Dario’s Party


Cocktails with Dario Franchitti, Radcliffe Jewelers, September 1

We weren’t very psyched about the Grand Prix, what with the cutting of the trees and the noise and the inconvenience. But we’ll concede that it seems like the weekend was a success: the bars and restaurants were packed, the hotels were sold out Friday and Saturday nights and the city got a public relations boost. If we have to have it (and with a five year contract, we do) better for it to succeed than fail.

One big success came Friday night. Racing’s striking star Dario Franchitti stepped out that night after practice to mix and mingle at Radcliffe Jewelers in Pikesville with jewelry lovers and race car driving fans to raise money for the The Herman & Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai. 

Five Minutes with Dario Franchitti

Have you ever had a speeding ticket?

I’v had a couple.

Would you mind telling me how fast you were going?

 I’d rather not.

What do you find most annoying about regular drivers?

When drivers are not paying attention. It doesn’t matter if you are going 30 (mph) or 120, you need to focus and not talk on the phone.

What is your pre-race routine? 

About an hour before the race, I try to clear my head. I do some stretching and spend time getting focused on the race.

Do you have a favorite movie of your wife Ashley Judd?

Well, I think they are all pretty good.



Sartorial Baltimorial Picks Prix Party Pics 





National Pinball Museum Leaves DC for Baltimore


Baltimore’s affordability may be attracting more than just twenty-something artists and scenemakers. David Silverman plans to move his National Pinball Museum here from DC this fall. In an interview with The Sun, Silverman said that after he lost his lease at his Georgetown location he couldn’t find anything in the DC area that fit his budget.

If lease negotiations work out, the National Pinball Museum will set up its interactive exhibits of hundreds of historical and modern pinball machines just north of the Inner Harbor. And we’ll be able to credit Baltimore’s affordability with one more little cultural coup.

Silverman’s quirky and mildly-obsessive museum (whose mission statement calls pinball “a looking glass of culture”) will fit perfectly in a city known for celebrating otherwise marginalized art (see American Visionary Art Museum) and even kitsch (see most of Hampden).

The Last Days of the Summer Uniform


Katie, 16, and Kyle, 14, Callahan 

Brother and sister Katie and Kyle take advantage of the last few carefree days before school starts. Her cute flip-flops and bubble gum pink polish and his shorts and shaggy hair make us wistful for another summer gone by too fast. They look like two lost surfers.

In fact, he just came from football practice. She’s a gymnast with Rebounders.

We’re not getting the black-socks-with-shorts trend, but we understand it’s big with Baltimore upper school boys. Of course, we wouldn’t let our husbands step out in this look but, hey, it’s cute on Kyle.


Ready to go back to school?

Katie: No. I won’t see my friends as much.

Kyle: Too much work.


Do you like fashion? You are so little and lean!

I am a gymnast. And I love fashion — dresses, jeans tanks.


What don’t you like to wear?

My uniform. I go to Roland Park Country School.


How about you, Kyle? Nice socks! Fashion statement?

No. I just got out of football practice. It’s all I had in my locker.


Are you all ready for summer to end?

Katie: No, but I will be hitting the vault and the uneven bars and the floor!

Baltimore Four Seasons to Hire 200


We thought with the grim job report out, we should let you know about the Four Seasons Job Fair, September 7, 8 and 9 at the Legg Mason Tower in Harbor East.  The luxury hotel chain will be looking to hire 200 people from doormen to room attendants. The hotel will also look to fill spa and fitness positions as well as a few supervisory jobs. 

Doors open at 9 a.m. and close at 4 p.m.

The hotel plans to open in in late November, according to its website.

Good luck!

Maryland Fried Chicken, Grandma’s Crabcakes


If you’ve lived here long, you’ve heard the debate — folks from New York insist that Maryland’s a Southern city, while anyone who lives below Virginia rolls their eyes and calls us Yankees.  But in terms of food, Maryland seems staunchly Southern, with an influx of influences from the many immigrant communities that have come to call Baltimore their home.

Which is why we enjoy The Baltimore Snacker‘s two-part take on distinctive Maryland foods — namely, fried chicken and crab cakes, two foods that can inspire strong feelings among cooks and eaters alike.  The Snacker quotes an old essay from a Southern cookbook:  Any attempt to prescribe the best way to prepare fried chicken is likely to start the Civil War all over again, or it may, at best, lead into a storm of prolonged arguments, widely diverse local and even neighborhood differences, not to say family bickerings.

So what makes the Maryland version of these dishes distinct?  Well, according to the Snacker, “the generic “Southern fried chicken” for example – is the shake and bake variety from the Middle South: soak it in buttermilk, put it in a flour mixture in a bag and shake it until coated, then dip it in cream and then flour again, and then fry.  Maryland fried chicken stops with the first shaking, but then gets fried in hot oil in a covered pan.  It is then served with a cream gravy.”  And it’s that gravy that makes it a true Maryland Fried Chicken (maybe we should start our own fast food chain?).

As for crab cakes, the Snacker kindly includes a recipe handwritten by his grandmother. It doesn’t get more authentic than that! Crucial ingredients include (obviously) Chesapeake crab, Old Bay, and dry mustard.

Read the discussions and look at step-by-step photos of the recipe steps here.

A Dog Named Sherlock Seeks His Watson


Hurricane Irene didn’t stop the Maryland SPCA from taking great care of its four-legged residents. Aileen Gabbey, from the SPCA, told us they were able to continue spaying and neutering with the help of a small generator, while they were out of power for two days. Gabbey also said some lost pets even found their way to them after the hurricane hit.

With everything back on track, the organization continues to focus on finding homes for unwanted but wholly adorable animals.

If you’re in the market for a lovable new pet, consider two kitten brothers, Frankie and Johnnie. They are five months old, love to play together, and are hoping to be adopted together. Frankie and Johnnie are handsome, sweet, and outgoing kittens who would purr to be part of a family.

Another good-looking fellow looking for a home is Moe Moe the cat. Come on…how awesome is that name? Moe Moe is 10 years old and found himself at the MDSPCA, our donated media partner, when his owner could no longer take care of him. He’s sweet, laid-back, and very affectionate.

Dog lovers out there, please dig Sherlock. He’s been looking for a home for quite a while. Sherlock reached the MDSPCA with a mysterious wound on his back that seemed to be a burn. He was accepting and tolerant of the care it required. Now it’s completely healed. He’s an active dog ready to be adopted by an active owner who will love him, and accept enthusiastic love in return.

After Vozzella: Will Her Truth-Telling Voice Fade Away?


Yesterday marked for The Baltimore Sun the first Thursday without Laura Vozzella’s witty, snarky, tell-it-like-is presence.

After 11 years as a Sun writer and almost six as columnist, the astute reporter (and sassy observer) has relocated to The Washington Post, which leaves us wondering who her replacement might be — who could fill her wise word-count, if indeed she’s being replaced at all? (No sign of a new columnist, and no gossip on the street, could very well mean the ever-shrinking paper considers the provocative city column category said and done.)

If so, it’s a shame. We’ve relished Vozzella’s insights. We loved these highlights from her farewell column last week, in which she thanked high-profiles locals who made her revealing columns hilariously readable and teachable: “Former Mayor Dixon, for your passion for furs, Jimmy Choos and a married man doing business with the city. Developers A, B and C, for all those gift cards you donated to Mayor Dixon’s favorite charity: Mayor Dixon. Olympian Michael Phelps, for taking that Vegas cocktail waitress home to meet mom one Thanksgiving…A convention of out-of-town bishops, for downing $55 bottles of wine at Cinghiale…A Catholic priest Who Shall Not Be Named, for denouncing me from the pulpit of my own church for writing about the aforementioned bishops…Molly Shattuck, the Grandma Moses of NFL cheerleading, for proving motherhood and ripped abs are not mutually exclusive….Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, for scolding a constituent who called you “Stephanie,” overcoming your Cleopatra-wig phase and managing to always look bored with the family business (politics), even when the job brings you within inches of Barack Obama.”

Just in case the brightest Sun powers that be are considering cocky columnist applicants, here are some candidate ideas from BFB:

Justin Fenton, Baltimore Sun reporter–has been named best reporter by City Paper and Baltimore Magazine. Pros: He’s a skilled and dogged crime reporter, a solid writer, and well-trained journalist. Cons: He’s likely a tad too serious to tackle the gig’s fun-poking requirements.

Max Weiss, editor of Baltimore Magazine
Pros: She’s funny, clever, and well-versed in pop culture and politics. Cons: She might love Baltimore a little too much to knock our heroes from their pedestals.

Marion Winik, nonfiction writer, poet, Baltimore Fishbowl columnist
Pros: She’s intelligent; knows what’s happening around town, around the world.
Cons: Her best, most heartfelt writing may be found in those small moments in which she takes ruthless aim at herself, rather than the jerks all around her.

Which local thinker/scribe would you nominate to be Vozzella’s replacement? Let us hear.

No More Synthetic Marijuana in Ocean City


Often marketed as “herbal incense” under brands like K2 and Spice, synthetic marijuana-like drugs have been selling in head shops and gas stations across the country, including Maryland.

While the DEA scrambles to respond to the widespread and barely legal new drug (placing a temporary ban on five chemical ingredients of the drug, while it determines a long-term solution), Ocean City has gone ahead and outlawed the stuff.

Reports of seizures and hallucinations in users of the drug have prompted Ocean City to act fast, passing an “emergency” ordinance that, according to The Sun, outlaws “the sale, possession, and manufacturing” of the substance.

Many other municipalities and several whole states have passed similar laws, and the drug’s prohibition throughout Maryland is likely just a matter of time.

What’s Your Make-Me-Move Price?


There’s a story going around, confirmed by real estate people in-the-know, that an executive with Pandora Jewelry, which makes charms and bracelets, rings and necklaces and other tchotkes, has paid twice the value for a house in Baltimore County’s Greenspring Valley. The house, lovely inside and out with pastoral views and lots of lush, green horse-y acreage, was owned and loved for decades by an old Baltimore family who had no intention of moving but faced an offer it could not refuse. 

So the story begs the question: How much would it take to make you move? We all grow emotionally attached to our houses, of course, but everyone has a “make me move” price. Real estate website Zillow, which lists and values properties, encourages home owners to list their “Make Me Move” price, calling it a “free and easy way to let others know what you’d sell your home for.”

In this economy, not many of us will be lucky enough to get that magic number. Even in a good economy, most of us wouldn’t be lucky enough to get that magic number, so it’s no wonder that when it does happen, it has neighbors’ tongues wagging.

Pandora Jewelry is a multi-million-dollar company headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark. It employs over 5,000 people worldwide. Before its initial public offering last October, the BBJ reported the company hired Baltimore marketing company GVK to develop branding and communication strategies. Maybe the IPO windfall afforded the executive a giddy I-can-buy-whatever-I-want moment?

Tell us your Make-Me-Move price in the comments — maybe you’ll find a buyer. (We fully expect a commission, of course.)

Joint Custody: The Best of Both Worlds


The day of the swim meet, it was 99 degrees in the shade. My son and I had been up since 6 a.m. to make time to dress and eat breakfast before friends picked us up at 7 to carpool an hour to Carroll County for the meet.

The only glimmer of hope I had that bright morning, as I hugged my coffee cup and yawned, was not inspired by the sun’s radiance, but by the thought that next weekend I wouldn’t be at a meet. It would be my ex-husband’s turn to attend.

Nothing had turned out as expected. When I became pregnant, my husband and I read and planned for a natural childbirth, complete with hypno-birthing. My labor was induced, lasted for 52 hours, and involved Pitocin, an epidural, and forceps. I’d expected to have a girl with brown curly hair like mine. I gave birth to a beautiful fair-skinned little boy with blond hair and remarkably bright blue eyes. I’d expected that my child, his father, and I would spend our time dancing to 80’s music, discussing arcane cultural issues, and watching movies. I’d expected we would stay married and raise our little boy together. I was wrong.

I separated from my husband when our son was two years old. We divorced two years later. After we separated, my ex moved back to Boston. I relied on my wits, my pocketbook, and a series of newfound friends and paid caregivers to get through the next three years.

I lived through many long and sleepless nights with a very attached young boy attached to me. I moved his trundle bed into my room so he could stay close. I learned television was my friend. My son would crawl into my bed between 5 and 6 a.m. and turn on the TV. I would “watch with my eyes closed” for a few hours until I was able to drag myself out of bed.

The years passed quickly — although there were days that seemed interminable. Once my son returned home from preschool and told me, “It’s not fair that you and daddy don’t live together. Everyone else lives with both their parents.” I’d vowed to be honest with him, so I said, “You’re right. It’s not fair and I’m sorry. But we are better off living apart and working together to care for you.” He cried and I held him. When he fell asleep, I went to the bathroom and cried so much that my eyes were still swollen the next day.

At that point, though, my ex and I weren’t really working together. My son and I were in Baltimore, and he was in Boston calling his son daily, visiting every few months — and doing what he needed to do to move back to our town.

With my village of friends and caregivers, my son and I survived his toddler years. Though I relished my freedom and the tranquility in my single-mom household, there were times when I would have loved a partner to help. I get debilitating migraines once a month, and there were many days when it was all I could do to feed my son something vaguely healthy, go back to bed and bring him with me, then attempt to take him to pre-school before coming back home to collapse.

Several times when my son was ill, I was up all night changing and washing pajamas and bed sheets. Then going into work in the morning. There were other times when I wished his father was around — for example when it was time to teach my son to pee standing up… Trying to teach my son things better taught by his dad would often leave me feeling sorrowful — yet in the end capable.

When my son was five, his father moved into an apartment a mile away from us. Our new phase of active co-parenting began.
My ex-husband and I had decided that, to the extent possible, we would work cooperatively and supportively to raise our son. I hoped to spare my child the mixed blessing and sorrow of the “two birthdays, two Thanksgivings, two Christmases” that some divorced couples embrace. My ex and I shared many values and were going to do our best to share holidays, too, and not to speak ill of each another.

To a great extent it has worked. We celebrate my son’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas together. We attend school functions together. His girlfriends have attended with us. (Neither my ex-husband nor I questions the wisdom of the divorce in the least.) Our divorce resembles Demi Moore and Bruce Willis’ in some ways, although neither my ex-husband nor I resemble Demi or Bruce. And there is no Ashton Kutcher on hand, either, much to my chagrin.

I still do the bulk of the care-giving because frequent transitions between houses can be difficult. My son thrives on routine — I do what I can to provide that. My home is closer than his father’s place to many of his friends, which allows for spontaneous play dates. It is closer to his school and our pool. My son is with me Tuesday through Friday afternoon each week. Every Monday evening he spends at his father’s apartment. We alternate weekends. Honestly, there are weeks when I wish my son would spend more time at his dad’s, and times when I wish I had as much time as his father to date and do other things — but neither decision would be in my son’s best interest. That’s my priority.

My son likes the arrangement. And, as it turns out, so do I. The wonderful thing about joint-custody is that it enables parents to regain their adult lives. When my son was born, caring for him was all consuming (as it should be). There was little time for anything that didn’t involve him. Since my divorce and shared custody, I get to do wonderful adult things. I see movies that are not produced by Pixar or Disney, and don”t involve a boy wizard. I see plays. I catch bands, attend readings, and dine and drink with friends. Sometimes I go on dates.

Then, the weekends my son is with me, we spend a great deal of time together. We watch lots of movies by Pixar or concerning a boy wizard. We play games, we have “dance parties,” we cook, we go to the farmers’ market. Because I have the opportunity to pursue more adult pleasures the other weekends, I come to the weekends with my son excited and engaged. I look forward to them; I am present.

It is not perfect. My ex-husband has turned my son onto Dungeons and Dragons, online fantasy gaming, and Escape from New York. This wouldn’t have happened on my watch. I counter by ensuring that my son learns to play The Ramones and Clash songs on his guitar, gives money to anti-war groups, and hones his dance skills. If my ex-husband and I both succeed, our son will be the best rocker and dancer at all the D&D and Magic: The Gathering tournaments in his future.

Imperfect as it may be, I feel that in many ways, I get the best of both worlds. And in many ways, so does my son. He gets the best of both his parents — we each share things with our son that we love (and which the other parent may detest). There is little resentment or discord between his father and me — unlike when we were married. And when there is, well, we don’t have to spend endless hours together, which makes it easier to both bear and to forgive.

Now, when some particularly onerous event comes up–an all day birthday party, an Orioles game, or the desire to re-watch all episodes of “The Suite Life on Deck” in one weekend–there’s a 50 percent chance that I will be somewhere else entirely, which are odds I’ll take any day.