Posts Tagged ‘baltimore’

Five ideas for buying local holiday gifts in Baltimore

December 7, 2013

I’ve never been big on shopping, but I enjoy holiday shopping. Perhaps it’s because the challenge of buying for others turns it into a quest, instead of just a transaction. Since moving back to Baltimore two years ago and embracing local living, I’ve enjoyed it even more. Getting lost — literally or figuratively — in a neighborhood is a welcome escape from the frenzy we’ve let this season turn into, whereas getting lost at the mall makes it seem like you’re trapped in it. And, if you’re lost about what to buy, with local merchants, you can often get help directly from the person who picked, or even who made, what’s for sale.

Bmore3D Store (Canton)

_baltimore3dAny gift the recipient has to model for is difficult to make a surprise, but the delight anyone will feel upon seeing his or her face on a bobblehead should more than make up for the lack of suspense.

If you’d rather keep the surprise, or appeal to something other than vanity, the Bmore3D Store, a pop-up shop next to Sip & Bite in Canton offering 3D-printed trinkets by local artists and 3D-scanning and 3D-printing services, caters to their modernity, creativity and hometown pride (Baltimore-themed items are among the jewelry, vases, and other items for sale) as well.

While novelties like the bobbleheads may be the first to grab consumers’ attention — the shop offers personalized figurines, pencil toppers and holograms as well — the power to deploy a desktop army of plastic and ceramic mini-mes isn’t what makes 3D printing revolutionary.

That you’re not limited by the store’s inventory — staff will print items from 3D models customers made or found online, where thousands are available for free — hints at the technology’s true potential.

By enabling rapid prototyping as well as building, and by reducing waste from production errors and scrap material, digital fabrication makes development, production and distribution vastly more efficient than traditional methods. Efficiency? With hundreds of millions of children to serve, Santa’s probably already on board.

Even if it’s just a bobblehead, by giving a taste of the industrial future, espcecially for the younger ones on your list (be sure to mention the Santa thing), you’re giving more than just a present.

WHERE: 2150 Boston St.

Open 1 p.m. to 9 p.m daily through the end of the year

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Hopefully catch a demo, workshop, or even live music. Check the store’s calendar if you want to try to time your visit right.

The Gift Cellar (Lauraville)


Photo courtesy of The Gift Cellar

Anyone who’s ever stayed at their grandparents’ house knows that the cool, if slightly quirky stuff, is in the basement. An original LITE-BRITE and homemade dinner buzzer are among the items I remember fondly. Stepping down off Harford Road into the aptly named The Gift Cellar, you’ll experience a similar sense of anticipation. Once inside, cool, quirky, and Maryland-made is what you’ll find.

If there are ladies on your list who favor funky, over fancy, jewerly, the Cellar is definitely worth a visit. While it’s a relatively small space, you’ll be surprised by all else that’s there. The shop’s more than two dozen vendors also make scarves, bath and beauty products, cards and prints, candles, pottery and sculpture, stuffed animals, T-shirts and decor.

And if you can’t find it, don’t be afraid to ask. Seeking a Bawlmer rat shirt for my uncle, I lamented that they were out of his size, and, straight out of the Smalltimore script, the local — in this case, hyperlocal — vendor behind the design just happened be in the store. He was back with the size I needed faster than I could finish a cup of coffee next door.

WHERE: 4337 Harford Road

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday (through Dec. 22.)

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Take a coffee break next door at Red Canoe. While you sip, window shop the bookstore-cafe’s shelves.

Canton Games (Canton)

If you get the season’s hot toy, the replay value, in gaming parlance, isn’t likely to be very high. Just ask this mom where last year’s Furbys are now. The offerings at Canton Games, catering to children, adults and families alike, meanwhile, are designed, and tested, to last, not just to sell.

From traditional games like Rummikub, to collectible games like Magic the Gathering, to role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, to party favorites like Cranium, if it’s a game, and you can think of it — heck, even if you can’t — Canton Games is likely to carry it. Did you know there’s an unofficial Cards Against Humanity expansion pack called Crabs Adjust Humidity?

Oh yeah, you can get comic books, graphic novels — excellent for nudging a  young, reluctant reader without bumming him or her out  — and action figures here, too.

WHERE: 2101 Essex St.

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Sticking with the games theme, head down to Bar Arcade on Boston Street. Enjoy the video games you grew up with, but with beer.

Sixteen Tons/Doubledutch Boutique (Hampden)

_16t2The ability to earnestly say — to the help and to yourself — that you’re “just looking,” helps take the pressure out of shopping, holiday or otherwise. It’s harder to say that when you’re obviously looking for a gift, and obviously not going to be tacking on anything for yourself, like the bug-eyed husband wandering the lingerie department on Christmas Eve.

Let’s hope things don’t get that desperate for you this holiday, but, let’s face it, at least from a man’s perspective, browsing a store with wares, especially clothing, exclusively for the opposite gender, can get uncomfortable.

Sixteen Tons and Doubledutch Boutique on The Avenue help take some of the edge off by housing men’s and women’s clothing stores, respectively (Oh, could you guess from the names?), under the same roof, guys downstairs and gals upstairs.

What also helps are that both shops favor vintage-inspired looks. Sixteen Tons stocks “Classic And Contemporary Men’s Apparel & Accoutrements,” Doubledutch “Modern lines and indie designs.” With the sales staffs’ counsel — “Oh I was just looking downstairs/upstairs, but since I’m here…” — if it seems like a hit, it probably will be, and it still will be this time next year.

If you’re still unsure, or on a budget, soaps for her or shaving products for him are always a safe, and less expensive bet.

WHERE: 1021 W. 36th St.

WHEN: Sixteen Tons is open noon to 5 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Doubledutch Boutique is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Venture into some of the many antique shops along The Avenue. Finding a full gift can be hit or miss, but be on the lookout for fun stocking stuffers. The other year, for a few dollars, I picked up vintage postcards for members of my family whose scenes carried special meaning.

Food experiences (Fells Point, Hampden, various neighborhoods)

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user gfhdickinson


The shortest route to a gift recipient’s heart is through their stomach, right? Perhaps. If you want to give something especially memorable, though, you might want to enter through the brain. For that, try these high-minded food experiences.

“So, that’s how to cut an onion!” they’ll cry out, possibly in tears, after a cooking class at Pierpoint or Waterfront Kitchen. “So, that’s what kangaroo tastes like!” they’ll shout after sanpling exotic foods as a member of Corner BYOB‘s Gastronaut Society. “I never knew this neighborhood had a place like this!” they’ll exclaim after a Dishcrawl restaurant tour.


Many of these fill up fast, so don’t delay. Fortunately, I asked for them in time to receive two of Pierpoint’s more popular classes as gifts last year. The French cuts taught in the knife skills class and seafood safety tips from the fish cooking class are things I’ll use the rest of my life. How many gifts can you say that for?

Pierpoint cooking classes by chef Nancy Longo, $75* each, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays or Sundays, 1822 Aliceanna St. (Fells Point)

Classes still available as of this writing included Low-Fat Cooking, International BBQ, Knife Skills, Fish Cooking, Essentials of Indian Cooking, Modern Italian, and Essentials of Gluten-Free Cooking.

*$10 early-bird discounts available

Waterfront Kitchen cooking classes by chef Jerry Pellegrino [pdf], $59 each, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays, 1417 Thames St. (Fells Point) 

Classes still available of this writing included The Art of Making Sauces; The Art of Baking Bread; Aphrodisiacs; Bacon, Sausage, and other Pork Products; Molecular Gastronomy; The Art of Making Sushi; and A Tribute to Julia Child.


It’s like a bar crawl, but a restaurant crawl. Dishcrawl‘s monthly walking tours, offered in dozens of other cities in addition to Baltimore, stop at four restaurants in one evening. At each stop, diners sample a few dishes (the last stop is always dessert), hear from an owner, manager or chef, and socialize with fellow crawlers.

If the restaurant serves it, alcohol is available for purchase, and the host will give a warning before moving to the next destination so drinkers can settle their checks. Since I and fellow attendees were wondering going in: Know that the sample plates are far from just a few nibbles. When the night was through at the crawl in Mount Vernon in August, I was filled! (If you saw my Thanksgiving plate, er, plates, that’s saying a lot.)

To purchase a Dischcrawl gift certificate — each Baltimore tour is $35 per person — call Nancy Judy Miel, the national Dishcrawl employee in charge of gift certificates, at 415-523-0477.


When going on a food exploration, as Corner BYOB calls it, it’s best not to go alone — even the bravest diner at least needs witnesses to attest, “Yes, she really ate that.” At Gastronaut Society meals, that can mean things like rattlesnake, muskrat, duck tongue, scorpion and crickets. That cousin who was looking up recipes the last time the cicadas surfaced? Yeah, this might be for him.

A $50 Gastronaut Society annual membership gets the recipient discounts — typically around 25 percent off the over $100 regular price — on three prix fixe dinners throughout the year and 10% discounts on “special adventurous fare” featured on the restaurant’s regular menu.

Corner BYOB is located, yup, on the corner, of 36th and Elm streets in Hampden.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: At Pierpoint, Waterfront Kitchen, or Corner BYOB, give yourself something to look forward to by making reservations for a Saturday in the spring, just because. You earned it. You were good this year, right?

Get more gift tips

This is but a sampling of how to go local with your gift giving in and around Baltimore. For more inspiration, in addition to my post last year, I recommend Bmore Art’s roundup of holiday bazaars, The Baltimore Chop’s “Where To Do Your Christmas Shopping in Baltimore,” and HowChow’s Gift Week series.


Kevin ‘KAL’ Kallaugher’s wall to fame

December 13, 2012


Editorial cartoonist Kevin “KAL” Kallaugher‘s work has appeared all over the world and in several different mediums, including real-time 3D. But it may never have had it not appeared on a British school’s old wallpaper first.

Or if the English were fonder of basketball. With playing and coaching in Brighton not as lucrative as in Boston

He even worked as a maintenance man tearing wallpaper off the walls of a local school—but not before illustrating the walls with cartoons. One of the teachers saw his drawings and put him in touch with an art director who, in turn, suggested he tried pitching his work to the newspapers and magazines up and down Fleet Street.

After a successful tryout, he was hired by The Economist, where he’s entering his 35th year. Not quite “Good Will Hunting” (Kallaugher graduated from Harvard). But, how about that?

KAL, also a longtime cartoonist for my employer, The Baltimore Sun, whom he started drawing for again this year, obviously had the talent, and someone probably would have seen it sooner or later. The point is, sharing, even indirectly, made it sooner. If you don’t know where to start, start with what’s in front of you. Tack it to a wall. Put it down on paper. Or, yes, draw it on wallpaper.

Shopping in the city

November 21, 2012

Holiday gifts in Baltimore that are fun to give, receive and get

For decades suburbanites descended on the city to complete their holiday shopping. In Baltimore’s case, they likely took a streetcar to Howard and Lexington streets. A generation after Hutzler’s rang its last sale, the flow has reversed, with urbanites taking their own cars to malls in Towson, Hanover and Columbia. If, somewhere between parking lot section Z-89 and “Ma’am, the line starts over there,” you have a Frank Constanza moment, and think, “There’s got to a better way,” there is.

This sampling of city shopping options will lead you to distinctive (read: thoughtful) gifts that are as fun to give as they are to receive — and even fun to procure.

Charm City Craft Mafia’s Holiday Heap (Charles Village, Dec. 1)


Photo courtesy of Charm City Craft Mafia

Per capita, it’s, admittedly, probably more packed than the mall, but it’s hard to call this juried craft show inside an old Victorian church anything but cozy. Maybe it’s the intimacy of meeting the people who made — handmade — your gifts. Maybe it’s the homeyness of sipping hot cocoa while you shop. Maybe it’s the novelty of buying stuff never seen on TV. Maybe it’s the community of being among others who appreciate such things. Whatever it is, the annual fair is a can’t miss. If you get a little too cozy, step out on 27th Street and recharge at the food trucks.

Browse a list of vendors on Charm City Craft Mafia’s site. More than 60 artists and craftspeople will be selling clothing, accessories, beauty products, housewares, cards, prints, woodworks and more. Many accept credit cards via mobile payment systems such as Square.

WHERE: 2640 Space (St John’s Church), 2640 St. Paul St.

WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 1, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Take a coffee or hot chocolate break. As you sip, drink in the beautiful building as well. When you’re done shopping, take a food truck lunch home with you, or, if it’s nice, dine alfresco on the churchyard’s ledge.

aMuse Toys (Fells Point)

amuseCreative Commons photo by Flickr user HAMACHI!

aMuse Toys sells toys that get the young and young at heart playing with the original killer app: Our imaginations. Some are so whimsical you could say they were made by elves, and sound convincing. The 123 Baltimore counting book journeys through the city along with the numbers, visiting pink flamingos, blue crabs, and painted ladies. Non-sticky, non-gritty tactile modeling compound Bubber lets kids — and parents — just worry about creating. The Robot and Rocket Flipbook kit — well, come on, its robots and rockets and cartoons! At the shop in Southeast Baltimore’s historic Fells Point, you’ll find the types of toys worthy of Santa’s sack.

WHERE: 1623 Thames St.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Warm up with holiday spirits just up Broadway at Rye, a bar specializing in craft cocktails. Then, erase these calories, at least, from your holiday surplus with a stroll to the end of Broadway Pier. Or, if it’s the weekend, swoop up Broadway and over on Fleet to peruse the wares at The Antique Man, which is closed during the week.

Zeke’s Coffee (Hamilton)

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user jbtaylor

Packaged in brown paper bags with black and white stickers, Zeke’s’ more than 30 small-batch-roasted, bold-but-not-bombastic blends are an ode to coffee joy. Even the busiest list-making-hall-decking-cookie-baking bees will savor this time out from the tinsel. Traditional and speciality varieties, including a sustainable line, are available at Zeke’s’ shop in Hamilton, as well as several other spots around town.

WHERE: 4607 Harford Road

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: By all means, treat yourself to a cup, then head about a mile farther up Harford Road and stroll Hamilton’s Main Street area, concentrated in the 5400 and 5500 blocks, home to cafés, pubs and art galleries.

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share

_farmers-market-02Photo by Steve Earley

Think of it as the jelly-of-the-month club, but fresh, non-smashed-up fruit, and vegetables. It’s the gift that keeps on giving all growing season long. A weekly share of a farmer’s harvest simplifies shopping, promotes healthy eating and encourages creativity in the kitchen. CSA members get well over a month’s worth of food starting at little over the cost of a month’s worth of Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese Extra Value Meals. Which would you rather have?

Most f
arms bundle members’ shares for them — based on what’s growing well or what they have a lot of — but some give customers the pick of their stands. Either way, recipients can expect the strawberries, corn and peaches everybody craves as well as lesser-known crops that will stretch their culinary reportoire — kholrabi, anyone?

If the price (around $300 for a half share and up to $600 for a full share) exceeds your gift-giving budget, ask the farm about gift certificates, or simply make your own. (Since many farms have buyers choose pick-up times and locations, it might be best to have the recipient buy anyway.)

WHERE: Below are three of the many regional farms with pick-up locations in Baltimore. Inquire online or find them at farmers markets. Both One Straw Farm and Real Food Farm are at the Waverly Farmers Market (Saturdays) and Calvert Farm has a stand at the downtown Baltimore Farmers Market (Sundays).

WHILE YOU’RE THERE Explore the farms websites’ and their links, or, if you’re at a market, chat with farmers themselves to learn more about local and sustainable food. Did you know many of Baltimore’s vacant lots are being reclaimed as small farms and that urban heat markedly extends the city’s growing season?

Baltimore Museum of Art Gift Shop (Charles Village)

Photo courtesy of Baltimore Museum of Art

Curated as carefully as the galleries around it, the Baltimore Museum of Art’s gift shop offers an eclectic — but focused — complement of items that all do what a gift should do: Express something, and inspire the recipient to do the same. Find books, CDs, DVDs, cards, prints and posters featuring or inspired by the museum’s art as well as jewelry, clothing, creative supplies and more.

WHERE: 10 Art Museum Drive

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Explore, for free, the just-reopened contemporary wing, where street artist Gaia has two temporary murals, including one featuring residents of the nearby neighborhood of Remington.

A wonder-filled game

September 27, 2012

The ballpark anthem is true. We are young. And there is no place like the ballpark, and no people like its young people, to remind us that.

To paraphrase Peter Pan, we are young as long as we wonder. At the ballpark, wonder is contagious.

It’s on the face of a “Hardy’s Heroes” kid the second he steps through the gate. “Just wait until you go in,” an attendant tells him.

It’s in 30,000 pairs of ears as a 10-year-old sings spellbinding renditions of two national anthems, Baltimore fans’ multiple “O!” chants and the whirring of a Shock Trauma helicopter seemingly welcome accompaniments.

It’s in the prodigy’s giddy embrace of the Oriole Bird immediately after concluding her performance.

It’s on the 20-something’s tongue as he takes his first sips of Natty Boh.

It’s in the rookie third baseman’s swagger as he struts around the bases, again, his second two-homer game of the year helping ignite a record team slugfest.

It’s in the leaps of another rookie’s family member as she scurries down the seating bowl for a better glimpse of his first major league at bat, a half inning after the scoreboard announced him as the organization’s minor league player of the year.

It’s in that rookie’s texting thumbs as he tweets a greeting to fans, who extended a rousing ovation after that first plate appearance, a groundout to short.

It’s in me.

It’s in you.

It’s in baseball. A wonderful game. A wonder-filled game.

Late-inning anthems

June 21, 2012


Few stadiums have organists these days. But ballpark musical traditions endure. Here are songs Major League Baseball teams regularly play (or at least used to) during the 7th inning stretch or in the middle of the 8th or 6th innings. Feel free to stretch, air guitar, polka, “Shout,” sing and dance along.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Build Me Up Buttercup
Washington Nationals – Shout
Kansas City Royals – Kansas City
Seattle Mariners – Louie, Louie
Cincinnati Reds – Twist and Shout
Baltimore Orioles – Thank God I’m a Country Boy
Houston Astros – Deep in the Heart of Texas
Texas Rangers – Cotton Eyed Joe
St. Louis Cardinals – Here Comes The King
Boston Red Sox – Sweet Caroline
New York Mets – Lazy Mary
Colorado Rockies – Hey! Baby
Tampa Bay Rays – Fins
Milwaukee Brewers – The Beer Barrel Polka
Toronto Blue Jays – OK Blue Jays
Los Angeles Dodgers – Don’t Stop Believin’
New York Yankees – God Bless America
Chicago Cubs – Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Modified Creative Commons photo by Flickr user arcaneraven

West Baltimore Squares Photo Walk

May 28, 2012

If you couldn’t take the heat, you mised a lot of cool history.

Baltimore Heritage‘s Eli Pousson led a walking tour of Southwest Baltimore’s Hollins Market area yesterday, the day of the annual Sowebo Arts and Music Festival, for the West Baltimore Squares Photo Walk, hosted by Baltimore Heritage and The Baltimore Sun.


View captions and photos from other participants on The Sun’s site.

For background about the area and to do a similar tour yourself go the Explore Baltimore Heritage project.

New consumers’ tastes and habits will be shaped by the mobile experience

May 2, 2012


Mobile first is already a buzzword. Before it loses all meaning, what does it mean? Anthony D. Paul of Columbia’s ADG Creative blogged some smart thoughts on the subject from an agency’s perspective.

The “mobile first” approach is merely asking us to stop assuming we need “a website”, “an app”, or “a hammer” and to return to first determining what matters most to our customers, our users, our administrators, and our businesses. Using mobile devices as a flag-carrier, their seemingly limiting screen size helps you to assess the most important pieces of our digital products as they relate to each device.

Good stuff. Now, what does mobile first mean from a user’s perspective?

I wrote the following in a Google Plus comment to another ADG employee:

Increasingly, mobile will have been the first introduction to computers for young consumers, the ones you have an opportunity to shape a lifetime of buying habits for. Even if they pick up non-mobile/tablet devices later, which is far from a certainty, their habits and expectations will be shaped by the mobile experience.

What does mobile first mean to you?

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user St0rmz

What educators can learn from yoga

April 9, 2012


Rather than food, animals or Dr. Seuss characters, perhaps the alphabet strips over grammar school whiteboards should illustrate the letters with yoga poses.

Certainly, apples, bears and cats in hats would better engage students, but contorted bodies would prod teachers to follow Baltimore city schools’ Jess Gartner‘s sage advice: That school should be less like school and more like Bikram yoga.

At once rigid — every yogi does the same series of 26 postures (just enough for our alphabet strip!) every class — and loose — there are no levels or grades and the instructor does not lead the routine — Bikram yoga, Gartner explains, empowers students and teachers to pursue personal mastery, rather than arbitrary standards, and to pursue that mastery together, rather than in isolation — or worse, in opposition.

The middle school social studies teacher applies the yoga metaphor to fundamental challenges and opportunities facing educators in the accountability and digital age, from the limits of one-off, all-or-nothing tests to the seemingly limitless applications of new technological tools.

In the information age, many teachers are rightly moving away from direct instruction models that position teachers as the sole arbiters of information. With increased instantaneous access to information, the purpose of school is shifting away from memorizing finite amounts of knowledge and beginning to focus more on the skills of finding, analyzing, manipulating, and creating content. With the new function of education, so to should develop a new function of teachers as guides and facilitators on the educational journey, rather than solitary gatekeepers of knowledge.

If you’re at all vested in K-12 education (and from its effects on property values to crime rates to economic growth, who isn’t?) Gartner’s blog post a must-read, both for all it says about the current state of schools and for the clever way it says it. Even if you don’t have an interest in schools (again, hard to believe) you’re sure to find parallels in your own work and life and how you define and encourage success from yourself and from those around you.

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user lululemon athletica

Md. primary turnout fail reflects voter registration win

April 5, 2012


Maryland voters fell as short as they did this week in part because the bar was set high.

Yes, there’s a hidden win in Tuesday’s turnout fail, when, according to early tallies, about 21 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in Maryland’s presidential primary — the lowest proportion in 32 years, my colleague Steve Kilar reports.

The upside to the low turnout quotient is the pace by which the denominator has grown. Buoyed by the historic 2008 presidential election cycle, when registered voters rose more than 10 percent over the previous cycle, over the last decade, voter rolls grew more than twice as fast as the population.

From February 2000 to February 2010, Maryland added more than 825,000 voters to its active rolls, to surpass 3.4 million, a growth rate of 32 percent, according to state Board of Elections data. Over the same period, the state added 480,274 adult residents, to surpass 4.4 million, a growth rate of 12.2 percent, according to U.S. Census data.

Since 2010, active registered voters have climbed further to more than 3.5 million.

While not a perfect comparison — not everyone 18 or older is eligible to vote — the striking difference suggests that, despite motor voter woes, voter registration efforts have been relatively successful.

Had they been less successful, Tuesday’s turnout likely wouldn’t have been quite as dismal. (I qualify because it depends on who stayed home more, recent registrants or established ones. Generally, voting patterns favor the former.)

So, even amid historically abysmal numbers, the glass is half full. Hmm, maybe I should run for office.

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop)

Beauty in the blight: The accidental art of Baltimore 311 images

March 24, 2012

Beauty is everywhere, even among the blight. The following images were curated from Baltimore’s 311 app.

Dirty alley, Darley Park


Graffiti, Medfield


Damaged sidewalk, Highlandtown


Graffiti, Hampden


Dirty alley, Penn North


Parking complaint, Penn Station


Graffiti, Mount Vernon


Park cleaning request, Patterson Park


Open fire hydrant, Canton


Parking complaint, Midtown