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Once upon a time, a long time ago, I didn't drink coffee. Or I did, on occasion, but not in any serious way. Perversely, at that time, I lived in the Land of Real Coffee Shops. In fact, I lived for more than a year only two blocks away from the best. coffee. ever. And went there less than a half dozen times.

Then, I moved to Austin. I went to graduate school. And I started drinking coffee like an actual coffee drinker (read: addict). The pickings were pretty slim, but there were some okay options, and one that even felt a little bit like Portland (though the java wasn't anywhere near as good).

Over the years I lived in Austin, my coffee addiction grew stronger. I became a lover of the French press. I stopped using sugar, and often went without cream as well. I began to learn what I liked in a coffee bean.

Then I moved here.

And I wept. Seriously. There is no independent coffee here. None. A search for coffee houses in my town turns up just one name:

Starbucks.

As a Pacific Northwest native, you are expected, early in life, to take a position at Starbucks. You either love it or you hate it, it's really that simple. And, to the extent that I cared either way when I lived there, I was a hater. Indie forever, fuck the man, all that.

Then, in Austin, I learned that Starbucks has it's place in the world. Not for drip coffee--good God no, just don't, it's awful--but for a foofy coffee-esque drink, when one is required, and possibly some sort of pastry. The green and white sign is especially handy when one has ventured into a neighborhood without an easily identifiable independent coffee shop (such a neighborhood does not, as far as I know, exist in Portland). I became an occasional Starbucks consumer, all the while rolling my eyes.

Here, though, the sad fact is that Starbucks is the best I can do. Not only are they usually the only coffee to be found, they're the only reliably decent coffee to be found. I still won't touch the drip--that stuff is just foul--but I am a more-than-occasional latte drinker, and have even gotten fond of some of the sweet not-really-coffee holiday confections. I understand, now, why Starbucks is what so many people think of when they think of coffee--there are many parts of the country, like here, where it's the only place anything even close to real coffee is found. I'm not rolling my eyes anymore.

I'm still not going to set foot in a Starbucks while visiting home, nor am I going to start buying their beans. I'm not under the illusion that they make good coffee. But I am, begrudgingly, grateful to them for existing. If they hadn't swept the nation, I'm not sure there would be any coffee shops at all out here.

All that said, my preference is to make coffee at home. With beans I order from Oregon. So the snob is still alive in me.

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I lost the Starbucks battle in 2008:
http://outpost505.com/?p=59

These days I'm more likely to stop in for a breakfast sandwich or an oatmeal than for their coffees, especially since the best coffeeshop in town is a mere 2 blocks away from the most convenient Starbucks to my work. It's good to know that the option is there, I guess, and that's something I can live with.

It's really sad, isn't it? That was one of the first things that I noticed about this area too. There ARE however some competing chains, like Caribou Coffee, that, while still not great, will give you a caffeine fix without the guilt of patronizing a Starbucks.

BTW, not that you would want to travel all the way to Alexandria just for a cup of coffee, but I heard that this place is pretty darn good:
http://www.buzzonslaters.com/

There are also some good indy coffee shops inside of the District, but same problem of distance.

You are right about the drip at Starbucks, but a Pumpkin Spice latte or a Peppermint Mocha? Happy, happy me!

We've stopped drinking anything but 100% Kona coffee. There's no use in drinking anything else.

It's either NoVa or NOVA. NoVA isn't consistent and no one local would use that random case.

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Fall, and appreciating where I'm at

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I've made no secret of the fact that I don't like Virginia, and that I'm basically already counting the day until we're out of here. That being said, I know it's in my best interest to try to enjoy the things that are enjoyable about living in this part of the world.

One of those things is fall.

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So, who wants to come shopping with me?

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Over the years, I've had a lot of people tell me they wish they could come thrifting with me. This makes me laugh, honestly, because I don't think thrifting with me is exactly a good time (though you'd have to ask The Princess, as she's been there and lived to tell the tale). It's an endurance sport, an all-day kinda process. That said, since the majority of the folks who say they wish they could come with me are too far away to suffer the actual sore feet and sugar crash that it would entail, it might be fun to take y'all on a trip virtually. So, today, that's what I did. I went on a typical Saturday shopping/thrifting mission, and I took photos and notes of what I was doing so I could come back and recount it all to you. Dig in, get something to drink, put up your feet, and let's go.

First thing first: what you wear on a thrifting trip is important. You've got to be comfortable. You also have to consider trying things on. In most cases, you're going to want to wear stuff you can easily get in and out of in a dressing room. Today, though, that isn't going to be enough, because they main store we're visiting doesn't have dressing rooms. So how do you buy clothes you can't try on? Well, the first thing is to be pretty sure about what will fit you--not your size so much as being able to just look at something and think it will or won't fit. This is a learned skill, for sure--I am pretty good at it because I've been doing it for a long time, but it's not a natural thing. If you've never tried to do it, I suggest pulling a few things that fit really well out of your closet and looking at them on the hanger. Just get a sense of what a garment that fits you looks like.

The other thing to do is to wear something that facilitates trying things on without a dressing room. At a thrift store with no dressing room, doing this isn't going to be strange. My go-to ensemble is leggings and a sweater dress with a tank top underneath. I forgot to take a picture, but that's exactly what I had on today.

12:12 PM: This is when we leave my house. I always try to leave early, but I never actually make it out on Saturday until noon or later. There is coffee to drink, an Internet to screw around on...just too much to do. As we back out of my garage, we notice that our neighbors have decorated their front yard with a dozen or so different sizes and shapes of plastic flamingos, and are playing in it with their grandchildren. Things like that don't usually happen in the suburbs. Has to be a good omen.

12:18 PM: We make our first stop, just up the road from my house, at Starbucks. I'd love to tell you that I fuel for my adventures at a local coffee shop, but the sad truth is that I don't have a local coffee shop. As in, I can't find one anywhere. So Starbucks it is. Mini mall Starbucks, no less.
And feel free to make fun of me for my order. It's a grande skinny two-pump three-shot vanilla latte. Yeah, I know. Pathetic. But in my defense, if I could trust the coffee to be good, I'd just have coffee. In Virginia, I cannot trust the coffee to be good. That little devil with it is a blueberry scone. 10 freaking points in that thing, and yet, so tasty. Eat up, you're going to need the energy.

12:42 PM: Everything in northern Virginia takes a long time to get to, so it'll be nearly a half an hour before we get to our next stop, even though it's less than 15 miles away. Don't worry, I'm a good driver. And we can listen to "This American Life" in the car. Our stop won't be a thrift store yet, sorry. Thing is, there are things I need that I can't thrift. Specifically, bras. And I have a gift card for T.J. Maxx/Marshall's. And they are on the way. So T.J. Maxx is the next place we pull in. I'll spend a half hour looking for bras (and a spring bag, and leggings) and then come out with a black sweater dress from the clearance rack. Oops.

1:18 PM: As luck would have it, there is a Marshall's just a few stores down from T.J. Maxx, and still on our way, so we'll have a quick stop there, too. I will take another half hour to look and I'll strike out completely. OK, I swear we're really on our way now.
1:53 PM: Almost two hours after leaving my house, we finally get to my new favorite thrift store, Unique. Unique is a big-ass thrift store. It's a bit terrifying, actually--you go through this odd marketplace full of knock-off designer bags and perfume and discount underwear to get to the actual thrift store part. As we go in, we'll notice the signs that list today's 50% off items. Not much of my interest--furniture, electronics, toys, and stuffed animals. Two weeks ago it was coats, scarfs, and boots, which is a much better deal. Still, something to keep in mind.

I've been asked if I have a method for going through a thrift store--if I always do it in the same order. I do have a method, but it changes depending on the store, my time frame, and if I am looking for anything specific. Basically, if I am in a hurry, I start with whatever I want to find most or whatever that store is most likely to have. If I am not in a hurry, I start with everything else and move to the sections that are most important/most likely to have good stuff. With some exceptions. Today, I am not in a hurry, so I'll start with the sections that are the least important to me/least likely to have stuff I want (housewares, toys, craft stuff, accessories) move on to the best sections, where I'll spend the most time (clothing), and end with a spin through the books (often time consuming, so I skip it if I don't have a lot of time), a look at furniture (want to do that last so you don't have to carry anything you decide you want around), and a glance at jewelry (since it's in a case at Unique you have to get it right before checking out).

IMG_1937There are several rows of housewares at Unique, but they only take me a few minutes to browse, since I'm not really looking for any of that type of stuff. The same is true of the purse and scarf sections--I haven't found these to be particularly strong areas at Unique, and today I don't see anything. Same with craft stuff--I pick up a few bags of yarn, but only see synthetics, and I hesitate for a moment over a cool blue-and-orange print piece of vintage fabric, but leave it when I notice it is only two yards.

The toys is a section I often skip completely, but since it's 50% off, I take a quick gander to see if anything grabs me. It's a pretty small section of the store at Unique, and often really picked over. Today, though, something jumps out. It's a plastic anatomical model. Not something I need, I suppose, but how freaking cool is that? Plus it's marked $1.91 and it's half-off. Yeah, I'll buy that for a dollar.

Next stop is baby clothes. I don't have a baby, it's true, but I have an ongoing list of my friends' kids' clothing sizes and what they are in need of. I love thrifting for baby clothes--the younger the better--they are cheap, they are super cute, and because they aren't for my kid and thus aren't "needed," I can afford to be super picky. Today, I scored two dresses (well, a dress and a dress/bloomer set) for an online friend's foster child.

Here I have to make a confession--as far as serious thrifters go, I am willing to pay a lot for thrifted items. A lot of people who thrift as much as I do are what I would consider pretty damn cheap. But when I thrift, I'm comparing the price on the item not to what I think it should be used (or garage sale prices), but to what it would be new, or at least new and on the clearance rack. I am blessed to be able to do that--it speaks to my privilege as someone who thrifts because she wants to and because she thinks it is the right thing to do politically, rather than from dire economic need. That caveat made, these dresses were not particularly expensive for what they are. The green outfit is an extremely, new-condition Gymboree set, and the lavender dress is from Kohl's Blueberi Boulevard line and is new with tags. They were $3.49 each.

The next section I hit is men's clothes, to look for stuff for Mark. My sojourn here is brief, as the only thing on his current "wish list" is a greatcoat, and it only takes me a minute to exhaust that section. Then I'm on to what I'm really here for: clothes for me!

I have a large wardrobe. Recently, I moved out of the master's closet Mark and I share and started to convert part of my office into a closet/dressing room. This move frees me from even pretending I am going to pare down clothes. I love clothes, and I like to have a lot to choose from. If the majority of what I have is thrifted, I feel very little guilt about obtaining it. And so, I thrift for clothes with a rather embarrassing free reign. Be forewarned.

The first section I hit is dresses. I am in a big dress phase right now. Finally having some options for tights and leggings that are long enough makes dresses a lot more wearable. In Unique's dress section, I find three frocks that I think will work. The left-hand one is a sort of Army green jersey dress from Kohl's Apt. 9 line. It's got cute waist detailing and is about knee-length, and I like the cut and probable comfort a lot. It's $6.49. The middle one is a shorter, dress with a similar cut, in red, from The Gap. It's probably too short to wear on its own, but will be fine with leggings. It's also $6.49. Finally, I spot a dress at the end of the rack, which someone has picked up and then discarded. The tags are completely cut out of it, so I have no idea about brand or size, but it's a teal blue shirt dress with a matching belt with little embroidered birds on it. So cute, and very retro feeling, if not actually vintage. It's $9.99. My finding this great dress speaks to an important thrifting tip, especially at big stores like this one--always pay attention to the "hot spots" where other people have discarded things. A lot of the nicer stuff will make its way there.

When I look for clothes at Unique, I look at everything in the large and extra large sections. This is because Unique seems to categorize extra large as beginning at size 18. I am usually a 14/16, so my clothes are in the large section. However, when things aren't numerically labeled, I'm usually an XL. Looking in both sections helps me not to miss anything.

Next, I hit up skirts. I'm not quite as into skirts as I am dresses, but I do like them a lot. Plus, I don't look at pants at Unique. Pants I really, really need to try on. And probably even if I could try them on, I wouldn't spend much time looking at them, because finding pants to fit me at a thrift store is pretty unlikely (only a few brands fit, and I need a long length, which isn't all that common). So I skip that section completely. I skip shoes, too--I wear a 12, it's just not likely to be there.

In the skirt section, however, I do well. I find a purple corduroy skirt from H&M for $4.99, a gorgeous lined wool brown Anne Klein skirt for $6.49, and a new with tags Jones New York skirt in a tan and white pattern for $9.99. I'm not 100% sure the shorter, pleated style of the Jones New York skirt is going to work, but I like the pattern and am always trying to broaden my horizons when I thrift for clothes, so I decide to take a chance.

Next, I hit sweaters. My current dress kick is accompanied by a cardigan kick, and I've done very well with cardigans at Unique. Today is no different. The cropped black and pink and white one is by Style & Co. (Macy's) and cost $3.99. The black one with the ruffled collar is much cuter on than photographed, cost $4.99, and is my beloved Ann Taylor. The chunky gray one is from The Limited and was $5.99.

This brings up another question folks ask me fairly regularly--do I look for specific labels when I thrift? Yes and no. There are a few labels I simply won't buy--WalMart's George comes to mind. And there are a couple that I don't necessarily seek out, but I do pay attention to when I see them, since they seem to work for me so often. Ann Taylor is one of those. I thrift a lot of Ann Taylor. Doing so wasn't originally an intentional decision, it just ends up that Ann Taylor makes a lot of stuff I like. (God, typing that sentence makes me feel old.)

After sweaters I moved to shirts. I've been trying to expand my blouses and non-jersey shirts lately. I don't generally thrift tee-shirts, because they always seem to be faded or shrunk or both--environmentally, I'd like to thrift them, but vanity wins out. Today, Unique's blouse section netted me a blouse and a short dress. The dress, at left, is Merona (Target) and I paid $9.99 for it, which is more than even I would usually pay for a used Target item. However, I really loved it, so I did it anyway. The blouse is cotton and in perfect shape, from Sonoma (Kohl's). It was $3.99.

Having completed my clothing rounds, I stopped by the books, but didn't see anything. Looked at the furniture, and briefly considered a desk chair for Mark, but didn't want to lug it out to the car and wasn't sure it was the style he wanted (it was marked $49.99, but was in great shape and was 50% off, so it would have been reasonable). Finally, I stopped at the jewelry counter. It irritates me that Unique has all their jewelry behind glass--it's a very clogged area and it takes forever to get someone to show you the stuff you want to see, plus I always feel stupid for looking at things and then not buying them. However, it's worth it--they have an excellent selection, including quite a bit of vintage stuff. Today I didn't see anything, though, so I hit the checkout and left.

3:34 PM: Back in the car post-Unique, I marvel at how quickly I got through the store, and decide that the afternoon is still young and we should head over to the next town over to check out the Innova Hospital thrift store. Someone told me that hospital thrift stores are the way to go out here--doctor's families donate all the best stuff. Since you are imaginary, you are agreeable, and off we go.

3:55 PM: Except that on the way to the other thrift store, I get sidetracked by my hunger and need for more caffeine. Chik Fil A! Doesn't take but a minute to buzz through the drive-thru for a Coke and some waffle fries! What would you like?

4:07 PM: When we finally get to the Innova store, it doesn't look like much. Small and crowded. The type of store I usually avoid out of a mixture of laziness and claustrophobia. Still, since we're here, might as well check it out. Doesn't take more than a few minutes. This type of store is too small to go through with a plan, I just look through the stuff at the tops of the piles. Turns out these particular doctors' families aren't all that generous. Most of what's here is total crap. But it's 25% off crap.

That said, I manage to score a really cute black Jones New York dress (which didn't photograph well at all--trust me, it's cute!) and a vintage half slip for a total of $8.66, so it wasn't a wasted trip. Plus the entire stop took sixteen minutes.

And we're off again!

4:32 PM: You may be pissed off by this point. I insist we stop at yet another T.J. Maxx so I can continue my bra-buying quest. Another half an hour search (because I can't look at just bras!), another strike out.

It's at this point, leaving T.J. Maxx, that I realize that if I don't get back to the dry cleaner (conveniently located next door to the Starbucks at which we began our day) by six, I can't pick up my huge armload of dry cleaning. Which I kinda need. So we're back on the road. And the traffic, as is the case at this time of day, even on Saturday, is intense. That's OK. We'll listen to NPR.

5:56 PM: Made it! I go pick up my dry-cleaning. Most of which is actually the product of previous weeks' trips to Unique.

6:06 PM: We return to my house. Neighbors still have the flamingo farm in their yard, but the kids are gone. And probably you run far, far away and refuse to ever go thrifting with me again.

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Awesome! Thanks for the share!

You need to really think about steering this website into a serious authority in this niche. You obviously have a grasp handle of the areas all of us are browsing for on this blog anyways and you could potentially even earn a dollar or two from some ads. I would dive into following recent headlines and increasing the volume of blog posts you make and I bet you'd start earning some nice traffic soon. Just a thought, good luck in whatever you do!

Oh please, the last few times we went thrifting you were SO done before I was ready to go home. Of course part of that is you having to do the driving, I'm sure.

It sounds like it was a great thrifting day! And boy was I ready for the Chik-fil-a! :)

Hey, its JustEmily and OMG, I am totally going thrifting with you! And I live close enough that it could happen one day!! The only thing you did not mention is you would be required to provide me with a glass of wine at the end of the day :-p.

Hey - Where is Unique? I need to go thrifting with you! Starting with a coffee and a scone? I'm there! LOL

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Places I never thought I would live

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I never thought I would live in Kansas. Or Antarctica. On the Alps. Or in Guam.

And I never, ever, though I would live here.

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WHOA BABY! Now that's a lot of snow!

We ain't in Texas anymore!

Eek! I'd close myself in the house for a few weeks with weather like that.

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We came, we saw, we thrifted

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First, sorry about that silent period. WINOW was down for several days due to technical issues, but we're back now and hopefully won't be down again (at least not for long).

But on to more important issues: I finally had a really really great thrift trip! My friends visited last week, and we took a mid-week trip to Unique Thrift Store in Falls Church (2956 Gallows Rd., open 10-8 Monday-Saturday and 11-6 Sunday). I've been to Unique twice before. The first time was a bust, the second I scored a nice haul of ramekins, napkins, and books. This time, though, was the mother lode.

lThe friends I was thrifting with did well too, and I promised I'd blog their finds as well. I don't remember what they paid, since I don't have their receipt, but what you see here is (clockwise from top left): a cool pair of black scrub pants with a scissors pocket (one friend is a doctor and she was jazzed about these); a super cute black sweater dress; a World Wildlife Federation water bottle; a metallic clubby type dress; a dri-fit shirt; and five books (four paperbacks, one hard cover). The books I know were super inexpensive--between $.69 and $1.99 each, I believe.

My haul was even more impressive (plus I can tell you more about it!). Clockwise from top left: a cute lavender and black plaid flannel shirt with snaps ($3.99); a gorgeous, new with tags silk dress by Jonathan Martin ($24.99, and one of the most expensive pieces of clothing I have ever thrifted); a workout hoodie with a ruffled hood by Lucy ($4.99, and SO comfortable I've barely taken it off since I washed it); a set of four new Crate & Barrel napkins in a great retro pattern ($4.99); a beautiful brown wool, fully lined, houndstooth skirt by Harve Benard ($4.99); three paperback books (between $.69 an $1.19 each); a gorgeous wool Banana Repubic pencil skirt in the ellusive size 16 tall ($5.99); a Patagonia fleece neckwarmer ($.49); and a pair of fleece socks ($1.99). Total with tax was right around $60.

So what's the secret? Well, first off, previous trips to Unique found me looking in the wrong section for clothes for myself. Unique separates clothes into Small-Medium-Large-Extra Large. I assumed my size 14/16 stuff would be XL. They call it large. Knowing that will certainly improve future trips. Unique is large and overwhelming--there is a lot of stuff there, most of it is crap, and some of it is weirdly overpriced. If this trip is any indication of the typical quality you can find, though, it's going to become my new go-to.

As a little thought experiment, I decided to try to figure out how much it would have cost to buy the things I bought new. Obviously I can't price those exact items, but I can look at similar ones. So let's see.

First, the plaid flannel shirt. The brand on it is Outdoor Exchange. I've never heard of that brand, so I Googled it, and I couldn't find anything. It's a nice shirt, pretty heavyweight, so I think something similar would probably be Carhartt. A mid-weight flannel shirt for women at Carhartt is regular priced $40.

The dress is by Jonathan Martin. A web search for a silk dress of that brand led me to Overstock, where they're selling a Jonathan Martin dresses, most of which are poly blends, for $30-$50. Since mine's silk, we'll call it $45.

Lucy workout hoodies are expensive! The style I bought isn't on their site, but the ones that are range from $48-$118. Assuming the one I got is mid-range, it would be $83. Close enough.

Crate & Barrel sells their napkins for $3-$8 each, or $16.95 for sets of four. Again, the ones I got aren't there anymore, but there are some similar ones.

I thought Harve Benard was a fancy brand, but it turns out it's sold at Sears. Still, the skirt I bought seems to be very good quality. Nothing they have currently on the Sears website resembles it in the least--no wool, for one thing. Everything I found online that looked remotely similar was at least $60, so I'm calling the skirt I got $50.

Unlike the clothes, the books are all in "used" condition (clothes are all new or like new), so I'm gonna go with Amazon Marketplace values for those. Those values are $1.79, $.97, and $.97.

The Banana Republic skirt actually is still on their website! And it's $79.50.

Patagonia sells their fleece neck warmers for $25
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Finally, the most colorful fleece socks are $15-$20 per pair for adults, depending on the brand. Mine don't have a brand label, so I'll say $15.

So the total, if this stuff were bought retail, would be $358.18. Before tax. Even if I overestimated in some places, at least several times as much.

This isn't the only reason to thrift shop, but it is sure one of them.

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Wow - what a great day you had! Do you think that maybe the secret to finding those great deals is to go mid-week? Maybe all the really great finds are gone by the weekend? Congrats on the successful haul!

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Eating out is something Mark and I have enjoyed doing together for our entire relationship. Portland was the high point--there are a million great restaurants there, and new ones popping up all the time. In Austin, we explored some, and found a few spots, but compared to what we'd come to expect from Portland, we were disappointed.

Here in Virginia, we haven't had time since we moved to try many places. However, when Mark's parents were here in September, we did go into The Wine Kitchen in Leesburg for some lunch. We didn't plan it, just happened to walk by the restaurant while we were exploring Leesburg. And it was great--we had a light lunch, each had a glass of wine, and improved our afternoon considerably.

It was with this good memory in mind that Mark asked if I wanted to to The Wine Kitchen for dinner on Saturday. We hadn't been out anywhere nice in ages, so I was really excited about it, and I was not disappointed.

We started our meal with the charcuterie plate ($10). The highlight of the meats was an Italian bresaola--I hadn't had bresaola before, and I loved it, particularly paired with the stone-ground mustard The Wine Kitchen provides. The Spanish Serrano ham was good, too, though not the best I've had by any means. I was very disappointed, however, by the domestic (from Iowa) pork belly. It really tasted like raw bacon, and was both extremely fatty and very tough. We also go the marinated olives ($4), which Mark was disappointed to find were pitted, ruining their texture, but I thought were pretty good, and a very generous portion for the price--we couldn't finish them.

Along with our first course, Mark had a taste of Majella Sparkling Shiraz 2005, from Coonawarra, Australia ($4 for the taste) and I had a flight of tastes of three pinot noirs: Terrazze Pinot Nero, 2008 from Provincia di Pavia, Italy; Rosella's Vineyard A.P. Vin, 2006, from Santa Lucia Highlands, California; and Klee Pinot Noir, 2008, from Willamette Valley, Oregon ($13 for the flight). The Wine Kitchen pours a generous taste--I'd say it's more like a half glass--so I think the prices are very reasonable. Mark didn't like the sparkling shiraz, and neither did I--it tasted like carbonated port and was way too heavy for a pre-dinner drink. The Oregon Klee pinot was very good, the California OK, and the Italian antiseptic tasting, to my palette, but I learned to drink wine in Oregon, so take that for what it's worth.

For a second course, we split the Parisian herb gnocchi ($12). Served with roasted brussels spouts, pearl onions, and a balsamic vinegar, browned butter, and ricotta sauce, this was sublime. I don't love gnocchi in general, Mark doesn't love brussels sprouts, and yet we both loved this (though in retrospect, I'm not sure why we ordered it). The gnocchi were soft without being at all mushy, the brussels sprouts were just a bit crunchy, the pearl onions were sweet, and the sauce was perfect. This is a bit rich, though--I'm not sure I would want a whole serving as an entree. For a split starter, it was perfect.

I didn't have to give my entree much thought. I had the "chicken and waffles" ($12) .The Wine Kitchen's take on this classic is actually battered and fried farm-raised quail over cornmeal and herb waffles, with bacon caramel syrup. If that sounds good to you, trust me, it's better. The quail was done perfectly, and it was wonderful with the syrup. Mark also really liked the waffle, but I wasn't as big a fan of it--I wanted to be lofty and soft inside with a crisp outside, like a cornmeal Belgian waffle, but it was more Eggo-textured. Still, the overall dish was a huge success. I'd order it again in a heartbeat.

Mark went for the braised short ribs ($16). His dish was simply not so impressive as mine. The ribs themselves were fine (and it was a generous portion), but the red wine sauce served on them was lackluster. I was intrigued by the red grits the ribs were served with, but they ended up tasting much like grits with tomato sauce in them, and the texture was in the in-between area, not quite grits, not quite polenta. The pickled vegetable salad, however, was excellent, and was a wonderful accompaniment to the heavy beef and grits, adding a crispness that would have been lacking otherwise.

With our entrees, Mark and I each had a flight of wine tastes. I chose the Hills of Italy ($10), which included: Barbera D'Asti Collina La Mora, Barbera, 2007, from Piedmonte; Benotto, Nebbiolo, 2006, from Monferrato; and Chianti Riserva, Renzo Masi, Sangiovese, 2006, from Chianti. The Barbera and Sangiovese were both very solid, not great, but very drinkable. I didn't care much for the Nebbiolo, as it had a dusty taste to it that was too strong on my palette. Mark went for the Righteous Staff Selections ($12). His flight included: Yalumba , Riesling, 2008, from South Australia; La Palazzetta, Brunello di Montalcino , Sangiovese , 2003, from Tuscany, Italy; and d'Arry's Original, d'Arenberg, Shiraz, Grenache, 2005, from McLaren Vale, Australia. I didn't sample his Reisling, but loved it. The Sangiovese was very respectable and would fit right in with the wines in my flight. The high point of his for me, though, was the surprisingly good Australian Grenache, which I loved and will definitely look for again.

For dessert, I was all set to get the Caramel and Sea Salt Torta Palla ($7). Then, however, our waitress offered me the a port and truffles flight ($14), which I couldn't refuse. Mark ordered the Torta Palla and we split both. I didn't get the names of my port offerings, but the tawny was excellent (the other was a LBV that was a bit strong for me). The truffles were quite good. We were surprised to find we both loved the milk chocolate and cinnamon one the most, but the dark chocolate and Earl Gray garnished with lavender was also quite good. The third truffle was a ruby port and dark chocolate version, which I thought was overpowered by the tawny I was drinking and didn't care as much for.

Mark's dessert was my hands-down favorite part of the meal. Two balls of very good, very dense chocolate cake were covered with an excellent hard chocolate shell (not waxy at all, with great flavor). The balls were topped with heavenly homemade caramel sauce, sprinkled with strong sea salt, and garnished with what I believe to have been sweetened and whipped mascarpone. Every element of the dessert was perfect, and it was all fantastic together. I was stuffed to the gills by the time it arrived, and I ate my half with gusto anyway.

As far as atmosphere goes, The Wine Kitchen is a much different place for weekend dinner than for weekday lunch. It was very crowded and noisy. We arrived just after 6pm and got the last open table, and for the rest of our meal, multiple parties were standing up in the middle of the restaurant waiting for a clear table. Our second round of wine was delayed quite a bit, in part because our waitress couldn't make her way through the mob. Still, I like the place, it's comfortable and not pretentious in the least.

I like the prices at The Wine Kitchen, too. The tastes are usually $3-$5, and the flights $10-$16, so it's a great way to taste some wine. The food, too, is very reasonable for the quality and size.

There may well be other great places locally--we'll definitely keep looking--but I think Mark and I may have found our special new date night place here in our new home, and that's a good feeling to have.

2 Comments

If I am ever in the same city as you I would love to go out to eat with you and Mark. You two appreciate good food and good wine and your descriptions have me drooling at my desk.

Wine Kitchen is a hidden Gem in Leesburg but it is one of many we are blessed with. The town has way more good food than it has any right to.

For magnificent food paired with astonishingly good brewed-on premises beer don't miss Vintage 50, just outside the historic downtown on Rt 7

Lightfoot is the obvious star of downtown but I recommend going for a weekday lunch and trying one of their ridiculously better than it has any right to be Grilled Cheese of the Day offerings

I'm also a real big fan of the authentic New Orleans flavor of the Cajun Experience, about a block off main street. The Chef is an LA native who takes real pride in her food.

and for a true "don't judge a book by its cover" experience, try La Chocita, and don't be put off by the tiny dining space decor. The food is amazing Latin American cuisine with authentic Ecuadoran, Guatemala and Peruvian dishes and THE BEST Pollo Brasa you will find in the state

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Another go at NoVa thifting: Falls Church

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This afternoon, I found myself needing to waste some time in Falls Church, so I thought I'd give another go to thrift shopping here in the great state of Virginia.

And it was better! It's still not great--it's not Austin and it's not going to be--but it was better! I made actual purchases, at least.

First, I hit Unique (2956 Gallows Rd, Falls Church). Unique is this area's answer to the thrift mega-store. It's a mostly for-profit enterprise, from what I can tell. It's huge--a warehouse--and well-organized. Unfortunately, 99.9% of what is there is crap. When I thrift, I am looking for either new or like-new items at prices much cheaper than they would be new, or vintage or hard-to-fine items I couldn't find new. What I am not looking for is been-used stuff that I probably wouldn't have wanted even if it were new.

That being said, if you're patient, Unique can turn up some worthwhile items, few and far between as they are. The high point sections seem to be the clothes, where I didn't spend much time today. I did browse the ladies' jackets, and found several nice ones. The prices were too high by my reckoning, though--used Old Navy should never cost $10, and no used jacket should be $50 in a thrift store.

But I did come home with a few things. I bought: a set of six blue and white patterned Japanese finger bowls ($.99); a new-in-package set of Emilie Henry ramekins ($4.49); a copy of bell hooks' Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center ($.99); a copy of James Beard's Beard on Bread ($1.41); and a set of green linen napkins that look new ($3.49).

Next, I went further into Falls Church to the Clock Tower Thrift Shop (2860 Annandale Rd, Falls Church). Clock Tower is a non-profit store benefiting "Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS). This is a really tiny store, and it's very crowded. You can barely walk between the racks. However, there are real gems here. I didn't look a lot at the clothes, but the dishes and housewares were full of vintage things I know a collector would love (there was a tea set from the 50s I really wanted to bring home). There were also at least a half dozen nice wool scarves and a big basket of vintage stockings that I'd have been all over if I was a smaller size. However, I was dismayed to see a used jean jacket marked $25. It was Calvin Klein, but come on--that's consignment price, not thrift. Finally, the vintage jewelry section, though it's all cluttered up behind glass and hard to browse, is amazing.

Once again, I managed to pick out a few things to bring home with me (I easily could have brought several more things, but I was trying to be good). The glass pitcher was a bit spendy at $8, but I've been looking for one just like it (that size and heavyweight), so I went for it. The noodle bowl is lovely and was $2. Finally, I was stoked to find new in package, locally hand-made beeswax candles, also $2.

My last stop was just a couple of blocks away from Clock Tower, a store called Joseph's Coat (3022 Annandale Rd, Falls Church). Joseph's Coat is a thrift shop benefiting the Bethany House DV hotline and shelter program. It's a much larger space than Clock Tower, but much smaller than Unique. The first thing I noticed was the stellar book section--best one I've seen here. I recently vowed to stop buying books that I don't for some reason need to own rather than just read (i.e. no fiction unless I really love it, mostly cookbooks, art books, and feminist books), but if I hadn't, I could have gone nuts. The furniture was also quite nice--there was an early 70s slipper chair in great condition there for $69 that I really wanted to bring home (but didn't because Mark would have hated it). Housewares are another strength--lots of full sets of dishes and older glassware. I didn't look closely at the clothes, but my glance turned up a few decent brands and things with tags on them.

It was at Joseph's Coat that I found my favorite score of the day, a bright red tin bread box, for $6. I think it's reproduction and not vintage, but it's super cute, and I've been wanting a box for the half-loaves of bread always cluttered on the top of our fridge. After much hemming and hawing, I also picked up a new condition coffee table book on DaDa. The book was $20, which seemed ridiculous to me for thrift prices, but it's really nice, and I felt slighted for not letting myself buy novels, and I haven't bought any art books in a long time, so it came home with me too.

All in all, a great day of thrifting. The best one I've had since we moved here, and I feel myself getting reinvigorated to do serious, browse-through-all-the-clothes, takes-all-day trips. Stay tuned!

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Dear NoVa thrifting, why do you suck so much?

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Yesterday I left the house bound and determined. I was going to do it. The wealthy people surrounding where I live on every side have to be throwing their barely-used shit somewhere. There has to be good thrifting. My failures on previous trips had to be coincidental, or me not looking in the right places.

I made a list. Nine thrift stores, spread out throughout the suburb in which I live and the closest ones around me (Herndon-Reston-Sterling-Ashburn, for those in the NoVa know). Nine stores. Fortifying Starbucks. How could I go wrong?

I came home five hours later with nothing. Not a single blessed thing.

I wasn't out to be picky. I was looking for clothes for myself or Mark, small housewares (lamps, bowls, barware, kitsch), stuff for the pets, anything giftable...or just anything that caught my eye. I've spent thousands in thrift stores over the years. I am not a hard sell. And yet, nothing.

Let's break it down.

I started close to home, in Herndon. My first stop was at the Salvation Army Thrift Store (2421 Centreville Road, Herndon,‎ (703) 713-6691‎). In Austin, I never lowered myself to stepping into a Salvation Army. I don't like their politics, and I never found their stores to be all that anyway. Here, though, I was bound and determined to give all my options a fair try.

It's not a terrible store. It's large, well organized, and clean. There were some possibilities in the furniture section--nothing we needed, but a few things that weren't complete crap. The book section, though small, was well priced and had up-to-date books. The kids' clothes looked promising. But the housewares were dismal (think old off-brand Tupperware and glassware that obviously wasn't supposed to spend so much time in the dishwasher), and the clothes I looked through all seemed to fall into that unpleasant zone between vintage and current. Nothing for me there.

Next, I hit a charity store, the Herndon-Reston Bargain Loft (336 Victory Drive, Herndon, (703) 437-0600‎). The store benefits the F.I.S.H. (Friendly Instant Sympathetic Help) program. It's a small store in a mostly-abandoned office park. This isn't a bad place--it's mostly houseware type stuff, very little clothing. Prices are a bit on the high side, but I could definitely see the possibility of treasures here, in the "we got this out of Grandma's attic" vein. Though I didn't find anything on this trip, I'd go again. It's never going to be a place where I'll find a lot of stuff, but I could see running into an occasional treasure, and it's a pretty pleasant shopping experience (I'm pretty sure I was the only person under 70 there).

To finish out my Herndon rounds, I hit the two thrift stores I'd seen within a block or so of each other in what Mark and I persist in calling "historic downtown Herndon." The first is The Closet (845 Station Street, Herndon, (703) 437-7652‎). The Closet is a charity shop. Its story is kind of neat, actually--it's a joint effort between several local churches. It was the best store I visited all day--packed to the gills with potential. However, it was very crowded, and I got there at about 1:45 PM, not knowing that they close at 2 (the store is only open from 10am-2pm Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday), so I didn't get the chance to look around as much as I'd liked. I did see a pretty good book selection (I notice several current books on CD, which I don't see all that often), and a decent-looking craft section (lots of new-in-package stamping and scrapbook stuff). The clothes that I could get to looked to be pretty high quality as well, but the crowding made it hard to tell. I'll definitely try again another day.

The other downtown Herndon thrift store is FAITH (Ste 2A, 795 Center Street, Herndon, (703) 766-3396‎). FAITH stands for Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help, and the store benefits local humanitarian efforts through that program. FAITH is a Muslim-based program, though they will help anyone as per their website, and the store reflects that. It's a really small space, and I'd say about a quarter of it is dedicated to scarves, abaya, and similar clothing. Another large portion of the store is taken up with children's clothing and toys. I doubt I'll visit again, since neither of those areas of merchandise is of much interest to me.

Having exhausted my options in Herndon, I moved on to Reston. Feeling that the issue here may be that the locals are into consignment, I made an exception to my usual "no consignment stores" rule and hit Vogue to Vintage (1631 Washington Plaza North, Reston, (703) 787-5700‎). This is a nice little consignment store--I tried on a gorgeous leather jacket that was marked $30, and had it fit, I'd have bought it in a second. The store seems to cater to a slightly older clientele, and it's all women's clothes and accessories. I saw a few pairs of designer jeans, a Betsey Johnson bag, stuff like that. Nothing that I just had to have, but, as far as consignment stores go, it's probably worth visiting. As a bonus, there's a used bookstore and a children's consignment store (Small Change Consignments) in the same little shopping center. The center also houses the only indie coffee shop I've seen here.

After my consignment detour, I moved on to Sterling. In Sterling, my first stop was the Goodwill (22405 Enterprise Street, Sterling, (703) 444-5186‎). I tried this store once before and was unimpressed, but I thought I'd give it another shot. In Austin, the Goodwill was always the #1 go-to store. No need to give this one another chance--everything in here is old. Not vintage, just old. Worn out, sad, depressing. I was in the store for less than five minutes, just like the last time I visited.

The next Sterling stop was the Good Shepherd Alliance store (Ste 113, 20921 Davenport Drive, Sterling, (703) 444-5956‎). Once again, a store full of worn out stuff. I don't think I even picked anything up.

Finally, I headed to Ashburn. First, I attempted to go to the SACS Family Store (21673 Beaumeade Circle, Ashburn, (703) 858-2700‎), but I drove around a business park for fifteen minutes and couldn't find it, so I gave up. Then I went to the Ashburn Good Shepherd Alliance store (20684 Ashburn Road, Ashburn, (703) 724-1555‎). Much better than the Sterling version, this store had the most potential of any I saw, other than maybe The Closet. Decent sized, well organized, with some cool stuff. The neatest thing I saw all day was there--this awesome Melissa & Doug tree house toy. It was in new condition and was $45, which is less than half retail, so not bad, but not the bins. There were a few OK housewares (though nothing we need), and the clothes looked pretty good.

So, in summary:
Try again: The Closet (Herndon); The Herndon-Reston Bargain Loft; SACS Family Store (Ashburn); Good Shepherd Alliance Store (Ashburn); Vogue to Vintage (Reston)
Skip: Salvation Army (Herndon); Goodwill (Sterling); Good Shepherd Alliance Store (Sterling); FAITH (Herndon).

It was depressing. I can see the potential to maybe find something every once in a while. If I visit The Closet every week, for example, I'm sure I'll grab a few cool things. But it's clearly just not going to be the way it was in Austin. And my question is still lingering: where are all these upper middle class suburbanites dumping their barely used stuff? If anybody out there knows, please let me in on the secret!

3 Comments

Maybe they're not dumping so much of it right now because the economy is a mess?

Ugh! I know how you feel!!! I'll check out some of the places you found but the places i've been to are keeeeerap!
Don't even think about the 8ball place in sterling...its scary and NEVER has anything good and the crap furniture is PRICEY - not even sure who they benefit. The Blue Ridge Hospice in Purcellville is sometimes okay but their furniture is almost priced like new.
There are two in Leesburg that are hit or miss sometimes you find good stuff and they have decent prices - in fact i might check them out this weekend.
Thanks for this post!

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Snow day

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We woke up to snow this morning, and it hasn't let up for at least two hours. I don't think we're going to have it long--it's over 35 degrees--but it's sure nice while it lasts.

Ata thinks so, too.

Ata in the snow

Ata in the snow

Ata in the snow

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Awww! That last shot of Ata with the tree and the fence should be your holiday card! It's beautiful!

He looks so content. Does he do that thing where he scoops up snow with his nose? I LOVE it when dogs do that.

Snow certainly suits Ata. He's so handsome!

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Field trips and in-law love

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Mark's parents have been here this weekend, and we've had such a nice time. Yesterday, we went and saw Mark's workplace, then toured around the downtown area of Leesburg, which is very nice. Lots of cute shops and restaurants, and really cool historic buildings dating from the late 1700s and early 1800s. We had a great lunch at The Wine Kitchen, which I absolutely recommend if you're ever in that area.

After we were done in Leesburg, we came home and Mark and his dad put together the Big Green Egg I got him for his birthday. That thing is going to be so cool! For our first trial run on it, Mark just used it to grill some late multi-colored corn and strip steaks, which we had for dinner with salad. He also grilled some fresh mozzarella in lemon halves, which we had with bread. It was really nice. The steaks weren't perfect, but that was much more a function of the quality of the meat (Whole Foods is just not Central Market) than the grill (or the griller).

Today, we set a slightly more educational and less decadent schedule. First, we went to the Balls Bluff Battlefield Regional Park. A small Civil War battle was waged there (the only one to have a sitting U.S. Senator killed, and he was from Oregon!). It wasn't what any of us expected--rather than being any kind of field, it was trails through the woods, winding past a small cemetery where unknown soldiers are buried and down to the Potomac River. Not a ton of interesting or useful information was presented, either, but it was a beautiful day and a nice walk.

Next, we went to the Oatlands Historic House and Garden, which is a restored plantation. We skipped the tour of the house (Irene, Mark's mom, said that if you've seen one house you've seen them all, and I kind of tend to agree), but spent quite a while in the 4.5 acre tiered formal gardens (where Mark took this really cute picture of me). The gardens were nothing short of breathtaking. It's not even a good season for gardens, but they were amazing. All sorts of different little dioramas, some cultivated down to the single blade of grass, some more organic. I'm not a huge garden person, but Mark and his parents are, so I thought I'd be bored there. I wasn't. It's worth seeing.

Finally, we went to the Aldie Grist Mill. It was a functional mill for almost 200 years (until the early 1970s) and was then restored as a monument. There were two tour guides there who did a great job, and they showed us how all of the old milling equipment worked. There I did get a bit bored, but mostly just because it had already been kind of a long afternoon and I wanted something to eat. The attraction itself is worth going to if you're in that direction.

Once we got back to the house, Mark and his mom made us an amazing dinner of crab cakes (John and Irene spent a couple of days in Maryland before they came to visit us and they brought us some lump crab), goat cheese stuffed hatch chilis, and salad with heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella. Then we all relaxed a bit, and now everyone else is in bed. John and Irene leave for home in the morning, and Mark is back to work. I'm lucky enough to have two more days off before I start back up.

This was a really exceptional visit with my (not)in-laws. I can't describe quite why, but it was great. I really feel like they've come to accept me as part of their family, and I really appreciate that. Plus they are just fun to hang out with--they really like to do and see things, they love good food and wine, and they're pretty excellent conversationalists. I'm very lucky.

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You are lucky! I wish I could have good conversations with my inlaws. It's not that we don't like each other- we do, and they're perfectly nice- it's that they don't 'get' me, and I don't 'get' them.

Ah well. But tell me more about the lemon and mozerella!

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Top 10 Weird Things About Living in the Suburbs

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  1. Everybody calls me ma'am.
  2. Cops doing a speed trap on foot, in a 25 mph zone.
  3. All chain stores all the time.
  4. All the roads are called expressways, parkways, or pikes.
  5. There are at least 50 places to get a manicure within five miles. Also an near endless stream of gyms, Montessori schools, and churches. But damned if I can find a liquor store.
  6. On the "expressways" there are nothing but small commuter cars. In the neighborhood, all SUVs.
  7. I don't think I've seen a woman not wearing makeup yet.
  8. The only tattoo shop I've ever seen that looks like it employed a decorator.
  9. My neighbors look like they're all related.
  10. In the evening, I can hear band practice coming from the High School a couple of blocks over.

11 Comments

are you sure you aren't in a dry town or county?

In Virginia, liquor is sold through the state-owned stores, called VABC (Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control). The logo makes it look like a drugstore or something, so you may have easily missed it. There are at least 3 in Herndon, according to the website.

yeah i was goign to say "probably because people buy booze at the giant grocery store."

Love the top ten list.

I'd say a few of those are more because you're practically in the south than because you're in the suburbs. (Nos. 1 and 7 in particular.)

1. is true in DC also (see The South, or sort of). 8. is also possibly true but depends what you mean by "decorator," I guess ... I forget where you are (and my NoVa geography sucks, anyway--I can find the airport and the close-in mall and that's IT), but you might have good food. Here's the skinny:
http://www.donrockwell.com/index.php?showtopic=2342

That is hilarious about the on-foot speed traps.

"Everybody calls me ma'am" - that is one of the things I most love about the USA!

"Pike" is a weird regionalism, rather than a suburbanism. It's very common in PA, less so in MD, and common again in VA. Go north of Pennsylvania, and you won't see it. On Long Island, there are similar roads called turnpikes (not to be confused with major toll roads).

Also, the definition of suburbia: 10 strip malls in 10 minutes. Every one has an Angel Tips, takeout, and dry cleaning.

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Thrifting it up Virginia style

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As I get my bearings in our new home, there is one important thing I have to do. Find the thrift stores. And once I find them, I'll be reviewing them here, just like I did in Austin. Right now, though, I don't have time to go out and explore much, since I'm still unpacking, and I wouldn't want to bring any new treasures in anyway, since they'd just get lost in the mess. So, step one is making a list of possible candidates.

A Google search led me to this Guide to Thrift Store Shopping in Northern Virginia. Gleaning it, I'm thinking a trip to Falls Church to visit Unique, the "granddaddy of all thrift stores," is in order. I'll probably also need to head over to Purcelville to visit the Blue Ridge Hospice Thrift Shop.

The Goodwill, so long my standard, go-to store, doesn't have a huge presence here. There is one fairly close by, in Sterling, which I will definitely check out. The next closest is in Falls Church, so I'll stop by there when I got to Unique. The rest, though, are all more than 15 miles away, so they aren't likely to be weekly outings the way they have been in the past.

The Clock Tower Thrift Shops benefiting Northern Virginia Family Service might be promising, and there are two of those in Falls Church and one in Centerville, so I'm adding those to the list.

Right now, that is, sadly, the entire list, with the exception of a store I spied on the way to Mark's new job that I will stop by as soon as I get the chance. I'm sure there are more, and finding them is part of the fun. I'll keep you updated.

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I am a thrift shop fanatic. And I used to find even better stuff before eBay!

Sounds wonderful! I'll be doing the same soon and I can't wait!!!

Wow, I can't wait to hear more thrift store stories. You always seem to find the best stuff.

Hello! Boy, have I got some thrift stores for you.

Fair warning though, they are all in Maryland. I know that when people first move here they feel like everything is really far away from each other. I know when I first moved to NoVA I felt like suburban MD was another planet. It's not that bad, really.

In Laurel we have three big ones that people like to hit: Laurel Thrift (on rt1), Village Thrift (on 198), and if you are still bereft, the Salvation Army a little further north.

That is a start. Let me know if you want to take a tour!

Once you go to one thrift store, you can ask around there. Birds of a feather...People love to talk about their "finds."

Thanks for linking to information about Northern Virginia Family Service's Clock Tower Thrift Shops on your blog. We hope you were able to stop by and find some good bargains. Proceeds from the Clock Tower Thrift Shops go to support our work serving over 20,000 people annually. These services include workforce development, Head Start programs, Special Foster Care, counseling, eviction prevention, and much more.

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Letting the freak flag fly

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We have been out of Austin for a week. The first day, we were in Arkansas, the second, Tennessee, and since then, Virginia.

And people have been looking at us. Both of us had noticed, but neither of us had really thought a whole lot of it. I'd noticed being peered at a gas station in Tennessee, but figured it was the dogs, and again on my first morning here, getting coffee. When we went out to dinner the second night we were here, we were the only people there who weren't wearing polo shirts and khakis. Then, on Thursday, we went grocery shopping. Mark was wearing one of my best ever thrift scores--a red t-shirt with a picture of Chairman Mao acting as a DJ that says "The Chairman Spins." When we got to the checkout, the woman ringing us up kept looking at us strangely, especially Mark. And then, she and Mark had the following conversation:

Cashier: "Is that that guy from Korea?"

Mark: "Um, no, it's Chairman Mao."

Cashier: "Yeah, that Korean guy!"

Mark: "No, he was Chinese."

Cashier: "Oh. But he's a ruler, right?"

Mark: "Yeah, he was a dictator."

Cashier: "So why do you have him on your shirt?"

Mark: "Well, it says 'The Chairman Spins,' and Mao was a propagandist. It's...a pun?"

Cashier (looking confused): "But you have a dictator on your shirt. And it looks like that Korean guy. Is he a cross-dresser?"

Mark: "Um...I don't know. Maybe."

Then she gave us both a strange up-and-down, and we left.

And in the car, we realized it. Since leaving Austin, we'd not seen one person with unnatural colors in his/her hair. No facial piercings. Not a single tattoo. Mark and I, who, in the grant scheme of the cities in which we've lived are pretty tame, have become the freaks. We're young urban professionals, or something approximating it, but Mark has a tiny stud in his nose and two little hoops in his ears, and wears the occasional funny t-shirt. I've got a couple of visible tattoos and purple-streaked hair. And here, apparently, that's enough.

It's an odd feeling. I'd almost say I've missed it. After so many years at Reed, and then in Portland and Austin, where there were so many hipsters that I never looked anything but stodgy, it's kind of nice to feel a little bit on the edge again.

As I was writing this, a commercial for a local VW dealership came on, advertising their "Summer of Love." The commercial featured a hippie: long hair, tie-dye shirt, guitar. A fake hippie. Because here, where would you find a real one?

7 Comments

Find a college town. There'll be plenty. And I love the David Crosby reference in the title.

i will verify that I believe this is all Mark as it is also my experience having been through North Dakota with the man. I mean, he is weird. So I get the staring. :)

Or it could be that we are both ridiculously good looking. That might be it.

Email me, woman. I'm coming to DC in a couple weeks

suebobdavis...gmail

I think you've just been in the wrong spots - there are PLENTY of freaks here! Most of the folks I know, really. Don't worry, they are here!

(I actually don't look like a freak at all, unless you count the tattoo sleeve, but today I'm wearing an argyle sweater and pearls, so... I dunno.) (but my whole social circle are ex goth-club nuts and hippies, so there is hope!)

OMG. Total culture shock. For everyone.

It's a big world out there and the cashier just got a glimpse.

ok i can't stop reading ur blog - who knew someone young and cool lived around here? LOL
I've had major culture shock coming to NoVA too - no piercings cuz i'm chickenshit no tattoos - again chickenshit AND indecisive..have been known to have funky colored hair but yea......i.stick.out.
we need to hang!

Are you still in NoVA? We moved away to WV about a year ago, but we are moving back soon. send me an email and I can give you some thrift shopping tips. Yeah...living in herndon is sort of a system shock to us normal people :-S. I worked for a family out there of 3 people that lived in a mini mansion...it was redunkulous

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