Feagans is the prototypical small-town jewelry store--prototypical in that it is what it should be. It offers a good range of quality jewelry, service that is neighborly as well as professional, and an assortment of non-jewelry items that serve as appropriate recognition for special occasions and occurrences.
When Himself wanted an old-fashioned spring-constructed watch repaired, we took it to Feagans and had it returned in sound working order.
When we wanted a special 14-inch pearl necklace for our only granddaughter's first birthday, we got it from Feagans.
When I needed a small diamond replaced on a favorite ring, Feagans did the job.
Service is provided with courtesy, and likely timeframes are stated upfront. If the timeframe has to be extended, expect a call from Feagans to explain the problem. This is a business that demonstrates how one can be both a good business and good neighbor.
PROS: Small-town values of courtesy, with quality as an added bonus
CONS: Limited, though varied, selection
The Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is one the most aesthetically appealing of the Smithsonian's many amazing museums. Dedicated to modern art, it offers a series of tantalizing glimpses into the collective genius that has created the remarkably diverse and innovative world of modern artistic expression.
The building itself is shaped like a huge "O," with the exterior galleries bound by solid stone walls with no windows and the interior galleries bound by glass walls that maximize the benefits of natural light. Smaller sculptures by such artists as Rodin, Moore, Picasso, and Degas find a perfect home these inner galleries filled with ambient light. Canvases and mixed-media works by such masters as Matisse, Pollock, Rothko, and Rauschenberg are housed in the exterior galleries.
In general, the round shape of the building provides all the galleries with pathways that are easier to travel and require less backtracking. "Art in the Round" seems to offer what is more truly a natural means of access. In the final analysis, the very design of this building is one of the most outstanding and utilitarian of the objects de art on display at the Hirschhorn.
The museum's plaza and sculpture garden should not be overlooked because they house the permanent collection's larger, more monumental pieces. Here visitors find stabiles by Calder, Rodin's remarkable Burghers of Calais, Epstein's The Visitation, and works by Giacometti and de Rivera. Several of these pieces (including one of my personal favorites, Snelson's Tower) almost require viewer participation--extending an invitation to wander around, under, or through the spaces these pieces inhabit.
Like all the Smithsonian's museum's, this one is free. Unlike many of the others, the crowds are usually manageable even during peak seasons--in part because of the design of the building and in part because the museum appeals to more specialized interests.
PROS: Modern Art, in all its diversity and innovative genius
CONS: Modern Art, in all its perplexity
NMAI is the Smithsonian's hottest new attractions. Its magnificent structure makes one think of the windswept canyons of the Southwest. Its landscaping attempts to recapture the ecology of the Potomac wetlands and the respect for the Earth prized by native peoples. And its displays are offered with a respect for native traditions--past and present--that are too often missing from traditional anthropological museums.
The museum includes a theater, workshop areas, and a spectacular ceremonial area. It includes galleries for exhibiting the work of featured native artists, and its permanent displays house innovative mixed-media displays on native history and culture.
The nontraditional museum experience offered by NMAI is off-putting to some visitors who come expecting the usual museum treatment of the Native American past. That's a shame because this museum is all about celebrating ongoing and living cultures, not trying to capture vignettes of a dead past. Come armed with an open, inquisitive mind and you'll not be disappointed.
Like all Smithsonian museums, NMAI is free. During peak seasons and weekend, however, visitors are wise to obtain timed passes. Call 1-866-400-6624 for information.
PROS: Exciting, dramatic, informative
CONS: It took to long to evolve
I shop at Whole Foods on an occasional basis. I drop by after a day at the office to pick up natural and organic produce, European beer and wine, freshly baked bread, whole milk in glass jugs, and miscellaneous other items. On rare occasions I pop in during my lunch hour and pick up a healthy meal from the salad bar. And with each of these purchases, I pay, I pay.
The food I purchase at Whole Foods is almost always good and almost always expensive. Organic and health foods are this store's claim to fame, and indeed, one can purchase all manner of soy products, dietary supplements, natural grain cereals, and environmentally friendly household and personal products. One can also choose from a wide variety of bulk olives, multiple forms of humus, tasty olive spreads, purple potatoes, cuts of buffalo, stuffed salmon rolls ready to cook, and freshly made marshmallows.
Whole Foods in Reston is part of a chain of over 170 stores located across the United States and the United Kingdom. Viewing itself as a set of values as well as a business, its mission statement upholds a belief in the "virtuous circle entwining the food chain, human beings and Mother Earth."
Aside from striving to save the planet by encouraging organic farming techniques, a mission taken seriously, each store finds its own way to integrate into the community it serves. The Reston stores calendar of activities includes cooking lessons, kids' nights, live music, nutrition education, and artist receptions. Hence, Whole Foods is not just a store, it's a community center.
The store is part of the Plaza America shopping complex, and parking is a pain. The entrance itself is a bit cramped, especially as regards shopping carts and at-the-door specials. Once inside, however, the store is a pleasure to visit. It even includes a smallish seating space near the checkout lanes--an area that serves as a convenient spot to eat that lunchtime salad or to gather for store-sponsored events.
PROS: Variety of organic and natural foods, laudible business ethics
CONS: Expensive, a bit new wave in its impact
This is a non-churchgoer's review of a church. It's fair to say that my interest in houses of worship have more to do with their cultural context than with their purely religious importance. In this case, that context revolves largely around the importance of the Washington family to local and national history. You see, Charles Washington (brother to George) founded Charles Town, and Samuel Washington (brother to both George and Charles) was a vestryman in the Zion's predecessor congregation. Thus in cultural terms, Zion Episcopal Church is a must-see for visitors to Charles Town. The church itself is on the site of an 1818 structure that has been destroyed and restored twice since, each time on the same spot. The current structure, dating from 1851 (but feeling much older) has an interior supported by two rows of impressive columns, several spectacular stained-glass windows (some attributed to Tiffany), and a baptismal font more reminiscent of an English church than an American one. The bell and tower on the church date from the 1890s. The cemetery surrounding the Zion Episcopal is the resting place of more members of the Washington family than any other single location in the nation--including Mount Vernon. The mortal remains of more than 70s Washingtons rest in the Zion cemetery. And it is one of the ironies of history that on Memorial Day, many of these graves are decorated with Confederate battle flags--with the Stars and Strips being almost entirely absent. As do most of the older buildings in Charles Town, Zion Episcopal boasts numerous connections to the American Civil War, having served a variety of purposes during that conflict, including as a hospital. Like so many other structures in the path of that war, the church was badly damaged. For those who might wish to worship is this beautiful church, services are typically held on Sundays and Thursdays. Call 304-725-5312 for more information or to arrange a tour of the sanctuary.
PROS: Historic structure and cemetery
CONS: Scanturary hours are limited
We were excited about Avanti's arrival in our community, and we've attempted a number of times to make it a part of our routine. Somehow it just never caught on.
It's really a shame to admit that. Avanti would seem to have much to recommend it. It has good space--both inside and outsidefor providing customer hospitality. Someone has given thought to designing an unusual decor. The dining room is not crowded (meaning there is plenty of space between tables), and the tables even have proper tablecloths and napkins.
The fare is standard Italian, a bit too standard perhaps. And the best thing I can say about the food selection is that the bread and dipping oil are very tasty and temping. (Er, the desserts are nice too.) Still and all, the entrees are where a restaurant makes its reputation, and Avantis entrees do not excite. They are out of sync with what would seem to be this restaurant's potential--so much so that we go elsewhere for Italian, somewhere that has less atmosphere and more taste.
If I could give this restaurant one piece of advice, it would be to look back to its roots. Check out something besides spaghetti, lasagna, and linguine. Give us the Italian food of Italy--not that of Franco-American or out-of-the-box Italian that most of us can do for ourselves these days. Complete your promising package, and we'll return--often.
PROS: Good space, nice bread and dipping oil
CONS: The entree items are really ordinary
We've patronized Creamers off and on for the past 12 years, and we've always been satisfied with their service.
In most instances, we've depended on Creamers to provide inspections and associated service for all the vehicles we've owned during that timeframe. We've also depended on them to provide repairs that weren't covered under dealer warranties, to procure and replace tires, and simply to provide a knowledgeable opinion on when we should invest in repair or when we should cut our losses and get that dreaded new car with its dreaded new car payment.
Himself trusts Creamers to do the job right, and if something goes wrong, to make it right. I trust them to be courteous of my automotive ignorance and not to take undue advantage. They have consistently provided us with realistic estimates, informed us if revisions were necessary, and provided reasonable options on those occasions when weve balked.
For us, Creamers is a hometown tradition worth keeping.
PROS: Trustworth, knowledgeable
CONS: Automobile maintenance is never cheap
Save-A-Lot works on a basic bulk merchandise approach. Nothing is pretty. Almost everything is stacked on pallets to accommodate a quick-in, quick-out retail plan. No bagging is provided (though you can purchase bags on the spot), and service is minimal.
Prices truly are good, but despite that fact I rarely enter this bargain-basement food store. And when I do go, I'm very selective about what I purchase. I don't mind picking up packaged food, such as canned goods. But I never purchase fresh meats, diary products, or produce.
Every time I've crossed the threshold my local Save-A-Lot, I've been greeted by a persistent unpleasant aroma--something long ago went bad somewhere. Despite its nearness to my home, I tend to avoid this store.
PROS: Cheap prices
CONS: Little service, questionable attention to sanitation
Let's face it, good Mexican food is tough to find in the East--it's usually neuvo cuisined or TexMex'ed beyond recognition. Happily, Casa Gonzalez 2 tends toward the Chihuahua style--a vast improvement over either of the other two options.
Casa Gonzalez is a small family-owned chain (three restaurants located in rural Virginia and West Virginia). The food is tasty, the hospitality is genuine, and margaritas will improve your day--no matter what the challenge! As for the regular, Himself and I favor the chili rellenos (me) and the steak with mole sauce (him). We're also fond of the guacamole with the house tortilla chips.
You'll not mistake Casa Gonzalez 2 for an escapee from the Plaza in Santa Fe. This is a working-class restaurant in a working-class location. The prices are reasonable, the service is good, and the food has real taste. Not a bad deal, in my opinion. And when you consider that I'm a snob for "New Mexican cuisine" at its best, it's darn near high praise.
PROS: Good value, good service, good taste
CONS: Spicier sauces would be nice (these made with gringos in mind)