Food, Fun and Funk: Smithsonian Folklife Festival Celebrates Its 46th Year!

I have attended the Smithsonian Folklife Festival every year since moving to the DC area. And I am a big fan of this event on the National Mall that features art, dance, food, storytelling and other exhibits that highlight various American and international cultures. So when I was asked to supply huge amounts of my soaps and such for sale at the Folklife Marketplace, I was thrilled!

At the end of last week, I dropped off a rented SUV-full of boxes of products for the Marketplace volunteers to do their magic. And yesterday a friend called to tell me that my products were prominently displayed in the Marketplace tent, so I headed down to take some photos. When I entered the Marketplace, I found that the first three tables were filled with my soaps, men’s products, and Herban Crafts kits!

And the Marketplace is just one of the many features of the Festival. This year’s themes are Campus and Community, Citified, and Creativity and Crisis. I took some photos while I was there, and look forward to really exploring the exhibits when I have more time.

The Festival kicked off last night with a free concert on the Mall featuring George Clinton and other funk legends. The was the first of many free concerts being offered during the course of the Festival.

Citified celebrates the art, music, food and community of the area of DC that sits east of the Anacostia river. As the Folklife Festival website explains, “Citified alludes to the fact that many African American residents living east of the Anacostia River have parents or grandparents who migrated from the rural South, particularly North and South Carolina, and who continue to maintain connections with their southern (although often no longer rural) heritage.”

image copyright Washington Post

Campus and Community features exhibits from several land grant colleges and the USDA, both of which are celebrating their 150th anniversary this year. Several of the colleges have exhibits focusing on the theme of sustainability, such as UC Davis’ exhibit on the ubiquitous problem of plastic bags and the University of Tennessee’s Solar House.

And Creativity and Crisis features the AIDS Quilt, now celebrating its 25th anniversary. In 1987, The NAMES Project Foundation offered hands-on quilt panel-making sessions that allowed individuals and communities to commemorate loved ones, find support and engage in dialogues about how to address the crisis. Today, The Quilt contains nearly 48,000 panels, a portion of which are on display on the Mall.

For those visitors who want to have a hand in adding to The Quilt, participants of all ages will have the opportunity to learn quilting techniques, make panels, and share stories from their own experiences.

The Festival is being held from June 27–July 1 and July 4–8, and is open from 11:00am to 5:30pm.

Showing Some Love to the National Parks

2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the gift of the blossoming cherry trees to Washington, DC from the Mayor of Tokyo, Japan. This year the Cherry Blossom Festival, hosted by the National Park Service, runs from March 20 to April 27, with the Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Street Festival), to be held today, April 14.

Three Fridays ago, I spent most of the afternoon at the Tidal Basin admiring the cherry blossoms at their peak along with thousands of other people from around the world who were taking advantage of the perfect weather.

On my way to the Tidal Basin, I saw several bikers and runners on the path that runs alongside the George Washington Parkway (also run by the National Park Service), which is actually pretty gorgeous as far as parkways go, with several nice spots where you can picnic among the tress along with a close-up view of the Potomac River.

Right next to the Tidal Basin sits our National Mall, which isn’t looking quite as pretty. The National Mall’s last renovation was 30 years ago, after the country’s bicentennial in 1976. Between the reduced Park Service budgets, which haven’t allowed for adequate upkeep, and the over 25 million annual visitors (more than Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon combined!), the Mall is in pretty sad condition.

Our national parks are an incredible resource, and I highly recommend visiting them. Being outdoors has so many benefits for the body, mind and spirit. Even if you don’t have a lot of vacation time, you can search the National Park Services’ website. to find a National Park near you that can be visited in just one day or afternoon.

Even if you don’t have time to visit them right now, there are a few ways you can help support the health and vitality of our National Parks. First, the Eco Etsy team is holding their Annual Handmade for Earth Day Auction. All proceeds from the year’s auction go to support the National Park Service. I highly recommend you check out the beautiful eco-friendly items being auctioned off for this good cause.

A second way you can help is by supporting The Trust for the National Mall, the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, which is dedicated to “restoring and improving the National Mall while providing new educational and volunteer activities to connect visitors to the Mall’s rich history.”

You can also join the L’Enfant Society whose members support the Trust for the National Mall in its mission “to raise funds to restore the National Mall and build awareness for the current state of the country’s most visited national park.” You can download a PDF of the L’Enfant Society Membership Brochure. Another fun way to support the park is by attending the L’Enfant Society’s 4th Annual Ball on the Mall will be held on Saturday, May 5, 2012!

It’s Not Just a Bikeshop. It’s a Lifestyle.


Falls Church has a quirky little treasure. As their website landing page states, “It’s not just a bikeshop. It’s a lifestyle.” The Bike Club is not exactly a club, but rather a place where you can buy new or used bicycles. They also sell a variety of bike accessories and offer bike repairs. In nice weather, you can just drive up on your bike to their tented repair area, and wait while they make adjustments, add air, etc. Most repairs are done within the same day, if not immediately. And the store is open seven days a week, which makes it very convenient.

a glimpse of the outdoor repair area, bikes waiting in the queue to be repaired and my bike in the foreground

The Bike Club’s website also announces, “If you like bikes…come see us …if you want to hang out…come see us…” And on any given day during the nice weather, you will see a variety of people, all ages and ethnicities, hanging out talking about bicycles.

The inside of the store is organized chaos, with bikes and accessories placed everywhere, including hanging from the ceiling. And the totally random decorations (the bust of a military general, live green parrots, a miniature Vietnamese temple, a Spiderman figurine, and much more) reflect the quirky personality of the owner, Phuoc Van Pham.

some of the controlled chaos of the interior

another view of the interior of the shop

Pham is clearly passionate about bicycles. A friend who was visiting from Montana, who is a bike enthusiastic and spends his off-time working at a bike shop, commented that the Bike Club is a bike nerd’s dream come true, and that the owner really knows his stuff. And he supports bikers – he sponsors a team of four BMX riders, who one year brought home 37 trophies, many of which are on display at his shop.

Pham, a champion kick boxer and expert bike assembler who was named by the Bicycle Exchange as its “Mechanic of the Year” in 1990 and in 1991 he was Bicycle Exchange’s “Service Technician of the Year.” In 1993, Pham set up a bike repair tent in the front yard of a mattress store owned by a friend in Falls Church, and soon opened the store in his current location.

A couple of weeks ago, the shop was temporarily closed to address some building safety concerns by the City of Falls Church. I found this interesting given that a new bike shop moved into town (the only other bike shop) just two months earlier, while he has been in his shop for almost 20 years without prior incident. But, anyway…

a cool retro-style bike a man was buying for his daughter to take to college

Luckily, the Bike Club expects to be open within the next two months. I drove past the shop today and got a glimpse of the repairs being done. The store is completely empty now, but I am hopeful that it will be restored to its full eccentric glory. I look forward to the grand re-opening in time for spring, the perfect time to go biking!

The Bike Club is located at 438 South Washington Street, Falls Church, VA, just 11.1 miles from The Mall in DC :)

CARBON Hosts Eco-style Event to Benefit Fairfax Non-profit

On Saturday, November 19 CARBON, DC’s eco-boutique, will host a fun event to help raise money and awareness for FACETS, a Fairfax-based non-profit serving homeless families and individuals. We will be collecting toiletries and food for the families – bring a donation and receive a coupon good for 10% off at Carbon. There will be food, drinks, giveaways, and a portion of proceeds from the sale of both Herban Lifestyle products and Melissa Lew will go to FACETS.

image copyright Melissa Lew

On the 19th, I will be offering a special day of pampering, with free demos of my line of natural and organic certified cruelty-free bath and body products for men and women. The day will also feature a special collection by eco-friendly jewelry designer, Melissa Lew.  The Virginia-based designer combines elements of nature and architecture to inform her collection of refined recycled silver necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and Vitality, a unisex series of necklaces featuring Chinese symbols such as Peace, Trust, and Happiness.

November 19, 2011

Noon to 6 p.m.

CARBON

2643 Connecticut Ave., NW

Washington, DC  20008

(Woodley Park-Zoo Metro Station)

CARBON is committed to reducing your carbon-footprint by offering fashion-forward sustainable clothing, shoes, accessories, and handbags.  We carry small, independent designers and companies both locally and internationally who operate from a corporate social responsibility mission.  Several of our designers create hand-crafted and fair trade products.  CARBON is generated by 100% local wind turbines, implements the 3 Rs religiously – reduce, reuse, recycle – and supports local environmental and human rights initiatives.  CARBON also offers wardrobe consultation and personal shopping.

Join Us at DC Craft Mafia’s Monster Craft Mash on 10/29!

[October 29, 2011, 12:55pm – the organizers of the Monster Craft Mash have announced that the show is being cancelled due to predicted snow in DC tomorrow. They will be organizing another Spring Fling in a couple of months, and I will be participating, so please stay tuned for more info!]

I hope you can join us at DC Craft Mafia‘s Monster Craft Mash! It will be held on Saturday, October 29th, from 11:00am – 5:00pm at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, at the corner of 15th St. and P St., NW, Washington, DC.

There is an amazing list of vendors, offering a wide array of crafty goodness from gorgeous jewelry, to beautifully designed accessories, unique home goods, exquisite paper goods, delicious bath and body products, and so much more.

For more information, visit the Monster Craft Mash Facebook page, or DC Craft Mafia’s website.

Getting my Green Geek on at the Solar Decathlon

The following post is by Katie Peige, Herban Lifestyle’s Sustainability Associate

This year Washington, DC hosted the Solar Decathlon for the fifth time since its inaugural competition in 2002. Since then, the competition has been held every two years, allowing students two years to take their proposed ideas and turn them into reality. Twenty college teams compete at the Solar Decathlon where have the opportunity to win several different contests including Most Affordable, Best Architecture, Best Engineering, and Best Communications. Teams ultimately compete for the top honor of winning the solar decathlon, which is determined by the team with the most overall points determined by diverse criteria. There is also the coveted People’s Choice Awards, which adds an additional layer of fun and really makes the students shine when they are giving the public tours.

I originally planned to hit the whole competition in a day but gave myself the backup day of Sunday just in case I could not get to it all. I am so glad I did. Saturday was a mad house and the lines were quite long, so after about two hours I only saw about four houses and I was starving (the venue ran out of food) so I decided to return the next day.

I am so glad I came back. I was determined to see all of the nineteen homes, an endeavor that took me about six hours over the two days. After six hours and two days the houses start to blur in your mind and it is hard to remember which awesome detail or technology went with which house. After a bit of review thanks to the handy dandy information the teams handed out, my people’s choice award went to Maryland.

Image source Treehugger.com

Rather than basing my choice on the engineering, I to admit that I picked my favorites based on which ones I could see myself moving into the next day. Maryland won hands down for my People’s Choice Award vote, mainly because I am from Maryland and have a serious affection for anything that promotes the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland’s house, dubbed Watershed, not only produces all of its energy but also has an impressive water management design complete with a green roof. Instead of all the water going down the drain and eventually to the sewers, the greywater (wastewater that does not contain biosolids such as feces or food) gets diverted to the greywater treatment wetlands where the plants break down the nutrients and remove pathogens allowing the now clean water to be used for plants elsewhere around the house. There are countless reasons why I love this house, there are so many cool features such as their interior design (complete with the taco bed/table) and amazing engineering features such as the Liquid Desiccant Waterfall system which absorbs humidity from the air. I highly suggest checking out 2011.solarteam.org to check out all the amazing features of Watershed.

photos of a taco bed

There are several design features I would like to highlight briefly for the other homes. I really enjoyed the small spaces and was inspired by how comfortable these small houses were. I was especially fascinated by the ways teams hid the beds (Murphy beds, taco bed/table/, giant drawer).  I loved Middlebury’s house and was very impressed since they do not have a school of architecture. All of their furniture was made from locally harvested Vermont wood or reused pieces such as a really cool old trunk that they were using as a coffee table. One of my favorite highlights from this house was the idea of having a greenhouse in your kitchen, so if you needed basil, for example, you could just turn around and pick some and throw it into your simmering pot. Appalachian State, the Solar Homestead, was stunning as well. It seemed to have the most space and felt very homey. My favorite part was the kitchen/living room area due to their clever way to cover up the kitchen. If you have guests over for movie night, just cover it up with a movie screen!

Greenhouse in the Middlebury kitchen

New Zealand’s house was drop dead gorgeous. The house is called First Light because New Zealand is the first country to greet the new day sun. One of my favorite features of this house is the use of recycled sheep’s wool (an abundant renewable resource for New Zealand) as insulation. Tidewater Virginia’s Unit 6, was super fun and well decorated. I loved the sliding bookcase that doubled as a bedroom door, and the students played it up pretending there was a special book you had to pull to reveal the secret chamber. Interestingly, Tennessee’s team used Solyndra’s solar tubes that collect light from every angel instead of the sun shinning directly onto a panel, pretty sweet technology, too bad Solyndra is now in the headlines for a scandal.

After spending two days at the Solar Decathlon, I was sad to leave – there was still so much left to learn! I was so jealous of these students, and it made me miss school terribly. By the way, I went to Arizona State University, and I was shocked that there was not one school represented from the sunny dessert areas such as Arizona or New Mexico. I am just going to cross my fingers that Arizona State will be at the next Solar Decathlon; I know I will be, I would not miss it for the world.

Join us at Crafty Bastards on 10/1!

For the past few weeks, I’ve been busy gearing up for this year’s Crafty Bastards Arts & Crafts Show in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of DC. In its 8th year, it’s one of the biggest craft shows in the country drawing an estimated 30,000 attendees. I am super honored to have been chosen to be a vendor. And it’s not only a great place to be a vendor, it’s also a dream-come-true for the shopper looking for unique, high-quality handcrafted gifts.

fuzzy soap display at Crafty Bastards 2010

It’s a huge show, with tons of great stuff to see and do – besides all the amazing crafts, there will also be DIY demos, food vendors, as well as the new Young & Crafty (featuring the wares of crafty kids 18 and under) and Crafty Food vendors (featuring home brew, preserves and pickles!). So, in order to maximize your time there, you can take a look at the vendor page to get a preview of the who will be selling what, then download the official Crafty Bastards vendor map so you can make sure you find all your favorites.

If you are in DC that day, please stop by Booth #88 and say, “Hi!” (If you are in the market for fuzzy soap, try to get there early, since we sold out of all 100 before the end of the day last year!) I hope to see you there!