Ancient Roman Statue Unveiled at National Gallery

June 15, 2011

The famous Capitoline Venus, an ancient and treasured Roman statue, was inaugurated Tuesday in the West Building Rotunda of the National Gallery of Art by Gianni Alemanno, the Mayor of Rome. The six foot, six inch nude portrayal of the goddess Venus will be on display now through Sept. 5 in its first excursion outside of Rome in almost 200 years. The last time the Capitoline Venus left, she was stolen cargo, carried away by Napoleon in 1797 to be held in France until 1816 when she returned home to Rome. The statue is on loan from the Capitoline Museum in Rome, from which this Venus gets her name, one of the oldest public art museums in the world.

“It will truly be an honor to be at the National Gallery of Art to celebrate, through the millennial history and culture of our city, the achievement of an ideal bridge between Italy and the United states, and between their two capitals, Rome and Washington, D.C.,” said Alemanno in a press release issued by the National Gallery of Art.

The exhibition, titled “A Masterpiece from the Capitoline Museum, Rome,” is part of a larger project taken up by Alemanno called “The Dream of Rome,” which aims to present similar exhibits in the U.S. over the next two years. It is also an extension of the Italy@150 series, a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Italy across Washington and other locations in the U.S.

On the day of the unveiling, Alemanno and Mayor Vincent Gray signed a proclamation cementing the sister city relationship between Rome and Washington, D.C.

“The first trip of the Capitoline Venus outside Italy in almost 200 years marks the unique friendship between our two capitals and our two nations,” said Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, ambassador of Italy to the U.S., in the same press release. “It also witnesses the long standing cooperation between Italian cultural institutions and the National Gallery of Art.”

The Capitoline Venus is an incredibly well-preserved statue hailing from the ancient Roman Empire, and is a variation on what is known as a “Modest Venus,” where the goddess partially covers her nudity with her hands. She was found buried in a large a large garden in Rome in the 1670’s.
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Opening “The Box”

Tackle Box’s new location in the heart of Cleveland Heights opened Tuesday to the sounds of a reggae band and the flash of camera lights. The crush of boisterous attendees enjoyed signature cocktails and “Big Ass Beers” along with Tack’s Box’s specialty steamed lobster – quality cuisine served on a gingham table cloth.

This is Tackle Box’s second location. The first, located in Georgetown, is the casual cousin of Hook, the first sustainable seafood restaurant owned by Jonathan Umbel. Umbel got his start in the business 25 years ago when he opened a pizza delivery joint on Connecticut Avenue at the tender age of 19. Now, he wants to continue expanding his chain which has become so popular in Georgetown.

Although he eventually hopes to open many more locations, Umbel says that for now, he is intent on making the new Cleveland Heights branch successful and is focused on nurturing a quality, community-oriented restaurant. As the only seafood place in the immediate area, he’ll be tapping into a whole new market.

While they’re working on getting a band license so that groups like The Proverbs – the reggae band who set the mood for the restaurant’s opening – can play regularly, the Tackle Box will also be introducing a new concept to the D.C. food world. The Connecticut lobster roll. Unlike the traditional cold Maine lobster roll, this variation is served steamed and hot with butter and Tackle Box’s special seasoning.

“The head chef won’t even tell me what’s in it,” said Tyler Tremaine, the general manager at the new location.

The lobster, along with many other steamed seafoods, are brand new items on Tackle Box’s menu along with freshly created signature cocktails. The new drinks were invented by Ed Howard, the head bartender at Tackle Box’s Georgetown location, whose martini won Yelp’s Fourth Annual Best Martini in D.C. Contest.

Currently, the only place where these new items are available is at the Cleveland Heights location. However, Tackle Box is working on integrating them into Georgetown’s menu as well.

With new items like Beet and Goat Cheese Salad and four times the space of its Georgetown counterpart, the new Tackle Box seems to be aiming for success. And although the paint on the sign reading “In cod we trust!” just dried and the brightly colored buoys were just hung on the walls of the new restaurant, Umbel already has even bigger dreams for the future.

“To give you a sneak preview, in the next location, we are attempting to make the world’s largest oyster bar,” he said with a grin.

Farewell Free Sightseeing

June 2, 2011

As the cradle of U.S. politics, the whole of DC is biding its time and bracing itself for the imminent government shutdown. Although there’s still a chance to avoid the freeze, the odds are slim that Congress will be able to reach a consensus on the allocation of the 2011 federal budget before Friday’s midnight deadline. While it’s clear that a shutdown is looming around the corner, in these days of fractured parties it’s still uncertain how long it would last and how exactly it would affect the lives of DC residents.

Most noticeably, DC’s trash collection, street sweeping services, libraries and the DMV would close. Museums such as the different branches of the Smithsonian Institution along the Mall and the National Zoo would also shut down. Luckily, the animals in the zoo would continue to be cared for, fed and guarded during the shutdown, and private museums such as the Newseum would remain open.

It is currently unsure whether or not the National Cherry Blossom Festival would continue – festival organizers are trying to come up with a plan that will allow the events, such as Saturday’s parade, to take place as planned. Without federal funding, however, the festival must support its own cost of operations.

Because this shutdown is happening during tax season, it will have a larger impact on the IRS than shutdowns have in the past. The IRS will run on minimum staff for the duration of the suspension, meaning that tax returns filed online would be filled but those sent via snail-mail would remain unopened for an indefinite period of time. This does not mean, however, that you can file your taxes late without getting fined – they’re still due April 18.

Money and services from Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Veteran’s Administration would be given out to those who were receiving assistance before the shutdown. Because of trimmed-back staff, however, new requests to these programs could go unanswered and become backlogged until the governmental hiatus is lifted. A backlog of federal loans could also occur. The Federal Housing Administration stated that federal home loan guarantees would be withheld and it is likely that requests for federals student loans would be postponed as well. Federal funding for unemployment programs could be stopped, leaving state governments to continue providing support for the unemployed on their own. Similarly, the shutdown could delay grants for research and police training.

The police forces that have already been trained would, however, continue to perform their duties as will jail systems and the court system although some cases, such as those concerning child support or bankruptcy, may be stalled. Agencies that protect homeland security such as the U.S. Coast Guard and security guards at airports would also continue their work, although many of their workers would have to go unpaid. Individuals trying to get new passports would also be affected, as they would have to wait until the shutdown ended to register for one.

Government websites that aren’t “essential” wouldn’t be updated, possibly because government workers in “unnecessary” positions would get an unexpected vacation as they wouldn’t have to go to work during the shutdown. They also, unfortunately, wouldn’t get paid for the duration of time that the hiatus lasts. After the 1995 shutdown these workers were reimbursed, but it’s still unclear whether or not that would happen at this time.

Some things, however, would remain the same. Public schools, for instance, would continue all of their services including providing lunches for students. NASA would continue to prepare for the April 29 launch of Endeavour, the military would continue to perform its duties unfazed and the U.S. Postal Service, true to form, would carry on delivering the mail.

Spring is for Equestrians

May 4, 2011

Driving southwest beyond the bustle of DC, the edges of the city begin to melt away into its suburbs where high-rise buildings are fewer and farther between and new condos and housing complexes spring up along the highway, accommodating residents of the nation’s expanding capital. Continue still further south and even those images of city living begin to fade. Low-lying fences of dry, stacked stone run along the twisting roadsides, separating the asphalt from the rolling country beyond. What could be taken as a picturesque scene from an English painting is actually Virginia’s Loudoun County, the heart of America’s Horse Country.

The many stories that make up Loudoun’s long, rich history of equestrian life are housed in the National Sporting Library and Museum, where over 17,000 books dating back to the 16th century, as well as cycles of exhibitions, chart the county’s sporting traditions back to their roots. The current exhibit, on display through June 30, is “Horses at Work and Play,” which showcases literature and toys from the National Sporting Library’s collections and the renowned Athelstan and Kathleen Spilhaus collection.

This fall a new wing adjoining the library’s old brick building will open. The renovated hall will be the home of American and European fine sporting art, celebrating horse culture and field sports with through artistic representations.

Horse culture is also the life and blood of many shops in Loudoun, such as Middleburg’s Journeymen, a tack store and workshop creating custom-made leather goods such as chaps and saddles. It’s also the only place in town to get repairs and adjustments for your gear. The front of the store is home to a boutique where a tailor can outfit you with fitted suits in addition to riding attire.

Punkin Lee, the owner of the store whose strong hands and piercing eyes are at odds with her unique name, has been working with leather as the head of Journeymen for the past 34 years. A Middleburg native, Lee, grew up around horses, hunting and showing throughout her youth. At one time her grandmother’s barn was even the stomping ground for General George S. Patton’s horses, she said.

“It’s the industry here,” Lee said. “Annapolis has boats, we have horses.”

Having made every repair from a camel saddle to handmade leather boots for a dog, Lee stresses that the quality of her work is what keeps her customers from Middleburg and around the world coming back to her store. Pieces of Lee’s world-class gear have even made their way to the Olympics.

For the past 157 years, Loudoun residents and horse enthusiasts from across the world gather in Upperville for the Upperville Colt and Horse Show, the oldest horse show in the U.S. featuring events from children’s competitions to Olympic-level riders and horses. June 6 through 12, the show will enter its 158th season at The Oaks, the event’s beautiful, grass-covered showgrounds nestled in Loudoun’s rolling foothills. For just $10 per person, visitors can watch a packed schedule of daily events with competitions for hunters, jumpers and breeders. Visit for more information.

On May 7, about 50,000 people will travel to Great Meadow in The Plains region of Loudoun for the 86th annual Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase. The day’s six hurdle and timber horse races as well as its Jack Russell Terrier races are famous nationwide, and draw countless vendors, tents and tailgaters. The spectators will also have a chance to compete in the hat contest. Ladies sporting the biggest and best derby hats will be judged in the afternoon on Members Hill. To learn more about the steeplechase, go to

Another tradition in Loudoun County is the Annual Hunt Country Stable Tour hosted by Trinity Episcopal Church. This self-driven auto tour will enter its 52nd year the weekend of May 28, when drivers will tour a circuit of Upperville, Middleburg and The Plains, visiting the areas thoroughbred breeding farms, show hunger barns, fox hunting barns and country estates. Call 540.592.3408 or visit for more information and tickets.

But riding in Loudoun County isn’t just for equestrian addicts and professionals. It’s a part of life for everyone, including visitors and first-timers. The area abounds with stables and fields where just about anyone can learn to ride. At the southern tip of Loudon, Aldie Dam Stable occupies more than 450 acres of land and offers lessons and trail rides for riders with all levels of experience. Call 540.931.8779 to find out more.

Although Loudoun’s title of Horse Country is rich in history and tradition, the area also holds another prestigious title: Wine Country. More than 54 wineries are scattered throughout the area, their presence marked by the sprawling vineyards interspersed among the farms and grazing fields. The wineries are grouped into five clusters: the Loudoun Heights Cluster, the Waterford Cluster, the Potomac Cluster, the Mosby Cluster and the Harmony Cluster. This arrangement, in addition to the long, beautiful country roads, makes touring the vineyards an incredibly relaxing experience. These picture-perfect venues are wonderful settings to enjoy the slow pace of the countryside while sampling some of Virginia’s best wines. [gallery ids="99655,105340,105336,105334" nav="thumbs"]

Great Local Summer Camps

April 20, 2011

As it turns out, it is quite possible to give your kids a memorable summer camp experience without shipping them halfway across the country. There are amazing day and stay-away camps right in DC’s back yard. Whether your child is interested in education, is a budding sports fan or a young artist, there are a myriad of fun summer options in the city and the greater DC area for you and your kids to choose from.

Beauvoir – Activities of all Types for Little Tykes

Many of DC’s private schools offer summer programs for their students and other children from the area. Beauvoir Summer Program at the National Cathedral Elementary School is one such camp for kids ages 3 – 11. Kids are encouraged to play, learn and explore at the camp’s playgrounds, pool and wading pool under the guidance of experienced camp counselors (most of which are professional teachers) and life guards.

Although it is a day camp, Beauvoir offers before and after camp programs to accommodate busy parents’ schedules. With schedules centered around titles like “Animal Detectives,” “Wild About Water” and “Fairytale Fantasy,” there are activities for every little critter. For slightly older groups, Beauvoir offers acting and foreign language programs in addition to their swimming classes which are available for all ages. Go to for more details and to register.

Visitation – All Sports, All Ages

Visitation Preparatory School, another local private school, also offers summer programs for young athletes. Every summer, the school partners with TenniStar to bring a team of great coaches to the campus to train kids ages 5 – 15. A total of six camps are available: tennis, soccer, lacrosse, basketball and field hockey. The final program, SportStar, was created by alumni for incoming freshmen and their friends as a place to meet new people through recreational sporting fun. For more information and to register visit To find out more about TenniStar, call 301.530.5472.

Georgetown University Summer Programs – Academic Excellence for Students

Plenty of local options are also available for high school students. Kids grades nine through 12 can get ahead in their academic careers by enrolling in one of Georgetown University’s summer programs. Word has it they’re even fun, too! Young adults can take an array of programs from Arabic to forensic science, earn college credit and prepare for the SATs with the faculty of the University.

Pigment Art Studio Summer Camps – Arts n’ Crafts Afternoons

For little artists, morning and afternoon summer camp sessions are offered at Pigment Art Studio in Adams Morgan, a group whose mission is to motivate and collaborate with young artists in the community. This program features small class sizes and individual attention, so the spaces fill up quickly! Visit to request more information and to register.

Camp Rim Rock – Fun in the Sun for Girls

Of course, if your kids can’t wait to get out and away from the house this summer, there are plenty of great summer camps located around the outskirts of DC. Camp Rim Rock, two hours outside of the city in West Virginia, is an all-girls summer camp celebrating its 60th year of making memories for girls ages 6 – 16. The camp sits on over 600 acres of hiking and riding trails as well as places for swimming and sports. Rim Rock also offers programs in performance and arts and crafts. Over 100 counselors oversee the activities during the camp’s three, five and seven-week stay-away sessions. Specialty camps in riding and tennis are also available. To find out more, visit

Camp Hidden Meadows – Far Off Explorations

For very adventurous boys and girls ages 7 –16, an even farther summer camp experience is available at Camp Hidden Meadows in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. Campers can choose from an enormous list of daily activities such as horse back riding, rock climbing, woodworking, white water rafting, basketball, yoga, pottery, culinary arts, farming, painting, and the list goes on. This American Camp Association accredited camp offers sessions that are one week long and up, following the philosophy that learning comes easily in a fun, supportive environment. To learn more, go to [gallery ids="99650,105309,105312" nav="thumbs"]

DC Lives Green

Five years ago, amid the fragrant scents of vegan and vegetarian dishes at Java Green, a few loyal patrons of the restaurant began to talk. Many of them were environmentalists and the topic on their menu was green business. The goal was to make green living accessible for all DC locals.

Steve Ma, a DC resident who has been doing environmental work for the past 21 years, was one of those patrons. “The owner [of Java Green], D.J. Kim, had this vision of a greener world,” Ma said. “He said, we need to have more green businesses, more green people. We need to be living in green places, working in green places, and we should start a group to do that.”

Ma took that vision to heart. From those conversations the idea for DC Live Green, an online organization designed to make green living simple, was born.

Since its launch in 2008, the site’s mailing list has swelled from about 1,000 to 26,000 subscribers, and the organization has partnered with more than 75 green businesses throughout DC, from cleaning services to yoga studios. To capitalize on its rapidly growing success, the organization was awarded the Environmental Excellence Award in 2009 by Mayor Adrien Fenty, along with many of the businesses that Live Green sponsors.

Through its website,, DC Live Green works as a tool for residents to help them find affordable, quality services that are also eco-friendly. For $13 per year, members are given discounts to many of the businesses the organization sponsors. DC Live Green also recently launched its sister site,, a deal site for green products. The system operates similarly to Groupons; each week, Live Green offers subscribers a 40 to 70 percent discount at one of its sponsored green businesses.

“We want people to try green businesses out and know that we screen for not only whether the business is green, but we also make sure the business is high-quality and affordable,” said Ma, whose official title is now Board President and GEO (Green Executive Officer) of DC Live Green. “We want to make sure you realize that being green doesn’t mean you have to lose out on quality or price.”

From their small, wind-powered office building, the DC Live Green team works in a shared space, clustered around desks made from reclaimed doors where they search out, screen, and partner with an ever-expanding list of businesses.

Each candidate is put through a vigorous five-part selection process. This ensures not only that a business’ products are 100 percent green, but that its operations are green, its goods or services are high in quality, their products are competitively priced, and that the business is socially responsible and active in the community.

“We look at all of those things, and when they pass our screening, we know that they are truly on a leading edge. They are what we would identify as triple-bottom-line businesses,” Ma said. “These are businesses that run on the concept that they’re gonna do good for the planet, do good for society, and make money at the same time.”

Yet Ma says DC Live Green is more than just a helpful website. It’s also a place to strengthen and grow Washington’s green community. Aside from its role as a forum for green-minded people, the organization also hosts regular events such as last February’s Single Green Mingle, a chance for eco-friendly singles to meet and exchange ideas and phone numbers. Live Green also helps budding businesses through the greening process, linking them up with other DC businesses that can provide them with environmentally friendly energy and other services.

“We want to build a community,” Ma said. “We want to pull it offline as well; we want people on the online community to interact with each other. I think it can be difficult to think about all of these things and incorporate these things into your life, but when you have a supportive community and know that other people are doing it with you, it makes it a whole lot easier.”

Ma himself works hard to make sure that his personal life is also a good example of green living for the environmentally conscious community. He is a practicing vegan, he walks or bikes most places and, although his neat green button-down and jeans would never betray it, he buys almost all of his clothes from Goodwill and other second-hand stores.

At the age of 17, Ma was introduced to the green community when opportunity literally knocked on his door in his home state of New Jersey. The local Public Interest Research Group was going door-to-door raising awareness about the state’s use of toxic chemicals. Ma seized his chance and joined the campaign, starting his journey from a teenager who ate McDonald’s once a week to a man tackling environmentalism in the nations’ capital.

This year Ma is going even further in his mission to make people aware of the impact they have on the environment by keeping an open record of all his purchases and acquisitions, excluding food, on the Live Green website. He hopes this exercise will not only force him to think twice about the items he buys, but will also inspire others to do the same.

“It’s just a good reminder that one of the things we can do to be green is to reduce the amount of stuff that we buy, and when we do buy things to make sure that they’re either used, or we’re buying the green version of the things that we need,” Ma said. “This is not about telling people that they shouldn’t buy anything ever. I think the point is when we do buy things, just buy them more intentionally.”

But DC Live Green’s objective is not just to help you green your purchases, but your whole life. According to Ma, there are five important aspects to being truly green: transportation, food, energy, stuff and impact. He points to alternatives such as Zipcars, eating less meat and dairy, finding offsets for your home’s energy use, and buying green or used items as simple ways to make your life greener on the whole. Impact refers to the number of people that you encourage to go green with you such as friends, family, or coworkers, from cooking communal vegan dinners or carpooling.

“When you can find those things that are not only easy, but also impactful and very affordable, I feel like that’s where we can spread this movement to millions, to the masses, to all of us. And that’s ultimately our mission,” Ma said. “We want to grow a thriving green economy and transform this struggling, unsustainable economy to one that’s doing very, very well.”
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