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arwilliams1117
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What’s a summer without lots of ice cream? When the weather turns steamy, I’m always thinking about where I’m going to get my next frozen fix. If I’m lazy, that’s Ben & Jerry’s, located in convenient proximity to Whole Foods and Borders in downtown Silver Spring. I love the decadent creaminess of B&J’s, and the flavors are yummy—but at this store they never, ever seem to change. Season after season, I’ve seen the same dozen or so, and I end up ordering the same thing—cookies-and-cream, or coffee, or chocolate. I’m bored. What to do? Put out a little extra effort... Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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Years ago residents of Silver Spring, Maryland, used to bring their casseroles and homemade cakes to the downtown fire station for weekend potluck dinners. Today the firefighters tend their trucks down the street in a brand-new building, but their old headquarters is still bringing the community together over good food. After a slick renovation, the 100 year-old building opened nine weeks ago as the Fire Station 1 Restaurant & Brewing Company. The owners, both former firefighters, kept the original bricks and exposed wooden ceiling for ambience as they added tables and booths, a bar, a row of TV screens, and... Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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A fantasy of tidiness (above). I’m a sucker for anything that will lighten my load of garden chores, so when I saw Rainbow Spiral Supports in a catalog, I had to try them. Made of rust-resistant, coated steel, they come in a set of five colors—red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. At 72 inches, they looked like they’d be tall enough to prop up my biggest plants. I had given up on wooden stakes. They’re a pain to pound into the ground each spring, they rot, and I read somewhere that they can carry diseases. Uck. Enough already. Tomato cages... Continue reading
Posted Jul 16, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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If you’re a big beer fan (like my husband) this six-month-old store in downtown Silver Spring is heaven. And even if you’re not (like me) it’s worth a visit just for the wow factor. The array of choices is quite simply amazing. In the beer room, familiar brands such as Guinness and Wild Goose and Yuengling are packed in beside gourmet Chimay, pink-elephant Deliriums, and beers flavored with peaches, apples, strawberries, cherries, and raspberries. There’s a gooseberry and wheat ale from Scotland called Grozet. And a heather ale called Fraøch. And Banana Bread Beer from the UK. And Green’s Amber... Continue reading
Posted Jun 26, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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Cousins are having them. And colleagues. And friends. Babies, I mean. They seem to be popping up everywhere. My husband and I are always delighted to hear the news, of course. But then we wonder what kind of gift to send. We want it to be something the little one can use for a while and not grow out of. Something that’s safe, and that the parents approve of. And something that’s as unique as the new person. We’ve settled on handmade quilts—cozy, eye-catching, easily shippable. And recently we’ve found a great source, the ArtSpring store in downtown Silver Spring.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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When rubber-palmed, cotton-knit garden gloves were invented, backyard horticulturalists cheered—myself included. The fabric is light and cool, and the rubber keeps hands dry while offering protection from small prickers. Hooray! I always keep a pair in my toolbox now, and I use them a lot. But they’re not perfect, I’ve discovered. Their main flaw, as far as I’m concerned, is the fragileness of that thin coating of rubber. Sometimes I end up cutting through it while I’m clipping grass. Or major prickly bushes stab through it. In either case, my hands end up as mincemeat. And then the gloves leak.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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After spending a day walking, walking, walking around Venice recently, my husband and I made the most marvelous discovery. Like lots of people touring the city, we were staying in a hotel along one of the train lines that run out to the suburbs—much cheaper than canal-side lodgings. At the end of the day, that meant a 20-minute ride from the main train terminal. It felt like commuting in the evening on the metro at home—made me wish my bed were closer to where I was spending the day. When we arrived at the station, footsore and thirsty, we found... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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The littlest things can trip you up when you’re traveling. A few extra ounces in a suitcase, for instance. With airlines getting stricter about every aspect of flying, that tiny detail can turn out to be a hassle. My husband and I usually travel with only one suitcase apiece, and we make sure to weigh what we’re taking before we leave. We don’t buy much on the road, either. We may pick up a few nice foreign nibbles, or some small gifts for relatives, but that’s about it. So, in theory, our luggage shouldn’t weigh much more on the return... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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Not many years ago, the best you could do for dinner in downtown Silver Spring was the Quarry House Tavern (http://www.quarryhousetavern.com/), a smoky, beery, eat-in bar in a big, dark basement that made some of the best burgers on the planet. Then Discovery TV and the American Film Institute moved to town, and suddenly there were lots of Chardonnay sippers searching for someplace to dine. Enter Ray’s the Classics, (http://www.raystheclassics.com/index.html) which began to serve up fabulous steaks and wines. Excellent service and crisply ironed table linens made for happy, elegant meals—though even back then I wished Ray would hire a... Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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Lilacs are plants of the north. They thrive in places where summer days are never steamy and winter seizes everything in a solid freeze. They make springtime on Mackinac Island, Michigan, simply glorious. But here in Maryland, where I live, most of them struggle. Some hang on year after year, but they’re spindly and don’t produce many blooms. Others just give up after they’ve fought through too many hot months. I grew up in Pennsylvania, where lilacs do well. We had an enormous bush in the front yard that exploded in fragrant purple flowers at the start of warm weather.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 25, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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After a hard day of sweating, and swatting at mosquitoes, a big bowl of sancocho is wonderfully restorative. It’s a traditional, tropical, chicken soup, meaty and filling and flavorful. The Cafetería Manolo, in the Panama City neighborhood known as El Cangrejo (the crab), serves a cilantro-infused broth with juicy chunks of breast meat and pieces of a white yam called ñame, which also thickens the liquid. Celery, carrots, and onions add subtle flavors that round out the dish. The order comes with a side bowl of sticky rice, just in case you need more starch, and a small dish of... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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Mar 15, 2010
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When my husband and I moved to Silver Spring at the end of 1989, the old Art Deco movie theater on the main street had just closed. The former proprietor must have squeezed every dime he could out of it, because the place was already a faded, rain-stained wreck. It stayed that way, shuttered and vacant, for more than a decade. In those days, our foray into Silver Spring real estate had us completely flipped. There we were, throwing piles of money at a mortgage in a place that was looking more and more like a half-abandoned war zone. The... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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Back when Smith & Hawken was THE place to get your gardening gear, and copper was THE metal to have for everything, I bought a beautiful, imported watering can from the S&H catalogue. It had such graceful lines, and I knew it would acquire a gorgeous patina, and it was just what I needed. Until it started to leak along the seam where the spout met the body. My husband, a very talented handyman, tried to plug it with a bead of glue. But sadly, there’s nothing you can do with Turkish welding that’s gone wrong. Not to be deterred... Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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After more than 24 hours of constant snow, and an accumulation that looks like close to two feet, we have clearing skies at last and a rosy sunset behind snow-bowed trees. I hear our next-door neighbors out shoveling, and some kids and dogs trudged by a while ago, but we’ve seen no trace of cars all day. Not on our street, or the nearby cross street, or the larger road a block away that’s usually full of traffic. Apparently, there's nothing moving either near the Best Buy store where our new television continues to sit (we hope). After a series... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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Got milk? No, not the anemic watery stuff that supermarkets push in great quantities. I mean the kind that’s rich and creamy and tastes like it might actually nourish you. The kind that makes you want to sit down and savor a glassful. Without an Oreo. Of course, it’s hard to find the real deal in a city, but years ago I came across some, quite by accident, while I was on assignment in Mexico City. I had to do an interview in Nezahualcóyotl, a hardscrabble neighborhood on the far fringes of the vast urban sprawl. Before we got started,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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Yes, this week I’ve taken a photo of a TV that appears on a computer screen. That’s the closest I’ve gotten to the Sony Bravia television that I purchased from a Best Buy store almost a month ago. It was supposed to arrive yesterday. But Best Buy somehow lost the set that it put aside for me. Here’s the tale. Caveat emptor. My husband and I are still using the dinosaur TV that we bought almost 20 years ago. It receives a picture, but that’s about all. Our growing frustration convinced us in late December that it was time to... Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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Although a lot of tasks in the publishing business have gone digital, sometimes an old-fashioned, ball-point pen is still the only tool that will do. Like when I’m scribbling notes in a dark theater for a movie review. No one keyboards there. The flickering light from the screen isn’t good enough to see the keys, and the clackety-clack-clack of so-many-words-per-minute would disturb other reviewers anyway. So we all bring notebooks and pens, and we blindly put ink on paper, keep track by touch of what line the pen is on, and turn the page when we feel the pen’s near... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2010 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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On Christmas morning, before the frenzy of present opening begins, our family always eats a fortifying breakfast. That usually includes panetone with chestnuts, and various kinds of stolen, with generous applications of butter. Celebrating at my sister’s house this year, we tried stollens from three different sources—opening each in turn, sampling, and comparing it to the others. (Yes, we took our time. We had no small children pleading to be let loose upon the pile of goodies in the living room.) Our votes were split, but mostly everyone agreed that the Whole Foods version was the best. It was yeasty... Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2009 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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When I was growing up, getting the Christmas tree—and getting it to stand straight in some sort of container that would allow for watering—was a major effort every year. This always happened in a rush, on December 24th, in the dark. My mother belongs to that tribe of people who believe in carrying the joy of the season as deep into the new year as possible. She confesses that one year she left her tree up until Easter. I can’t image that the needles lasted. She must have been dismantling a twig when she took it down. Come December every... Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2009 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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For many years my husband and I have taken each other out for a birthday dinner. We want the evening to be memorable, with fabulous food, seamless service, and an ambience that’s worthy of the occasion. Whoever’s celebrating the milestone picks the venue, and this year my husband chose Marcel’s. It turned out to be the perfect place. “How did this escape us for so long?” my husband asked after we had devoured another delectable dish. Well, Phyllis Richman isn’t around anymore to guide us. That’s one reason. Check out Phyllis here— http://www.eatwashington.com/article/phyllis_richman_queen_of_washington_restaurant_reviews/ Another is the French-Flemish-Belgian designation. That could... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2009 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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Now that the year’s cold, dark days are upon us, the creative souls behind the Washington Revels are offering up their annual show to celebrate the winter solstice, Christmas, peace, good will, and general holiday cheer. Each year the Revels selects a different place and time in which to set their revue. For 2009 we’re in the city of Florence during the Renaissance, with Leonardo da Vinci as the main character. If you study the program, you’ll learn loads about Italy in the late 15th century. But you’ll have to get there early—it’s not a quick read. Unfolding in two... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2009 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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The most famous ambassadors of ancient China—the life-size figures buried with the first emperor in the third century B.C.—are in Washington, D.C. until the end of March. If you haven’t been to Xi’an to see the tomb, or you didn’t catch the show at the British Museum a couple of years ago, this is a great chance to see them, and to get acquainted with their world. Dividing the ground floor of its main building into two large halls, the National Geographic Society has devised a series of galleries to showcase selected warriors along with various artifacts from the period.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2009 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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There’s always stuff to tote in a yard. In spring, the rich, dark compost needs to travel from the bins behind the garage to our various garden plots. In summer, the weeds that our fraction of an acre produces in such great profusion have to be pulled and banished. In fall, plants have to go back to the compost as they dry out and die. And in the dead of winter, the butterfly bushes and lavender have to be cut back severely so they’re prepared to bloom happily come warm weather. Now, getting on toward the end of November, I’m... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2009 at Good buy! Bad buy!
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Hurricane Ida slopped into town this week, offering the first opportunity for me to test my newest purchases—foul weather wear by Arc’Teryx. For many years now, from the earliest nip of autumn through the last icy storm of spring, I’ve worn an old, faithful REI jacket. It has a machine-washable, waterproof shell with lots of usefully situated pockets, a snap-off hood, and a full, removable lining of quilted down. I’ve had this thing for so long, though, that the metal tab to the front zipper has broken off and I’ve been reduced to painfully ooching the head up the teeth... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2009 at Good buy! Bad buy!