pet peaves

I try to keep the content of this blog light and focused on sharing the things that make me happy — great design, good food and of course, travel. But every once and a while, I am tempted to take a moment to rant just a little. So please indulge me for just a minute . . .

There are two things about our current state of society that drive me crazy. Two really simple things that, honestly, I feel should be basic knowledge taught in our schools. Yet everyday I am reminded that in today’s world, kids don’t learn the basics anymore.

1) How to count change:  This is not a difficult task. Yet in today’s world, if a computer doesn’t tell a cashier how much to give back to the customer sheer panic sets in. And God forbid you give a cashier an extra coin or single so you get larger bills back — off the charts confusion and panic.

making changeCounting change is really simple. You don’t even need to know how to subtract. You just need to know how to count. Starting with the amount of the sale, simply count up change until you reach the amount you were handed in cash — coins first until you reach 100 or the next full dollar amount, then the bills. By the nature of that process, you will give back the most efficient combination of coins and bills.

2) Where/What is Washington, DC:  Twice in the past week, when I handed my driver’s license to people, they both tried to verify my number in the state of Washington. Are you kidding me?  Washington, DC is the capital of our country. It is not located in the state of Washington. In fact, it is clear across the country. It is a federally created district that houses the seat of our government. That city where the White House is. Surely you’ve heard of it? Washington, DCWhen filling it on forms, addressing a letter or looking up driver’s license numbers for that matter, Washington is the city and DC or District of Columbia acts like the state — short and long form, respectively. And every American should know this. Our nation’s capital is not located in any state. It is a small district provided for in the U.S. Constitution under the jurisdiction of Congress. It is NOT located in the Pacific Northwest, it is located on the East Coast between Maryland & Virginia.

There, I said it. Thank you for listening.

goodbye dc

dc It’s the end of the year and simultaneously the end of my 3 1/2 year stint in our nation’s capital. On January 1st I will wake up to a new life in Southern California. Warm weather here I come!

Happy New Year everyone. More soon from California . . .

best new restaurant

RosesFrontWhen Bon Appetit names a restaurant in your own back yard, the best new restaurant in America one has to brave the line — a line that starts dutifully at 4 PM everyday for a 5:30 PM first seating — and try it.

Is it worth it?

Let me first say that I, who got stuck on a non-moving metro train, did not have the pleasure of waiting in line for an hour and a half. But I understand I missed the camaraderie of the line dwellers. So maybe it is all part of the experience. Next, eating a big dinner at 5:30 PM was a bit disorienting. It felt like midnight when we left yet was only a bit after 8 PM. And I was mighty drunk at that early hour. The cocktails are strong and shall I say, FANTASTIC!

So in short, yes. Rose’s Luxury is damn good and worth it. Here’s their schtick and why the place is so beloved — FREE FOOD!  You order 2-3 small plates per person and add in a large plate (there’s only two on the menu each slightly larger than a typical single entree) and they throw in a few tasting size plates along the way of the stuff you didn’t order. In our case, because we were there drowning our sorrows as a group, not only did we get a free tasting small plate and dessert, our waitress took pity on us and presented a free large plate of brisket to our already gluttonous mix.

What makes the food so good is an interesting mix of ingredients and flavors. Sorry my photos aren’t great — let’s chalk that up to the copious amounts of alcohol that accompanied our meal:

IMG_4575Pork Sausage, habanero & lychee salad (before mixing up)

IMG_4591Martelli spaghetti with tomato, spicy lobster and mint

Caramelized cauliflower, Greek yogurt & some other stuff — whatever that other stuff was, this was the winning dish of the night

Whole grilled quail with fall greens and mulled cider glaze

Sfoglini rigatoni with parmesan cream, breadcrumbs and a blizzard of white truffles — our second favorite.

Classic cacio e pepe (butter & pepper spaghetti)

IMG_4601Lemongrass shellfish stew, fennel salad & garlic bread (for dipping)

And the Freebies:

Charred broccoli with ceasar dressing and white anchovies

IMG_4592Smoked brisket, white bread, horseradish & slaw (the only disappointment of the night — while the smokey flavor was great the meat was a bit dry)

IMG_4602Stracciatella with raspberry sauce and spicy meringue

IMG_4604Oh but that’s not all. We ordered our own full size dessert that while it looks a fright and hardly dessert like, is totally worth going back for. Green Pea sponge cake donned with buttermilk, pea shoots & glazed pistachio nuts.

And if that’s not enough, the bread that starts the meal served with butter and honey is to die for. But so are the sesame brittle bites that come with your bill. And don’t think those freebies aren’t noted on that bill where exclamation points take the place of prices. This is a marketing ploy after all, they want you to know the good will that has been bestowed on you. And you know what, it works.

Rose’s Luxury
717 8th Street SE
Washington, DC, 20003

No reservations, just get on line. Approximately $100 per person including excess alcohol.

stamp mania

Rudolph StampsSo I went to the unveiling event for the 2014 Rudolph Holiday Stamp Collection and what I discovered was the amazing Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Why is it that we never take advantage or know about these wonderful places right under our noses?

I honestly never would have thunk to visit the Postal Museum had I not been invited to this event by a talented design firm I employ often whose principal sits on the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee. And as luck should have it, not only were we the first ones able to purchase the new Rudolph stamps (aren’t they adorable?) but we also got an unexpected private tour of the museum’s William H. Gross wing by the museum director himself.

stamp gallery19 Million dollars and I can’t recall how many years to make this gallery come to life. And it is a real treat! Beautifully designed, it highlights stamps and the history of post in the United States and around the world, in ways that are interesting to both the avid collector and your average kid (I put myself in the latter)

  • Did you know that Franklin Roosevelt, an avid stamp collector, used to design his own stamps, supplying hand drawn sketches to the postmaster general to create?
  • Did you know that John Lennon was a stamp collector as a kid? The museum owns his collection complete with little mustaches drawn on the queen’s image and all.
  • Did you know that Amelia Earhart funded her flights by carrying mail on board and signing the letters?

You could spend hours and hours in this museum — for real! Featured items on display include the very first stamp in the world. a letter dating back to the silk road, a letter posted to John Hancock on July 4, 1776, a letter posted on the moon and so much more. But the real gems are in hundreds of pull out displays showcasing more stamps, artwork and history than you could ever possibly get through. A reason to go back again and again.

American Gallery moon mail Interactive DisplayOne little tidbit that I loved learning from the director was about the beautiful window graphics that line the 18 windows across the front of the building — printed scrims of  super large scale stamps that tell the history of America. Being a historic building nothing can be touched or changed without permission of government committees, in this case 3 different committees. Instead of simply asking permission which would assuredly garner 3 no’s, the director put a slew of stamps on the table and asked, “If you were going to pick the stamps to tell the American story, which stamps would you pick?” — and suddenly these government officials were engaged and boom, 3 yeses! Drive by at night and see the scrims lit up across the face of the building and you’ll marvel at their beauty.

Stamps are nothing if not beautiful. So celebrate their beauty and history with a visit to the Postal Museum on your next visit to Washington, DC.

images courtesy the USPS and The National Smithsonian Postal Museum

favorite apps

The things you can do from your iPhone these days still amaze me. From navigating through a foreign land, to hailing a cab, to paying for lunch. It’s all so easy and still gives me a thrill each and every day. Maybe I’m just of that age where the technology was introduced just late enough that I remember life before a little too clearly. But boy, I like it! Here are my current top 10 favorite apps that get a regular workout on my phone these days:

PostmatesPostmates — if you’re a regular reader you’ll no doubt remember that Postmates offered free ice cream delivered to your door on National Ice Cream day. That freebie is indicative of the types of regular promotions this service offers in addition to delivery of just about anything your heart desires, especially food from your favorite restaurant that doesn’t normally deliver. Charges are based on distance and no cash changes hands (except for tips). Available in most major cities.

mobile nowMobile Now! — you don’t need coins for a parking meter anymore, or annoying $2-3 charges on your credit card. Simply type in the space number on your meter and you’re all set to park. Stop your session at any time or get a text reminder that your time is about to expire. Top up your account to any amount you like and it automatically refills when you hit zero. This app has saved me from parking tickets more than once. Not all cities use this app but they should!

NPRKCRW — Simply the best NPR station in the country. You can listen to what’s live on air or choose from a series of taped shows. Makes me a little less homesick for LA.




Nat Mall DCThe National Mall by Bluebrain — Music composed for your interaction with The National Mall in Washington, DC. Just launch the app, don headphones and the music plays and seamlessly transitions according to your location. I also have a similar app for Central Park in NYC but that no longer seems available for download. A truly wonderful location based experience, the brainchild of two local composer brothers.

tripcaseTripcase — If you like to travel, this app will keep you organized. Make a reservation of any kind — airplane, train, hotel, air bnb, car rental, etc . . . and simply forward the confirmation email to the provided address and it loads all the details to your profile by trip. It keeps up with you as your trip unfolds and provides up to the minute gate information (even before it hits the airport displays), alerts you to delays, indicates alternate flights (just in case), gives directions and even has a direct link to Uber. Travel made simple

silver carSilver Car — all Audi A4 rentals, all the time with no lines, no hassle. Free Wi-Fi and GPS with every car. Simply deplane, proceed to your car, use your iPhone to unlock and go. Return with the push of a button and your receipt is emailed to you. Couldn’t be simpler when you need decent wheels. Limited cities currently (LA, Dallas, Phoenix, Austin, Miami, Denver, San Francisco). Cars rent at approx. $80/day, include unlimited miles, and fair pricing gas (local price plus $5 fee) so no need to stop and fill up in a sketchy neighborhood on your way to the airport.

Melbourne PTPublic Transport Victoria — my time in Melbourne wouldn’t be as easy without this handy app. It tells me the best way to get to anywhere by tram, bus or train. Simply type in the address where you want to go and you get door to door instructions with available times for your public transport method. I used a similar app in Auckland and made it far and wide across that city without fail. So the lesson is your local public transport authority usually has the best solution for free. Wi-fi or 4G required.

WellsFargoBanking Apps — check deposit by app has changed my life. I can’t recall the last time i went to an ATM or into an actual bank. But should you need to, with the push of a button the closest location will reveal itself. Pay Bills, transfer funds, check balances, deposit checks. Now if only it could dispense cash and life would be really good — but I assume that soon, we will be a cashless society so no worries there.


FandangoFandango — I keep all my favorite theaters listed so I can check out what’s playing near me and show times. For a small fee, you can even buy advance tickets, usually saving time and long lines at the theater. Also provides reviews, trailers and probably a million other movie-biz tid-bits I never even bother with. I’m just in it for the convenience.


PinterestPinterest — I am not a game girl. So to keep me occupied while waiting idly somewhere, I turn to Pinterest. It’s all the visual stimulation I need.

jrink up

MrsRopers_JrinkI’m a fan of the juice cleanse (especially after the recent hot dog splurge) to get my body back on track. And now I have found a new, local juicery that not only has delicious juice in glass bottles no less, but they deliver right to your door anywhere within the Beltway between 5-8:30 AM for $10. And they have a bit more choice in green juice combos than my old mail order juicery. In fact, there are choices for all the juices and there’s not a dud in the bunch.

While Jrink has two standard cleanse packs to choose from, I prefer to put my own daily combo together to mimic the routine I’m used to — 3 green juices (I mix ’em up), 1 lemon cayenne, one pineapple mint (my absolute favorite!) and a hazelnut or almond milk to round out the day for a calorie boost and creamy treat.

If you are in the DC area, they have a shop in Dupont with another on the way in Logan Circle. Or order online. Thirty-six hour notice required for delivery.

Update November 2, 2014:  to receive a $5 discount on your first Jrink order use code  JRINKMBAR5

crab pickin’

Bethesda Crab House — Bethesda, MD

4958 Bethesda Avenue

My first crab picking experience. Not at the shore but at a little joint in Bethesda that is just as fun. Newspaper on the tables, cold beer, crabby smell — the real deal. Order the Crab Feast and you get unlimited small and medium crabs, slaw and corn on the cob for $39. There is nothing else to say but grab your mallet and start picking . . .

getting to know julia

julia_childFrom time to time, something will spark an interest in me to read up on someone or something and learn as much as I can. Several years ago, watching The Tudors television show sparked a small obsession with Henry VIII and I found myself reading up on his dynasty for months (The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George is one of the best novels I have ever read as a result). More recently, watching the film Julie & Julia again for the I don’t know how many-th time, I decided I should probably read the book on which half the movie was based — My Life in France. As interesting as it was to hear Julia’s story in her own words, what struck me most in reading this book was how one consciously starts to plan for the end of life as they age — in Julia’s case, placing her ailing husband in a home to be cared for, closing up their house in France for the last time, deciding to write her story . . . This innocent little book certainly made me think in ways that surprised me.

And this book lead me to another — As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. An amazing collection of over 200 letters between Julia and her friend/self appointed book agent chronicling their friendship, the reality behind Julia’s major oeuvre, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as well as life’s daily trials and tribulations for two strong minded housewives in the mid-twentieth century. Letters were their way of getting to know one another as they didn’t actually meet for several years after the correspondence began, so it is a very revealing glimpse into a truly special relationship.

Julia Child ImagesAnd that was all it took for me to be smitten with Julia. One movie, two books and to cap it off (just like in the movie) . . . a trip to the American History Museum this past weekend to see Julia’s real life kitchen in person. Small and chock ‘o block full of well-loved kitchen gear it’s a snapshot of American life, a great American life . . .

Julia Child Kitchen

weekend agenda

mazeInside the National Building Museum in Washington, DC you can feel what’s it’s like to be a mouse in a maze. An urban take on the classic corn maze, this plywood structure is oodles of fun for kids or about 4.5 minutes of distraction for adults. Don’t get me wrong it’s a fun activity. But I fault the design for it’s dipped center which while it makes for great views and a social media hot spot, once you reach that point in the maze the way out is clearly visible and the challenge is over. But super fun to watch patrons from above so be sure to venture up to another floor and look down on the activated structure. At $16 a head, it is a bit pricy but you get some added value with the tickets that are all puzzles in their own right — a nice little touch.

ticketsThrough September 1, 2014.

Note: the gift shop at the National Building Museum is very nice with a great selection of gifts, books, toys and more.