take Peruvian cuisine and spice it up with Japanese and Chinese influences and you get China Chilcano, renowned chef José Andrés’ latest (and perhaps most stunning) small plates restaurant in Penn Quarter, where tatami tables and Nazca Lines adorn the interior. The flavor combinations are no joke, featuring dim sum side-by-side with ceviche and ají de gallina, a chicken stew with fresh cheese and pecans. One must-try dish: the aeropuerto, a gigantic heap of fried rice, crispy egg noodles, soy sprouts and close to 20 seasonal vegetables. Be sure to order the suspiro limeña, that’s Peru’s signature condensed milk custard, for dessert. chinachilcano.com
If you follow Ravens kicker (and former STYLE cover model) Justin Tucker on Instagram, you know he has an affinity for dressing fancy when he’s not on the field. Many of his snazzy suits (his slate blue windowpane comes to mind) hail from the international, high-end custom menswear brand Indochino. The Vancouver-based company’s newest showroom, which recently opened shop in the Center City shopping district, is only its third in the U.S.—evolving from popular Traveling Taylor pop-up events around the country. Appointments suggested. Gentlemen, we suggest a road trip, a cheesesteak (Pat’s with whiz; take no exceptions) and a stop by the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the exceptional new “200 Years of African American Art” exhibit, through April 5. indochino.com
“I’m going to just mess around and see what I come up with,” says Thacher Voltaggio, 7, standing on a chair at the kitchen island of his family’s Frederick home, squeezing gobs of white aerated cheese from a stainless steel whipped cream dispenser into a bowl. He goes to the fridge and returns with an armload of supplies—baby carrots, sprigs of fresh rosemary, cherry tomatoes.
The self-described “picky eater” already has a published recipe under his belt—his Coca-Cola Potatoes appear in his father Bryan’s new book, “Home: Recipes to Cook with Family and Friends,” which comes out April 7.
He drops carrots into the cheese, tears spikes of rosemary to sprinkle on top. Are you sure you want to do that? I wonder to myself. The cheese is a mixture of cheddar and condensed milk that Bryan Voltaggio has emulsified, heating and stirring until the two combine, then packed into a nitrogen-charged canister. When piped on a bowl of chili, he told me, the foam rests “like shaving cream on top,” and when stirred, swirls like ribbons through the dish. “It’s the only way to eat cheese in chili,” he says. “It’s ridiculous.”
Bryan, 38, meantime, is standing by the stove, 18-month-old Ever straddling his hip, stirring butter into a saucepan of mashed potatoes. The white potatoes have reached a creamy consistency, and look more like a thickened roux than spuds. “They’re just at the point of breaking,” says the elder Voltaggio, gently turning them away from the edges of the pot with a spatula. “You might see little pockets of butter in the corners.” Bryan will finish the potatoes with a sprinkling of buttermilk powder mixed with poppy and sesame seeds, a seasoning described as “everything bagel” on the menu at his newest Baltimore restaurant Family Meal, which opened at the end of Pier 4 in the Inner Harbor in January.
Piper, 4, climbs on her own chair by the stove and waves a piece of paper at her father: “Daddy, here’s a list. Look at the list,” she demands. Bryan reaches down for the list she has made—of family members she wants in the photos we’re here to take. Piper, it seems, likes to take charge. Bryan sees Thacher at the counter and briskly removes the aerator and a sharp paring knife, taking note of his son’s project. Ever squirms, reaching for the half-eaten banana on a nearby counter and emits a piercing squeal.
Wife Jennifer comes to the well-timed rescue, lifting her daughter from Bryan’s arms. “When Bryan’s cooking, I’m here to wrangle the kids,” she says. But when Bryan is at work, which, as a chef/owner of six restaurants, is most of the time, she manages the meals on her own. “When he’s not here, what should take 10 minutes takes three hours.”
Jennifer, 36, says she’s excited about the new cookbook, an approachable collection of gussied-up comfort food. She’s tried to mimic her husband’s meatloaf, for example, but it never turns out quite right. “Now I have a recipe,” she says.
“Bryan likes my pancakes,” she offers. I ask what makes them special. “Mainly that he doesn’t have to get up and cook them.”
Even so, when he is at home, Bryan Voltaggio likes nothing better than cooking for his family—or anyone else who happens to be around. “When we have parties I make way too much food,” he says. “People come with bags to take stuff home.”
In prepping for today’s interview and photo shoot, Bryan has proven true to his word. There’s a meatloaf and a casserole of mac ‘n’ cheese in the oven. Chili stays warm on the stove next to a pot of braised greens—kale, broccoli rabe and chard, aromatic with smoked bacon. A plate of New England style split-top hot dog buns sits at the ready for griddling with butter for lobster rolls. He’s also prepared banana pudding parfaits for dessert.
Bryan discovered cooking when he was in high school. He wasn’t a great student, he admits, and had taken a job in the kitchen at the Holiday Inn in Frederick. When too many injuries prevented his dream of an athletic scholarship to the University of Maryland (he played on a state championship soccer team), he decided to attend Frederick County Career and Technology Center’s culinary program.
If soccer didn’t get him to college, it got him the girl. When he and his brother moved to the Frederick area to live with their dad for a bit, Bryan found a way to attend Governor Thomas Johnson High School, where he knew the soccer coach. That’s where he met Jennifer Covell, two years his junior. They’ve known each other for 20 years, and have been married for 10. If he’d gone to college, who knows what would have happened? “I was really into science in middle school and high school,” he says. “I was interested in marine science.”
Bryan eventually went to the Culinary Institute of America—graduating in 1999—and later worked for Charlie Palmer at Aureole in New York. Meanwhile, Jennifer, who attended James Madison, went into graphic design, working for tech firms in Manhattan during the dot-com boom. (She now designs the logos and does miscellaneous graphic design work for the restaurants.)
They returned to the area when his boss asked Voltaggio to open Charlie Palmer Steak in D.C. The young couple decided it was a good time to start a family, and when they returned from the hospital with Thacher, found a message on the voicemail from a stranger—Hilda Staples, a former corporate public relations exec—looking for advice on a bar she wanted to open in a historic mansion in downtown Frederick. Bryan and Jennifer had already worked up a business plan for a high-end restaurant, and Hilda’s spot seemed like a good fit. Volt opened a year later, but got off to a shaky start. Bryan’s appearance on the Bravo show “Top Chef” with his brother Michael, however, changed that. By the time season six came to an end—with Michael beating him by a nose—Volt had a six-month wait for reservations.
After TV established the Voltaggio brothers as culinary celebrities, they penned a cookbook together, “Volt Ink.” The photo-heavy book, named for their respective restaurants (Michael runs Ink in Los Angeles), is packed with complicated, multi-ingredient recipes.
“The constant comment about ‘Volt Ink’ was ‘I can’t cook any of this stuff.’ And I say, that’s the point. It’s for professional people—or people like you.” (He over-estimates my culinary ambitions.) “It’s for people who come to my restaurant and want to know how we do it.” By “it” he means the airy foams and sabayons, veloutés and sous vides—molecular gastronomy that is largely absent from his new cookbook and restaurant, aerated cheese notwithstanding.
The recent ventures are Bryan’s homage to the way he was brought up, eating home-cooked meals most nights with his mother and two siblings—Michael and Staci, the youngest, now a pastry chef at Voltaggio’s Range in D.C. More specifically, the book may be seen as an homage to his mother.
“I cooked every day because I was really adamant about the family dinner,” says Bryan’s mother, Sharon Mangine, who now lives in Florida with her husband Bob. Sharon would make thick pork chops, the boneless kind, coated in Shake ‘n’ Bake, slow-simmered tomato sauce using her mother’s recipe and homemade mac ‘n’ cheese. “My spaghetti sauce was something they dearly loved,” she recalls. “The boys would get into bread and get into it.” She had a hard time getting Michael to eat vegetables.
Bryan would cook with Sharon’s father, a former Navy SEAL and accomplished home chef, until her dad died at 56 when Bryan was 6. Her eldest, she says, “did everything early. He cut his teeth at 3 months. At 6 months, he stopped eating baby food. He wanted people food.” Bryan used precise diction as a toddler and was in gifted and talented programs in his early years at school. “Unfortunately, he had a bit of an attention problem,” she admits, a condition not commonly diagnosed or treated when he was a kid in the 1970s. “He was bored.”
Cooking, she says, “saved Bryan’s academic career.”
Her sons “have worked hard and paid their dues in the industry,” says Sharon. But their eventual success wasn’t always assured. “I can remember both of them saying, ‘I can’t do this.’ They’d call and complain, fingers cut off, bad burns. But that’s part of the industry.” (OK, “deep cuts,” she amends.)
The cookbook “Home” is organized according to meals—weekend brunch, Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday—“times that I’m at home, cooking,” says Bryan. But the recipes are anything but conventional.
Take that lobster roll. The picked lobster meat is returned to the vinegar-laced cooking liquid, where its flavor intensifies. Then it’s mixed with Bryan’s signature Trinity sauce—mayo containing the holy trio of sriracha, soy sauce and fish sauce. If the recipe were printed in Maine, he says, “I’d probably get death threats.”
As a native New Englander, I disagree. The sweet flavors of lobster meat and the buttered bun trigger memory—I think of the food critic in the animated film “Ratatouille,” who, jaded by fancy preparations, flashes back to his boyhood when tasting a simple dish. The scene brought me to tears.
“We all have foods that tug on our heartstrings,” Bryan says. “Chocolate cake, fried chicken.” At Volt, a longtime favorite, cheese ravioli, was made with housemade pasta and topped with sage “air.” “It was very refined,” says Bryan, “but when you ate it, it took you back to your mom.”
Bryan Voltaggio’s Lobster Rolls
Makes 6 to 8 lobster rolls
Perfectly cooked lobster meat is plump and juicy, tender but firm, and slightly chewy. The trick to this recipe is soaking the lobster meat in the cooled cooking liquid to give it an extra burst of flavor.
1 cup mayonnaise (I prefer Duke’s)
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon fish sauce
1⁄8 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon finely sliced fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh
8½ quarts water
¾ cup white vinegar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
¼ cup Our Bay Seasoning Blend
6 (1½-pound) lobsters
3 celery ribs, peeled and thinly sliced
½ head fennel, cut into small dice
¾ cup Trinity Sauce
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
6 to 8 hot dog buns, for serving
Unsalted butter, room temperature, for griddling the buns
Potato chips, for topping
Make the Trinity Sauce: Put all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well to blend. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until needed. Trinity Sauce will keep for up to 10 days in the refrigerator.
Cook the lobster: Put the water, vinegar, salt and Old Bay Seasoning in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and submerge the lobsters in the pot. Bring the mixture back to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes. Take out the lobsters and transfer to a large platter to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid.
Once they are cool enough to handle, use kitchen shears and a lobster cracker to remove all of the meat. Put the meat in a large container and pour over just enough cooking liquid to cover. Let the lobster meat macerate for 30 minutes.
Make the lobster salad: Drain the lobster meat, pat dry, cut into bite-size pieces (roughly 1-inch dice) and put in a large bowl. Add the celery, fennel, Trinity Sauce and lemon juice. Mix gently with a spatula to blend. Reserve the lobster salad in the refrigerator.
Prepare the lobster rolls: Split open the hot dog buns and spread butter on the insides of the buns. Set a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, place the buns, butter side down, in the pan and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the insides of the buns are crisp and golden brown. You may need to do this in batches. Transfer to a large platter and fill generously with lobster salad. Top with potato chips and serve immediately.
Over 800 people gathered at M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 20 for the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland’s 5th annual Santé: A Culinary Odyssey celebration. The delicious evening raised $230,000 to fund vital research at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland, and directly support NKF-MD’s patient emergency assistance program.
Over 800 people gathered at M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 20 for the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland’s 5th annual Santé: A Culinary Odyssey celebration. The delicious evening raised $230,000 to fund vital research at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland, and directly support NKF-MD’s patient emergency assistance program.
We all make resolutions to get in shape for the new year, but many of us end up dropping the ball by Valentine’s Day. Why not give yourself a leg up with this Rockin’ Roller Desk Chair made from a classic stability ball? Balancing on an orb all day long is the perfect way to strengthen your core and improve posture. Consider it a Pilates class in a cute, slip-covered package—also available in more colors, patterns and even faux fur. Sure, it’s from PB Teen (designed for your daughter or son’s mess of a bedroom) but we have no shame. We’ve already ordered them for ourselves at the STYLE offices. $129-$149. pbteen.com
Skim the recipe section of most January magazines and you’ll find a slew of diet dishes purporting to help you “lighten up” and keep to your (post-holiday-binge) resolution to eat healthy in the new year. But I’ve never been big on resolutions; rather than tell myself what I can’t or shouldn’t do, I’d rather ring in 2015 focusing on all the things I want to do and experience.
At first, the connection between Danish open-faced sandwiches and my aspirations for living a happy life in the new year probably isn’t obvious, but let me explain. While I’ve never been to Denmark, I’ve seen (and eaten) variations of its native dish, smorrebrod, in Vienna, Budapest and Reykjavik. I’ve seen people of all ages and walks of life linger over these beautiful little creations, and it always reminds me to slow down and remember that eating shouldn’t be only about satisfying hunger, but rather about appreciating what’s on the plate and being grateful for the opportunity to savor it.
These open-faced sandwiches, for me, encapsulate what I love about eating and cooking: they’re fun to make, to look at and to eat—and they’re as much about the process of creation as they are about filling my belly with something delicious.
Most of the flavor combinations will likely be familiar to you: egg salad and olives, roast beef and horseradish, salmon and cream cheese. The Italian salad (“italiansalat”) will probably be new unless you’re Danish or have been to Denmark. Named not for the flavors in the dish but rather for its resemblance to the colors in the Italian flag, its Danish counterpart contains peas, carrots and white asparagus. I substituted shallots for white asparagus to give the dish a bit more punch.
When you make your smorrebrod, be creative with the garnishes and the construction; that’s half the fun. Hopefully they will inspire you, as they do me, to slow down, be in the moment and enjoy the beauty that’s all around you…and on your plate.
Salmon and Garlic Chive Cream Cheese Smorrebrod
makes 1 smorrebrod
1 slice 4” x 4” European dark bread, such as Rubschlager Pumpernickel
1 to 2 tablespoons garlic chive cream cheese (recipe below)
1 slice smoked Nova salmon, cut to fit the bread
Fresh dill, for garnish
Slice of lemon, for garnish
Carefully layer the ingredients, in order, on the bread.
Garlic Chive Cream Cheese:
1⁄2 cup whipped cream cheese
1 heaping tablespoon chopped chives
1 small garlic clove, minced
Combine ingredients and refrigerate.
Egg Salad and Olive Smorrebrod
makes 1 smorrebrod
8 hard-boiled eggs, with one slice set aside
1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
1⁄2 -3⁄4 cup sliced manzanilla pimento-stuffed olives, with a slice set aside
1 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
1⁄4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Sliced radish, for garnish
Smash the hard-boiled eggs with a fork; add the other ingredients and combine well. To assemble the smorrebrod, place a portion of egg salad on 1 slice 4” x 4” European dark bread, such as Rubschlager Pumpernickel, and top with the slice of hard-boiled egg, the olive slice and sliced radish (optional).
Roast Beef and Horseradish Mayo Smorrebrod
makes 1 smorrebrod
1 slice 4” x 4” European dark bread, such as Rubschlager Pumpernickel
1 tablespoon horseradish mayo
Small handful of arugula
2 thin slices of roast beef
2 sliced plum tomatoes
1 heaping tablespoon fresh grated horseradish or fried onions (or both!)
Carefully layer the ingredients on the bread to create your smorrebrod.
1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
Pinch of salt and white pepper
Combine ingredients and refrigerate.
Ham and Italian Salad Smorrebrod
makes 1 smorrebrod
1 slice 4” x 4” European dark bread, such as Rubschlager Pumpernickel
2 thin slices of deli ham
1⁄4 cup Italian Salad (recipe below)
Small handful alfalfa sprouts
Carefully layer the ingredients on the bread to assemble the smorrebrod.
1⁄2 cup carrots, cut into small dice
1⁄2 cup peas (fresh or, if frozen,
thawed and completely dried)
2 teaspoons minced shallot
1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
Pinch salt & white pepper
Boil the carrots until tender, plunge into an ice bath, remove and pat dry. Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate.
I first met Minas Konsolas in his eponymous storefront in Fells Point, which later moved to The Avenue in Hampden, where vintage Levis, funky jewelry and original art created an enchanting experience for even the pickiest shopper. Over the years, Minas, with the help of his wife and business partner, Peggy Hoffman, added a second gallery space to their retail establishment where literary readings, yoga and even belly dancing flourished and an organic community coalesced. After they closed their shop in 2014, the arts community mourned a great loss but also reaped a simultaneous benefit in that the artist has been able to devote himself full time to painting in his Charles Village studio, with a solo exhibit planned for fall 2015 at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson.
“I’m influenced by the Mediterranean landscape where I was raised and by the American landscape where I now live,” says Konsolas, who was born in a small village in Greece. “Those two aesthetics come together in my paintings.” These two paintings come from the artist’s “Nature Walk” series, and function as a vehicle for memory and metaphor, rather than depicting a specific place or time.
“I’m making a poem about nature with my brush, an impression of a private moment with nature,” the artist confides. “When people tell me they get a familiar, nostalgic feeling from one of my paintings, it makes me happy. Even though the viewer and I have different experiences, we connect because we have similar emotions and memories.”
See more of Konsolas’ paintings at minaskonsolas.com
Azumi has taken over the space adjacent to the Four Seasons Hotel formerly occupied by Pabu. While its predecessor was a casual izakaya—the Japanese equivalent of a pub—the new concept, from the Atlas Restaurant Group (owners of nearby Ouzo Bay), is full service, multi-course and upscale. Emphasis on upscale. Chef Eiji Takase’s menu includes several cuts of wagyu beef along with sushi and signature appetizers. In addition to its sake program, the bar will reflect Japan’s recent obsession with fine whiskey.
Chef. Takase, who moved to Fells Point in October, was part of the creative team behind SushiSamba, the Japanese-Brazilian concept (with locations in Manhattan’s West Village, Miami and London) and opened Shibuya in Las Vegas. He was also behind Chicago’s Japonais and Momoya in New York. Look for such cold dishes as blue fin Toro tartare with caviar, wasabi foam and wakamono, and jalapeno yellowtail hamachi with garlic soy, achiote oil and yuzu. Wagyu beef from Snake River Farms in Idaho will be seared on hot stone, and of course there will be sushi. “Rice is very important,” says Takase. “It’s connected to Shinto [the ancient Japanese religion], a symbol of life.”
Drinks. Tiffany Soto, who holds the rarified title of Sake Kikizake-shi (or Master Sake Teacher), consulted with the restaurant—as well as providing training to staff. The bar also will feature high-end Japanese whiskey (don’t forget, Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask recently ruffled Scotch feathers in the World Whiskey Bible). Taps will proffer both Japanese and local suds. “That’s the great thing about our team,” says Alex Smith, Atlas co-owner (with George Aligeorgas). “Our shtick is we’re local guys, so we’ll have Resurrection and Duckpin along with Sapporo.”
Décor. Designer Patrick Sutton has created a streamlined look with a range of textures and surfaces, both natural and synthetic. Entry to Azumi is through a clear glass vestibule to keep out the sharp winter wind—and summer heat. What was formerly a wall behind the bar is now a sweep of windows facing the water and the public walkway that rims Harbor East (with plans to create an outdoor space with soft seating, planters and lanterns). Banquettes are upholstered in shimmery faux eelskin and lit by custom metal light fixtures shaped like bishop’s hats. The bar has been relocated to the rear, and features a steel backdrop with a Japanese proverb (loose translation: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”) laser cut and backlit through red acrylic.
Lounge. A small lounge area off to one side offers bottle service in the shadow of a DJ (who will spin easy listening until 11 p.m., when, owners hope, a nightlife vibe will kick in). The wall is clad in black acoustic foam cut in a geometric pattern, and barstools are the very best part; each a hollow cylinder packed with vertical dowels. Upon landing, your backside is in for a squishy treat. The dowels sit atop Tempur-pedic type foam to create a shape-conforming cushion. “I don’t know where Patrick finds these things,” Smith muses.
Final Verdict. Azumi, Japanese fine dining from a conscientious chef with an international reputation, is the first of its kind in the region. Bring your gold card.
Azumi 725 Aliceanna St.
One night right before bed, Paula Bragg decided to break up once and for all—with online dating. It wasn’t OKCupid’s fault exactly. Nor Match.com’s. Nor Tinder’s. Bragg simply decided after a series of dead-wrong (yet often humorous) hangouts and exchanges—did you know men post pics of themselves wearing Chewbacca costumes and T-shirts reading “Show Me Your Kitties” on these charming sites?—she wanted to try a more traditional approach to meeting a man.
“After I deleted my profiles, I turned the light back on and wrote a post on Facebook,” explains Paula, 37, who serves as the director of philanthropy for Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital. Here’s what it said:
In the quest to go on my #LastFirstDate, I’m off of online dating sites. Makes sense, right? LOL! Well, it does if you believe, like I do, that with all the friends I have—and all the friends you have—someone out there knows a great guy for me!”
Earlier that night, she’d been at a work-related event when a friend yanked her across the room to introduce her to a man who, according to her pal, “knows everyone.” A light bulb turned on! Her friends on Facebook (and their friends) really do, in a sense, know everybody in Smalltimore—and more importantly, many of them actually know Paula, in person. (That means they can vouch that she is, indeed, an attractive, intelligent, funny and sane human being seeking a long-term relationship.)
Paula’s ballsy Facebook post, dated Nov. 6, quickly received more than 200 “likes” and 12 shares. “Send me your overflow,” wrote one friend. Within less than two weeks, she received eight introductions and went out on two casual dates with men she wants to see again.
“It’s been really fun putting the control in my friends’ hands,” says Paula. “I feel like I’m actually the one in control.”
Let’s have a heart-to-heart here, lovers. Who hasn’t yearned to play Control Freak Cupid now and then—or play God, as some realists might term it—and set up a good friend with a good-looking somebody or other?
Back in my 20s, this writer had easy luck urging a very shy and solitary roommate to call a man we’d run into at the supermarket. On a Post-it I scribbled, “Call Javi!” Over coffee cups, I shouted to myself, “Javi is gorgeous!” During a commercial, I whispered in her ear, “He might meet someone, like, tomorrow.” I wouldn’t stop till she turned tomato-red and picked up the phone, which I’d set in her lap. They’re now happily married.
But was my aggressive approach inappropriate? It’s not like I even knew for sure my roommate wanted to go out with the guy—I’d merely sensed chemistry in the canned soup aisle.
Dating coach Tammy Tilson, a licensed clinical social worker, says I was playing with fire back then, and lucky for all three of us nobody got burned (hey, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, hence several sizzling-red metaphors.) Singletons greatly need the sense of control and confidence that Paula describes owning if they’re going to play the dating game at the top of their emotional and intellectual game.
Tilson founded her Towson-based service, Upscale Dating, in 2013 because she’d encountered so many romantically anxious adults in her one-on-one therapy sessions—many of whom have faced innumerable disappointing online dates (sometimes dozens per month, according to my single friends), regular rejection and understandable exhaustion. She coaches these ladies and gents to get dating-ready, and empowers them to continue once they’ve begun—offering tips on everything from dating profiles to dinner conversation.
“The first important step is to ask somebody if they’d be interested in being set up,” Tilson says. “Sometimes single people feel ambushed. Don’t assume they’re not happy.”
Check. What’s next? Write your simple commands on a Post-it? Extol the virtues of your proposed candidate? Gently mock his drawbacks? Rattle the phone in her face? Not so much.
“Give your friends some basic information,” Tilson explains. “Show them a picture. You have to be honest about the person, but don’t get into anything too personal or tell their life story. Don’t say, ‘She’s slow to commit’ or ‘He’s sweet but a chronically messy kisser!’ Subjective information can sabotage. Just share their ages and if they’ve been married, have kids, etc. Leave it to a minimum.”
Tilson grants this advice may be easier said than done among close friends, but it’s a nice humane guideline to keep in mind. I asked her why so many of us are drawn to make a match.
“I don’t know if we’re projecting our own needs or being romantic,” Tilson says. “‘I’m happy; you be happy.’ Or: ‘Everybody’s married.’ Projecting wishes, desires, goals. I think people like to help people. They think it’s fun. But they don’t always think it through.”
Saralyn Lyons, bar manager at the Lyric, admits she definitely did not think it through when she set up her two Japanese steakhouse co-workers, Colin and Fran.
“Fran and I had a history of liking the same guy,” Saralyn, 25, explains. “‘You should ask out Fran,’ I told Colin, and he did. They started going out. At first, I felt proud. But one of the first times they hung out without my facilitating it, I realized I didn’t want this to happen—I became possessive of Colin. I was horrible! Whenever Fran would talk about their last date, I’d say, ‘Awwww! We used to do that.’”
Even though the young waitress asked each party if they were interested, she failed to understand her own under-the-radar crush. After Colin’s relationship with Fran ended on its own, he and Saralyn soon hooked up—they currently live together. Saralyn hasn’t spoken to her former friend Fran since the young woman quite rightly called her out on being jealous of her budding romance.
Tilson says it’s also important to be sure to consider life stages and personal preferences before you strike your match (heat metaphor). Be realistic. Be practical.
“If you know a guy is a workout maniac, don’t set him up with someone who doesn’t care about the gym,” she adds. “If you know a girl wants a baby, and you know a guy with three grown kids, he’s probably done with that.”
Might sound like a no-brainer, but not everyone takes time to compare these important qualifiers. Love is a much more fickle thing than just “he’s nice” and “she’s nice” and “they’re both single.” Bingo!
Speaking of fickle, I have one intellectual male friend who says he’d be open to a setup in a second. Not so fast. He wants a slim brunette with big boobs, who speaks a minimum of two languages and…the list goes on. In fact, I know one, but she’s not single right now, and if she were, I’m not sure I’d go there.
Tilson agrees: “If your single friend is very restrictive, just don’t set them up.”
Which brings up another key tip: Matchmakers must handle their friendships with tender loving care, especially if they know both the dating friends well.
“You can jeopardize your own bond by getting too involved; you could break trust,” says Tilson. “If the woman says ‘I didn’t like his body,’ don’t pass that on! Don’t invite the comment. Be as diplomatic as you can. Boundaries protect everyone’s feelings.”
Jennifer Ciattei, a 55-year-old web content writer, stepped super-duper carefully when she put together two quiet, creative types, both close friends of hers, but near strangers to each other.
“I love this female friend—and she deserved to be happy,” Jennifer says. “The male in the equation is the nicest guy in Baltimore—and a talented musician. But you just never know. It was important not to get anybody’s hopes up. Especially when you’re not kids. People might be a little more gun-shy than if they’re younger. I suggested coffee. He took a long time to get back in touch with her, but I didn’t weigh in. Now they’re getting married.”
Tilson, 47, is herself divorced with two kids. But she’s seriously involved with a man who was a friend’s pick for her. (“Her boyfriend is best friends with my boyfriend,” she says.)
So what’s the secret ingredient? How did her friend know she was making a brilliant match? She didn’t, of course. Chemistry may be a science, but not when it comes to dating.
Tilson says she and her now boyfriend simply approached the first date with open minds—neither assuming they were walking in to meet their future spouse nor predicting “I’m going to die alone” doom and gloom. (That’s a lot for a complete stranger to overcome over a cocktail and a plate of fried calamari.)
“Try not to have preconceived notions, if you can help it,” she says. “You can’t forecast what will happen. But if you don’t go, you’ll never know.”
On a personal endnote, I think it’s all well and good to aim to be open as a dater, but I also know you can’t force it. When I met my husband—six years ago through a strategic friend, at her office Christmas party—frankly, I was at a closed-shut point. For months I remained so. That night at the office party, my intended love match was wearing the worst overcoat: Remember Steve Winwood in those super shoulder pads? And he had long, salt-and-pepper hair, like an REO Speedwagon fan at a reunion show. I simply wasn’t interested.
When I met him again randomly, months later at a literary reading, he wore faded jeans—I noticed he had nice eyes. We sat together and chatted easily. In my more open mood, I realized my friend had been exactly right: This guy was smart, empathetic, funny…and gorgeous (especially so minus the rocker hair I later persuaded him to trim). Thank goodness my friend Ditty knew we might make a perfect pair, because a dating site would never have linked us, based on age difference, and the fact that Michael would never have set foot on such a site to begin with.
My advice to singleton daters: Trust your matchmaker friends, invite their assistance and thank them. To those making the potential match: Tread carefully when introducing people; operate as your most generous self—and if your heart’s in the right place, don’t be afraid to play Cupid.
Cupid Case Studies: Fix-up hits & Misses
When I was about 37, a friend at work asked if I’d like to be set up with a silver fox. I told my friend sure I would meet him. Soon my phone rang. When I answered, the gentleman said he was the best-looking man in town and would I meet him for a drink that afternoon? I said OK, warily. Over drinks, he mentioned, ‘Your breasts are beautiful!’ I was so freaked out by this guy that I started babbling, ‘They are not! I have had surgery from a lumpectomy!’ To which he replied, ‘Well, I have a little birth defect, no worries,’ and then proceeded to open his shirt and show me his THIRD NIPPLE. I literally ran out of the bar. –Claire, 50
A former colleague introduced me by email to the man of my dreams—or so I thought. He was divorced with two small, adorable kids. I was ready to play “hot stepmom” and marry this guy, who was an executive in D.C. with similar interests and background. But in the first five minutes after we met, I wished I’d requested the fake “your house is on fire” emergency call. He had the voice of a frog, moved like a robot—and, in the middle of the restaurant, loudly recounted numerous therapy sessions with his ex-wife. Worse: he kept trying to kiss me. Turns out, my friend had never met the guy in person… only on Facebook! People can be very different in 3D. –Jessica, 41
Trick or Treat
I was 27. It was Halloween, and my friend said, ‘I know this Baltimore artist who makes masks.’ We went to her house. There were masks everywhere! She was a very interesting person. I liked her. But I could sense she was a private person. A couple months go by. I’m in a meeting for work, and the phone rings. A mutual friend’s on the line: ‘The artist wants you to ask her out.’ So I did. I picked her up in a car that was completely screwed up—you had to put your foot on the door to yank it open. She didn’t mind. We’ve been married for many years. –Anonymous, 60
Rick understood it was a setup. Our mutual friend David had known Rick’s last girlfriend and wanted to see him partnered up—but I didn’t know a thing. After our group dinner, Rick drove me home, and I was thinking: I really like this guy. A week later I asked David for Rick’s number. (Eventually I learned he had considered other female friends for Rick, but decided they didn’t fit the part.) When I called, Rick didn’t sound wholly enthused. But then I borrowed his cat carrier, to transport a cat I’d adopted the same day he and I met. Afterward, we went on an amusingly error-ridden dinner date: They brought us the check before the food arrived. We’ve been together 22 years, married for 16. –Elisabeth, 45
Fix Me Up!
Tips for singles who want their friends to play Cupid.
Just Ask. If your five BFFs knew the man of your dreams, they would have already introduced you. Consider directly asking other friends you trust and admire if they know interesting people in their social circles who are single and ready to mingle.
Divide & Conquer. So you met an adorable woman who wasn’t quite for you? Introduce her to another single friend. (Online daters call this “recycling”—like a pre-screening service to increase odds of finding “The One.”)
Do Dinner. “Millionaire Matchmaker” Patti Stanger says first-time daters need to go out one-on-one with an element of flair and formality. “Drinks are an audition, coffee is cheap and lunch is an interview—dinner is romance.”
Play Host. In lieu of sulking (or stalking your ex) on Valentine’s Day, host a singles party where everyone brings an eligible person of the opposite sex. But, be careful, bringing your secret crush usually backfires.
Partner Up. Ask your married friends to host a “Third Wheel” happy hour or dinner party. That’s when each couple brings their favorite singleton (the one who tags along on all their dates) in hopes of coupling them up.
Be Positive. Not everyone is great at matchmaking. (So you really think I want to date your 74-year-old, thrice-divorced Uncle Morty?) Try not to be offended if your friend suggests a “no, thank you” suitor. And if a fix-up goes awry, always find something positive to say about the other person, such as “He had excellent taste in wine.” (No need to mention: “Unfortunately, he drank too much of it and started crying at the table.”)
Ditch the iPhone. Do not text your friend (or anyone else) the blow-by-blow during your date—if it works out, you’ll want some privacy. And either way, your date deserves your full attention.
Nice Touch. The very next day after, call or email your friend to express your gratitude for the fix-up. Whether your pal ignited a love/lust spark or put the “blind” into blind date, most matchmakers have great intentions—and, with a little practice and kind feedback, their Cupid’s aim might just improve. –Jessica Bizik
Back in 1997, Hollywood scored a box-office hit with “Face/Off,” the science-fiction thriller starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, in which an FBI agent and a freelance terrorist surgically switch faces such that no one, not even their families, can tell them apart.
Now, 18 years later, Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee is gearing up to do the real thing here in Baltimore.
Well, not exactly.
“Obviously, it makes an excellent movie, but we are not transplanting personal identity,” says Lee, director of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins University. “It is more of a hybrid of the two faces, depending on the underlying facial skeleton and how the patient uses facial expression, which is connected to the brain and personality.”
Back in 2010, Hopkins announced it had lured Lee, 57, away from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), a significant upset for his former institution. Lee brought with him six surgeons after successfully performing the world’s first bilateral (two limbs) hand transplant there one year earlier and earning himself and the university international recognition.
Hopkins, which has one of the oldest and most respected surgical programs in the country, had yet to perform a hand transplant when it offered Lee, a graduate of its medical school and of Harvard University, his own department of plastic surgery to try and entice him there. (Typically plastic surgery is a division of a larger department of surgery, as it is at UPMC.) It worked.
Lee has happily settled into a new home overlooking the Inner Harbor and has become a regular at restaurants Thames Street Oyster House in Fells Point, Wine Market Bistro in Federal Hill and Woodberry Kitchen in Hampden. Just don’t ask him about his football allegiance: He admits he’s still a Steelers fan.
Since arriving in Baltimore, Lee and his team have gone on to successfully perform a bilateral hand transplant at Hopkins, their 10th hand transplant overall and sixth patient. That patient, Brendan Marrocco, a then 26-year-old Army infantryman, lost both his hands and legs in a 2009 roadside bomb attack in Iraq. In December 2012, Marrocco received a transplant of two arms from a deceased donor.
Hand transplants are more complicated than internal organ transplants—heart or liver for example—because they involve bones, blood vessels, fat, muscles, tendons, nerves and skin (hence the term “vascularized composite tissue allotransplantation”). They are among the rarest and riskiest surgeries performed in the U.S. today. Only seven bilateral hand transplants have ever been successfully performed in the country.
The big breakthrough came in 2007, explains Lee, when, with the help of “brilliant scientists” from Pittsburgh’s Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, he developed the immune modulatory protocol, a three-pronged approach to vascularized composite tissue allotransplantation that offers patients lower risk of rejection and less potentially harmful drug therapy. Lee and his fellow researchers had discovered after two decades of laboratory research that if they took bone marrow from a dead donor’s bones and placed it into a recipient’s body prior to the transplant procedure, the recipient’s immune system would be primed to accept the new limb—a process Lee calls “immune modulation.”
Antibody treatments and the administration of one anti-rejection drug as opposed to the usual and sometimes-toxic three-drug cocktail traditionally used for organ transplantation complete the process.
Back then, Lee predicted that he would one day be able to apply this technique to face transplants. Like the human hand, a person’s face is made of composite tissues—and, he believes, “the same immunology protocol should work.”
After receiving the approval of Hopkins’ institutional review board in 2012, Lee is now ready to realize this ambition. He says his team, composed of roughly 40 surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses, is currently screening patients for the clinical trial phase of a new face transplant program at Hopkins. And the potential candidates are lining up— wounded U.S. soldiers, gunshot victims and victims of flame and acid burns to the face.
“There’s this very unfortunate practice, primarily in developing countries, where an acid attack to the face is used as a form of revenge, and those are some of the most tragic cases you can see,” he explains. “Young women are coming to us after such injuries with completely deformed faces, having lost most of their facial features after acid was poured on their faces.”
However, Lee says his group is “very stringent” about waiting to operate until they can make optimal matches between donors and recipients. His team employs both a transplant psychiatrist and psychologist to help screen candidates to make sure they are up to the emotional and physical challenges.
Another barrier to performing face transplants: the emotional shock to the donor family. “We’ve found it particularly difficult to get families to participate,” Lee says. To ease that discomfort, his team has hired a medical artist and a prosthetist who can create “amazingly realistic” facial prostheses to fit on the donor’s body for open casket funerals.
The money for the clinical trials is in place, thanks to institutional support from Hopkins and about $10 million of grants Lee has received from the U.S. Department of Defense, a sponsor of Lee’s work since his early days at UPMC. The procedure is not covered by insurance like other organ transplant operations because it’s not yet considered mainstream, although Lee predicts this will change.
Lee concedes that face transplants will not save lives, but they will “significantly improve quality of life.” Beauty is an important part of being human, he says, and “something that’s always on our minds as plastic surgeons.”
Transplant surgeries are extremely long and involved events. When a team of 150 at the University of Maryland Medical Center completed the most extensive full face transplant to date in March 2012, it took 36 hours. Lee’s hand transplants take about 12. To set the right mood for the challenging scene, he often plays opera music in the operating theater.
“Puccini and Verdi operas, the more melodic the better,” he says.
Back in Pittsburgh, the young residents used to complain when Lee would blast “Tosca” and “Turandot” over the speakers. If anything, he’s turning up the volume at Hopkins, where he regularly selects his own soundtrack for performing long surgeries.
“As my position becomes more senior, the more reserved people have become in expressing their displeasure [at my musical taste],” Lee notes, with a wry smile. “People don’t seem to object anymore.”
Geoffrey W. Melada is editor-in-chief of the Washington Jewish Week.
Want Fries with That?
When James Clark was a college student in Ottowa, he and his friends would gorge on poutine—fries slathered in gravy and sprinkled with white cheese curds. “That’s what you’d do after a night out,” says Clark. The one-time hangover prophylactic has become mainstream in his home country. “You see guys in suits in Toronto having it for lunch,” he says. His eponymous Clark Burger, which opened in a small space adjacent to the Senator Theatre in December, serves the fries gussied up with options like pulled pork, bacon and Montreal smoked meat, in addition to burgers with all manner of toppings. Wash it all down with local brews on tap or a classic Canadian-inspired cocktail. One of Clark’s favorites is the Bloody Caesar, a lighter rendition of a bloody mary, made with Clamato. “I think the first person who tried it said, ‘Bloody Caesar!’ because it tasted so good,” he theorizes. He also predicts the return of the Boilermaker (for those who don’t watch crime dramas, that’s a beer and a shot of whiskey). 5906 York Road, 410-323-0000, clark-burger.com
Jim Glick, co-owner of the SoBo Market, an extension of nearby SoBo Café in Federal Hill, has a vision of the ideal customer. “It’s a neighborhood place. They’ll come in for a cocktail after work and then look around and see something for dinner.” That something may be on the simple menu of sandwiches on homemade bread, crudités and small plates—or in the grab-and-go case stocked with gourmet salads, roasted chicken, hummus and other spreads and staples like milk and eggs. Glick’s life and business partner Anna Leventis, bought the mothership café three years ago and has transformed it into a comfort food alternative to the raucous bar scene nearby—and a favorite of the neighborhood’s growing under-10 population. “We’ve had kids who ask to have their birthday parties here,” Leventis points out. Some of the café’s favorites, such as mac-n-cheese and spinach pie, are available at the market, as well as coffee drinks and pastries (including SoBo’s renowned biscuits) on weekend mornings. For those who want to linger, bar manager Paul Palombo (pictured right) is crafting such “post-prohibition” cocktails as the Bobby Burns (Scotch, sweet vermouth and Benedictine) and Corpse Reviver (gin, Cointreau and absinthe) from boutique spirits. 13 E. Randall St., 410-685-6605
Wake Up, Annapolis
Kyle Algaze, owner of Iron Rooster in Annapolis, has an operating principle that resonates with everyone: Breakfast for dinner. The menu moves seamlessly from eggs Benedict with smoked salmon to waffles with buttermilk fried chicken—a recipe of which Algaze is rightfully proud—to coffee-rubbed New York strip steak and “Cakes on Cakes” (crabcakes + cornmeal pancakes). The food at this homey spot, a stone’s throw from Market Slip (aka Ego Alley) is whimsical and comforting—and sure to incite food envy (you really want to know what the people at the next table are having). We salivated over a neighbor’s Oysters Roostafella with spinach and quail eggs, shrimp and grits, a risotto baked in its own cast-iron pan—and a dessert list that’s so over-the-top it sounds like a parody of modern food trends. Peanut butter glazed bacon candy bar or red velvet waffle ice cream sandwich rolled in dark shaved chocolate, anyone? 12 Market Space, Annapolis, 410-990-1600, ironroosterallday.com
The White Oak Tavern can’t yet afford to publicize on the strip mall marquis, so co-owner Clare Frey just tells people “it’s in the Enchanted Forest shopping center.” The Ellicott City restaurant that Frey owns with her brother Peter and bar manager Noel Johnson took over the space once owned by Jilly’s Sports Bar last January. Though the fairy tale playthings have been moved to a nearby farm, the shopping center once called home by the oversized shoe and three little pigs’ cottages remains well known to Howard County residents of a certain age. Thick and juicy burgers made with grass-fed beef from Wagon Wheel Ranch in Mount Airy served with caramelized onions on an Atwater’s brioche bun is emblematic of the restaurant itself. The busy spot with TVs and bottomless brunch cocktails that is, yes, located in a strip mall, has an old soul. The owners are committed to local sourcing and “scratch cooking” along with craft cocktails made with seasonal fruits. Walls are paneled with wood torn from old pallets and decorated with reproductions of vintage photos from the Miller Branch library’s archives. “We have some customers who recognize themselves,” Frey says. Those folks probably also played at the Enchanted Forest. The rest of us can revel in the authenticity of the place. 10030 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, 410-680-8974, thewhiteoaktavern.com
Home Sweet Home
Though Savvy might admit to having some, ah, socialist impulses, she wouldn’t go so far as to open up her home to all and sundry. Michael Ryan Wright and Seth Barkman would. Their new five-story home goods shop in Fells Point is called MiY, which stands for “mine is yours”—and they don’t carry anything they wouldn’t live with themselves. Many products are hand-crafted, such as mattresses by Kingsdown. Who knew mattresses could be so beautiful? Performance-based Bedgear pillows will help you rest soundly—and avoid getting hot in the sack (at least while you’re sleeping). Furniture by Gus has a mid-century “Mad Men” vibe, while paintings by Watson look like the work of a sexy Banksy. Savvy swooned over the masculine-scented candles by Mitchell Black and stunning array of Detroit wallpapers. 1605 Eastern Ave., 410-881-0187, miy-home.com
Fabric of our lives
Sure, we all buy organic bananas at Whole Foods. Now, organic fibers are all the rage. The Swedish/ American duo behind Hanna Andersson has formed a veritable dynasty by capitalizing on that desire. In addition to the children’s clothing for which the chain is well known, you’ll find a new women’s line plus home décor at the new store at the Mall in Columbia. Comfort is the name of the game here but with a touch of style, as in the Anna Colorblock Dress, the Metro Midi Skirt with a velvet stretch waist or the supremely feminine Sleeveless Lace Blouse. And the bright colors of the Scandinavian rugs just make Sav happy. 10300 Little Patuxent Parkway, 443-917-7023, hannaandersson.com
When Savvy thinks bridal boutiques, her mind’s eye is overwhelmed by a blizzard of white and frou-frou. But Garnish Boutique owner Mia Antalics says the big trends this year are peplums, long sleeves and color. No wonder bridal entourages and gals just looking for formal dresses are flocking to the newly expanded showroom with lovely touches by interior designer Stephanie Gamble. Antalics is especially excited about two labels she’s recently snagged: Catherine Deane and Leanne Marshall—describing their gowns as “slightly more bohemian, lighter, more effortless.” 1515 LaBelle Ave., 410-321-1406, garnishboutique.com
Harbor East just keeps hopping. The latest shop on the block is national women’s retailer Madewell, J. Crew’s sophisticated little sister inspired by an American denim label founded in 1937, which manages to combine hip and artsy with classic. Shearling is Madewell’s newest trend, done in jackets, vests, even handbags. The clothes skew a little young for Sav, except for that yummy black leather biker jacket or better yet, the satin bomber jacket. For $528 and $188, respectively, she could give the young’uns a run for their money! 811 Aliceanna St., madewell.com
When he’s not portraying the Emmy-winning role of news anchor Will McAvoy on HBO’s “The Newsroom” or getting into another round of idiotic antics as Harry Dunne (is he “Dumb or Dumber,” by the way?), Jeff Daniels sings. Onstage with nothing but his guitar, Daniels belts out acoustic ballads, feisty blues and comedic melodies that mark important moments in his life. Under his independent label Boomadeeboom Records, Daniels has performed more than 300 gigs across the country during the last 12 years. His next stop is Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, where, alongside his son’s Ben Daniels Band, the “Something Wild” actor will perform an array of original songs, including those from his latest full-length album, “Days Like These.” Jan. 9. Tickets, $40. 410-268-4545, ticketfly.com –Ian Zelaya
Spend An Evening with Jason Alexander as the Tony Award-winning Broadway star sheds his “Seinfeld” persona and returns to his musical theater roots—recounting stories about his remarkable career and performing some of his favorite tunes with the BSO. Jan. 23-25, at the Meyerhoff. Tickets, $49-$99. 410-783-8000, bsomusic.org –Jessica Bizik
After more than two decades hosting “The Tonight Show,” Jay Leno is hopping around the country to share a little schtick with his fans. Let’s hope his new act is on par with that memorable Kanye West interview. Jan. 22, at the Lyric. Tickets, $57-$216. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com –Kieran Butler
As a young boxing star who just won the heavyweight title, Cassius Clay celebrates in a hotel room with three friends—Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown—in One Night in Miami, a fictionalized tale that echoes stories of humanity and hope from the civil rights movement. Jan. 14-Feb. 8, at Center Stage. Tickets, $19-$59. 410-332-0033, centerstage.org –K.B.
Join the celebration as the Creative Alliance hosts an album release party for “Parts & Labor”—the latest collaboration for local faves Letitia VanSant & the Bonafides, who use their folk-driven sound and three-part harmonies to tell stories about hard work, economic injustice and how we continue to redefine the American Dream. Feb. 27, at Creative Alliance. Tickets, $13 members, $15 nonmembers. 410-276-1651, creativealliance.org –K.B.
Two to Tango
Baltimore will get a little steamier this winter when the sequin-wearing pros from ABC’s Dancing with the Stars salsa, swing, cha-cha and waltz their way into our beating (albeit slightly jealous) hearts. Jan. 14, at the Lyric. Tickets, $47-$89. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com –J.B.
Time to strip down to your unmentionables…for a cause! Cupid’s Undie Run returns to Baltimore on Valentine’s Day for its annual half-naked (barely 1-mile) run and party, which raises money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation and neurofibromatosis research. Feb. 14, at Luckie’s Tavern at Power Plant Live! Tickets, $40-$55. cupidsundierun.com –I.Z.
A dilapidated farm is transformed into a hotbed of disillusionment and unrequited love by the arrival of the landowner’s new trophy wife as the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company takes on Uncle Vanya, Anton Chekhov’s masterful 19th-century comedy. Feb. 13-March 1. Tickets, $15-$48. 410-244-8570, chesapeakeshakespeare.com –K.B.
As war rages on in the Congo, women’s bodies are used as a battlefield between soldiers and rebels—and real-life stories are retold in Lynn Nottage’s Ruined. Feb. 4-March. 8, at the Everyman Theatre. Tickets, $34-$60. 410-752-2208, everymantheatre.org –K.B.
Hard Knock Life
Get ready to be charmed as that ever-optimistic redhead Annie makes the sun come out at the Hippodrome. Jan. 20-Feb. 1. Tickets, $50-$113. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com –K.B.
Shake A Tailfeather
Don’t expect a Natalie Portman-Mila Kunis style face-off when the State Ballet Theatre of Russia brings its sophisticated rendition of Swan Lake (and 50 of their nation’s top dancers) to our home on the harbor. Feb. 7 and 8, at the Hippodrome. Tickets, $50-$71. 800- 745-3000, ticketmaster.com –I.Z.
Ice Ice Baby
See your child’s eyes (and imagination) light up as Ariel, Tinker Bell and the gang from “Toy Story” get sassy on skates in Disney On Ice: Worlds of Fantasy. Feb. 4-8, at Royal Farms Arena. Tickets, $22-$75. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com –K.B.
When a husband returns from a military tour, he and his wife struggle in their marriage with frustration and sexual tension that have them reeling in References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot. Jan. 7-Feb. 8, at Single Carrot Theatre. Tickets, $18-$25. 443-844-9253, singlecarrot.com –I.Z.
We’ve loved Minnie Driver since “Circle of Friends” (even before her Oscar-winning performance in “Good Will Hunting”) but the British babe—now starring on NBC’s “About a Boy”—is also an accomplished singer. Check out her folksy/pop chops on Feb. 5, at Rams Head On Stage. Tickets, $29. 877-987-6487, ticketfly.com –K.B.
Good Night, Monkey Boy
The author of the popular “Lunch Lady” series—set to become a feature film starring Amy Poehler—Jarrett Krosoczka has written and illustrated more than 25 children’s books, and has also given two successful TED Talks. Join him for a reading and signing on Feb. 23, at The Ivy Bookshop. Free. 410-377-2966, theivybookshop.com –I.Z.
In “Song of the Jasmine,” the critically acclaimed Ragamala Dance Company spins a colorful story about the spirituality and sensuality of the South Indian psyche. Feb. 7, at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. Tickets, $10-$25. 301-405-2787, theclarice.umd.edu –K.B.
Sleight of Hand
In “Magic Outside of the Box,” David London combines illusions with comedy, storytelling and more in his fun, one-of-a-kind show. Jan. 31, at Baltimore Theatre Project. Tickets, $15-$30. 410-752-8558, theatreproject.org –K.B.
See The World
Fifty-nine artists are featured in Emergence 2014: International Artists to Watch, featuring works from Israel to South Korea to Zimbabwe and beyond. The pieces exhibit diversity in both medium and message—uniquely reflecting each artist’s culture, traditions and influences. Through Jan. 10, at Galerie Myrtis. 410-235-3711, galeriemyrtis.net –K.B.
Your Kingdom Awaits
Build me up, buttercup! Kids and adults alike will have fun creating their own kingdoms in the traveling exhibit LEGO Castle Adventure! where guests can also explore secret passageways, sit on their own throne and more. Feb. 14-Sept. 20, at Port Discovery. Free with admission. 410-727-8120, portdiscovery.org –K.B.
Some of the funniest improvisers in the country graduate from the Upright Citizens Brigade, co-founded by “SNL” alum Amy Poehler. We can’t wait to see what the Chicago-based troupe has in store for local audiences—not to mention the opening act by Charm City’s talented Baltimore Improv Group. Jan. 31, at Gordon Center for Performing Arts. Tickets, $25-$29. 410-356-7469, jcc.org –I.Z.
Raise Your Voice
Baltimore Concert Opera celebrates Black History Month with This Little Light of Mine, a one-woman tribute to two great ladies—Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price—who overcame many barriers during the Jim Crow era to become international opera stars. Performed by soprano Adrienne Danrich. Feb. 27 and March 1, at the Grand Ballroom of The Engineers Club. Tickets, $25-$65. 443-445-0226, baltimoreconcertopera.com –K.B.
Laura Lippman reads from her latest Tess Monaghan thriller “Hush Hush,” the 12th novel in the crime series about a Baltimore reporter-turned-private investigator. Feb. 24, at The Ivy Bookshop. Free. 410-377-2966, theivybookshop.com –I.Z.
Radio news gurus, it’s time to put a face to the voice on “All Things Considered” when WYPR Presents an Evening with Robert Siegel at MICA. Feb. 3. Tickets, $35-$85, which includes the option of a VIP reception. 410-235-1660, robertsiegel.eventbrite.com —I.Z.
Love him or hate him, Chris Brown is showing off “Between the Sheets” (actual tour name) as Trey Songz and Tyga join him for a national dance party that will undoubtedly get fans out of their seats. Jan. 31, at Royal Farms Arena. Tickets, $62-$115. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com –K.B.
In a hilariously provocative perfor-mance that might just be the ultimate girls’ night out, the Chippendales bring their Vegas show—but not their shirts—to Baltimore. Jan. 18, at Baltimore Soundstage. Tickets, $33-$195. 877-987-6487, ticketfly.com –K.B.
Femininity has been expressed in numerous ways in contemporary art. The Art of the Female Form celebrates and explores this tradition with a display of artistic works that show the different ways the female muse is depicted. Jan. 2-Jan. 31, at Renaissance Fine Arts in Cross Keys and Chevy Chase. 410-484-8900, renaissancefinearts.com –I.Z.
Wine Down Under
Go “wild” at Australian Wine Night at the National Aquarium, featuring feedings in the Animal Planet Australia exhibit, Aussie-inspired entertainment and sharks after dark in the Blacktip Reef. Jan. 29. Tickets, $20-$30. 410-576-3800, aqua.org/afterdark –I.Z.
For students who are curious about the college experience or a meaningful career in research, a traditional high school curriculum will only provide so many answers. But several private schools in Baltimore are helping their students step out of the classroom—and into the real world of research and collaboration. Through these place- ments with universities, students find out there’s no substitute for the real thing.
FRIENDS SCHOOL OF BALTIMORE
At Friends School of Baltimore, history teacher Josh Carlin coordinates the University Partnership Program (UPP), which has placed nearly 40 students in two university programs over the last year. In collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, the school assists Dr. Erin Chung, a political science professor, with research for a book project that explores ethnic demo-cracies. For this yearlong project that serves as a senior history elective, 20 Friends students work as Dr. Chung’s research assistants, creating a database of citizenship laws and immigration laws around the world. “This is hard research. It’s stressful but authentic learning,” says Carlin. “And the students are reporting to a higher authority than me as a teacher.”
The other UPP placement offered by Friends is a semester-long junior or senior elective in English and history coordinated with Duke University’s Haiti Lab. Launched at Friends in 2011 and still going strong, this elective allows students to work with Duke students on research concerning Haitian history and culture. In particular, the students focus their research on the late 18th century, when what is now known as Haiti was the French colony Saint-Domingue and most of the agricultural economy was fueled by slave labor.
The phenomenon of slaves running away, called marronnage, was widespread, and many fugitive slaves were reported missing in advertisements run by their owners in the weekly newspaper. This year, 19 Friends students will translate these fugitive slave ads and enter them into a database, which scholars can use for research. Through this work, the students uncover information about the population that would otherwise not be known, such as the slaves’ names, ages, physical description, African nations of origin and language skills.
David Zeger, a senior who did both translating and data entry, found the project moving. “At the beginning, I didn’t anticipate the gravity of what I was about to read. It was so disgusting. These were human beings treated like they were lost soccer balls,” he says. “It felt good that their story will get out because of something we did.”
Dylan Coiro, another senior who worked on the Haiti Lab, says, “We’re used to doing a lot of research, especially in history, at our school. This project put all of that into a real-world context.”
And Uma Scharf, a senior who translated the marronnage ads from French, says that as part of this project she and her classmates learned quite a bit about the culture of Haiti. “Before this class,” she says, “I didn’t know that much about Haiti, and it was really cool to realize that I had more connection to the culture than I thought.”
Carlin likes that the projects with Dr. Chung and the Haiti Lab provide real-world application for his students. “The beauty is that the students are doing work that the professors need,” he says. “We’re providing highly educated, highly motivated and brilliant students. And in three years there’s been almost no complaining.”
THE BRYN MAWR SCHOOL
Eric Elton, the STEM director at The Bryn Mawr School, works to nurture students’ interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). To that end, he places students in summer internships with mentors at research labs in schools including Johns Hopkins University. The internships don’t count as classes, and there’s no academic credit. But the students find the experience invaluable.
Elton’s goal is to find advisers at labs that fit with his students’ interests. “The students and I sit down and figure out what they want to explore until we find the spark,” he says.
Last summer, Teresa Norman, a senior, interned at the JHU Whiting School of Engineering in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, known as DoGEE. Building on a doctoral student’s study of the hydraulic substructure at Oregon Ridge Park in Baltimore County, Norman’s work was to plot along transects, count tree species and use calipers to measure the diameters of trees in the transects. The goal is to examine patterns of tree growth that might correlate with substructures such as water, bedrock and clay. “I can identify most of the tree species at Oregon Ridge,” she says. Although her research is preliminary, Norman says her data show a relationship between water and the growth of mountain laurel. “Before this,” she says, “I didn’t really have any grasp of what environmental engineering was, and now it’s opened up as a field of interest for me.”
Feddi Roth, also a senior, has done two summer internships through Bryn Mawr. The first one was at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program, where she worked with nanowires. For her second internship, she worked with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in the Department of Oncology, exploring whether nanoparticles can be used as a treatment for cancer. Her mentor was Dr. Mohammad Hedayati, a postdoctoral fellow who guided her research on the behavior of nanoparticles to see if they might target specific cells with the application of heat. In the end, Roth says, “It seemed like a viable way to treat cancer.” Dr. Hedayati will use some of Roth’s data in a publication and will list her as one of the authors.
“The coolest part was that I got to take care of my own flask of cells,” says Roth. Along with two other Bryn Mawr students at the lab, she was invited to department meetings so that she could see how research works at a university. “I was amazed by how people work together in a lab,” she said. “Everybody shared information, there were constant group meetings and a lot of exchanging ideas.”
Elton says that when the JHU advisers report back to him, they tell him they were amazed at the quality of the students’ work. “Send me more, they say,” says Elton. “At the beginning, the students find it really challenging, but by the end most of them feel a huge pride in what they achieved.”
GARRISON FOREST SCHOOL
At Garrison Forest School, the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program is in its 10th year. Juniors and seniors are paired with graduate-level research labs at Johns Hopkins University across the STEM disciplines, and find themselves at settings such as the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering and Jhpiego, a JHU-affiliated organization that focuses on international public health. For about four months, students conduct research with their assigned lab two or three afternoons a week, working closely with the graduate students and faculty leading the lab.
Andrea Perry, the dean of special programs and director of the James Center, says that the purpose of WISE is to attract young women to careers in STEM. “Women are well-represented in health and medicine,” she says. “This is a targeted effort for engineering placement.” By the end of this year, the program will have served 150 students.
Some of the placements have included the exploration of a link between aroma and Alzheimer’s disease; the study of the behavior of electric fish in order to replicate it in robots; the study of how the antennae of cockroaches follow surfaces; and an HIV intervention-based project at the Bloomberg School.
Katherine Paseman, who is now in her first year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, did her placement at Jhpiego. Working with Jhpiego project engineer Sean Monagle, Paseman researched ways to develop cheaper urine dipsticks that could be used in developing nations to test pregnant women for gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, and to test all women for urinary tract infections.
“It was a combination of bench work and reading existing patents,” says Paseman. “Sean gave me a lot of freedom and responsibility.” Some of her work was done at the biomedical engineering building at JHU, where the Jhpiego engineers are based. After months of careful measuring and research, Paseman concludes that, “The work’s never really done in research, but I know I’ve contributed and my work is important.” What was most helpful to her was how the experience built her confidence.
“I feel like a peer with the people I encounter at MIT instead of just another high school student,” she says.
“These students are part of the process where new knowledge is being created, where they learn about the open-ended aspect of research,” says Perry. “They learn a lot about failure, something most of them are not familiar with. They learn a lot about patience and what it takes to tackle a question. They also learn what it takes to maintain excitement and focus over the long haul.”
Five more programs that bridge high school and college
St. Paul’s School for Girls offers the Scholars Program, a three-year independent study opportunity that teaches students to research a chosen topic rigorously and report on community and global impact. Students may apply as freshmen to participate from sophomore through senior years. For her smile-inducing project, “Animals and People,” which looks at the effect of dogs on human anxiety, Catherine Schwab ’15 worked with Dr. Doug Granger of Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, the Center for Inter-disciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research and Drs. Cynthia Zahnow and Huili Li of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Hopkins Medical Institute.
Maryvale Preparatory School partners with Towson University and Anne Arundel Community College to provide online classes for their high-achieving high schoolers. Through Maryvale’s new Leadership Institute, the online courses enable Maryvale girls to start college armed with course credit and learn something about their intended major in comfy advance of the first semester of university life. Not to mention: The beefed-up transcripts impress admissions committees. Maryvale graduate Anna Karwacki ’14 took a class called Computing Programming Logic at Towson last year, which gave her an edge applying to Rochester Institute of Technology, where she now studies gaming. Upper School students may apply for short-term (one-day and weeklong) study onsite at both Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland.
Boys’ Latin partners with What Works: Raising Boys, Engaging Guys and Educating Men, a psychologically inclined initiative led by Dr. Christopher Howard and Hampden-Sydney College. “What Works” partner Dr. Michael Thompson, a celebrated child psychologist, has served for the last two years as resident fellow at Boys’ Latin’s Bauer Institute for Leadership and Personal Growth, which serves to enhance personal growth and increase mentoring opportunities.
Each year, one student in the STEM Institute at the Roland Park Country School accepts an internship through Hopkins Department of Cognitive Science. Students regularly engage in study via the university’s celebrated Space Telescope Science Institute. Additionally, RPCS holds a Teach for America workshop with Becton, Dickinson and Co., in collaboration with Hopkins’ School of Education. RPCS Next Step Program links girls with opportunities at Loyola University and Morgan State. Typically, several seniors shadow professionals at UMD Shock Trauma. RPCS alumna Tanaira Cullens shares her eco research at Morgan State’s Pearl Center with the school’s Chesapeake Bay class. Meanwhile, teaching students from Goucher observe, intern and instruct in the Lower School.
McDonogh’s Energy and Environment Nexus Lab landed online last April. Penn State grad students Marta Hatzell and Mark Ullery helped bring the optimistic project to life—past parent Rob Kershner is the visionary who brought fuel cell technology to the new lab in the Naylor Building, where students will soon begin to apply their advanced learning to real-world eco problems like energy loss. Meanwhile, McDonogh’s choral program will collaborate with the Towson University choir for the second year this spring, including a joint performance on March 8 at Second Presbyterian Church. –Betsy Boyd
Dave Thomas and his wife, Tonya, along with business partners Brandon Taylor and Yuriy Chernov, opened Herb & Soul in Parkville in 2012. The cozy, bustling restaurant specializes in what Thomas calls Southern fusion, comfort foods with a healthy twist. Think alligator etouffée, fry bread tacos with braised rabbit and anything kale. Herb & Soul Express, which opened in Hamilton in December, offers carryout and delivery of foods Thomas has become known for (both at the Parkville restaurant and his stand at the Sunday Farmers Market and Bazaar).
What are your food roots? My grandmother was a Blackfoot Indian, one generation out of slavery, from North Carolina. She had 13 acres in Howard County with apple trees, fig trees, pear trees, cherry trees. She had a garden; she butchered her own animals; she made root beer. I watched her make everything from scratch from her own fields. When I got into cooking, I wanted to do that.
Sounds like you were on top of a trend. People do look at it as a trend; that’s an unfortunate thing. If you look back to the 1950s, before industrial farming became dominant in the U.S., even if you went to the grocery store to buy food, they could point you to the farm where it came from.
Does your food have a message? I believe the Creator made everything to eat perfectly. As chefs, our job is to enhance what nature provides. I’ve done all the gastronomic stuff; I’ve worked with foams and know all the ways of making food look like something it’s not. I like simple food; simple flavors. I want people to eat healthy. But people want what they want. Some customers come in strictly for our fried chicken.
So you want people to eat close to the earth. Not only is that healthy, but you’re supporting the environment. I serve blue catfish because it’s invasive in Maryland waters. The indigenous white or channel catfish grow to only 10 to 15 pounds. Blue catfish is indigenous to Asia and was introduced in Maryland several years ago. The record caught was 120 pounds. It has no natural predators, so it’s eating all the things we love about the Chesapeake: baby oysters, baby rockfish, baby crabs. The only way to get rid of it is to cook it and eat it.
Will the Express menu be different? We’ll have artisan pizza, along with our Southern fusion, po’boys, Navajo fry bread tacos. We sell them now at Baltimore Farmers Market.
Is Herb & Soul Express a prototype? We’re looking to do five to 10 locations. Our idea is to change the concept of carryout and delivery food. No buffalo wings or frozen chicken tenders. We won’t be selling steak-umms. I’ll be buying fresh top round from Roseda, and hand-slicing it. —Martha Thomas
I’m sure Kelly Elliott is a lovely person and a wonderful mother, but I really don’t envy her schedule.
Elliott, whose three young daughters are competitive swimmers, was featured in an October 2014 article in Real Simple about how best to nurture children’s talents. The magazine ran a sidebar showing a typical weekday for the Elliott family, which begins with a 4:15 a.m. wake-up and includes a dizzying litany of pickups and drop-offs and practices and laundry. (All those pool towels don’t just wash themselves, you know.)
And while Elliott’s devotion to her kids’ extracurriculars is probably a little more intense than average—the tagline of her blog, flylikeagirl.org, is “Crazy Swim Mom”—it seems like there’s a little more of the Crazy Swim Mom in all of us these days.
Last fall, my husband wrote a Facebook status that made many people laugh with knowing recognition.
Hey, if you guys aren’t doing anything tomorrow at 8 a.m., my son Ethan has a soccer game in Fallston, which is somewhere north of White Marsh and south of Delaware. Game time temps should be about 23 degrees. Let me know if you need directions.
Just a few weeks earlier, my brother, who lives outside of D.C., had posted a photo of a calendar reminder for my 11-year-old niece’s hockey game.
Which started on a Sunday at 6 a.m.
In Raleigh, North Carolina.
To be clear, I played the cello quite seriously as a kid; my husband played multiple sports. There is no question we want our kids to play sports and participate in other activities, even when that occasionally means standing in 23-degree weather 30 miles away. Last spring, I somehow volunteered to chaperone my son’s chess team trip to a tournament in Atlanta. By bus. (Let’s just say that upon returning, I drank the most well-deserved glass of wine in history.)
But it seems like the bar is slowly rising, with the occasional “Crazy Swim Mom” moment subtly morphing into the new normal. And whereas the Crazy Swim Mom might have been the outlier back in 1975, someone you might come across every now and then, they are now stock characters, front and center on the stage of modern parenting.
But what really concerns me is so many parents’ apparent willingness to be swept up in this tide, to surrender and even celebrate the inevitable insanity of it rather than to try to stem it or scale it back. I was startled to see that our son’s baseball league sold T-shirts that read “I Have No Life. My Son Plays Baseball.” A quick Google search shows that they make the shirt for parents whose kids play hockey, football and basketball, too, as well as those whose children dance, cheer, do gymnastics and just about any other activity you can think of.
Let’s reflect for a moment, shall we, on the peculiarities of a parenting culture in which having “no life” because of your children is not only…a thing, but a thing that parents would actually pony up $29.95 to jokingly announce to the world.
Houston, we have a problem.
I’m not sure if anyone can pinpoint the exact moment when the kid tail started wagging the parent dog, exactly, but it’s obvious that there has been a massive cultural shift since my own Generation X childhood. As Jennifer Senior so astutely points out in her 2014 book, “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood,” women who stayed at home used to be called “housewives.” Now? They’re called “stay-at-home mothers.”
“Motherhood is no longer viewed as simply a relationship with your children, a role you play at home and at school, or even a hallowed institution,” Heather Havrilesky recently wrote in The New York Times. “Motherhood has been elevated—or perhaps demoted—to the realm of lifestyle, an all-encompassing identity with demands and expectations that eclipse everything else in a woman’s life.”
It’s that eclipsing of everything else that made Real Simple feel the need to point out how crucial it is for parents to pursue their own hobbies and interests. “One of the most important things we can do is model an adulthood worth striving for,” psychologist Madeline Levine told the magazine. “Having nothing to do but watch kids throw a ball around all weekend may not be the best example to show our kids.”
And yet, here we are, spending weekend after weekend doing nothing but watching kids throw a ball around. Because that’s what everyone does. It’s not easy to extricate yourself from an identity that demands that you be all in, all the time. It’s hard to stand your ground and be the one parent who draws the line in the sand. The one who brings store-bought cupcakes (the horror!) to the school event rather than the Pinterest-worthy ones, or who opts not to have their kid try out for the travel team or get private sports coaching.
But what about the endgame? Where is the evidence that all this schlepping and hovering and catering to is actually benefiting our kids more than “watching ‘Gilligan’s Island’ every afternoon,” as Heather Havrilesky did? Is the intensity with which today’s kids participate in sports and activities actually making an appreciable, positive difference in their lives? Or is it just stressing all of us out?
I think the jury’s still out.
So in the meantime, I’m starting a T-shirt campaign of my own. Mine’s going to say “I’m determined to have a life. With kids who play sports.” Any takers?
Jennifer Mendelsohn lives with her husband and their two boys in Mount Washington. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, People, Slate and USA Weekend.
Peter Mark Kendall is headed to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop—well, a fictionalized version at least. The 28-year-old Towson native has a recurring role in the upcoming fourth season of “Girls” (which premieres Jan. 11), starring alongside series creator Lena Dunham, whose character Hannah is ditching the Big Apple (and maybe her boyfriend?) to begin a new chapter in her life. Kendall, who studied music and theater at McDaniel College and received an M.F.A. at the Brown University/Trinity Rep joint program, was in town for the holidays from New York City when he spoke with STYLE about working under Dunham’s direction, sharing the big screen with Richard Gere and his big acting break in Baltimore.
STYLE: You portray Jeffrey in the newest season of “Girls.” Here’s the part where I ask you about your character—and whether he’s a love interest for Hannah.
KENDALL: That’s hush-hush. All I can really say is that, at the end of last season, Hannah decides to head off to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. And Jeffrey is another M.F.A. student along with three or four others who are part of her writing workshop.
Are you a fan of the show, personally?
Before I got the part, I had seen an episode. Preparing for the role, I watched all of it and I just think it’s so wonderful. What happens on that show is always unexpected, which I appreciate.
Give us three adjectives to describe Lena Dunham.
Intelligent, warm and hardworking. It’s amazing being on set with her; I’m always in awe of how many hats she wears. She would be in a scene, call cut, go to the monitors, watch the footage, make a change in the script, then come back and give us directions and act in the scene. I find it difficult just to be an actor.
Here at STYLE, we’re big fans of “The Leftovers” on HBO—and we hear you appeared in an episode. Which one?
I’m in episode 4 [on the bus with Christina before it crashes into the car carrying those creepy “Loved Ones” dummies]. Here’s the most frustrating thing I learned about doing TV this year. I had a really nice arc in that episode, but they decided to rewrite it because they didn’t feel like they could introduce another character and storyline. Five percent of what I actually did made it onto the screen, which was a bummer because it was such a fun character. It was anti-climactic waiting for the show to come out, but that’s just the way it goes.
That show’s biggest secret is what happened to the “departed” after they disappeared. What’s your theory?
I don’t even want to make a guess. As a viewer, I revel in the mystery. I love how they leave it up in the air. I only got the info needed to play my character.
You also appear in some upcoming films, like “Louder than Bombs” starring Jesse Eisenberg and “Time Out of Mind,” where Richard Gere plays a homeless man trying to reconnect with his daughter (Jena Malone). How was it working with those big names?
“Time Out of Mind” was directed by Oren Moverman, who’s a filmmaker I really admire. He just called me up the day before I was supposed to start filming, asked me out to get a drink and talked about the way we were going to work. He was like, “Look, the script is very much a base so I want you to forget about it and see what happens.” That was awesome, because there was so much freedom to try anything on set. I play a guy named Connor, who owns the bar where Jena Malone works. There’s kind of a love interest between us—and a history. Richard Gere was lovely. When you’re carrying a film like that, stamina is a huge thing. It was clear he was trying to conserve his energy and keep his focus up between takes.
You have a recurring role in season three of “The Americans” on FX. The suspense never lets up on that show. What can you tell us about it?
My character’s name is Hans—and I’ve gotten to act a lot with Keri Russell, which has been amazing. There’s an intensity about that show which also translates to the set, because there’s just so much information. It’s really fun to be in that environment. To be in a spy show is very, very cool. The 10-year-old kid in me is thrilled.
Did your first acting audition go over well or was it a nightmare?
My first professional audition was for the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival when they were still around off of Roland Avenue. I was sick as a dog and I was still in my senior year of undergrad. It went really well and I ended up playing opposite Bruce Nelson in “The Taming of the Shrew” that summer. I just remember the drive down from McDaniel I was shaking and so nervous—trying to convince myself to go rather than turn back around. I’ve done so many auditions since then, now that [nervous] feeling is gone. I really look forward to them.
Was that your big break?
I really do think so. Because of that show, I did some shows at Center Stage, and I became close with Irene Lewis [former artistic director]. She helped me get into grad school and wrote a recommendation letter for me. It started my career as a professional actor.
Tell us something fun about your family.
My family emigrated from South Africa in 1985, and more than half of our family is in South Africa. My dad is an architect and my mom is a preschool teacher. They were always so supportive of the idea of trying to make a living as an artist. I also have three siblings; two older brothers and one older sister. The eldest, Simon was a professional actor for a long time as well. He was an inspiration and so helpful in getting my career started.
When you come back into town, is there a certain spot you like to revisit?
After undergrad, I was living in Hampden right off The Avenue—and I absolutely loved it. My folks are out in the woods in Pikesville, which is beautiful and quiet. If I could, I would totally live in Baltimore. New York is the place to be right now because of the kind of work that’s being done. But I really enjoy mid-sized cities like Providence and Baltimore. This is one of my favorite places on Earth.
Be it in film, stage or television, what is your dream role?
I’ve been so fortunate to be doing TV and films recently that I haven’t done a play in almost three years. I’m dying to get back onstage to do some classic stuff. I’d love to get a shot at “Hamlet” and I love Tennessee Williams. All of that wonderful, poetic language. In terms of TV and film, characters that have a big arc and make a big change would be the most fun to do. A sense of catharsis and revelation. Quirkier stuff, too. Right now, I’m just so thrilled to be working. All work is good work. With a little luck, I’ll get to keep on doing it.
It’s the age-old food lover’s dilemma: Eat delicious, fatty food and sacrifice three hours at the gym per day, or stick to a strictly healthy diet and be left craving McDonald’s french fries. Luckily, you can get the best of both worlds if you head to True Food Kitchen in Fairfax’s upscale Mosaic District. The first of its kind on the East Coast, Fox Restaurant Concepts’ wellness-driven eatery features a grand selection of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, and options for paleo and Mediterranean diet followers—and we can’t forget the array of fresh pressed non-alcoholic beverages and exotic cocktails. With a menu inspired by integrative medicine pioneer Andrew Weil, the newest location offers produce grown on Virginia, Maryland and Delaware farms. Dishes include a savory Spaghetti Squash Casserole, delectable Roasted Chicken Tandoori and a “see it to believe it” “Inside Out” Quinoa Burger. You’ll leave here feeling guilt-free and, more importantly, full. truefoodkitchen.com
Many of us can’t go one day without indulging in a couple pieces of that luscious bar of milk or dark—but most chocolate lovers probably don’t think twice about the food’s fascinating heritage. Through Jan. 24, Chocolate: The Exhibition at Drexel University’s Academy of Natural Sciences can teach you all about the sometimes sweet, sometimes savory, sometimes spicy treat. Interactive stations allow you to explore a makeshift rain forest with cacao trees, travel back in time to the Aztec Empire where cacao seeds were used as currency, and learn how a simple seed turns into that Hershey bar you’re currently eating. While the exhibit is great for families, it’s also not a bad idea for a date—don’t miss the hot chocolate bar and a 21-and-over beer and chocolate tasting reception. ansp.org
New York City
Larry David is no stranger to playing a semi-fictionalized version of himself. His self-created misanthropic counterpart on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” had our stomachs hurting (usually with laughter) for eight seasons. Now, we can witness David play another version of himself onstage in Fish in the Dark, a new Broadway play written by and starring the “Seinfeld” co-creator. While plot specifics are still under wraps, we know that the story is a comedy about 15 characters dealing with a death in the family (fingers crossed for a hilariously awkward shiva) and that it’ll be David’s first stage play “since the eighth grade,” as he revealed to The New York Times. No matter what, count us in for a show that also stars Rosie Perez and is directed by Tony-winner Anna D. Shapiro of “August: Osage County.” Hopefully, it won’t be that depressing. Previews begin Feb. 2 at Cort Theatre. fishinthedark.com
Consider me the Miss Cleo of your fitness future. While I’m no fortune teller (hey, neither was she), I am an expert on group exercise trends—and a social animal who gets to know many different personalities at local studios and gyms. (I also happen to be a Sagittarius who lost 50 pounds last year.) So behold! Your resolution-friendly 2015 Fitness Horoscope, featuring motivational classes to help you slim down, pump up or chill out.
March 21-April 19
You’re more ram than lamb and enjoy workouts where you can blow off steam and get serious results. But who needs Insanity DVD star “Shaun T” (or his shiny six-pack) when you have petite powerhouse “Shana H” (that’s Harris) who teaches his technique in a women’s-only class at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Park Heights? Work at your body’s max capacity in 3- to 5-minute intervals, with just a few secs in between to gulp some air or water. Or as I like to call it: “Burpee till you Barf!” One-day pass, $15. jcc.org
Still Crazy: BeachFIT Baltimore in Fells Point also offers 30-minute Insanity (you may still barf); plus Insanity Strength and Core, which limits jumping and pumps up plyometrics. Or hang ten with instructor Jessie Benson, who recently adapted her FloYo paddle board classes for the studio’s SurfSet equipment. No bathing suit required! Single class, $10-$15. Monthly passes available. beachfitbaltimore.com
April 20-May 20
Oh, sensual Taurus, you’re no Raging Bull. You usually end up on the couch eating bonbons—or texting your impressive list of lovers. Resolve to get ring-ready with Technical Boxing (think Boxing 101) at Knockout Fitness in Federal Hill. Competitive boxing pros/bros Chris and Jason Nissley will treat you with kid gloves—teaching you proper technique in a fun “no judgment zone.” Bonus: They’ll even prepare clean meals for you! (Jason’s a nutritionist.) Single class, $15-$18. First class free. Monthly passes available. knockoutfitnessmd.com
Waiting to Exhale: If your “flight or fight” response is already on overdrive, try a Healing Breath workshop at Sid Yoga in Towson, where the handsome guru will train you to use everyday oxygen for “emotional release, mental clarity and physical freedom.” Next session: Jan. 25. Fee, $35-$45. sidyoga.com
May 21-June 20
Two-faced? Not a chance. Indecisive? Maybe a little. The twin sign gets bored easily so you need variety in your workouts. Get to REV Cycle Studio in McHenry Row for Rip & Ride with “Crazy” Eddie DeVaughan —the only man who can make this writer get out of bed at 5:30 a.m.! It’s 30 percent cycling paired with 70 percent toning—using hand weights you lift while still pedaling the bike. That adds up to 100 percent TLC for your upper and lower body (not to mention your heart) from Charm City’s most lovable instructor. Single class, $15-$18. Monthly passes available. revuup.com
Get Cheeky. You’ll never get bored at “butt school.” That’s what die-hard devotees call Pop Physique in Mount Vernon, where no Pop Sculpt class (an intense Pilates/ballet hybrid) is ever the same. Who knew there were so many uses for little pink balls…or profanity? Single class, $16-$18. Monthly passes available. popphysique.com
June 21-July 22
You’re a gentle soul who can be sensitive at times, so a military style boot camp might make you crabby (or even cry). Chin up, buttercup. You were born to take Becky Kelly’s Power Pilates Mat class at The MAC in Timonium. This tattooed sweet-talker will make you laugh (I swear, she reminds me of Rosie from “The Real Housewives of New Jersey!”) as she challenges your core and validates your feelings. It’s amazing how much self-respect you can muster, while pretending to hold a winning lottery ticket with your (tightly squeezed) tush. One-day pass, $15. Free membership trials available. macwellness.com
Fast and Furious: Brick Bodies now offers “Quickies” (love the name!), 30-minute versions of its most popular classes and small group programs. Try Metabolic Training with Charlie Pistorio at Belvedere Square who’ll send any Cancer “homebody” home in a jiffy still burning calories—after she schools you on the battle ropes, of course. Small group quickies, $10-$15 per session. Other quickie classes free for members. Complimentary trials available. brickbodies.com
July 23-Aug. 22
You’re a lioness, a leader and a self-motivated showoff. (No surprise your celeb sisters are J-Lo and Madonna!) Unleash that sexy at Body Jam with Franchesca Ski, who teaches the video vixen-worthy class at Merritt Athletic Club on Fort Avenue. While Ski’s “regulars” range in age from 20s to 40s, what we all have in common is the confidence we’ve gained from learning her challenging choreography. (And the realization that we can twerk way better than Miley Cyrus.) One-day pass, $25. Free membership trials available. merrittclubs.com
Turn Down for What? If fancy footwork intimidates you, try WERQ-ing out with Sonja Burns, who teaches the beginner-friendly dance class at Brick Bodies in Owings Mills and occasional Saturdays at the Athleta store in Towson. The only guessing you’ll do is what color her hair will be (blue? purple?) when you show up. werqfitness.com
Aug. 23-Sept. 22
Virgos are whip-smart but sometimes shy and self-critical, so you’d rather die than ask someone how to use that newfangled Stairmaster at the gym. Take baby steps in Barre Lite at the new Inline Barre studio in Perry Hall. Perfect for coming back from an injury, new moms and gals with a “bun in the oven”—or anybody who wants more detailed instruction on the workout craze du jour. Single class, $10-$15. Monthly passes available. inlineartofexercise.com
Beginner’s Luck: If you’re scared to lift weights, but you still want to build muscle (hint: ladies, it improves your metabolism!) Les Mills’ Body Pump, at several local gyms, will turn that barbell into your BFF. I love Mark and Sue Ortiz’s tag-team approach at Merritt Fort Avenue, where the married couple divides up teaching the class and providing individual coaching. lesmills.com
Sept. 23-Oct. 22
Balance is your bag, baby. But ditch the scales of justice and just try balancing yourself in Kimberlee Strome’s playful Stability Ball Blast class at LifeBridge Health and Fitness in Pikesville. Social Libras will love her creative, high-energy cardio/core approach where you’ll bounce around doing jumping jacks on the ball, not to mention chest flies, curtsy lunges and even belly dancing moves. Free with membership. One-day pass, $30. Complimentary trials available. lbhfitness.com
Hold On: Or try TRX the club’s Navy SEALs-inspired suspension classes, where you’ll use simple yellow straps to perform hundreds of functional exercises (not all in the same session). While several area clubs offer trendy TRX training, LifeBridge is the only one we could find that includes it free with membership. Nice perk! trxtraining.com
Oct. 23-Nov. 21
You may seem like an Ice Queen (or King) who’s calm/cool/collected on the outside, but there’s a fiery intensity burning deep inside of you. (Steamy Scorpios include Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio.) Sweat out your demons at M. Power Yoga’s Melt Hot Fusion, practiced in a 101- to 104-degree studio with 40 percent humidity. It’s great if you want to lose weight—or that chip on your shoulder. Single class, $12-$18. Monthly passes available. Free 10-day trial for all new students. mpoweryogastudio.com
Hips Don’t Lie. Dance parties trump pushups, which is why Zumba remains a worldwide phenom. But instructors can vary widely—shake it, don’t break it! My fave is smiley Dana Cala, who’ll turn you into a Zumba narcissist—vying for mirror time to see your caliente self in action. Catch the lovely Ms. Cala at Mt Zion United Methodist Church on Liberty Heights Avenue ($5 walk-in), as well as MAC Harbor East and Baltimore Fitness and Tennis. fitnessandtennis.com
Nov. 22-Dec. 21
The jovial archer—always looking to the sky—you get down when people try to control you or point out your natural limitations. Forget those naysayers in Air Yoga at the Canton Club, a Cirque du Soleil-esque class where you’ll warrior, pigeon and downward facing dog using a purple silk sling that’s suspended from the ceiling. Newbies, choose fun-loving Cecelia Bellomo, who’s not too snooty to clown around but will make sure you’re safe. At the end of class, she’ll wrap you in the silk hammock, turn on soft music and give you a gentle push so you can swing for savasana. Free for members. One-day pass, $20. Thirty-day club trial, $29. cantonclub24.com
Second Act: Or try Red Velvet Yoga (sorry, cake not included) at Fit! in Towson, where ruby colored silkies hang from the gym’s Queenax monkey bars system. Single class, $15 for members. fitgymusa.com
Dec. 22-Jan. 19
Like a determined billy goat, Capricorns believe they can climb any mountain. Prove it in a six-week Peak Performance Training course at Earth Treks in Timonium or Columbia. Your PPT team will meet twice a week to work on “fitness, movement and motivation” (including visualization exercises and how to manage fear). Not that you’re ever afraid. Members, $199. Nonmembers, $299. earthtreksclimbing.com
Being Green. Caps are good with money (many become bankers; financial advisers) and tend to be thrifty or even, well, cheap. Invest in your well-being at Charm City Yoga’s $6 cash-only “community classes” at all seven locations—they’re a bargain for wannabe yogis (or workaholics) on a budget. charmcityyoga.com
Jan. 20-Feb. 18
You’re a brainiac who loves technology and gadgets. So your fitness fetish is anything that utilizes the latest geek-chic equipment. Enter the MEGAbarre—a feat of engineering so dark and imposing, the staff at Barre in Quarry Lake calls it “diabolical” right on their website. Hop onto this Transformer-looking beast as your instructor (we love Nan Rehfield) guides you through a series of lengthening-and-strengthening maneuvers that’ll have you sweating more than a scene from “The Devil Wears Spandex.” (Seriously, bring a towel—and nubby, no-slip socks.) $20-$30 per session. barreonline.com
Newton’s Law: Or try Gravity at Bare Hills Fitness and Tennis. Originally designed for physical therapists, the GTS platform glides and inclines to give you full range of motion that won’t stress your joints during this small group class led by a personal trainer. Six-week session. Members, $120. Nonmembers, $150. barehills.com
Feb. 19-March 20
You’re a go-with-the-flow person who prefers not to make waves. Embrace your escapist tendencies with a visit to Haven on the Lake, the new Howard County retreat featuring movement classes by the Columbia Association and holistic treatments by The Still Point Spa. Find bliss in the 86-degree pool doing Aqua Tai Chi then reward yourself with a mani/pedi or detoxifying wrap. (Aqua Pilates and Aqua Barre also available.) Single class for members, $25. Nonmembers, $55. Packages and monthly memberships available. havenonthelake.org
Just Breathe. If the “spa” vs. “gym” mentality does it for you, consider yoga or Pilates mat classes at Ojas Wellness in Pikesville and Mount Washington. Their $79/month WellPass entitles VIPs to unlimited monthly group classes—plus discounts on massage, spa services and more. ojaswellness.com
If there is anyone who would speak a few words on behalf of the month of January, let them come forward now. I think it unlikely.
January is an unloved month. The most unloved.
Coming as it does after the holidays, after the season to be jolly, our revels now are ended and all that.
Traditionally it is a season of remorse, a kind of hangover. Guilt! Shame! Recrimination! Regret! Right? People are said to take drastic action, join health clubs and gyms. Take up Pilates and Zumba and hot yoga. Take up chia, açaí juice, almond milk, kale and tofu.
New Year’s resolutions are made (and quickly unmade, but it’s the guilt that’s important). Some wicked sinners forsake the strong waters. Others forsake the sot-weed. Farewell to fast food. Better take the Burgerator app off your iPhone.
By the time you read this you may have already broken a New Year’s resolution or two. I will have. I do not need to make New Year’s resolutions. I’m married. My wife makes them for me. All the time. New Year’s resolutions for me are made on an ad hoc basis.
Daily, weekly, monthly. Not just at the start of the new year.
But for most folks January is the grim season of repentance. In a really big and nonsecular way, January out-Lents Lent. Not quite 40 days of denial, fast and abstinence, but January symbolizes the proverbial clean slate. New beginnings. New horizons. New directions.
A fresh start. You get the idea.
Sounds like rehab? It is. It’s the month of rehab with a whole rehabilitative year before you and you better try to straighten yourself out! (That might be my wife talking.) Americans are a nation of Calvinists. They like that rehab thing. Avoid the near temptations of sin! The road to perdition is paved with temptations.
Try to be a better person. Well, try at least. It’s no mere accident that people seem a bit down in January. (I have found trying to be a better person particularly daunting. I no longer try.)
January is a guilty month, too, because we remember the sins of the past year (and we miss them). And spring seems far, far away. Probably because it is. There’s a lot of repenting you can do between Jan. 1 and the third week of March. The ancients displayed the god Janus—from whom the month takes its name—as two-faced, a god of transition, looking backward and forward.
January is really about winter, the bleak midwinter spoken of in the poem and hymn. William Shakespeare makes only two mentions of the dreaded month in his works (neither good). The bard speaks of the blasts of January. In other words, it’s COLD. And he makes a little joke about a hot January—which, of course, is not possible.
The days are among the year’s shortest. Daylight is at a premium. It gets dark early and it stays dark. Folks suffer seasonal light deprivation. Kale won’t help that. And it’s the coldest month in this hemisphere. I do not believe anyone enjoys January. We endure it.
February has two popular holidays. Groundhog Day, the High Holiday of hope that the winter might soon be over if a little rodent named Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow, and Valentine’s Day, the High Holiday for all hope abandon (love is all you need). February is also three days shorter than January. And when February is over, it’s March—and March is, no matter what happens, the sniff of spring.
January is why we go to warm places in the winter. I am planning very soon to spend my bleak midwinter someplace where there is no winter. I am a late convert to the sunny climes, I admit it. I rolled my eyes at Florida and the Caribbean for decades. I had been there, but they seemed to make no impression on me. But now I have begun to like the idea of escaping winter.
Last year, we went to Puerto Rico in January. This was largely because we had free Southwest Airlines tickets and we could fly direct to San Juan from BWI. I thought that a sign from the gods that we were meant to go.
Let me tell you just one thing about Puerto Rico. It was 6 degrees when we left BWI. Four hours later, it was 86 degrees in Old San Juan. And that’s why people go to warm places in the winter. First, to escape the cold. But secondly to take some comfort in knowing that back home someone is freezing.
Co-owner, REV Cycle Studio
When Eva was dropped off at BARCS at the age of 7 months, she was malnourished and needed tons of love. My friend Lisa decided to foster the pup—and, at the same time, there was this adorable cat who had become very attached to her in the shelter and “demanded” to come along. One day, Lisa posted a Facebook pic of Eva and Petunia curled up together in a ball on the couch—and, for me, that was it. Love at first sight! My husband and I immediately put in our application to adopt them both, and they’re the best thing that’s ever happened in our lives.
Spike was seized with over 100 other birds in an SPCA raid in 2000. My son initially named him Pickles, but after we got to know his personality, we realized that he is really more of a Spike. He doesn’t talk in words, but is very vocal. His specialty: imitating every ring tone on my wife Lani’s phone. Most disturbing: the smoke alarm. He loves to harass Nyima, a Tibetan mastiff, who is by far the gentler of the two and also a rescue. He was born in a Buddhist monastery, but was too small to sell.
When the stray cat we rescued started getting fat, we guessed it wasn’t just from my family’s home cooking. A few weeks later, she gave birth in a walk-in closet in my mom’s bedroom. The “surprise” kittens were an incredible amount of work, but my friends and I took care of them (with a little help from grown-ups) almost around the clock. After they were weaned, we gave the three kittens to good homes, but Jeju [seen above] stayed with us—and became fast friends with Peeps, our fluffy yellow rescue from a shelter. My Korean grandmother says if an animal wanders into our lives it’s the spirit of a deceased ancestor, and we should take care of it. It will give us good fortune.
Right now I’ve got more than 30 turtles living on my property, but definitely my favorite was my first—Testudo, named after the mascot of the University of Maryland. In the Outer Banks, I saw something drop from the mouth of a seagull and it was a baby box turtle! I probably should have named him Lucky! Turtles definitely are not the warm and fuzzy type of pet, more of a renegade pet. It’s like having a dinosaur. They are ancient and calm. And they all have a smile.
Getting Ripley was a leap of faith. The only thing I knew about him was his age, 7, and that the next stop after the auction was the dog food factory. Initially, the plan was to buy him, train him and resell him—mostly just to get him out of that terrible place. He was a challenge for sure, one of the most difficult horses I’ve ever ridden, completely feral, under-muscled with a strange build. But he’s also one of the most athletic. He’s a freak of nature. I’m so glad I stuck with it and decided to keep him.
Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army
I knew that Bane was the one for me the first time I saw him. He came running out of the Humane Society’s door shaking his whole body and peeing in every direction, then plopped down at my feet and rolled over for me to rub his chest. I named him Bane after the villain in the Batman movie; they have a similar hairdo, but his temperament is just the opposite. I’m glad I chose a rescue instead of just going to a breeder. Everyone deserves someone to love them. Dogs and people alike, we all just want to be cared for.
In shelters like barcs and the SPCA, it doesn’t sound like those sad commercials with Sarah McLachlan singing about angels. It’s pretty barking loud in there.
In 2002, I was actually considering a different dog when I happened to turn around and see Echo, a skinny white mutt with one blue eye and one brown sitting in the back of the cage, so serious and quiet. As the other dogs frantically voiced their opinions, Echo seemed to be waiting politely for a formal introduction. I took him home the next day. Then, after six years of happy and loyal companionship, I encountered a straggly little dog running around a 7-Eleven parking lot on a cold February night. He was filthy, a little bloody, and very mean. Regardless, I wrapped him in my pashmina and took him home. This is, by the way, exactly what you are not supposed to do when encountering a stray dog. But Ike was all of 8 pounds and he added a new spirit to our little pack—after some serious training.
I felt blessed that I had the time and resources—both financial and emotional —to provide both of these pups with homes. It can be heartbreaking to think of the numbers, but approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of that number, about 2.7 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.4 million dogs and 1.3 million cats), while another 2.7 million are euthanized.
Joy Freedman, dog behaviorist and obedience instructor with almost 20 years experience, cautions about rushing out to save a pet without doing your research. “Think realistically if you have the time and energy to put into caring for a pet. Take one of those Internet quizzes to determine what kind of breed best suits you and your lifestyle,” says Freedman, who’s also a board member of Rockville-based rescue Mutts Matter Rescue (and the trainer who helped me to rehabilitate Ike).
“Remember that even the smartest, best adjusted dog will never be more capable than a 3-year-old child.”
When I talk about adopting shelter pets and strays, I’ve heard a lot of concern about “not knowing what you’re getting.” True, I didn’t know what I was getting, but in the case of Echo I got a much better deal than I could have
brokered with a breeder. He was house-broken and already knew his name and most basic dog manners.
All pets from reputable shelters and rescues, including local Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Inc. (BARCS), are screened for health and temperament issues. They also come spayed or neutered and micro-chipped, which saves you time and possibly your pet’s life someday. “These groups work really hard to make sure that pets are matched with their best owners,” Freedman says. “Otherwise, the pets can end up right back where they started, at the shelter. A forever home is the ultimate goal.”
Although my landlord told me no pit bulls, the breed certainly has its hard-core devotees. Freedman offered this succinct piece of guidance: “Pit bulls are just Jack Russells on steroids. They are terriers and all terriers need a strong owner. ”
Virtually every American Kennel Club breed, along with purebred cats, reptiles and birds, has a corresponding rescue group. This means if you have your heart set on a Weimaraner or a Himalayan, you can get one at a discounted price from a rescue organization and save a life.
Whatever the circumstances of surrendered animals, those of us who have loved them are grateful for the chance to welcome them into our lives, as brief as their time with us seems. At the end of September, my good dog Echo passed away. While I continue to mourn the loss of his bark at 6 a.m., I find myself remembering the lessons Echo taught me about how to gracefully start over and begin a new life—and also the family who kindly and humanely passed him on when they were unable to care for him.
So while rescuing an animal is not always easy—Ike has surely proven that—it’s well worth the effort. If I had a tail, I’d wag it. If I had wings, I’d flap them. And if I could live 100 years like a turtle, I still might not be able to describe the joy and friendship that my adopted pets have given me. In getting to know the amazing people (and their fuzzy, feathered and hard-shelled friends) in this story, I know they all feel the same way.
A few years ago, I was lying sick in bed when I received a very nice email. A neuroscientist named David Linden had sent me a link to his blog entry that referenced an essay I’d written remembering my father. Ten seconds of Googling later, I was pretty impressed with my new friend, the author of two best-selling brain books, “The Accidental Mind” and “The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good.” I read both, smitten with Linden’s combination of storytelling, humor and amazing things you didn’t know about the brain.
We spent the next year becoming close, during which time he began working on his latest book, “Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind.” I, on the other hand, began working on a dating memoir called “Highs in the Low Fifties,” in which he appears as The Brainiac.
Like David’s other books, “Touch” uses personal anecdotes to introduce scientific concepts. Given the topic, these stories are often pretty hot. But since I recently played a role in setting him up with his current girlfriend, the food editor of this magazine, I didn’t think she’d mind if we talked about, um, sex.
MW: I was just rereading Chapter 3, which opens with a story about when you had jury duty in Baltimore City on an intensely serious trial, which arose from an alleged sex criminal literally being “rubbed the wrong way.” Why do some caresses drive us crazy in a good way and others the opposite?
DL: We humans are highly evolved for social interaction. We can interpret in exquisite detail the tone of someone’s voice, the direction of their gaze or their facial expression. The same is true of social touching. When asked to rate caresses on the arm, most people zero in on the same ideal: a caress delivered with light-to-moderate force at a speed of about one to two inches per second.
MW: That’s pretty precise!
DL: That’s because the features of an ideal caress are not determined in the brain but in a special type of caress-sensing nerve ending [called C-tactile fibers] found only in hairy skin. These fibers send their signals to a part of the brain which is specialized for interpreting the emotional content of touching.
MW: Hairy skin? But aren’t most of our erogenous zones pretty smooth?
DL: Even seemingly smooth spots like the cheek, inner arm and inner thigh are covered in fine hairs. The C-tactile nerve endings wrap around the hair follicles to sense hair deflection during a caress. The nerve endings responsible for sexual sensation are a different type, found in the hairless skin of the genitals and to a lesser degree in the lips and the nipples. It’s called a mucocutaneous end-organ…
DL: In German it’s even better: Genitalnervenkörperchen.
MW: And yet we can’t read Braille with our genitals, I seem to remember.
DL: If readers of my book retain one fact for cocktail party chatter, it’s that. Although the hairless skin of the genitals is very sensitive—it can detect a very light touch—it cannot locate the touch with great precision. It’s similar to the cornea of the eye in that respect. A tiny bit of grit in the eye will hurt like hell but where it is can be hard to determine.
The portions of the skin that have fine resolution of texture and form, like the fingertips, lips and tongue, have a different nerve ending, called a Merkel complex, specialized for that job. The clitoris and glans penis almost completely lack Merkel endings and so they fail at Braille reading.
MW: Yet who can fault them when they are so good at other things? On another note, one of the pleasures of our friendship has been talking about books. What writers have influenced you?
DL: One of my favorite science writers is Olivia Judson, a former Baltimorean and the author of “Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation.” Judson’s shtick is that she’s a sex advice columnist for animals: “Dear Dr. Tatiana, I’m a Madagascar stick insect female and this male has been on my back mating with me for three days. Why does he do it and how can I get him to stop?” She uses this comic device to get at some rather sophisticated issues in the evolutionary biology of sex.
Science books are fun, but I mostly read contemporary fiction. I have particularly enjoyed some of the recent novels that have had scientists as their main characters like Elizabeth Gilbert’s “The Signature of All Things” and Lily King’s “Euphoria.”
MW: A man who knows his way around a bookstore AND a nervenkörperchen... sigh.
David Linden will be reading and signing books at the Ivy Bookshop (6080 Falls Road, Baltimore) on Wednesday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. theivybookshop.com
Zappos Insights founder Robert Richman inspired guests at The Associated’s Annual Keynote Event when he shared how the pioneering online shoe and clothing company transformed the concept of customer care. Co-chaired by Jill and Michael Mull and Dara and Charles Schnee, this signature event for $1,000 donors to The Associated: Jewish Community of Baltimore’s Annual Campaign was held at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel on December 11, 2014 The evening, which attracted community leaders, including 2015 Annual Campaign Chair J.M. Schapiro, the brother of Jill and Dara, Shelly Malis, the 2015 Women’s Campaign Chair, Rina Janet, Associated Women President, and Mark D. Neumann, The Associated’s Chair of the Board, began with a private dinner with Robert Richman, followed by an elegant cocktail reception and then Richman’s keynote address. Guests were also inspired by a video of how The Associated helps the vulnerable in the Baltimore community and in Israel.
Put down the bloody mary. Your “hair of the dog” go-to may be making you feel worse with its high dose of dehydrating sodium and the added sugar in many mixes. Enter your new Sunday (Funday) staple. It’s savory, refreshing and even vitamin-rich! (We didn’t call it “healthy” but you can.)
2 oz American Star Caviar Lime vodka
1 oz wheatgrass juice
3 oz kale juice
3 oz spinach juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Sriracha
Combine all ingredients over ice in a mixing tin. Stir gently for 15 seconds and serve in a highball glass.
It was a night to remember at the Baltimore Museum of Art, which recently hosted its 100th Anniversary Gala and the Party of the Century in celebration of the museum’s centennial, as well as the newly renovated Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing. Both sold-out events, Gala and Party guests entered the BMA on Nov. 15 through the reopened historic Merrick Entrance. In their finest black tie, Gala guests enjoyed cocktails and music by the New Legacy Jazz Band, while Party guests enjoyed drinks, savory dishes and desserts and—most importantly—danced the night away. To plan your next trip to the revitalized museum (no gown or tuxedo required), visit artbma.org—and don’t forget the brand new BMA Shop, including fun finds for holiday shopping, like those found in STYLE’s 2014 Gift Guide.
Everything about Seasons 52 at the Mall in Columbia is alluring: seasonal dishes presented with aesthetic flair, mindful of color, flavor and texture. The restaurant décor is rustic chic, with stone-accented walls and wooden wine bins, hundreds of glasses suspended above the bar. The place offers 52 wines by the glass—chosen by co-owner and master sommelier George Miliotes. And here’s the best part: Entrees all purport to be 475 calories or less.
Mind you, this is a chain. There are close to 50 Seasons 52 branches throughout the U.S., comfortably at home in shopping malls and the type of Towne Center that pipes music from speakers hidden in the shrubbery.
But if you find yourself in such a place—say, shopping for holiday gifts—and your feet are dragging and you really, really need a glass of pinot, I’ll wager the boneless rainbow trout or roasted quail with mushroom risotto stuffing will make you much happier than the best TGI Fridays has to offer. Plus, the “mini indulgences”—small portions of sweets like blueberries and lemon curd or Belgian chocolate s’mores—won’t wreck your diet.
10300 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, 410-715-1152, seasons52.com
When Caleb Luke Lin studied illustration at MICA, he realized he preferred to depict literal rather than interpretive information. “I enjoy taking concrete points of data and conveying them in an artistic sense,” says the 23-year-old, who designed this eye-popping hand-painted Globe of Animal Migration Routes—a nod to his passion for biodiversity. Lin researched how far and for what purpose certain animals traveled. “I didn’t know some birds go from the Arctic to the Antarctic every single year, and how far into the Arctic Circle whales will go to eat krill,” he says. While the globe is one-of-a-kind, he also sells gorgeously illustrated Baltimore maps and accessories at Trohv in Hampden, where (if you hurry) you can pick up this beauty for $500. Trohv, 921 W. 36th St., 410-366-3456, trohvshop.com
James Stewart is showing off his shoes, a pair of Reebok sneakers almost as new as the ink needled into his biceps. On his right arm is the number 9, and on the left the number 7, stitched together to signify the year the 17-year-old Digital Harbor High School student was born. Underneath the 9 is “Paula”—his mother’s name, and one made all the more important because she didn’t have to buy him his tattoos.
“I’m buying most of my stuff. I got nice sneakers on right now. I got a lot of nice stuff, so I’ve got to work to get nice stuff,” he says. “I can’t keep going to my mother.”
Using his own money is a point of pride for Stewart, who, on this particular Friday afternoon, is wearing only one article of clothing he didn’t have to buy: his CUPs Coffeehouse shirt. It’s Stewart’s first job, and while barista isn’t a position he intends to carry long-term, working at this small, corner coffee shop in Baltimore’s Hollins Market neighborhood has not only made his wallet a bit fatter; it also has helped him grow up in and out of school, he says.
“I never had any work experience. Working, believe it or not, it gets you mature,” says Stewart. “Now in school I don’t get in trouble. I come to the school with a whole different demeanor. I come to school ready to work.”
The shop itself is owned and operated by Holly Gray, an ebullient woman in her late 30s who moved to Hollins Market about 12 years ago and founded CUPs two years back.
“I was constantly frustrated by the fact that there was nowhere for me to go if I wanted to grab a cup of coffee or just meet with a group of friends,” she says.
But the coffeehouse serves a secondary, more significant purpose. A nonprofit coffee shop, CUPs is an extension of the volunteer work Gray did tutoring teen-age girls through an after-school program at Monroe Street United Methodist Church. During that time, she would eventually open her house and invite the girls to work on homework there.
At CUPs, a similar vibe pervades, as children and teens from the neighborhood travel in and out to purchase lunch or a drink, spend time drawing or grab a book from the shop’s library and read. The most intriguing action is happening behind the counter.
Gray exclusively hires teens and adults between 16 and 24 who are transitioning out of foster home care or considered at-risk—potential victims to the perils of street violence and drug-dealing. Her employees, seven baristas right now, take life-skills classes twice a month in financial literacy, resume writing and more. They also complete eight hours of community service in the Hollins Market neighborhood every month. Stewart, who started working at CUPs in August 2013, spends his time in a neighborhood rain garden steps away from the shop on South Arlington Avenue.
“They all really struggle with confidence, with the ability to speak to people that are unfamiliar,” Gray says of the kids she has hired. During CUPs’ first year of operation, she says all 12 of her employees had been physically attacked, at home, in the neighborhood or at school. “They carry around these things. Inwardly they feel beat down.”
So far Gray hasn’t drawn a salary from CUPs—all the money the shop makes goes toward paying her employees—and keeping the lights on and the Zeke’s Coffee brewing. The ultimate goal is to have her employees spend a year at CUPs, and then find full-time employment elsewhere or pursue their education.
“I had my first job when I was 14,” says Gray. “I had all those opportunities and I could develop and follow that path to success, and those just weren’t readily available here.”
Stewart knows his time at the shop is almost up, but he’s ready for the next step. The eldest of three, he’s been the man of the house for 11 years, looking out for his mother and younger sisters. He sets aside a portion of his wages for his family. After graduating high school, he plans to head to community college and begin studying to become a registered nurse. The future’s uncertain, but the sandwich wraps he’s made and the cups of coffee he’s poured have done more than give him some pocket money.
“You can grow up in a community like this and still make it somewhere—that’s what Miss Holly does,” he says. “She’ll give you a chance.”
Dodge the rain on the B, take a selfie on the U or lay back and relax on the S. Needless to say, waiting for the bus has gotten a little less boring on South East Avenue in Highlandtown, thanks to the creation of the most obvious (yet brilliant) bus stop of all time. The three 14-foot-tall, 7-foot-wide sculptures went viral when first unveiled in front of the Creative Alliance in July, as part of the initiative TRANSIT–Creative Placemaking with Europe in Baltimore. Created by Madrid-based artist collective mmmm, the wood and steel structure is its second U.S. installation, serving as an effective bus stop, but also designed to stand out as a quirky, signature piece of Baltimore art. “We love the people in Baltimore. They like to work, and to party,” says mmmm’s Eva Salmerón. “The city has a lot of personality. It reminds us of Madrid in a way, as both are open cities where everybody is welcome.”
The words “naughty or nice” actually only appear once in the popular Christmas song “Santa Claus is Coming (or Comin’) to Town,” which observes its 80th season to be jolly this year. It’s a secular little ditty. No mention of the Birthday Boy in this tune, no siree. No references to the Nazarene. It might be Baby Jesus’ big day but you’d never know it from this number. The word “Christmas” only appears once in the last bit of the song and that is the part that is never sung. That makes it perfect for malls and elevators or wherever the songs of the season blast and bray.
Just a holly jolly song that anyone can enjoy. Right? “Naughty or nice” promises the sauciness of an old Vargas drawing, a harmless pinup. A wink! The song is perfect in a time when so many worry about giving offense. Probably not. But the actual words of “Santa Claus is Coming (or Comin’) to Town” bear examination.
Consider the ominous opening: “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town.”
That’s a little scary if you think about it—and it gets us off to an alarming start. Someone is singing that to a child? A child who believes in Santa Claus? This is plainly some sort of warning. A threat. If you just read these words—as opposed to hearing them sung—they’d give you a scare, I think.
“He’s making a list?”
What’s that sound like?
“He’s checking it twice?”
Do I have to spell this out for you?
“He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.”
How’s he going to do that? Mmmmm?
Oh, don’t you worry about how. But he IS going to find out one way or another—and, when he does… That’s left to the imagination, which I imagine could be running wild in the mind of an impressionable child.
There is something decidedly not-so-jolly about that language. Father Christmas? Saint Nicholas? Or Big Brother?
Speaking of which, I once read a writer invoking George Orwell in musing on these lyrics. But Orwell had not begun his classic novel “1984” when J. Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie composed this number in 1934. Perhaps Coots and Gillespie inspired Orwell?
Eddie Cantor was the first singer. Their song was an immediate hit. Still is.
Entertainers from Frank Sinatra to the Partridge Family to Barry Manilow, Dolly Parton, Kenny G, Rod Stewart, the Jackson 5 and Dora the Explorer have all covered it. Tommy Dorsey and the Andrews Sisters, too. Plus, Gary U.S. Bonds and Merle Haggard and Bing Crosby (no surprise there). And don’t forget about Justin Bieber. Actually, please do.
I like the Drifters version, it’s a little eerie. Or you can try the Jamaica All-Stars, Liberace or some festive fellow called DJ Klaus Noel. I think that’s house music?
You’ll hear this song a lot this holiday season. At first blush, it seems safe and secular. Of course. Just a playful holiday jingle. Couldn’t possibly offend.
Understandable, though, for someone to make that Orwell connection. That’s no stretch. “Santa Claus is Coming (Or Comin’) to Town” is certainly a Santa for a dystopia—an Orwell or Huxley Santa. A Santa for “1984” or “Brave New World.” Not so much fa, la, la, la, la as auto-da-fe.
“He sees you when you’re sleeping.”
He does? Yikes!
“He knows when you’re awake.”
Is this the North Pole or North Korea? Where’s Edward Snowden when we need him?
“He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.”
Or what? And how does he know these things? Cell phone records?
This is a Christmas song? I don’t think so.
But let’s face the facts, shall we? Santa Claus IS coming to town. Anyone can tell you that. We’ve been aware of his pending arrival since sometime in late summer when Santa’s little helpers at the CVS started hauling out the Christmas stuff.
The actual holiday is really only one day, if you think about it. But it’s also a season. A whole season. And a long one, too. There’s nothing you can do but accept it and decide to keep Christmas in your own way. I suppose in the privacy of your own home you might even use the word “Christmas.” But whatever you do, I urge you to listen closely to the lyrics.
Plenty of Baltimoreans remember Ixia, the flamboyantly decorated restaurant and lounge on Charles Street in Mount Vernon. Others recall Louie’s Bookstore Café, the soothing hangout that preceded Ixia. But most folks’ memories stop there. “People kept coming in and asking about the history of the building,” says Ezra Tilaye, owner of Ware House 518, which replaces his previous restaurant Crème in the same space. Originally a private home, the building became a furniture store called Ware and Company in 1923. (“The restaurant’s name is a pun,” he points out.)
Décor is austere, with distressed wood floors, reclaimed wood tables and cowhide backed booths. Chef Chris Vocci’s menu is Southern fare locally sourced. Crème in Washington, D.C., which Tilaye also co-owns, is a popular soul food spot, but “the concept never caught on in Baltimore,” he says. “I’ll admit when we came here, we didn’t know the city.”
What’s he learned? “Baltimore loves a story—especially loves a story about Baltimore.”
518 N. Charles St. 443-869-3381, warehouse518.com
Spring break at Crested Butte in Colorado is all blue, the deep azure of a sky against white snow so bright on a sunny day it’s nearly impossible to take it all in without a pair of Maui Jims. They’re called bluebird days, when the sky matches the blue square that designates a trail with no surprises. My daughter is cruising without a care, and I’m relieved to stay in the blue boundaries, hoping that the cortisone pumped into my arthritic hip survives the week.
The last time I was in Crested Butte, the skies were pewter gray and the trails we skied weren’t marked. I don’t remember a ray of sunlight during the two days I visited the funky nascent ski resort with my college roommate Alex. We drove into the tiny town center, past false-fronted wood buildings reminiscent of a Hollywood Western, looking for a guy she knew from Outward Bound who worked on the ski patrol. We’d traveled over the Monarch Pass from Boulder in a blizzard, furrowing through the drifts in her Land Cruiser, its tires outfitted with chains. We figured Fredo would let us crash at his cabin. We didn’t have enough money for lift tickets, but hoped to follow our host up and down the hill on skinny skis.
Steve Monfredo, who lived on the side of a mountain that faced the ski area, was good at just about everything he tried, Alex had told me. We were hoping for tips on telemarking, the ski technique that Fredo made look so easy, knees bending to the snow as if he were
Nijinsky taking a deep bow after Le Sacre du Printemps.
Crested Butte has changed mightily in the 30 years since Alex and I slept on the floor by Fredo’s woodstove, after wolfing down the quesadillas he stuffed with black beans from a can. We got stoned and read poetry in the light of a gas lamp. I wrote in my Laura Ashley journal before zipping into my sleeping bag in anticipation of the fire dying during the night.
On our spring break trip last year, my (then) 14-year-old daughter Mary and I camped in the guestroom of our Baltimore friends’ sun-filled house a few feet from the mountain resort’s shuttle bus stop. Our friends, John Segal and Christy Schoedel, have decorated their getaway with paintings and pottery from galleries down the hill in the arty village of Crested Butte, and with photographs by John’s son Chris, who works as a photographer and videographer for the mountain resort. They took us out for meals of sushi and grass-fed beef; we drank craft cocktails and craft beer. Mary and I slept between flannel sheets decorated with pictures of moose, in a rough-hewn bunk bed made by a local woodworker. And this time, we had lift tickets.
The town of Crested Butte, which began its life as a supply center for the surrounding mining camps in Gunnison County, was incorporated in 1880. At the time, the region was the center of Colorado’s mountain coal production.
Duane Vandenbusche, a local historian and professor at nearby Western University, remembers its evolution as a ski town. A native of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, he came out to teach at nearby Western State in 1962, the year after the first T-bar was installed near what is now the West Wall. He’d never been on skis in his life. He bought a pair of Heads with cable bindings, lace-up boots and long thongs to keep the boot in place. His first run—an easy pitch—took five hours, what with falling every 50 yards, struggling to get up and put his skis back on. “Now I do that run in about three minutes,” he laughs. At 77, he skis on newer shaped skis, but wears a frayed cotton turtleneck and thick knit Norwegian sweater that looks as if it dates to the era of his old Head Standards.
We began our week of skiing at the very spot Vandenbusche first tackled the slopes, though today there’s a high-speed chair to whisk us up the mountain. These days there are 15 lifts and more than 1,500 skiable acres. And while the mountain maintains its reputation as a place for the hardcore, more than half of the 121 trails at Crested Butte are rated for intermediate skiers.
I’m content to explore these, skiing carefully, my arms holding an imaginary dinner tray in front of me, poles angled nicely behind. My feet are spaced hip-width, a yoga-style stance anathema to the knees-pinned-together form I learned in the 1970s.
Crested Butte the resort and the town itself layer the old with the new. The resort has terrain parks for snowboarders and claims to have birthed mountain biking, when cyclists rode their retrofitted balloon-tire Schwinns down the slopes 40 years ago. The Mountain Bike Hall of Fame was established in Crested Butte, but moved to Fairfax, Calif., earlier this year, and summers find the extremists transitioning from boards and skins to knobby tires.
The false-fronted buildings along Elk Avenue—Crested Butte’s main street—now house galleries and restaurants. On our first night, we had delicious comfort food at the West End Public House, the town’s first gastropub, opened in 2010. We also ate at Lil’s Sushi Bar, a sophisticated spot with a long bar proffering saki and prickly pear margaritas along with its expertly prepared sushi and Japanese robatayaki.
Our hosts also made coveted reserv- ations at Uley’s restaurant, a log cabin on the side of the mountain accessible by Snow Cat (see sidebar).
One afternoon, Mary and I quit skiing a little early and took the shuttle into town to explore the shops and galleries. We visited the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum, tucked in the back of an old hardware store (that also happens to have been the town’s first gas station). We looked at pricey ski pants, handmade jewelry and local art. Mary bought a print from a local photographer, Dusty Demerson. The photo shows the pastel painted wooden buildings on Elk Avenue shot at dawn after a snowfall.
Duane Vandenbusche—who had Steve Monfredo as a student, and often skied with him before the lifts opened in the morning—still hits the slopes a few times a week. Crested Butte “has always been on the cutting edge in terms of skiing, climbing and doing outdoor things,” he says. “It’s never lost that character.”
Riding up a lift, I see a skier who looks like an exotic bird, his arms outstretched, dipping low, his back knee practically grazing the ankle of the leg in front. He rises in a slow-motion leap like a dancer to turn, coming down in the same elegant genuflection on the other side. Look, I nudge Mary. Isn’t that beautiful? I used to telemark, but not so gracefully, I tell her. No way could I do it now, with this hip.
Fredo died in 1987, just a couple of years after Alex and I visited him. He was climbing on Mount Communism in what was then the Soviet Union. His friend Mark Udall (now a Colorado senator), carried him down the mountain after Fredo suffered a pulmonary edema. It turns out, he’d had scarlet fever as a child—a detail of his life even he may not have known—and his heart never fully recovered.
Crested Butte has a run called Fredo’s on the north side, out of the sun. It’s a double black diamond, so we didn’t ski it. Not this trip. But maybe Mary will return someday and ski Fredo’s, maybe with her best friend from college.
Planning your trip
Crested Butte took first place in Powder magazine’s 2014 Ski Town Throwdown. Visit downtowncrestedbutte.com for the inside scoop on arts, culture and special events, including the Crested Butte Songwriters Festival (Jan. 15-19). For ski-and-stay packages, go to skicb.com. United Airlines offers daily flights from BWI to Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (with stops in Denver). Transportation from Gunnison to Crested Butte is available via the Alpine Express. alpineexpressshuttle.com
The must-do mountain meal
During the day, Uley’s Cabin, which sits off the International run, is open for lunch and drinks at its popular “ice bar”—named for an earlier incarnation that was actually carved each season from ice. During the winter months, Uley’s also serves dinner after the lifts have closed. Diners bundle up to ride the Snow Cat to the cozy cabin with rough-hewn walls decorated with antique tools for a prix-fixe five-course meal of Colorado specialties by chef Chris Schlaudecker. On the night we visited last March, entrées included local short ribs with roasted Yukon potatoes, farm-raised duck with cherry and mushroom risotto and Norwegian salmon with beurre blanc and lentils. The wine-pairing suggestions were spot on; dessert was white chocolate apple bread pudding. We dined by candlelight. skicb.com/uleys
There are similarities between the new Birroteca in Bel Air and the original on Clipper Road in Baltimore. The youthful wait staff wear plaid shirts and seem genuinely invested in your happiness. Plates and cutlery are
replaced between courses. And the Duck Duck Goose Pizza, a Birroteca staple, comes perched on a pizza stand, the glistening goose egg yolk bright yellow as ever.
But Birroteca in the ‘burbs, a dozen miles north of the beltway, lives in a squat, nondescript building that resembles a fast food joint. That doesn’t mean the new spot won’t be a success. Owner Robbin Haas has a track record when it comes to picking locations—in Baltimore he turned two previously troubled spots into busy, vibrant neighborhood hangouts (Nickel Taphouse is the second). He hopes to do the same for this former Bill Bateman’s.
“The economic climate in Harford County is great,” says Haas. “There are a lot of restaurants in [the area], but not a lot of restaurants like us.”
1226 Belair Road, Bel Air, 443-981-3141, bmorebirroteca.com
Jamie Hubbard had been eyeing the building at the corner of Aliceanna and Wolfe for years. He ran the bar at Jack’s Bistro and would talk with David Munyon, who worked in the kitchen, about opening a place of their own. He jumped ship to manage One-Eyed Mike’s, a neighborhood insiders’ fave known for its Grand Marnier Club—now some 2,000 members strong. Meanwhile, he kept watching the nearby spot occupied by a corner dive called Pearls, owned for nearly half a century by the same family.
In July—after “a deep cleaning,” according to Hubbard—the team, Hubbard, Munyon and “One-Eyed” Mike Maraziti, opened Lobo, a food-centric bar that he describes as “heavy on the whiskey.”
There’s also plenty of beer on tap—much of it local, along with a selection of German and Belgian suds. The food menu will promote sharing. There’s a nightly chef’s board with charcuterie and pickled things and a list of 10 to 15 sandwiches with meats roasted in-house. It’s certain to become another locals’ favorite. 1900 Aliceanna St., 410-327-0303
From chestnuts on an open fire to Santa’s cookies to that menacing mistletoe, holiday traditions offer us comfort and joy—and the chance to reimagine longtime favorites. This cocktail is a twist on a classic: The Old
Fashioned—adding a bit of smoke, spice and intrigue.
2 oz Breaker Bourbon Whisky
.5 oz Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Ghost Pepper Chili Simple Syrup
3 oz DRY Soda Co. Vanilla Bean soda
Combine Breaker Bourbon Whisky, Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth and simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass over ice and top with Vanilla Bean DRY Soda. Garnish with a large orange zest.
They may not be the flashiest rockers on the planet—Stephen Colbert refers to them as “Beardy and Glasses”—but The Black Keys’ music speaks for itself. The Grammy-winning, indie-garage sensation from Akron, Ohio, is bringing its second world tour to Baltimore to promote “Turn Blue,” the dynamic duo’s eighth studio album. Composed of skilled drummer (and sarcastic Twitter sensation) Patrick Carney and bluesy vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach, the Keys have been together since 2001, but rose to prominence in 2010 with “Brothers,” a near-perfect release that provided supremely catchy fodder for seemingly every TV commercial, sporting event and cable show that year. If you haven’t heard “Gold on the Ceiling” either you’ve been living under a rock—or we need to curate more of your entertainment choices. Dec. 4, at Royal Farms Arena. Tickets, $32-$80. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com —Ian Zelaya
Hot off the presses (and Broadway), the cast of Newsies is hitting the streets and headed to Baltimore. The Tony Award-winning Disney production captivates audiences with its high-energy song-and-dance numbers and heartwarming story. Dec. 2-7, at the Hippodrome. Tickets, $39-$169. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com —Kieran Butler
A traditional, family favorite is getting a Charm City twist when director Ian Gallanar takes audiences to Baltimore’s 19th-century business district though his artistic adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Dec. 2-23, at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Tickets, $15-$48. 410-244-8570, chesapeakeshakespeare.com —K.B.
Sweet Baby James
American classic James Taylor is bringing his folksy blues sound Baltimore for one night of tear-and cheer-inducing favorites. Dec. 2, at Royal Farms Arena. Tickets, $81-$103. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com —K.B.
Experiencing a case of writer’s block and desperate for his next big hit, famous playwright Sidney Bruhl is faced with temptation when a former student shows him the play that could put his career back on track—that is, if the manuscript was his. A thrilling production that will have you on the edge of your seat, Deathtrap will keep you guessing until the last moment. Dec. 10-Jan. 11, at Everyman Theatre. Tickets, $34-$60. 410-752-2208, everymantheatre.org —K.B.
Get crafty at the MICA Art Market, a pop-up shop where you can pick up glorious gifts, including paintings, ceramics, jewelry, textiles and more, all created by MICA students, alumni, faculty and staff. Dec. 10-13, at Brown Center’s Leidy Atrium and Falvey Hall. Free admission. 410-225-2280, mica.edu —K.B.
We’ve all been there—a lovely holiday get-together suddenly turns into a feud about whose mashed potatoes are fluffier or how long you’re actually supposed to cook the ham. Enjoy a little schadenfreude at Holidrama! Part Deux, Stoop Storytelling’s annual fete where locals share seven-minute holiday stories that range from horrible to hysterical to heartwarming (or all three). Dec. 15, at Center Stage. Tickets, $20. 410-332-0033, stoopstorytelling.com —K.B.
Seven artists tell stories of their childhood and teenage years in Juvenescence, an art exhibit featuring video, paintings, photography and more to transport viewers back to the emotions and struggles of going through adolescence. Through Dec. 7, at the Silber Art Gallery at Goucher College. Free admission. 410-337-6477, goucher.edu —K.B.
Listen in as the BSO teams up with amateur artists in this year’s Rusty Musicians, which invites non-professionals to play alongside the world-class orchestra for a free concert that is open to the public. Under the direction of BSO assistant conductor Nicholas Hersh, the un-auditioned string, brass, wind and percussion instrumentalists will perform “Polonaise” from Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Christmas Eve” and other holiday inspired selections. Dec 17, at the Meyerhoff. 410-783-8000, bsomusic.org —K.B.
Baltimore is obsessed with John Waters—and John Waters is obsessed with Christmas, which makes for a jolly old time, when the “Hairspray” director brings back his critically acclaimed one-man holiday show (aptly titled A John Waters Christmas) to his hometown for a public display of naughtiness. Dec. 19, at Baltimore Soundstage. Tickets, $40-$45. 877-987-6487, ticketfly.com —K.B.
No matter what color your thumb, luxuriate in holiday splendor at Ladew Gardens’ Christmas Open House. Walk through the 1746 manor to see how each room unfolds with decorations inspired by this year’s “dreamy” theme. Dec. 12-14. Tickets, $4-$10. 410-557-9570, ladewgardens.com —K.B.
Like A Virgin
Bringing together more than 60 pieces of artwork from museums and private collections in the United States and Europe, Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea explores how the image of the Virgin Mary was portrayed by Renaissance and Baroque artists, including Michelangelo, Botticelli and Sirani. Dec. 5-April 12, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in D.C. Tickets, $8-$10. 202-783-5000, nmwa.org —I.Z.
Men in Tights
Elves aren’t the only ones donning spandex this season. Cirque Dreams Holidaze promises dazzling acrobatics, dancing gingerbread and as much cheer as you can muster while sucking in your abs watching the company’s super-svelte performers make merry. Dec. 26-28, at The Lyric. Tickets, $49-$69. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com —I.Z.
Sugar Plum Fairies
It almost wouldn’t be Christmas without the tale of Clara, the Mouse King and The Nutcracker Prince as 120 students from Baltimore School for the Arts and TWIGS after-school and weekend programs team up with the BSO to perform the holiday classic. Conducted by maestro Robert Bernhardt and choreographed by Boston Ballet executive director Barry Hughson. Dec. 19-21, at The Lyric. Tickets, $26-$67. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com —K.B.
Belly up for a Rye Whiskey Tasting in this special edition of The Walters Art Museum’s “Make Night” series, where you can learn about the art, history and economics of rye whiskey in Maryland —and, of course, sample the goods. Cheers! Dec. 18, at The Walters. Tickets, $45 members, $50 non-members. 410-547-9000, thewalters.org —K.B.
From high school dropout to Emmy Award-winning humorist, Paula Poundstone has been hitting the pavement for more than 25 years—performing her signature brand of smart comedy, serving as first woman to perform stand-up at the prestigious White House Correspondents Dinner, and making NPR nerds swoon as a panelist on the beloved quiz show, “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.” See her live on Dec. 12, at Rams Head On Stage. Tickets, $40. 410-268-4545, ramsheadonstage.com —Jessica Bizik
Believe or not, the prim and proper American heiress Cora (aka the Countess of Grantham from “Downton Abbey”) knows how to rock out. When she’s not wowing us in her 1920s gowns, actress Elizabeth McGovern stuns onstage as the lead singer of Sadie and the Hotheads, an eclectic, seven-person band that’s embarking on its first U.S. tour. Dec. 9, at Rams Head On Stage. Tickets, $45. 410-268-4545, ramsheadonstage.com —I.Z.
Put on your dancing shoes and get ready to boogie. Catch a screening of Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America before experiencing your own soul train and dancing the night away to the sounds of DJ Graham Hatke’s funky beats. Dec. 11, at Creative Alliance. Tickets, $9 members, $12 non-members. 410-276-1651, creativealliance.org—K.B.
Having spent four months in Florence finding inspiration through her photographs, South African born and educated artist Jo Smail presents her new series of paintings Leaning Over the Edge of the Moon on display at Goya Contemporary through Jan. 28. 410-366-2001, goyacontemporary.com —K.B.
Take a holiday journey that will leave you in a feel-good mood with a Christmas attitude. Come watch the Joe Landry adaptation It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, inspired by the Frank Capra classic. Through Dec. 21, at Center Stage. Tickets, $19-$64. 410-332-0033, centerstage.org —K.B.
The Fresh Beat Band is coming to Charm City with their energetic, kid-friendly tour. The Nickelodeon band is perfect for your little ones to sing and dance along to, with hit singles such as “Here We Go” and “A Friend Like You.” Dec. 19, at the Meyerhoff. Tickets, $37-158. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com —K.B.
Immerse yourself in the works of acclaimed sculptors Lorenzo Quinn, Larry Schueckler and Tolla, and other emerging artists at Objects of Desire, Dec. 1-20, at Renaissance Fine Arts in Cross Keys. 410-484-8900, renaissancefinearts.com —K.B.
City That Reads
Critically acclaimed author Azar Nafisi (of “Reading Lolita in Tehran” fame) defends her position that Americans really do care about books in The Republic of the Imagination. Prove her right at a free reading at The Ivy Bookshop, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. —J.B.
Lessons Learned: American Schoolgirl Embroideries presents artwork from girls attending school along the East Coast in the 18th and 19th centuries. The textiles include scenes of landscapes, literary and biblical scenes, giving us a peek into life during early American civilization. Through May 2015, at the Baltimore Museum of Art. 443-573-1700, artbma.org —K.B.
Five years ago, D.C. attorney Robin Covington (not her real name), then 40, told her lawyer hubby she was going to sit down and write a romance novel, something she’d talked about doing forever. Rather romantically, he offered to buy her any laptop she wanted if she completed the manuscript. That was her single goal, to finish the damn thing.
“My first novel was a romance about a soap opera actress and a cop,” Covington says. (Like many romance genre authors, her regal pen name is devised both for personal protection and dramatic enhancement.) “I finished it in six months. It was bad!”
But Covington, now 45, was infatuated with the genre and wanted to keep writing, so she did some research and joined the Maryland chapter of Romance Writers of America, or MRW, where she fell at first sight for the professional women she encountered and said yes! to an assortment of writing workshops and a cracking peer critique exchange.
“When you go to the monthly MRW group meeting and say, ‘I got another rejection’ and you’re sitting next to a New York Times best-seller, who says, ‘I got 150 rejections,’ you feel better,” Covington says.
“We want to encourage people, that’s the whole point,” says MRW President Christi Barth, 44, a prolific Harlequin author by night, who works in advancement at MICA by day. Barth publishes under her real name, incidentally, though she says she doesn’t broadcast her second career at MICA. Two of her Harlequin/ Carina Press novels, “Love on the Boardwalk” and “Love at High Tide,” happen to feature a pair of Ocean City buddy cops.
“Writing romance is a very solitary profession. You’re sitting on your couch working till 2 in the morning,” Barth says. “We start every meeting by having writers—there are 82 members, 80 of whom are female—go around the room and share news. ‘Did you submit a query letter? Did you get a request for a partial manuscript? A full?’ Every month, people clap, even if you got a rejection.”
Inevitable rejections aside, MRW authors seem to feel the group love and find it easier to keep plugging away at their craft.
In 2014 alone, Covington will publish seven novels. She self-published “Temptation,” her second in the New Adult category (books for and about early 20-somethings)—making what she calls “really good money” for it. She had already published six novels through Entangled Covet, a paranormal romance subgenre imprint.
The two other central subgenres in this market are contemporary and historical romance, but each contains many subsets. Highlands romance, for example, dwells in historical, while werewolves and fantasy are subsets of the paranormal realm. “Mature” romance, within the contemporary category, cooks up saucier love scenes than most. The list continues…
While she’s not a best-seller and hasn’t quit her successful day job—“We like vacations and I want to pay for most of my kids’ college,” she says—Covington’s story is an undeniably successful one. She’s currently working on a new romance series set in Fells Point and recently signed with a literary agent she met via a fellow novelist.
Happy endings (hey, don’t interpret that dirtily) aren’t uncommon for hardworking writers in the sizzling romance genre, the industry that in 2013 raked in $1.08 billion, second only in total sales to the thriller genre’s $1.09 billion, and bankrolls ahead of literary fiction’s $548 million.
Eighty-four percent of romance authors in this country are women, 16 percent men, and they range in age from 30 to 54. Average income from writing: $55,000. (One author interviewed confessed to earning just shy of seven figures since she started publishing in 2011.) Fifty-one percent of romance books are paperbacks; 38 percent are e-books (which sometimes go to print when sales sky-rocket); 10 percent are hardcover; and 1 percent are audio.
The longtime lucrative genre is also notoriously ahead of its time in terms of publishing strategies and consumer responsiveness.
“Romance is always on the leading edge of publishing,” says Owings Mills-based romance, paranormal and historical romance novelist Stephanie Dray, 43, one of those best-seller-types in the MRW. (Note: Dray is her real name; she’s Stephanie Draven when she writes straight romance.) “We’re about three years ahead of every other genre in marketing and the algorithms of Amazon, packaging, trends, social media. Romance writers are more willing to engage and share information with one another—and their very clued-in readers are more likely to follow them online.
“When romance writers self-publish they know what they’re doing,” Dray explains. “For a book about a ménage à trois, maybe you’ve got two men and a woman on the cover. But where the woman is tells the readers what kind of [relationship] they have. If she’s off to the side, the two men are involved with each other; if she’s in the middle she’s the star. Romance readers know this. General fiction is harder to classify and to market.”
Of course, there’s another key element at play in this billion-dollar killing spree. “Fifty Shades of Grey”—the E.L. James novel originally published as an e-book by an Australian press, The Writer’s Coffee Shop, and quickly sent to print by Random House—figures heavily in the feel-so-good story. And with the much-hyped “Fifty Shades” movie coming out on Feb. 13, the impact of James’ titillating series on the market is poised to surge anew.
“‘Fifty Shades’ created a rather rabid readership,” says best-selling Annapolis-based novelist Laura Kaye. “The book mainstreamed the genre where the sexual journey of the characters is the defining plot element.”
“The marketplace started validating their choice—these books used to be stuck in the back,” Covington adds.
“‘Fifty Shades’ has been instrumental in bringing attention to not only the romance genre, but erotic romance as well,” says Eliza Knight, an MRW author based in Mount Airy, and Dray’s regular writing buddy at the Panera in Eldersburg, where the two share breakfast, lunch and long, quiet word-churning stints side by side.
Though Dray is one of the heavier hitting best-sellers at the meetings—she works as a novelist full time—she comes off as egalitarian and supportive of her fellow writers as can be. (Note to self: Read Dray’s “In Bed with the Opposition,” published by Entangled, a romance about a Maryland political campaign, based on William Donald Schaefer.)
Several years ago, when Kaye, new to MRW, asked Dray if she would read her first novella, “Hearts in Darkness”—the story of an extremely appealing man and woman trapped in an elevator during a blackout—Dray trusted her instincts and agreed. Kaye, 44, who writes erotic thrillers, paranormal romance and more, has published a whopping 18 books since 2011. Fun local note: Her feisty, frisky “Hard Ink” series—yep, set in a tattoo parlor—features one heroine who resides in Patterson Park.
Today Kaye and Dray (forgive the rhyme) are collaborating on a straight historical novel about Thomas Jefferson’s influential eldest daughter, Patsy, whose dad wrote her no less than 30,000 letters. (Imagine how much more email he might have sent.)
At a time when literary publishing is working through intense growing pains, redefining itself in the face of new technologies and consequentially publishing fewer unknown writers—for less money— it’s been downright inspiring for this fiction writer to speak to an assortment of motivated Maryland scribes. In fact, their positive energy is a turn-on.
Romancers seem to have the crazy-making, procrastination-inducing novel-writing game figured out. Not only do they support one another through the lonely writing nights, take each other to task on their deadlines and goals and offer honest critical feedback that evidently works, they also churn out the bleeping pages.
“My daily goal is 3,000 words,” says Kaye, who left a tenured associate professor of history position at the Naval Academy when her romance books started taking off.
“I try to write at least 10 pages a day,” says Covington like it’s nothing. And that’s coming from a full-time lawyer. (Reader, how’s your “to do” list looking right now?)
“When I first started, I didn’t expect to find such intellectual powerhouses in the romance genre,” Dray notes. “These are educated and talented women.”
Even powerhouse Dray, a graduate of Smith, hits a creative wall now and then. Why? It’s not always easy to write a sex scene, and since the 1950s, steamy love scenes remain the emotional heart of every romantic story’s structure. They show the characters’ vulnerability. Therefore, they need to be utterly believable. And lustily engrossing.
“I will often write a book and skip the sex scenes and put them in a bracket and say sex scene goes here,” Dray says. “One time I got help from Christi Barth—I told her I hated my scene. ‘I’m so bored!’ She said, ‘Well, what if he takes his tie and blah, blah, blah’…and the next thing you know I’m able to write it!”
Another thing the romance writers do right: They ignore the literary snobs who love to gab and jab about how formulaic romance writing can be. Barth, who has taught romantic fiction writing at CCBC, admits that the genre has its familiar tropes by necessity—they’re user-friendly elements that the readers come to expect… and even crave.
“They say there are only seven stories in the world,” Barth says. “I like to think of it more as a skeleton: boy meets girl; boy loses girl; somebody falls in love; they encounter a problem! But you have to find your voice. That’s everything.”
Andy Palmer, 44, an MRW member and beginning romance writer who has already set a goal to publish two books in 2015, agrees. Palmer, one of the two male members of the association, was Barth’s creative writing student.
The Baltimore County resident plans to place his real name on his subgenre romance books, a fantasy and a paranormal, the latter set in Baltimore and featuring a pack of UMBC students.
“Good stories are about good characters, and good characters require goals,” Palmer says. “The romantic theme is not only timeless but agnostic, existing anywhere people are.”
Does Palmer ever feel like the odd man out in a bustling group of romance-writing women? Does he feel intimidated trying to gain ground in his female-dominated genre of choice? As a straight male among sex-styling vixens, does he have to try not to turn red?
“I see it as an opportunity,” Palmer says, businesslike to his core, “to show that your typical guy knows romance, too, but also to give a male perspective on things. And the MRW has welcomed me with open arms.”
Open arms, eh, Andy? Hey, these people are pro writers, so I’m not going to make any more jokes. Who knows, someday I might even try my own hand at the hot-heavy genre. (Insert easy joke at my expense!)
In Lust with Romance: Maryland Fans Confess
“I read the erotic cowboy genre to make up for my ‘vanilla’ husband! Think drug cartels and rough loving…BDSM [bondage and discipline/sadomasochism]. I can get lost in the fantasy—I have to force myself to go to sleep. Just one more chapter!” —Jennifer Deets, 36
“I have been reading romance for four years. It gives me a sense of peace that all is right in the world when things are going wrong. I love reading mysteries and thrillers, but erotic paranormal is my favorite. —Jacquie Johnson, 62
“Just because romance novels are geared toward women and have happy endings, they’re often belittled as ‘trash’. This drives me CRAZY! The historicals must be very accurate because fans do their own research and demand authenticity. Smart women do read romance. —Gayle Economos, 60
I’m a die-hard fan—so much so that I’ve gone from a stay-at-home mom to a self-published romance writer. My first book has gotten as high as No. 8 in New Adult on Amazon. —Laura Rosner Ward, 37
“I love Laura Kaye’s work: I feel that she puts her heart and soul into her books— they are sexy, romantic and emotional. Yes, I read in public—I’m not really concerned about what people might think!” —Carolyn Johnson, 58
How the Pros Write S-E-X
“Sex scenes are vulnerable for the characters and the author—they’re my favorite. I write at the end of my 22-foot closet. I have a window! I’ll sit and listen to music; I can close the door. It’s helpful to be out of the traffic from the house.” –Robin Covington
“I only write a sex scene by mixing a single white Russian and not getting up till it’s done.” –Christi Barth
“I save them for a moment when I’m feeling it. Otherwise I guess you’d have to put on some Marvin Gaye and pour some wine.”–Stephanie Dray
“It’s a bit of a seduction for myself. Since I tend to write pretty sizzling, detailed scenes, I need to really see it. There’s a lot of mechanics to writing a love scene—not just with making sure the hero doesn’t have three hands, but also with adding in the emotion and conflict. Every sexy/love scene has to mean something. It has to drive the story forward.” –Eliza Knight
“An erotic scene is the most difficult to write if you’re sick or tired or in a bad mood. It’s difficult to not end up writing: ‘They were too tired to have sex so they just went to bed.’” –Laura Kaye
They pressed closer, held tighter, kissed more deeply until all Crystal knew, all that existed in the world, was this moment, this place, this man. Shane’s hands moved over her body. Fisting in the long lengths of her hair. Gently cupping her breasts. Stroking her bare thighs. Crystal adored the way he seemed to need to touch her. How powerful and necessary human touch was. How life-giving and affirming. And how simply mind-blowing was it to discover that touch could be a giving thing, not just about taking, that touch could be healing, and not just about hurting, that touch could comfort, and not just exert control. Even when things had been better with Bruno, they’d never been like this.
- From “Hard As You Can” By Laura Kaye
If you’ve watched “House” or “Grey’s Anatomy,” you might have the wrong impression about organ and bone marrow donations. No, doctors aren’t running to the hospital roof to grab a heart in a cooler from a helicopter pilot. In real life, the procedures are calm and methodical—and more safe and successful than ever. Every year, thousands of patients’ lives are saved by both living and deceased donors, but, unfortunately, there’s still a wide gap between how many people need organs and how many organs become available. Some die waiting, while others live to tell the tale of the gifts they were given.
Lisa and Michele
In 2005, as a mitzvah, or good deed, Lisa Rostaing hurried to the bone marrow registry booth at her temple, swabbed the inside of her cheek with a Q-tip and provided contact information to enter a national bone marrow registry. “It took about 30 seconds,” says Lisa, a youth director at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles. “I figured, I can’t cure cancer, but maybe I can save somebody’s life.” Years passed.
In Baltimore, in 2008, three weeks after getting engaged, Michele Bresnick Walsh was diagnosed with a form of blood cancer known as acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML. Michele, who practices business law, was 38. Because AML progresses rapidly, she started chemotherapy immediately, but her FLT3 gene mutation meant that her only real hope for survival was a bone marrow transplant.
To find a suitable marrow match, doctors compare 10 genetic markers. Even though they look first to the family for marrow donations, only about 30 percent of patients find a compatible donor there; the other 70 percent have to rely on the kindness of strangers. “My sister wasn’t a match,” says Michele, “so we had to turn to the national registry.”
Back in Los Angeles, Lisa got the call in November more than three years after her cheek-swab. The best matches often come from within the same ethnic group, and Lisa and Michele are both from families that trace back to Eastern Europe. They were a 10 out of 10 match. Lisa was urged to think very seriously about the decision to donate marrow. “But I felt strongly about going through with it, whatever it was,” she says. She had several rounds of blood work, filled out packets of health forms, banked a pint of blood for her own use post-surgery, and had a complete physical with EKG, all in Los Angeles.
By March 2009, Michele and Lisa were both ready, and Lisa was flown out to the East Coast. For the procedure, Lisa chose general anesthesia over an epidural. The surgeon made small incisions and pushed a needle into both of her hip bones and extracted thick, liquid marrow through the needle in a process known as bone marrow harvesting. She had the surgery at 6 a.m. on a Friday, spent the night in a hotel paid for by the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation and flew home Saturday afternoon with very little pain.
“There was no scarring,” she says. “It was not a walk in the park, but my attitude was this is 24 hours of discomfort to save someone’s life.” Michele’s health returned, she got married and this year celebrated her fifth year of remission.
Identities of donors are kept confidential for as long as the donors wish, but eventually Michele and Lisa met. “It was so emotional,” says Michele. “I was bawling.” The two became fast friends and now meet up or take a vacation together once a year—including a getaway to the Bahamas.
Michele is very active in There Goes My Hero—a nonprofit founded by Erik Sauer, another leukemia survivor—which provides meals for patients receiving treatment, funds research and holds bone marrow drives to add as many people to the national registry as possible. (There’s currently an urgent need for non-white people to enter the registry.)
The American Cancer Society says that serious complications for donors are rare. “Some people think the procedure is invasive, like on that episode of ‘House,’ ” says Michele. “But the majority say it’s not that painful.”
Five years ago, Marty Maren, a 56-year-old sales representative, woke up feeling very ill. His wife insisted he go to the hospital, and by the end of the day he was on life support. His liver was failing, and his only chance for survival was a transplant.
“Who gets to the top of the wait list is determined by how critical the patient is,” says Andrew Cameron, MD, PhD, surgical director of liver transplantation at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Marty’s doctor. “People at death’s door get better placement.”
Four days after Marty was admitted, Dr. Cameron attempted a transplant with a liver from a deceased donor in Pittsburgh, but Marty was too sick to receive it. Dr. Cameron passed that liver on to the next person on the list and removed Marty’s dead liver. There was no other option now—without a liver, he would die in a few days. Then a young man died in St. Louis, and it was his liver that Dr. Cameron successfully transplanted into Marty.
“My life was saved by my wife, by Dr. Cameron and by Saint Rita, the patron saint of the impossible—and of course by my donor,” says Marty.
Six months after his surgery, he wrote a letter to the family of his young donor, but got no response. “This is the worst time in their lives,” says Marty. “I didn’t want to push.” In 2013, Marty and his wife, Michele Gregory-Maren, co-founded the Maryland chapter of Transplant Recipients International Organization, or TRIO, a support group for the transplant community that provides free education and advocacy. This month, Marty celebrates the five-year anniversary of his transplant, and he’ll try again to contact the donor family.
Although there have been great advances in “living liver transplants,” in which a living donor gives part of his or her liver to the recipient, most patients need a liver from a deceased donor. “Every year, 20,000 people are on the liver transplant list, and 7,000 become available,” says Dr. Cameron. “Organs are a limited resource, and we’re good shepherds of them, but people die waiting.”
In February of this year, Suemi Smith received two kidneys from a deceased donor. Age 30 and married, with a 7-year-old daughter, she’d been on dialysis for almost three years following acute kidney failure that came on the heels of lupus. When she got the call at work, she broke down in tears. The next morning, she received a transplant of two kidneys. Nine months later, she’s living a new chapter in her life. “I’ve been feeling very good,” she says.
When Suemi asked her doctors about her donor, all they could tell her was that her donor was a child. Because Suemi is petite, her team decided that a transplant of two kidneys from a child would be successful. “Being a mother, I can’t imagine having to bear losing a child,” she says. “I’ve thought about reaching out to the family, but it’s a very delicate situation. I know there’s no comfort when you lose a child, but I’d like them to know how much their gift has helped me.”
Andy and Meagan
When she was a sophomore at Loyola University in Baltimore, Meagan O’Neill became sick with a blood disease so rare that there’s no name for it. With several months in the ICU, plasma treatment and blood transfusions, she made a fullrecovery—except for her kidneys. After a year of dialysis, it became clear that she needed a kidney, and her mother’s brother, Andy Nestler, age 49, was the healthiest match.
“When he learned that he was the best match, he didn’t even think twice,” says Meagan. In September 2007, she and her uncle went to the hospital together for the transplant; they checked in on Thursday, and left the hospital together on Sunday. Andy was back at work two weeks later, and Meagan, whose health improved immediately, was able to return to school the next semester.
A designated donor since she was 17, Meagan works at the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland, which provides help to the families of deceased donors in the form of support groups, workshops and memorial services, all free.
“People have misconceptions about what it means to be a designated donor,” says Meagan. “The way it’s portrayed on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ is very upsetting and untrue. With donation, there’s no running around.” Designated donors receive exactly the same medical care as those who are not designated, and through the entire donation process, the body is treated with care, dignity and respect.
In Maryland, the percentage of people who check “yes” to being an organ donor on the driver’s license application or renewal is about 46 percent. Baltimore’s designation rate is the lowest in the state, at about 32 percent. (Compare this to Worcester County, with a rate of 56 percent.) “I’m kind of amazed at how many people are not designated,” says Meagan. “Your chance of needing an organ is much, much higher than your chance of being a donor.”
Leslie and Kai
This year, Leslie Kriewald, a teacher at Baltimore City College, donated one of her kidneys to a former student. Kai Dambach, 22 years old, was born with a congenital birth defect that wears out his kidneys—and he had already received a kidney each from his parents. Over the years, Leslie had become friendly with Kai’s mother, running into her here and there around the city. “Last winter she told me her son was getting sicker and needed another kidney,” says Leslie. In April, Leslie was tested to see if she could help. “If it was my kid, I’d hope someone would step forward.”
“There was a lot of testing, extensive blood work, a psych evaluation, a cardio test, a CAT scan,” she adds. In the end, the tests determined that she was a perfect blood and tissue match, and that she was healthy enough to donate. “For me it was an easy decision. Once I knew I was healthy enough to do it, it was a no-brainer.”
In August, at age 59, Leslie had one kidney removed and returned to work the following week. “I don’t recommend going back to work one week later, but it was fine,” she says. She had surgery on a Tuesday and was home on Thursday. “The pain was minimal, and I had a great support team.”
Leslie continues to be amazed by the gratitude she gets from the recipient and his family. “It continues to blow me away,” she says. “One of my biggest realizations was that, at the end of the day, it’s really easy to do good things for other people.”
How can you help save a life?
- Say ‘yes’ to organ, eye and tissue donation at the MVA. Or register immediately online at donatelifemaryland.org.
- Get your cheek swabbed for a bone marrow registry. Visit BeTheMatch.org to find a registry drive near you.
- Talk with your employer, congregation or school about hosting a bone marrow registry event, especially if you can reach non-white populations, where the need is greatest.
- Get a Donate Life license plate to spread the message.
- Make a financial donation to organizations that provide support for transplant patients and donor families, such as Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland, There Goes My Hero and TRIO of Maryland.
You might expect a world-famous art collector and the owner of a chain of boutique hotels to be impervious to the charm of Charm City, but Mera Rubell is clearly in love. When Rubell Hotels—a family business run by Mera, her husband, Don, and their son, Jason—purchased the Lord Baltimore Hotel, formerly the Radisson, in 2013, they meant for the transformation of the now 86-year-old structure to be swift, authentic and done just right. Although the glamorous matriarch managed to travel to their home in Miami and other jet-setter destinations—from New York to New Orleans, Berlin to Basel—she spent most of the last year on-site, managing the redo. After
hundreds of detail-oriented decisions, including design and staffing, Rubell, whose late brother-in-law, Steve Rubell, founded iconic Studio 54, can name every bellhop and bartender in the place. And somehow, she still found time to hit local theaters, tour 36 artist studios (in the same number of hours!), curate an exhibition of Baltimore artists in New York and dine in more restaurants than this writer has tried in 15 years. Here, Rubell talks about living her life with passion. No surprise, it was her idea to be photographed in bed.
> My first year in Baltimore was all about selecting toilets and wallpaper. I didn’t get out much. To get a 440-room hotel done in a year took every minute of focus.
> When you believe when others don’t, there is a huge opportunity. When you look at real estate in Chicago or New York or Philadelphia, that opportunity has left the station. But in Baltimore you can still do this.
> When we bought the building that is now the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, people thought we were absolutely crazy. This was a section of Miami that was full of poverty and quite dangerous. Coming from New York, we understood that neighborhoods have a life cycle and things change.
> Hospitality is the last of the great human-interactive businesses. The Lord Baltimore is about fantasy, history, memory. It’s about a city coming back, believing in itself, taking pride in itself. We care about this place.
> We have four passions—art, tennis, food and family. We became partners with our children—and this has been a magnificent collaboration.
> Don and I just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. When we got married, he decided to go to medical school and I was a preschool teacher in New York. Our greatest entertainment was long walks on 8th Avenue in the ’20s—kind of like what Chelsea is now—and, in those days, artists occupied retail storefronts where they lived and worked. We found artists who welcomed us in. It became an extraordinary adventure.
> We didn’t set out to be art collectors. When we first started buying art, we only had $100 to spend a week, so we allocated $25 of that for art. Sometimes it was $5 a week to five different artists. The artists were happy to do this. And afterward, galleries were happy to do this. We found ourselves very motivated over these years to cover the beautiful addiction that we developed.
> When people say they can’t afford to collect art, I tell them anyone can do it. Regardless of your budget, you can find something. You may not find it in Basel where booths are $50,000, but you can find a $100 drawing in a smaller fair. Paying less doesn’t mean the artists aren’t talented.
> We never buy just one single work by an artist because we are all about telling a story. How do you tell a story with just one work? Each artist is a universe of ideas and talent, expressing the issues of our time.
> Art brought us to Baltimore. Our first trip was to visit the Cone Collection at the BMA, and we were blown away!
> In some families, one kid wants to be a lawyer and another wants to be an Indian chief. People always say, ‘I wish my kid would grow up to be this or that.’ I don’t wish for my kids to be anything other than who they are.
> A female friend once told me that once women become 60, they disappear. I started wearing the hats at that time, because it’s impossible not to stand out in them and you always make a statement.
> A bed is a powerful metaphor for life, death, dreams and naughtiness. A lot happens in the bed.
—As told to Cara Ober