Training Pays Off: 2018 Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run Recap

My third race of the year is in the books! The Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run is the first race I ever ran. I was under prepared and it wasn’t pretty. Last year, I struggled to cross the finish line in 2:14 minutes, 6 minutes short of not being considered an official finisher. I left the race feeling defeated and knew I had two options moving forward. I could feel sorry for myself and give up. That was the easiest thing to do. Or I could accept the fact that I hadn’t trained enough and decide to work harder so I could do better next time. If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, you know I chose the latter option and I’m glad I did. This year, I walked out of the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler with a sparkly medal AND a feeling I had rarely experienced post race. I was kinda proud of myself… 

My main problem with running was always more of a mental hurdle than a physical one. Ideally, I’d love to  turn off netflix, jump off the couch and run a marathon. Wouldn’t we all? But that’s not how it works. You’ve gotta couch to 5K to a turkey trot, train up to a 10K, actually run (that’s a big one), consistently (also big) and then run some more. You have to decide that running is important to you and prioritize it in your life accordingly. And that’s what I did. I started tagging along with some running groups, which was very difficult at first since I’m both a slow runner AND an introvert. I struggled to keep up for a while, to make small talk but then both got easier. I ran/walked the Disneyland Paris half marathon (recap here) and mostly ran the Marine Corps Marathon 10K in the fall (recap here). I applied to be a social media ambassador for the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run. And I was selected! 

Being a social media ambassador came with some cool perks like skipping the lottery process altogether, new tennis shoes and most importantly for me the opportunity to participate in one of the Potomac River Running’s training programs and blog about the process (added accountability is not negligible!) I’ll dedicate a whole post soon to discuss the advantages of joining training groups or social running clubs, but for now I’ll just mention a few points quickly. First of all, it was great to be surrounded with people who were struggling a bit like me. Sure running with more experienced, faster runner forces you to push yourself a little bit more, but it can also be very discouraging to always feel like the slowest one. Sometime it’s just nice to be with people more at your level (or pace I guess). Second, this winter SUCKED. Let’s be honest, there were plenty of cold rainy Sunday morning when I would have stayed in bed instead of going out for a run if it hadn’t been for my training group. I know I wouldn’t have stuck with the long runs the way I did if it hadn’t been for the extra incentive and motivation the group provided. 

Rain or shine, though mostly rain, my Potomac River Running distance spring training group met every Sunday at 8AM in Georgetown

I stuck with the sunday long-runs, progressively increasing the mileage, Monday fun-runs with Pacers and cross training at Cyclebar NoMa. I ran the 17.75K “access granted” race (recap here) a few weeks before the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile run and felt pretty good coming out of it. That race is a tiny bit longer than the 10 Miler and way more hill-y so it definitely gave me a nice confidence boost, especially since I still had three weeks to train. But then I strained a muscle in my upper thigh and had to stop training and exercising altogether. Whatever confidence I had was completely shattered. I even debated downgrading to the 5K. Ultimately, I decided to stick with the run after participating in a shake-out run organized by Garmin and The DC Run Crew at the Potomac River Running store in Chinatown. It didn’t feel great but I thought I could at least limp my way across the finish line a little under the 2:20 cut-off time. 

With that in mind, I decided I needed a plan to make it through the race, and that plan involved sticking with one of Gold Gym’s pace group for as long as I could, at an “easy” 11:30 that would still get me to finish the race in around 2 hours but wouldn’t be too strenuous. I still have a hard time pacing myself so I figured I’d let someone else do the work for me this time. On race day, my friend Caitlin and I walked over the starting area (the race starts and ends around the Washington Monument). We had brought old Icelandair airplane blankets to keep us warm while we waited in our respective corrals. Caitlin was red, of course, she’s a fast one. And I went over to the green corral to find the 11:30 pace group. 

I don’t know who the runner on the picture above is, but I stuck with him for 7.5 solid miles and that was a smart move for me. At mile one I wanted to die (I’ve always been a little over dramatic). At mile two my knee started to hurt and I considered stopping at the first medical tent and quitting the race. But then I realized I actually didn’t feel *that* bad and that I just needed to shut down my brain for a bit, which is actually quite hard when you’re not running with music, and focus on that neon yellow shirt in front of me, making sure I always kept it in my sights. I got into a pretty good grove. I was able to see my own pace and time thanks to my brand new Garmin (another perks of being a social media ambassador for the race) and started to realize that I could potentially finish the race in less than 1:54 (my fastest time on a ten mile course ever) and maybe even close to 1:50 if I picked up my pace a little bit, which I actually felt good enough to do. There were just two things standing in my way: 2.5 miles and the fact that I had to pee 😉

I had stopped at most water stop along the route. While it was freezing that morning, once we got moving it was actually a beautiful, sunny day and we got warmed up pretty fast. I knew I wanted to make a quick bathroom break but all the porter potties had super long lines. And then I spotted it behind the Batalá drummers: an actual real restroom operated by Parks Services. I figured there’d be at least 5-6 stalls and the line wasn’t coming out the door so I made a break for it. I lost a few minutes, of course, but I also lost the pace group at that point so I was on my own for the rest of the run. Looking at my splits (which is super easy with my Garmin!) I can see that I ran the last two miles at my fastest pace (10:35/mi and 10:12/mi) chasing for that elusive PR I keep hearing other runners talk about. Spoiler alert: I didn’t make it. I crossed the finish line at 1:55:35, a minute shy of a PR and 5 minutes past my initial race goal of 1:50. But it still felt great. I shaved off 19 minutes from my time last year despite dealing with quite a few setbacks. Of course I couldn’t help myself: what if I hadn’t stopped to go to the restroom? To say hi to Rachel when she was handing out water? To snap a photo of this awesome oh-so-DC sign?

Would have done better if I had been able to complete my training the way I wanted to in the final weeks? The answer is probably yes, but the truth is I’ll never know so I’m really trying to push those thoughts out of my head once and for all. I did well! I put in the work and it showed. For once, I feel good after a race! Well, mentally at least. My body is a whole different story 😉

Cherry Blossom Training Recap~Week 1

Last week, I officially kicked off my training for the Cherry Blossom 10 mile race, which is now a mere 10 weeks away (*insert panic emoji*). Aside from the cheer trickiness of trying to design a training plan for a 10 mile run when my brain still refuses to function in anything other than kilometers (Everyone else might be running the Cherry Blossom 10 miler but I’m running Les Seize Kilomètres des Cerisiers en Fleurs!), the first week went pretty well, culminating in my first “long run” with Potomac River Running Training Programs yesterday. 

Since I’ve been sick on-and-off since mid-December, I  decided to give my body the rest it seemed to need and took a 16 days break from running. The frigid temperatures didn’t help making want to get back out there any sooner! So last week I set a simple, realistic goal for myself: to slowly get myself back into running by doing three easy runs. Concretely, here is what my first week of training looked like:

  • Monday: ran 5.2 km with my Pacers‘ fun run group. My goal is still to move up to the 5 mile group in February (so next Monday).
  • Tuesday: ran 5.3 km with Pacers’ special Shake Shack Run. We all got to try the new Griddled Chick’n Club, which is probably not the best food to have after a run, but oh well 😉

  • Wednesday: I took Valerie’s class at Cyclebar NoMa. It’s one my favourite there, though Wednesdays get busy so I hadn’t been to her class since my birthday. 
  • Thursday/Friday: break! I normally would have taken Haley’s Happiest of Hour class at Cyclebar NoMa but I went to see Star Wars instead. I can’t believe I still hadn’t seen it!
  • Saturday: instead I took Haley’s Sounds from Y2K class at 11:30AM class on Saturday. The playlist was *awesome.*
  • Sunday: I met with Potomac River Running’s D.C. Credit Union Cherry Blossom/Spring Mid-Distance training group. I have *always* struggled with long runs (why run when you can walk?? Walking is SO fun!) so I’m really looking forward to this weekly group run even though I’m not that excited to have to wake up at 7AM every Sunday for the next 9 weeks… Goodbye social Saturday nights… it’s been nice knowing you. Yesterday, I had set myself a goal of running 8 km and made it to 7.5 km with some walking. I can make excuses (it was raining which sucked… I didn’t eat anything before running) but truth is I know I need to push myself harder next week.  

So, I ran a total of 18 km and went to Cyclebar twice last week. For week 2 of training for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, my “mini-goal” is up my number of outings to 4/week. I’ll be running 5 km with Pacers on Monday and Summit to Soul (part of the No Buts Night Run in Partnership with REI and Ragnar) on Wednesday. I’ll attempt to do 6-8 km on my own either Thursday or Friday (probably Friday morning though) before clocking in my last run, ideally an 8-10 km with my training group on Sunday. And I’m planning on going to Cyclebar NoMa Tuesday and Thursday mornings (or Friday evening instead of Thursday morning depending on when I end up doing that run.) Right now, it seems daunting, I’m not going to lie. I’m also trying to watch the State of the Union Tuesday, eat all the crêpes Friday (I’m french, I would NEVER miss celebrating la chandeleur!) AND see a ballet at the Kennedy Center Thursday. As I contemplate this schedule, I can’t help but think of #11 and #12 from this list of 12 hacks to become a better runner. I’ve got number one down (“Start slow”) but I’m having a harder time getting to “Don’t Overexert Yourself” and “Maintain an Overall Healthy Lifestyle.” Good thing I have NO intention of watching the Super Bowl (not even the half time show, not even the commercials!) because I might need all of Sunday afternoon to rest and recover! 

Nonetheless, this is my plan and I’m going to try and stick to it! Wish me luck and stay tuned for an update next week… if I survive 😉

ps: I’m participating in Potomac River Running’s Credit Union Cherry Blossom/Spring Mid-Distance training group as part of my commitment as one of the race’s social media ambassador and if you are planning on running the race on April 8 and think that you might need that extra little help to be ready for it, you can still sign up to participate too (more information here). They have groups meeting in Georgetown, Reston and Vienna. And if you didn’t get a bib for the race, you can still get one by signing up for one of the premium programs that comes with an entry to the 10 miler. 

 

My 2017 Instagram Best Nine… and What I Wish They Had Been

The year isn’t quite over yet and while I could still post another like-racking picture to my instagram account, like many people on your feed, I decided to check out what my top 9 posts of 2017 were. And I have to say, I’m a little bit surprised. I mean… they’re SO DC! Seriously… only two of them do not involve a Washington landmark. 5 of them were taken along the Tidal Basin, 3 feature cherry blossoms, 2 focus on the US Capitol, 2 on the Washington Monument and 3 on the Jefferson Memorial. It’s like I never left the city 😉 

Now I love these pictures, don’t get me wrong (you can see my whole instagram feed here). I do feel they’re probably the prettiest I posted (or, you know, reflect how much people love Game of Thrones!) but I don’t know that they tell the story of what my year was like. So I picked 9 other photos from moments that meant a lot to me in 2017. 

One of the most difficult but important thing I did last year was sell the condo where my ex-husband and I had lived since 2008 and buy a place of my own. It was an awful experience, but  finally in August, after months of crashing in friends’ guest rooms or basements, I was able to move into my new condo, a whole two blocks away from my old one, in the neighbourhood I  love and have now called home for 11 years. I love this first picture because it reflects just how happy I am now to be able to enjoy la vie en rosé from my rooftop, which has beautiful views of both the US Capitol and the Washington Monument. Another important thing I did in 2017 was run the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon with my bestie Caitlin (you can read my race recap here.) We met in Paris 20+ years ago, when our high schools participated in an exchange program but hadn’t been back there together in ages. I started running this year, it’s become a huge part of my life, even though I’m still pretty bad at it and I’m still learning to enjoy it. It was amazing to run with her at Disney (where I used to work right after college too!) then spend the rest of the week playing and eating in the city. AND I got to wear fun mermaid leggings too!!

The third picture was taken during the French elections. We voted a lot last year. Like every 2 weeks it seemed like I was back at the embassy but I love that my vote as an expat has as much weight as that of any other French citizen anywhere in the world. Voting for Macron, a rather unknown entity in French politics, was a tough decision but not one I am regretting so far. With everything that’s been happening here in the US, I’m proud of the course France has chosen. Speaking of France, I traveled to a part of France I had never been to before, French Guiana, to see a rocket launch. In the distance behind me on that fourth picture in an Ariane 5 fusée hours before I saw it blast into the sky. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience, though since I work for the company that launched the rocket, there might actually be others in my future 😉 The fifth picture is of course diner en blanc which took over all of Pennsylvania Avenue in early September. I had lobbied for that location for 2 years so I was stoked, and I was stoked also that my high school friend Alexandra came down from Montreal to attend the event with me. Hopefully, next year, it will be the other way around and I will head up to Montreal to see her and attend Diner en Blanc there! Next up is a picture of the adorable window at Ladurée in Georgetown. The iconic brand opened two locations in Washington DC and it made my year. I should note though that the fraisier in my original Best Nine picture is from Ladurée. It was a cute creation for July 14, with the bleu blanc rouge markings of the French flag on top of the delicious layers of cream and strawberries. 

The last three pictures reflect a little bit of the travels I got to do last year. With everything that was going on in my personal life, traveling took a bit of a back seat. That being said, I still got around 😉 Of course, I went to Kourou which involved a lot of work but was still amazing. I stopped in Miami on the way back for a long weekend on my own. It was my third time in the city but the only time where I actually got to decide on what I wanted to do (I was seven the first time, so yeah, didn’t get a lot of say… though we went to Disney so I think I was pretty happy!) I also went to Logan, Utah for a work conference. That trip was very last minute so I didn’t have a lot of time to plan add-ons, though I will next year for sure! I also did a few fun weekends here and there, to Rehoboth during the inauguration, New York of course, Connecticut to visit my college roommate, to Savannah to see one of my faves marry an awesome French dude and to Richmond for the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit and Baltimore for their inaugural Diner en Blanc. But my favourite trip of the year was my road trip to Canada with my parents. We stopped in Albany where I had a drink with Lauren of Healthy Delicious (we went to grad school together!) and Medina where I checked up on Alex and Scott of a DC Minute. I caught up with my friends Lindsay (another exchange buddy from way back in the days!) and Rochelle in Toronto then drank all the wines at Niagara-on-the-lake, went on a great hike in Hamilton and of course saw those big famous falls. We then drove back to DC through Detroit and Pittsburgh but I love the time we spent in Canada while the whole country was celebrating its 150th anniversary. I also loved my long and rainy weekend in Seattle visiting my friend Katia. I hadn’t crossed off a new state in a while so it was good to visit Washington, aka number 44. Now I just have to make my way to Hawaii, Alaska, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. 

Last but not least, yeah, cherry blossoms. I had many moments of doubts, of course, over the past year. I always said I lived in Washington because it was where my husband lived and worked. After we separated last year, I really wondered if I should stay here or if I should perhaps look into opportunities in Montreal or even back in Europe. In the end, I genuinely love living in this city and I fall in love with it all over again every spring when it turns all pink! I guess my original Best Nine were pretty spot on then 😉

I’m Running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler Again!

Thursday, the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run will hold a reception at the National Building Museum to officially kick off the 2018 edition of DC’s iconic spring race. You might be thinking that December is a little early to kick-off a race that’s in April, but it’s actually the perfect timing. You definitely want to decide now if you want to try running this race since the lottery for entries opens Friday, December 1st (you can sign up to get an alert when the lottery opens here). Runners will have until December 11th to submit their application and the “winners” will be notified a few days later. 

Last year, I entered the lottery on a whim. I needed something positive and healthy to focus on at the time. And I got in… It actually wasn’t my first time running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. I’ve ran it three times already and have a 100% success rate at the lottery so far 😉

The first time I ran the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler was in 2010. My friend Caitlin and I actually thought we were signing up for a 10K. Oopsie. It was my very first race EVER and I ran it in 1:57 (11:43 pace). I ran it again the following year, just a tiny bit faster, in 1:54 (11:28 pace). And then I kinda stopped running. The truth is running is hard. You have to train consistently to see results and I simply wasn’t putting in the work so I struggled through races and felt disappointed and discouraged after crossing the finish line. But I decided that I wouldn’t take the easy way out and that I would get back into running. I entered the lottery. I got in. And ran my worst race ever. I finished the 10 miles in two hours and thirteen minutes,  a mere 7 minutes short of not being considered a finisher. What did I do wrong? There’s no easy way out, I didn’t put in the work again. I did all the cross training, I swam and took body pump classes regularly. But I didn’t run enough. I skipped all the long runs and you can’t expect to a good 10 miles when you can barely make it through 3 miles during training. So 2018 will be my redemption year. I’ve joined some running groups and I’m starting to enjoy the social aspect of running a lot more. I ran the Marine Corp Marathon 10K (race recap here) and a half marathon (race recap here). I’m still slow but my pace has improved. I can do this!

For additional accountability, though, I applied for a different kind of Cherry Blossom “lottery” this year. I sent in my application to be one of the ambassador for the race. I still have a 100% success rate at this lottery because I got in! I’m so excited to be running this race again on April 8, 2018 and I’m so excited that I get to take you along with me on this journey to *actually* set myself up to have a good race I can be proud of. One of the “perks” that comes with being one of the Social Media Ambassadors for the 46th Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run is joining the Cherry Blossom Spring Mid-Distance training offered by =PR= Training Programs. The training will start the weekend of January 27-28, 2018 (I’ll be training with the DC/Arlington group, but there are groups in Reston and Vienna too) with weekly group weekend run. Long runs! The kind I struggle with the most 😉 I’ll have a coach to help guide me through the process (and who will design a 10-week schedule for me based on my experience and goals for the races.) I can’t wait! If you think you could use some training as well, or if you want to tackle the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run as one of your first race, I highly recommend checking out =PR= Training Programs. Bonus: if you sign up for the premium program (details here) you are guaranteed a race bib so you don’t need to worry about your odds at the lottery…

I’m excited to kick off this new chapter on Thursday. Unfortunately, the kick off reception is no longer accepting rsvps but you can check out my blog Friday for a full recap, including the reveal of the official t-shirt design and colour (we’ll actually be voting on the colour during the reception!) 

 

 

Washington, D.C. To-Do List for Thanksgiving Weekend

Guess who’s stuck in Washington, D.C. for Thanksgiving? 

Not Taylor Swift, me 😉 If you’re raising your hand too, I’ve got a few ideas of things you can do to still have a fabulous weekend in the city.

VOLUNTEER

So you have no family here or you’re stuck having to work on Friday… guess what, there are people who have it worse than you. So why not give back and help those less fortunate. The D.C. Jewish Community Center hosts a number of “everything but the turkey” volunteer events between Sunday November 19th and Tuesday November 21st (including one that is family friendly.) All of the shifts to assist with thanksgiving food preparation the week of Thanksgiving are already full at Food & Friends but you can still buy one of the Thanksgiving Pies they are selling to benefit their Slice of Life initiative (that one’s a win-win for everyone involved!). The Holiday Helpings opportunities at Bread for the City are also mostly all filled up (we’re obviously a city that loves to volunteer!) but you can still find some openings by looking through their volunteer opportunity calendar here. You can also participate in one of the region’s many Turkey Trots like the one benefiting SOME at Freedom Plaza on Thursday, November 23, 2017.

SOME is also accepting Thanksgiving donation baskets at 71 O Street on Friday, November 17 (8AM-4PM), Saturday November 18 (10AM-1PM) and Monday November 20 (8AM-4PM). You can learn more about this opportunity and what they need <here>

SEE A SHOW/PLAY/CONCERT/GAME

There’s always something happening at the newly re-branded Capitol One Arena in Chinatown. During Thanksgiving week, we’re looking at Lady gaga on Sunday, November 19th, hockey games on Saturday (Capitals vs Minnesota), Monday (vs. Calgary), Wednesday (vs. Ottawa) and Friday (vs. Tampa Bay) or basketball (Wizards vs. Portland on Saturday November 25. Other concerts include St. Vincent, performing at D.C.’s newest venue The Anthem on November 27 or Diplo at Echostage November 25th. On the more classical side, the National Symphony Orchestra will perform the score from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets while audiences relive the magic of the film on giant screens (November 24-25 and 26.)

Picture courtesy of the Kennedy Center

And of course, the Nutcracker starts at the Kennedy Center too… because Christmas. That means yep, A Christmas Carol is back at Ford’s Theater too. Less Christmas-y, you can catch performances of Twelfth Night by the Shakespeare Theater Company at Sidney Harman Hall (November 14-December 20th, tickets here), Nina Simone: Four Women at Arena Stage (November 10-December 24, tickets here) or The Second City Presents ‘Nothing to Lose (But Our Chains)’ (November 11 – December 31) at Woolly Mammoth Theater.  

CHECK OUT AN EXHIBIT OR A NEW MUSEUM

The University of Iowa Museum of Art was kind enough to loan us Jackson Pollock’s ‘Mural’, the artist’s largest work which will be on display at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building starting November 19th. While you’re there, you can still catch the Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting exhibit which opened on the West Building a few weeks ago.  And since the Freer Gallery of Art just reopened after nearly two years of renovations, why not check out its Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt exhibit (Miaou! open through January 15, 2018 at the Sackler Galleries), Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice across Asia (open through November 2020) or instagram your way through Subodh Gupta: ‘Terminal a new large-scale installation made from towers of brass containers that are connected by thread.

Image courtesy of the Hauser & Wirth Gallery

You can also catch the last few days of Kingdom of Colors at Artechouse. The  immersive visual experience, designed by French filmmaker Thomas Blanchard and artist Oilhack (with a soundtrack by Lyon-based composer Leonardo Villiger), closes November 26th. And there will be 5 augmented reality cocktails at this one! Finally, if that’s your thing, you can also visit D.C.’s newest museum, the Museum of the Bible, which will open November 17 (tickets are free.)

START CELEBRATING THE HOLIDAY SEASON

It might be Thanksgiving weekend, but as soon I’ve you’ve digested that Turkey the city is all about the holidays. Thanksgiving weekend is really Christmas season’s first weekend and you can get into the holiday spirits at one of those events:

  • Season’s Greenings, the United States Botanical Garden annual holiday show, opens Friday, November 23 (and runs through January 1, 2018.) Tickets are free but you might want to wait until a little later in December when the crowds die down a little. There will be a number of special evenings as well throughout the month with live music… and less children! You can read my recap of the 2015 edition right here.

  • Get a head start on buying those Christmas presents at the Downtown Holiday Market, whose tents will start appearing by the National Portrait Gallery as early as Saturday November 24.  
  • If the weather is nice, you can head to the National Zoo for ZooLights, a fun display of LED Christmas lights. (Free admission; 5-9 PM daily; November 24 – January 1, 2018)
  • CityCenterDC will light its impressive 75 feet tall holiday tree on Saturday, November 25 (6 PM) Also making an appearance, the 25-foot reindeer (I love those!)  
  • Donald Trump and his family will also be lighting the National Christmas Tree that Saturday. You had to enter a lottery to go to the actual ceremony but you can also just go check it out on Sunday instead. In addition to the National Christmas Tree, each state and US Territory has a smaller tree on display in President’s Park. 

 

A First Look at the Shop Made in DC

I’ve been writing a lot about running lately, so I thought it was time for a non-jogging related post. Meet the Shop Made in D.C., a newly opened shop-café combo at 1333 19th street NW. As you may have guessed by the name, the 2,500-square-foot space only stocks products that are made in the District, from the coffee (which comes from Small Plane, Ryan Jensen’s new roasting company) to a rotating selection of goods by local small business owners. All of them belong to the Department of Small and Local Business Development’s Made in D.C. program, which provided $100,000 in funding for the project, through a grant to the Golden Triangle BID. Other financial backers include Boston Properties, People Make Place and the Neighborhood Restaurant Group

Two things caught my eyes right away when I came in last Saturday. First, big black letters at the back of the store with the words EAT and DRINK. I guess I was hungry 😉

It was a little too early for tacos (from Tortilladora) or momos (from Dorjee momo), so I just grabbed an everything bagel from Bullfrog Bagels and a coffee. The shop carries oat-milk which is my new favourite so I was excited about that!

I’ll have to come back to try more of the food offerings, including the beers which Greg Engert, director of the beverage program, selected from 6 local breweries. 

Next, I couldn’t help but be drawn to a long brick wall on the side of the store, with bold and  bright posters from 18 of DC’s landmark neighbourhoods, created by Anthony Dihle of Victory Dance Creative.

Alongside all the products featured in the shop, you can find little cards detailing the name of the artisan that made it (24 currently), alongside their makerhood, how many years they have been a maker, how many years they have been in DC and of course, their social media handles so you can look them up.

 

Food products and prints are most prominent in the shop, but you can also find beautiful leather goods from Stitch and Rivet , shirts by District of Clothing or pottery from Hollow Work Ceramics. For now, all of the local entrepreneurs featured have to be DC based businesses registered with the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development though that might change soon since that partnership is only slated to last 6 months as it stands right now.

I foresee the Shop Made in DC being a great event space too, and they are already organizing a Meet the Makers evenings as well as participating in Dupont’s First Friday art walks. I’m sure there’ll be a lot more different events planned soon, especially with the holidays coming up, and I can’t wait! 

Shop Made in DC. 1330 19th Street, Northwest. Open Monday though Friday, 7 AM to 8 PM; Saturday and Sunday, 11 AM to 6 PM. 

The Only 10 Things You Need for a Successful Dîner En Blanc

A little photo booth fun at Baltimore’s first Dîner en Blanc

A few weekends ago, I kicked off Dîner en Blanc season by attending Charm City’s very first event, which was held at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. It had been a while, since New York City three years ago actually, that I’d attended a dîner as a guest rather than a volunteer. Just showing up with my chairs, table, food, plates and flowers seemed so easy, but that’s because a) I’ve attended quite a few diners by now b) I’m usually responsible for getting 250 people from their meeting location to the diner venue and making sure they set up properly once on site 😉 Just showing up and having people tell me where to go was a nice change of pace! I do totally get that, for newbies, getting ready for the event can seem overwhelming though. Especially since participants no longer have the option of going through an official renting company for certain items. So I thought I’d break down all the items that you actually need to attend Dîner en Blanc, as give as give you a couple of tips if you want to take it up a notch or two.

1. A table – this is a strict BYOT(able) affair! But not just any table will do…. it should measure between 26-32″ and since you have to carry everything yourself, sometimes on the metro, I definitely recommend a roll up table. The table will be covered by a tablecloth so it’s actually one of the few items that does not need to be white. I recommend this one. 

2. Two folding chairs – the lighter the better! These are fine and these will work too. If you already own folding chairs but they’re not white, don’t sweat it but do cover them with an extra table cloth or white bed sheets. 

3. A white tablecloth & two napkins – I suggest you opt for a 72×72 tablecloth like this one since you’ll be using the space underneath your table to store everything that doesn’t need to be on top of it. A 54×54 is fine as well just make sure it’s white! As for the napkins, they’re really important. You’ll be waving them in the air at the beginning of the dinner so paper won’t do. Cloth napkins can be hard to find in twos so you might have to buy a pack of twelve and share with other friends attending. 

4. Two white plates, glasses and a set of cutlery – the plates have to be white (here’s a good one) but your silverware doesn’t (here’s a set). For the glasses, think of what you’ll be drinking (Champagne? Wine? Water? All of the above!) and get what you’ll need. Tumblers or stem glasses are fine, and you probably can get away with GoVino glasses too… If you’re planning on purchasing a bottle of Jacquard champagne for the diner, you can also pick up a set of flutes and a champagne bucket in the Dîner en Blanc store. 

5. A centerpiece for your table – you can go all out on this one (see my friend’s Jade fancy sail from last year) but you can also just keep it simple. This 15″ Eiffel Tower with some lights or a simple bouquet of white flower will do the trick just fine. For Dîner en Blanc in Baltimore I actually had small bouquets of fake flowers to make it easier on myself. The key is to remember that you do have to carry everything and that you can take a few shortcuts. Flowers are nice but the above mentioned champagne bucket from Jacquart can totally double up as a centerpiece too! Ditto for a cake stand like this one. And since you have to bring lights too a fancy candelabra like this one can totally serve dual purposes!

My friend Jade put a lot of work into her centerpiece last year!

6. Lights – While the dinner kicks off around 6:30PM, eventually it will get dark and you will want to have a little extra lighting. You can use a candelabra, votives (paired with flameless tealight candles) or LED string lights(they look great in a vase!) , just remember to keep it on the fake side (yep, no fire!!)

7. Water – You can purchase some  “summer water” through the Dîner en Blanc online store, but you’ll definitely want some real water too! It’s HOT in DC at the end of August. Some ice wouldn’t hurt either. All alcohol purchases (and there are some great options this year!) must be done through the online store due to city regulations.

8. Food – You have the option of purchasing one of Mike Isabella’s six unique picnic baskets (I’ve got my eyes on the one from Kapnos myself!) but you can also bring your own food of course. 

9. Trash bags – Dîner en Blanc aims to leave the site of the event as pristine as it found it and that means guests are responsible for not leaving anything behind, and that includes trash. For this reason, pack a white trash bag or two.

10. A white bag/basket – All this stuff needs to go into something. I’ve seen people lug those white picnic baskets around (very elegant!), a large tote or basket works as well. Some participants go the suitcase or the grocery cart route. I’ve never been a fan because you have to store everything under your table and it gets crowded down there really quickly. A folding cart can definitely help with the chairs, but isn’t required.

Of course, you also need to be dressed in white from head to toe.

Typically you have a little leeway when it comes to footwear and accessories. But don’t go crazy… we’re talking gold or silver jewelry, nude shoes and the like. Check the weather forecast a few days ahead too…. if it looks like rain is likely, you’ll want to add a white (or clear) umbrella and/or rain poncho to your shopping list. Dîner en Blanc will happen rain or shine. And on that note, I’d love to add a bonus item to my list:

An open mind and positive attitude – Part of the fun of Dîner en Blanc is that we’re all in the same boat. Whether you’re an intern on the hill, a doctor, a teacher or a partner in a law firm, you still have to carry all of your stuff, in the DC-in-August heat, to the secret location. The metro may not cooperate (I mean, does it ever?) and it might rain (fingers crossed, it hasn’t happened so far) but that’s part of the experience and everyone has to through it. If you’re not willing to kind of go with the flow or are upset because you don’t get to sit next to your friends, you’re probably not going to have a great time at Dîner en Blanc. But if you bring a little extra food to share with your neighbours, you might make some new friends…. and you can still meet up with your old friends on the dancefloor! If you take everything in stride, like, if metro shuts down the escalators again, then you’ll definitely have a great time at this exceptional event. I can’t wait to see you all in your chic-est white outfits somewhere in the city on August 26!  If you’ve attended a Dîner en Blanc before, care to leave some tips in the comments?

ps: If you’re looking for a one stop shop option, this blog post from last year goes over all the items you can find at Ikea. I also have a nifty little public list on Amazon to help with the basic like table, chairs etc. Finally, if you’re trying to decide whether to BYOF(ood) or not, The Hungry Lobbyist has a great post recapping all of the options this year. They look delicious!

Week-end Highlights: The Crown, Beaujolais, Friendsgiving & Fotoweek DC

Brr! It got cold all of the sudden! After a gorgeous Saturday, it looks like temperatures are back to what they should be this time of year, which means I spent most of Sunday curled up on the couch with my cat, binging on The Crown. But before that, I did have quite the fun weekend.

LE BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU EST ARRIVÉ!
I kicked off the weekend at one of my favourite monthly gathering, Creative Mornings. Creative Mornings is a breakfast lecture series for the creative community. Every month, there’s a theme that’s picked for all of the chapters around the world. This month, it was “Fantasy” and all 157 chapters around the world gets to select an appropriate speaker from its local creative community based on their interpretation of that theme. For DC, host Joe Daly reached out to photojournalist Nicole Tung who showed some of her work in war-torn Syria at the National Geographic auditorium. The pictures were pretty rough, especially at 9AM, but it’s definitely work that needs to be seen…. 

Creative Mornings

Nicole Tung at Creative Morning

On a more upbeat note, I wrapped up Friday at my friend Marc-Antoine’s annual Beaujolais Nouveau celebration. I’m too old to party at Bistrot du Coin until the wee hours on a week day (though I did have a lot of fun there back in my days…) and I much prefer a casual get together with friends. Everyone brings a bottle of Beaujolais and some cheese, it’s the perfect way to celebrate the new harvest. Have you tried this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau? It’s pretty fruity (though I guess I say that every year lol)

Le Beaujolais Nouveau 2016

MINI-HIKE BEFORE MESSY KITCHEN’S FRIENDSGIVING POTLUCK

The weather was simply stunning Saturday, it would have been a shame to stay home (though I was really tempted to because I made the mistake of starting The Crown Friday evening!) I went on a mini-hike in Rock Creek Park to soak up all the fall colours (and the amazing 70 degree temperatures!)

Mini-Hike in Rock Creeek park

That evening, I got a head start on Thanksgiving at my friend Notes from a Messy Kitchen‘s annual Friendsgiving potluck. Not only was the food amazing but she raised more than $2,000 for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry

Friendsgiving

Friendsgiving

Carving the turkey

Notes from a Messy Kitchen's Friendsgiving

FOTOWEEK DC AND BINGING ON THE CROWN

Sunday was COLD! It was also the last day of Fotoweek DC. I wish I had had a chance to go to more events. I did make it to Scott Suchman‘s discussion of the Michelin guide (he showed stunning pictures he had taken at all of the restaurants that received stars and more). I also made it to one of the last events, a talk with Ami Vitale Sunday at National Geographic. Taking pictures of pandas is a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it right? 

After watching the U.S. pick its new president for the past two years, I finally got to vote as well. The French right and center right hosted an open primary on November 20, with a run-off on November 27 to select a candidate for the 2017 presidential election. For the French election, they will set up a voting station at the French embassy for us to vote in person, but this time we got to vote online which was kinda fun! The candidate I voted for made it to the second round, but I do want to spend the next few days leading to the second round combing through both Alain Juppé and François Fillon’s platform so that I can make the best decision of which candidate I want to see in the general election in May.  

Voting in the French primaries

Finally, I wrapped up the weekend binging on The Crown, Netflix’s sumptuous 10-episode series staring Claire Foy as a young Queen Elizabeth ascending the throne decades before she expected to. Have you had a chance to watch it yet? You should!

This week is going to be a short one… I hope you enjoy it and wish you a great Thanksgiving if you’re celebrating. 

 

Le Beaujolais Nouveau is Arriving at These 6 French Spots

Beaujolais Nouveau 2016

Ten days after the U.S. elections and one week before Thanksgiving, it’s time to celebrate a French holiday for a change: the arrival of the first wine of the season, le Beaujolais Nouveau. As always, it happens on the third Thursday of November, so unless you were up until 2 a.m. celebrating at Bistrot du Coin today’s the day! Here are 10 French restaurants and wine bars marking the occasion around town.

Cafe du Parc at the Willard InterContinental will be offering free George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau along with passed hors d’oeuvres at the bar on Thursday from 5-6pm. Beaujolais will also be available by the glass and as a pairing with a 4-course, prix-fixe dinner at the restaurant upstairs ($65 per person without the pairing, $85 with.)

Le Grenier on H Street will also be pouring complimentary Beaujolais at its bar from 6 to 9 pm on Thursday. 


Beaujolais Nouveau at La JambeBeaujolais is pretty cheap wine, and Chef Cedric Maupillier totally gets that.
 He’ll be offering glasses of the vin primeur for $10 a glass ($7 at the bar during happy hour) and $25 a bottle throughout his Shaw restaurant ConvivialAround the corner from Convivial, my new favourite wine bar, La Jambe is celebrating the 2016 harvest with $9 glasses of Beaujolais Nouveau ($16 for two until supplies last so make it a wine date!) which will pair perfectly with owner Anastasia Mori’s homemade charcuterie. Petworth Citizen will also be pouring some Jean Paul Brun, but they don’t have Anastasia’s rillettes though…. 

Le Beaujolais Nouveau will also arrive at Central Michel Richard, where Domaine Dupeuble – Beaujolais Nouveau will be poured (and paired with Coq au Vin!) from Thursday to Saturday. 

Coq au vin and Beaujolais at Central Michel Richard

Across the pond in Old Town, Virginia, Michelle and Christophe Poteaux have crafted a fabulous three or four course menu ($39 and $49 respectively) at Bastille, designed to pair with a Domaine Manoir du Carra Beaujolais, which will be offered for $9 a glass or $32 a bottle. (ps: Domaine Manoir du Carra has a Beaujolais rosé which you should absolutely try if you can get your hands on it!!) 

Last year’s Beaujolais Nouveau release happened just on the heels of the Paris attacks when gunmen and suicide bombers hit the bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France, restaurants and bars, almost simultaneously leaving 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. It was a little difficult mustering the usual enthusiasm that accompanies the celebration. So I’m really looking forward to it this year and you’ll find me, as usual, celebrating with dear friends at home parties rather than out and about. Will you be celebrating the release of the new 2016 harvest this year?

 

Week-end Highlights: Laotian Food, Spanish Tall Ships & a Little Art

Happy Monday! Did you have a good weekend? After a long, emotional, week, mine was low key, in a good way, though I still managed to do quite a bit. Friday, I made my grand waitressing debut when I helped out with chef Bobby Pradachith’s Amone pop up at Mess Hall. 

Mess Hall food incubator in Washington, DC

 Chef Pradachith is the son of Chef Seng Luangrath of Thip Khao. After a stint at Minibar, he’s  following on his mother’s footsteps in elevating Laotian cuisine’s profile in the District and created a fantastic menu of historic dishes his three days pop-up at the culinary incubator. It was interesting for me to b behind the scenes for once and I still got to try a few of the dishes, like this riced cured rockfish with a fermented pork sauce, pineapple and cashews (Sa Ton Pa Va) or the soft coconut jelly with sour coconut, peanut brittle and salted plum (Woon Mak Pao).
Sa Ton Pa Va Laotian food