Miriam’s Kitchen – Where Everybody Knows Your Name

MK LogoThe following post was written by guest blogger, Julia Guarino.

Recently, we at Herban Lifestyle had the privilege of discovering an amazing place in one of DC’s upscale neighborhoods – Miriam’s Kitchen. Although the dining room is on a lower level, the space is bright, with fresh flowers on the tables, colorful art and poetry decorating the walls, and a coffee bar, where a delicious homemade breakfast (including delicacies such as freshly baked muffins, smoked salmon and fresh fruit) is served Monday through Friday, and lunch on Wednesdays – all for free.

You could call Miriam’s Kitchen a soup kitchen, but it is much more than that. Every day after breakfast is served, the guests are invited to participate in the “after breakfast program,” where they can receive traditional services such as clothing, medical care, free legal counseling, professional case management, see a licensed psychiatrist once a week, and set up a P.O. Box and personal voicemail box. However, Miriam’s additionally offers a variety of therapeutic workshops that go beyond the traditional; guests can participate in art-therapy, creative writing groups, knitting, pottery, yoga, geography classes, a guest-led advocacy group and more. And once a month, guests can get manicures and facials on “spa day”!

As Ashley, the Volunteer and Development Coordinator explained, Miriam’s Kitchen is a safe place – where guests are treated as equals, and are expected to do so for one another and the volunteers as well. Miriam’s tries to have a “Starbucks feel,” she explains; warm and welcoming, and a little bit of a treat. This is the only safe place many of the guests have, after all; the only place they have been able to relax in years. And although Miriam’s Kitchen’s ultimate goal for their guests is to get them into housing, they celebrate every little accomplishment. As Ashley explained, from offering an indoor a meal for the first time perhaps in years, to helping them finally find an apartment, Miriam’s supports its guests through every step, and meets them where they are right now.

On a recent visit to Miriam’s Kitchen, that basic respect for each individual was palpable in the homey atmosphere. Not only were the guests enjoying themselves, but the entire staff, mostly volunteer, were too. It is a truly unique place, successful in myriad measurable as well as immeasurable ways.

If you are interested in learning more about Miriam’s kitchen, visit them on the web at: http://www.miriamskitchen.org, follow them on Twitter: @miriamskitchen, or view a short video. Miriam’s Kitchen is always looking for donations and volunteers!


Hello Craft Brings Year-Round Crafty Fun

FeltedFriendsBack in May, I had the good fortune of attending the Summit of Awesome, a weekend of seminars, workshops, and social events for crafters, which was presented by the wonderful women of Hello Craft, a group “dedicated to the advancement of independent crafters and the handmade movement, as well as empowering small business owners and educating the public to the benefits of buying handmade and teaching the joys of making.”

At the Summit, I participated in a workshop of hand felting, in which I learned to make a bird. I then went on to create a couple of pieces of sushi, which I gave to my favorite local sushi chef (he has a big collection of fake sushi accessories that customers have given to him over the years). On a recent visit, I found that the felt sushi has been a great source of amusement for the restaurant patrons.
soa_class2009I’m looking forward to next year’s Summit, but in the meantime, Hello Craft offers a blog full of great information for crafters, as well as opportunities to network and learn about the business of crafting. This Saturday, they are teaming up with the fabulous sisters, Kelly and Kasey, owners of Biggs & Featherbelle, to offer a behind-the-scenes look at how they run their an eco-conscious bath and body product business. The three-hour tour of their warehouse, located in the groovy Hampden neighborhood in Baltimore, will include several product making demonstrations and an overview of the day-to-day business of running a small craft-based business.
The tour should be a lot of fun. Kelly and Kasey have lots of wonderful, positive energy. I had the opportunity to meet them at the first annual Handmade Mart held in SilverSpring on May 31st. The first Handmade Mart was a great success, and they are planning another one to be held on December 5th. Check out their Facebook page for details as they develop.
For more information on the Biggs & Featherbelle tour, visit the Hello Craft website.

The Wisdom of Julia Child


photo by Paul Child

In light of the release of the new movie, “Julie & Julia,” I wanted to share the following excerpt from my book, “Growing Toward Balance: Achievable Ideas for Bringing Harmony to Your Mind, Body and Spirit.” This particular chapter evolved from a blog post I wrote shortly after the death of one of my heroines, Julia Child:

I asked an American friend of mine who has lived in Paris for the past eighteen years to give me her thoughts on this topic. She says, “The French tend to think that humans are pleasure-driven, and meals tend to reflect that mentality. Eating is not taboo, although excess is definitely frowned upon by my French friends. Basically, eating is an accepted fact of life, and I think it can be said that the French seek to enjoy their meals rather than suffer through them.”

“The organization of their work and playtime are based around the meals instead of the other way around. They take the time to eat breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. They have the same mentality about sex.”

In our society, we tend to think of food as a necessary evil, and we try to control what we eat, calculating carbs, fat grams, etc. Amy Finnerty, journalist for the Wall Street Journal, wrote a wonderful ode to Julia Child who passed away three days shy of her 92nd birthday. I felt a wave of nostalgia as I remembered back to when I was a child and would watch The French Chef with my mother. I loved Julia’s style, finesse, and the way she would sweep scraps from her counter, seemingly onto the floor. I learned how to make bechamel sauce at a very young age by watching her.

She was all about the enjoyment of food. I remember seeing her on a talk show during the 90s during which she created a wonderful-looking dish complete with two sticks of butter and heavy cream. I don’t remember what the dish was, but I do remember that an audience member asked if she had a low-fat version of that recipe. Her response was, “Whatever for?” She was one of my all-time heroes.

Julia Child has been quoted as saying, “What’s dangerous and discouraging about this era is that people really are afraid of their food…Sitting down to dinner is a trap, not something to enjoy. People should take their food more seriously. Learn what you can eat and enjoy it thoroughly.” As Finnerty says, “She did something more important than teach us to cook; she taught us to eat, and some of us in the new Atkins World Order could still use a few lessons. She knew how to indulge, in moderation: food of all kinds (in normal portions); drink (but not drunkenness); smoking (until she did the mature thing and quit); and the company of men (she was a happily married flirt).”

[tweetmeme style=”compact” source=”herbanlifestyle” service=”tinyurl.com”]

ArtSpring Grand Re-Opening Scheduled for August 8th!

ArtSpringArtSpring has scheduled its grand re-opening for Saturday, August 8th. The Silver Spring venue, which is dedicated to promoting the arts in the community,  includes a retail shop featuring the work of DC-area artisans. The store will offer handcrafted products including fine art, jewelry, accessories, pottery, kids stuff, gifts and more.

ArtSpring, formerly known as Pyramid Atlantic Community Arts Store, will be moving down the street into space previously occupied by Merrimekko. All profits from sales support the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, a Silver Spring non-profit center dedicated to promoting art in the community.

You can find several Herban Lifestyle products, alongside the work of several other local artisans like Capital Region Etsy Street Team‘s Babus.

So, if you are around on August 8th, stop by ArtSpring’s new location at 8519 Georgia Ave., at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Ellsworth Avenue, where they will be celebrating all day from 10:00am-5:00pm!

Join Use on 8/8 for the Ballston Arts & Crafts Market

BallstonPlease join us, once again, at the Ballston Arts & Crafts Market on August 8th. The market is held outdoors on the second Saturday of the month, from May through October. It is conveniently located across from the Ballston Metro station, a short walk from many restaurants and shops, and the mall with “lots of stuff, but nothing good.”

Local artists will be selling their bath and body products, jewelry, crochet, puppets, paper arts, handbags, children’s fashions, screenprinted tees, photography, decoupage, funky jewelry, adorable plushes and toys, creative paintings, rustic and modern ceramics, colorful bags and more! There is live music every month. This month we will be serenaded with Celtic American music by Darcy Nair.

I will be in Booth #2, with a clear view of the band, right next door to my fellow DC Craft Mafia craftinista, Ninnycat Crochet.

For more details, and great pictures of the artisans’ wares, visit the Ballston Arts & Crafts Market blog or the Ballston-Virginia Square Partnership website.

The Sun Is Shining on Ren

brightsideThank you to all of you who entered to win one of my gift sets through The Bright Side Project. In order to win prizes from The Bright Side Project, entrants have to answer questions posed by each day’s featured artisans. I had a really difficult time choosing a winner since there were so many clever and insightful answers to my question, “What is your super power, or what do you wish it was?”

I ended up choosing about 50 great answers, then chose one winner via Random Number Generator. It turned out to be one submitted by Ren. It had made me laugh when I read it the first time:

“i have long maintained that i AM a super hero…of sorts. an un-extraordinary one. i call myself “the contusion” and my power is inflicting painful sprains and uncomfortable bruises. it’s not much but you wouldn’t believe how it can stop bad guys in their tracks with an “ow! that kind of hurt”. i have a side kick too…sister blister. she’s pretty much self explanatory.”

Congratulations, Ren!