Exploring the Anacostia

I’ve always loved hiking and biking, but as the mom of two boys, finding spots where they can run free and spend some of their seemingly inexhaustible energy is a necessity. Thankfully, the DC region is filled with tons of beautiful parks and trails. One chilly, sunny morning, a friend and I decided to explore the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. As a frequent visitor to Yards Park, I had walked the trail past the Navy Yard many times but was curious what lay beyond the 11th Street Bridge.

View of the Navy Yard from the 11th Street Bridge.

We took a few moments to admire the spectacular view of the Anacostia River from the pedestrian lookouts on the bridge and remark on how the riverbank has changed over the last few years. And indeed, cranes still abound. I’ve always thought it was strange that most of DC’s waterfront areas seemed to be ignored. In other cities, the river or coastline is often the heart of the city and center of development and activity. But DC’s waterfronts had been mostly forgotten, particularly along the Anacostia River. No longer. We’re finally creating bustling, viable community and recreational spaces along the water. From the massive development of National Harbor in Prince George’s County to the complete overhaul of the SW Waterfront to the neighboring Navy Yard in SE whose development was spurred by the construction of the state of the art Nationals baseball stadium and soon to be built DC United soccer field.

The rustic beer garden at Bardo on the Anacostia.

We followed the trail along the banks of the river past the intersection of Good Hope Road and MLK Ave SE. We passed the National Guard at a brisk pace, then arrived at the base of the Frederick Douglass Bridge where we ascended the bridge via the pedestrian trail. More gorgeous water views. As we descended, I noticed a structure that looked like a brewery on the bank of the river between (and under) the bridge and Nationals Stadium. Upon closer inspection, it wasn’t only a brewery but a beer garden with funky reclaimed wood tables lined up along the water. Buildings were made out of shipping containers and any other pieces of furniture appeared to be used or handmade out of scrap wood lending a rough, base camp kind of feel to the place. It turns out that this is actually the new location of Bardo, the outdoor brew pub that used to be on Bladensburg Road. That location was shuttered since they scored this sweet, new location. I couldn’t contain my excitement to come back and enjoy a great brew by the water with the sun and a warm breeze on my face.

Go Nats!

Love going to games at this stadium.

After peering through the bars of an eerily empty Nats Park, we realized we had worked up quite an appetite and headed back to Yards Park, across the fantastic pedestrian bridge, and grabbed a seat at Bluejacket. I couldn’t try Bardo just yet, but Bluejacket more than satisfied my beer craving. We decided to explore a few of the many IPAs on the menu and agreed that the Lost Weekend was our favorite. Then my friend ordered the Big Train burger with bacon, onion rings and jalapeño relish and I decided on some grilled kielbasa with rye bread, pickled cabbage and spicy mustard that left just the right amount of burn in my nose.

That’s a big burger.

Kielbasa, spicy mustard and pickled cabbage.

After such a satisfying lunch, we swung by Philz for a pour over coffee for me and a chai for my tea drinking friend. Next time, we’ll have to check out lunch and goodies on the other side of the river. It’s clear that there’s more exploring to do along the banks of the mighty Anacostia.


Making a House a Home

I’m lucky to see people fall in love with a house, buy it and then settle in and make it uniquely theirs – sometimes by doing extensive renovations and sometimes just by adding their own personal touch and prized possessions. I love seeing this process happen. I firmly believe that when people put themselves into their home, it creates a warm energy and appeal that goes beyond how expensive or rare their possessions are. I take pride in the fact that I can make just about any space feel inviting on any budget. I’ve made dorm rooms look homey. Even my apartment during my time in Peace Corps, when I had virtually no budget, was a space I was happy to come home to. It took some creativity, but it was a true refuge.

One of the things that tells me so much about people is the artwork they display in their home. My art collection is not worth much money. Much of it was given to me as a gift or handed down from family. Or it was purchased during my travels or to commemorate special occasions. But each piece means so much to me and represents a part of my personal journey.

This Peruvian retablo was brought back by my best friend as a gift from her trip to Ecuador.

A retablo is most often a religious painting on an altar or on a panel. My mini altar above isn’t religious in nature, but rather is a market scene filled with children’s toys. The artist is a Peruvian woman named Eleudora Jimenez. She and other members of her family make these beautiful and intricately detailed scenes and they are sold throughout South America and even exported to the US. My best friend took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and brought me back this special gift which I cherish and proudly display in my living room.

A colorful and glittery Dominican carnival mask.

Since I lived in the Dominican Republic for a little over two years, I’ve acquired a small collection of Dominican art and try to get a new piece every time I visit. On my last trip with my sons, we traveled around the island together with their dad. It was an amazing adventure filled with so many wonderful memories. We picked up mini Carnival masks like the one above for the kids at the Centro Leon Museum in Santiago. They’re displayed in their playroom because I believe art should be accessible and surround us as we go about our daily lives. I hope that the masks serve as a reminder to my boys of their Dominican heritage and rich artistic traditions that they have witnessed on the island firsthand.

Native American treasures passed down by my beloved great aunt Jeanne.

Some of my favorite pieces are part of a collection of Native American pottery and jewelry passed down to me from my great aunt who passed away some years ago. Jeanne Loomis was married to my grandfather’s brother. She was British and met my great uncle in London where he was serving as a pilot during WWII. They married and settled back in the United States. Perhaps b/c she was from another country, my great aunt always fascinated me. She and my uncle were particularly close to my mom, their niece. Aunt Jeanne was a spitfire. She had no fear of speaking her mind and she knew how to get things done. She made every family holiday dinner a little more exciting. Later in her life, she became fascinated with Native American culture and began traveling to reservations and purchasing artwork and jewelry which she sold in her Lancaster County, PA shop. In addition to numerous pieces of gorgeous jewelry, she also passed down the above collection of Native American pottery.

The piece on the top left with the long-haired human figure is by artist Tom Wacca. And the piece on the bottom left comes from the Santo Clara reservation in New Mexico which is well known for its unique pottery from various artists. The three pieces on the bottom right were done by artists Roy Tsigowany and Stella Kwa Povi and were clearly a favorite of my aunt. And the small black and brown vessel is an example of the typical style of artist N. Sandia Jimenez. The pieces are special because of the their amazing craftsmanship but also because they remind me of my beloved aunt and her love of American culture. I will pass these down to my children in order to both keep her story alive, as well as the beauty of Native American artwork.

The Black Madonna by contemporary artist Louis Luma.

And finally, during my exploration of Dominican art, I have come to appreciate the coveted artwork by famous Haitian artists as well. Haitian art can be very expensive and the pieces that I have are not the most famous or renowned but they struck me. It takes only a second for me to realize which pieces connect with me and resonate. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love color and I also love artistic styles that lean toward folk art. So when I saw the above painting of a black Madonna by prolific contemporary Haitian artist Louis Luma, I decided it needed to be part of my collection.

Ultimately, our homes can become expressions of our history, our journey and our passions. As my own life continues to evolve, I plan to collect artwork that reflects each stage. In doing so, we create refuges for ourselves and our families and cozy, welcoming spaces for others as well.