Magic & Miracles

Magic & Miracles
The “Men in Blue” joined singer Adalia Jimenez onstage for the closing number at last night’s fundraiser.

Over the last few years,  one of my favorite holiday-season events has become the “Magic & Miracles” fundraiser for a local organization called Ready, Willing, and Working. Better known as the “Men in Blue,” RWW is the program behind the always-friendly group of men who keep the commercial areas of Capitol Hill (and more recently, Adams Morgan and Capital Riverfront) clean, maintain the tree boxes and gardens, and do general maintenance.

But what not everyone who encounters them knows, is that participants in RWW are working their way back from addiction and incarceration in a supportive — and incredibly successful — program. (More than 70% of RWW alums remain clean, sober, and employed after three years.) The expression I’ve heard used for RWW is that it’s “a hand up, not a hand out.”

Each year the Magic & Miracles event features a presentation from one of the Men in Blue, talking about how the program has helped them, and watching this year’s speaker, Damon Robinson, beam with pride as he talked about learning to be a good dad to his daughter reminded everyone in attendance  that RWW doesn’t just change one life — it changes families.

And though the 2014 event was last night, I know they’re still fundraising, as all charities are this time of year. So, if you’re looking for a worthy cause for some of your year-end giving, I am sure RWW would appreciate the contribution.


In the interest of transparency, I will mention that I know the founder/executive director of RWW, and am friends with one of the board members, but I’m not talking it up at their request. In fact, they won’t know I’ve done this until after it’s already live.

10 on Tuesday: Stores I Like (for Holiday Shopping)

Today’s 10 on Tuesday topic from Carole is a hard one for me, as shopping is not really my thing — and the prompt specifically limits the list to bricks-and-mortar stores. Given that I do the vast majority of my shopping online, this caveat made putting a list together seem impossible, until I decided to hone in on the one kind of shopping I can tolerate — local. (As in no malls or big-box… I know a few of the items below are outside the usual criteria for local.)

1. Hill’s Kitchen – I’m pretty sure I haven’t darkened the door of a Willams-Sonoma since Hill’s Kitchen arrived on the scene. It’s my go-to place for all things kitchen-y, both for myself and for when I’m buying gifts. There’s always a great selection of seasonal items (did you know that college football themed pasta is a thing?) as well as high-quality kitchen staples. Among the things I love best: the sparkle sugar for cookies, the kids-in-the-kitchen section, and the consistently-helpful customer service.

2. Labyrinth – The idea of a game shop that’s entirely non-digital seems almost impossible in 2014, yet with what seems like every board and card game under the sun, Labyrinth has been a thriving part of the neighborhood for several years. And as an auntie who wants to make sure my nephews aren’t always tied to a screen, I stop  by here for both Christmas and birthdays.

10 on Tuesday: Stores I Like (for Holiday Shopping)
The Downtown Holiday Market, at 7th & F, NW, in Washington, DC.

3. The Flea Market at Eastern Market and Downtown Holiday Market – Based on my quick perusal of the downtown market this evening there is once again a lot of vendor overlap between these two venues, so I lumped them together. Both feature a nice combination of hand-crafted items and random imported things, and are especially good spots for finding jewelry. (On that front, I’m particularly fond of Shobha Ohai’s creations.)

4. Smithsonian/National Gallery of Art Museum/National Building Museum Shops – Each of the Smithsonian shops has its own vibe tied to the museum it serves: American History is a little tourist-y. Natural History and Air & Space are kid-friendly. The Freer, Sackler, and NGA are fairly highbrow. The Building Museum is full of architecture nerd awesomeness. It all adds up to unusual, off-the-beaten-path gift options… And are within walking distance of each other on (and slightly off) the National Mall, which is beautiful, outdoors, and way, way more pleasant than a shopping mall.

5. Union Market – While much of Union Market centers around food (which is not a bad thing) spots like Salt and Sundry make it good for gift shopping as well. And while you’re there, you can stop around the corner at Litteri’s, for all your Christmas panettone needs.

6. Frager’s – While this is, technically speaking, a hardware store, Capitol Hill residents know it’s really our everything store — and for me, that includes being the spot where I buy my Christmas tree. And wreath. And lights. And on and on.

7. Homebody – In the same way that Hill’s Kitchen has eliminated my need for Williams-Sonoma, Homebody has pretty much replaced Pottery Barn for me. It has all the fun household accessories you never knew you needed — most of which also make excellent gifts, if you can part with them.

8. Kramerbooks — While I know Politics and Prose gets most of the DC bookstore love (after all, the president shops there), I am partial to the Metro-accessible Kramerbooks… both because it’s curated table of offerings has never failed to inspire me, and because it has a a full bar and restaurant for when shopping gets to be just too much.

9. Caps & Nats Team Stores – As a sports fan with four nephews, I’ve purchased a lot of team swag over the years, from onesies to jerseys and quite a few things in between. (And yes, this counts as bricks and mortar, because I do as much shopping at the physical locations as I do from their websites!)

10. Think Geek – OK, OK, this is an online store, but it’s a) awesome and b) located in Fairfax, Virginia, so is local enough to count. And it’s so chock-full of delightful nerdery, that I can’t resist including it.

So, that’s my list. Now it’s your turn: Where do you like to do your holiday shopping?