Alexandria Living Magazine - March/April 2019

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Greener Future Venues, Veils and Vows





Babs Beckwith

No one has sold more homes in Old Town than Babs! When it comes to Old Town real estate, the first name that comes to mind is Babs Beckwith, the ultimate area specialist. With more than 25 years of success selling homes in this special community where she lives and is actively involved, Babs is the hands-down connoisseur of Old Town. Whether it is a unique historic gem or newer construction, she loves sharing her insight, knowledge, and appreciation for this desirable port city nestled on the Potomac. Babs’ track record for selling some of the finest Old Town properties truly speaks for itself.

Babs Beckwith, REALTOR® I tel. 703.627.5421 I 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 I tel. 703.549.9292 I B • March / April 2019

Escape to the great outdoors and take in the iconic beauty of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The estate offers a host of activities for outdoor enthusiasts in Alexandria. Grab your running shoes, a bike, or your camera and hop on the Mount Vernon Trail to enjoy breathtaking views of the Potomac River. More than 9 miles from Old Town and fully paved, the trail follows the twists and turns of the Potomac River’s Virginia shoreline

Learn more and sign up for membership

and ends at historic Mount Vernon.

at or

Spring weekends are the ideal time to take in the sights and sounds of Mount Vernon.

claim your $20 new member discount.

Bring your family and your four-legged friend to wander through the four gardens on the estate. (General Washington loved dogs, and so do we. Guests are welcome to bring dogs on leashes during public daytime hours.) Meander through a French boxwood parterre in the upper garden and stroll through the fruit garden where trees are planted in the

present this ad at the ticket counter to

For questions, email Kara Hershorin, membership manager, at

arrangement that Washington recorded in his diaries. If you’re interested in getting your heart-rate up with an invigorating hike, explore the wooded landscape along our quartermile-long forest trail. Mount Vernon has a long history of welcoming guests arriving by river – one of the most scenic ways to arrive on the estate. Today, you can paddle down the Potomac in a kayak, canoe, sailboat or private vessel and dock it at the wharf. Private vessels are welcome on a first come, first served basis but must adhere to the Wharf Master rules. Looking for a more relaxing way to approach Mount Vernon by boat? Take a narrated sightseeing excursion on the Potomac River and take in the majestic views. Members enjoy free daytime access to the estate, 365 days a year! This spring, take an adventure to Mount Vernon and enjoy gorgeous weather while learning about America’s founding father.

Your home. Our Mission.

A lifetime of community insight and over 26 years of real estate expertise: that’s the advantage to working with The Goodhart Group. When you work with us, we guide you through the selling or buying process. We’ve helped sellers to downsize and move-up. We’ve helped buyers to make their first time purchase. We are here for you. Sue and Allison Goodhart 703.362.3221 Compass is a licensed real estate brokerage that abides by Equal Housing Opportunity laws. Information is compiled from sources deemed reliable but is not guaranteed. All measurements and square footages are approximate. This is not intended to solicit property already listed. Compass is licensed as Compass Real Estate in DC and as Compass in Virginia and Maryland. 106 N. Lee Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 | 703.277.2152



Calendar of Events


See events and activities that are coming to Alexandria.


Historic Garden Week Get the lowdown on a tour of Alexandria’s most beautiful homes and gardens.


Pets This Alexandria group saved 400 cats last year: the all-volunteer army behind King Street Cats.



Food & Dining Catching up with Chef Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve fame. What’s he up to now?


Community Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture is teaching veterans how to be farmers. This year, they’ve


signed up their biggest class yet.


Health & Wellness If your New Year’s fitness resolutions fell apart, here’s how to get back on track.


Weddings Planning a wedding in Alexandria?


Here’s your first stop.


Home & Garden Your own private paradise awaits this spring. The experts show us how.


Travel Getting away from it all isn’t as hard as you think. Visit these two great destinations, within


driving distance of Alexandria.


The Last Word Find out about the Cherry Blossom Princess program and meet two local young women representing the Old Dominion.

51 March / April 2019 •


Don’t Relocate, Renovate! It takes time and money to find a new house, and moving is a hassle. Turn your existing house into your dream home! It’s an affordable and easier way to get the home you fantasize about.

• Borrow up to 133% loan-to-value1 • • •

of your home Loan Amounts up to $250,000 Fixed Rate as low as 6.99% APR2 Terms up to 15 years

Visit, stop by any branch, or give us a call at (703) 823-5211.

LTV = Loan-to-Value. The 133% LTV only applies to the Home Improvement Equity Loan. Home equity loans are available on primary residences located in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, DC, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Please check with your tax advisor regarding loan interest deductibility. Closing costs include credit reports, appraisal fee, flood certification, title search, recording fees and mortgage transfer taxes. Members will be obligated to pay the closing costs associated with the closing of this loan request. If a drive by or a full appraisal is required to support the loan request, this expense will paid by the member. Total closing costs generally range from $100 to $1,000 based on the loan amount. Closing costs can be incorporated and paid with the loan proceeds. Members should retain a copy of the home equity disclosures. Member may receive a refund of any fees if the rate changes and the member decides not to complete the process. Property insurance is required and flood insurance may be required. Loan is for home improvements only and documentation of bid/material list/ invoice will be required before loan disbursement. Granting of a home equity loan may result in the credit union acquiring a security interest in the property. Certain restrictions apply. 2APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Rates are subject to change at any time. All credit union rates and terms are based upon the evaluation of applicant(s) credit. Your actual rate may vary. Rate is also tiered on loan terms. Maximum loan term is 15 years and minimum loan term is 5 years. 1

Federally Insured by NCUA



26 Set for Summer There’s a summer camp for every interest: How to choose one.


30 Greener Home, Greener Alexandria You may be “wish cycling” and not know it. Here’s how to avoid contaminating the recycling stream in Alexandria.


Tulips at a home on the 2018 Virginia Historic Garden Week Tour PHOTO BY CHRIS MILITZER

March / April 2019 •


A Letter from

Our Founders


Beth Lawton EDITOR

Mary Ann Barton MARKETING

Heidi Fielding Lora Jerakis Marguerite Leopold

Allen Anderson Kate Barton Meredith Bonitt DESIGN

Jessie Leiber PHOTO EDITOR

Chris Militzer

Alexandria Living Magazine is published six times per year by Alexandria Living, LLC © 2019. 106 N. Lee Street, Second Floor, Alexandria, VA 22314 For newsstand or distribution locations or to subscribe for home delivery, go to

CONTACT US or call (571) 232-1310.


Alexandria Living Magazine fully supports the local business community and offers several unique ways to partner with the publication. • Sponsored articles and multimedia content on the website, in our popular email newsletters and on social media.

Welcome to the fourth issue of Alexandria Living Magazine! As we were putting together our March/April issue during the wintry days of January, many Alexandrians sat home waiting for the federal government to re-open. Many local businesses contacted us to help get the word out about assistance for furloughed workers — and we have been happy to pass that information along on our website and social channels. By the time you read this, let’s hope that life is back to normal. We’re excited about springtime in Alexandria and this issue is packed with ways you can celebrate the season — from beekeeping to creating a butterfly garden to taking part in the annual home and garden tour. More importantly this issue features informative stories starting on Page 30 about how Alexandria is upping its “green game” — from a word with AlexRenew’s CEO about plans to overhaul the City sewer system to a look at how to stop being a “wishcycler” — a person who recycles items we wish were recyclable (but actually do more harm than good). We also find out what not to flush and the fun of driving an electric car.

• Highlighted events in our events calendar, email newsletters and social media.

Also in this issue, don’t miss:

• Sponsored real estate listings.

Arcadia Farm, located in the Mount Vernon area, is helping veterans choose a new path by teaching them how to farm. Read all about it on Page 21.

• Brand awareness through online banner ads designed to boost your business. • Contests, sweepstakes and giveaways.

To learn more about how partnering with Alexandria Living Magazine can help build your business, contact us at or call (571) 232-1310.


Send news releases and story tips to





Did your New Year’s resolution to get in shape fall by the wayside? It’s not too late to get back on track. Here’s how, on Page 22. Is a walk down the aisle in your future? Alexandria has a great resource that should be every couple’s first stop in the planning process. Read about it on Page 24.

Beth Lawton, publisher, and Mary Ann Barton, editor. Photo by Matt Mendelsohn, taken at Virtue Feed & Grain.

Springtime is also a great time to get out and enjoy warmer temperatures and hit the road or start planning a getaway. Our Photo Editor Chris Militzer got all the scoop on nearby destinations with recent trips to Williamsburg, Virginia and Greenbrier, West Virginia, starting on page 51. And we end this issue in The Last Word with a nod toward the season and those who make it special. Not only last year, but this year as well, Alexandria has sent two young women to represent Virginia in Washington, D.C. at the National Cherry Blossom Festival. We love to hear from our readers, so please don’t hesitate to let us know if you have some feedback or a story tip to share. Our favorite note was a letter from one of our readers, a 92-year old fourth-generation Alexandrian, who called the magazine “beautiful,” “informative” and a “treasure.” We hope you enjoy springtime in Alexandria and we’ll see you back here again for our May/ June issue.

Summer will be here before you know it. Don’t wait too long to map out your child’s activities. You can get ahead of the game with tips on finding the right summer camp on Page 26. Ready to get your backyard in shape? Our experts walk you through how to create your own private paradise, starting on Page 41. • March / April 2019

Mary Ann Barton and Beth Lawton Founders


Our Team




Isabelle Baldwin is an artist and writer from western North Carolina, currently living in Washington, D.C. She received her BFA in Photography with a minor in Sustainability from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in writing about visual arts as well as environmental and women’s issues. Her work has been published in the Catholic News Service, Aint-Bad Magazine and Oxford American. When she isn’t working, she enjoys drinking iced chai lattes, returning to the mountains, and cuddling with her dog, Luna.

Susannah Herrada is a freelance writer living in Arlington. Her relatable, transparent style can find glamour in precast concrete or make finance feel accessible. When she’s not putting a scintillating spin on IT or DIY, Susannah hits the road. She logs the adventures and misadventures of family trips, along with collecting the stories of less heard voices from around the globe. Some of her bylines include Washingtonian Magazine, AAA Traveler Worldwide and Home & Design Magazine.

Chris Militzer is a Virginia photographer whose work has been featured by USA Today, the United States Department of the Interior, Visit Virginia and Visit Alexandria. As a travel photographer, Militzer has shot album covers in New York and performances in Paris. As a consultant and photographer, he has aided brands in their social media outreach. Militzer has lived in Alexandria, Virginia for 20 years where he resides with his wife and two daughters.




Angela Swartz is a freelance reporter based in San Francisco. She previously covered education at the San Mateo Daily Journal and technology at the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Her Daily Journal work garnered awards from The California Teachers Association and Peninsula Press Club. She interned at The Washington Post, The Investigative Reporting Workshop, All Things Digital (now Recode), and The Palo Alto Daily Post. Her work also appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and Palo Alto Weekly.

Eric Althoff is an Alexandria-based writer and editor. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Napa Valley Register, Screen Comment and elsewhere. He is the former Entertainment and Culture Editor at the Washington Times, and has covered the Oscars in Hollywood and the Kentucky Derby in Louisville. He has visited all 50 states and has written extensive travel stories about every section of the country. He has also produced the Emmy-winning documentary “The Town That Disappeared Overnight.”

Teddy is a friendly 13-year old Cocker Spaniel adopted by Editor Mary Ann Barton’s family. He can often be found at Mary Ann’s side while she is writing for Alexandria Living Magazine. He enjoys meeting new people, strolling through the streets of Alexandria, as well as chasing squirrels and his favorite toy, a small teddy bear.

March / April 2019 •



EVE N T K E Y Arts Film Food & Dining Family-Friendly Historic/Educational

Calendar of Events March You Can’t Take It With You

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Live Music

Through March 16

March 2 | 12:30 p.m.


Written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, this off-beat, funny, prize-winning comedy has stood the test of time. The play follows two families whose lives are thrown together when their children become engaged. This idealistic take on life, family and love reinforces the idea that you can only live life to the fullest by doing whatever makes you happy.

The Ballyshaners’ St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Town Alexandria kicks off a festive month for residents. The annual parade will feature more than 100 bagpipers as well as an array of classic cars, dogs, dignitaries and local organizations proudly wearing green. The day also includes a fun dog show supporting the Alexandria Animal Welfare League, a classic car show and more.

Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe St.,

Old Town Alexandria,

Pet-Friendly Recreation & Outdoor Shopping Theater


SPRING 2019 • March / April 2019


Home with the Herberts March 2 | noon - 4 p.m. John Carlyle’s son-in-law, William Herbert, immigrated to America from Ireland and married Sarah Carlyle. He became an influential merchant, banker, and politician in Alexandria, resigning as Mayor on the eve of the War of 1812. Step back in time to see what life was like in the 19th century in Alexandria, and to learn more about this part of Carlyle’s family life. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.




Carlyle House Historic Park, 121 N. Fairfax St.,

Rose Care 101 March 3 | 1:30 p.m. Learn the fundamentals of selecting and growing fabulous roses. Lewis Ginter Botanic Garden horticulturist Laurie McMinn will introduce you to old family heirloom roses as well as many new roses that may become your favorites! McMinn shares the essentials of rose care and beyond, including pruning for spring plant health, nurturing great blooms, and identifying pests and diseases. Your roses will thank you. Cost is $10/person. Register online with code 404.44A7 or call 703-642-5173. Friends of Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Rd.,

After-Work Concert Series: Julie Pantinella March 8 | 6 – 8 p.m. Join other music lovers in Old Town Alexandria the second Friday of each month for a concert. Friday, March 8, hear the music of Julia Pantinella, flamenco artist. Sponsored by The Folklore Society of Greater Washington (FSGW) and The Office of Historic Alexandria. Locations will rotate each month. The March 8 concert is at Lloyd House. Beer and wine for sale; light refreshments available as well. No ticket required.

National Cherry Blossom Festival March 20 - April 14 The weather will determine the peak bloom for the cherry blossom trees around the Tidal Basin and here in Alexandria, but the National Cherry Blossom Festival lasts for five weeks and celebrates the beauty of cherry blossom trees and the arrival of spring. Key events include the Pink Tie Party fundraiser presented by ANA at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, the Opening Ceremony at the Warner Theatre, the Blossom Kite Festival on the Washington Monument grounds, Petalpalooza at The Wharf and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade presented by Events DC. The Potomac Riverboat Company here in Alexandria offers cherry blossom Monument Tours, transportation to D.C.’s events and more. Also explore options from the National Mall Water Taxi and the Wharf Water Taxi. In addition, stay here in Alexandria and enjoy “Cherry Picks” from some of Alexandria’s best restaurants. D.C. and Alexandria, and

Lloyd House, 220 N. Washington St.,

March / April 2019 •





Alexandria’s Waterfront Experience Glows with Panoramic New Park and Interactive Art Installation

One of the most highly anticipated transformations of the Old Town Alexandria waterfront, within eyesight of Washington, D.C., is unfolding in 2019 with the opening of a greatly expanded new park area at the foot of King Street. Visitors strolling King Street can take in new panoramic views of the Potomac River from the expanded Waterfront Park, seamlessly connecting Old Town’s historic retail corridor with the water. Coming in March and on display through November is Mirror Mirror, a site-specific sound-responsive temporary public art installation from New York City studio SOFTlab. Created by artist and architect Michael Szivos, Mirror Mirror is an opened circle, 25-feet in diameter and approximately 8 feet high installation that will respond to sound with light, allowing visitors to interact with the artwork and affect its appearance using their voices and bodies. The mirrored exterior reflects the urban environment, the river and visitors themselves but transforms from reflective to transparent when activated, creating what the artist refers to as a “forest of light.” Mirror Mirror is the first in an annual series of temporary public art installations in Waterfront Park. The City of Alexandria’s Office of the Arts will also present commissioned performance works in movement and sound that respond to the new installation.

Alexandria Welcomes Celebrity Tall Ship as New Permanent Attraction

Tall Ship Providence Foundation


The tall ship Providence is slated to arrive this summer as a new permanent attraction. This celebrity tall ship, which has appeared in the international blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean, is a full-scale replica of one of the U.S. Continental Navy’s first warships, which was captained by John Paul Jones, the father of the U.S. Navy, under the leadership of General George Washington. Built in 1768, the ship’s first mission in the American Revolution was to clear the Chesapeake Bay of enemy British ships. The public can look forward to public tours, chartered cruises, educational programs and beer cruises presented in partnership with Alexandria’s own Port City Brewing Company. Look for special events and programming to welcome the ship’s arrival.

Alexandria Historic Homes & Garden Tour April 27 George Washington Parkway Classic April 28 Art on the Rocks at The Art League May 3 Mount Vernon Spring Wine Festival & Sunset Tour May 17-19

For more events and things to do, check out 10 • March / April 2019


The Feminine Side of the Tavern

David Archuleta

March 9 | 10 a.m.

A limited number of soundcheck experience

This specialty tour of Gadsby’s Tavern will help you discover the many roles women played in tavern life! This tour challenges assumptions about a woman’s role in the 18th century and how women interacted with the tavern, a place commonly assumed to be just for men. This tour is also offered on March 16, 23 and 30.

tickets are available as an add-on to this

Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 N. Royal St.,

Facetime with History: Hannah Fairfax Washington March 10 | 1 – 4 p.m. Hannah Fairfax Washington and her sisterin-law Jane Fairfax reminisce about early Alexandria at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. In this ongoing series on the second Sunday of each month, guests will be greeted by a person from the past while journeying through the museum. While the character varies, through conversation and stories, guests will deepen their understanding of the past and how it connects to today. Sponsored by the Gadsby’s Tavern Museum Society.

March 27 | 7:30 p.m.

concert. David Archuleta is known for “Crush,” “Imagine” and his appearances on American Idol and Star Search 2. The Birchmere, 3701 Mt. Vernon Ave., PHOTO BY ERIC SOKOLOVE

Slime Expo D.C. March 23 | 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Celebrate slime! Slime brands, recipes, demos, raffles, a DIY slime workshop, contest and activities. Have fun with all things slime at the Waterford. The Waterford, 6715 Commerce St., Springfield,

Nationals Opening Day March 28 | 1:05 p.m. The Washington Nationals home opener against the New York Mets launches baseball season in the district. Tickets are available now. The Nats had an 82-80 season in 2018. Nats Park, Washington D.C.,



Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, 134 N. Royal St.,

Feminine Flowers March 14 | 6:30 p.m. Join Helen Olivia Flowers for a floral design workshop in their Alexandria studio. All tools, flowers, vases, and instruction will be provided to create a beautiful design. There’s no need to bring anything with you. Workshops are held at standing design tables, so please plan accordingly with comfortable footwear. If you have trouble standing for long periods a stool can be provided with advance notice. Helen Olivia Flowers, 128 N. Pitt St.,

Active for Autism 5K April 14 | 8 a.m. The Organization for Autism Research will be hosting the first Active for Autism 5K. This 5K run or walk race will help spread autism awareness while raising money to fund new research, help award scholarships to students on the spectrum, and provide free resources to families and educators. The race is family and autism friendly featuring a safe, flat, out and back course along the Potomac Yard Trail in Alexandria. There will also be a kids’ dash and post-race party. George Washington Middle School,

March / April 2019 •



The BoDeans April 6 | 7:30 p.m. The American rock band out of Wisconsin came to prominence in the 1980s and 90s with a mix of rock and alternative anthems. In their 35th year, the BoDeans arrive with both hits and new music. The Birchmere, 3701 Mt. Vernon Ave.,

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 April 6 | 8 p.m. and April 7 | 3 p.m. The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra features Rachmaninoff’s intricate Piano Concerto No. 3 with Robert Schumann’s poetic Symphony No. 1 “Spring.” The April 6 PHOTO BY CHRIS MILITZER

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy March 28 | 7:30 p.m.

performance is at the Schlesinger Concert

Geek Tour: Magic Apothecary

Southern California swing revival band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy comes to The Birchmere for a high-energy show. Hits include “Go Daddy-O,” “You & Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight,” and “Mr. Pinstripe Suit.”

March 31 | 11 a.m.

The Birchmere, 3701 Mt. Vernon Ave.,

Adults and children ages 8 and older

Learn about the historic Muggle medicines that inspired the potions and herbology

Hall at Northern Virginia Community College; the April 7 performance is at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.

of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and

Partners in Art

make your own magical sleeping potion!

April 8 | 2 p.m.

welcome. One-hour tour is $15 per person. Advance purchase is recommended due to limited space. Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, 105 S. Fairfax St.,

If you want support reaching your artrelated goals, this is a great opportunity to share those goals and get feedback from a collegial group. Meetings include discussions on exhibit opportunities, the creative process and the local art scene. Any artist can bring 1-3 works either complete or in


Northern Virginia Housing Expo March 30 | 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. This annual regional event co-sponsored by the City of Alexandria provides information and resources on affordable homeownership and affordable rental housing options. Washington-Liberty High School, 1301 N. Stafford St., Arlington,


Don McLean April 5 | 7:30 p.m. American singer and songwriter Don McLean, best known for “American Pie,” released in 1971. The Birchmere, 3701 Mt. Vernon Ave.,

The Grandest Congress: The French and Indian War in Alexandria April 6 | noon – 4 p.m.

Harmony Sweepstakes A Capella Festival

In 1755, Major General Edward Braddock,

March 30 | 7:30 p.m.

March 26 to assume command of all North

Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North America, landed in Alexandria on

This a capella showcase and competition features groups of all vocal styles.

American military forces. Learn more about

The Birchmere, 3701 Mt. Vernon Ave., and

Carlyle House Historic Park, 121 N. Fairfax St., • March / April 2019

Alexandria’s unique role in this war.

progress. All skill levels and media welcome. Donations ($1-3) greatly appreciated. Meetings are held at Del Ray Artisans gallery in the Nicholas A. Colasanto Center. Afternoon meetings are on select Mondays from 2 – 4 p.m.; evening meetings are on select Tuesdays from 7 – 9 p.m. View the full schedule online. Del Ray Artisans, 2704 Mt. Vernon Ave.,




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Lee Fendall House Easter Egg Hunt



Easter Weekend April 19 – 21 | various times Crafts, photos with the Easter bunny, stickers, activities, refreshments and prizes – the Easter egg hunt on the grounds of the Lee Fendall House Museum and Garden every year sells out quickly. On Easter Sunday, “one of our favorite parts is seeing all the little ones in their Easter best,” said Lee Fendall House Museum staff member Megan Ritter at last year’s event. Children 10 and under can hunt for hundreds of colorful, toy-filled Easter eggs, and older children and adults can enjoy the other activities throughout the weekend. Hunts are Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Make sure to reserve your tickets in advance through the Lee Fendall House website. Proceeds benefit preservation of the Lee Fendall House and its grounds and activities throughout the year. Lee Fendall House Museum and Garden, 614 Oronoco St.,

Alexandria’s Holistic Dental Wellness Center

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Alexandria Earth Day

April 10

April 27 | 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Spring2ACTion is a 24-hour online

The 26th Annual Alexandria Earth Day Celebration, held at the Lenny Harris Memorial Fields at Braddock Park, includes children’s activities, exhibits by community groups, food sales, Arbor Day Tree planting, and presentation of the Ellen Pickering Environmental Excellence Award.

event focused entirely on giving back to Alexandria’s nonprofit community. Sponsored and organized by ACT for Alexandria, the day raises funds for local nonprofits. Since 2011, 55,000 people have given more than $8 million to 160 nonprofits through Spring2ACTion. Donors can search through a growing list of participating organizations at Early

Braddock Park, 1005 Mt. Vernon Ave.,

donations are encouraged, as well.

The Savannah Disputation

April 27 – May 18 | times vary

After-Work Concert Series: Two Sisters April 12 | 6 – 8 p.m. Join other music lovers in Old Town Alexandria the second Friday of each month for a concert. Friday, March 8, hear the music of Two Sisters. Sponsored by The Folklore Society of Greater Washington (FSGW) and The Office of Historic Alexandria. Locations will rotate each month. The April 12 concert is at Lloyd House. Beer and wine for sale; light refreshments available as well. No ticket required. Lloyd House, 220 N. Washington St.,

Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe St.,

Parkway Classic April 28 | 8 a.m.

the Friends of the Library organization. Duncan Library, 2501 Commonwealth Ave.,

George Washington’s Mount Vernon to Old Town Alexandria,

MV Big Flea

Looking Ahead

April 25 – 28 | times vary Shop the annual spring book sale at Duncan Library! This sale features hundreds and hundreds of library books with benefits going to the library through

April 27 | 7 a.m. The MV Big Flea is one of the area’s biggest flea markets, raising funds for the Mt. Vernon Community School

Revolutionary War Weekend

PTA. Visit for

May 4 - 5

information about donating unwanted

donations are tax-deductible.

Step back in time during one of the largest Revolutionary War re-enactments in the region on the grounds of George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate.

Mt. Vernon Recreation Center, 2701 Commonwealth Ave.,

George Washington’s Mount Vernon, 3200 Mount Vernon Hwy.,

household items and furniture, as well as for information about the sale itself. All


According to the Little Theatre of Alexandria, “The subject is damnation, but The Savannah Disputation is as light and sweet as the iced tea served by the odd-couple sisters in their proper Southern home. But the sisters quickly lose their southern charm when a young door-to-door evangelist comes knocking to save their souls. This theological comedy with a twist blends the sharpness of wit with the depth of character while telling a story of a crisis of faith.” Tickets are available now.

Pacers Running presents the annual Parkway Classic 5K and 10-mile runs up the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The 10-mile race starts at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. The 5K starts just south of I-495. Both races end in Old Town Alexandria with a large celebration. A kids’ dash is also offered. Registration is already open through

Friends of the Duncan Library Book Sale




703-299-0633 March / April 2019 •





Historic Garden Week Comes to Alexandria Alexandria will help kick off the Garden Club of Virginia’s 86th Historic Garden Week public tour of stunning historic homes and gardens. The local tour on Saturday, April 27 is part of the Garden Club of Virginia’s statewide tour of Virginia’s finest historic homes and gardens during the height of the spring blooming season. The statewide tour runs from April 27 to May 4. The Garden Club of Virginia’s eight-day event includes more than 25 tours throughout Virginia and more than 200 private homes and gardens hosted by member clubs. The annual event is expected to draw an estimated 1,500 garden enthusiasts and tourists to Alexandria. The statewide tour is expected to draw more than 25,000 visitors from around the country. Tour proceeds fund the restoration and preservation of more than 40 of Virginia’s historic public gardens and landscapes, a research fellowship program, and a Garden Club of Virginia Centennial project with Virginia State Parks. Open just in time for spring blooming, planting examples will include Japanese Silverbell, Carolina Jasmine, roses, peonies, clematis and perennials.

16 • March / April 2019


Old Town Tour Details: The 2019 tour in Alexandria is presented by the Hunting Creek Garden Club and the Garden Club of Alexandria from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 27. The walking tour includes private townhomes, secluded gardens, refreshments and a Marketplace at The Athenaeum. In addition, the tour ticket provides access to two Garden Club of Virginia restoration projects — George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens and Green Spring Gardens — as well as other local sites. Other Washington, D.C. area tours include: Leesburg on April 28 and 29, and Fredericksburg and McLean on April 30.

Tickets: Tickets are $45 in advance and are available for purchase at If not sold out, tickets may be purchased the day of the event. For updated ticket information and more details on this event, visit


All Cats Have Nine Lives at King Street Cats BY MARY ANN BARTON

Alexandria is known for being dog-friendly, but the cat community is just as strong. More than 400 cats got a second — or ninth — chance at life last year, thanks to the efforts of the volunteers and foster families behind King Street Cats. Many were senior cats, or those with special medical and/or behavioral needs, that would not have made it out of regional shelters without being rescued by the organization. Unlike some shelters, King Street Cats is under no pressure to get its cats adopted, “so they can stay with us for as long as it takes to find the right home — not just any home,” said Melissa Murphy, who has been a volunteer with King Street Cats since 2004. Each day, King Street Cats gets lists of cats from shelters in the D.C. metro area that “need out” or they will be euthanized. “Whenever we can, we will pull from those lists, especially the senior and special needs cats we know have little chance of rescue,” Murphy said. The organization will also take strays whenever they have room. And, it is the organization’s policy to always take back any cat that was adopted from KSC. “We recently had a 17-year-old returned. Sadly, we always have an extensive waiting list of cats to come into us.” Spearheaded by Ethel Beun, the organization was originally run out of what was the Unique gift shop on King Street. The Alexandria cat rescue group became a 501c3 nonprofit in 2003. The group moved to its new location in 2009, at 25 S. Dove Street in Alexandria, where it continues today.


On average, the group houses about 30 free-roaming cats at Dove Street and more than 100 cats and kittens are housed in about 65 foster homes. King Street Cats is considered an animal shelter and is fully state-licensed and inspected. The facility on Dove Street is about 1,000 square feet. King Street Cats is an all-volunteer run organization with 35 “core” volunteers who treat it like a full-time job, although none of them are paid. Another 65 volunteers help out when they can. “We’re from a variety of places and backgrounds,” Murphy said. “You might find yourself scooping out litter boxes with a vice admiral!” In addition, King Street Cats partners with the Lyles Crouch Traditional Academy’s Animal Crusaders program. “[We] love when the children come to visit with us. It’s awesome that they are being taught about caring for animals at a young age,” Murphy said.

vets at Hayfield and Fort Hunt, our biggest expense is veterinary care,” Murphy said. “We take in a lot of special medical needs cases so that often entails specialists’ visits and surgeries.” The non-profit’s biggest fundraiser each year is ACT for Alexandria Community Foundation’s Spring2Action — the 24-hour online fundraiser. “We have come in the Top 5 since we began participating in it, which is quite a feat as we’re all amateur fundraisers working on it,” Murphy noted. King Street Cat’s other big event is an annual theater night fundraiser at the Little Theatre of Alexandria (this year it’s scheduled for Friday, July 26). More information about KSC’s events is available at “We want to raise enough funds to be able to continue to save senior and special needs cats and kittens,” Murphy said.

Although most cats don’t stay too long at King Street Cats, the resident who has currently stayed there the longest time is a cat named Salali. “She came to us from Kuwait about two years ago,” Murphy said. “She has taken a while to settle down as other cats are not her thing. She has mellowed out a lot so we know it won’t be long now before she picks her person.”

If you want to help King Street Cats but don’t have time to volunteer, you can check out their wish list (it includes food, kitty litter and treats) on the King Street Cats website. “We are so grateful to the local community for their support, without which we simply could not continue our rescue work,” Murphy said. The group does not receive any government funding.

The rescue group spends 100 percent of its donations on the care of the cats. “Despite a generous discount by our super

“We feel so fortunate to be located in Alexandria, which is such an animal friendly community,” Murphy said.

March / April 2019 •



Cathal Armstrong’s Next Dish BY ERIC ALTHOFF

Cathal Armstrong’s father loved food so much that he was appalled his son decided to become a chef. Food was to be made for love, to feed one’s family — not for profit. “In the initial years, they really hated me cooking professionally,” Armstrong said recently over tea at his Alexandria home. “My dad always revered food as something that you did for passion…not for money.” His Irish parents needn’t have worried. Armstrong is now one of the most honored chefs in the region, running several Alexandria restaurants, including Eammon’s and Hummingbird inside Hotel Indigo at the Old Town waterfront. Armstrong last year also opened Kaliwa at the Wharf in Washington, D.C., for which he brought to the menu an Asian flair. It took his parents a while to come around, but Armstrong said eventually they were happy for their successful son. “It was probably 1998 when I was married, [my wife] Meshelle was pregnant, and I was starting to get my own press as a chef at [D.C.’s] Bistro Bis and my name was mentioned in the press,” he said. “Certainly, when we opened Restaurant Eve and it started getting accolades, the pride exploded in them.”

18 • March / April 2019

Armstrong’s Restaurant Eve, named for his daughter (Eammon’s, the fish and chips spot, is named for his son), opened in 2004 on Pitt Street in Old Town and quickly became a fixture. “When we opened Restaurant Eve, there had never really been anything like that in Alexandria‚ a formal fine dining experience,” Armstrong said, adding customers not only hopped the Potomac from Washington but came from as far away as New York and San Francisco once word got out. Armstrong’s profile as a chef rose as Restaurant Eve enabled him to open other establishments. He met two presidents and made a trip to Thailand as a representative of the State Department to teach at a culinary school there, which laid some of the groundwork for the Asian menu at Kaliwa. However, with little warning, Restaurant Eve closed last June after 14 years in operation. Many Alexandrians remain in mourning for the upscale eatery, but Armstrong says it was time to end that chapter. Huge amounts of money were needed to fix defective air conditioning, a hazard for food and workers in often-stifling Southern summertime heat. Furthermore, the kitchen often flooded whenever a heavy rainstorm struck the Alexandria waterfront. More than the cosmetic and mechanical upgrades, however, was that the wow factor had begun to tarnish.

“As the restaurant got older and other newer ones opened, that appeal to the outside market definitely dwindled,” Armstrong said. “In D.C. there’s a constant transient population — every two years, we get a new administration of some kind, and that brings in new people and new guests and new diners, [which] keeps you constantly ‘new’ to a certain extent.” That rotating roster of political workers on both sides of the Potomac just wasn’t enough to keep going, he said, though that news was scant comfort to Alexandria’s foodies.

If you truly love food, you’re always considering how you can make it better than it was the last time.

“The Thursday before we closed — Saturday was the last day — I went to the farmers market, went back to the restaurant, and I just sat at the bar and wrote a whole new menu of nine dishes that we’d never done before,” Armstrong said. “We executed that menu for the last two nights.

of estrangement from his family in Ireland, Armstrong kept his father’s notions of sourcing ingredients as locally as possible in mind when dreaming up new dishes for his restaurants.

“And that reminded me of what was so special about that restaurant, being able to be that natural and that local with a menu. But while we were preparing this beautiful [food], we were in the kitchen where the air conditioning wasn’t working, and it just reminded me why it was time to move on to something else.”

“He was passionate about food, and it cannot be understated how significant it is for a man to have been a cook in Ireland [in the 1970s and 1980s]. It was ‘women’s work,’” he said, with the traditional roles firmly established that men went to jobs while their wives prepared the meals at home.

Kaliwa at the Wharf was coming online as Restaurant Eve was winding down, which required that he oversee lunch and dinner every day for the first few months of operation. While shuttling back and forth from D.C. to Alexandria last summer, Armstrong, who is 50, was involved in a serious car accident. He was largely unhurt, but called it a stark reminder to focus a tad less on work.

Gerry Armstrong sourced family meals from individual merchants he trusted rather than from a central “convenience store,” which was where people only went for soap and toilet paper.

“I leaned back a little bit and let [the restaurants] run by themselves without me being in the kitchen all day every day,” he said, adding that effective staffing allows him to take a bird’s-eye view of his culinary empire. “I’ll spend three or four hours researching a dish rather than five or six hours expediting dinner service. That works better for me.”

After a restaurant Armstrong opened in Dublin went bust, he came to America in 1990 at the suggestion of his father, Gerry, who decreed his son would work in the United States “for the summer” to earn money to return to college. Armstrong found employment in a D.C. Irish pub, working completely under the table, mainly as a dishwasher. When his father entreated him to return to Ireland, Armstrong, for the first time in his life, told him no and stayed in America — both estranged from his family and stranded in legal immigration limbo. He gave up on college, where he had been unhappily studying computer programming, and focused on becoming a professional chef. He soon won the green card lottery and met his wife Meshelle. “It was never really my intention to stay here, but one thing led to another. Next thing I know, 28 years later I’m still here,” Armstrong said with a laugh. Family remains important to him, and even during the years

“Every day, it was a three-course meal in our house, and they always drank wine with dinner,” Armstrong said, adding that enjoying fruit of the vine with supper was also atypical for Irish families during his youth. Gerry worked as a tour operator who sold package holidays to mainland Europe. Since his employers paid for the tours in bulk, if there were “leftovers” unsold, he would take the family, free of charge, to such far-off locations as Tunisia and the Canary Islands. However, changing regulations by the Irish government forced many travel agents out of business, including Gerry. It was then that the Armstrong family garden “went from a hobby of passion to a hobby of necessity,” Cathal said. “We’d have one chicken between eight of us, and the rest of the food on the table would come out of the garden,” Armstrong said. “Out of that you learn a respect for the value of food and that nothing was ever wasted.” It was also how Armstrong came to appreciate the importance of knowing where your food comes from and sourcing meats from local butchers and fishermen. Gerry farmed his garden of potatoes, rhubarb, leeks and berries with manure bought from a local horse farm and used only organic growing techniques long before it became the food movement among hipsters. “You need to be able to see the whole fish before you decide that’s the one you want to purchase,” he said, adding “truly fresh” seafood in America can prove difficult given the enormous real estate between our two coasts. “Most grocery stores sell fillets of fish, so you really can’t tell how old it is. It’s not uncommon for fish to be out of the water for 10, 12 days before it’s sold because you can ‘treat’ it and extend its shelf life.” March / April 2019 •



The Alexandria waterfront provides a bounty for fish shopping, Armstrong said, though he prefers to head out to the Chesapeake Bay with friends to catch rockfish for his kitchens whenever possible. Armstrong returns to Ireland about once per year to visit his mother, Angela (Gerry died in 2014), and acknowledges that while the Emerald Isle remains a special place, Alexandria is home. He continues overseeing operations at Hummingbird and Eammon’s in the Old Town area. Down the road, Armstrong hopes to open what he calls a more traditional Irish restaurant as opposed to the Americanized pubs with their “leprechauns and green beer.” Armstrong, who attended a Gaelic language school in Ireland— where they played the traditional game of hurling instead of soccer—says he has already conceived of the cookbook for that enterprise, and would like to infuse it with some of the music and traditions of his homeland. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll reinvent Restaurant Eve at some point “in all its beauty in Old Town” in another iteration. “We put that restaurant together with duct tape and bungee cords from the very beginning. And after 14 years, the duct tape was

Photo credit: @lynndunston

20 • March / April 2019

[failing] and the bungee cords were fraying,” he said. “I would love to try and recreate it — maybe something a little bit more stable.” When at home, Armstrong says he eats “too many turkey sandwiches,” but maintains that as a professional chef, even off the clock, he constantly seeks to better his skills. “When you become a professional cook, it’s very easy to become complacent,” he said. “If you truly love food, you’re always considering how you can make it better than it was the last time. And that takes discipline, passion and maybe a little bit of insanity,” he said.


From Soldiers to Soil An Alexandria non-profit helps veterans become farmers. BY MARY ANN BARTON

“Farming is a calling in much the same way that the military is,” said Pam Hess, executive director of Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture, located in the Mount Vernon area. This year, Arcadia will see its largest class of veterans participating in its Veteran Farmer Program. “You’re never going to get rich doing it. More and more veterans are enrolling with us. We’re filling a hole in the marketplace. Veterans want jobs where they can be close to their families and get rewarded for a hard day’s work. They want to see tangible results from their efforts,” Hess said. Located at 9000 Richmond Highway, Arcadia operates on land once owned by George Washington — part of the Mount Vernon estate and later the Woodlawn Plantation. Arcadia, a non-profit, sits on the 126-acre site where the Woodlawn Estate museum is located. The organization promotes sustainable growing practices, serves as an educational site for farmers, and helps increase access to local healthy food. “We launched the farmer program in the fall of 2015 and we are about to onboard our 2019 class of 42 veteran farmers,” said Hess. “We’re bringing in a class almost as large as the number we’ve trained.”

In addition to teaching veterans how to become farmers, the program helps them find affordable land, provides easy market access for the food they produce, and reinvigorates the farm sector with skilled new growers eager to begin their next phase of life. The veterans who participate in the program gain enough knowledge about farming to walk away and start their own business. They learn about everything from irrigation problems to pest control to harvesting, Hess said. Many of the participants say their favorite part of the program is visiting farms. “We visit lots of farms around the region — the field trips are their favorite part,” Hess said. “They develop their network. They learn the skills they need to at least be a vegetable farmer, regardless if they’re doing livestock or produce.” The program opens their eyes to farming possibilities. “One marker of our success is people start with one idea of what they think they want to do and then they leave with a completely different plan, after they’ve fallen in love with a particular kind of animal or understand the physicality of vegetable farming,” Hess noted. “We expose them to all of this.” Another piece of the training, she said, is

learning from a talented business trainer, a CPA and tax lawyer who comes in four times a year to do intensive group training and offer one-on-one help. Some of the training takes place at Arcadia Farm, where some of the vegetables that are grown are sold at mobile markets in low-income neighborhoods in the D.C. area. It’s also used as a laboratory classroom for the veteran farmer program. Quarter-acre plots on the farm are also used for a farm incubator program. “The hardest part of getting off the ground as a farmer is getting the land, infrastructure and power,” Hess said, especially in the Northern Virginia region. “With this program, the farmers can use our land and create their own mini farm using Arcadia’s expertise.” Arcadia also pledges to buy produce grown there at wholesale prices so that the new farmers can focus on learning to grow instead of worrying where to sell it, she said. Arcadia continues to help after participants have graduated from the program, with job and land opportunities. Arcadia was launched in 2010 by Neighborhood Restaurant Group; the non-profit and its programs are now funded with a mix of funding sources including government grants, corporate sponsors, fundraisers and tuition.

March / April 2019 •



It’s been a few months since you made those New Year’s health resolutions. If you didn’t stick to them, here’s advice from local personal trainers on how to get back on track. If you made a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier and hit the gym more this year and you didn’t stick to it, you aren’t alone. It can be really difficult to keep fitness resolutions in the cold winter and early spring months — even in a place as active as Alexandria. About 80 percent of people fail at their New Year’s resolutions, according to medical research.

22 • March / April 2019

Small group fitness class at Get Fit Studio

We spoke with some local wellness professionals and personal trainers for answers about how to restart a fitness or wellness resolution this spring.

START SLOW If you’re just getting back into a fitness routine, start simply with moderate to fast paced walking a few times per week, said Carlo Pascasio, head trainer and owner at Get Fit Studio, in an email. “You’ll get more energy from the release of endorphins and it’ll improve your cardiovascular endurance. Then, start to work in some body weight exercises to help build lean muscle mass,” he recommended. The key is to be gentle on your body when you start working out. If you get injured from overextending yourself, you won’t be able to reach your goals, said Wayne Washington Jr., a personal trainer at Workout with Wayne. Another tip: Keep your normal schedule and personal preferences in mind. If you really aren’t a “morning person,” then trying to get up and work out every day at 5 a.m. will not be sustainable or pleasant.



Personal training session at Get Fit Studio

Carlo Pascasio and Ann Pham of Get Fit Studio


Maybe you don’t enjoy running or team sports — that’s fine!

Next, it’s best to make realistic goals that match your lifestyle.

Trying several different types of workouts and activities with

“It’s not a good feeling to set yourself up for failure,” Washington said. Breaking up your big goals (losing 30 lbs.) into smaller ones (losing 10 lbs. three times) can make achievements come faster and provide motivation to keep going. In addition, you need to give yourself some wiggle room. As you reach your goals, it’s necessary to take a rest day or two and moderately indulge in certain foods. “Saying you’ll never eat a slice of cake is unrealistic,” Washington said. Setbacks and slip-ups are also to be expected, said Pascasio. The important thing is to always stay positive and get back on track, he said. Look toward the next short-term goal and do better next time. “It’s never the end of the world!” he wrote.

BUDDY UP It’s important to find a support system and talk about your fitness goals, Washington said. Especially in the months when it’s cold out, people in office jobs can have a hard time avoiding all those free treats in the break room. It’s good to have a spouse, sibling, neighbor or other person to provide positive reinforcement for your goals. “If you talk about your goals with a circle of people, they’re less likely to tempt you if they’re your real friends,” Washington said. Finding a professional trainer can really help give you accountability and knowledge so your workouts are efficient and effective. Don’t think that you “have to” do any specific activity, either.

a friend until you find something that’s fun can help you stay motivated. “You shouldn’t be waking up in the morning dreading a workout,” Washington said.

KEEP TRACK It’s important to track your fitness progress in writing from the numbers to how you’re feeling. A lot of times people come into personal training with body image goals, not realizing they’re going to feel better first, Washington said. Many people notice that they feel less dehydrated, have more energy and have a new sense of self-confidence. “People are very hard on themselves and have a number in their head they feel should be their ideal weight,” Washington said. But other parameters from percentage of body fat to cholesterol and blood pressure levels, waist size, stamina and even confidence can be more important in overall health. “You can get lost in guessing or estimating,” he said. Writing down numbers and observations can help you keep track and can even provide motivation as you watch yourself progress. The one thing that surprises clients is the strength they develop — both physically and mentally, according to Pascasio. “We always like to do photos to track before and after progress for our clients,” he wrote. “Once they reach their goals, they always look at the before photos in awe because they can’t believe they actually did it and kicked their old habits!” March / April 2019 •




Planning a Wedding? Visit Alexandria is a good place to start. BY MARY ANN BARTON

People who are planning a wedding know there are all sorts of decisions to make from where and when to flowers and the guest list. Needless to say, it can get complicated and expensive — fast. For those getting married in Alexandria, there’s a one-stop shop to get help: Visit Alexandria, the City’s tourism arm, can answer questions from visitors and residents alike. Couples seeking assistance and help planning can fill out a form through, and a wedding specialist will work with the couple to determine their needs and desires, and work with them throughout the planning process. From the wedding to rehearsal dinners, welcome bags and more, the Visit Alexandria website provides wedding-specific listings

24 • March / April 2019

and photos for hotels, venues, restaurants and vendors, helping couples get a jump-start on planning. Lorraine Lloyd, Visit Alexandria’s senior vice president of sales, recently talked to Alexandria Living Magazine about getting married in Alexandria.

What are the questions most couples ask about when planning a wedding in Alexandria? The most common requests we receive from couples is for venue recommendations, capacity, availability and costs. Visit Alexandria’s wedding specialist will reach out to the couple to understand what the vision for their special day is and to determine the type of venue they are looking for, whether that is historic, modern, a hotel or a unique venue. Other common questions we get from couples include, “What are the most popular restaurants for wedding-related events?” “What are some fun historic facts about Alexandria?” and “Can you give me more information about the King Street Trolley?”

Do you keep track of the number of wedding celebrations that are held in Alexandria or know which venues are the most popular? Today, thanks to all of the information available on the internet, couples are doing a lot of their own research and contacting vendors directly, so the inquiries to Visit Alexandria represent a small portion of the wedding business that comes to Alexandria. We can report that major hotels such as The Alexandrian, Autograph Collection and Morrison House typically host more than 40 weddings per year. In addition to the traditional hotel

venues, other popular wedding venues include the Torpedo Factory Art Center, George Washington Masonic National Memorial, The Athenaeum and River Farm to name just a few. Restaurants like Blackwall Hitch, Virtue Feed and Grain, Mia’s Italian Kitchen, Cedar Knoll and the Mount Vernon Inn are also popular venues.

What are some of the best-kept secrets about holding a wedding in Alexandria? Alexandria is a great place for a destination wedding. Couples may dream about going to an exotic island for their special day, however many discover that Alexandria is a convenient and accessible location that wedding guests will love and turn into a mini-vacation at much lower costs to all. There’s so much for guests to enjoy as part of the wedding or on their own. While Old Town Alexandria encompasses such a small radius, any kind of wedding can be held here, from one in a historic setting such as at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum or the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, to one in a contemporary setting like The Westin Alexandria, Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa or Virtue Feed & Grain. We have venues that offer indoor weddings as well as outdoor ones and garden weddings as well as waterfront ones. And step less than five miles outside of the historic district and you can host your wedding lakeside in a resort-like setting at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center. Couples love Alexandria because of our beautiful historic backdrop, waterfront experience, accessibility, walkability, unique venues and endless dining options. And of course, Alexandria has an abundance of inspirational locations for engagement and wedding photography. Between the city’s historic charm, red brick architecture and stunning waterfront views, it is no wonder why ranked Alexandria as one of the top romantic destinations in the United States and why so many couples choose Alexandria for their special day.

What are some of the ways a couple on a budget might save money by holding their wedding in Alexandria? Couples on a budget can save money by holding their weddings in non-traditional wedding seasons or off-season, such as July and August and December through March. While the temperature outside may be a little hot or cold, Alexandria has something to offer in all four seasons, and you can take advantage of special savings. Another idea is to consider a Friday or Sunday wedding, as well as some holiday weekends that are slower and offer better rates. Many venues and vendors also offer special deals throughout the year. Couples can learn about those at our website: Wedding-Packages-and-Promotions. Another way to stick to a budget is to keep the wedding intimate and be creative. Rent an Alexandria park or a facility such as the Fraternal Order of Eagles to hold your ceremony and reception, and have your food catered by a local restaurant or food truck such as Smoking Kow BBQ or Meggrolls. Alexandria is already a great venue for saving on transportation because of our easy access to multiple airports, the Metrorail and the free King Street Trolley.


If a couple wants to go all-out for their wedding, if spending is no object, what would be something over the top they could do in Alexandria for their wedding? If a couple is looking to go all-out for their wedding, there are plenty of options. One idea is to rent the Cherry Blossom boat for your wedding and conclude with a private fireworks display. Any wedding on Alexandria’s newly rejuvenated waterfront would also be spectacular. Rent out the Torpedo Factory Art Center and have an outdoor tent on the marina and hire a decorator to provide an over-the-top setting with an awesome band. Then, make a splashy departure and hop on a sailboat for a romantic sail away. Another idea is to book your wedding guests and wedding party at one of the many hotels located within steps of our restaurants and attractions. The Alexandrian, Autograph Collection, for instance, has an incredible suite perfect for getting your entire wedding party ready for the big event.

Any famous couples get married in Alexandria? There have been some famous couples who got married in Alexandria. Monte Durham of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta” had a three-day wedding weekend event that included a blessing ceremony at St. Pauls’ Church in Old Town Alexandria followed by a brunch at the Morrison House hotel. Jamie Leeds, owner and chef of Hank’s Oyster Bar and Hank’s Pasta Bar in Alexandria as well as several restaurants in D.C., also got married and had her reception in Alexandria, at the upstairs portion of Hank’s Pasta Bar.

Have you noticed any wedding trends this season? In terms of trends, Jessica Hewitt, catering manager at The Alexandrian, Autograph Collection and Morrison House, said she has noticed that couples are taking more creative liberty with wedding cakes. We’re seeing everything from cupcakes to donuts to pies. In terms of wedding colors, burgundy, emerald and blush are popular options. DIY weddings are still in, and couples are looking for non-traditional, unique venues. Finally, we are also seeing a continued trend of deconstructed food concepts, with stations and food trucks that lend a reception-style feel to weddings instead of a sit-down dinner experience. March / April 2019 •


26 • March / April 2019




Most schools in the Alexandria area get out for summer vacation in June, and thousands of children will be looking at weeks of freedom.

half-day camp may be a smarter choice. If older children get anxious when they’re away from home overnight, don’t push them to go to a sleepaway camp. Think back over the school year: Were there certain classes or

Or, weeks of boredom.

after-school activities that they really enjoyed? Your budding artist could go to art camp for a week. Kids who love Legos can

For parents who work full time in the summer, figuring out how to keep the kids entertained and safe for 10 weeks or more without the normal school schedule in place can be a challenge.

go to a Lego-focused camp.

Fortunately, Alexandria and the surrounding Northern Virginia area has no shortage of camps to fit the scheduling needs of any parent.

nization. Camps accredited by the American Camp Association

From half-day camps to full day, extended day and overnight camps that focus on sports, arts, science, academics, adventures or just fun, the options are endless.

The ACA encourages parents to involve children in the camp

How do you know what type of summer camp is best for your child? The first step is to take the child’s personality, physical ability and energy level, and interests into account. Particularly with younger children, if they tend to get tired and cranky easily, a

Check into online reviews, talk to other parents, and make sure the camps you choose are accredited or run by a reputable orga( must meet specific requirements in health and safety and in the quality of the programs offered.

planning process: “Together with your child, explore the camp options and examine the materials the camps provide. In addition, many camps have web sites that include photos, maps or virtual tours of the camp facility, sample daily schedules and menus, and information about the directors and key staff. As children become better acquainted with the camp experience and more involved in the decision-making process, they will have less anxiety about going away to camp.”

March / April 2019 •


The Alexandria PTA Council provided this list of questions to ask yourself (and your camper) when making summer selections: • What type of camp? Same-sex or coed? Overnight or day camp? • Should you consider a specialty camp that offers a focused cur-

• For day camps, if before and after care is offered to accommodate working parents, who will be supervising children and what activities take place? • Is lunch and/or a snack served, or do campers bring their own? • If swimming is offered, are lessons included, or is swimming only recreational?

riculum, such as basketball, or a special-needs camp designed for specific physical or medical disability? • How long a session? A child may attend camp for a week or two – or an entire summer.

• Does one counselor stay with a group all day? Or are campers free to roam from one activity to another? • How is adequate supervision assured? • Are parents allowed to drop by for visits at any time?

• Is the staff trained in safety, supervision, counseling, problem solving, and other issues important to working with young children? • Is the price all-inclusive or do extra charges apply for transportation, food service, group pictures, t-shirts, special skills instruction such as horseback riding, and other items? • Are discounts or scholarships available?

The Alexandria PTAC also provides an annual list of local summer camps in a variety of interest areas. While not exhaustive, the list can be a good starting point for overwhelmed parents. Learn more at Camp should be a positive experience for everyone involved, and parents should look forward to welcoming home a happy, fulfilled and engaged camper whether they’re gone just a few hours per day or for weeks at a time.

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THE BEST SUMMER EVER • March / April 2019

Washington Sailing Marina • Alexandria, VA For on-line registration visit Questions? Email


WHY SPEND THE MONEY? There’s value in down time and unstructured play – but weeks and weeks of nothing to do can drive both kids and parents crazy. In addition to providing structure, routine and activities, here are some of the benefits of summer camp: •

96 percent of kids who responded to an American Camp Association survey said camp helped them make new friends.

92 percent of kids said the people at camp made them feel good about themselves.

70 percent of parents responding to the same survey said their children gained confidence at summer camp.

63 percent of parents said their children continued to participate in some of the activities they discovered at camp.

In addition, summer camp can give kids a chance to do a deep dive into a topic of interest, whether it’s video game creation, art or a sport. It provides a chance for kids to learn new skills, spend time outside in a structured and safe environment, and gain independence. A number of summer camps offer financial aid. The growth opportunities from camp can make the cost worthwhile.

OFFERING DAY, STEM, SPORTS & OVERNIGHT CAMPS FOR BOYS & GIRLS AGES 3-13 Our goal is simple – to provide an environment of growth for kids through sports, fun and play. We believe summer camp is a place for kids to try new things, stretch themselves and test their limits.


(Episcopal High School)

OAKTON, VA (Flint Hill School)

Swim now available at both locations!



Save up to 15% HAlex19 (202) 625-1921 March / April 2019 •


30 • March / April 2019


Keepin’ It



From your curbside recycling cart to what’s in your backyard, there are a lot of ways to be eco-friendly at home while helping the entire region.


March / April 2019 •



When You Wish Upon a Cart How to make recycling dreams come true. BY SUSANNAH HERRADA

I was a recycling center’s nightmare. PHOTO BY CHRIS MILITZER

As my recycling receptacle grew from an 18-gallon bin to 65-gallon cart, so did

The truth is that most local recycling

my misguided ‘fill-the-bin’ enthusiasm.

processors have limited ability to remove contaminants, such as food or

With a better-safe-than-sorry ratio-

cosmetic residue, or to separate plastic

nale, into the bin went my Starbucks cup

parts from metal or paper components.

and take-out food cartons. So, too, did almost-empty cosmetics and toothpaste tubes and spaghetti sauce jars with more than a faint residue. I may have even tossed in a defunct phone charging block

I was a “wishcycler,” according to Helen Lee, Environmental Program Manager for Alexandria City’s Resource Recovery. In other words, a well-meaning individ-

or two. Those are mostly plastic, right?

ual who optimistically placed too much

Like many people, I had way too much

items inappropriate for the residential

faith in my big blue bin — not to men-

collection stream. In addition to my

tion the recycling process in general.

transgressions, some wishcyclers try


in the recycling bin, trying to recycle • March / April 2019

to recycle metal pans, hoses, hangers, Christmas lights, food and other organic waste, clothing, and even dirty diapers. Wishcycling hurts the bottom line of jurisdictions across the country, including those in Northern Virginia. Once revenue-producing, recycling now operates in the red. It currently costs Alexandria City about $25 per ton to recycle. (For comparison, trash disposal costs $43 per ton.) This past summer, industry experts warned of an impending doubling in the cost of residential recycling. Though part


Though jurisdictions such as Alexandria can’t change market demand, it is possible to make our supply more competitive by offering cleaner, less contaminated recycling bales.

Instead of contributing to contamination, residents are encouraged to confirm online or double check with their local individual collectors. Here are a few more tips:

Posers in the can. That paper Starbucks coffee cup and take-out food cartons look recyclable, but as it currently stands, the cups and other water-resis-

Turn Your Blue Container Green

tant paper products are recycling contaminants in the general collection. This paper-plastic collab, often referred to as of the increase can be attributed to hiring

poly-cardboard, is sprayed with a thin

workers to tend the sorter when it jams

plastic coating, giving it a waxy sheen. It

and hand-pick through the sloppy mess

not only keeps cups, containers and po-

that comes from our blue carts, a bigger

litical signs from getting soggy, but also

driver of the increase has been China.

from breaking down during the recycling

Once the buyer for about 40 percent of our scrap material, China put the world on notice through an announcement

process. Does it matter? Yes, as too many contaminants in a load could mean it will not be processed.

to the World Trade Organization in July

Tanglers. Similar to the roller in your vac-

2017: China is enacting higher standards

uum at home, plastic bags and film wrap

when it comes to the types of waste and

around the rollers in the recycling sorter

the levels of contaminants the country

and must be manually cut out. This

is willing to accept. China’s announce-

creates costly work stoppages. Instead,

ment meant it no longer wanted recy-

recycle bags and film including bread

cling bales dripping with last month’s

bags, popped air pillows, plastic wrap,

take-out (and, they mentioned, traces of

and dry cleaning bags, in the bin in many

lead and mercury). The result has led to

grocery stores. Search “find a drop off”

a market glut of recycled materials and

at Cut down

plummeting prices.

on plastic bag waste by remembering to

In an effort to clean up our act,

shop with reusable bags.

Alexandria City recently launched a 20-

Other knotty headaches for the recy-

year plan called the WasteSmart Strategic

cler include metal hangers, wires and

Plan (,

cords. (Search “Recycling at Home” at

adopted in January 2019. One arm of the Metal hangers can go

program will educate residents on items

back to the cleaners. Wires and cords (in-

which shouldn’t go in the residential

cluding holiday light strings) are accept-

recycling cart. In some cities, non-re-

ed by the City’s Household Hazardous

cyclables account for 50 percent of the

Waste and Electronics Collection Center

recycling haul. Cutting down on wish-

(3224 Colvin St.). In Fairfax County, drop

cycling should not only positively affect

wires and cords off at collection sites on

the bottom line but will also improve the

West Ox Road in Fairfax or Furnace Road

region’s overall environmental footprint.

in Lorton.

Here are a few ideas to green your waste approach.

CARRY your reusable water bottles and bring your own bags, suggests Jen Budlong Cole, executive director for Clean Fairfax, and you’ll create less waste. “We monitor ten streams in the county, and it’s plastic bags and plastic bottles that we find most often,” she says. To use fewer plastic bags, she recommends starting to use reusables at just one store initially — and see how easy it can be. CONFIRM what can be recycled, and never use plastic bags to contain recyclables in the recycling bin. Watch for the launch of Alexandria’s user-friendly online guide for “what goes where” by checking Fairfax County residents can ask their individual collector or find an index at publicworks/recycling-and-trash. COMPOST organic waste, keeping methane-generating organics out of landfills. Food and other organic waste, including yard debris, can be dropped off in Alexandria at four Resource Recovery Stations located at the City’s Farmers’ Markets ( FarmersMarkets#compost). Find recommended compost servicers in Fairfax County by searching “compost” at CAP plastic bottles. Items smaller than two inches literally fall through the cracks during the sorting process, preventing them from making it into bales which can then be further divided and processed. CRUSH cardboard boxes and cartons — that means more space in carts and trucks, leading to lower transportation costs.

March / April 2019 •


at least the right connections — to recycle some mixed items. That includes foil-lined plastic packages, cosmetic and toiletry items, and alkaline batteries. When it comes to many mixed-materials such as pots and pans, metal blinds, small household appliances like a toaster and other electronics, it can be worth a try to find a new home with a neighbor or nonprofit. If there aren’t any takers, drop items at Alexandria’s Covanta facility (5301 Eisenhower Avenue). Fairfax residents should double check to see what their servicer accepts, but they can always take items to the collection sites at on West Ox Road in Fairfax or Furnace Road in Lorton.

Glass. Glass costs much more to recy-

Organic food and yard waste. ‘Recyclable’ is not synonymous with ‘compostable,’ though that doesn’t keep people from trying. Composting yard waste, soil and food requires a different process. That’s why, although a spot or two of grease on a pizza box is not a big deal, items more contaminated with food waste should not be recycled. To prepare jars and containers for recycling, swish a bit of water and pour out the residue.

Umm… poop. Though it should go without saying, those in the recycling biz would to remind everyone: Do not put pet waste bags in residential recycling or public recycling receptacles. Other cringe-worthy no-nos include diapers, syringes, band-aids, paper towels or tissues. This type of waste not only contaminates recycling but makes it both unpleasant and unsanitary for human workers who sort recycling by hand.

Yogurt, clamshells and other puzzlers. Clamshell take-out containers, rigid plastic lettuce boxes, and yogurt


containers pose a conundrum for many. The answer for Alexandria City residents is ‘no’ when it comes to clamshell type plastic fruit or salad containers, but ‘yes’ for yogurt tubs — as long as they’re clean, dry and empty of food waste. Since Fairfax County contracts with a number of private collection companies, residents should check with their individual servicer. Either way, it’s best to keep an eye on these items, as the recycling market continues to be in a state of flux.

Mixed-materials. There’s no blue magic in the recycling can. Items made of mixed materials only belong in the can IF you can manually separate them first. That means keep out food containers that are cardboard on one side and aluminum foil on the other, or poly-cardboard cups and paper plates. Foil-accented plastic food and laundry pod pouches are not allowed, either. That said, the bins at MOM’s Market (3831 Mt. Vernon Ave.) do seem to have a little fairy dust — or • March / April 2019

cle than other materials, posing a bit of a conundrum for many jurisdictions struggling to find a buyer— Alexandria included. Come spring, the City plans to launch special containers for glass-only collection at all recycling drop-off centers, in addition to continuing to collect glass as part of its single-stream curbside collection. Fairfax County does repurpose glass with one of the area’s only pilot glass programs. Fairfax residents wishing to recycle glass should bring it to collection sites at on West Ox Road in Fairfax or Furnace Road in Lorton for processing into sand and gravel for local use in landscaping and construction. When it comes to mirrors, window glass, and broken glass, individual jurisdictions have their own approach on how to keep shards from contaminating paper and plastic bales. Alexandria City and Fairfax residents should use a hard plastic container to package drinking glass, broken glass and other small glass items before disposing of in the trash. Fairfax asks that windows and mirrors to be taken to the collection sites at 4618 West Ox Road in Fairfax or 9850 Furnace Road in Lorton. Of course, for eye-glasses, the Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center of Northern Virginia encourages residents to use the collection boxes in eye-care centers and many Alexandria City libraries and public secondary schools.


Keep It Out of the Can Here’s how you can do good for the earth and for your neighbors.

Support Mount Vernon Community School, currently accepting items for MV Big Flea at Mt. Vernon Rec Center on April 27. Check the acceptable donations list ( donation-guide/). Year-long, high-quality, gently used clothing and household items can be donated to Look Again Resale Shop (900 King Street). Support local sight-saving programs through Prevention of Blindness Society ( They’ll even pick up large items, as will Salvation Army (satruck. org) and Habitat for Humanity’s Restore (select “Donate Items” on the drop-down “Support” tab at The Habitat for Humanity Restore in Alexandria’s West End also accepts building materials and DIY items such as paint.

For a greener environmental footprint, people need to rethink, explains Lori Arguelles from the Alice Ferguson Foundation, an environmental education and advocacy organization just across the river in Accokeek, MD. Arguelles says a greater focus on source reduction — recycling lingo for creating less waste — places less demands on recycling overall. One simple place to start, explains Arguelles, is by using less products made of styrofoam and single-use plastic, such as plastic straws. She explains that on a recent Potomac Watershed cleanup day, volunteers collected more than 1,600 straws along the waterfront in a period of 3 hours. Individuals and groups can visit and learn more (301-292-5665, 2001 Bryan Point Rd, Accokeek, MD). Jen Budlong Cold, executive director for Clean Fairfax, agrees. She suggests that in addition to learning the do’s and don’t’s of recycling, individuals should add a host

of other environmentally sound ‘r’ words into their vocabulary, including refuse, reduce, reuse, reclaim, rot, renew, rethink and repurpose.

I’ve come a long way from my wishcycling days. More importantly, my entire family has adopted a few ways to cut down on waste. Stainless steel, dishwasher-safe straws have replaced plastic straws for my teens. And I make it to the grocery store check-out line, more times than not, with a crumpled pile of reusable bags. Our next challenge? Composting. For now though, we’ll celebrate the small victories. Keep updated on how you can start better recycling habits by signing up for Alexandria City’s Solid Waste & Recycling eNews ( Fairfax County residents should visit recycling-and-trash to learn who their collector is, what they take and more.

With local roots, DreamDog Foundation has been serving the area since 2002 and accepts gently loved or new books, along with baby items, all of which support their youth intervention and family programs (scroll to the bottom of about-us to click on the “volunteer” tab). Help fight homelessness by donating gently used or new household items including twin sheets and air mattresses, along with personal care items, to Carpenter’s Shelter (at 5701-D Duke Street; contact Jamila Smith at 703-548-7500 ext. 213). Take your older but unstained towels and fleece blankets to Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (4101 Eisenhower Avenue). As with all non-profits, it never hurts to call the shelter first to assess current needs and storage capabilities (703-746-4774). Got a drawer full of shells, buttons, marbles, keys, costume jewelry, and cassettes? Upcycle Creative Use Center (1605 Cameron St.) accepts a surprising plethora of junk drawer collections, and likely much of the stuff in your catch-all closet pile. For a complete list, select “Materials Donation” on the “Materials Center” drop-down menu at An added bonus: the center accepts donations of medium-sized glass.

March / April 2019 •



Meet Alexandria’s Wonder Woman of Water AlexRenew tackles the City’s most expensive capital improvement project yet. BY MARY ANN BARTON

Karen Pallansch, Chief Executive Officer of Alexandria Renew Enterprises

As CEO of Alexandria Renew Enterprises (AlexRenew), Karen Pallansch knows more about Alexandria’s waste water system than just about anybody.

Agency (EPA), approximately 772 cities in the United States

The independent public wastewater authority serves more

family to attend college and has been in the water utili-

than 300,000 people in Alexandria and parts of Fairfax County. Its customers use about 35 million gallons of water daily, nearly 13 billion gallons of water a year — enough to cover all of Alexandria to a depth of four feet. Dirty water from Alexandria area homes and businesses travels to AlexRenew, which cleans the water and returns it to the Potomac River via Hunting Creek. The 24/7 operation employs about 100 wastewater professionals dedicated to protecting public and environmental health.

have combined sewer systems, including the District of Columbia, which is implementing a similar program to address the issue. Pallansch, a Philadelphia-area native, was the first in her ty industry for 30 years — 25 of those with AlexRenew. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh (B.S. in chemical engineering) and Texas A&M University in Texarkana (M.S. in Business Management). Her water utility career started in 1989 at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) as a Senior Environmental Engineer in their Northern Virginia regional office, implementing the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act and state Water Control Law, and leading infrastruc-

Between now and 2025, AlexRenew has a massive project on

ture construction inspection and funding management. After

its hands: working with the City of Alexandria to remediate the

the DEQ, she moved to the Alexandria Sanitation Authority —

sewer system so it can treat water that now comes out “out-

now Alexandria Renew Enterprises — as a staff engineer, and

falls” into the Potomac River. The current capital cost esti-

will be celebrating 25 years at AlexRenew this year. In 2005,

mates for the RiverRenew project is estimated between $370

the citizen-led AlexRenew Board of Directors named her Chief

million and $555 million.

Executive Officer.

Alexandria isn’t alone in its need to fix a sewer system that

Alexandria Living Magazine talked to Pallansch about the project,

dates to the 1800s. According to the Environmental Protection

her background and more.

36 • March / April 2019

Q & A with Karen Pallansch What got you interested in engineering?

I always loved making a difference, seeing an issue differently than others and finding a meaningful and empathetic solution that served everyone. Being the first in my family to attend college, I had no mentor or guidance through that process. I landed in engineering based on my understanding that engineers could pretty much find any area that needed to be fixed, which meant that engineers quietly served to make our communities and our lives just a little better every day. I had no idea what a great choice that would be for me. Today, I remain passionate about leading our team, learning and solving problems in ways that have a positive impact on our community and its waterways. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in an industrial town outside of Philadelphia. There were a variety of industries, from auto parts to tire building to Mrs. Smith’s Pie Company to textile mills, all of which were dependent upon the Schuylkill River for the water needed for make their products. Often, however, the Schuylkill showed signs of stress from the variety of users of the river. Sometimes, the river was denim blue or yellow or red, depending on the dyes used that week at the mill. Today, with the departure or closure of many of the industries and new and improved water treatment processes, the river is amazing in its beauty, and a natural connection for people in the community. AlexRenew is working with the City of Alexandria to remediate the sewer system. Can you give our readers an idea of the scope of the project?

Alexandria has what’s called a combined sewer system, largely centralized in Old Town. In a combined sewer system, only one kind of pipe is designated for transporting both sewage and rainwater. When it’s not raining, these pipes transport sewage for treatment at AlexRenew. On rainy days, the capacity of the combined sewer pipes is often exceeded. Instead of being transported and treated at AlexRenew, sewage mixed with rainwater overflows into our waterways

via four discharge points, or “outfalls.” These discharges pollute our waterways with bacteria and trash, posing health risks to residents and wildlife. In April 2017, the Virginia General Assembly passed a new law requiring the remediation of these outfalls by July 1, 2025. The program to remediate the outfalls and capture the discharges is called RiverRenew. RiverRenew includes the construction of a tunnel system that will connect to the four combined sewer outfalls, capture the discharges, and transport the sewage/rainwater mixture to AlexRenew, where it will be cleaned and returned to the Potomac River. The tunnel system includes: • A two-mile-long, 100-foot-deep, 12-foot-diameter tunnel;

• Sewer infrastructure constructed at the existing outfalls to connect the existing combined sewers to the deep tunnel, referred to as “diversion facilities;” • A 0.5-mile-long sewer; and

• Upgrades to the processes for debris and bacteria removal at AlexRenew. What’s the time frame for the project?

Currently, RiverRenew is in its planning, permitting and design phase. We are required to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, to construct the tunnel system. This process requires the evaluation of various routes and locations of the proposed tunnel system and the analysis of potential impacts to the community, environment and historic resources. Due to the accelerated time frame imposed by the Virginia law, we’re currently working through this process as well as conducting field investigations and advancing designs. Construction to upgrade AlexRenew’s treatment processes so that our facility can treat the additional dirty water we will be receiving is anticipated to begin as early as July 2019. The tunnel system and associated construction in the Alexandria community will start in 2021 and last through 2025. The Virginia law requires the completion of the program by July 1, 2025.

Will the community be involved somehow?

Definitely. RiverRenew has recently established an active and informed Stakeholder Advisory Group that will provide diverse perspectives throughout the various phases of the program. The group is tasked with reviewing and monitoring program progress, serving as spokespeople for RiverRenew, receiving input from the public, and providing recommendations to mitigate community impacts. The group, comprised of 13 Alexandria community representatives, meets monthly (this started in February 2019) and is continuing through mid-2020. In addition to the Stakeholder Advisory Group, RiverRenew kicked off an extensive community education and collaboration program in July 2018. Our efforts initially focused on civic and homeowners’ associations to provide an overview of the program. In September 2018, a series of public Community Listening Sessions were conducted to update the community on the proposed tunnel routes and facility locations. The sessions were focused on obtaining the community’s input on the proposed alternatives to support the NEPA process mentioned above, and to help optimize the design while minimizing community impacts. An additional round of Community Listening Sessions will be held in late spring 2019, following a decision on the final route of the tunnel system. RiverRenew is launching an e-newsletter in the next few months that will highlight the latest program updates, events, and give community members an inside look at the program. (You can sign up online at We are also looking to engage local schools to support STEM education and generate an interest in water quality and the environment. What will the cost be and where will the funding come from?

Current capital cost estimates for the program range from $370 million to $555 million. This estimated range is based on the current level of design, about 10 percent, and will continue

to narrow as design progresses. Funding for RiverRenew will be largely borne by ratepayers in Alexandria through sewer bill increases. AlexRenew and the City of Alexandria are currently working with the Governor’s office to identify potential state grant funding for the program and will continue to look for additional grants to offset the costs of this mega project. Will the work be disruptive to streets or any infrastructure while it’s being built?

Construction to connect the existing combined sewers to the tunnel system will cause disruptions near the existing outfalls. At these sites, new sewer structures will be built to convey millions of gallons of sewage mixed with rainwater into the tunnel system. It is anticipated that there will be traffic disruptions, noise and vibrations, soil disturbances, utility disruptions, dust, and emissions during construction of these structures. Once construction is complete, the new structures will largely be below-ground. The deep tunnel is proposed to be constructed using a state-of-the-art tunnel boring machine, or TBM. The TBM can accomplish the construction of a long tunnel without digging up major portions of the city. The TBM will dig out the soil deep below ground and install a new tunnel in the void that’s created, remove soil through the newly created tunnel, then lift it to the surface via an elevator. What would you advise young people interested in engineering?

I would tell them to pursue their passion by getting involved in STEM education programs at school, More importantly, I would tell them to make sure they also engage in a variety of learning, including the arts, music and other creative passions. Be part of organizations that promote or foster public speaking. Get involved in your local community to understand how local regulations and policies work so that you better understand how to achieve your outcomes if you have to design a project that impacts public areas in your local community. I find that the best engineers are those with incredibly broad and diverse backgrounds.

March / April 2019 •



Across the country, aging sewer systems are meeting modern conveniences – and those meetings don’t always go smoothly. Alexandria is no different. With an aging system, officials are working hard to replace water mains, sewer lines and protect the environment at the same time. In 2017, the Commonwealth of Virginia passed legislation requiring the City of Alexandria (and other jurisdictions) to remediate all of its combined sewer outfalls for environmental protection. Alexandria’s Long-Term Control Plan Update, submitted to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in 2018, “proposed the construction of a deep underground tunnel system to bring combined sewage to the AlexRenew wastewater treatment facility and will result in significant reductions in the number and volume of combined sewage discharged into City waterways,” according to City documents. That plan was approved in July 2018 and is in progress under the control of AlexRenew.



- OR -


To Flush

to Flus

HOW YOU CAN HELP Residents can help ensure that city pipes and waterways stay clear of contaminants by being careful about what goes down the toilet in the first place. (Hint: If it’s not toilet paper, it should generally go in the trash.)

 Toilet Paper

 ‘Flushable’ Wipes

 Medications

 Cotton Balls

Of course, normal toilet paper can be flushed, as it is designed to break down. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the most environmentally-friendly toilet paper isn’t exactly the softest, prettiest kind. They recommend buying toilet paper that is made mostly of recycled content to help prevent deforestation.

Many wipes are supposed to be “flushable,” but they contain materials that don’t break down and end up in our waterways. Unlike toilet paper, wipes take hours to disintegrate and can create clogs in the sewage system. To be safe, don’t flush any wipes — even the so-called flushable kinds.

Along with paper towels these are manufactured to stay together. That means there are binding agents in there that don’t break down. These should go in the trash.

 Kitty Litter

Dental floss should go in the wastebasket, not the toilet. It doesn’t break down and can contribute to clogs in the pipes.

Medications are another no-no for our sewer system. The chemicals in medications end up directly in our rivers and streams. To dispose of medications, keep an eye out for local Drug Enforcement Administration medication take-back events, locally sponsored by the Sheriff’s Department. The next national Drug Take Back Day is April 27, 2019.

Definitely do not put kitty litter into the toilet. It does not dissolve and it will create clogs.


 Floss • March / April 2019

 Contact Lenses Contacts may eventually break down into smaller pieces, but they are a contributor to microplastic pollution in our waterways and should be put in the trash.

 Tampons

(And Other Feminine Hygiene Products)

The absorbent materials in tampons contribute to clogs in the system. The best place for them is in the trash, according to the tampon manufacturers themselves.

 Condoms Condoms should not be flushed, ever. They can get stuck in the system and do not break down. Put these in the trash.


All of the Go, None of the Gas We drove an electric car for a week. Here’s what we learned. BY BETH LAWTON

“This car is awesome!” PHOTO BY CHRIS MILITZER

It was my 8-year-old son who said it, but the entire family agreed. We spent a week driving around Alexandria in a 2019 Chevy Bolt EV (electric vehicle) to find out whether buying an electric vehicle — or leasing one — would be the right move for us. We’re a family of four (six if you count the dog and cat). Currently, we’re driving a 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and a 2007 Ford Escape that’s… well, showing its age. When the time comes, we decided, we’d be replacing the Escape with a larger SUV or a minivan, and replace the car with another hybrid. Driving the Bolt EV changed our thinking. We think we still need a “hauler” — something that can carry our kids, plus their friends and all their stuff (and, every two months, a couple thousand magazines). But the replacement for our Fusion is now very likely to be an electric vehicle. YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY Fully charged, the Bolt EV can go up to 238 miles, largely eliminating “range anxiety” — the fear of being stuck somewhere with a dead battery. Alexandria has dozens of

charging stations in condo buildings, public parking garages, at hotels and in shopping centers, making it easy to charge on the go. The Bolt EV gets 119 miles-per-gallon equivalent – substantially more than the average 30 mpg our Fusion gets and the 20 mpg our Escape manages on a good day. Like with all cars, your mileage will vary depending on a variety of factors from how aggressively you drive to how much you use your heat (or air conditioning). Chevrolet provided a number of tips on efficient driving, including keeping the heat on low, or compensating with the heated seats and heated steering wheel in the winter. Driving the Bolt EV in “low” gear provides additional power regeneration when stopping. Eerily quiet, surprisingly peppy and packed with fun technology, the Bolt EV handled well in the cold December rain and felt surprisingly roomy. CHARGING AT HOME I was able to charge the Bolt EV from our standard, 120-volt outdoor electrical outlet at home, but the charge speed is called “trickle” for a reason. Two hours of charging at home yielded about nine miles of charge. Is it worth having a Level 2 or 3 charging station installed at home? As my 5-yearold would say, “one hundred thousand million percent” yes. You may be lucky enough to live in a condo building or townhome community where there’s already a charging station. Or, the garage at your workplace has one. If you’re one of those people, that’s a huge benefit. For the rest of us: Getting an Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE) station installed at home isn’t difficult, but it will cost you $500 to $1,000 for the equipment. Installation is extra and the cost depends on how close you can install the ESVE to your home breaker box and whether your home electrical system needs to

March / April 2019 •



be upgraded before installation. Yes, you can install an ESVE on


the side of your home if you don’t have a garage.

The Bolt EV we drove was top-of-the-line and packed with technology and conveniences. Wireless charging and Apple CarPlay (or the Android Auto system), as well as SiriusXM, OnStar, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, overhead and rear-facing cameras, intelligent high beams, cruise control, lane awareness and more were included. The base price for the Bolt EV starts at $36,620; the one we drove was closer to $42,000. There are federal rebates still available.

Newer ESVEs have wireless connectivity, apps, dedicated meterage and more, but Consumer Reports recommends going for a “dumb but reliable” ESVE. Most electricians should be able to install this, but some dealerships can provide a list of local, certified electricians they trust. CHARGING ON THE ROAD My need for a faster charge than the at-home trickle is why I ended up working from Starbucks on a Thursday morning. Two hours of charging at a Level 2 charger in a public parking garage in the Carlyle neighborhood cost 90-cents for energy (plus $11 for parking). The car gained 37 miles of charge. Level 3 (DC Fast Charging) stations, which can provide up to 90 miles of charge in less than an hour, are harder to come by in public locations. Download the PlugShare and ChargePoint apps for your mobile device to see what stations are available near you — but be aware that some are Tesla-only, and others are just wall outlets to provide that ‘trickle.’ Clicking on each map point will give you details and useful information from other EV drivers. On the plus side, avoiding the boring task of filling up at a gas station in the chilly December weather was worth its weight (or price) in gold. Driving a Bolt EV saves the average driver $4,000 in gas over 5 years of ownership.

40 • March / April 2019

The Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus EV, Tesla and other popular EV models also come in a variety of trim levels and price points, and it’s worth test driving all of them to see what you need and like. If you take really long road trips (frequent drives to New York City or the Outer Banks), you’ll want to factor in charging time along the way. There are Level 3 charging stations at some rest stops, and Level 2 stations at others. Again, the ChargePoint and PlugShare mobile apps are your friends. The rear seats do quickly and easily fold flat, giving you 56.6 cubic feet of storage. If you really need a large vehicle that can carry people and a ton of stuff (a “hauler,” as we call it) or something with towing capabilities and this is your only vehicle, then this may not be right for you. But the Bolt EV is a great option for anyone who needs a car for driving around Northern Virginia, commuting into the District or just getting around. My 8-year-old boy gave it two thumbs up. I agree, little buddy.



Take It Outside Backyards, Butterflies and Bees We talk to the experts about how to design beautiful outdoor living spaces you’ve always dreamed of, plus we take a look at eco-friendly butterfly gardens and the ABCs of beekeeping.

March / April 2019 •



Making the Most of Your Great Outdoors Transform your backyard from boring to beautiful (and add value to your home).


Studies have shown that an average landscaping project can cost between $1,800 and $3,200 (decks and patios cost much more), but the projects can increase the value of your home anywhere from 5 to 20 percent. Exterior improvements are one of the few home projects that really do pay for themselves. In addition, a great yard can cut down the time your home spends on the market by 10-15 percent. “Plan out every inch, because every inch is valuable,” said Nate Moore, as he detailed the importance of maximizing exterior spaces. Moore is the CEO and founder of Moore Construction


Group, a full-service design-build company. Moore’s team specializes in large-scale home improvements,

Whether you’re considering selling your home or staying for the long-term, your backyard space can add value to your home and make it a more enjoyable place to live.

ranging from bathroom remodels to whole-house renovations with additions. However, it’s fairly common in Moore’s line of work for clients to request a renovation for their yard after having their home done. “In Alexandria, so many yards are private with fences on both

In some neighborhoods, large backyards can be a luxury, but even small townhome patios, designed and landscaped properly, can come with a huge return-on-investment.

42 • March / April 2019

sides, so it becomes its own little oasis for most people, and that’s extremely valuable,” he said. “You can really make some beautiful outdoor spaces here.”

WHERE TO START As with most home renovation projects — inside or outside — your current (and desired) lifestyle is the major consideration. If you hate mowing the lawn but don’t have the funds to hire a lawn service company, having a huge expanse of grass in your yard may not be your best bet. Do you like spending time outside on nice evenings? Do you enjoy cooking? Did you always want a deck or patio or screened-in porch, or maybe a complete outdoor living room and kitchen? Moore recommends first contacting a design-build company, talking to them about your budget and lifestyle, and having them create a computer-generated design to visualize the improvements. The company you choose should also be able to look at and manage any grading and drainage issues that could affect the design and budget. “It’s really nice to see how every inch is going to be used,” said Moore. In one recent project, Moore worked with Realtor Christine Sennott, who fully renovated and expanded the historic home she owns in the Parker-Gray neighborhood in Old Town Alexandria. With an eye toward indoor-outdoor living, Sennott had Moore install large sliding doors along the back of the rowhome that lead to a brick patio under a pergola. This spring, Sennott plans to landscape the rest of her small lot with a plants, a garden, patio furniture, lights and a shed. (Read more about the renovation of 210 N. Payne Street at

PATIOS, DECKS AND PORCHES Old Town residents will find that there may be more restrictions in terms of renovations in the area due to the historic nature of the neighborhood.

Although patios are more work – and have a slightly lower ROI – than decks, they can be more functional for city landscapes, which is why Moore recommends them. “People tend to go more with stone because so much of Old Town is brick and stone. I would say that is vastly more popular than any rear deck,” Moore explained, adding, “You want to have it flow with the environment of the house you have.” However, outside of Old Town, a number of homeowners are choosing to build decks (either traditional wood decks or higher-end composites like Trex). An increasingly popular option for homeowners is a transitional area between indoor and outdoor living — often a screened-in porch.

What about a pool? If have a large, flat backyard, the hot summer days may make you wish you had a pool. But a pool is a major commitment of time and money.

An in-ground, concrete pool can cost tens of thousands to install in addition to ongoing costs for water, electricity, maintenance, a fence (required in some areas) and insurance.

An above-ground pool is less expensive to install and maintain, and it can be much easier to remove before selling a home if the new owners aren’t interested in keeping it.

However, many people think they’re not as attractive and there is a greater chance of leaks than there is with an in-ground pool.

Whether it’s harder to sell a home with a pool is up for debate among real estate professionals. With the right description and at the right time of year, a home with an outdoor pool can sell quickly.

Consensus seems to be that a pool is something homeowners should install for their own enjoyment, not as a presale improvement.

March / April 2019 •



Much more expensive than a simple deck, a screened-in porch offers the benefit of an outdoor living room with some protection from weather and bugs. The ROI can be 50 percent to 75 percent, depending on the size, materials used and how much work is going into the build itself. An architect or a design-build company can help homeowners understand the cost and options and decide between a patio, deck or porch.

OUTDOOR KITCHENS For some cooking enthusiasts, having a nice gas grill isn’t enough. An increasing number of homeowners are adding full kitchens to their backyards, complete with a gas line for that grill, plumbing, electricity, counters, cabinets and a dining area. The cost of adding an outdoor kitchen can range from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on the size and complexity. The ROI can be anywhere from 55 percent to 200 percent. If you want something much more simple, a brick or stone firepit and outdoor patio furniture surrounding it may be perfect for your space. Some people create things so complex and custom that it makes selling the home difficult later on. If you’re thinking ahead to selling the home, simple may be better, Moore said. “Just like any other advice for maximizing your return on investment, if that’s what you’re looking to do: Try to make it as vanilla as possible, so it can draw as many people as possible.”

What are the options for

Downsizing in Greater Alexandria?

LOWER COST RENOVATIONS Simple updates can include re-sodding your lawn (up to $2 per square foot professionally installed), trimming and weeding your bushes and plants, and adding flowers and other mature plants to your home’s entrance. All of these can go a long way toward making your home attractive whether you’re living there or trying to sell. Other inexpensive options to explore are power washing the home, adding planters, or buying new outdoor furniture to make a space more functional.

Explore Our Options! People often ask this question – and Alexandria has the answers! This 12-page booklet describes some of the many, many options in our area. From small single family homes to townhomes and condominiums, explore what we have to offer!

Call, email, or text for your free copy — either by mail or email. Plus check out some of the articles and discussions on our Facebook page or website — PETER CROUCH, Associate Broker 703.244.4024 2018 SRES National Winner Outstanding Service Award

NVAR Lifetime Top Producer


Specialist in “Mature” Moves • March / April 2019



Do I Have a Good Excuse to Not Go Solar? It’s becoming much more common to drive through Northern Virginia neighborhoods and see solar panels on the roofs of homes. Every week, hundreds of people across the country – and many in Alexandria – are making the decision to power their homes with solar energy. No longer the high-cost, complicated process it was 10 years ago, homeowners who are going solar understand that making the switch makes a lot of sense for their wallets and for the environment. What separates these homeowners from the curious majority still waiting? They have asked themselves, ‘What’s my excuse? What keeps me from going solar today?’ For people who meet a few basic criteria, going solar is a no-brainer. Ask yourself these questions: • Does my house get enough sun? • Is the electrical and structural infrastructure of my house up to code? • Do I have good credit? Does my house get enough sun? The metric we use to answer this question is called “sun hours.” To find out how many sun hours your home receives, you can use a satellite sun measurement program that is available to the public. I would suggest plugging your address into the Northern Virginia Solar Map website at If you see a lot of red or orange, you are in good shape. The next factor is which direction your roof faces. If you have a south facing roof with minimal obstruction from trees, then you have the holy grail of solar orientation, and solar will absolutely make sense for your home. Any roof section

that is unobstructed will produce electricity, with south-facing roofs offering the most sun hours.

The answer is simple — equity. Solar of-

Ok, I get a lot of sun now what?

Instead of spending $150 per month on

Is the electrical and structural infrastructure of my home up to code? Not everyone will know how to answer this question, which is why I suggest calling a certified solar team and getting a site survey. Vivint Solar offers this for free and will be able to tell if your house is a good fit in less than 30 minutes. What they look for is the condition of your electric panel and the structural integrity of your roof. Finally, they review your current electrical usage so they can figure out what size system your home needs to be 100 percent solar powered. The next question can be a bit uncomfortable for some people, but it’s important: Do I have a good credit score?

fers you the same thing by giving you the ability to turn a cost into an investment.

your electric bill at an inflation rate of 0.5 percent per year, a solar loan allows you to spend $50 and invest the other $100 with no inflation for 20 years. The better your credit score is, the lower your interest rate will be on a solar loan and the more your investment will pay off for you over time. On top of that, loans have end dates, unlike your traditional electric bill. Even if you are not going to be living in your home for 20 years, you can take the equity that you’ve invested and pass along the additional savings to the new homeowner, contributing to your increased home value. According to a University of California at Berkley study, your solar-powered home will be

Before you start thinking, “Oh, here we go. I knew this was going to be expensive…” let me explain.

worth $4,000 more per kilowatt than

Currently if you own a home in Northern Virginia, you have a contract with a power company that won’t end until you leave this beautiful state. Every month, you pay your electric bill at ever-increasing rates.

haven’t even factored in the available

With the right solar system, you get a much better deal. Here’s how: Why did you buy your home instead of renting it?

homes that are powered by traditional electric service. In other words, solar already makes financial sense and we tax incentives. To learn more about tax incentives, have your home assessed and get your questions about solar answered, contact James M. Granum, Clean Energy Consultant with Vivint Solar at (571) 550-1064 or

March / April 2019 •



Good Gardens Make Good Neighbors Butterfly populations are dwindling. Here’s how to attract them to your garden. BY ISABELLE BALDWIN

The saying goes that good fences make good neighbors, but good gardens can be just as effective. As notably quiet creatures, butterflies can easily add a spark of color and life to anyone’s garden — but they offer more than just their good looks. Butterflies and moths are indicators of a healthy ecosystem and collectively add great value to their environment, including playing a role in pollination and offering natural pest control. “For many people, one of the greatest joys of their gardens is the wildlife that their plants attract. With just a little information, even the tiniest patio garden can include plants that invite butterflies to stop and feed,” said Maureen Robinson, a landscape designer with Blue House Gardens, a company that creates unique small and large-scale residential projects. Robinson believes that good gardens make good neighbors – and good hosts. The biochemist-turned-outdoor-nature-enthusiast completed her degree in Landscape Design from The George Washington University in 2008 and “never looked back.” Butterfly gardens tend to be viewed as a specialty, she explains, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. “When we think of butterfly gardens, we typically think of a sunny flower meadow with Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans, but, interestingly, trees and shrubs can also be quite attractive to butterflies,” Robinson said. In fact, very little is required to turn an outdoor space into a butterfly garden. With the right growing conditions — determining the direction of the sun, available space, and how moist or dry the soil is — and some seasonal weeding and plant support, anyone can create their own backyard butterfly garden.

46 • March / April 2019

Monarch butterfly on Thoroughwort, photo courtesy of Jennifer Gonzalez

STARTING A BUTTERFLY GARDEN: KNOW BEFORE YOU GROW Butterfly gardens serve two purposes: charm and function. Different species of butterflies have different needs. The best garden plans strive to include more native plants. Focus on plants that can provide food for both caterpillars and adult butterflies while supporting the local ecosystem. You can create a standalone entity within the landscape by building a separate bed for a butterfly garden, or incorporate new, wildlife-friendly plants of your choice into a larger garden plan.

NATIVE BUTTERFLY-FRIENDLY PLANTS Virginia’s native plants are naturally beautiful, low maintenance, and good for the environment. Once planted in the right place, native plants are already adapted to local conditions, requiring less water and ongoing care.

Neighborly Tip Ask your neighbors if they’re interested in butterfly habitats. If they are, coordinate your plants to provide more variety and quantities.

Above: Black-eyed Susans make a butterfly-friendly garden, photo courtesy of Blue House Gardens Above Right: Monarch butterfly, photo courtesy of Jennifer Gonzalez

Monarch Butterflies Butterfly gardens are more important now than ever before, with recent studies showing that monarch butterflies are in crisis. The

To attract adult butterflies, it is best to plant a variety of native plants with different bloom times in order to assure that something is in flower from early spring to late fall.

What you choose to plant depends in part on your personal preferences for color, structure and aesthetics. Robinson offers a few design principles for your garden:

Plant greater numbers of fewer varieties: 10 plants of three different varieties is going to look a lot better than 30 completely different plants. Robinson recommends that you try to keep some consistency in the garden.

Plant in masses and use the principle of repetition. Planting large quantities – and grouping the same plants in 2 or 3 places - will increase the likelihood that butterflies will find and feed on your plants.

Read plant tags carefully. Look for plants that are neonicotinoid-free. Neonicotinoids are insecticides taken

being eaten by leaf-chewing insects. That may sound appealing, but without leaf-eating caterpillars, there are no butterflies!

Don’t overthink it. As Robinson says, “You’re trying to attract insects, not fairies. If you plant it, they will come.” Whether you prefer for your plants to

number of monarch butterflies has declined by 68 percent over the past two decades nationwide, and by up to 90 percent in some states. To attract Monarch butterflies, plant Milkweed. Monarchs need Milkweed to grow, according to the Butterfly Society of Virginia, because Monarch caterpillars only eat Milkweed plants, and the butterflies need milkweed to lay eggs.

stay upright and self-contained or look PHOTO BY JENNIFER GONZALEZ

You can find Virginia native plants at a number of local nurseries (or your local nursery or landscape design company can order them for you). The Virginia Society of Native Plants has a list of nurseries that specialize in native plants at plant-nurseries.

up by plants that prevent the plant from

a little bit more casual, here are a few options to consider: • Eastern Red Columbine • Virginia Bluebell • Wild Geranium • Carolina Wild Petunia • Butterfly Milkweed • Turk’s Cap Lily • Gayfeather • Joe-Pye Weed “Little Joe” • Scarlet Beebalm • Wild Bergamot • Summer Phlox • Swamp Milkweed • Cardinal Flower • Black-eyed Susan • New York Ironweed

Trivia • Virginia selected the Tiger Swallowtail in 1991 as its state insect. • California was the first state in the United States to declare a state insect: the Dogface Butterfly. Today, 26 out of 46 state insects are butterflies.

• Bluestem Goldenrod March / April 2019 •



The Buzz on Beekeeping Why are three dozen people gathered in a church basement on a Saturday morning? Here’s the buzz on bees. BY ISABELLE BALDWIN

On a rainy, cold Saturday morning in mid-December, more than 30 people packed into a room at Bush Hill Presbyterian Church on Franconia Road. They all had an eye toward spring, when flowers will bloom and, they hoped, bees will fill the air. Many were gardeners, some were fans of honey and others had family members who kept bees. They were all there to take the first step toward becoming beekeepers — and that first step was to learn whether they were cut out for it or not through an introductory presentation offered by the Northern Virginia Beekeepers Association. (The next step would be a 16-hour basic beekeeping course.) “There is some ugly stuff about raising bees,” said instructor Rob McKinney, a long-time NVBA leader who started beekeeping, in part, because he thought it would be less expensive than buying honey all the time. He was wrong about that, he discovered.

48 • March / April 2019


However, the benefits of beekeeping are many. Scientists have estimated that more than three-quarters of food crops rely on pollination. Beekeepers tend to have the best gardens around, and also benefit from the honey and hive by-products such as wax while supporting the local environment. NVBA provides mentoring, classes, education and support, forming the foundation of a community of beekeepers in the region.

GETTING STARTED Beekeeping requires time, money, space, training and understanding neighbors. The first year of preparations alone can cost upwards of $700 for supplies, equipment, and sugar. In fact, McKinney joked that he should have bought stock in sugar companies before he started beekeeping a decade ago. Beekeeping is more popular than ever before in the United States, with roughly 3 million colonies nationwide and a growing collection of rooftop and backyard hobbyists.

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that’s better Spring is known as the season that brings nature – and honey bees – back to life. After a long winter, backyard beekeepers in Northern Virginia relish in the restored warmth that March provides, and they’re in good company: Less than 10 miles north, about 60,000 honey bees quietly occupy the Naval Observatory under the care of second lady Karen Pence. She installed the first beehive at the vice president’s residence in 2017 and it has thrived. This isn’t her first hive – Pence kept a hive at the governor’s residence in Indiana before her husband, Mike Pence, became vice president of the United States.

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For many, the love affair began long before Virginia started issuing $200 grants to backyard beekeepers in 2013. Such is the case with Amy Bennett, a Virginia native whose nurturing disposition — and an experimental January night with fried okra — led her to a 15-year-long endeavor into beekeeping. “I had about a hand full of white cornmeal left over and I thought, ‘I’m going to put this on a plastic tray and set it outside and some creature will eat it’, and I went outside about half an hour later and there were honey bees all over it, excited because they thought it was pollen,” recalled Bennett of her first close encounter with honey bees.

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Concerned that the bees would freeze to death, Bennett contacted the county extension office who later connected her to a member of NVBA. “In the course of our conversation, she told me, ‘Don’t worry, they’ll know when to go home,’” said Bennett, who signed up for a course later that night. Bennett is an expert in many fields; from her certificate in nursery to her respective degrees in landscape architecture and historic preservation, she has come to know and love Virginia’s native plants. “I’m always walking around looking down at the ground,” she said.

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During her career as an archaeologist, Bennett spent her days excavating skeletons. At the age of 68, her afternoons are now consumed with rescuing clusters of honey bees from trees and caring for her own 12 hives.

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“I’m what, in the bee world, they call a ‘small-scale’ beekeeper,” said Bennett, who has been with NVBA since 2003. “I don’t do this to make money. I sell nucleus colonies in the spring, but the primary reason for doing that is to try to make the bees pay their room and board.”

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3 Things to Know Before Getting Bees As a hobby, potential beekeepers must be willing to devote their time, energy, and space to their hive(s). They must also be willing to accept the potential for bee stings – it will happen. Would-be beekeepers often forget: bees aren’t like other pets. A honey bee won’t cuddle with you at night or demand to be walked during the day, but bees will need more oversight than a tomato garden. They won’t just survive on their own. Regardless of how many books you read, documentaries you watch, or beekeeping friends you know, you are going to run into problems. Here’s what you really need to know before making the commitment.


Beekeeping is expensive.

Beekeeping can be more expensive than other pastime hobbies like painting or knitting and requires a lot more materials. To set up a nuc, beekeepers need a smoker, hive tool, bee brush, extracting equipment, and protective gear, costs which add up easily – and that’s not including the price of a 2 lb. package of the bees themselves, which can vary between $95-$130. (And yes, they can be shipped through the U.S. Postal Service.) However, some beekeepers make back some of that money by selling honey, beeswax, pollen and even bees themselves.


Beekeeping is time-consuming.

The amount of time you need to spend on your hive changes like the weather. Literally. It’s recommended that beginners check on their bees every 7 to 10 days during the spring and summer. Checking on them too often (more than once a week) could upset the bees. In contrast, during a brutal winter, bees can go up to 4 months without needing inspection and shouldn’t be inspected in temperatures below 57 degrees.


Beekeeping is physically demanding.

Picking up a 16 oz. jar of honey in the grocery store isn’t hard – harvesting honey off a 25 lb. frame under the unforgiving August sun is. During the peak spring and summer season, beekeeping will take a lot of sweat out of you, and, as with any physical activity, there’s always the potential for back problems (though some would argue this is a small price to pay for a lifetime supply of free honey).

50 • March / April 2019

Nucleus colonies, or nucs, are small colonies created from larger colonies, housed in a standard 10-frame Langstroth hive — a vertically structured beehive with a bottom board entrance, boxes of frames for the queen’s eggs and honey storage, and an inner cover and top cap sealed for weather protection. Nucs contain bees in all stages of development and act as starter colonies for beginners. Unlike many other hobbies, beekeeping is unpredictable and requires a lot of seasonal problem-solving; commercial and small-scale beekeepers can spend up to 6 months out of the year without seeing a single honey bee. “Any beekeeper will tell you: if you ask three beekeepers the answer to a problem, you’ll get seven different answers. Everybody’s got their own idea,” said Bennett, adding, “if you want to be a responsible beekeeper, you really have to stay on top of what’s going on in your hive.” But for all the responsibility, landscape designer Lynley Ogilvie, who took NVBA’s “Intro to Beekeeping” course, loves sharing her hobby. “I can’t say enough good things about the hobby of beekeeping,” said Ogilvie, who shares her enthusiasm for apiculture with her son, George, a junior in high school. “I am his sous chef – I stand quietly to the side, handing him tools and equipment each time he does a hive check,” Ogilvie explained. Over the past year, the two have become enamored by their bees, merging their two hives in October in hopes of giving the colony a better chance to survive their first winter. As time progresses, the pair is looking to expand to three hives. When they welcomed their first hive last spring, Ogilvie embraced her new guests by planting meadows of native trees, grasses, and perennials in their front lawn that bloomed in succession from March until December. “Standing in the meadows this summer was one of my greatest joys. Each time I went to weed the new beds, honey bees, native bees, butterflies and birds buzzed and swooped around me. Even in McLean, the world is alive with nature if you take the time to notice,” Ogilvie said.



History, Craft Brews & Culture Hit the road this spring with getaways to Lewisburg, West Virginia and Williamsburg, Virginia. We dig up the new and unexpected in these regional travel favorites.

March / April 2019 •


Greenbrier Valley, W.Va.


We explored the impressive arts and culture scene in Lewisburg BY CHRIS MILITZER

Possibly the most popular attraction in the Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia is its namesake resort, The Greenbrier. Not to overlook this fine property, but after learning that United Airlines had launched direct service between Greenbrier County and Chicago O’Hare, as well as Dulles Airport, I thought surely there must be more going on the valley than meets the eye. This lead me to the discovery that the Greenbrier County town of Lewisburg has been named one of the top 100 Best Small Arts Towns in America as well as America’s Coolest Small Town by Frommer’s Budget Travel Magazine. That’s a lofty title, so I wanted to see just what makes this town of just 4,000 people so cool. Despite the new addition of a quick flight out of Dulles, I was looking forward to a scenic drive through the mountains, so I took advantage of Alexandria Living Magazine’s partnership with GM and hopped into a 2019 Chevy Traverse with so much technology packed into it, that United plane would blush with envy.

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As luck would have it, the route to Lewisburg was hit with a snow and ice storm as I left, and then freezing fog while I was visiting, making my All Wheel Drive sleigh an even wiser choice for the trip. The mountain terrain along this drive really is a sight to behold, and other than a stretch along the dreaded I-81, the trip is quite smooth and easy. (Gazing out of the window at the beauty along the way did cause the Traverse’s lane departure warning to nudge me back in line once or twice, I must admit.)

HOTEL The Historic General Lewis Inn. Believe it or not, there is more than one place to stay in the Greenbrier Valley. Of course I’m being sarcastic, but hearing so much about The Greenbrier itself, I was shocked that more people don’t know about The Historic General Lewis Inn in Lewisburg. The 1834 and 1928 buildings are set right at the end of the main street through town and walkable to pretty much everything you’d want to do. While it was too cold to admire all of the beautiful grounds outside, recent renovations have really added to the charm of this boutique hotel. Small things stood out and really added up, from the beautiful bottle of spring water in the room, the old school brass key fobs,

TRAVEL Left: The whiskey tanks at Smooth Ambler

General Lewis Inn

to the coffee service carts right outside your room in the morning. The owners have gone above and beyond to provide their guests with a comfortable home away from home, and pay attention to these small details. For example, after leaving my room to explore the cut from a Hallmark Christmas movie main street, I sloppily left my phone charger cord across the bed as most of us do. Returning in the evening, I found my cable neatly coiled, and tied with a decorative ribbon, something I have never had happen and was definitely appreciated. The Inn also has an amazing dining area on site, using local ingredients and providing the diner with names of the farms you’ll be eating from. For brunch, I had the shrimp and grits with an egg, one of the best and most unique versions I’ve had of this favorite dish of mine. Conveniently, there is also the Thistle Lounge just off the lobby, serving craft cocktails containing spirits from the local distillery, Smooth Ambler, as well as beers from Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company. This is a highly recommended stop before venturing out. The drinks are great, and watching them being created is a show itself. The homemade flavored bitters such as black pepper, lavender and rosemary are unique and delicious, but the friendly conversation between everyone in the lounge area was really something to enjoy. Again, one of those small details that made this place special. THE ARTS

For a town of just 4,000 people, Lewisburg has a shockingly artsy and cosmopolitan vibe. Boasting one of only four Carnegie Halls in the world, in addition to the Greenbrier Valley Theater, this small town attracts world class performances. While there, I

Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company

caught a comedic version of the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Afterwards, the nightlife of the town is just a few steps away, making it a convenient continuation of date night if one so desired. There are also no less than five galleries in town, full of fine art, photography (my favorite), jewelry, handmade furniture, and fine crafts. Again, a remarkable amount for such a small population, lending even more credit to their culture card. BEVERAGES

Smooth Ambler. Born from an idea conceived on a flight and written in the margin of a magazine, this world class distillery has some delicious whiskey products coming out the door and an obscene amount of fun going on inside. The enjoyment that everyone there gets from their job is contagious and really makes their tasting and tour worth the visit to just outside of town. If you’ve ever been interested in seeing all that goes into making a high quality whiskey, this is a stop that can’t be missed.

Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company. Conveniently located just across the road from Smooth Ambler is Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company. The brewery/taproom houses a fairly large 3-vessel, 17-barrel brew house with 640-barrel fermentation capacity. In other words, they make a lot of beer. With beer names that are themed around West Virginia legends and mythology such as The Mothman, the tasty beverages are served in a taproom built with salvaged pallets and bourbon barrels from Smooth Ambler that will remind you of hanging out in a friend’s basement as a teen. But one where you can play cornhole and disc golf inside! March / April 2019 •




Stardust Cafe. A fun cafe run by the same family as the General Lewis Inn, providing equally great attention to detail. Well made sandwiches and salads for lunch, with elevated items like lamb burgers and braised pork shank for dinners.

Food and Friends. Casual yet upscale food with steaks, chops, seafood and pastas on the menu. Steaks are cut on site and have been featured on The Food Network’s “Best of…” series. After tasting the whiskey ribeye with caramelized onions and bourbon glaze, I can tell you why!

The French Goat

Del Sol Cantina. An enthusiastic crowd was around the lively bar watching WVU sports while I was there. Add in unique specialty pizzas, and Tex-Mex food with typical bar food standards to enjoy as well.

Livery Tavern. This definitely embodies the look of a true tavern, with dark woods, exposed beams and hearty, meaty dishes. The fireplace was not only welcome for the ambiance but also the heat on a cold evening. Excellent cocktails and fall-off-the-bone chops made for a happy, full belly on a winter night.

The French Goat. A casual French Bistro in somewhat rural West Virginia with an over-the-top Bloody Mary, my meal included tater tots and bacon, served with seared pork belly, poached eggs, Anson Mills grits and wilted greens. Did I mention this town has surprises? The dinner menu has other treats such as crispy duck and charred short rib, leading me to plan a return trip.

The Livery Tavern


Greenbrier Valley Trail and River. A 78-mile trail along a former railroad line that follows the Greenbrier river, it’s the longest trail such as this in the state of West Virginia, crossing 35 bridges and rolling through many towns along the way. While you might not make it that far, you don’t need too long of a journey along this easy, walkable path to take in the gorgeous river views and more than a few small waterfalls along the way.

Shopping. Along with shops carrying local craft work, fine arts, jewelry, there are antiques, specialty wines and beers, and glassware. There is also an excellent outfitter that carries everything you need for the outdoors such as backpacking gear, kayaks and fly fishing equipment. Keep your eyes open on the way to Smooth Ambler and Greenbrier Valley Brewing and you might see a beef jerky outlet that carries beef, turkey, deer, and wild boar jerkies.

Herns Mill Bridge In Lewisburg, W.Va.

Walking Tours. Looking to burn off all these meals and drinks? There is also a nicely laid out, self-guided walking tour of town, showcasing the many historical elements of town such as Confederate Cemeteries, Carnegie Hall, historic homes and other buildings.

All kidding aside, I was really pleasantly surprised by Lewisburg. I went looking to see what made this the coolest small town and what I found was a very worldly place in what I incorrectly assumed would be a typically sheltered rural mountain area. In Lewisburg, I found a place that would be great for a couples weekend, full of fine dining, and maybe catching a show or doing a little shopping, but it would also be a good spot for a few friends to do a little hiking, catch some live music, and grab some drinks.

54 • March / April 2019

Downtown Lewisburg



Williamsburg, Va. What’s old is new again in Williamsburg. Where to dine, play and stay. BY CHRIS MILITZER

I admit, I long thought of Williamsburg as a target for the fourth grade field trip. A place to visit ye olde candle maker shop to see how home lighting was created before there was Home Depot, or to catch a few winks while a well meaning re-enactor went through their performance. However, the area has really come into its own these days. With an emerging culinary scene, new craft breweries popping up, and a youthful entrepreneurial spirit, the Greater Williamsburg area is making its case for being a destination well worth your weekend. Don’t get me wrong, you can still visit the wig shop to see the amazing effort that goes into creating those things, and talented actors still roam the streets of Colonial Williamsburg

Enjoy a carriage ride in Colonial Williamsburg or golf at Kingsmill Resort’s River golf course

lending an authenticity unlike anywhere else, but now their show is artfully crafted with diverse perspectives in mind, and ye olde candle shop is a 45,000 square foot Yankee Candle flagship containing nearly a half million candles.

LODGING With its two 18-hole championship golf courses, and 1, 2, or 3-bedroom condos, traditional guestrooms, and even vacation homes, Kingsmill Resort shows why it has earned its AAA FourDiamond review. This really is a beautiful property: The early morning marina views are simply outstanding if you’re an early riser. If not, the indoor/outdoor pools, spa, fitness center, four restaurants, and more will be there waiting for you when you manage to get up and out. My in-depth research has shown that night owls will appreciate that good times are to be had at a few of those restaurants (Elements 1010) until late at night. March / April 2019 •


TRAVEL Williamsburg is also home to another one of the best hotels in North America, The Williamsburg Inn. A top-notch luxurious experience, with no detail overlooked from furnishings to food and beverage, this places takes pride in its service. It features in-house fine dining, spa service, swimming, and views of a photo-worthy golf course from the upgraded Social Terrace and its 7,000 square feet of entertaining area.

HISTORY My goal in this visit was to showcase some of the other activities available in the Greater Williamsburg area that maybe aren’t as well known in Northern Virginia. I love walking around Colonial Williamsburg and seeing history come to life, or roaming the grounds of Jamestown and literally seeing history unearthed. Busch Gardens’ Loch Ness Monster will always be my favorite roller coaster, but we already know and love those places. What surprised me was just how much I liked the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. The museum provides an exciting new experience that tells the story in a fun and interactive way with period artifacts, artillery demonstrations, and honestly the best and most-captivating “museum film” I have ever seen. I shouldn’t even describe it as such, as it is much more with an enthralling story line shown on a 180-degree big screen, superb sound effects, and — if that didn’t catch my interest enough — the fog filling the theater while we watched transported me right onto the battlefield. A highlight of my trip.

Southern country ham board from Amber Ox

DINING Amber Ox. Created by two long-time friends, The Amber Ox Public House features a Southern-styled menu that changes with what is seasonally available. The new entrepreneurial drive that is going strong in this community flows right into the Amber Ox concept, with the owners helping support more than 20 local farmers and fish suppliers, while at the same time providing fresh ingredients to diners. The southern country ham board on the menu is a ridiculously good way to start your meal. After taking down the S. Edward & Son Country Ham, Johnston County prosciutto, bacon jam, pimento cheese and biscuits, you might be inclined to call it quits. But in the Revolutionary way, soldier on and try the chicken and waffles or the beef braised short rib… you will thank me. Be sure to wash all of that goodness down with one of their Precarious Beer Project brews! Precarious is the brewing project started inside Amber Ox, which due to its success should be branching out into its own beer hall in the summer of 2019.

La Tienda. This Spanish market and restaurant carrying products from all over Spain should be on your list. I wish I had more time to look through all of the foods and handmade products available here, but the smells from the kitchen proved too strong to fight. Give yourselves a few extra minutes to browse before moving on to what was the best paella I have ever had. All of the tapas I was able to try were delicious, including creamy ham and cheese croquettes, as well as perfectly fried calamari — but the paella will stick with me until my next visit! The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

Dig in Jamestown

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Paella from La Tienda

The Williamsburg Winery

Sunrise over Kingsmill Resort marina



The Williamsburg Winery. Located right in the sweet spot of Virginia

Resolved, An American Experiment. This is a well-written and nicely

history, the Williamsburg Winery is surrounded by Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown, and all just a short drive away. A perfect spot to take a break while visiting those places, but also a spot worthy of its own trip. The staff is friendly, approachable, and knowledgeable about the wine making craft with delicious varieties of Virginia wine. It must have to do with the classical tunes being played to the wine filled barrels as they spend their days getting ready for your visit. Wine aside, a hidden gem is the food coming out of here from Chef David McClure. Seriously: He got me to eat beets and left me wanting more, yet another significant moment in Virginia history. Everything coming out of the kitchen is delicious here, and well-paired with the home grown wines.

performed piece of museum theater which immerses you into the happenings of the 5th Virginia Convention. You get to see the actions and feelings of the diverse population of that time, not just the history as told by the Founding Fathers. It’s an interesting and important view of the decisions that began our country and well worth a watch. capitol-immersive-theatre-experience

Craft Beer: The Virginia Beer Company. One of my favorite stops along the route for this trip had to be The Virginia Beer Company. Founded by former classmates at William and Mary, both were sucked into the world of finance until making their triumphant escape to return to what they loved: beer. Ok, they also loved the Williamsburg area, their school, and giving back to the community, but ultimately they wanted to make really good beer in a fun atmosphere. They like what they do and it shows. Sixteen rotating beer selections are available, with new ones being created weekly to keep your interest. These guys aren’t afraid to try new things, so in that spirit and with some prodding by owner Chris Smith, I stepped outside my bitter IPA world and tried a pumpkin beer, one of my least favorite types of brews out there. I thoroughly enjoyed it, lived to fight (drink) another day, and I’d happily follow these brewers into any beer battle.

Colonial Williamsburg Taste Studio. This was another very fun surprise on this journey, and one that was filled with more delicious food, so no complaints there. It’s a full demonstration kitchen where the outstanding chefs of Colonial Williamsburg interact with an audience as they create culinary masterpieces, you then get to eat. Providing a cooking lesson as well as insight into the workings of the Colonial Williamsburg Resorts’ gastronomical scene, all while consuming some really great food and maybe a beer or cocktail sampling to go along with it all.

Yorktown Riverwalk Landing. Set alongside the York River with picturesque views is a collection of locally-owned shops and restaurants. Try the Riverwalk Restaurant, serving steaks and seafood, or grab a Sunday brunch during your stay. Patriot Tours and Provisions has bike rentals and even guided Segway tours to help you explore the riverside when your done eating. During the warmer months you can even hop on a schooner here and sail the river for a while before heading back home.

What’s old is new again. Just 2.5 hours down the road, Williamsburg is working on reinventing itself using the same spirit and innovation that started our country. I really enjoyed my time there in seeing what they are coming up with, and how they are making even the familiar seem fresh. This is a quick weekend trip that should definitely be on your roadmap. March / April 2019 •



Q&A What was the highlight of your year as National Cherry Blossom Queen? Margaret: Without hesitation, I think the goodwill trip to Japan will be a highlight of my life. It was truly an extraordinary experience of a lifetime, a cultural education unequal to any other experience I’ve ever had.

Margaret O’Meara (right), 2018 Virginia Cherry Blossom Princess, pauses for a photo with Natalie Revers, who will represent Virginia this year.

Margaret O’Meara 2018 Cherry Blossom Queen

Each year, as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, each state sends a Cherry Blossom Princess to the festivities in D.C. Last year, West Potomac High grad Margaret O’Meara, Class of 2015, represented Virginia as the 2018 Cherry Blossom Princess in the decades-long tradition started by the National Conference of State Societies. During the weeklong festivities, she helped plant a tree at the Kennedy Center, took part in the parade, read and donated books about Virginia to schools on Capitol Hill and participated in the Japanese Stone Lantern Lighting Ceremony. She also attended a reception at the home of the Japanese ambassador. Other activities included visiting the Speaker of the House, the White House and taking part in the black-tie Cherry Blossom Grand Ball. At the ball, through the spin of a wheel (not unlike “Wheel of Fortune”), a Cherry Blossom Princess is chosen to become the U.S. Cherry Blossom Queen. Last year, the wheel landed on Virginia and O’Meara was crowned queen. Then a junior at Virginia Tech majoring in art history, O’Meara represented the United States during a two-week goodwill trip to Japan. She met with Prime Minister Abe, the Royal Princess, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, the Mayor of Tokyo and other dignitaries. This year, the Society of Virginia has named the new 2019 Cherry Blossom Princess, Natalie Revers, who is also a native Alexandrian and a 2014 graduate of St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School in Alexandria. A 2018 graduate of William & Mary, she is a financial analyst for Wells Fargo Commercial Real Estate Group. “I am thrilled to participate in this year’s Cherry Blossom program,” said Revers. “Virginia has been home to many generations of my family and I thank you for the opportunity to represent our state in this historic festival.” Revers, 22, will be crowned at a luncheon March 9 at Washington Golf and Country Club in Arlington and will represent Virginia as she participates in the Princess Program during the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

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What advice would you give anyone who is considering applying to the Cherry Blossom Princess program? My best advice is to join your state society — or even more than one — and do it! Even though this program has a 71-year-old history, it seems like a well-kept secret. State societies are unique to our area because they were formed as people in new political administrations and military placements were relocated to the DC area. The NCSS Cherry Blossom Program has a traditional history that has evolved into a unique week-long cultural and professional development opportunity for young women. The participants who get the most out of it are open to new experiences, interested in other cultures, and have a desire to positively represent their states.

What did you enjoy most about visiting Japan? There were so many very special moments and so much to admire and enjoy in Japan. Everywhere we went, I was accompanied by the Japanese Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Queen, who was my age, and there was a hospitality team in each city we visited and they were all so gracious, generous and kind.

What do you like most about living in Alexandria? I’ve loved growing up just steps from George Washington’s Mount Vernon and in an area that has both historical significance and beauty along the Potomac River. And we also have all the advantages of being so close to Washington, DC, and other major metropolitan areas. Alexandria is a great place to live.

If someone from Japan was visiting Alexandria, where would you take them? Actually, the Cherry Blossom Program is a cultural exchange program and we will be hosting the new Japan Cherry Blossom (Sakura) Queen when she comes to Washington DC for the National Cherry Blossom Festival during the week of April 7-14. In Alexandria, I would definitely take Japanese visitors to the historic sites and shops and American-fare restaurants in Old Town and the Potomac River waterfront area, and for a scenic drive down the George Washington Parkway, and of course, to Historic Mount Vernon. I would hope to do it at a time that our Cherry Blossom trees were in bloom because they have great significance as a symbol of friendship to the Japanese people.

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