Heard on the Hill: Baird’s House-Made S’Mores

Posted February 23, 2010 at 6:38pm

Smoking might be banned from the Speaker’s lobby, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t say anything about toasting a few marshmallows. Good thing for Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) and his two young sons, who fired up a few on Monday night in the fireplace of the grand room, an HOH tipster says.

[IMGCAP(1)]With its ornate paneling and elaborate chandeliers, the Speaker’s lobby could hardly be mistaken for a campsite, but it sure smelled like one when the Baird boys cracked a large branch into roasting skewers and browned some gooey marshmallows.

Baird tells HOH that his twin sons, Walter and William (whose fifth birthday is in two weeks), often accompany him to the week’s first votes, and the last time they visited the Capitol, they were entranced by the large fireplaces. “They said, ‘Daddy, it’s just like when we went camping!’ and so I promised them that we’d roast marshmallows the next time,” he says.

The Bairds had such a good time, the Congressman says, that they invited Rep. David Wu’s (D-Ore.) two sons to join in.

Baird even suggested Members could do some bipartisan bonding over a simple pleasure like a fresh, hot s’more. “We should leave out some graham crackers and chocolate and those fancy skewers,” he mused. “You forget how fun it is.”

Senatorial Sugar High. Forget the Olympics — a far more thrilling (and delicious) competition took place in Sen. Ted Kaufman’s office Tuesday afternoon.

Staffers for the Delaware Democrat held a bake-off, submitting everything from oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to “Pizza Ana,” a Mexican-inspired dessert labeled as “a twist on the Italian classic,” into a winner-take-all competition. Eight staffers baked treats for the contest, which was judged by a four-person, bipartisan panel of aides from neighboring Senate offices.

The bake-off is actually an old tradition carried over from when Vice President Joseph Biden served as a Delaware Senator, HOH hears. Kaufman staffers decided to continue the event after Kaufman was named to fill Biden’s seat and planned to hold it around Valentine’s Day, but the recent snowstorms caused a delay.

The four judges — Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) scheduler, Alice James; Sen. Mike Enzi’s (R-Wyo.) receptionist, Amber Johnson; Sen. Mark Begich’s (D-Alaska) scheduler, John Vezina; and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-N.H.) scheduler, Justin Burkhardt — were left alone in a conference room to judge the entries based on presentation, taste and difficulty.

Judging took around 20 minutes, but eventually the panel named Kaufman Legislative Assistant Rachel Bird the winner, saying her pecan pie — a recipe handed down from her mom — was their favorite.

“I’m really shocked,” Bird told HOH after her win. “It’s actually a very easy recipe and … I’ve taken it to every Thanksgiving I’ve ever been to.”

For winning the contest, Bird received a white apron with the Senate logo on it (which staffers noted was paid for out of private funds). “It’s white, so I can bleach it if I spill on it,” Bird joked.

Kaufman briefly checked out the desserts before heading out on important Senatorial business — although he made sure to ask his staff to save him some of the treats.

Peas to the Rescue? The man who made the “Yes We Can” video a viral hit for President Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential election is trying to do Obama yet another favor.

Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas took to the National Press Club on Tuesday to announce his band’s own plan to create green jobs, in the hopes of helping the president with his daunting “to-do” list.

The magic formula? Turning plastic water bottles into T-shirts.

The Black Eyed Peas are teaming up with Rethink, a fabric and apparel company that plans to convert the recycled water bottles left over from the band’s remaining 23 U.S. tour stops into T-shirts. Green for All and the League of Conservation Voters are also in on the effort to raise awareness about climate change and prod the Senate on energy issues.

“We can’t just wait for Obama to do things,” will.i.am told the crowd at the Press Club. “We should take the effort to assist, and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing on our tour — to take the load off of his laundry list.”

Although it’s unclear exactly how many green jobs the initiative will create, will.i.am said he hopes its success will lead others to follow suit.

And the alliance’s message to the Senate, to borrow a Black Eyed Peas lyric: “Let’s get it started.”

It’s Written All Over Your Face. Turns out that when it comes to politics, appearances really aren’t all that deceiving.

A new academic study conducted at Tufts University found that college students can almost always tell a person’s political affiliation simply by looking at a photograph of his face. And not only that, students have strong feelings about what persona politicians project — Democrats are most often seen as “warm” while Republicans project “power,” according to the study, published in the PLoS ONE online scientific journal in January.

Here’s how the study worked: Tufts doctoral student Nicholas Rule and Tufts psychology professor Nalini Ambady took official campaign photos from the 2004 and 2006 Senate campaigns, cropped them to exclude everything but the candidates’ faces, showed them to a test group of college students and asked whether the person was a Democrat or a Republican.

About 55 percent to 60 percent of the time, the students got it right.

But knowing that the study could be flawed — politicians put in so much effort to look a certain way in their official photographs, after all — Rule and Ambady decided to run the study again, this time using photographs of average college students.

The duo found photos from college yearbooks in which students identified themselves as belonging to a Democratic or Republican club. They cropped the pics and showed them to a test group.

And 55 percent to 60 percent of the time, the subjects guessed correctly. “Much to our surprise, it actually worked out,” Rule told HOH.

The pair also asked students to identify the personality traits of the people in the photos and found a tie in how test subjects characterized people. Subjects most often said Democrats were “warm” while Republicans displayed “power,” Rule said.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Back-to-back blizzards might have thrown the Postal Service off its game, but they didn’t keep Rep. John Spratt’s chief of staff from making a timely delivery. Dawn O’Connell, the South Carolina Democrat’s right-hand woman, gave birth to her second daughter, Frances Caroline, midsnowstorm on Feb. 9.

O’Connell’s husband, C-SPAN producer Ben O’Connell, tells HOH that the couple spent the first deluge in a hotel near the hospital (just in case!) and planned to go back to wait out the second, but they were relieved when doctors suggested they induce labor just as the record-breaking snowfall started. “I’ve watched enough sitcoms to know that all I need to deliver a baby are clean towels and hot water, but I’m glad I didn’t have to put my knowledge to the test,” he says.

Equally glad was the proud mom, who says the baby also showed an uncanny sense of timing by waiting until her New Orleans-based family could give her its full attention. “I’m just happy that Frannie waited until after the Super Bowl, so that my family would pick up the phone when we called them with the good news,” she tells us.

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