I spent some time this week wandering through a maze of products at the 2007 Home & Housewares Show, at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The show spanned the three main rooms of McCormick, Lakeside Center, North Building and South Building.

I wore flats and probably walked 5 to 6 miles. Too bad I didn’t see much worth mentioning. Best new product: www.guesterminators.com.

This series of hilarious “Mad Magazine-like” products claims “We leave your guest room empty and your relationships intact.” They boast a 95 percent removal rate. The products include clogged toilet signs, fake finger nail clippings, fake chicken pox to stick on your face, rabid dog pills for your dog, canned gas leak air freshener, and a radon detector.

Overall, this year’s show seemed notably flat compared to previous years. The biggest new AHA! moment in houseware design seems to be that silicon manufacturers have finally figured out that silicon baking equipment doesn’t really work without something holding it up.

I bought a silicon muffin tin when they first came out — what a disappointment. The muffins always stick, and the tray is too wobbly to put into the oven without having it sit on a baking sheet.

This year, several manufacturers displayed muffin tins that were metal all around and had the silicon centers. One manufacturer displayed a silicon “springform” pan with a ceramic bottom. “The seal is so tight,” said the display lady, “that a drop of your batter won’t come out.”

As I said, that was basically the big trend of the show.

Overall, the floors seemed rather empty. At the Wilton display center, one of the cake decorators said buyers were “herding.” “We’re getting big groups of 20 or more coming together,” she said.

“Everyone else went to see Rachel Ray.”

March 15, 2007