It’s Steeplechase Season!

Perhaps it was a friendly wager over a pint of ale after a rigorous day of fox hunting through the Irish countryside. No one is quite certain, and history is vague as to the outcome. What we do know is that the sport of steeplechase, with its roots firmly embedded in fox hunting, began over 250 years ago when Cornelius O’Callaghan challenged his neighbor and fellow horseman, Edmund Blake, to a match race from St. John’s Church in Buttevant to St. Mary’s Church in Doneraile, County Cork, Ireland. Taking the most direct route from point to point, or in this case steeple to steeple, the four and a half-mile contest on horseback required that the horsemen traverse challenging fences, ditches, stone walls and other obstacles found in the terrain. The sport derived its name from this early “chase” from steeple to steeple, and the obstacles that the riders had to overcome as they raced through the countryside evolved into the hurdle and timber fences we see on today’s steeplechase courses. Steeplechase eventually made its way to the United States in the 1800s, becoming a popular sport particularly on the East Coast. Today, the National Steeplechase Association, located in Fair Hill, MD, is the official sanctioning body of steeplechase horse racing in America. Races are generally classed as either a hurdles race or a timbers race. Hurdle races usually cover a distance slightly over two miles, with horse and rider leaping over obstacles that are constructed of natural or synthetic brush-like material standing four feet, six inches tall at their highest point. Timber races, typically longer in distance and considered more difficult than hurdles, are run over wooden rail fences of varying height, which are not as forgiving. Horses participating in steeplechase must be thoroughbreds, a minimum of three years of age, and registered with The Jockey Club. This year, more than twenty race meets and point-to-points will be run in Virginia, giving spectators ample opportunity to experience this exciting sport. Enjoyed not only for the thrill of the race, steeplechase is the perfect occasion to tailgate with friends, engage in some merry-making, and enjoy the beautiful venues that so graciously open their gates to race fans and horse lovers of all ages. For many, the races are an annual tradition that is eagerly awaited as soon as winter temperatures give way to more temperate weather. Attracting more than 50,000 spectators each year to Great Meadow in The Plains, the Virginia Gold Cup Race Meet is one of the most popular and highly anticipated springtime events in the Washington D.C. area. Saturday, May 1 marks the 85th running of the event, which this year flaunts an impressive total purse of $185,000 that will be shared among four hurdle races and two timber races, including the prestigious $75,000 Virginia Gold Cup. While fashion tends to run the entire spectrum at most steeplechase events, the Virginia Gold Cup is renowned for its spectators looking as if they’ve just stepped out of the pages of Town and Country or been dressed personally by Ralph Lauren. Hats atop perfectly coiffed hair rival those seen at the Kentucky Derby, which, coincidentally, is run the same day. Not surprisingly, corporate events on Members Hill, as well as tailgate gatherings along the rail, often reflect the same sense of impeccable style; gourmet fare, fine linens, china, silver, and flower arrangements with every petal in place. Make sure you arrive early enough to catch the Jack Russell Terrier races and spend some time on vendor row shopping for that perfect rail-side gift. If you prefer steeplechase on a slightly more intimate scale, mark your calendar for the 89th running of the Middleburg Spring Race Meet on Saturday, April 17. Glenwood Park, located in Middleburg — the heart of hunt country — will open its gates at 10 a.m. to welcome race fans to the oldest sanctioned steeplechase event in Virginia. Unobstructed panoramic views of the racecourse ensure that spectators won’t miss a hoof beat. Make sure you bring your camera, as you are guaranteed photo opportunities you’ll not want to miss. The Temple Gwathmey, one of the country’s oldest hurdle races and featured event at this meet, boasts a $50,000 purse this year. Six additional races — three over hurdles, two over timber, and one training race on the flat — round out the day’s total purse of $140,000. Between races, take a break from your picnic or tailgate and make your way over to the paddock area where you can check out the flurry of activity as the horses warm up and await their jockeys for the next race. This event promises a day of great racing against the backdrop of the upscale country elegance Middleburg always delivers. The Virginia Gold Cup and Middleburg Spring Races are just two of the many steeplechase events held each year in Virginia. In addition to race meets sanctioned by the National Steeplechase Association, many area hunt clubs organize point-to-point races at various locations throughout the Commonwealth. Whether your calendar permits you to attend a race meet or point-to-point, be assured that neither will disappoint. Some things to consider as you plan for your day at the races: • Races run rain or shine, although in cases of severe weather, they may be cancelled. Check the Web site or phone the contact number for your particular race if you are unsure as to whether the event will be held. • Consider fashion and comfort as you determine your attire for the day. While the tendency is to consider fashion first — and understandably so — the weather, of course, should be the primary factor in determining your selection. Early in the season, when chilly temperatures may prevail, ladies may want to consider slacks and a stylish blouse with a tweed blazer. In warmer weather, steeplechase races are the ideal occasion to show off that perfect little sundress. If you’re considering heels, think wedge heels. Stilettos and spike heels will make for a difficult and unpleasant time on the turf. Hats, of course, are always in style, so go for it, don’t be shy. Men usually can’t go wrong with khaki pants and a blazer, although at particular events, some may choose a sport coat and tie. If the weather seems uncertain, remember to bring appropriate outerwear. • If invited to a tailgate, be sure to ask your host what you can bring. Beverages and desserts are always welcome, and if by chance you’ll be engaging in some friendly wagering at the tailgate, don’t forget to bring some cash. Corporate gatherings are generally catered, so just arrive and enjoy the fun. • Allow ample time to arrive at your destination. Traffic in and around race venues will more than likely be somewhat congested, so allow extra time. How fortunate we are to have access to a sport so entrenched in history and steeped in tradition. Take a moment and imagine all that goes into this effort — the support of the owners, the untiring work of the trainers, jockeys and grooms, and the skill and athletic prowess of that magnificent animal we call the horse. As you raise your glass to toast a day at the races, listen carefully, and in the distance, you just may hear the steeple bells of St. Mary’s Church as Mr. O’Callaghan and Mr. Blake race to the finish. Check out a schedule of Virginia's upcoming races here.

Steeplechase Races

Following is a sampling of the race meets and point-to-points scheduled for the spring of 2010. For a complete list of Virginia’s 2010 steeplechase events, visit the Virginia Steeplechase Association’s Web site at Warrenton Hunt Point-to-Point Saturday, March 13, 12:30 p.m. Airlie Race Course Warrenton, VA 540-219-1400 Piedmont Fox Hounds Point-to-Point Saturday, March 20, 1 p.m. Salem Course Upperville, VA 540-687-3455 Bull Run Hunt Point-to-Point Sunday, March 21, 12:30 p.m. Brandywine Park Culpeper, VA 703-866-0509 Orange County Hunt Point-to-Point Sunday, March 28, 1 p.m. Locust Hill Farm Middleburg, VA 540-687-5552 Old Dominion Hounds Point-to-Point Saturday, April 3, 12 p.m. Ben Venue Farm Washington, VA 540-364-4573, 540-636-1507 Loudoun Hunt Point-to-Point Sunday, April 11, 12:30 p.m. Oatlands Plantation Leesburg, VA 703-777-8480, 540-338-4031 Middleburg Spring Race Meet Saturday, April 17 1 p.m. Glenwood Park Middleburg, VA 540-687-6545, 540-687-6595 Fairfax Hunt Point-to-Point Sunday, April 18, 1:30 p.m. Morven Park Leesburg, VA 540-687-0611 Middleburg Hunt Point-to-Point Sunday, April 25, 1 p.m. Glenwood Park Middleburg, VA 540-454-2991, 540-687-6069 Virginia Gold Cup Race Meet Saturday, May 1, 1 p.m. Great Meadow The Plains, VA 540-347-2612

Getting Your Vitamins?

Like most health information these days, there seems to be a great amount of confusion when it comes to vitamins. And rightly so — it can be challenging to know what to take, how to take them and why. Personally, it seems as though it’s a guessing game for most people and in turn, some people are taking full cocktails of pills daily, while others are skeptical to take any. Why the confusion? True for any scientific matter, as we gain more evidence, what we believe changes. Take vitamin E, for example. In the ’90s vitamin E was touted as a miracle antioxidant that was protective against cardiovascular diseases and cancer and health experts advised everyone to take additional vitamin e along with their daily multivitamin. Recently, this information has been rescinded and the medical community has denounced any benefit of supplementing with vitamin e aside from the DRI (Daily Reference Intake) set by the Institutes of Medicine, even suggesting potential detrimental effects of extra supplementation. The latest information recommends focusing on naturally occurring vitamin E from foods such as nuts, seeds and vegetable oils, which has shown to be safe, effective and without the potential risks supplementation with vitamin E provide. Another question about supplementation concerns the multivitamin. Is it a good or bad thing? While it's generally accepted a multivitamin can have its place in everyone's diet, by no means should it be insurance for healthy nutrition (no, you cannot eat a diet of fast food and revive yourself each day by taking a multi). There can be many ways a multivitamin can fall short. The first is in absorption. If you find a multivitamin with 100 percent of the DRIs, it does not necessarily mean you will be absorbing 100 percent of each vitamin. There are a couple factors at work in absorption. When we look at vitamins, we basically break them down into two groups: the fat-soluble vitamins — A, D, E and K — and the water-soluble vitamins B and C. In order for the fat-soluble vitamins to be absorbed, bile, which is excreted from the liver, is needed to help absorb and store these vitamins. To initiate this process, some fat is needed to be eaten when these vitamins are taken to signal to the liver to excrete bile. Water-soluble vitamins are much more easily absorbed, but can just as easily be lost through excretion in the urine. Then then we get to problems with competition for absorption. Think of it like a perfect situation for each vitamin: to be properly escorted and absorbed though the body, vitamin D and calcium need one another. That's why milk is fortified with vitamin D. However, calcium hinders the absorption of iron. Assuming you are taking a multivitamin with minerals as well, some vitamins aren't going to be absorbed fully. (If you are taking extra iron, you may want to note that iron needs vitamin C to be absorbed, so taking it with a glass of OJ can help). The bottom line here is to note proper nutrition can’t be found in a pill, even if what you take says it will provide you with 100 percent of the RDI. Quality, whole foods are needed to ensure your body gets enough of the essential vitamins and minerals. But as a back up, a multivitamin should always be taken with some food, preferably something with a little protein and fat, and a full glass of water. The latest in dietary research brings attention to vitamin D. In 2007, Time magazine declared vitamin D one of the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2007. An abundance of studies bringing forth the vital properties of vitamin D since then have surfaced. From nearly every type of cancer to common colds, autoimmune diseases, diabetes and heart disease, vitamin D seems to play a role in prevention, survival and recovery. It almost seems too good to be true, except in this case, the numerous amount of research backs this vitamin up. The Vitamin D Research Council ( does a great job linking published scholarly studies to the numerous diseases vitamin D has been studied with. The major problem with vitamin D, often referred to as the sunshine vitamin (since our skin can produce it from the sun), is that many, if not most of us, aren't getting enough. "Its an evolving science," says Washington Center for Weight Management’s Jan Gagen, a nurse practitioner who has had her vitamin D levels tested and believes in supplementation. "Basically everyone is in agreement that most Americans are deficient." The evolving question is: by how much? In light of strikingly convincing research supporting vitamin D, new standards are needed, as most scientists and practitioners believe the requirement currently set at 400 IUDs is significantly too low. Gagen currently takes between 4-5,000 IUDs daily. "Looking at vitamin D and cancer research, it is ideal to stay above 50 ng/mL [of circulating vitamin D, known as serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D] to prevent against cancer and the reoccurrence of cancer," says Gagen. While normal ranges can start as low as 25-30 ng/mL and can be indicated through a simple blood test, it all depends on where you and your physician feel comfortable your level should be. In the meantime, supplementing your multivitamin with extra vitamin D seems to be the general consensus of the medical community. The Canadian Cancer Society was one of the first to issue a recommendation to all of its citizens in 2007 to take 1000 IUDs daily. The Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board has been reviewing the convincing data on vitamin D and plans to come with a report on vitamin D in summer 2010. With all this new information, it is important to tell your primary care physician what you are taking and ask what you should be taking. Be sure to list off everything you take, even if you only take it occasionally. Supplements can powerfully influence nutrition and because we get them over the counter, we often think they can do little harm — this couldn’t be further from the truth! There are a variety of biochemical reactions that occur with each supplement you take and it can be easy to unknowingly take a supplement that acts against a medication. Certain vitamins like vitamin K should be limited and monitored to people on a blood thinner like coumadin (warfarin) due to its blood thinning properties. Other supplements like gingko can block absorption of certain medications, especially blood pressure medication, thus hindering their effects. Be cautious for every new supplement you take and check with your health care provider. Looking to eat better? Check out our [vitamin guide](

Eating Right

  -While it’s not always advised to supplement with individual vitamins, it is important to eat a diet rich in quality whole, unprocessed foods. Choose a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to ensure you are getting an ample supply of vitamins and minerals. Here’s a quick glance at vitamins: Vitamin A: Promotes vision and eye health, healthy maintenance of cells in the body’s inter-surface linings (intestinal tract, respiratory linings, etc.) and skin. It also functions in both cellular and embryonic development and reproduction, immune function and bone growth. Note: there are two sources of vitamin A, the active source that comes from animals, and the inactive source, known as beta-carotene, which comes from plants. Best sources (Active): liver, milk, eggs (Inactive): look for colorful fruits and vegetables such as carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and spinach Vitamin Bs: The B vitamins are what we call coenzymes. They function as catalysts activating chemical reactions. They consist of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, biotin and vitamin B12. B vitamins work in every cell and have many different functions to make chemical processes occur. They have major roles in energy metabolism (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and biotin work with carbohydrates, fats and proteins to release energy). Folate and vitamin B12 are necessary for new cell production and working with cellular DNA. Vitamin B6 is essential for protein production. Best sources: Thiamin: seeds and legumes (especially sunflower seeds, black beans and peas), tuna, asparagus, mushrooms, spinach Riboflavin: calf’s liver, mushrooms, venison, mushrooms, spinach Niacin: mushrooms, tuna, chicken breast, asparagus, salmon Vitamin B6: bell peppers, spinach, bananas, tuna Folate: dark leafy vegetables (especially romaine lettuce, spinach, collard greens), asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower and lentils Pantothenic Acid: mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli Biotin: found in a wide range of foods, and produced intestinally, greatest sources can be found in swiss chard and egg yolks (supplementation not recommended and deficiency is rare). Vitamin B12: animal products, specifically calf’s liver, snapper, venison, shrimp, eggs, milk, poultry Vitamin C: Helps to protect against cellular damage, formation and maintenance of tissue protein (collagen), supports immune system function. Best sources: Papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries and oranges Vitamin K: Fuctions to promote blood clotting and bone health Best sources: green leafy vegetables especially spinach, kale collards, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus

Gardens of Hunt Country

Said to be commissioned sometime around 600 B.C. by King Nebuchadnezzar as a gift to his wife Amytis, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and perhaps one of the earliest botanical works of art. With lush trees and fragrant plants imported from her native Persia and planted in elevated stone terraces to resemble the mountainous terrain where she lived as a child, the gardens were intended to provide a homesick Amytis with a sense of comfort, peace, and familiarity in a place so different from her homeland — emotions that every garden should evoke in its keeper. Whether it’s the palatial gardens of Versailles, an intimate courtyard retreat in Georgetown, or a smaller-scale balcony garden consisting of containers filled with overflowing greenery and colorful blooms, anyone who has spent time in a garden understands the positive impact such a space has on one’s overall attitude and well-being. If you already have a garden, or have toyed with the idea of creating one, the gardening events on tap this spring in Virginia’s Hunt Country will no doubt inspire your inner gardener. Secret Gardens April 17 through 25 is Historic Garden Week in Virginia — your annual invitation to take an up-close and personal peek behind some of the most exclusive garden gates in the Commonwealth, and in some cases, a glimpse into the magnificent homes that share the landscape with them. Organized by member clubs of The Garden Club of Virginia and celebrating its 77th season, this statewide celebration is frequently referred to as “America’s Largest Open House” and is the oldest event of its kind in the United States. More than 30 home and garden tours will take place in Virginia during Historic Garden Week, with proceeds going toward the preservation and restoration of historic gardens and grounds throughout the state. Several tours are within close proximity to Washington, D.C., including two in Virginia’s Hunt Country — the Loudoun and Fauquier Garden Club tour, and Winchester-Clarke County Garden Club tour. A mix of old and new awaits you on the Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club tour, where you’ll have the opportunity to visit five outstanding residences — some constructed prior to the Civil War. Leave the hectic pace of the city behind and travel west through the scenic countryside, where lush green fields and historic stone walls make the journey just as beautiful as the destinations. Properties on the tour include Innisfree, Marly, Waverly, Middleton and Pennygent. Make your way along pea gravel paths and cobblestone walkways as you are treated to exceptional gardens overflowing with annuals, perennials, espaliered fruit trees, and terraces wrapped in wisteria. The Winchester-Clarke County Garden Club tour showcases five remarkable homes dating from the 18th century to the early part of the 21st century. Erchless, Rosemont on the Shenandoah, Caveland, Apple Hill and Randleston Farm are all extraordinary residences, each unique in their own way. One residence has a circular main floor plan, with no square rooms, while another has a history that dates to the Roaring ’20s. This is an outstanding and eclectic collection of properties that you’re sure to remember long after your visit. A Festival Blooms in Leesburg Promising to be bigger and more impressive than ever, the Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival celebrates its 20th year the weekend of April 17. Attracting more than 35,000 visitors over the two-day botanical extravaganza, this event is set to fill the streets of downtown historic Leesburg with a garden party you won’t want to miss. There’s something for everyone, so come early, bring the entire family and plan to spend the day. Over 100 vendors are slated to be on hand to equip you with everything you need to envision, and ultimately cultivate, the outdoor space of your dreams. It’s unlikely you’ll even recognize the streets of this quaint historic town, as they have magically been transformed into elaborate landscaped gardens, flower and plant exhibits and more — all certain to inspire you and get your creative juices flowing. Talk with landscape professionals that can help you design that perfect patio, walkway or garden area. Stock up on supplies or buy that must-have plant with over-the-top blooms that will look just perfect in your garden. Be sure to stop by the Town Green, where experts will be presenting demonstrations on a variety of topics. Learn about composting and pick up other eco-friendly gardening tips and techniques that will ensure your garden is “green.” When it’s time to take a break, grab a bite to eat from one of several food vendors and enjoy the entertainment on the Loudoun County Courthouse lawn where various artists will treat you to music ranging from classic rock to reggae. New this year is a garden of a different sort — a wine and beer garden — featuring many of your favorite Loudoun County wineries and breweries. Face painting, crafts, and entertainment will be in full swing on the children’s stage, so make sure the “junior gardeners” in your family don’t miss out on any of the fun. Whether you’re avid gardener, or just beginning to dabble in plants, the Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival is an excellent opportunity to connect with landscape professionals, enhance your gardening knowledge, and enjoy some great springtime weather. Le Petit Jardin There’s no doubt you’ll be anxious to take all of those great gardening ideas you picked up at this spring’s events and turn them into reality. If you have never gardened because you thought you didn’t have enough time or space, think again. For many of us, time constraints or limited space just mean that we have to garden on a somewhat smaller scale. Starla King, owner of Signature Gardenscapes ( — a company specializing in smaller-scale residential landscape, says sun, space and soil are the keys to any beautiful garden. Once you assess these three important elements, you are ready to begin creating your own personal outdoor oasis. To get you started, King offers these helpful tips for creating and maintaining gardens in small spaces: • Always consider how much sun or shade the planting area will receive each day. If your garden area is primarily shade, don’t get a plant that needs mostly sun. It will probably still grow, but will be spindly, unhealthy-looking and never mature to its full potential. Likewise, a shade-loving plant will burn to a crisp in a full-sun area. • Determine how much space you have for your garden before you purchase plants. Plants will try to grow to their intended size even if you don’t give them enough room. Buy plants whose size at maturity matches your available space. For example, if you have a three- to five-foot garden space, don’t buy five plants that will each grow to three feet wide. You will end up with 15 feet of plants in a five-foot space. Instead, consider five plants that grow to one foot wide, or three plants that mature to two feet wide. • Check the soil condition. New garden beds may require that some topsoil or soil conditioner be mixed with the earth. If in doubt, check with your garden center or plant nursery. For containers, just use a good quality potting soil. • Visit a garden center and start your search for plants that appeal to you. Check the plant labels or ask for assistance to ensure the plants you select are conducive to your sun, space and soil conditions. • Consider how your plants will look together before you buy them. Place them in your cart and see if their colors and textures complement each other. Do you think they look good? Buy them! If you’re not pleased with how look together, try different plants to obtain the overall effect you want to achieve. • At home, plant and care for your new purchases according to instructions on the labels and enjoy! So now you’re ready — get out there and get gardening. And remember, whatever your source of inspiration, be it a grand garden on a magnificent country estate or container garden tucked humbly in the corner of a balcony, make certain the garden you create is what the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were to Amytis — a place of comfort, contentment, beauty and familiarity. Coming Up In Country: Plan now to make sure you don’t miss these annual gardening events happening this spring in Virginia’s hunt country. Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival April 17, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 18, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Downtown Historic Leesburg Historic Garden Week: Loudoun and Fauquier Garden Club Tour April 18, 1 to 5 p.m. April 19, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Historic Garden Week: Winchester - Clarke County Garden Club Tour April 24, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 25, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Philomont Garden Phair April 24 and 25, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Featuring plant growers, local artisans, garden-themed retailers and more. 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In Good Company

When we were little, our friends and social network influenced our choices, thoughts and behaviors. If Dave played basketball then so did Colin. If Marie wore her hair in pigtails, Andrea thought it was cool. When we grow up, we look at our friends and those who construct our social network much differently. We are led to believe who you know can lead you to opportunity and success. The number of names and phone numbers in our Blackberries are supposed to grow, especially in our nation's capital, where building one's social network is not only an event, pastime or lecture topic, but a way of life. We've all been told that “who you know” can get you in the door to a job, inside information or get you into a sold-out event. But studies say who you know and how well you know them can make a much more remarkable impact on one's life than having an "in" with backstage security. In recent years, sociologists, psychologists, scientists and physicians alike have shifted their attention and broadened their focus of study subjects by examining the relationships and characteristics of those closely connected to them. While an individual’s social networks have not unveiled connections resulting in lucrative jobs or insider information, they have instead revealed a profound influence and vital effect over many facets of one's health and wellness. The characteristics of those who run in a person's social circle and how closely connected they are to that person have proven to play a factoring role in matters diverse as belt size to coping ability. So just how much are we influenced by our relationships? Let’s start with behaviors. It may sound rudimentary to assume that if the people you associate with are drinkers, you'll likely follow suit. After assessing the social networks of 12,000 people from 1971 to 2003 — the subjects of the famous Framingham Heart Study — researchers from Harvard and the University of California, San Diego concluded in the Annals of Internal Medicine last month that not only do those in your social network affect your alcohol consumption, so do those in your social network's network — this relationship held through three degrees of separation. If the people you surround yourself are heavy drinkers, it is 50 percent more likely that you will also drink heavily. If a friend of a friend is a heavy drinker, you would be 36 percent as likely to be one as well. And if that friend's friend — the third degree of separation — is a heavy drinker, your chances of drinking heavily increases 15 percent. It may be easy to enjoy another cocktail among your friends or share ideas of social acceptance when it comes to alcohol consumption, but what about body size? Could obesity spread from one to another just like the tendency to drink within a social circle? Take the people in your life, your friends, significant other, colleagues and family. Look at your body size in comparison to theirs, taking extra note of your closest friends. Do you find any parallels? Researchers from the Harvard/UCSD study found that it may not just be about diet and exercise, but that obesity is spread through relationships. The most statistically significant (and shocking) relationship influences were with close friendships of the same sex. A person's chances of becoming obese increased by 57 percent if he or she had a close friend who became obese throughout the study. In pairs of people who each named one another as a close friend, the likeliness that both would gain weight if one became obese jumped to 171 percent. It didn't matter how near or far the friends were from one another geographically, as long as the person being named was a close friend. This correlation has proved to be stronger than genetics and marriage. Between adult siblings, the likeliness that one would become obese after their brother or sister had increased by 40 percent; for spouses they found a 37 percent increased risk. Don't get upset just yet, not all relationships increase negative outcome. But if you are unhappy, perhaps you should find a new group of happy friends, hopefully ones with their own happy friends. Analyzing over 50,000 social ties of nearly 5,000 Framingham participants from 1983-2003, researchers concluded a key determinant of a person's happiness lies in the happiness with whom they are connected. The degree of closeness to one's friends and family also ascertained the likeliness of happiness in the future. In the study, happiness was found to be dependent on a person's social connections extending (again) to three degrees of separation. What this means is that your close friends, siblings, spouse and neighbors all can impact your happiness, and if they are happy (and their friends, and their friends’ friends), there is a greater probability that you will also be happy. Luckily, happiness seems to spread much more consistently through a social web then does unhappiness. By mapping out a network of social connections, it was found that happy people are found in clusters, and the more central one is in the network of relationships, the more likely they are to be happy and stay happy in the future. Need more reasons to embrace friendships? Want to live longer? Keep your friends, make new ones and continue your relationships in your old age. While having a spouse had little impact on survival, a study of 3,000 nurses with breast cancer published in the Journal of Oncology found that women without close friendships were four times as likely to die then women with 10 or more friends. Another study, this time focused on longevity, found that when people aged 70 and above maintained close friendships and social ties, they had a 22 percent higher survival time. Australian researchers in this study also found no correlation between relationships with their children and relatives, just the friendships the subjects maintained. Maybe it is all about who you know in life that makes a difference when it comes to attaining health and happiness. It’s not just a mind and body connection we need to be aware of. There is a third component, a person's social ties, which can play a major role in one's wellness, thus unveiling the mind-body-social network connection. It turns out, in one way or another, we are all influencing one another, spreading cheer or weight gain, and not only is it important to choose friends wisely and rekindle old friendships, it’s never too late to make new friends. It’s also important to remember you are part of larger phenomenon, influencing and leaving your mark in others’ lives.

The White Elephant

Every trip to the town of Middleburg, VA, warrants a visit to a special place: The White Elephant. Since my church always had an annual white elephant sale, I immediately understood the significance of the name. It was 22 years ago that two sisters and their mother began what has become a must-visit, must-purchase-something store. Sisters Leslie and Cynthia Broockman, with their late mother Gloria, began in 1988 with what they considered a brief indoor garage sale. It was winter and too cold to sell on the sidewalk some of the furniture and other excess items they no longer needed after moving up from Florida. So, as fate would have it, they were offered an empty room, which happened to be an unused storefront in Middleburg, to conduct a sale. It was only meant to last two days. Instead, the idea of "consignments" flew into the picture and the "sale" continues to this day. "Follow your dreams," their mother advised her daughters. The dream became a reality as chance encounters led to the creation of what are now two consignment shops, one in Middleburg and one in nearby Warrenton. Cynthia says, "If you have the courage to dream and wait patiently with complete faith, they'll come true." Despite all the odds, and there were many, the story behind this family not only creating a consignment business (quite by accident) but allowing the venture to help others serves as an inspiration to anyone wishing to follow their dream. On a recent visit to Middleburg, I walked into The White Elephant and, not needing anything in particular, but always curious, headed down the aisle of antiquities. There are two sides to the store plus a basement divided into two sides. On the left, you will find a collection of apparel and accessories. Many of these are new. None are over two years old. Everything from jeans to evening gowns, jewelry to shoes. On the right are "decorative accents and furniture." All incoming consignments are carefully screened for quality. You will not have to search through "junk" to find valuable items. This particular day, I observed a man looking closely at certain items, making notes, and walking on to carefully study another object. I had to ask, "Are you an antique collector?" Yes, he was. Not only a collector but, I believe, although he would not tell me as much, he had a business selling antiques. I was not surprised. In our home are signs of The White Elephant everywhere. I won’t tell. Okay, maybe I will, just to entice you. But you must keep our secret! One day, we brought home an art nouveau side table for the living room. On another occasion, we came home with a three piece entertainment console for downstairs. And a few years ago, we could not resist a beautiful Oriental rug. Many items at The White Elephant are one of a kind, including paintings, jewelry, and china. The choices change constantly, so you must make a habit of snooping. Reasonably priced, many items are one of a kind and many are collectable. Their collections, which change almost daily (since the inventory and sales are continuous, seven days a week), are incredible. For wedding gifts, graduation gifts, birthdays, and for your personal collections, it is hard to resist a purchase at the White Elephant. There are always lovely, helpful ladies working at the shop should you have any questions. Plus I always meet fascinating people many of whom, like me, make it a priority to poke around the hidden treasures and rarely leave empty-handed. Visit The White Elephant at 103 West Federal Street in Middleburg or [gallery ids="102670,102609,102661,102652,102643,102619,102635,102628" nav="thumbs"]

Slimming Down? Books for Dieters

Getting reliable nutrition or diet information is a challenge in today’s information super-highway. Out of the thousands of diet books out there, I have found maybe a handful which merit recommending. My specifications? • The content is based on verifiable facts and good science • The recommendations, if followed short or long term, will improve your health, rather than damage it • It advocates a variety of foods, and doesn’t cut out important, nutritious food groups • It promotes a positive attitude toward food and eating • It’s practical and doesn’t require special drugs, diet foods, packaged foods or supplements which would be impossible to maintain • It doesn’t advocate a way of eating with unacceptable side-effects • It advocates a well-balanced existence, including physical activity, which is known to be essential to good health • The reading is interesting, while the recommendations are simple and easy to follow. My choices for some of the best diet books out there, authored by academic researchers and dietitians: “The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan,” Barbara Rolls Hands-down, “Volumetrics” is my favorite diet book. Barbara Rolls is a respected Penn State University nutrition researcher and the first to recognize the importance of high volume foods for weight loss and weight maintenance. Her philosophy is “Don’t deprive yourself — lose weight while eating more!” and it works. I live by this rule and have taught countless clients to do the same. I feel so positive about this approach I’ve adopted the “Volumetrics” concepts, among others, for my own book, “Diet Simple.” “Volumetrics” is full of practical ideas which work, and are proven by science and my own experience. The author treats the reader with respect by explaining the science behind the theories. It essentially includes 60 recipes, which my clients have found to be excellent. “Thin for Life,” Anne M. Fletcher Anne Fletcher is another author who knows her stuff. “Thin for Life” is based on highly respected research which has followed and studied people who have lost weight and kept it off for many years — the real pros. The chapters are divided into ten “keys to success.” “Thin for Life” refutes the oft-quoted claim that it’s impossible to lose weight and to keep it off. One of my favorite “keys” to success in the book, which I try to drill into my own clients, is “nip it in the bud.” Research has found that everyone experiences the same number of “slips” and stressors in their lives. The difference is the weight-relapsers let the slips turn into prolonged relapses and re-gain their weight. Successful weight loss maintainers view the “slip” as natural, as something to learn from, and get right back on track. “Mindless Eating,” Brian Wansink “Mindless Eating” is written by Cornell researcher Brian Wansink, an eating “behaviorist” who specializes in the passive ways people eat too much and how to change them. He’s discovered that we’re basically clueless about how much to eat (and if it’s in front of us, we’ll eat it!). If you’ve ever wondered why you ate all the popcorn at the movies or the whole serving of nachos for dinner — and have felt terrible — this book is for you. Wansink does ingenious experiments where he rigs bowls of soup to keep re-filling (with an apparatus under the table the subject knows nothing about) and finds the person keeps eating, and eating, and eating. He has found if food is less convenient, we are 10 times less likely to eat it. If the label announces “fat free,” we’ll eat more! If our food is on a smaller plate, we’ll eat less without realizing it. You get the idea. I use his research every day to improve my own eating habits and those of my clients. “Weight Loss Confidential,” Anne M. Fletcher This is a great book for teens (and their parents) that proves teenagers have the resources, with the proper support, to eat healthy, achieve appropriate weights and enjoy it. “How to Get Your Kid to Eat…But Not Too Much” and “Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense,” Ellyn Satter A registered dietitian and clinical social worker, Ellyn Satter has written the best books to teach you how to raise your children to love healthy food and live healthy lives, without adverse side-effects of eating disorders or weight problems. Some of her topics include: “Is Your Toddler Jerking You Around at the Table?” “The Individualistic Teenager,” “How Much Should Your Child Eat?” “What is Normal Eating?” and “Nutritional Tactic for Preventing Food Fights.” “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right,” Joanna Dolgoff This is a great book with simple techniques for teaching children healthy eating and how to lose weight healthfully. I recently heard the author, Joanna Dolgoff, give a presentation about her book and found her very practical and insightful — she advocates strategies I’ve used and know they work. Her philosophy: no food is off-limits, but she divides foods into three categories to make it easier for children to make decisions without being hung up on calories. Green light foods mean: Go! (unlimited, first choice foods), yellow light foods mean: Slow! (caution, eat in moderation), and red light foods mean: Uh oh! (an occasional treat). Katherine’s favorite healthy cookbooks: 1) “The French Culinary Institute’s Salute to Healthy Cooking,” Jacques Pepin, et al. 2) “Mediterranean Light,” Martha Rose Shulman 3) “The New American Plate,” American Institute for Cancer Research 4) “Provencal Light,” Martha Rose Shulman Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D. will customize an easy, enjoyable nutrition, weight loss, athletic or medical nutrition therapy program for you, your family or your company. She is the author of “Diet Simple: 192 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations,” and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Contact her at or 202-833-0353. [gallery ids="99128,102659,102700,102691,102682,102675,102668" nav="thumbs"]

Forever Alchimie

Georgetown is known for having many gems and specialty stores, and Alchimie Forever is not one to be forgotten. Located at 1010 Wisconsin Ave., tucked away next to Poltrona Frau, Alchimie Forever provides women and men with a line of noninvasive yet effective skin care products. Dr. Luigi Polla, a leader in the field of cosmetic laser therapy, with the help of his wife Barbra Polla, a biomedical researcher, realized the benefits of antioxidants and stress proteins for many of his patients. In the winter of 1997, Dr. Luigi converted his practice into the Forever Laser Institute. With the combination of spa-like services and medical treatments, Forever Institute became the center of having visibly improved skin results without the need of extreme skin care procedures. In 2000, the Alchimie Forever skin care line was born. With the lack of harsh chemicals and use of natural products such as blueberries, grapes, and synthetic acids, (all extremely beneficial for their antioxidant properties) all helped in the maintaining and clarifying of one’s skin. In 2003, surrounded by the knowledge of skin care and maintenance, their daughter Ada Polla made it her mission to develop the line’s brand and visibility. To further the spa’s mission, the family launched Alchimie Forever in 2003. Becoming the CEO of a successful skincare line at the age of 25, Ada took on the challenge with a team of eight who’ve made the products available and used in popular spas like Hela Spa (3209 M St.), Somafit (2121 Wisconsin Ave.), Grooming Lounge (1745 L St.) and various locations throughout New York and overseas. ? When asked why she decided to open the flagship location in Georgetown, Polla explained that she “felt like a big fish in a smaller pond in the world of skincare” in the District. She goes on to explain that D.C. was such a niche market, and besides her love of the city, she feels this was the perfect market for her products. When asked about Alchimie’s philosophy, Polla was quick to stress the importance of care for the entire self. As she quoted her father, “you can always tell a woman’s age by her hands and her décolleté (chest).” It is clear that one must care for more then just the face. Though they specialize in facial care, Alchimie’s body care products are clearly meant to nature and heal the skin. Alchimie will not make promises (and no product can) of creating a face 10 years younger or giving you the skin of a 16-year-old, but will promise to improve and make the best of what you are giving. By making the best of what you have and “achieving the best skin possible,” a person can not help but to be beautiful. To learn more about Alchimie Forever, visit, 1010 Wisconsin Ave., Suite 201. [gallery ids="99129,102669,102683,102677" nav="thumbs"]

2010 Summer Camp Guide

  -Ah, summertime — the apogee of every kid’s year. The quarter-long punctuation of an existence measured in semesters and three-day weekends. The annual big kahuna of all vacations. Adults living in Washington think of it as something of a dreadful time. You still go to work, you pay bills, you race around — just the same as any other season, only sweatier, and perhaps with a twinge of bitter animus that you, too, could once clear your schedule from Memorial to Labor Day, and you thought it endless. But that is the great allure of summer: that children, who in many ways are always wise beyond their years, somehow convince themselves with astonishing zeal that it will never end, which is maybe what makes the experience so formative and special. With the innocence of youth in mind, we’ve selected some of our favorite summer camps around the city and region. They have a funny way of making these hot three months fly by, but you can be sure the memories will endure. Audubon Naturalist Society, 301-652-9188 Where: Headquartered in Chevy Chase, MD; the Society operates two other camps in Leesburg and Clifton, VA. When: The first programs begin June 21 and extend through mid-August. Full-day (9-4) or half day programs are available, depending on the child’s age and schedule. Overnight trips are available for older students. How much: Classes start at $165. Offering unique programs for children aged 4 to 15, Audubon’s camps are designed to foster environmental awareness among the nation’s youth. They feature direct experiences with our natural world through hands-on activities, games, crafts, experiments, and explorations. Campers can expect to spend most of their time outdoors, but every camp has an indoor classroom to use as a home base. Levine School Music and Arts Day Camp, 202-686-8000 Where: Campuses in D.C. (2801 Upton St., Van Ness), Bethesda’s Strathmore Center and Arlington (Ballston). When: Full-day (9:30-3:30) and half-day (9:30-1:30) programs available from June 28-July 16 and July 19-August 6. How much: $1044 for full-day students, $720 half-day. Levine’s summer camp has a loyal following, with many campers returning each year. Levine nurtures the total musical child in a supportive and stimulating environment. Through singing, dancing, playing instruments and sharing artistic experiences, children develop skills for creative expression and aesthetic awareness that will last their entire lives. TIC Summer Camp, 703-241-5542 Where: GWU’s satellite campus at 2100 Foxhall Road. Classes also available in Bethesda and McLean. When: 8:30 to 3, five days per week. Four sessions are operated throughout the summer, the first beginning June 21. Each lasts about a week and a half. How much: $800 per session. Total nerd camp this isn’t: from the beginning, campers are divided into two age groups, juniors (6th grade and younger) and seniors (7th grade and older). Each day, one group takes technology courses geared for kids, while the other is immersed in an athletic program; after lunch the groups switch places, so that each camper gets three hours of technology instruction and three hours of sports each day. Camp Arena Stage, 202-554-9066 Where: Georgetown Visitation School, 1524 35th St. When: 9-4, five days a week. The camp offers a four-week intensive session beginning June 28 and a two-week half session beginning July 26. How much: $1600 for full session, $900 half Camp Arena Stage empowers young people to express themselves more fully through art by encouraging them to make art that speaks with their own voices. Campers create their own schedules, choosing from a host of classes in theater, music, dance, media and visual art. They can try unfamiliar art forms and/or pursue current artistic interests: it’s up to them. Camp Shakespeare, 202-547-5688 Where: STC’s rehearsal studios, 516 Eighth St. S.E. When: 10-5 daily, sessions begin June 21. How much: $695. And yes, the T-shirt’s included. This two-week day camp aims to enhance the understanding of Shakespeare’s language through the exploration of movement, text, improvisation and performance. Young people ages 9-18 will analyze and interpret Shakespeare’s text, create dynamic characters with their bodies, voices, and imaginations and explore the art of stage combat. Camp will culminate with a performance for friends and family onstage at the Lansburgh Theatre. Georgetown Day School’s Hopper Day Camp, 202-274-1683 Where: GDS’ lower school, 4530 MacArthur Blvd. When: Week-long sessions from 8:30 to 3, beginning June 21. Half-day options available. How much: $395 per week, ages pre-K to 11. For the youngsters. Start the day with 4 classes (arts, sports, drama, science, cooking & more) & spend the afternoons on water play, talent shows, field trips, Olympics and more. Each group of 5-10 campers will travel with a junior counselor; experienced teachers will lead each class. Sheridan School’s Shenandoah Summer Camp, 540-743-6603 Where: Sheridan Mountain Campus, Luray, VA. When: All-day sessions beginning early July. Most last five days, but older students may opt for two-week programs. How much: Sessions start at $565. High school-level “Ironman” programs run around $1300. For the adventurer in every family, Sheridan’s classic outdoor camp centers on community building, mastering outdoor skills and back-to-nature basics. You also can’t get a more idyllic setting: the 130-acre campus borders the Shenandoah River and Shenandoah National Park near Luray (not to mention its famous caverns). Campers will have their pick of opportunities to view wildlife and woods, and certainly make a few friendships along the way. Georgetown University Summer Day Camp at Yates Field House Where: Located right on Georgetown University at Yates Field House and Kehoe Field When: Six weeks offered with the first program beginning June 21 and the last program beginning July 26. Camp hours are from 9am to 4pm. After care is available until 4:30pm. How Much: Weekly tuition for Yates members is $275. Non-Yates members $375. Register online. Yates Summer Day Camp is celebrating their 30th year as a comprehensive day-long camp at Yates Field House and Kehoe Field. Campers ages 6-10 years enjoy activities such as arts and crafts, indoor and outdoor games, swimming, movies, talent shows and much more.