Yesterday Michael and I trekked into Washington to check out the 2023 Smithsonian Folklife Festival celebrating the Culture of the Ozarks.
Held annually (except of course for the pandemic years) since 1967, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage brings together artisans, cooks, musicians, and storytellers from around the world for performances, demonstrations, and workshops. Held on the National Mall, in conjunction with the National Park Service, the festival is open to all and generally runs for about two weeks.
Yes, it was hot and humid, the air quality was bad and I don’t like crowds – but yesterday also served to remind me what incredible opportunities are available in the greater DMV area and sometimes you just have to get up and go!
The brilliant thing about the Folklife Festival is 1) the Mall is huge and 2) there are so many things going on at the same time that there was no standing in line. From cooking demonstrations, to quilting, basket making, and a music tent complete with flooring for a little impromptu dancing it was a wonderful introduction to the Ozarks.
There was also lots of seating – not just at the venues but though out the area including picnic tables and sturdy hardwood rockers.
A few tips: take Metro, take Metro, and take Metro. Seriously, looking for parking just isn’t worth it and the Smithsonian Metro station is ideally located. Wear comfortable shoes, a hat, and pack snacks and water (I was seriously missing my backpack).
Check out the schedule ahead of time so you don’t miss out on something you really want to see – like the indigenous cooking demonstration – or some of the night time only concerts.
In fact, I’m thinking about going back down tonight . . .
This seems like a great week to talk about gardens/gardening/landscapes given the rain and now heat and humidity. Three of my very favorite plants for the summer garden are elephant ears, caladiums, and hardy begonia All do well in shade – of which I have a lot – and provide foliage and color well into the fall.
Elephant ears are easy to grow from tubers and require little care except an occasional dose of fertilizer and moist conditions. The large leaves add a lush tropical feel to any space and are particularly good in large pots on a patio or porch. They come in several different sizes and colors and I try a new one almost every year.
Best of all they can be ‘wintered over” either by taking the tubers up, wrapping in newspaper and storing in a dry, cool place. I did this last year with great success. In certain zones you can also leave them in the ground or in a pot and blanket them with mulch.
They come in a variety of sizes and colors. I love the black ears and am looking forward to trying a variegated variety next year. Also up for consideration is “Thailand Giant” whose leaves can measure a whopping 5′ long and 4’ wide!
Finally – buying potted, fulling growing elephant ears in a nursery is very expensive. Instead, look for tubers and plant them yourself. It takes a bit of patience because they really do need warm temperatures but once they get started you can just set back and enjoy. Locally I have had great luck finding good tubers at Old Town Ace Hardware.
Hope you’ll come tomorrow for Part 2 when I’ll talk about another favorite – caladiums.
Buying? Selling? Or know someone who is? Give me a call at 703.859.6362 – I’d love to talk with you.
After seemingly endless months we bought patio furniture, strung lights on the pergola, installed a Weber gas grill on the covered porch, and luxuriated in our new space. All the while praying fervently that my garden would forgive months of neglect and abuse and rejoice with us in full and resplendent glory – which it did!
A covered porch, a space for dining, the more relaxed fire pit area, and arguably our favorite, the pergola – we finally have our dream back yard!
In future posts look for more details about our porch, patio furniture, powder coating, and the importance of transition spaces.
And, as always, if you are in the market to sell or buy – or know someone who is – please give me a call. I would love to hear from you.
We started our backyard project on July 12, 2021 with the porch. In November we began rebuilding the raised beds and then, with that done, started on the hardscape. The original plans needed a few adjustments but Joan, our landscape architect, was on hand daily and progress was inevitable!
First the old patio had to be dug up and the entire back yard leveled. We saved the bricks (30 years+) for edging the blue stone pavers and to differentiate the three specific “rooms” we were creating.
Thank goodness for craftspeople who really know their trade.
Removing three old, not very healthy holly trees opened up our yard and created much needed space.
A bluestone patio is a thing of beauty. And no more grass!
Next up, finishing touches, the final reveal and a few garden shots for good measure.
Armed with plans, permits, and my favorite contractor in place, we watched optimistically as our falling apart deck was demolished. With that done, digging began for the footers to support our new covered porch.
Let me pause here for a moment to say when you add a roof to a porch it triggers a different set of building code criteria for the City of Alexandria. Most specifically, and because of the marine clay rampant in Del Ray, the planned 3 ft footers became 8 ft. footers – all dug by hand because our narrow side yard would not accommodate any machinery.
Needless to say it was a mess. It rained (of course), there was mud everywhere, and the workers, bless their hearts, could have cared less about my garden and where they threw things. That being said, I was grateful we were at least underway!
But when the framing finally got done – complete with steps and a roof – I knew our dream space was really going to happen.
Next up – Part Three – almost to the finish line.
If the pandemic taught us anything it was that outdoor space/green space matters. Home offices took on enormous importance but also the ability to get outside, whether to eat, play, read a book or join in an endless series of Zoom meetings.
So in mid July 2021 we took the plunge to completely transform our backyard. For years we lived with a brick patio that served as one semi-adequate space for eating/grilling/having drinks/playing with the dog/etc. The rest of the yard consisted of raised garden beds, a huge Willow Oak, three large but not very healthy holly trees, a shed, and a swath of grass which quickly devolved into patchy weeds because of the heavy shade. An ugly generic deck connected the house to the patio.
The falling apart deck and rotting railroad ties on the raised beds were the initial impetus but when we removed the diseased holly trees an entire new space opened up! Time to start dreaming – a place to sit/read/lounge, a pergola, a fire pit, an eating area, a covered porch instead of a deck, a grill with natural gas (that took some convincing for my Weber charcoal loving husband), and NO grass.
I’m a big believer in hiring experts so I quickly made a call to fellow Del Ray resident and architect Lisa Quant for my back porch and then to Joan Honeyman, the landscape architect who designed our original space some 30 years ago. They both asked lots of great questions and provided us with at least three options. We made our choices pretty easily and then we got to work.
Stay tuned for Part Two – the great upheaval!
Na La is IN, National Landing is OUT.
At least for the summer. The National Landing Business Improvement District (created with the great Amazonian announcement of 2018) has adopted Na La as the moniker for an event series taking place over the summer. As Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, executive director, noted, it was “a shorthand intended to be fun and punchy”.
We went down yesterday to take a look for ourselves and couldn’t help but smile.
Using a beach theme, Na La is a brightly welcoming green space next to the entrance to Long Bridge Park. Picnic tables, adult sand boxes, an AirStream trailer/Beach Club, Friday night entertainment, and outdoor fitness classes are all part of an effort to engage the community and incorporate ongoing changes in the area.
For those who know the South Arlington/Crystal City/National Landing area only from commuting on Richmond Hwy or trips to Costco and Pentagon City there is so much more behind the scenes. Pocket parks, a new ‘water park‘, a variety of eateries – all those amenities that make urban living, well, liveable. We think Na La captures the moment perfectly and look forward to more!
Click here to read more about the area and the history behind those two syllable monikers.
A few years ago I travelled to Vienna and while there was introduced to what I consider the perfect summer drink – Viennese ice coffee. Imagine an after breakfast, before lunch, stroll through the streets of Vienna – past the famed Lipizzaner Stables and the Schonbrunn Palace and then onto one of the great plazas.
At that point it was time for a cup of coffee, a newspaper from home, and perhaps a nibble. We ducked down a side street and into a charming cafe with outdoor seating and promptly made ourselves at home.
We quickly found copies of the New York Times left by previous traveller’s and on a whim I ordered ice coffee. The waitress questioned me twice about my order and then left.
What I got on her return exceeded any expectations I may have had. In Vienna, “ice coffee” is actually expresso, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream served in a tall glass.
Needless to say I was delighted and “ice coffee” became our password for unexpected deliciousness!
Now to find someone in Alexandria who can replicate this marvel . . . .
On Thursday, April 28th, 2022 we lost our beloved miniature poodle to sudden heart failure. A southern girl from Brunswick, GA, (hence the double name), Molly Louise was a constant source of laughter, love, and companionship for over 10 years. With the most expressive face possible and a BIG personality, she was a presence in the neighborhood. Her three/four/five walks a day with Michael ensured she was known by many and adored by all. She even had a spot at the junction of Howell and LeGrande Avenues in Del Ray designated as “Molly’s Corner” with a custom made sign commissioned by a neighbor. Champion chaser, fierce protector, excellent lap warmer – we miss her.