Month: March 2023

Beauty & Health, Fitness

Start Running Into Spring

By Nicole Flanagan Spring is in the air and so is the pitter pat of beginning runners of all ages hitting the roads and trails across the country. Similar to the masses of new gym goers in January excited by New Year’s resolutions to become fitter, beginning runners often hit the road at the first sign of warmer weather with similar aspirations. Many new runners head out with good intentions and admirable goals, but often find themselves overwhelmed or unenthused with the progress of their new activity. Why is that? Running is often the first choice of new fitness enthusiasts because of the low start-up costs, the fact that you can do it just about anywhere, and there are no long term dues or fees associated with running.  Because of the low cost and ease of access, many new runners aren’t prepared mentally or physically for the new demands they’re about to put on their bodies and well as the time investment needed. All good things come in time and running is definitely one of those “good things.”  Here are 10 tips to help ensure success with your new adventure into running. Get Fitted: Pay a visit to your local independent running store. Often these smaller stores have more knowledgeable staff than the big box retails stores. Many provide a gait analysis that reveals your foot strike pattern. Knowing this will help in selecting the best shoe for your foot type. Don’t skimp on your shoes. Be prepared to pay $80 to $100 for a good pair of running shoes. Get Technical: Invest a little in some technical fabric running shorts, tops, and socks. Technical fabric can be made of a variety of fibers including natural and synthetic materials. Avoid 100 percent cotton. It tends to retain sweat causing chaffing,…

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Arts & Entertainment, Special Feature

Erin Go Bragh!

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17, the day that is his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over a thousand years. On St. Patrick’s Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink, and feast—on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage. The First Parade The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Ireland, but in the United States. Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers to reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as fellow Irishmen serving in the English army. Over the next thirty-five years, Irish patriotism among American immigrants flourished, prompting the rise of so-called “Irish Aid” societies, like the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society. Each group would hold annual parades featuring bagpipes (which actually first became popular in the Scottish and British armies) and drums. In 1848, several New York Irish aid societies decided to unite their parades to form one New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Today, that parade is supposedly the world ‘s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with over 150,000 participants. Each year, nearly three million people line the one-and-a-half mile parade route to watch the procession, which takes more than five hours. Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Savannah also celebrate the day with parades including between 10,000 to 20,000 participants. A bit larger than our very own parade that takes place on the 4th….

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

In Bonaire, an Unforgettable Caribbean Summer Festival

By Caribbean Journal Staff June 12th – 17th Maybe you’ve been to a rum festival. Maybe you’re just beginning a journey into the world of premium rum. Or maybe you’re just looking for a new kind of beach vacation. Either way, Bonaire Rum Week should be on your calendar and you should start making your plans to attend NOW! The ultimate summer rum festival in the Caribbean is back again this June, a weeklong celebration of premium rum – set against the backdrop of the ultimate Dutch Caribbean paradise. If you have been to a rum festival, forget everything you know. This isn’t an expo in a stuffy conference center in a densely populated city. This is about enjoying the premium Caribbean rum where it’s meant to be enjoyed — at the edge of the ocean. And it’s also about enjoying Bonaire, the Caribbean capital of ocean conservation, home to a dynamic culinary culture (and some of the region’s greatest restaurants) and a growing fine spirits movement. Bonaire Rum Week is a series of events held across the island, from beach parties with steel bands to rum-pairing dinners to sunset cocktails, all in spectacular waterfront settings. “The first edition of Bonaire Rum Week was a massive success, and we can’t wait for the 2023 edition,” said Alexander Britell, editor and publisher of Caribbean Journal, which organizes the event in collaboration with Tourism Corporation Bonaire. “There is no summer festival quite like this; it’s a must-visit event whether you’re a longtime rum aficionado or just looking for a great beach vacation in the Caribbean.” The event puts the spotlight on Bonaire, the crown jewel of the ABC islands, one that’s renowned as the global capital of diving and marine conservation, from a landmark marine protected area that goes all around the island…

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Beauty & Health, From the Trainer

Mastering the Kettle Bell

By Ryan Unverzagt Welcome once again to another missive From the Trainer…..This month will begin with a new look as I explain and show the techniques of some of your favorite exercises. Keep in mind that every exercise has some sort of variation to it, so I will mention a few of them along the way. If you’ve been reading my column for any amount of time, you might remember that I suggested buying a kettle bell for a fitness gift. However, I did not explain anything about how to use one. This is my chance to explain the most basic exercise to master with the kettle bell – the swing. The starting position begins by straddling the kettle bell with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Squat down keeping your back aligned and dropping the hips. Grab the kettle bell handle with an overhand grip with both hands. I like to start the swing with a “counter movement,” just like what you do before jumping.  Lift the kettle bell by squatting upwards, keeping the arms straight so it hangs between the legs. This is your true starting position. Next, slowly lower the kettle bell toward the ground while keeping good back posture. As soon as your knees bend about 90 degrees, explode back up using the power in your legs as if you wanted to jump. This will develop enough momentum for you to swing the kettle bell out away from you using the arms. There are many ways to finish the swing, but I suggest swinging it about 135 degrees or ¾ of the way up, not all the way over your head. There is a good chance of falling backwards if you do this! You’re not done just yet. Let gravity take the kettle bell back…

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Arts & Entertainment, Events

Old Town Alexandria’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Is Back!

Saturday, March 4th 12:30 pm Held annually on the first Saturday in March, the Parade has grown to be the largest one-day event in Old Town Alexandria. Featuring pipe bands, Irish dance schools, community groups, and a host of other musicians and performers. It is a fantastic day to spend with family or friends. For over 40 years, the Ballyshaners have been pleased to provide Alexandrians with the finest Irish celebrations. Join us as our parade steps out once again! The parade will officially start at the corner of King and Alfred Streets at 12:15 pm and proceed east on to King Street, finishing at the corner of Lee and Cameron Streets. With thousands of spectators and participants expected, parade goers are encouraged to take advantage of public transportation. The closest Metro is the Blue Line, King Street/Old Town. There is a free trolley from the Metro, or the activities can be reached by a short 10 minute walk down King Street. Come early and check out the morning’s events. The classic cars are back this year as well as the very popular dog show sponsored by the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria. Be sure to doll up your pooch and let them strut their best Irish stuff around Old Town as well. 09:00AM – 11:00AM Classic Car Show 100-111 N. Pitt Street 11:00AM – 12:00PM Animal Welfare League Dog Show 300 King Street at the Fountain in front of Grand Reviewing Stand About the Ballyshaners: Ballyshaners means “Old Towners” in Gaelic, the Irish language. Ballyshaners, Inc. was founded in 1980 by a small group of dedicated volunteers for the explicit purpose of organizing a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Town, Alexandria. The Parade is now well into its fourth decade and the number and variety of participants is…

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Personality Profile

An Afternoon with Charlotte Hall

By Lani Gering I had the pleasure of sitting down with the OTC’s longtime friend Charlotte Hall for a few minutes on one of the unseasonably warm afternoons in late February. Most people that know Charlotte know that she is a very self-deprecating individual and it is hard to get her to talk about herself. She would rather talk about all of the characters she has met in her tenure in Alexandria than about what she has accomplished. Having been in the area myself for 31 years, she and I know quite a few of the same people and there are many – several who have been profiled in this space at one point in time. In my attempt to keep this column “personal”…One of my favorite things about Charlotte is the nicknames she has acquired along the way and the stories behind them.  A few of them are highlighted below. The last time we really had a chance to talk about things was in the middle of the pandemic in 2020 when the 100 Block of King Street was first closed off and sidewalk/street dining was allowed. She was instrumental in making the closure of this block – and later the “0” block aka the space between Union Street and King down to the water – to vehicle traffic a permanent fixture allowing for a pedestrian mall feel. It has been a huge success. Just take a trek down to those blocks on any nice day/evening and you will see what I mean. During this discussion Bob Tagert, OTC Publisher, dubbed her the “Queen of King Street” and it caught on. Charlotte has been an integral part of the Old Town Alexandria community for over 30 years going back to her days with Potomac River Boat Company – now…

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Arts & Entertainment, Last Word

Dystopian Fiction or Visionary Prophesy

By Miriam R. Kramer As a teenager in 1985 I first ran across Margaret Atwood’s newly published work, The Handmaid’s Tale, at Old Town’s wonderful Olsson’s Books & Records, which formerly stood on S. Union Street in Alexandria. I was taken aback by the power and simplicity of her writing. This classic work of radical dystopian fiction describes the fate and musings of one woman, Offred, a Handmaid in a monotheocracy called Gilead, formed after the imagined destruction of the United States of America. Recently Atwood’s powerful book has been adapted into an equally riveting series on the streaming network Hulu. In this patriarchal post-American society, martial law and a totalitarian regime controls the movement of all citizens and women in particular, all of whom must cleave to traditionally interpreted monotheistic, puritanical values, or suffer terrible punishments. Those in charge twist the Bible’s words into propaganda, dividing women into high-status Wives, nun-like propagandists and teachers known as Aunts, servant slaves such as Handmaids and Marthas (housekeepers/cooks), low-status Econowives, and finally the Unwomen, those too unruly to do anything but shovel toxic waste in the Colonies until they die, or others who serve as speakeasy-style prostitutes. No women work outside the home, and none, even those with higher status, are allowed to read and write. Fertile women are particularly prized for their ability to continue the human race, since disease and chemical waste in the former United States have caused sterility among the population at large. Therefore, those few women proven to be fertile who are not already married to high-ranking Commanders in the rigidly conservative new hierarchy are requisitioned as Handmaids. They exist as puritanically dressed sexual slaves subject to impregnation on religious monthly Ceremony Days. Handmaids bear the burden of continuing to populate the country in pleasure-free, wife-supervised rituals…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

Bee’s Knees, Butterfly Kisses & Hummingbird Hovers

  By Melinda Myers You don’t need a prairie or large lot to attract and support pollinators. A meadow or informal, formal and even container gardens can bring in bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to help pollinate plants. It’s just a matter of selecting the right plants, adjusting your maintenance practices, and skipping the pesticides. Create your garden by converting a few square feet of lawn, garden bed or front yard into a pollinator-friendly garden. You may want to start by switching out part of an existing garden or container to more pollinator-friendly flowers. Expand your planting options by converting a portion of your lawn into a pollinator garden. Outline the bed with a hose or rope. Remove the sod, add compost as needed to improve drainage and you’ll be ready to plant. Simplify and dress up your efforts by using an easy-to-assemble raised garden kit like the Pollinator Garden Bed ( Its long-lasting cedar planks slide into aluminum corners to create a hexagonal bed. Get creative while increasing the garden’s size by adding additional sections to create a honeycomb or other interesting design. Mark the outline of the raised bed you select. Cut the grass short and cover with newspaper. Set your raised bed in place and fill with a quality planting mix. Mulch four to six inches surrounding the raised bed for ease of mowing and to eliminate the need to hand trim. Once your planting bed is prepared, you’re ready to plant. Include single daisy-like black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, and asters that allow visiting insects to rest and warm when sipping on nectar or dining on pollen.  Add a few tubular flowers for butterflies and hummingbirds. They both like bright colors and can be seen visiting salvias, penstemon and nasturtiums.  And don’t forget the bees that are attracted to…

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Pets of the Month, Pets, Places, & Things

Pets of the Month

By Erin Shackelford   Rosie Are you looking for a lucky charm this St. Paw-trick’s Day? Look no further than Rosie! She is a 3-year-old female dog who is ready to shamrock and roll. She is described as an epic snuggler, lover of plush squeaky toys, but a gal with just the right amount of energy to revel in outdoor adventures like searching for pots o’ gold. Murphy Ready to “spring ahead?” Murphy is dreaming of more daylight hours to enjoy his squeaky toys and sniffaris. He is a distinguished gentleman at 8 years old. Mr. Murph has waited far too long for family – and we can’t understand why! He gets along with everyone he meets, loves a good booty scratch, and – even better – he has excellent house and crate manners. Buddy Hay! What is it good for? Absolutely everything! Buddy boy loves munching and crunching on it, but also playing hide and seek in it. Some of his other favorite foods are carrots, apples, and berries. His friends describe him as friendly and charming once he gets comfortable with you. Buddy is a male guinea pig and can’t wait to show you his impressive zoomies!

From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

 Rites and Refusals

by Molly Winans I refuse to burn my socks. It’s a quiet refusal. I’m not trying to mess up anyone’s rites of spring or to rally support for an anti-sock-burning movement. It seems to me that my quiet rebellion, exercising my right to just be me, is in the spirit of the season. I’m not the only sailor in Annapolis who will attend a sock-burning gathering for the vernal equinox and walk away still wearing socks. I’ve seen a few shamelessly sock-clad friends participate by pulling old socks out of a pocket and dropping them into the bonfire. As if removing and torching one’s footwear as a seasonal ritual isn’t quirky enough, imagine what the outside world would make of such cheating. As well as a fondness for the occasion, the sock-in-pocket crowd and I share a preference for warm feet on damp, chilly March days. Besides toasty toes, I have other reasons for clinging to my socks. I don’t have that many pairs. If I’m wearing them to a bonfire party, it’s likely that I consider them part of my sailing gear. I’m not trying to perpetuate the stereotypes of the frugal sailor or the starving writer. I can afford new socks, but I choose not to buy them often. Why? I’m not desperate yet. My feet are still warm. I have enough pairs of socks to get by—just not enough to sacrifice to the equinoctial gods for fun. I think a lot of sailors have this sort of attitude toward their gear. They hang on to it until it’s lost, destroyed, or so leaky that they suffer for one bitter day before throwing it away, if they can part with it. Imagine a sailor friend blowing out a toe in his old dinghy boot. Does he: a) immediately…

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