Saturday, December 31, 2011

New year, new outlook

 As we leave 2011 behind and look forward to 2012, I just want to wish my readers all the best in the new year. Most of us ritually make resolutions and I'm hoping that all of you have some dynamic plans and hopes! There's nothing like a fresh start to renew and inspire, whether it's finding your true passion, a great love, a new job, a new business, a terrific book--all ways to help leave a mark on the world.

I'm looking to change up this blog with new eclectic thoughts, sightings and visuals. And finding time to pursue all the things I love most.

Here's to a new start in 2012, bringing in the new and letting go of the dull and rut-like things in our not-so-comfortable "comfort zone". Cheers to all and have a happy, healthy new year!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Fit: New Year's Resolution = Fitness Done Right

Strong IS the new skinny. Working out
at CrossFit Done Right in Rockville
Here we go, New Year’s resolutions. “I will lose 20 pounds.” “I will get sleek, firm arms like Michelle Obama.” “I will run an eight-minute mile.” We say these kinds of things every Jan. 1.

This time, why don’t you seriously, really do it?

If you’ve been slogging around with the same old routine—15 minutes on the elliptical, a weight machine circuit, a class here and there—yawn—maybe it’s time to try something new.

I don’t have a lot of time to wander around a gym trying to figure out what to do or the money to waste on programs that don’t work. At the suggestion of my trainer, Madeleine Watkins, I started taking classes at CrossFit Done Right in Rockville.

As a group of people ranging from military vets to new mothers to middle-aged men, we run, we squat, we stretch, we jump rope, we do pull-ups and sit-ups. Can’t do any of those things? No problem—you work at your own ability and pace with whatever props and help you need. That’s the point. Though the workouts come  “as prescribed,” the gym acknowledges the fact that most people require different prescriptions.

You’re in there for you. Want to lift weights and stoke your metabolism? Do it. You won’t be fiddling around with 3-lb padded dumbbells, you’ll be hoisting a barbell with plates. Granted those plates may not be as heavy as the big guy’s next to you, but who cares? It will not only make you stronger and more confident, it will totally blast the fat from your amazed, slacker self before you know it.

And that’s the best part. You won’t feel like a slacker for long. Once the clock for the workout of the day buzzes to start, you’ll feel like a kid on the playground, trying your best to beat it and having fun in the process. Everyone spends a lot of time cheering each other on. Then boom, it’s done, you’ve worked out as hard as you can and it’s time to stretch and go home. Every day is a different workout; there’s not much time for you—or your body—to get bored.

The coaches there, in addition to Madeleine, are certified and top-notch. They’ll help you with nutrition, skills and training and give you individualized instruction. There’s no wasted time and wasted effort. And you’ll love your new body and confidence—both inside and outside the gym.

For more information about classes and kids’ programs, visit the website at or contact Justin Bacon or Rob Koebke at 301-535-1316. Plans are in the works for a program to prepare runners for MoCo’s Pike’s Peek 10K race on April 29.

12160 Nebel St., 
Rockville, MD, 20852, 301-535-1316, 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Midnight at the Mall: Our guest blogger lives to tell the tale

Photo credit:
By guest blogger Will Watkins, 21, a college senior home for the holidays who hit Montgomery Mall's midnight Black Friday sale

Thanksgiving is one of the few days my friends from home ever feel too tired and full to go out, and so we found ourselves with a Thursday night and no idea what to do.  The night quickly took a turn toward the aimless nights of high school, with a group of guys piled into my car and no destination in mind. We headed to the Shell station next to Montgomery Mall—yes that was our best idea—and on our way we noticed cars streaming into the mall parking lot.

“Should we check out Black Friday?” I asked the group.

“Nah, there’s no reason to go.”

“Dude, we’re actually hanging out a gas station.”

After the aforementioned argument quickly took care of itself, we pulled into the mall and miraculously found a spot on the first floor of the jammed garage adjacent to the movie theater. We entered the mall--it was packed. As we walked into the food court, we were instantly brought back to our days of Walter Johnson open lunch: high schoolers were everywhere. 

Even so, we took note of the surreal nature of being in a crowded shopping center at 1 a.m. on a holiday. Hollister and Abercrombie had their half-naked models out in full force, and a DJ near one of the cell phone stands was blasting Miley Cyrus for the whole mall to enjoy. 

I realized I could pick up some toys for my sister. The gym where she works, CrossFit Done Right, was hosting a 5K race in support of Toys for Tots. After  stocking up on Matchbox cars and Batman action figures at Smart Toys, we were back in the food court waiting for my friend Tom to get Chik-fil-A (I guess Thanksgiving wasn’t enough?).  While we were waiting--and waiting--I realized that I needed a new pair of jeans. Tom echoed my sentiments. 

Our first destination was Old Navy, which promised all adult jeans at only $15 a pair. This was enough to get us into the store, but the line stretched from the cash registers all the way to the back wall. Given the fact that the Old Navy checkout lines are dreadfully slow when the store is empty, I decided that the savings were not worth the time.

Our next stop was American Eagle, which offered 40% off all purchases made before 9 a.m.. This too was attractive, but once again the line was too much for us to handle. 

Just as we were ready to leave, I spotted the sale advertisement at Aeropostale: 50% off everything in the store, with an additional 20% off before 9 am. I sped into the store. After some initial puzzlement about whether or not I was looking at men’s jeans, I found a pair that looked good and was roughly my size. It was marked at $49.99, and with the discount and tax they came to about $20, a great deal for good quality denim. As were waiting in line, another friend, Kyle, suddenly decided that the deal was too good to pass up. He went back for a pair and handed them off to Tom with some cash. Kyle needed shoes too, but he decided that DSW on a regular day was cheaper than anything in the mall on Black Friday.

We left the mall feeling satisfied with our purchases. I am definitely planning on returning to Black Friday next year.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The stars come out for Porcelanosa's opening party

When a tile store has a world-renowned chef, an Argentine supermodel and the Spanish ambassador attending the opening party, you know it must be special. And that's after guests were greeted by a four-beam spotlight blazing from the parking lot.

The superstars as well as designers, clients and friends showed up to celebrate Porcelanosa's new location Thursday night on Rockville Pike and Nicholson Lane. The upscale showroom offers cutting-edge flooring and tiles--glass, ceramic, porcelain and stone--that have graced well-furnished homes both here and abroad, including Prince Charles's royal residences. The store also carries luxury bath and kitchen fixtures.

Well-heeled clientele --there was no shortage of Chanel, red-soled shoes and great haircuts--filled the streamlined store and knoshed on authentic Spanish tapas. Most interesting to me were the "liquid olives" served in a spoon. At first I thought they were clams, but the man proffering the tidbits told me to just "put it in your mouth, where it will work its magic." I did as I was told and was greeted with a silky, liquified version of an olive. Delicious.

The guests also included my own kitchen contractor, Eugene Zagoskin of Z&P Construction, who's been working with Porcelanosa for 15 years. Another guest was my son's former volunteer baseball coach, a designer with Kitchen Land. Here are some examples of the kinds of streamlined, European designs you'll find in the new store.

Love this giant shower head

One of many powder/bathroom displays. This happened to be my favorite. 

Liquid olives

The sleekest range hood

Early guests in the airy showroom

Just had to do it--snagged a photo with Chef Jose Andres and a Porcelanosa owner.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Let it Snow! Apres Ski on the W Hotel Rooftop

Though I was nearly breaking a sweat in my Chanel-esque white wool jacket on a balmy 60 degree night, the Apres Ski Lounge at the W Hotel's rooftop bar last night was a virtual frosty wonderland.

Between the actual skis on the Ski Chalet display, the bright red glittering Ugg boots, the s'mores and the introduction of several new hot toddies, guests were transported to a wintry lodge complete with bright snowy branches, reindeer antlers-and skis. 


 The fete, put on by Gilt City, was preceded by a media preview of wonderful warm winter cocktails:

Hot Apple Butter Rum
Rum, Apple Butter, Spices
Four drinks photos by Geoff Chessman for W. Washington D.C. 

Pumpkin Cider
Vodka, Pumpkin Cider, Spices

Whiskey Skin
Scotch, lemon peel, sugar, hot water

Sheridan’s Coffee
Jameson, brown sugar, cream

Guests who knocked themselves out on the Kinect winter sports games appreciated the Bliss massages--all guests scored a swag bag full of Bliss products and a brownie bite. The best touch was that the festivities took place high above the city. We were all treated to amazing views of the White House, the Washington Monument and even the blazing spires of the Air Force Memorial off in the distance. Let it snow!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Voli! Come to Mama!

Voli (read: VOdka LIte) just burst onto the DC scene in a wealth of delicious flavors, and right on cue as the holidays approach. Though we love sipping on a cocktail (or two), we hate fighting the battle of the bulge that often accompanies holiday (and everyday) indulgences.

Hence, Voli steps up to the glass with a premium vodka crafted in France from natural spring water and wheat—and no more than 81 calories per serving. A nice addition: electrolytes to help ward off a hangover. It comes in five delicious flavors like pear vanilla, lemon and raspberry cocoa. If you still want to be creative and mix a drink, below are some fab ways to mix it up.  Though I didn’t spot Voli yet in Montgomery County liquor stores, it is available in area Sam's Clubs and in other locales around Maryland--including near Ellicott City and the Baltimore area. To order online and find a list of vendors please check

The Blushing Berry:
1.5 oz Voli Lemon
¼ oz Chambord (raspberry liqueur)
2 oz cranberry juice
top with club soda
135 calories or 100 calories if made with diet cranberry juice

The Winter Wonderland:
2 oz Voli espresso vanilla
1/2 oz Bailey's
Shake and strain
150 calories

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Passport to Style

Driving rains didn't keep the crowds away from the Passport to Style event at The Shops at Wisconsin Place in October. Kelly Collis of Fresh 94.7 emceed the fashion show, which showcased area stores including Bloomingdale's, White House Black Market, Adolfo Dominguez, Eileen Fisher and BCBG. Those BCBG looks were straight off the runway and not available in all stores. Even the dogs donned their Halloween best and enjoyed a night in support of their kind. Patrons could choose from an array of food from area restaurants (sliders, lettuce wraps, cupcakes and more) and wine from The Tasting Room and were treated to a stocked swagbag. All $20 ticket sales benefited either Fashion for Paws and the Washington Humane Society or Hope for Henry.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Awarding Local Creative Talent at the County Exec's Awards

On Oct. 24, The Music Center at Strathmore will present the annual County Executive’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities. The event celebrates community cultural leaders  and will feature performances from various county arts and humanities groups including The Bog Band, Coral Cantigas, The Eubie Blake Jazz Ensemble, Eubie Blake Quartet, Lumina Studio Theatre, Christopher K. Morgan and the Washington Printmakers Gallery. The performances and award ceremony will be followed by a dessert reception. Best of all, it is free and open to the public--no RSVP required--and a great way to get familiar with local talent. Not to give anything away, but the Lifetime Impact award is going to choreographer Liz Lerman. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Best-Dressed Windows in Town and a glimpse behind DRESSED, the film

Don't walk by Ginger in Bethesda Lane without stopping to check out their windows. Always innovative and very clever, they are clearly the best-dressed windows around. I snapped these on designer Thursday during Bethesda Row's Boutique Week. That night we met furniture designer Barclay Butera at Urban Country and then wandered over to Landmark Bethesda Row for a screening of DRESSED.

Afterwards, we met the designer and subject of the documentary film, Nary Manivong and the director, David Swajeski. What I especially liked is that the story shows the power of perseverance and the results of stubbornly following your dreams. Swajeski told me that they are taking it to different schools--most recently in New Mexico--showing it to students to convey the message that no matter how bad it seems, there really is a way out. Manivong was an abused child whose parents finally abandoned him and his siblings when he was 14. He went from living on the streets to designing a collection for New York's Fashion Week--and after a series of mishaps, finally showing that collection. The documentary shows the gritty side of the fashion world and the hard work it takes to succeed. Manivong told me he was inspired by the pictures in magazines and thought, "I can make people look like that." Fashion was also his disguise--his escape--from the brutal reality of his life. As Tim Gunn would say, he certainly "made it work"--in a big way. He has partnered with Ally Hilfiger to form the NAHM line, which launched this fall. The name is comprised of Hilfiger's and Manivong's first and last initials. It means water in Manivong's native Laotian. Here are some snaps from the after-party at Jaleo.

Nary Manivong posing with a guest

...and chatting with another

The  most fabulous shoes (Nine West! she said)

Mingling, chatting

I loved this ensemble--coat, hair, the whole thing.

David Swajeski chats with a guest

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Countdown to tonight

Are you ready for this?

And this?

We are. If you're not, you should check out the Bethesda Row site, RSVP and start getting ready. The apex of Bethesda Row Boutique Week events happens tonight when hot designer Barclay Butera appears at Urban Country for a meet-and-greet amid cocktails and appetizers. We'll be there. Afterward, we're heading straight to Landmark Bethesda Row cinema for the Washington premiere of DRESSED, the documentary about designer Nary Manivong's epic journey from homelessness to New York's fashion week. Following the film, the director and designer will be available for a Q&A. Right here, tonight. I don't want to give away any secrets but I'm old enough to remember when going to Bethesda meant a trip to Pines of Rome (still good white pizza) and a shop or two. Now it's all this. Here are some shots of Butera's designs and also some stills from DRESSED. Enjoy.