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There’s something about the naked potential of a day off… a free day… a holiday.

Though I toyed with the idea of doing some work, checking email, reading a report — before the temptation could seduce me — I grabbed my Shuffle, shoved my house keys in a pocket, slung a camera around my neck and headed out into a glorious day.

And I was struck by reflections. On Connecticut Avenue, the Mayflower Hotel reflected off of the curved windows of the office building across the street. The Sumner School reflected off the National Geographic Explorer’s Hall (above). The University Club reflected back from the original National Geographic building. The Smithsonian Castle reflected off of the tranquil pools of the Moongate Garden.

Everywhere I looked, something else reflected back.

I wrapped up the day with an evening showing of the 11th Hour. Though I felt the movie dragged a little and the message got a little convoluted in the end, it did get me thinking about the disposable society we live in and my contributions to waste. It’s actually been on my mind for a while now.

While I’ve made some lifestyle changes, I’m still not doing nearly enough. As Michael Jackson so eloquently put it, “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change.”

So how did you spend your Labor Day?




US from Space

I grew up in an environment that valued what is now referred to as “green living.” My parents weren’t tree huggers, but immigrants who had grown up on a very small island.

In the summer, my father would only run the air conditioning on the most brutally hot and humid of days. Half of the backyard was devoted to growing an assortment of fruit and vegetables that included tomatoes, lettuce, squash, cucumbers, peppermint, strawberries, Asian pears, and grapes. We did not eat out. Ever. McDonald’s was a rare and exotic treat.

Leftovers were fed to our German Shepherd or used as compost for the garden.

Every bag we brought home was reused to collect trash. We turned off lights and electrical appliances when we weren’t using them. If the shower ran for more than 10 minutes, my dad would bang on the door and yell at us to turn off the water. My mom spent endless hours cutting patterns and sewing clothes at night. We planted trees, bushes and flowers all over our yard.

In the winter, trees were chopped down for firewood. Instead of running the furnace, we’d light a fire in the wood stove which was miraculously sufficient to overheat the entire 1900 square foot house.

Books were borrowed not bought. Money was saved not spent.

And though I never really felt like I went without, I went bananas when I entered college. Finally I could crank the air conditioning as low and as long as I wanted. To study, I’d turn on every light in the room. The radio, television and hairdryer would be used simultaneously, each drowning the other out. And if I had time, I could stand beneath the shower for an hour if I wanted to.

Fast forward 15 years and you’d think I never learned my father’s lessons of “save today for tomorrow.” The bad habits I picked up in college are still with me today. Bad habits I wasn’t conscious of until my mother stayed with me for one week this past June.

My bare kitchen cabinets and empty refrigerator made her shudder. “What will we eat?” she’d ask. And I’d drag her down the block to Cosi or to one of Dupont’s fine eateries. “Where do you you keep these bags?” she’d ask, holding out three or four rumpled CVS plastic bags. I’d point to a trashcan wrapped with a super duty Glad bag.  And when she reached out to turn off the thermostat on our way out, I nearly had a stroke. “Are you crazy? You can’t turn that off. It’s June. In DC. We’ll suffocate when we get back.”

She just shook her head and frowned.

I think of all this now because I just read about Raina Kelly’s Freegan experiment. I wonder how well I’d do if I tried to live carbon neutral?

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Short fiction

All Story

I am a huge fan of short fiction. I devour stories by Alice Adams, tasty morsels by Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway, decadent treats by Isabel Allende, dark chunks by Poe, and those wonderful America’s Best anthologies.

I picked up New Sudden Fiction the other day, and am enthralled with Stacey Richter’s “The Minimalist” and Leslie Pietrzyk’s “Pompeii.”

I wish I could write like them — but my brain just doesn’t marry images and words the way they do.

These stories are delicious torture.

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Art Heist

Cliffs Near Dieppe

In less than five minutes, five armed and masked thieves stole four paintings from the Jules-Cheret Fine Arts Museum in Nice.

The two Impressionist paintings — 1897 Cliffs Near Dieppe by Monet and the 1890 Lane of Poplars by Alfred Sisley — and two by Jan Bruegel the Elder — Allegory of Earth and Allegory of Water– are worth about $1.4 million.

The art museum is housed in an Italianate mansion that once belonged to a Ukrainian princess.

Because of all the publicity and the works that were taken, it’s not like these paintings will go up on the auction block at Christie’s or Sotheby’s anytime soon.  Someone is spiriting them away to some private vault somewhere for their viewing pleasure. Why these paintings? And why not visit the museum and admire them like everyone else? Why do people covet these works?

And — if by some stroke of ingenuity and lapse of morality — you could take a very public painting and bring it home, what would you choose?

I would be torn between de Kooning’s portrait of JFK and Susanna and the Elders by Artemisia Gentileschi. Not that I ever would.

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When in Rome…

Rome Rebuilt

Rome Reborn went online today. The 3D simulation shows the ancient city within the 13-mile-long Aurelian Walls as it appeared in A.D. 320. A team of archaeologists, architects and computer specialists recreated the city when it was the multicultural capital of the western world and had reached the peak of its development with an estimated population of one million people.

It’s a nice tie in to my recent addiction to ROME. I’ve watched a lot of miniseries and movies on that great civilization, but HBO’s series truly outshines the others. This stellar program truly depicts the politics, the flavor and day-to-day life of these ancient people. It’s fantastic!

And as a longtime fan of James Purefoy, I’m thrilled to see him in such a meaty role as Marc Anthony.

You won’t regret finding time to check out both the virtual Rome online and HBO’s fantastic  series!



Jackie O

As a girl my idol was Jackie O. She was beautiful, smart, classy, articulate, always well put together. She grew up in Newport and married a Kennedy. She was a lady and I wanted to be just like her.

Over the holidays, I found a scrapbook I had kept of her… filled with magazine photos from Life and Vanity Fair and yellowed articles I clipped of Jackie as a socialite and an editor for DoubleDay.

Later, in college, I discovered Audrey Hepburn and would often return from a night out partying with frat boys to pop Breakfast at Tiffany’s into the VCR. That black dress, those pearls, the oversized sunglasses… I wanted to stand in front of a posh jewelry store, chew on a criossant, and gaze longingly at a lovely display window.

And while I was more familiar with the crazy antics of her wildchild Stephanie, I knew Grace Kelly was an American-born Princess.

Samantha Critchell writes today of the timeless trio — Jackie, Audrey and Grace.

I feel sad for young women today. Everywhere they look they see the antics of Paris, Lindsay and Britney… prime examples of who not to emulate.

Where are today’s trendsetters? Who are today’s role models and icons?

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Keeping it simple

White Wine

Last night I met my best friend Kay out for dinner and drinks. As the night progressed, I realized most of our conversation involved changes we wanted to make this year. By the time we parted, we’d developed an ambitious list:

  1. Brunch every Sunday at 11:00 a.m.
  2. Host a salon-style dinner party once a month
  3. Rediscover DC
  4. Volunteer to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research
  5. No more cabs — instead walk 10,000 steps per day (I’m buying our pedometers later this afternoon)
  6. No more caffeine
  7. No more meat
  8. No more television
  9. Take a Spanish language class
  10. Simplify simplify simplify

How can you simplify your life?

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Motivation for Fitness


Some people are motivated by deadlines —– >

A wedding

A reunion

A tropical beach vacation

Other people are motivated by guilt —–>

Stuffing your face with food over the holidays

Seeing commercials on tv for Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig and LA Weight Loss

All those newscasts about global warming and how you should garage your car and run or bike instead

And for many others it’s all a matter of pride —->

The waistband of your favorite jeans starts feeling snug

You get paranoid that your legs won’t look so good in short skirts

You notice you’re huffing and puffing after climbing up five flights of stairs

For me, it’s the sneakers. There’s nothing like a brand new pair of running shoes to get me off my butt and jogging a mile or two or ten.

What’s your motivation?