November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I’d like to say how thankful I am for everyone who reads Pigtown*Design, for those who leave comments, for those who e-mail me and for those who just check in occasionally.


I am thankful that I have a great family, loving and supportive friends, a job that is fascinating, a sweet dog, and a good life. What are you thankful for?

November 26, 2013

Archives Blog

It’s always been a bit distressing to me to know that all of the fascinating things I find in the MedChi archives just disappear back into the stacks, never to be seen again.Baltimore Medical Soc Docs2So, in an effort to have them see the light of day, via pixels floating through the ether, I’ve started yet another blog! It’s called MedChi Archives, and here is the link.image

Several people asked about the portrait I posted the other day. This is John Hawkins Patterson (1816-1893). Patterson

Here’s what I know:

John Hawkins Patterson was born in Baltimore on August 10, 1816. His father, William Presbury Patterson, was a native of Scotland. Dr. Patterson studied medicine in the office of Dr. Ashton Alexander who was one of the founders of the Faculty, and also Provost of the University of Maryland. Dr. Patterson graduated from the University of Maryland Medical School in 1837, and went to work in partnership with Dr. Alexander.

On the death of his preceptor (basically a tutor), Dr. Patterson became heir to a large amount of Dr. Alexander’s practice. He was the friend as well as the physician of many prominent families in this city, among whom he practiced for more than half a century. But he found time also for unremunerated work among the poor.

For more than 30 years, he was physician to St Paul's Orphanage where he was held in grateful remembrance. He was described by one who knew him well as genial and cordial in manner, unremitting in the care of his patients and commanding the love and respect of his brethren in the profession.

Dr. Patterson died May 25, 1893. His portrait was presented to the Faculty by his daughter, Mrs. Mary F. Birch, in 1897 and these remarks were made by Dr. Samuel C. Chew at the presentation of the portrait, which was painted by J. Dabour.

November 25, 2013

Alexa Hampton: Decorating in Detail

When I was in High Point last month, Alexa Hampton had just released her new book, Decorating in Detail. In part, it’s spun off her decorating columns from the Wall Street Journal’s Off Duty section, in the days when Deborah Needleman days. Alexa has the best sense of humour and it really comes across in this book. That, and her amazing eye for detail and colour are what made me want to buy this book. I have her Language of Interior Design book as well, and it’s terrific.

What I loved about this book was that she talks about 10 or so of the houses she’s recently designed and goes into detail about how they came about. And, of course, because detail is what this book is all about, there are tons of gorgeous images of the details which make the decorating come to life!

There are small details that many people wouldn’t notice,

and grand details which bring a room together.

What was great was that the columns that Alexa did for the WSJ were reprinted in the book, and I was pleased to be able to see these again, because they were full of great advice!

Another thing that she does that intrigued me is “decorating by Sharpie®”. She takes an existing image of a room and sketches out the layout she’s proposing right onto the image!

Using this method, both she and the clients can get a good sense of the space and the arrangements, without tons of effort! She’s clearly inherited some of her father’s talent in the drawing arena, as well as the decorating!

Decorating in Detail will be a new favourite of mine!

November 24, 2013

Bourbon-Sea Salt Caramels

As I look back, it seems that almost every recipe I’ve shared has had bourbon in it, but I assure you, I am fully capable of cooking without booze in the recipe – and the cook!

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at caramels for a while now, and it was only recently that I started checking recipes. I found a good one in either the November or December issue of Bon App├ętit magazine. Bon_Appetit_cover_grandeIt seemed pretty simple and it has bourbon! I picked up a candy thermometer at Williams-Sonoma last weekend, and after a quick trip to the grocery store, I was set. recipe

My main worry as I started this was the horrific story that my ex-mate in Wales’s son told me, as he showed me the most gawd-awful scars on his arm. He’d spilled some boiling sugar down his arm and had third degree burns. I can barely type it without flinching and so I was extra careful throughout the process.

It all starts quietly enough, but once sugar gets to a boil, it’s like napalm, and it sticks to your skin.

Gradually, the sugar solution began to change to a deeper amber colour,

Once that happened, I added the butter and milk, and like all of the recipes say, it does boil and rumble a bit.

The one piece of advice I got from everyone was to watch the temperature like a hawk, as the difference between soft ball stage (240*F) and hard ball (260*F) is a matter of seconds.

I added the bourbon and the Maldon Salt and then poured the caramel onto a prepared pan.

After it cooled a bit, I cut it into squares, which I later cut into smaller squares.

To make it a bit easier to cut, I used the butter wrapper to grease the edge of a pizza cutter so it would glide through the caramel.

Then I wrapped each piece in waxed paper. I tried using the parchment paper, but it was too stiff.

I drove around and dropped off samples at some friends’ houses and got rave reviews from all. Of course, I am pretty sure that the next batch I make will be different due to atmospheric pressure and other vagaries of cooking. However, I deem this recipe a big success and plan to make it for the holidays!

On another note, poor Connor has a hot spot, so I had to put him in the cone of shame. Doesn’t he look pitiful?

November 21, 2013

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

We have a ghost at our offices and her name is Marcia. It’s actually Marcia Crocker Noyes. Marcia was the librarian at MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society where I work, and when our current offices were built in 1909, an apartment was built for her on the top floor. In essence, a penthouse!

Marcia started her library career at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore and then took a position at MedChi in 1896, when MedChi was located in a building several blocks from our current location. She was in her mid-20’s when she started and the library had about 7,000 outdated volumes.Marcia crocker noyes

In 1889, Sir William Osler, one of the founding physicians at the newly opened Johns Hopkins Medical School, arrived in Baltimore and set to work with Marcia to revive MedChi’s library. He was a noted bibliophile and had a large personal collection of books on various topics. Sir William and Marcia worked to create a library, and when our building was erected in 1909, a large four-story stacks library was created that was renown in the world’s medical community. IMG_2969x

Her apartment, on the top of our building, was a lovely four room flat, with lots of light, big windows, a working fireplace and a view out over the city. She kept a vegetable garden in what is now our parking lot. Her apartment was considered the first penthouse in Baltimore!Marcia Noyes2

Marcia worked diligently to create a state of the art library and at her death, 50 years after she arrived, the number of volumes totaled more than 65,000! Img 027She was well-known in the emerging field of medical library sciences, and in fact, the highest award for a medical librarian is named for her. She became become the first woman and first non-physician President of the of Medical Librarians Association in 1933.

In her 50th year of service to MedChi, a large party was given in her honour. The doctors knew she was dying and pushed to have it earlier in the year, although her anniversary was in November. She was still living in the apartment on the top floor, and working in the library, although an elevator and a dumbwaiter had been added to make things easier for her.

She died in her apartment in November of 1946, 50 years after she arrived. Her funeral was held in Osler Hall, named for her dear friend, Sir William Osler, and 60 doctors were honoured to act as pallbearers.sideboard2She’s still here in spirit, if not more. There are documented cases of her being seen in Osler Hall, and odd things happen in our buildilng. In her old offices, you can hear someone typing on the keyboard, even when no one’s there. If she doesn’t like the song on the iPod, she changes it to a new tune. As I approached our old elevator the other week, the door magically opened – no one was around and I hadn’t heard it arrive. When we did our tour of our building on October 30th, I was talking about Marcia and all that she did, when suddenly, the lights dimmed, flickered and went out. There was no one near the switch, and you couldn’t dim the light-bank even if you tried. We think that it was Marcia letting us know that she was there. Wheels squeak in the stacks, and you can hear muffled footsteps. Things turn up, even though they were NOT there before… like the painting I found a few weeks ago!Patterson

There is much to be admired about this woman who worked so hard for us, who was beloved by all – her employees stayed with her for years – and who did much to advance library science. She was the Google of her day, being available to doctors 24/7 for 50 years. She’s a benign presence here and still a revered figure in her chosen field.

November 20, 2013

Ex Libris

Where I work, we have archives dating back to the late 1700’s and about 250 boxes filled with ephemera that’s both deadly boring and endlessly fascinating. I am working on a timeline for a long hallway and need to find a lot of visuals to create a picture of our history. So, I’ve been searching our archives, which are located on the top floor of our four-story stacks library… where the ghost lives.stacks

One of the boxes I opened contained hundreds of bookplates. At one point, our librarian had sort of an exchange program set up with physicians and medical colleges around the world where they would trade bookplates.

I noticed that the ones I have fall into several distinct categories. First, the medical-related ones with skulls and microscopes.

And I can’t resist sharing this one from an OB/GYN featuring a set of Fallopian tubes, the rabbit, lab rats, famous physicians and scientists, some stirrups and a speculum.And just in case you were worried about where he went to school, there’s the Tulane University seal! That’s a lot packed into a 3x4 inch piece of paper!

And who wouldn’t love this charming butterfly resting atop a human skull?

The second variety is the crest, whether real or created for the occasion.

Lots of stags, lions rampant and other beasts.

Then there all of the monograms with the intertwined letters and the fantastic lettering.

I love the brain capping off the piece!

Finally, there’s a genre of ye olde-style bookplates.

I keep finding so many fascinating things that I am thinking of starting a blog on the history of Maryland Medicine so that these pieces aren’t lost to history. I do put some of them on my FB page, but that doesn’t have nearly the audience that a blog would. If I wrote it, would you read it?

PS – sorry about the awful quality of the images. I photographed these instead of scanning them, as scanning involves quite a bit more effort, including standing on a stool to see the scanner bed!