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Monday
Jul252011

We asked, you answered, we listened!

In our recent Life in Baltimore Survey, more than 67% of respondents listed walkablity as a primary reason for choosing to live downtown. Families desire safe walkable streets for their children to get to school, the park, or even the local ice cream shop. Kicking off right now and during the next year, the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance will be focusing heavily on improving the pedestrian culture in Baltimore City.

A few weeks ago DBFA sent a survey request to ask residents to name intersections that they felt could be more pedestrian friendly. More than 60 people took the time to tell DBFA which intersections they wanted improved and why, and we created a list of the top most cited intersections. This past week, DBFA Advocacy Chair Keith Losoya took this list to the Baltimore City Department of Transportation for review, and the result was that the DoT will begin to apply their “5 Es” to the identified intersections. The Es are:

  • Evaluation: A traffic professional determines the exact problem at the cited location
  • Engineering: Any necessary structural changes are made
  • Education: Pedestrians and drivers are made aware of the changes
  • Enforcement: Traffic control officers enforce any violations of the new traffic pattern
  • Encouragement: Correct use by all parties

Over the next few weeks, traffic professionals will be evaluating the top ten intersections and determining which changes need to be made. After this information has been collected, the DoT will begin to make the structural changes to improve them.

Stay tuned for notice of these changes. DBFA volunteers will be out to ensure drivers and pedestrians notice the modifications!

We also need your help to keep the momentum going.  If you see an intersection that needs attention, please follow the steps in our “How to” guides, How to Get Law Enforcement to Address Traffic Violations Affecting Walkability and How to Get Infrastructure Improvements Affecting Walkability. Both documents are also located on our website. 

DBFA will be continuing to work with the DoT and other local groups to make Baltimore City more pedestrian friendly. Our goal is to change the culture of Baltimore to ensure that pedestrians are able to use and enjoy our streets safely. To get involved, please contact DBFA Executive Director Heidi Vorrasi at heidi@dbfam.org.

DBFA’s Top Intersections

  • S. Patterson Park Avenue & E. Pratt Street
  • Light Street & Key Highway
  • William Street & Key Highway
  • S. President Street & Eastern Avenue
  • S. President Street & Exeter Street
  • Andre Street & E. Fort Avenue
  • S. Linwood Avenue & E. Lombard Street
  • S. Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard & W. Pratt Street
  • S. Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard & Washington Boulevard
Wednesday
Jul202011

Time For Dinner: Bagby's Pizza Company

We've heard your requests loud and clear. In our  series, Time For Dinner, we feature favorite family-friendly restaurants throughout the city.

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Guest Post by Stephanie Neufeld.

Blending a love for the inner harbor, pizza, and a kid-friendly eatery will land you at Bagby’s Pizza Company.  This local pizza spot, across from Whole Foods on Fleet St, is great for a family outing that will leave everyone happy. A large patio on the side of Bagby’s provides space for the little ones to move around, and the welcome option of BYOB decreases the pressure on your bottom line!

Opening in 2009, Bagby’s has become a local favorite known for fresh ingredients, mouthwatering thin crust, and unique toppings to create a pizza to remember!  I personally recommend the “Sour and Spicy” specialty pizza which is loaded with fire roasted red peppers, lots of other yummy stuff and then drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette! However, I am told Bagby’s most popular pizza is a draw between the gourmet meat pizza which is covered with a sweet fennel sausage, sopressata, mozzarella, provolone, and asiago cheese; or the gourmet vegetable pizza boasting a fresh herb oil base, sautéed wild mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, roasted artichokes, grana padano, all smothered in cheese. For those who are not pizza affectionatos, Bagby’s menu offers great salads, sandwiches, and pasta. Beer and wine can be bought at the restaurant if you forgot to bring your own. However, if you do not see a bottle you would enjoy simply run across the street to the Bin 604 Wine Sellers to grab a spirited drink of choice.

Couple the great food, and perfect patio for kids with a restaurant.com certificate, and you can feed the whole family on the cheap. My sister and I enjoyed a lunch at Bagby’s with our combined 4 children ranging in age from 1 to 4 years old. One small cheese pizza, one large specialty pizza, and 5 drinks satisfied our crowd at an unbelievable out of pocket cost of $12.97 plus tip. How did I swing this great deal? Simple...

Our order of 2 pizzas and 5 drinks brought our bill to $35.97. I paid with a restaurant.com certificate for $25.00 off a $35.00 bill, (the $25.00 certificate/saving I purchased for $2.00), allowing me to only pay a $12.97 ($10.97 at Bagby + $2.00 to restaurant.com = $12.97) out of pocket plus tip! Access more of these tips for savings in Baltimore at my website www.citycharmer.com where I give more details and options with similar deals.

A few parting tips to make a Bagby’s a great family outing for you include: Bring your own sippy cups. There are no options for kids drinks and the cups are HUGE. Not to mention you are paying for an adult drink for a 1 yr old! Only two high chairs are available at Bagby’s. During our lunch I put my youngest in her stroller with the tray attached. This worked perfectly for my family.  Also, It is a lot of self-service here, so you might not want to go solo with the kids. My sister sat with the kids while I got the drinks. It would have been very difficult by myself with the kids. Go for lunch or early dinner: The wait is longer the later in the day you go, especially if you want to sit inside. Seating inside is limited and will fill up quickly.

In conclusion, Bagby’s Pizza Company is a laid-back atmosphere that I recommend brining the family too for lunch on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, or with the movie theater around the corner enjoy an affordable and tasty date night with your spouse.

Stephanie Neufeld is a blogger who encourages others to explore the charm of Baltimore. She is a mom of two little city-kids, soon to be three.  She writes a blog, CityCharmer.com, that equips, informs, and connects the reader to the fun and amazement Baltimore has to offer. She loves connecting with others who also seek more from Baltimore, and who are focused on making their experience here a great one.

Wednesday
Jul132011

Downtown Farmers' Markets Guide

Guest Post by Erin Karpewicz

I love to cook, but since my time is so precious these days, I rarely make the fancy feasts that helped me win over my husband’s heart (he says I tricked him!).  Fortunately for me, and my family, plenty of farmers markets have popped up around downtown making a quick, healthy meal very accessible during these busy summer months.  Tonight, we got in late after swimming at our friends’ pool.  I hadn’t planned dinner, but I had lots of spinach, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes on hand, so I just whipped it all up with some eggs and cheese to make a quick frittata.  Dessert was the batch of cherries my 3 year old busily pitted while I cooked.  Nothing fancy, but all was tasty, plus I managed to get some vegetables in our bellies after pigging out on pizza and cupcakes for lunch. 

The Southeast Anchor Library’s Outreach Coordinator is at the Highlandtown Farmers Market doing a kid activity every week.  Here she is making bead bracelets with some children.

The great thing about our local farmers' markets is that along with the vegetables, most of them feature naturally raised beef, eggs and milk products, as well as food venders selling meals on the spot and local crafts people.  You no longer have to run out to the ends of another county to pick up some organic milk, and picking up a CSA share is an option at a number of markets these days.  Going to the market can be a fun family friendly outing in itself, with interesting things to see and do.  Not to mention, my daughter will be more likely to eat the vegetables if she helps pick them out.  Below is a description of some of our local farmers markets, and a few of my family’s favorite things about them.  I hope you will share some of yours in the comments section!

My daughter playing with the hula hoops provided by the library at the Highlandtown Farmers Market.

Highlandtown Farmers Market
Thursdays, 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
400 Block of Conkling Street
Runs through October 13, 2011

Important Information: Ample metered parking on nearby streets.  Market accepts debit cards. 

What We Like About It:  I might be biased, since I live down the street, but it is so great to have a weeknight market to pop over to when I need some supplies before my regular weekend grocery run.  This market is also a great place for a stroll with my daughter, with plenty of room to roam around and enjoy the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s kid activities, hula hoops and ice pops.  When we went last, there was a ukulele player who was biking around the country performing… I cannot wait to go back and see what’s next!

~~~

The Baltimore Museum of Industry (BMI) Farmers Market
Saturdays, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Baltimore Museum of Industry Parking Lot and Pavillion (1415 Key Highway)
Runs through October 8, 2011

Important Information: Plenty of free parking in lot for those not close enough to walk.  Market will be closed on September 3rd due to the Grand Prix race. 

What We Like About It:  This market has a great mix of vendors, from farm produce to naturally raised beef, but it is not crowded so you can move around with a stroller and take your time.  The covered pavilion provides a wonderful amount of shade in the hot sun, and the museum’s outdoor sculptures and proximity to the Inner Harbor make for great kid diversions. 

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Fells Point Farmers Market
Saturdays, 7:30-11:30 a.m.
Broadway Square (at the end of Broadway and Thames St.)
Runs through November 12, 2011

Important Information: $3 parking in PMS Garage on Caroline for those not in walking distance.

What We Like About It:  Broadway Square was also the site of an open air farmers' market over 200 years ago… it’s fun to go back to our food buying roots!  This is a beautiful market, with an increasing variety of produce and products, and like the other neighborhood based markets, you do not have to fight crowds.  I love this place because after I have loaded up on food stuff, I can keep shopping at all of the quaint retail establishments that surround the square.

~~~

Baltimore’s Farmers Market and Bazaar (JFX Farmer’s Market)
Sundays, 7:00-12:00 noon
Under the Jones Falls Expressway (JFX) at Holiday and Saratoga Streets
Runs through December 18, 2011

Important Information: See website for directions and parking information, list of farmers and vendors. 

What We Like About It:  People come from all over Baltimore to do their weekly shopping at this bustling market, so nothing compares to its expansive variety of farmers, vendors and artists/craftspeople.  When my daughter used to get up at the crack of dawn, this was the only place where we could find signs of life so early on a Sunday morning, as well as Mini Donuts, Zeke’s coffee, and Nutin But The Juice fresh squeezed OJ.  Yummy.   

Erin Karpewicz has lived in Canton for almost 10 years, where she now shares a home with her husband and three year old daughter. She works as a Projects Planner for Anne Arundel County's housing and community development agency and serves on the DBFA Board of Directors.

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For more information on local farmers' markets, visit our website. If you have a City Spot you would like to share, please email us at blog@dbfam.org.

Wednesday
Jul062011

This City Spot: Federal Hill on the Fourth of July

From the corner coffee shop to the waterfront promenade, we each have treasured downtown spaces that make the whole city feel like home. In DBFA’s series, This City Spot, we highlight one of your special places with words and pictures.

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Guest post by Judy Chung O'Brien, DBFA President

In the six years since I've been a parent living on the South Baltimore peninsula, our family has only missed one Fourth of July in Baltimore. Being in town this year, my girls once again eagerly anticipated participating in the 20th annual Federal Hill Stars and Stripes Fourth of July Parade. What began back in 1991 as the idea of one family, is now a treasured neighborhood tradition planned completely by neighbors, with hundreds of participants, sponsorships by local businesses, refreshments and games, and usually a local celebrity or politician marching along with local families. This year, we warmly welcomed our our current mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake who led our parade as grand marshall.

My girls (age 6 and 4) have been riding, scooting, marching, or biking in this parade every year except one (when we were out of town) since they were born. I have photos of them in their red, white, and blue outfits while being carried in the Baby Bjorn when infants, in a double stroller as toddlers, in their red wagon as preschoolers, and this year, on their bikes with training wheels. Hopefully next year, they'll be on their bikes with no training wheels!

The tradition for our family (well, really just me) starts on July 5, the day after the holiday, when I stock up on decorations that are half-off at our local CVS. Yes, I am that frugal and I don't mind storing these decorations for a full year until July 3 the following year. On Independence Eve, we break out the tape and twist ties and spend the evening decorating our mode of transportation. We practically use an entire role of packing tape to glue flags, balloons, streamers, and tinsel to every surface, including the tops of bike helmets and handle bars.

Families gather on the morning of the fourth to line up on William Street behind the local fire company truck, police on horseback, and a Revolutionary War era fife and drum corp in full regalia. I always feel sorry for these young men in wool coats in the 90 degree heat! Neighbors—with kids of all ages from infants to teens—line up along William Street all decked out in their red, white, and blue along with decorated strollers, wagons, scooters, and bikes, while we await the kick-off of the parade at 10:30 a.m.

We begin by marching down East Montgomery towards Federal Hill Park, we make a right turn up Battery Avenue, left on Warren, around the top of Federal Hill Park, then back down Warren to where we began on William. The whole thing takes about 30 minutes, and though that's a long time for some of the little ones, they love it! We lose some families along the way—from kids who want to play on the playground to cranky babies that need to get home for nap.

Snowballs and snacks await our return from our march. Parents mill around catching up with neighbors while the kids participate in a series of games, including a hula hooping contest, spoon egg race, water balloon toss, and limbo. There are plenty of prizes to go around for the winners as well as those kids who need comfort from dropped eggs and broken water balloons. Everyone enjoys a snowball, a patriotic temporary tattoo or two, and music from the speakers. It winds down around noon when rumbling stomachs call us to local restaurants for brunch before heading home for naps and preparations for roof-top deck parties in the evening.

The peculiar thing about our little parade is that there are very few spectators because nearly every family in Federal Hill is IN the parade! As the neighborhood kids grow older and are able to ride in the parade alone, some parents get a break allowing those lucky few to stand in the shade, wave, and cheer instead of march. I look forward to the day when I'll be able stand and cheer instead of march!

I didn't have a Fourth of July tradition like this when growing up so I'm so glad that my girls are able to celebrate this holiday with their classmates and friends in this special way. I'm grateful to the parents in our community who gather every spring to start planning the parade and work so hard to make it a special event for all the families in Federal Hill. It's one more reason why I love city livin' and my Federal Hill community and why I can't imagine living any where else!

Judy Chung O'Brien has lived in Otterbein for eleven years, where she shares a home with her husband Brendan and two daughters, Sophie (age 6) and Karis (age 4), both of whom attend Federal Hill Preparatory School. She works as an marketing consultant and serves as the president of the DBFA Board of Directors.

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If you have a City Spot you would like to share, please email us at blog@dbfam.org.

Tuesday
Jun282011

Homage to the Rowhouse: DBFA's Founder Says Farewell to Baltimore

Guest Post by Rebecca Gershenson Smith, DBFA Founder.

I’ve wanted to write a piece to say goodbye to Baltimore.  After seven long and unexpectedly wonderful years, we are moving across the country to be closer to family, to be near the mountains and open spaces that we love, and to fulfill the wanderlust that my husband and I share—the idea that growth comes from risk and change.

It has been hard to know what to say, and I haven’t been able to do it.  But here I sit, two hours before the moving van arrives to collect our final belongings (they couldn’t finish in one day—three kids, too much stuff! —and they underestimated my little rowhouse), in a dark, empty third-floor room that was once my office and then my daughter Adeline’s bedroom.  And now, of course, it will be neither.

I knew when we made this decision that it would be very hard to say goodbye to Baltimore.  This city has met me more than halfway, brought out the best in me, and will always (I suspect) be a place I consider “home” in a very real way.  It’s a special city, and part of this is that its charms are serendipitous.  Who knew?

I realized that leaving behind good friends would be difficult.  It has been harder than I expected.  A lot.  But I am buoyed in knowing that my closest friendships here are not bound by place or space and will continue for life.  It’s not the same, but it’s something.

What has caught me unaware is the degree to which the emotional trauma of leaving (and it has felt that way) has been connected to my house.  My three-story, classic Baltimore rowhouse with no parking, a little patio, and only 1700 square feet.  Across from a laundry mat and a school, with a bar called “The Shed Row” a few doors down and a Latin American tienda on the corner where I can get milk in a pinch and the packaged food tastes faintly of laundry soap.  

First I was beat up by the process of selling.  Our house was not a major rehab, but my husband and I have lovingly renovated our house over the years.  When you pick out every tile, every light fixture, every paint color, endure endless blood, sweat, and tears and make it your home, it’s hard to even conceive of turning it over to someone else.  We under priced, and it sold too quickly—a few days.  I try to remember to be grateful for an outcome that many covet, but it happened too fast.  In a flash, it was no longer mine.

Then, in seeking a new home, I kept coming up against the brilliance of the Baltimore rowhouse.  And nothing seemed to compare.  Modern homes are just so . . . open.  Yes, I like my children and my husband, but we have always sought a home in which we can get away from one another.  Probably because I have almost always worked from home (mostly as a student) and am an introvert by nature.  At times, we all need quiet and escape, and when I am in my bedroom, I don’t want to hear someone unloading the dishwasher.  I want someone to be able to have the kids in one space of the house and not be able to hear them while I am in another.  (Not that I have the opportunity to do this very often, but that possibility needs to be there!)

Because it is so tall and so deep, the rowhouse achieves this beautifully.  Its economy of space must be unparalleled.  The footprint of our house is nothing, but what it packs in allows a family of five to live comfortably.  The same amount of square footage in a typical, box-shaped detached house would make us all feel like we were living on top of one another.  Our new realtor must think I’m crazy because I can’t stop myself from going on and on about how these homes with thousands of square feet just don’t hold a candle to the Baltimore rowhouse.

Worst of all, when the house was filled with boxes, I couldn’t help mentally reliving both our first days in the house and the seven years combined.  Looking through pictures, I see the youth, energy, and excitement we had upon moving into our first real home.  But I also remember what it felt like to be dropped in the middle of a city in which I knew no one, with my 16-month-old, a husband who was always working, few children in the neighborhood, and a PhD to complete.  In those early days, exploring Baltimore, it was me and my daughter Lilian against the world.  Music classes, gym classes, swimming lessons, Port Discovery, the zoo, all the parks—every day was a vast, endless swath of hours to fill, trying to stay off the loneliness.

Now, that seems so long ago.  I haven’t thought about that time in years.  My life here is so different now—full and rich, with strong ties to the community and those who live here.  It’s a lot to leave behind.  Remembering when it was just my husband and I in one room and my daughter in the next, it’s jarring to realize that we’ve somehow managed to populate all of these rooms.  Where did the time go?

I try to remind myself—these years have been hard.  Raising three young children in an urban area with no family support, having very limited financial resources, finishing a PhD at an institution several states away, renovating a house, my husband working back-breaking 80-hour weeks and 30-hour shifts as a resident at the hospital. Wonder that we are still married (happily so).

But in the end, that all fades.  And what I will remember are family dance parties in the kitchen, sitting with friends on the stoop while the children draw with chalk, the easy familiarity among the adults and the kids at the park, spending long hours writing in the third floor office with the light streaming in, hours and hours nursing three different babies in the same little room, gradually watching my house turn into something beautiful.

And though we are moving on to so many wonderful things in this next phase—the completion of our long years of education, proximity to family, much greater financial stability, a beautiful and inspiring place to live—through the lens of nostalgia, I have a feeling in my gut that we may look back on our years in this little rowhouse as the happiest in our lives.

Tonight when we go through each room to share our memories there and say goodbye, I’ve already decided that we are etching in some place inconspicuous,“For seven years, this was the beloved family home of Ian, Rebecca, Lilian, Adeline, and Alistair Smith.  There was much love and much joy.  Kind owner, please do not remove this if you can help it, for when we are grown, we shall come back to see it.”

Baltimore—thank you for all that you’ve given me.  You will be missed. 

Rebecca Gershenson Smith is the Founder of DBFA. Her family is relocating to Coeur d'Alene, ID, this month, but she looks forward to continued involvement in the organization she founded. See Rebecca's Why We Stay entry for more on her experience living in Baltimore. Photography by Mary Gardella of Love Life Images.

~ ~ ~

Thank you, Rebecca and family, for all you have contributed to our community during your years in Baltimore. You have, without question, left Baltimore a little better than you found it.
You all will be missed.

Tuesday
Jun212011

This City Spot: Peace & A Cup of Joe

From the corner coffee shop to the waterfront promenade, we each have treasured downtown spaces that make the whole city feel like home. In DBFA’s series, This City Spot, we highlight one of your special places with words and pictures.

~~~

Guest Post by Sharicca Boldon

Peace & A Cup of Joe coffee shop calls itself A Home Away From Home and for my family as well as many others in our community, it has certainly lived up to that name. The second floor of the shop, has been adopted as a "second living room" of sorts for several of the families in our area.   When my boys were younger, we had a weekly evening playgroup in that "second living room".  We'd station ourselves with our toddlers and babies in tow in the comfy room with couches, a fireplace and even a stack of games in the corner.  The owner always welcomed our playgroup with open arms (helpful arms too- helping us lug baby gear up the steps) and offered to put videos on the big screen to entertain the children while the parents got caught up.  The coffee shop became a sanity saver for us during those early baby/toddler years, especially in the winter when days were short or too cold to get to our other gathering spot at our community playground.

Now, that my kids are little older we enjoy stopping in (stroller-free finally) for a nice treat.  From the pastry case with several tempting options to smoothies to hot chocolates in the winter, there is always something tasty waiting.

I enjoy being able to catch up on a stack of magazines that I have no time otherwise to buy or read and as an added bonus, we all love to check out the ever-rotating gallery of art on the walls.   The questions that the kids come up with as they check out the latest paintings or photos never cease to amaze me.

With good food, fun games, a comfy atmosphere and fun art all in one place, Peace and A Cup of Joe makes our list of family favorites.

Sharicca Boldon has called downtown Baltimore home for more than 10 years.  She, her husband, twin sons and daughter enjoy visiting the many family-friendly attractions of the city from Sunday mornings at the JFX Farmer’s Market to story times at the libraries to watching street performers at the Inner Harbor. She currently serves on the School Family Council at George Washington Elementary School and has helped to re-energize the PTO there.  Sharicca is on the board of directors for the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance.

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If you have a City Spot you would like to share, please email us at blog@dbfam.org.

Wednesday
Jun152011

This City Spot: Cross Street Market

From the corner coffee shop to the waterfront promenade, we each have treasured downtown spaces that make the whole city feel like home. In DBFA’s series, This City Spot, each Monday we highlight one of your special places with words and pictures.

~~~

Guest post by Maria Filardi, DBFA Board Member.

City retailers often seem to be geared toward the freewheeling and free-spending twenty-something crowd.  I have come to terms with the fact that there are several neighborhood establishments that I have aged myself out of - clothing stores with trendy clothes that I can’t pull off; bars that are too loud.  It is with a sense of relief that there exists an entire retail block in which I, and my kids, will always be welcome: Cross Street Market.

Cross Street Market, spanning from Charles Street to Light Street in the heart of Federal Hill, is one of the oldest markets in Baltimore.  Although the current enclosed structure dates from 1952, a market has existed in or around the same area since 1845.  Currently anchored by Nicks Inner Harbor Seafood on the Charles Street end and Steve’s Lunch and Fenwick’s Choice Meats on the Light Street end, it’s a bit mind-blowing to consider that residents have been shopping for daily grocery needs in this space for over 150 years.

At any time of day, six days a week, a cross-section of the Federal Hill/South Baltimore community will shop, eat and drink within its walls. Or, at this time of year, just take a few minutes stroll inside to enjoy the air conditioning!

I rely on Cross Street Market to fill in the gaps between grocery shopping trips.  Since Ella and Peter are crazy about fruit, my most frequent stop is at Mr. Kwon’s Produce.  Mr. Kwon helps me select my fruit, herbs and veggies (“what else?”) and always asks about the kids.  Now that my youngest has been in “full day” school for four years, I think I have finally weaned him off of expecting them to be with me every time I shop.  Ella’s favorite place is the soft pretzel and lemonade vendor, and they both like The Sweet Shop (and I am sure would like to stop there a whole lot more than we do.)

I go through phases where I am confident that a fresh bouquet of daises, tulips or sunflowers will cure all my home decorating deficiencies.  Although several flower vendors have come and gone in the last thirteen years, The Flower Shop has continued to flourish and fulfill my beautification impulses.

We occasionally grab an over-stuffed sandwich for lunch from Big Jim’s Deli.  My ultimate indulgence is the Big Jim Deluxe consisting of turkey, ham, swiss cheese, thousand island dressing AND cole slaw piled on rye; Yum!  Not only is the food great, the service is fast and the folks are super nice.  I like nice.

And you can’t get nicer than Henry at Fenwick’s Choice Meats; always smiling and helpful, he is my go-to person when we need to grill something over the weekend.

Lastly, the “raw bar” - Nicks Inner Harbor Seafood - with its picnic and barrel tables is the ultimate meeting place and melting pot, welcoming all walks of life and all ages.  (Well, maybe not Steelers fans.)  Last August, an impromptu email to neighborhood friends led to roughly a dozen families “meeting at the market” to celebrate Vince’s birthday on an early Friday evening.  Parents and kids had a blast. 

Within walking distance, casual, fun and friendly - Cross Street Market is a perfect, age-proof, City Spot.

Wednesday
Jun082011

Your Nutrition Questions... Answered!

We've been running the Time For Dinner series for the past several weeks, but we know that where to eat isn't the only question parents have when it comes to meal planning! What to feed our kids is always on our minds, so today we are speaking with Dr. Jill Kempthorne of Pediatrics at the Harbor (PATH).

Hello Dr. Kempthorne! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us. What snacks have you found that are both tasty and healthy? Starting with fruits and vegetables is best. For young children under age 4, many fruits and vegetables pose a choking risk. So, for this age group food preparation is especially important. Fruits and vegetables should be soft and easy to chew, and pieces of food should be cut into pieces smaller than half an inch. Hard vegetables should be cooked and diced. Frozen peas are a great “pack and go” snack.  These can be packed in the picnic bag when you leave your home and and will be soft by the time you sit down in the park. Also, cooked  broccoli florets and cooked thin carrot slices are great snack foods. Fruit tends to be soft but can still pose a choking hazard if offered in large chunks to the younger child. So, grapes should be sliced in half and apple wedges should be sliced thin. Of course, bananas are an all-time favorite!  Young children love to dip and spread so offering a yogurt dip can help make fruits and vegetables both interesting and fun to eat.  

Many parents have trouble fitting enough green vegetables into their kids' diets. Do you have any fail-proof tricks? Children are typically picky eaters, especially when it comes to vegetables. An important strategy is  to cultivate a taste for healthy foods early on. This begins with baby foods and later on when table foods are introduced.   If children are offered food choices that are high salt, high sugar foods (like potato chips, cheese curls, cookies, or candy) then they are more likely to be picky at meal time and  hold-out for the junk food.  Green vegetables should be routine options at  both snack times and meals. All sorts of tricks may help. Providing  tasty dips and spreads can make vegetables more interesting and fun to eat. Also, children model what they see, so making sure that parents and other family members eat green vegetables is important!
 
If it seems like children aren't eating enough, how can we fix that and how worried should we be? Parents are often concerned that their children are not eating enough. This is especially the case for parents of toddlers and preschoolers. However, despite parental concerns, it is often the case that children are doing fine.  At every well child your pediatrician or family physician will plot your child’s weight on a standardized growth curve. Most children follow their own growth channel.  Some children are smaller than average and some are heavier than average, and determining what is right for your child is based on many factors, including the  growth patterns of family members and whether your child has been sick or healthy.
 
It is important to recognize that most children are able to auto-regulate their caloric intake. Like adults, some days they will eat more and some days they will eat less.  If they are engaged in physical play with their friends for several hours, then they will probably eat more, and if they are having a quiet day then they will eat less.  Children are also inherently picky eaters.  They are cautious when it comes to trying out new foods.  It may take several offerings before they try something new, so don’t give up! Finally, eating is a primary venue for the young child to develop an evolving sense of autonomy and independence. So, offering food choices is always a good idea.  In addition,  eating should be a fun, social activity.  It is important to avoid power struggles at mealtimes. Spending positive time with your child in food preparation or setting the table can help set a positive tone for a family meal.

Finally, tell us a bit about yourself! I've been a primary care pediatrician for over 25 years and have special interests in newborn medicine, children with special health care needs, and adolescents. I enjoy it all!

 I was born and raised in the Midwest, attended Swarthmore College, and went to graduate school and then medical school at the University of Washington in Seattle.

 I have been at the University of Maryland since 1995 and have been the Medical Director of Pediatrics at the Harbor since it opened in August, 2010. This position affords me the opportunity to help shape the tone and the priorities of the clinic while maintaining focus on our two primary missions - providing the highest quality medical care and being strong clinician teachers for our medical students and pediatric residents.

 I have longstanding interests in community organizing and outreach and I am looking forward to wedding these two interests over time in our new medical home in Federal Hill!

Now that my three children are either in college or have graduated from college, my husband and I spend more time with each other and with our two cats and our yellow labrador retriever.  We live close to Annapolis and enjoy sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.

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Do you have nutrition questions for Dr. Kempthorne? Let us know your questions here.

Tuesday
May312011

The Sleep Lady Techniques in Action!

Every year for the last four years, DBFA has hosted Kim West, also known as The Sleep Lady. Today, read about one families experience using her techniques.

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Guest Post by Kathy Osborne.

We had a good sleeper the first time around… Hazel came out sleeping 4 hours at a time and it only got better from there! We always said we lucked out, but secretly I patted myself on the back for my "smart mothering skills" having something to do with her good sleep habits… We put her down while she was awake, we kept consistent sleep times and it worked. What good parents are we?!

And then Naomi came along. The first 3 months were the typical 2-hour challenge, but we made it through. At 11 weeks, she started to sleep from 7pm to 7am. Again, we start to pat ourselves on the back, chuckling at how lucky we are that we got some good sleepers. "They must take after us," laughed the parents who slept.

Around 6 months of age, it changed. It started with one night of tears. Easy, she's having a bad night… and another… and another… and then another… And suddenly I realized we hadn't slept for 3 months and we couldn’t figure out what happened. Is she hungry? Is she teething? What could it be? She can't be a bad sleeper. We don't make those! Something must be wrong! 

And there was something wrong... It was us, the parents!

I learned this from the Sleep Lady. I learned that the message we were giving Naomi was that we would feed her, hold her, pat her back, do a dancing jig (okay we didn’t, but I would have) until she got back to sleep. 

So why should she soothe herself when we can do it for her... So simple and I did know this, yet we somehow convinced ourselves that something else was going on since she used to sleep well. We clinged to that ideal time desperately (can we say denial?) that every time she peeped we were there. We were doing anything to get her back to sleep the quickest way we could! And all we were doing was teaching her to be soothed by us. We were teaching her to be a ‘bad’ sleeper.

The Sleep Lady taught us different techniques, but she goes beyond that. She explains the science of sleep, sleep patterns and cycles and different sleep strategies. She’s unbiased and her methods are somewhere in the middle from co-sleeping to crying-it-out. To hear her humanize these ideas, even if you know them, and to see other people going through the same thing, really helped me feel stronger about the whole situation. I went home feeling hopeful, refreshed and excited!! "I AM MOM! HEAR ME ROAR!"

We followed a combination of strategies. One surprising technique that really helped was making sure that Naomi got enough sleep during the day. Who would of thought that more sleep during the day would mean more sleep at night?! I am happy to say that Naomi is back to her 11-12 hour nights. Yes, things happen (colds, teething, the freaking dog barking) so we don't always get that, but more importantly, now we have a plan that we stick to! We know what to do and it's working.

Thanks DBFA for sponsoring this!

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Kathy Osborne is a happily sleeping mom to 2 girls (4 years and 11 months) and 2 big rescued dogs. She has worked as a Graphic Designer in Baltimore City for the past 10 years. 

Wednesday
May252011

School Days: Margaret Brent Elementary Middle School

Margaret Brent Elementary Middle School
100 East 26th Street Baltimore, MD 21218

In our series, School Days, downtown families share their experiences sending their children to Baltimore City Public Schools. Our hope is that this series can become a resource for downtown parents making important decisions about their children's education.

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What’s your name and what neighborhood does your family live in? My name is Jennifer DiFrancesco and we moved to Charles Village 5 years ago from the Atlanta area.

What are your children’s names and ages? Elisabeth Paulk, 6 years old, and Margaret Paulk, 4 years old

What grade are they in at Mararet Brent? How long have they been attending? Elisabeth is in Kindergarten at Margaret Brent.  This is her second year at Margaret Brent.  She started there in pre-kindergarten.

A Learning Party, open to the community, in our Ben Carson Reading Room.

Tell us a bit about your process in choosing a school for your children. Did you consider other schools? How did you settle on Margaret Brent? We began looking into schools in the winter of 2007/spring 2008.  We went on private school tours and attended charter school open houses.  We put our oldest in the lottery for the 3 year old class at a charter school for the 2008-2009 school year.  We were wait listed.  Looking for more realistic options, we decided to look at our zoned school and another near by neighborhood school.  We liked what we saw, but wanted to know more.  We became involved in the School and Family Council and the Budget committee of our zoned school, Margaret Brent.  After meeting the principal and the teachers, and considering our child's needs (and our desire for a safe learning environment) we agreed the school fit our definition of the right school for our child.

Is Margaret Brent a zoned or city-wide lottery? Margaret Brent is a neighborhood zoned school.

Dr. Jacqueline Waters Scofield, our principal, making the most of Career Day.

What is your child’s favorite and least favorite part of their school day? Elisabeth says she has two favorite parts of the day.  First, she loves reading, especially attending Ms. Brown's 2nd grade class for accelerated reading.  Second, she loves how often her class gets to go outside on nice weather days. Elisabeth's least favorite time is rest time.

In what areas do you believe your school is excelling? Margaret Brent provides a safe learning environment, small class sizes, creative teaching, a sense of community and character education. It has community partnerships with neighboring institutions, such as Johns Hopkins University, Loyola University, The Village Learning Place and Greater Homewood Community Corporation.  These schools and organizations provide teacher resources, after-school enrichment activities, curriculum enhancement for fine arts and other areas, as well as volunteer support.

Ms. Veronda, Pre-K teacher, was part of our annual May Fair, a fundraiser for the PTO, where students and community member had the chance to dunk their teachers!

Are there any unique offerings at your school that set it apart? Margaret Brent is currently using Project Based Learning in its classes.  Project based learning brings real life examples of people, places and things from their surrounding community into the various subjects they study each day. This hands-on learning, coupled with small class sizes, gives the children space, time and resources to creatively interact with the quarterly themes.

What are some of the challenges your school faces? Like most city schools, our school faces a tight budget and limited resources.  Margaret Brent also working to overcome a common “Baltimore City School” stereotype – that middle class families should consider other choices first before sending their kid to a city school. 

What are your hopes for your school moving forward? We hope in the near future to see the addition of a music teacher to complement our other resource staff (technology, physical education, library, and art).  We also hope to mirror the diversity that we love about Charles Village.  Plans are underway to develop a new play area or play ground as part of overall beautification of the school grounds.

How should parents contact Margaret Brent if they have questions? Dr. Jacqueline Waters Scofield, principal, (410) 396-6509

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The more schools we are able to profile in our School Days series, the better this resource can become for local parents. If you would like to contribute to the School Days series, we would love to have you! Please contact us!