October 29, 2010

All Hallows Eve

Halloween is quickly approaching, and I love the spirit of this holiday.  I'm about to head to my company's own Jack-O-Lantern Jamboree to view the contestants in the annual pumpkin carving contest and to snack on some holiday treats.  I recently read this article, courtesy of Washington Magazine online, and enjoyed the look at the most haunted places in the District.  Hope you have some SPOOKtacular plans for the weekend!

Some people love Washington so much, they never leave—even if their bodies do. Here are seven spots with some seriously spooky history.

Omni Shoreham Hotel
For a night of first-hand experience with the other side, book a room at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in DC’s Woodley Park. Staff talk openly about Juliette, the former housekeeper who passed away at 4 AM one morning under “mysterious circumstances.” While room 870, officially known as the Ghost Suite, isn’t available for reservations, guests staying in adjacent rooms have reported hearing strange noise, such as slamming doors and vacuuming coming from the room late at night. Are the tales true? Back in 2007, a writer recounted his experiences there for The Washingtonian. Read his tale here.

Bunny Man Bridge
The legend of the “Bunny Man” has evolved over the years, but local stories center on a bridge in Clifton, Virginia, where an escaped convict in a bunny costume liked to hang his victims. Although some details are disputed, most residents of the Fairfax County town avoid the bridge after sundown for fear of crossing paths with the Bunny Man’s ghost. Braver souls report seeing strange flickering lights as they drive under the bridge.

Glenn Dale Hospital
Formerly a sanatorium for those suffering from tuberculosis, Glenn Dale Hospital in rural Prince George’s County has since been abandoned and condemned. The underground rooms have flooded, rusted metal and broken glass litter the floors, and asbestos permeates the air—it’s seriously, seriously spooky. Trespassers and paranormal investigators who explore the hospital testify to seeing shadowy figures and hearing disembodied screams, and one legend tells of a former patient who committed suicide and now haunts the second floor wearing a straitjacket.

Decatur House
With its grand three-story brick facade and prime location on Lafayette Square in downtown DC, Decatur House looks like many other historic Washington houses. Commodore Stephen Decatur and his wife, Susan, built the house in 1818 to host lavish parties, but just over a year after moving in, fellow commodore James Barron challenged Decatur to a duel. For Decatur, the confrontation ended badly—he died at swordpoint. Overcome with grief, Susan moved out. Many years later, visitors and residents can allegedly still hear her sobs and have reported seeing Decatur’s ghost walking the halls, lamenting his lost duel.

Capitol Building
A lethal 1980 showdown between Kentucky representative William Preston Taulbee and reporter Charles Kincaid is just one of the incidents that haunt the halls of the Capitol. Legend has it that Taulbee’s ghost will trip any reporter who walks over the steps where he died. Former congressman John Quincy Adams also refuses to vacate the building, long after both his term and his life ended in 1848. Security guards have reported hearing him still debating legislation in what was once his office. Other more fanciful tales include a demon cat that roams the basement of the building and statues coming to life.

Christmas Attic
Many in Congress have denied the paranormal happenings in the halls. However, at the Christmas Attic in Alexandria, they’re pretty open about their resident phantom, Jack, who is known for rearranging merchandise and brushing up against customers and salespeople. The shop owners have installed a spirit bell for Jack to ring in case he has any urges for more direct communication.

Old Stone House
While some may visit Georgetown’s “Exorcist steps”—an outdoor staircase featured prominently in the movie The Exorcist—hoping for a scare, the nearby Old Stone House offers much more in the way of an authentic experience. Built in 1765, it’s one of the oldest standing structures in DC, and it’s reportedly home to several friendly Colonial spirits. While you’re there, watch out for George—a more hostile specter. He doesn’t take kindly to strangers and supposedly announces his presence with cold air before shoving them.

Original article here.

Bow Regards

Want. Each. Of. These.

October 21, 2010

Pumpkin Cookies

Yum!  I found this recipe over at Habitually Chic, and I can't wait to try these for myself.  Don't they look like the perfect Halloween treat and/or Thanksgiving dessert?  Maybe I'll finally put my oven to good use, rather than just for extra storage...

1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
½ cup butter
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup raisins

¼ cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 – 2 tablespoons milk

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix together sugar, pumpkin, butter and orange peel. Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Drop by teaspoon onto un-greased baking sheet. Bake until light golden brown about 8-10 minutes. Immediately remove from baking sheet and cool. Spread with glaze. Enjoy!

October 19, 2010

Worn Debuts

Check out Worn Magazine, the District's newly-launched fashion-centric and creative magazine.  From the Worn website:
Worn Magazine is supported in part by a 2010 Young Artist Grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. It's our mission to advocate the importance of style and art in the community by producing a hardcopy magazine that encourages readers to use both as a means of creativity and self-expression.
The second issue is out today, and you can buy tickets for the launch party held this evening at the U Street Music Hall.  Judging from the first issue, and the pictures on the blog, it looks as if the magazine is showcasing a particular aesthetic, catering to the hipster crowd (disclaimer: I hate one-note descriptors, like the word "hipster", but it successfully conveys what I'm thinking in my head, so deal with it).  While I'm excited for the launch of this project, I'm hoping in future issues there is an effort to document a broader variety of fashion and self-expression in the District.

You can read more here, courtesy of We Love DC.

J. Crew + Hairy Legs = New Fashion Trend?

In a major fashion surprise, J. Crew is apparently endorsing hairy legs for the fall/winter.  You'd think with the money and effort that they company spends on research, development, and design, someone along the way would have caught this.  Patterned tights are on trend for the time being (and were fashionable last season as well), and J. Crew makes several options in both black and brown.  Well, J. Crew's lace tights in fawn happen to make the model look like she hasn't shaved her legs in quite a while.  I'm personally not a fan of patterned tights to begin with, but this just takes it to a whole new level.  (I'm not judging--if you can rock the patterned tights with confidence, more power to you!)

After Gawker pointed out the faux pas, J. Crew changed the image to show the black lace tights.  Smart move, J. Crew, smart move.  What are your thoughts on this debacle?

(images via)

October 17, 2010

Stella & Dot's Latest

The day after volunteering at the Virginia State Arboretum I had plans to attend a Stella & Dot jewelry show at my friend's apartment.  I wish I'd taken pictures of the spread of food (fresh veggies, tortilla soup, pumpkin bars, gingersnaps with pumpkin dipping sauce, raspberry tea, white wine.........) and of the jewelry displayed at my friend's cute apartment, but I had just left a massage appointment and was a little out of it.

The products are varied and many pieces can be worn several different ways, making the line fashionable and functional.  For the sake of honesty, I think the prices can be a bit steep, but the quality is high; the leather in the clover leather wrap bracelets is from the same factory that produces leather for Marc Jacobs, for example.  If you're not familiar with Stella & Dot, you can read about the company on its website; the company uses a direct-selling system similar to Avon and Mary Kay cosmetics, so you'll need a stylist to place the order for you even though you can browse online.  I'm happy to supply you with my stylist's information if you're interested.

Recent Readings

As mentioned in yesterday's post, my book club's last selection was Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay.  This novel is heartbreaking, but also engaging and enlightening.  The story centers around Julia Jarmond, an American journalist who has lived in Paris for over 20 years with her stereotypically arrogant and philandering French husband, Bertrand.  Julia's personal life, namely her deteriorating marriage, plays as significant a role in the novel as does Julia's work assignment to research the little-known Vél' d'Hiv' roundup of Parisian Jews on June 16, 1942.  Although the orders for the roundup came from the German Nazis, it was the French government who actually conducted the raids and imprisoned almost 10,000 Jews in an indoor cycling arena, the Vélodrome d'Hiver, awaiting transportation to various concentration camps.  I remember spending nine weeks studying the Holocaust in the 6th grade, and I still find stories surrounding the events of World War II interesting and horrifying.  This was a memorable story, as the more we learn about Sarah, the more we see Julia learn about herself.

After flying through Sarah's Key, I began A Son of the Circus, by John Irving.  Now, I love a good John Irving novel, although he's not everyone's cup of tea.  My favorites, of course, are A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Cider House Rules, two of his more popular books.  A Son of the Circus was a bit hard for me to get into, but once I did it was classic Irving.  At times humorous, at times sad and sometimes a bit pathetic (the characters, not the writing), I enjoyed the book as an escapade into the Bombay of the late 1980s involving dwarfs, trans-gender prostitutes (this is Irving, after all), murder and mayhem.  If you're an Irving fan, go for it; if not, I would recommend that you start with The World According to Garp or A Prayer for Owen Meany before diving into this one.

October 16, 2010

Book Movement

So excuse me while I nerd out for a minute, but I just discovered Book Movement, a website for book readers/lovers/clubbers. Some of the features are a daily e-mail for a book-of-the-day (through free membership), detailed book summaries, book reviews, and reading lists and suggestions from book clubs/members of book clubs who have joined the online community. Book Movement links to Amazon if you wish to purchase, which of course has its own reader reviews as well; I like Book Movement for the running list of top books as rated by members of the site and for the reading guides for discussion.

I actually found this site as I was looking for suggestions for my own book club.  Our "club" met for dinner this past Thursday at Levante's (highly recommend, excellent Mediterranean fare) in Dupont Circle to discuss our most recent selection, Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay (more on this book in my next post). We've decided on the following system for choosing books:  There are six of us, and we will each take a turn choosing three books to read; then the club votes on one out of the three.  Since we just adopted this system, we're going in alphabetical order by first name, so it was my turn to choose a book.  Since I am my mother's daughter and have a difficult time making decisions, I brought four suggestions with me; even if I don't read these for book club, I'll read them on my own time.  My suggestions were: A Secret Kept, also by Tatiana de Rosnay; Little Bee, by Chris Cleave; Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann; and Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides.  After voting, we've decided on Let the Great World Spin, and I can't wait to get started once I finish The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen.

Since I already happened to be at the bookstore, of course I picked up two other books during my visit this morning.  John Irving is one of my favorite authors, so I picked up his latest, and I bought Still Alice, about which I've heard/read great things.  It's about a woman's descent into Alzheimer's, a debilitating disease that my grandmother suffered from shortly before her death several years ago.  I will update with my thoughts on each of these at some point in the future.

October 14, 2010

Modern Family

My friend Jeni writes a blog in which she recaps some of her favorite TV shows, and her commentary on last night's Modern Family is spot-on.  Modern Family is one of my favorite shows on televsion right now (in addition to Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, The Good Wife, etc.), and it won the 2010 Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series (along with 6 other awards).  As I've said before, I don't put much stock into award shows, but I like when my favorite shows are recognized!

Last night's episode was great at reminding us that while those we're closest to might annoy/irritate/provoke/exasperate us at times, in the end we love them in spite of their attempts to be funny and their workout attire.

October 13, 2010

Anthro Accessories Store, Coming to a Location Near Me

If you live in the DMV, I have some great news: Anthropologie is opening its first-ever accessories store in Chevy Chase, MD at the end of October!  Second to my love for the Crew (I promise I will stop talking about it one day) is my love for all things Anthropologie.  The accessories-only store will be adjacent to the current Anthropologie store, and 50% of the inventory will be shoes (more here).  Effortless Anthropologie posted pictures of the invite that went out to a select few, and as always, the store outdid itself on packaging.  I can't wait to visit!

October 12, 2010

Celebrating 30 Years

October 12 is memorable to many Americans because it is Columbus Day, the day in 1492 that Christopher Columbus landed in The Bahamas, thinking he had reached South Asia. However, in my family, October 12 is special because it is the day my parents were married in 1980.  Today, exactly three decades ago in Atlanta, GA, my mother and my father took vows to love each other through sickness, health, good times and bad, for the rest of their lives.  I am so grateful to God for bringing these two wonderful people together (even though when they first met they were both dating other people), and for keeping them together throughout the years.  Mom and Dad, I love you, and happy 30th anniversary!

My parents in Seaside, FL

October 10, 2010

A Day at Blandy Farm

Did you know that the Commonwealth of Virginia has a state arboretum?  The Virginia State Arboretum, which occupies a small portion of Blandy Farm, is located in Boyce, Virginia, a little over an hour outside of DC.  I volunteered with some fellow Tenfold Forty members at the Arboretum on Saturday and had a great time.  Although I lost my way on the drive out (I ended up an hour outside of DC and an hour from Blandy Farm!), it was a beautiful day for a drive.  I loved driving through parts of Virginia that I'd never visited before, like Middleburg, the Shenandoah Valley, and an assortment of farms and vineyards.

Our particular project was helping children, and some adults, make scarecrows during the Arboretum's bi-annual ArborFest.  The kids were so excited to make their scarecrows, and one particular rambunctious little boy, Eli, will not be forgotten; his grandfather, known as "Popcorn Poppy Pop," helped him make Scary the Scarecrow, who was about twice the size of Eli.  I took plenty of pictures but I accidentally deleted them and could only recover a few; I'm so mad but at least I was able to save some of them.  It was a sunny and warm autumn day and I'm glad that I had the chance to help these children enjoy the season!

October 8, 2010

Fun with Pumpkins

I can always rely on Martha Stewart to dazzle me with her arts and crafts projects, and this extends into the realm of holiday decorations.  There are some great ideas for pumpkin projects to liven up your home for Halloween or to use as decorations for a Halloween party.  I'm partial to the first one, as it looks simple enough for even me to handle.