The Great Outdoors, We Green DC

5 Top Tips for Container Gardening

Photo courtesy of

‘365.105: The cook’s herb garden’
courtesy of ‘WordRidden’

There are lots of things I think would be cool to do, so I just dive in without proper training. One is growing herbs on the deck. Understandably, my results have been mixed. The potted mint is going great guns, but last year the basil plant that had been visibly shooting up daily as if it inspired Jack and the Beanstalk suddenly turned black, dropped its leaves, and keeled over. No more fresh basil for me.

So when Arlington Adult Education offered a class called Growing Herbs in Containers, I signed up—mostly out of sympathy for the plants. And then I came late to class. When I walked in, instructor Dottie Jacobsen stopped her talk, greeted me, then asked, “What’s your growing situation?” Under the bright lights and many watching eyes, I came clean: “I kill plants.”

And presto! Within two short hours, I had a long list of things I’d done wrong and could easily correct. Since some of my plants did actually survive, this knowledge was inspiring. “Many of my students have gone on to be excessive container gardeners,” Jacobsen reassured us. “They say, ‘it’s a jungle out there.’” What are her tips?

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The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Ballston

Photo courtesy of
‘Night at Church’
courtesy of ‘oparrish’

Welcome to another edition of Where We Live. This week we’re focusing on Ballston, the western end of Arlington’s fabulous Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. Ballston offers a great balance between access to Northern Virginia (like Tysons/Fairfax/Farlington) and access to DC, and it’s actually a pretty cool place to live and hang out.

History: Ballston was a major crossroads during the eighteenth century, and it was named after the Ball family (whose family cemetery is in the neighborhood). In 1896, the Washington, Arlington, and Falls Church Electric Railroad (a streetcar) was constructed along what is now Fairfax Drive, and the area developed as a streetcar suburb. In 1951 the Parkington Shopping Center opened where the current Ballston Common Mall is, and the area became known as Parkington. The area declined in the 60s and 70s as it was really just a retail-dominated suburb, but Metro came along in 1979 and changed that. Since the opening of the Metro station, the area has continued to redevelop, replacing the suburban sprawl of the 50s and 60s with more compact urban development. Today Ballston is a thriving retail, office, and residential center.

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We Love Food

We Love Food: The Most Delicious Day of My Life

Pupusa at El Charrito
Yummy photos courtesy of Dan at Kitchen Geeking

Delicious is a word I use often. And by often, I mean constantly. I love the word delicious almost as much as I love the food that makes me say it. Everything about delicious is a win-win. Therefore, be it resolved, that Saturday March 6th was SO FULL OF WIN. If you don’t know just how delicious the ethnic food of DC and NoVa can be, you are missing out in the worst kinda’ way.

My Saturday started by meeting up with good friend, fantastic amateur chef and ultra foodie and blogger Dan Tompkins. We started throwing out types of cuisines, regions of the world that were a “must hit” for the day and names of hole-in-the-wall places that were favorites of mine. Just listing out the countries we could potentially consume in the hours to come lead to a very enamored and elated couple of hungry, hungry guys.

“Let’s start at the taqueria on Washington, then we have to grab some of my favorite falafel at Astor, hopefully they have koshari too…then we definitely need chickpeas from Ravi Kabob. I think a visit to Present for Vietnamese is also very much called for and it’s totally on our way out to Great Wall, the giant Asian grocery store.”

If our initial list of food stops had actually been the limits of this day, it still would’ve ranked up there with some of the most delicious days of my life. But thankfully Dan and I don’t let silly things like goals keep our food egos in check. We go all out when we get together and this day was like none other that had come before it. This, my fellow DC friends, was the most delicious day of my life. Our bellies happily danced to the tune of food induced merriment brought on by the entire world’s best dishes meeting their demise in our mouths over the course of 9 hours. Mexican, Egyptian, Bolivian, Lebanese, Pakistani, Peruvian, Afghan, American and more!

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Arlington, The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Court House

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘rpongsaj’

After profiling 22 neighborhoods in the District, it’s time Where We Live headed out to the suburbs. This week we’re focusing on Court House, an urban neighborhood in the middle of Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. Sure, it’s technically a ‘suburb’, but with a movie theater, multiple grocery stores, tons of bars and restaurants, and office and government buildings, Court House has more to offer than many neighborhoods in the heart of DC.

History: In 1791, this area used to be part of DC.  But Virginia wanted Alexandria County back (mostly due to the sad fact that Alexandria was a big slave port, and talk of abolishing slavery in DC had Virginia scared), and this land was retroceded in 1846.  Fort Woodbury was a Civil War fort built in 1861 that stood where the current courthouse stands.  In 1852 the City of Alexandria split off, and in 1920 this area was renamed as Arlington County.

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The Daily Feed, We Green DC

Green Office Challenge Coming to Arlington

Photo courtesy of
‘Plenty of Plants!’
courtesy of ‘mscaprikell’

Those Arlington greenies are at it again. They spent New Year’s dreaming up a community energy plan, and now they’ve been chosen as one of four local governments nationwide to receive assistance for a Green Office Challenge program.

This friendly competition will encourage property managers and office tenants to save money, energy and water in their buildings and to reduce waste.

The ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, which developed the challenge with Chicago last year, will give the county guidance and technical support. Charleston, Nashville and San Diego also will take the challenge.

Luckily, there will be no competition from Dunder Mifflin’s “As Green As We Have To Be” initiative and “one cup per day” water cooler plan.

The Daily Feed

If You Biked To Work, You’d Be Home By Now

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘DaveFayram’

We all love to complain about our commutes– by Metro, by car, and by bus— and we all think that we have it worse than most people.   Well, the folks at Bike Arlington think that biking is usually the most efficient way to get around in the city, and they’re willing to put it to the test.

If you start or end your commute in Arlington, tell Bike Arlington about it– where you commute, what mode of transportation you use, and how long it typically takes– and they’ll tell you if it’d be faster to bike to work.  They’ll ride your route on bike, time it, and tell you if it beats your current commute.  How great is that?

I’ve always wondered if biking would be faster than a typical Metro commute, and this is the perfect opportunity to try it out without having to figure out a route for yourself.  Stay tuned for updates on Bike Arlington’s twitter page, and keep an eye out as a WeLoveDC author puts her hellish commute to the test!

The Daily Feed

Arlington Named One of World’s Most Intelligent Communities

Photo courtesy of
‘Day 24.10 tablet testing’
courtesy of ‘frerieke’

Those Arlingtonians; they think they’re so smart.

Or at least someone does.

Arlington has been named one of the 2010 Top Seven Communities of the Year, and a role model for the development of vibrant digital age communities.

Of 400 communities worldwide that applied for the honor, only one other in the U.S. (Dublin, Ohio) made the list.

The Intelligent Community Forum, a New York-based think tank, noted Arlington’s technology, educational excellence with a highly diverse population, quality of life, and ability to keep both an independent identity and economic ties to the Feds.

The Daily Feed, We Green DC

Arlington Resolves to Go Greener in 2010

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘william couch’

While many folks were recovering on New Year’s Day, Arlington’s leaders were working to save the planet.

That day, right after being elected chairman of the Arlington County Board, Jay Fisette announced a task force to develop a Community Energy Plan that will set goals and find ways to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions.

It will expand Fresh AIRE (Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions), which began efforts in 2007 to lower the county government’s greenhouse gas emissions. So far, the county’s investments in energy efficiency have paid a return on investment of about 20 percent per year in lower costs for government operations.

The task force will include residents, business leaders, property owners, energy and technology experts, schools, federal and state government officials, and regional authorities.

The Daily Feed, We Green DC

What Snowpocalypse Can Do for You

Photo courtesy of
‘Rowhouse Turret with Snow’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Believe it or not, what’s left of Snowpocalypse can help you save money. By looking at what’s melting on your roof, you can tell if your heat is going through the roof — and launching your utility bill sky high, too.

If the snow on your roof melted quickly, it may mean that your heat is zooming toward the heavens, along with your hard-earned dollars. You can save on heating and cooling simply by insulating your attic. And of course that means you’ll burn less fossil fuel.

Arlington’s Fresh AIRE blog has pictures that show you just what to look for. For starters, try comparing your roof to your neighbors’. It’s just another way to keep up with the Joneses.

The Daily Feed

Snowbank Blocking Pedestrian Crossing

Plowed snowbank blocking pedestrian crossing in Clarendon

Some snow plow operation in Arlington has seen fit to pile this massive snowbank right on top of a pedestrian crossing outside Clarendon Metro, forcing walkers to walk around it, on the road, dodging ice and skidding cars to get across Wilson Blvd. Hey, Arlington, I know it’s hard to figure out where to put all this snow, but if you’re trying to encourage walkability in the county, you’re doing it wrong.

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Alexandria, Dupont Circle, Food and Drink, We Love Food

We Love Food: The Burger Joint

‘DSCF3611.jpg’ courtesy of ‘joelogon’

The Burger Joint (BGR) is the latest in a line of local hamburger shops trying to muscle in on DC-area institution Five Guys by offering a gourmet twist on this American staple. I went to their new Old Town Alexandria location to put these burger peddlers’ wares to the test.

There is no better food than a hamburger. A good steak comes close but really hamburgers take the title with their myriad of configurations. Easily a sit-down meal or a perfect eat-on-the-go, with a few toppings tweaks the hamburger offers all things to all comers (except maybe vegetarians). I have long been a fan of DC hamburger establishments and have been putting new offerings to the test for many years. I guess it all began back when I was accepted to George Washington University back in 1993. While quite happy to have got in, I was secretly celebrating the fact that I would soon be living less than a block from burger heaven, Lindy’s the Bone. Back in those days DC was a tale of two burger shops; Lindy’s Bon Appetit and Five Guys pretty much had you covered. For specialty burger creations it was Lindy’s and for the purist burger experience there was none better than (the now overly-franchised) Five Guys.

In the time I have lived here there have been many new burger contenders. Most notably Hamburger Mary’s (now defunct), ZBurger (not bad), Elevation Burger (yuck), and Ray’s Hell Burger (omfg!). Of those four, really only Hamburger Mary’s and Ray’s Hell Burger stand out and for good reason; Hamburger Mary’s offered truly excellent specialty burgers in a fun and funky sit-down dinner environment; while Ray’s continues to serve-up over-the-top, gourmet burgers in a real, walk-up-order, ‘burger joint’ setting.

The Burger Joint now enters into a field beginning to feel a tad cluttered. After all, Five Guys has expanded all over the city like a fungus, Lindy’s is still quietly rocking the Red Lion basement, and Ray’s is all the rage after the Obama/William’s visit. So how does a new burger shop stand-out amongst such stiff and varied competition? By offering the best pure burger in town, that’s how.
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The Daily Feed

See the Holiday Lights by Bike

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘ubrayj02’

What’s that bright light in the sky? Why it’s a house decked out in holiday lights.

To see a bunch up close, take a spin in the Arlington holiday lights bike ride this Sunday night, Dec. 13, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

BikeArlington and Conte’s Bike Shop are hosts; meet at Conte’s at 3924 Wilson Blvd., and pick up a bike light at a discount before the ride if you need one. Helmets are required. Bring along a $10 gift card from Borders, Target, Best Buy, etc. for the Warriors in Transition program at Walter Reed and be entered in a drawing for a Conte’s gift card.

All speeds are welcome; they’ll wait for everyone. So deck your bike and come see the show.

The Daily Feed

Arlington Holds Food Drive This Week

Photo courtesy of
‘U.S. Senate bean soup’
courtesy of ‘4braham’

Corral your canned goods. It’s Arlington Takes a Bite Out of Hunger Week, today through Dec. 7. They’ve made it easy to donate. You can put vittles in boxes at county community centers, libraries, nature centers, and other government buildings.

The Arlington Food Assistance Center drive will help feed the more than 1,200 families who need help each week. And that number continues to grow.

On the wish list? Soups, cereals, canned goods, pastas and peanut butter.

The Daily Feed

Arlington to Gain Another Year ‘Round Farmers Market

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘sarawithoutanh001’

Lovers of farmers markets, rejoice. An additional one, the Columbia Pike market in Arlington, will be staying open year ’round.

As in years past, there will be a holiday market each Sunday until Dec. 20. In addition to apples, winter squash and the like, the market will offer eggnog, holiday baked goods, gift baskets, wreaths/garlands, Christmas trees, standing rib roast, special raviolis, handmade holiday cards, jewelry, and more. I like to pick up some of the homemade chocolate truffles as gifts; they’re always a hit.

Come January, for the first time, several vendors will return to bring us local staples through the winter: J-Wen dairy, Smith Meadows All Natural Meat and Eggs, Hondo Coffee, and Union Street Soapworks. Creekside Produce and other vendors may stay through the cold months, too.

All Politics is Local, The Daily Feed

Arlington Attack Politics Get Ugly

scan0005 front
Scan of Ringel Mailer in Arlington

If you live in Virginia, I’m sure you’re sick and tired of all of the attack ads airing for the gubernatorial race between McDonnell and Deeds. It has been a long and ugly race and many around the area are excitedly awaiting the coming of election day on Tuesday, November 3rd, so we can be done with all of this. But did you know that attack politics is hitting very, very close to home for many today? If you live in the 48th district in Virginia, which includes north-east Arlington and wraps around down to Crystal City, you may be waking up to a very nasty attack mailer compliments of Aaron Ringel, the Republican opponent of six term incumbent Democrat Bob Brink. According to Ringel, Brink wants to hurt your children.

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The Daily Feed

New Ballston Building Uses Old Bob Peck Style


The work of mid-century American architect Anthony Musolino was at its finest in the Ballston dealership of Bob Peck. Built in 1964, very possibly at the height of Chevrolet as a company, the modern angles and shapes of the dealer were iconic. It was demolished in 2003 as part of the revitalization at the confluence of Wilson and Glebe in the heart of Arlington. While I never came to love those angles like some did, I certainly understand how iconic they were.

Interestingly enough, those same diamond patterns of the showroom’s roof will now be part of the Cooper Carey designed building at the same site. The towering glass office building will carry the same diamond pattern at the entrance. Beautiful appropriation of an iconic design.

The Daily Feed

ABBIEs Voting Now Open

Photo courtesy of
‘Vote for Burns’
courtesy of ‘laverrue’

Okay, so maybe you can’t vote yea or nea for your boss, but now you can vote for The Arlington’s Best Business Awards (ABBIEs). Nominations are in, and the slate is open.

Many of the categories feature food and drink — including best bargain restaurant, brunch, dessert, happy hour, neighborhood bar and late night spot. You can also put in a good word for your favorite boutique, nonprofit, theatre or dance studio, and more.

Of course I’d never play favorites and tell you who I voted for, but am happy to see the new Lost Dog Cafe keeps cropping up as an option.

Vote away!

The Features, We Love Food

First Look: Restaurant 3’s Bacon Week

Photo courtesy of
‘pigs in a row’
courtesy of ‘specialkrb’

Books have been written about it. Love songs. Poems. It’s salty. It’s crispy. It’s fatty. It’s bacon.

And Restaurant 3 knows about the beauty of the food, and the Clarendon neighborhood restaurant is celebrating the “Week of Bacon” from October 21-27, 2009. Each day for the duration of the week of bacon, the restaurant will offer a daily Bacon Happy Hour, where bar guests can feast on bacon bites such as bacon on a stick & bacon-wrapped shrimp and wash it all down with $3 craft beer draft specials. Not only can you stop by for bacon and beer, but Restaurant 3 is offering a Bacon Tasting Menu priced at $30 per person. I was lucky enough to preview a few of the Bacon Week specials, and let me tell you. It’s impressive. Continue reading

The Daily Feed, WMATA

What’s Your Favorite Suburban Metro Station?

Photo courtesy of
‘Bethesda at night’
courtesy of ‘InspirationDC’

BeyondDC has a great post up today about the best suburban transit-oriented development (TOD) in the area.  The Washington region has some of the best examples of TOD, and places like Arlington and Bethesda have become national examples of how to create walkable, mixed-use districts in the suburbs.  BeyondDC thinks that Bethesda deserves the number one spot, with its great mix of uses and walkability.  King Street takes the number two spot, and Clarendon is third.

I’d argue that Clarendon deserves the title of the best TOD in the region– not only does it have a great variety of restaurants, offices, retail, and housing, but since it’s in the middle of the Rosslyn-Ballston Metro corridor the whole area is transit-oriented.  From Clarendon, you could easily continue walking to Courthouse or Virginia Square, but you can’t walk to any other Metro station from Bethesda, which makes it seem more isolated and car-dependent than Arlington.

What do you think?  What’s your favorite suburban Metro stop?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.