Author Archives: SarahAnnMaxwell

About SarahAnnMaxwell

I am a twenty-something living and loving in DC, and I want to take you with me on all my journeys :-)

Hot & Steamy Habana Village

(Guest post by Sarah Cunningham).

“Just another day in Adam’s Morgan,” said a smiling vecino as we both stared in wonder at one of our other neighbors, headphone-clad, eyes squeezed shut, belting out Spanish love songs for all the barrio to hear.  It was quite an amazing start to my Saturday, let me tell you.

The fact that this kind of thing makes for just a normal day in Adam’s Morgan is one of the most joyful things about living in the neighborhood.  I love how it overflows with so many over-lapping intersections of life.  Even if you live in the Adam’s Morgan, come home to it every evening, there is always something more to discover there…

The other night brought me to one of those wonderful discoveries- Habana Village, a Cuban restaurant/bar/salsa lounge on Columbia Road, in between Belmont and the intersection of 18th and Columbia.  From the street, it beckons like a friend’s house- a welcoming brownstone with a homey awning and windows giving you a peak at the colorful murals animating the walls.  You just can’t help but wander up those steps and into the fun!

At the door, a bouncer will accept $6 from the gentleman and a smile from the ladies (so really like $3 a couple, or FREE if you’re a gal swingin’ single!).  The music and pitter-patter of salsa dancing feet will lead you upstairs, past wall-paintings of Celia Cruz, crooning to you from another world, and Cuban gente injecting life into the calles of Havana.

Upon entering the salsa lounge, you’ll be hit with the vibrations of the Latino beats, the dim lighting casting a sexy glow upon the dance floor, and the bartenders calling to you as they skillfully pass out mojitos as if they were water.  You are truly transported to another world.

And to all those with two left feet, don’t worry!  I am one of you!  How did I combat the clumsy curse in a salsa lounge such as this? Easy as pie.  I wasted no time in ordering a mojito (made with the freshest mint, and stirred with a real piece of sugar cane!), and took that baby to town.  Then I enjoyed myself as a bit of a wallflower, just taking in other’s dance steps as I myself took in my drink.  Watching everyone step-step-turn was mesmerizing.  I forgot I was even a wallflower, I was having so much fun!

Soon enough though, the fun looked too good out on the dance floor and I had to join in.  My patient husband (who is a wonderful dancer and is always dragged down by me!) and I scooted off to the side where the shy ones danced, and we tried step-step-turning.  We had so much fun!

And you will, too! I guarantee it!  Check it out for yourself.  Habana Village is located at 1834 Columbia Road, and is open from 6:30 – 10:00 pm Wednesday – Sunday (and until 12:45 am Friday and Saturday).  There are salsa lessons on Wednesday-Saturday evenings, from 7:15-9:00 pm for a well-worth it $10.  Disfruta mis amigos!

http://www.habanavillage.com/

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Row, Row, Row Your (Jack’s) Kayak

(Guest post by Sarah Cunningham).

Quick, while the weather it still hot, hop on down to Georgetown, take a stroll under the K Street bridge, and veer on into Jack’s Boathouse .  You won’t regret it!

At Jack’s Boathouse,  you can rent a kayak for $12 an hour (and believe me, they’re not very strict about exactly how long your hour was…).  Just strap on that life vest, hop into that canoe, and cruise on down the Potomac, as far as your arms will take you.  You can get your own kayak, or share with a buddy– whatever floats your boat, so-to-speak. :-)

While the city scorches in the grips of one horrendous heat wave, Jack’s Boathouse really truly offers a cool getaway–while the sun does beat down on the Potomac just as it does on the Beltway, splashing around with your paddle offers a relief from the heat.  And to see the city from the river is such a splendid view!  You can paddle down past the Kennedy Center, under the aqueduct-like archways of the Virginia-bound bridges, past Teddy Roosevelt Island, splish-splashing your way alongside all these fabulous Capital sites.

Jack’s is open until 7:30 pm on Fridays and 8:30pm every other night.  Perfect timing to dock your boat, and go grab a drink at a waterfront watering hole.  Go, join the ranks of Potomac explorers, and row with the spirit of Captain John Smith and good ol’ George Washington.  And send us your feedback!

To get there: 3500 K Street NW.  A short walk from both the Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom Metros.

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Fields of Flowers: A Pick Your Own Flower Farm

(Guest post by Sarah Cunningham).

One hour west of the city, snuggled deep into Loudoun County’s rolling agricultural acres, lies a magical, mythical place beckoning to you.  It’s true.  This mythical place is in fact a pick-your-own flower farm (tell me truly, have you ever heard of something so charming?). It goes by the name Fields of Flowers and it is run by Robbie, the sweetest, toughest flower farmer the land has yet seen.

As you roll up to Fields of Flowers from VA-7, you’ll be swept off your feet by the sight of Robbie’s lovely house, nestled into the green grass, framed by hanging swings and lawn chairs, the house itself seeming to keep watch over her fields.  After you park, you walk a small path to a barn, where you are met with the sign, “Grab a bucket, read the directions, and have fun!”  And there you have it–piles of buckets, piles of scissors, jars of water to keep fragile flowers hydrated–all of this stacked under a covered walkway leading out to…the fields.  And there they stretch.  Acres upon acres of farmed flowers.  You can’t imagine such a thing!  Plots of sunflowers rising to the sky, clumps of mint tickling your nose, bushes of yarrow–from colorado to common to paprika, lavender beds lining row after row, hydrangeas hanging off their stems like dangling Christmas ornaments…Lilies, snapdragons, butterfly bush, zinnia, daisies, phlox, larkspur…All grown by Robbie, and for $30 a bucket (a very roomy bucket, mind you!), the fields are your’s for the picking.

So there you have it–you simply arm yourself with your bucket, grab a shears, and head out to the fields.  Once you’ve got your bucket of flowers, Robbie has a small worktable underneath her covered walkway where you can put together your bouquets and/or centerpieces.  Feel free to work away right then and there, OR, for a small charge, Robbie herself can arrange your floral pieces.  Some events for which you may want to visit Fields of Flowers are the following:

*birthday parties     *bridal showers     *baby showers     *graduation parties     *WEDDINGS!!! (yes, yes, it’s really doable!)     *dances (you can pick the flowers for the boutonnieres, corsages, and bouquets!)     *simply decorating your house

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, it is very hot this time of year, so the earlier you get your start, the better.  The farm is open Thursday through Saturday, from 8am until 6pm.  If you want to wait until the weather cools off, Robbie lets you pick until the end of October, or until the first frost.  To see what’s blooming when, visit the Fields of Flowers website.

Okay, okay, I just have to say it, because I can’t keep it in: I picked flowers at Robbie’s flower farm for my wedding, and it was one of the best experiences! It involved everyone–my sisters and sister-in-law, mother and mother-in-law, best friend, flower girls, family friends, you name it!  About 12 of us were armed with our buckets picking flowers like there was no tomorrow, and then arranging like the mad floral women we had become.  And here’s the thing: you can’t go wrong.  Everything is simply so beautiful, that you don’t need to stress about what goes where.  As Robbie says, anything you do will turn out to be a “natural, garden look”.  And that it did!  We had bought vintage watering cans as our centerpiece holders, and we just filled those babies with our hearts delight.  And what a time we had!  I REALLY recommend it for any bride-to-be, or simply any hostess!

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Bourbon Coffee–Gratitude in Every Drop

(Guest post by Sarah Cunningham).

Sometimes I unforgivably forget how lucky I am.  I live in a beautiful, safe city.  I work full time and have health insurance.  I have a lovely home, and I am surrounded by those I hold dear.  And yet, despite all these blessings, I still sometimes go on auto-pilot, forgetting to be thankful for each wonderful new day that I am fortunate enough to wake up to. ..And then I will stumble across something so lovely and unique that it reminds me to be grateful…

Such a thing just happened to me the other day as I meandered through a leisurely lunch-time stroll, only to stumble across the little gem of Bourbon Coffee.  Bourbon Coffee is nestled into its cozy little niche on 21st and L, and it is home to the first retail brand of coffee to come from Africa, specifically, Rwanda.  The entrepreneurs who run it go by the philosophy of bringing coffee to you from “crop to cup“, committing to purchasing coffee directly from farmers at a fair price, and to thereby help the Rwandan economy grow through coffee.  It doesn’t get much better than that, huh?

The story behind Bourbon Coffee is so lovely, indeed, that you can’t help but feel enveloped by the goodness the second you walk through the cafe’s doors.  The atmosphere is calm and warm, with earthy-tones decorated with framed Rwandan art, depicting the culture from which this coffee comes.  The menu is very inviting, with truly reasonable prices (and prices I am so happy to pay, knowing what it is we are paying for!), and the staff is nothing but the friendliest.  I sipped up the most delish white chocolate mocha my tastebuds have ever encountered, and I lusted greatly over the pastries glistening in the window.

As I walked (slowly, oh so slowly) back to work with my white chocolate mocha in tow, I was thinking about the journey that coffee took to my cup.  From a country just a decade out of a brutal civil war, fought over man-made divisions between a people from the same land…And the roots of that civil war–from the colonialist powers that threw it into chaos and created those divisions that never-before existed, that don’t truly exist in any real way…And how it is now, a country remaking itself, healing itself from unfathomable wounds; a country being reborn.  And a group of entrepreneurs committed to helping that rebirth through something as simple as coffee.  I was just hit with how beautiful that effort is, and how extremely fortunate I am that I have never experienced something as heart-breaking as the people of Rwanda have…And it is things like Bourbon that remind me: make gratitude the biggest part of your day…And that is what I want to do, really and truly…And when you go to Bourbon, you will feel the same way, I guarantee it! :-)

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Wolf Trap is Where it’s At

(Guest post by Sarah Cunningham).

On Friday night I went to see Riverdance at Wolf Trap.  Riverdance is such a funny thing: a hugely famous, commercialized Irish dancing company that tours around the country, performing mostly Irish dances, but throwing in there the Russian, the Spanish, and the American!  (Also, a little Chicagoan told me that the founder is actually from the Windy City, and the Irish brogue he boasts may indeed be a bluff!)  But you know what, it may not be so completely authentic, but it sure is entertaining…Watching those men and women dance about on legs that looks like springs in those elaborate costumes to those bouncin’ beats…It just will get you.  Let me tell you.

Did you know Wolf Trap is a national park?  I can’t get over how cool that is!  According to its website, it was donated to the US as America’s National Park for the Performing Arts in 1966.  How lucky we are to have such a treasure.  It is so gorgeous and calming, all nestled in the woods…Even on the lawn, as far from the stage as you can get, you feel pretty up-close-and intimate (compared to those oh-so-far-away lawn seats at Summerfest I used to go to…).  And the class acts they bring!  There is truly something for everyone.  Coming up next they have:

June 10: Jimmy Cliff   June 16: John Butler Trio   June 17: Sheryl Crow   June 18: CATS   June 27: Gordon Lightfoot

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg!  Check out their full summer schedule here.

To make it a cheap date: buy lawn seats and pack a picnic (BYOB, people), hop on the Orange Line Metro to West Falls Church and finally the Falls Church shuttle to Wolf Trap.  America’s National Park for the Performing Arts is a-waitin’ for you.

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Harikaraoke, the Best Show in Town!

(Guest post by Sarah Cunningham).

The District has a lot of nearly everything you can imagine…But one thing I hear again and again is that there is not enough karaoke.  There’s Peyote Cafe and there’s Cafe Japone, and a handful of others, but people seem to stumble when needing to come up with a karaoke bar, and come up with it quick.

But it just so happens this little shortage has been solved, as there’s a new show in town: Harikaraoke, karaoke with a twist–karaoke with a live band.  Doesn’t that make perfect sense?  Harikaraoke happens every Tuesday night at Wonderland in Columbia Heights (yes, yes, I know, Wonderland is a well-traveled bar, not exactly off the beaten path, but their Harikaraoke is still a secret enough that warrants posting).

The band behind this genius is a 4-man show that molds to just about every brave soul that takes the mic.  The keyboard player is intense and wonderful, pounding out his keys while making eye contact with each singer, urging them on and on as they belt out whichever classic they’ve chosen.  The bass player has the classic flowy hair of a band-man and keeps the beat like a force to be reckoned with; the drummer rocks out his rhythms in great time; and the guitarist is known to take the lead and break out into some mad solos when the force takes him.  The MC is adorable, with blue heels and a fedora hat, and a voice fit for the stage.  Together, they give every singer their shot at the stage, and they rock the house.

There must be something about doing karaoke with a live band, as there were some class acts.  One very classy gentleman took the stage and started singing “Tempted by the Fruit of Another” oh-so-softly into the microphone, never once glancing at the lyrics.  As the band got into the song, so did the singer, raising his pitch more and more, until he was howling into the mic, accompanied with a few twists and twirls and even a scream for the audience.  As he bowed and took his leave, a lovely young woman came up and rocked the house with “It’s Raining Men”.  In an ode to the Spice Girls, an unforgettable trio belted out “Tell Me What You Want”, complete with hand gestures and the works.  Another lovely lady wooed us all with “Lost Without You”, and my friend Jose dazzled the bar with his version of “Billy Jean” (yes, he danced in tribute to dear MJ, too!).  Finally, the adorable fedora-wearing, blue-heel-clad MC took the microphone and closed the night with Prince’s “Purple Rain”, which got the whole audience crooning along with her as the night came to a close.  I was honestly so sad that it was over!  (And hoarse, as I was too chicken to take the stage, but sang my heart out along with every singer from my seat.)

Oh, did I mention that it is free to get in, and comes with a bar special of $3 brewskis accompanied by a complimentary shot of “liquid courage” (aka: vodka)??  Tuesday nights at Wonderland–8 pm – 10 pm.  See you there!

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(Leesburg) Virginia is for Lovers

(Guest post by Sarah Cunningham).

Last Monday my fiance and I played hookie and took a day trip to lovely (Historic) Leesburg in still lovelier Loudoun County.  I’m not sure what exactly I expected, but I definitely had not foreseen the magnitude of charm that we encountered.

Only 45 minutes west of the city, Historic Leesburg feels hours away.  Driving in, I felt I had arrived in a quaint, sea-side town, circa 1870.  The main street, East Market Street, was dotted with souvenir shops, many of them bearing the British flag (perhaps a remnant from the Revolutionary War??), selling hand-made crafts and sweet treats.  Restaurants bore slogans such as “18th century cuisine served here!” on their hand-painted, wooden signs.  (Of course there was also the China King and the new Mexican restaurant, but they both managed to completely fit in–and smell delicious!)  Bakeries boasted beautiful hand-made treasures covered in pastel frostings, and afternoon teas seemed the norm.

Really, it was quite an idyllic day in Leesburg.  After window shopping along Market Street, we hopped back in the car and found a lovely green space– Ida Lee Park & Recreation Center–where we set up shop.  We uncorked our wine, brought our sandwiches, and laid out the lemon bars.  The sun was perfect that day, and we took our time munching through our meal and sipping through our wine.  Because it was a Monday, we shared the park with only ourselves, a peaceful pause in our otherwise fast-paced District lives.

On the way home, we scooted down Market Street once again, taking in the quaint calm of this charming little down, and then scooted onto the highway–back to home, sure we would be back to Historic Leesburg again quite soon.

For anyone who wants to take a day-trip to lovely Leesburg, you can get there quite easily in the car and through public transit.

For drivers:

Take 495 South

Take Exit 45 A, and merge onto VA 267 W, towards Dulles Airport

Take Exit 1 A, which will put you on US 15

Take US 15 BUS Exit Towards Leesburg (you’re almost done!)

Turn right at US BUS 15 N/S King Street

Turn right at E. Market Street–You made it!

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