Friday, October 25, 2013

The Power of After School Programs

Spring Ridge Middle School Turns the “Lights On”

My classmate, Whitney Nyman, and I attended the "Lights On” After School Showcase hosted by Spring Ridge Middle School on October 24, 2013; this was an evening to celebrate the work of after school program participants from both Spring Ridge and Lexington Park Elementary. Upon our arrival, we were blown away by the amount of community support that flooded into the library where this celebration was hosted; this was a standing room only event. Parents, family members, friends and teachers all gathered to shed some light on the amazing work that these students are doing after school. 

Performances by the Lexington Park Elementary after school Tennis Club and Step Team left us feeling inspired to take a step out of our comfort zones and try something new; the energy and motivation elicited from these young performers was undeniably contagious. The Spring Ridge after school Step Team and Rhythm Clubs left us both speechless with their captivating performances. Rhythm Club leader, Ms. Bonnie Beavan, reminded the crowd of the academic achievement that her participants must attain in order to keep their spots on the team; her dedication to the students in Rythmn Club left us in admiration as she declared them all a part of her “family.” We ended our evening of celebration by taking a gallery walk through the library to view the work of the students who have been participating in enrichment clubs such as fashion design and artistic expression.

 Franklin Delano Roosevelt once declared that “we cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” His words resonate with the often unseen work that is done in after school programs. The 21st Century Community Learning Program is not just a safe space for students to hang out after school; it is a safe space where students can collaborate to discover their natural gifts and learn to celebrate the diversity that fosters a cohesive community for our area. The efforts of the 21st Century Community Learning After School Program do not get enough recognition and praise in our community; these support systems provided by the staff and volunteers, many of whom are teachers, are what “build our youth for the future.”

 I want to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Jamel Hebb, the after school coordinator at Spring Ridge. His efforts in providing a safe space for learning and self-expression in our community are commendable. We need more people with the passion and drive that he exudes. Under the direction of Mr. Mark Smith, the program, which operates in Lexington Park, GW Carver and Spring Ridge, is spreading a vitality through a group of students who are also often forgotten. My recent time spent in the after school program at Spring Ridge has reminded me of the power of collaboration and creativity in crafting a spirit of resilience and success among our youth.

I would encourage you, where ever you may find yourself reading this from, to take time to explore the after school programs in your local area. It seems that the work that happens after the hours of rigorous academia are often forgotten by local communities. Take the time to see what the youth who participate in these said activities are accomplishing. 21st Century is national grant that spans in communities all across our country; find your local chapter and give them the support that they deserve. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Empire State of Mind

The dull hum of jackhammers, a slight grit in the crisp morning air, the hustle and bustle of people rushing past, taxi horns blaring, an unfamiliar yet intriguing hostility felt from passers-by. You guessed it: the concrete jungle where dreams are made, (ohhhh).  

This past weekend I traveled to New York City to attend a Food Writing course at the Gotham Writer's Workshop. First, I must say if you have any interest in writing, this is the place to go. I took a class at the 1450 Broadway location which is conveniently located steps from Times Square. It was a one day intensive writing course which covered multiple genres of Food Writing, creative prompting, style and the basics of the publishing business. Seven hours and a whole slew of ideas later, I left feeling greatly satisfied with my class. The class cost $125 plus a $50 registration fee. I found the content to be well worth the money spent. If you "Like" Gotham on Facebook and sign-up for their email list, the often run promotions for their classes. I won't give away too much from the class but I will say that we got the opportunity to write a real-time restaurant  review on our lunch break. My teacher provided the class with a plethora of thought-provoking prompts; it was a fantastic experience.

I decided to make a weekend of my trip for my class. On Saturday night, my friend surprised me with tickets to the Broadway show, Kinky Boots. It was amazing to say the least. Aside from the 21st century genius plot, the acting and musical numbers were superb. The show's music and lyrics were composed by Cyndi Lauper; my favorite song was "Sex is in the Heel." I even came home with a tee shirt with this awesome lyric on it! Please, google this show and if you can't make it to NYC, you have got to download the soundtrack. I loved the show's mantra, "you can change the world, if you just change your mind."


On Sunday, we attended the New York City Food and Wine Festival which featured live demonstrations by many of America's favorite Food Network stars as well as hundreds of food and wine vendors offering generous samples of everything from bubbly Prosecco to toasty s'mores cookies. As a non-native New Yorker, I was awestruck by the variety offered at this festival. I only attended the last day of the event and spent a mere six hours there but I certainly could have spent the entire weekend. 

We watched live demos of Andrew Zimmern, who prepared a dish with live crickets, Giada De Laurentiis, who let the audience cook her two vegetarian appetizers while she chatted with us, Michael Simon, who had the crowd roaring in laughter with his wit, and last but certainly not least, Robert Irvine, who ended my NYC trip with that insanely satisfying, deep belly laughter. I stood in line for just about an hour to get Giada to sign my book and snap a photo with me. She was so wonderful. She literally had a conversation with each and every person who stood in line and waited for her signing. 

I even got a picture which featured Bobby Flay looking a little salty in the background as I posed with Giada. My favorite live demo, by a landslide, was Robert Irvine's. He poses as such a hard ass on TV, I was unsure as to what he would do in live demo. Unpredictably hilarious is the best I can do to convey how entertaining he was. His energy was irrevocably contagious; he ran around the audience, pressuring people to taste things they claimed to hate and even made his newly found doppelganger do push ups! He left the crowd with a great message. Simply put he said, "do something nice for someone ever single day; that is how you earn your keep on this planet." I loved that. 

It was a lovely weekend filled with good food, great friends and a wonderful indulgence in my own creative genius. 

Robert and his audience look-alike!

What I Ate:

Fried Zucchini

Brick Oven Pizza Smothered in Arugula

Eggplant Parm Panini

Garlic Parm Fries (SO GOOD)

Veggie Panini (Drunk Food!)

Egg White Frittata with Goat Cheese, Leeks and Cranberry

Sample for Barilla at NYCFF

Another Italian Sample for NYCFF

"These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you, let's hear it for New York"

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thrift Haul #6

It is that time if the month, ladies and gents. Here is my review of my latest thrift store scores. In this haul, you will find the goods I picked up from the DC Goodwill Fashion Show as well as what I've found during my usual rounds. It has been an awesome month for thrifting, I must say. My eBay business has really started to take off with the awesome finds I gathered. If you aren't funding your wardrobe by rotating your stock on eBay, you're doing it wrong! Selling on eBay allows me to have enough money to constantly change my looks. Not to mention, it definitely keeps me from hoarding.

Can you believe it is already fall? Time is passing so incredibly fast. This month, I started to scavenge for fall pieces to add to my ever-changing thrifted wardrobe. I found some really fantastic pieces, all in the DMV! I have to mention that I stopped at the Goodwill in Arlington (the one on Columbia Pike) and found 5 pieces, still with the original tags on them! That was one hell of a successful thrift day; new with tags is always exciting in the thrift realm.

The Goods:

Free People Tank Top: $1.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA
I did sell this top because I knew I could turn profit on it. I loved the back! It was crocheted with a beautiful floral pattern. Personally, the ruffles of the shirt I found unflattering; that is main reason I sold it. 

Billabong Tank: $1.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA
Sold this item on eBay as well. Loved the embroidery on the center of the chest! Super cute. 

Patagonia, NWT Skater Sundress: $8.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
I loved this dress! It was an amazing fit but I did end up selling it because it was new with tags.

Patagonia, NWT, Maxi Skirt: $4.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
Another new item! This was a stretchy and soft fabric: perfect for spring. I sold this as well!

Ann Taylor Loft Pencil Skirt: $4.98
Frugalista in Alexandria, VA
I love this chiffon pencil skirt. The pattern is unique and it pairs well with a silky ivory top.

J Brand Skinny Jeans: $5.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA 
These are my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE find of the month. Literally, these feel like pajama jeans. They are the softest, stretchiest denim EVER!

Olive and Oak Chiffon Top: $4.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
The back of this top was what drew me in. I loved the single pleat with a cute accent button. 

New York and Company Chiffon Top: $4.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
I was so drawn to this preppy chain link print. Love the pairing of emerald and navy.

Janette Tie Back Tunic: $4.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
This is a great fall top. I like a longer top that I can pair with either leggings or skinnies. 

Express Trouser Jeans: $5.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
Ah! Finally, I found the perfect pair of trouser jeans. I have been searching for a pair like these for months. I kept finding pairs that were super flares but these were a perfect bootcut. Not to mention, they're stretch denim!

Unknown Brand Linen Tank: $1.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
I adore this vintage-esque print. The straps tie at the top for a beautiful, feminine touch.

H&M Chiffon Dress: $8.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
I loved this neutral color paisley. I can't wait to wear this with some nude heels and a chocolate brown cardi. Perfect for fall!

Rachel Pally Sundress: $8.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
I have a thing for cobalt. This dress has a Greecian flare with the long drape of fabric in the front. Brand new with tags, this dress cost someone $210.00! 

Victoria's Secret Bra Top: $1.98
Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA
I love the "bra-top" line by Vicky S but I rarely buy anything from it because it is so expensive. I have been admiring this top online for a few summers; it is a classic. Thanks Goodwill for finally making one mine!

Brand New J Crew Flats: $5.00
Thrift Store Center in Alexandria, VA
I ended up selling these on ebay because they were so new. I loved them, though! The metallic trim dresses up a classic black flat. 

Merona Knit Dress: $2.00
Thrift Store Center in Alexandria, VA
I loved the periwinkle color of this piece. The lace accents pair beautifully with the light, knit material.

Old Navy Light Knit Sweater: $1.50
Thrift Store Center in Alexandria, VA
Camel is a staple color for all fall wardrobes. I am not a sweater person, so I always try to find the lightest knit I can. This sweater was cheap and perfect!

J Crew Cardigan: $3.00
Thrift Store Center in Alexandria, VA
You can never have too many black cardigans. I liked the ruffle detail on this one. 

Diesel Jeans: $1.00
Thrift Store Center in Alexandria, VA
For $1.00... How could you not? Contrary to the photo, I swear these are not flares! Bootcut :-) 

Until next time, fashionistas!