Every now and then something comes along that makes me regret having short locks. This would be one of those moments. Past HonFest pageant winner Elliana Fetsko and stylist Sue Ebert gave me the scoop on how to create a beautiful tower of hair for the upcoming festival. Loved it. Here's a bonus video I shot during my interview with the duo of fabulous dames. Thanks again ladies!
With each Closer Inspection, I aim to promote atypical local finds or shine a light on something in our area that is not receiving the attention it deserves. My latest subject, the Bell of Peace & Harmony, is definitely the latter. I came upon this amazing local landmark as a matter of happenstance. Who knew it's only one of two such structures in the nation?
It's a beautiful site. If you're in the D.C. area, I recommend the short road trip to the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens to see it yourself.
Need more convincing?
I thought you'd never ask!
(Here are more facts and photos that didn't make the print edition)
To the right of the pavilion that houses the bell, stand four totem poles, called jangseung, that were created by Korean woodcarver Kim Jong-heung. “He’s sort of this semi-sacred aboriginal figure,” says Tomlinson. “Not a monk, more like a shaman.”
Here's a video of Kim Jong-heung at work on another project below.
The totems were a gift from the North Jeolla Province government in South Korea. In Korean culture, “totems could be considered a warning not to come in, they could also be considered a greeting,” says Meadowlark garden manager Keith Tomlinson. “Likewise the bell could be utilized for the most celebratory cultural event one can imagine it can also be utilized as a warning for a fire or a tragedy. An alarm.”
The 12 feet tall female and male pair on the left are more aboriginal in nature and are meant to depict Korean origins of thousands of years ago, says Tomlinson. The male figure on the left says ‘king for heaven’ in Korean, while the female figure says ‘queen of earth.’ The 10 feet tall couple on the right are more traditional and symbolize the Silla Dynasty. Both male and female figures say the same thing: “Korean Bell Garden.” The words are carved in Korean on the male figure and in English on the female.
The garden contains nine concrete murals that “are artistically and materially unique to Korean architecture,” says Tomlinson. They were inlaid into walls near the garden’s entrance. This eponymous mural, called the Wall of the Ten Symbols of Longevity (shipjangsaengdo), depicts the aforementioned Korean symbols which include the crane, deer and pine trees.
Near the entryway of the five-acre garden stand two five and half feet tall statues, dol hareubang, made of volcanic rock. Donated by Jeju Province, the statues were often placed at city gates to ward off harm.
Yikes! Can't believe it's been two months since I last did a blog post. Sorry folks! One of the hazards of being a freelance writer is biting off more than you can chew -- and let's just say I've had quite a mouthful over the last few months. Turning in some big assignments at week's end, so I'm starting to get back to my regular sked/sanity.
Speaking of sanity ...just had to share this factoid that didn't make it in the print edition of my Closer Inspection on the Arnold Map, a map of D.C. that dates back to 1862.
See the photo above?
I just love that it actually says "insane asylum" -- definitely not a phrase you'd see on a map today.
The asylum was called the Government Hospital for the Insane, a federal hospital that was established in 1855, later renamed St. Elizabeth’s in 1916.
While still operational on its east campus (now under the jurisdiction of the DC Department of Mental Health) the west campus is being renovated for ...
.... wait for it ....
... the future headquarters of Homeland Security.
Good morning lovelies! This week's Closer Inspection pays a visit to Jigsaw Art, the wonderful brainchild of Montgomery Village resident Thom Spencer. Here are some additional shots of Spencer's pieces that didn't make it in print. Love his think-outside-the-box mentality. Such neat creations!
Most of Spencer’s puzzles -- such as this hairdryer piece ($200) --start as a doodle on his graph paper notepad. “Needless to say not all doodles make it,” he says.
Creativity and pushing boundaries is key to the puzzles Spencer creates. Case in point? This heart puzzle ($400), has nine puzzles within a puzzle and took 20 hours to make.
Spencer made this freehand-style piece from a piece of scrap wood. It mimics the style of Spencer’s idol puzzle cutter,” John Stokes of San Diego. “He does really amazing cuts, extremely intricate,” says Spencer. “…. I tried to make my cuts similar to his, but they weren’t nearly as cool or intricate.”
In November, Spencer began making jigsaw ornaments such as these ($8 each, two for $15) to sell at local craft shows. Shapes he’s made thus far include cats, dogs, hearts and stars.
Heyo! By now, you should know the drill. I write a Closer Inspection, but of course have loads of extra tid-bits that didn't make it in the print edition. This week's topic? J. Chocolatier in Georgetown.
Probably not the best idea to read if you're even the slightest bit hungry. The pics alone will have you out the door in a sec.
J. Chocolatier owner Jane Morris was quite patient with Ben and I as we took over her space with camera equipment for a couple hours. Ah the price of local fame!
Morris brings out this warm clove flavored truffle (above) for the fall and winter. She says it “harkens back to how chocolate was enjoyed several hundreds of years ago.” After finding a reprint of a centuries old Spanish chocolate drink online, Morris decided to recreate it in a solid form using the same ingredients which include cloves, cinnamon, ancho chile and vanilla. To give the dark chocolate a rustic appearance, she tops each with crushed cocoa nibs.
Like most chocolatiers, Morris doesn’t make chocolate from scratch. “We don’t take cacao from the bean,” she says. “We use what’s called chocolate couverture which really just means high quality chocolate. Chocolate with a lot of cocoa butter in it.”
She uses multiple types of couverture to create her treats. She uses Callebaut bittersweet and semisweet to create ganache, or soft filling, for her bonbons. “Those are blended chocolates, in other words the beans don’t come from one single-origin,” she says. “Those are our workhorse chocolates.” She also uses two single-origin chocolates, produced by the small, upscale company Felchlin: Cacao Maracaibo (with beans sourced from Venezuela) and Ghana Accra (with beans from Ghana) to make the truffles’ shells.
It’s a two to three day process to make her chocolates, Morris says. She starts off by making the chocolate’s shell by pouring tempered chocolate into a plastic mold. Once that’s hardened, a ganache is made and placed in a rubber bottle so it can be piped into the shell. The chocolate then sits overnight so additional moisture can evaporate. The following day, each chocolate piece is capped with liquid chocolate. Once that hardens, the chocolates are then cracked out of the mold, hand-rolled in a finish coat of chocolate and decorated accordingly before each is placed in its own candy cup.
The Fleur de Sel caramel is the most popular chocolate J. Chocolatier sells. “It’s a liquid caramel, not a chewy one,” says Morris. “We add more cream and butter then what you typically see in a recipe. I call that one the trifecta because it’s salt, fat and sweet.”
The print on the Earl Grey chocolates are created by textured sheets Morris places inside her chocolate molds. She dusts each piece with 24-karat pulverized gold. “We use a tiny, tiny, tiny bit,” she says. “ A little vial will last me two years because you’re using such an infinitesimal amount, but you really see it.”
Want to see chocolate magic in action? Chocolatier Alex Wells shows us the basics below. It smelled so good, it's a shame this video isn't scratch 'n' sniff!
Oy vey! As happens with most of my Closer Inspections in the WaPo Mag, we can't fit every item I write about in the one-page feature. This time around, some of my fave pieces from this collection of local artifacts at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington didn't make the print edition, so I'm highlighting 'em below.
These 1957 license plates were donated by the late Rabbi Tzvi Porath in 2004, and were used when he took part in the inaugural parade of President Dwight Eisenhower. In addition to serving as the rabbi at Ohr Kodesh Congregation from 1952 to 1984 in Chevy Chase, Md., Turman says Porath made “a very big effort to extend his reach beyond his congregation.” According to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum, Porath was a co-chairman of the Religious Observance Sub-Committee under the 1957 Inaugural Committee.
A menu boasts delicious blintzes sold by Rich’s Restaurant, a Jewish deli and restaurant formerly at 19th and E streets Northwest that was opened by Seymour Rich in 1945. “If I told you were there lines outside at lunch time, it would not be an exaggeration,” recalls Rich’s son, Ronald Rich of the restaurant that closed in 1971. “Dad would not seat two people at a table for four. You had to double up. You had to have at least three people at a table and people didn’t mind no matter how big a shot you were.”
Below, Ronald poses with his grandfather in front of the restaurant.
And while the trio of commemorative books -- given to Jewish leader Simon Wolf by his daughter Florence Gotthold in honor of his 70th birthday in 1906 -- were featured in print, I had to show you all more photos since the books are so beautiful.
One of the many inscriptions by local and national personalities was by Heurich Brewing Company president Christian Heurich. An excerpt: “If there were more Simon Wolfs in this world, society would be the gainer.”
Ah, nothing like taking a nap in a bone yard next to a dragon skull.
Such is the life of a Closer Inspection writer. Ben and I's latest assignment took us to Markoff's Haunted Forest where we got the low down on how they've been spooking folks for the last twenty years. Here's some extra bits that didn't fit in the one-pager.
Across from the bone yard -- which features fake human skeletons and real cattle bones -- you'll meet Goat Head. Made from polyurethane foam, the head sits on a mechanical track that is moved back and forth by an operator behind it. The creature’s jaw opens and roars, and his eyes light up. Be wary, folks: He can reach the path you'll be walking on.
I'm also starting to think that knowing where some of these creatures are in the woods is going to make my visit to Markoff's this weekend that much scarier. Like the Wendigo. Holy moly. Just seeing how high his legs are without the torso and head attached is pretty freaky.
You can get an idea of what the Wendigo will look like in the video below, but don't bet on his movements being so tame at Markoff's. Paul Brubacher, VP of operations at Markoff's, tells me they've reprogrammed the beast to be more mobile. "Most of the haunts will have ‘em go slow, and it’s really cheesy," he says. “He’ll be rockin.’ Those posts will be jumping out of the ground by the end of the night. He’s just going to slam down on you.”
How cool is this? In the Markoff workshop, there's a room that houses dozens of skeletons awaiting frightful duties.
Markoff’s orders durable plastic skeletons from Bucky’s Boneyard, a company that sells the lowest grade (called fourth quality) anatomical skeletons. “They’re still complete,” says Brubacher of the skeletons. “But you may have two left arms, or a backwards right foot. But we don’t need perfect.”
In last Sunday's CI, Ben and I stop by Counter Culture's D.C. training center to learn how to make coffee like fancy baristas. Very cool indeed! (Here are some extra photos online). The coolest technique by far was the Bonmac siphon brewer -- looks like a science experiment (with yummy results!). Seeing photos is one thing, but had to share a clip with you all so you can see it in action. Enjoy!
As a former English major, you can say I'm a bit of a Shakespeare nerd. So I couldn't wait to head down to the Folger Shakespeare Library to check out some of their rare and bizarre collections for Ben and I's Closer Inspection. Bracelets made of hair? Centuries-old books filled with instructions for spells? Sign this girl up!
The best part was undoutedly when Folger director Michael Witmore handed me a small leather-bound book.
"This is a copy of Shakespeare’s poems and you can see from the size -- you should hold this in your hand for a second -- This is the copy that Walt Whitman carried in his pocket. It’s nuts. He signed it."
"Here is this man essentially writing out the blue print for American poetry carrying this book in his pocket," Witmore continued. "It is the direct connection of the English literary Renaissance tradition with American vernacular lyric poetry."
I could tell a nearby curator was about to have a heart attack when Witmore did this (I wasn't wearing gloves and this is a priceless artifact). But how could I not? I got to hold a book that was in Whitman's pocket every day in my palm. Surreal doesn't even begin to describe it.
It's moments like these that remind how lucky I am to do what I do. As a reporter for over half my life, I've gotten to dive into so many different worlds. It's a role I relish and don't think I'll tire of any time soon. Now if there was a way to teach my pup how to transcribe, I'd really be in heaven!
As always, here are some extra tid-bits that couldn't fit in the one pager. Enjoy!
This dagger belonged to Victorian actor Sir Henry Irving and was used during his performances of “Hamlet.”
It wasn’t long before figurines of Shakespearean actors -- such as this 1852 Staffordshire pottery piece of John Philip Kemble -- began to be collected by fans. “Not that this is the Tom Cruise of the 18th century,” says Witmore, “but you can see the media machine developing.”
This 1900 woven gold jeweled belt was worn by actress Helena Modjeska in Paris as she played Cleopatra in “Antony & Cleopatra.”
An 1886 French edition of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was hand-painted in 1908 by American artist Pinckney Marcius-Simons. “The imagery is so lucid and extravagant,” says Witmore.
Similarly, contemporary artist Sue Doggett created a one-of-a-kind sketchbook in 1995 of “The Tempest.”
I wanted Ben to get a picture of me holding Whitman's poetry book, but when Witmore left the room, I didn't want to ask the curator to grasp it again, knowing what the answer would be this time. So here I am posing next to it like an idiot. Good times!