The Best of Spring – Washington, DC

English: Japanese cherry trees (Sakura), a gif...

English: Japanese cherry trees (Sakura), a gift from Japan in 1965, adorn the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The Washington Monument is visible in the distance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here comes the sun! After what seems like the never-ending winter, everybody must be ultra-ready for Spring.

To quote/paraphrase George Harrison and The Beatles,

It’s been a long, cold lonely winter…
It feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right

Here Comes the Sun” – written by George Harrison from the Beatles‘ 1969 album Abbey Road.

Now that winter is over, and the trees are in bloom, I am excited for Spring and eager to share my updated list of The Best of Spring -Washington, DC .

  • Cherry Blossoms – The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual celebration that showcases the gift of 3,000 cherry trees that the city of Tokyo gave to our nation’s capital. www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/.   This year’s peak blossom season is later than normal, due to an unusually long winter.  The current forecast for peak bloom is April 11-13 (Friday to Sunday this week), so make a plan to get out  and  see them in person before they are gone!
  • National Zoo – Everyone knows that bears hibernate and the birds fly south for winter, but come spring there is no place better to see lions, tigers, bears and more than at the National Zoo.  Best of all, you may get lucky enough to see the baby panda, Bao Bao.  http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/GiantPandas/default.cfm#BaoBao
  •  Annapolis, Middleburg, Skyline Drive and more – There are many places to visit within an hour or so drive of DC.  Whether it’s the quaint towns of Middleburg and Annapolis or the hiking trails and spectacular views of Skyline Drive, including several waterfalls http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/waterfalls.htm, there is so much to see and do near Washington.  Even Baltimore and the famed Inner Harbor is less than an hour away http://baltimore.org/about-baltimore/inner-harbor  (* plan accordingly for weekend and rush-hour traffic)

Get out and enjoy the Spring.  After a very long winter, we all deserve it!

How I stopped being SAD – My personal cure for the winter blues (Part 2)

Well, it happened again. Yesterday, the government imposed a “snow shutdown” for the 4th day this year.  Is it any wonder that I spent part of my winter working in sunny Florida? 

If you are anywhere north of Florida, you have likely been through one of the worst winters in several years.  In my “neck of the woods”, the Washington, DC metro area, this year’s polar vortex has still created an unusually cold and snowy winter.  Due to snow, there were isolated days of government closures from November through March.  I feel cold just thinking about all that snow!  

If you read my previous blog about My Personal Cure for the Winter Blues, you may have noticed that it was entitled “Part 1″.  That portion of my grand experiment was spending two weeks in January working in Florida.  After returning to DC for two weeks in early February, I came back to Florida for Part 2 of my experiment.  The latter visit lasted an additional two and a half weeks.

The last thing I would want to do is brag about my ability to “work from home” when I made my winter home warm and sunny Ft. Lauderdale, Fl.  It seems almost cruel, and perhaps even stupid to tell this to friends, clients and co-workers who have been freezing their tushes off this winter.  My sincere apology if it seems like I am bragging.  I’m just fortunate (and thankful!). For starters, I’m single with no family ties, so it was easy for me just leave winter behind and take my work to a warmer climate.  Knowing how much I abhor winter, my business partner graciously cooperated with me and allowed me to work this plan without complaint. Thank you, Mark Roush!

I understand that most people are not in a position to emulate my plan.  However, if you have the type of job that lets you work remotely, and you crave sunshine and warmth as much as I do, I urge you to form a similar plan for next winter.  Until then, sit back and relax.  Spring is almost here!

Image

Ft. Lauderdale 2014 (the yacht is definitely not mine.  I am not part of the “new rich”)

At this point, I would like to thank Tim Ferris, author of the best-selling 4 Hour Work Week (The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich) for providing me with the idea and motivation to work this plan. Don’t let the book’s title fool you.  I am certainly not part of the “New Rich”. I am just a “regular Joe”, and my workday was always full day, similar to an office day back home.  However, as noted in Part 1 of my story, my ability to enjoy the warmth of South Florida (in my spare time), made this nearly 5 wonderful weeks of winter.   

*As of this writing,  I’m back in Washington, DC, working hard and patiently waiting for Spring to arrive.

Stop being SAD – My personal cure for the winter blues (Part 1)

Hello 2014. It seems that I’ve been lax with my blog for a few months, but I will try to do better this year.

My company (4Staff, LLC) is in Washington, DC. It’s a beautiful city! To me, it offers some of the best of what big cities have to offer…a good transportation system (albeit a crowded one), plenty of parks and recreation, the culture of the Kennedy Center and Smithsonian Museums, several sports teams (professional and college) and a large assortment of restaurants that ranges from dives to fine dining. It has quaint areas for shopping and some of the finest monuments in the world. Yes, I love Washington, DC and all it has to offer.

The one thing I do not love about Washington is the cold winter. I don’t mean to whine. I know it’s not as cold as Green Bay or Boston, but DC winter, for my taste, is still far too cold. Although I have never been diagnosed by a doctor, I feel that I suffer from SAD – Seasonal Affected Disorder. This year’s polar vortex is certainly not helping either, with temperatures, often in the teens and rising no higher than the mid twenties. And, don’t get me started on the wind chill!

This year, I proclaimed to have a warmer and happier winter, so I hatched a grand experiment. My plan was to work remotely and trade-in my Mid-Atlantic winter in exchange for palm trees and delightful tropical weather. I’ve been working as an adult for over a quarter century and, aside for a few days here and there, I have rarely ever worked from home. Understandably, cell phones and laptops have made working remotely very possible, so I decided to give life to my dream of “no more winter”. Staying a few weeks with a very generous relative in Ft. Lauderdale, I knew that all I needed were a desk and a bed (I provided the laptop and cell phone). The end result is being in South Florida in January has made me as happy as a kid on Christmas Day. I’m able to start every day fresh and eager, instead of frozen-numb and worn out. For me, personally, I have eliminated all signs of “SADness”. And, because I’m working every day rather than goofing off and going to the beach, I can qualify my experiment as a definite success.

To be continued…

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

How many people reading this have personally been affected by Breast Cancer? Who has lost a mother, wife, sister or good friend? Add to that aunts, cousins, neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances, and it seems virtually impossible not know someone who has been affected by Breast Cancer. Who knows the “lucky ones” who are currently in remission?

According to statistics, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. Breast cancer is currently the 2nd most common kind of cancer in women, after skin cancer (so please be careful in the sun too!).

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a chance to raise awareness about the importance of screening and the early detection of breast cancer.

The good news? Many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early. A mammogram can help find breast cancer in the early stages.

I found several great suggestions on http://healthfinder.gov. Advice on questions for your doctor can be found here – http://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/doctor-visits/talking-with-the-doctor/mammograms-questions-for-the-doctor (thankfully, even during a government shutdown, this site is still working to bring awareness, hope and health).

You can also find more at http://www.nbcam.org/ “Since its inception more than 25 years ago, NBCAM has been at the forefront of promoting awareness of breast cancer issues and has evolved along with the national dialogue on breast cancer”.

Let’s keep that dialogue going, and let’s put an end to breast cancer!

Fun Fall Ideas for Washington, DC

Autumn is a wonderful time to live in or visit the Washington, DC region. With the hot days of summer behind us, here are a few ways to enjoy the Fall:

> Football season has already begun. Check out the Washington Redskins schedule http://www.redskins.com/news-and-events/schedule.html and enjoy the games with some friends. They play division rivals Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, October 6th. It will be played in Dallas, but you can always watch it on your favorite big screen.

> Kids Euro Festival presented by the 27 European Union Member States at the House of Sweden. http://www.kidseurofestival.org/index.php

> Wine and Beer Festivals – Adult-like fun can be had at one of the select wine festivals featuring Virginia wines. http://www.virginia.org/winefestivals. If beer is more your preference, you may enjoy celebrating at a local Oktoberfest. The Washington Post recently posted their “Top 5″ – http://www.washingtonpost.com/gog/best-bets/best-oktoberfest-celebrations,91079.html

> The 2013-2014 performing arts season has begun! If you have something more cultural in mind, you should check out http://www.culturecapital.com/

> Taste of DC http://thetasteofdc.org/ Sample favorite DC restaurants and join 40,000 “friends” for food and fun over the Columbus Day weekend.

These are just a few fun ideas to do in DC this fall. Whether you plan fall hikes in Great Falls, Roosevelt Island, C&O Canal, take long scenic drives along Shenandoah National Park, or enjoy one of the many sporting events or concerts, I wish you all a happy, safe and fun fall season!

Happy Friday 13th!

Are you the superstitious type? Are you already thinking you should have stayed home in bed rather than go to work this Friday? 

Many people will purposely avoid doing anything significant today (i.e. important meetings, major social events, etc.) due to the belief that the day is cursed and a source of bad luck. Some may not be completely scared of this day, but will just as easily think why don’t we have our event another day?  Better safe than sorry! 

Baseball players are generally known to be amongst the most superstitious types of people.  Prior to last night’s Washington Nationals baseball game, the Nationals center fielder received a new pair of cleats.  Denard Span was enjoying a 22 game hitting streak before the new cleats arrived.  When a fellow player (Stephen Strasburg) noticed the new cleats, he asked Denard  if he really wanted to wear them.  Denard thought better of it, and changed back into his old cleats.  During the game, he got another hit, extending his hitting streak to 23 games. As a Nationals fan, I’m hoping he gets another hit tonight to extend his streak.  You know…on Friday the 13th. 

So what superstitions do you have?  Are you afraid of:

Black cats

Having the # 666 pop up

Opening an umbrella indoors

Walking under a ladder

Broken mirrors

Whatever your superstitions  may be, Happy Friday the 13th!  I hope that you find your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Small Business is Still Good Business!

This week, June 17-21, we celebrate National Small Business Week.  Last May, I wrote a blog about National Small Business Week 2012.  Without intending to be redundant, I believe that small business is still good business.

While many people regularly enjoy places like McDonalds and Starbucks where the sense of familiarity breeds monotonous choices, without the variety of the local coffee house and friendly neighborhood burger joint, life would be a little more boring.  More importantly, our economy would surely suffer tremendous ills if they all get replaced by big box stores and chain outlets.

The United States established the National Small Business Week in 1963 to recognize the important contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.  You may or may not know this, but more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business.  More than half…Wow! Small businesses create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.  Huge kudos to the small business owner!

Personally, I have always been a big fan of mom and pop shops, and I try to show my support whenever possible.  In my humble opinion, the small coffee café almost always offers better coffee than the colossal coffee chains.  They always seem to be friendlier and more appreciative of my business too.  In my neighborhood, I always get great customer service from my local hardware store.  While they may not have quite the selection of Home Depot, their customer service is impeccable (if you want to know, Brown‘s Hardware* in Falls Church, Virginia has been in business since 1883.  That’s not a typo…since 1883!).   It is hard not to make the occasional trip to Home Depot, but it would be a shame if you don’t have a “Brown’s” in your neighborhood…hardware store or otherwise.

As individuals, we always make personal choices, and whenever possible, please choose to patronize small local businesses.  It is understandable that you can’t do it all the time, but please do it as much as possible, and especially during National Small Business Week.

Everybody believes it is patriotic to show support for our troops, but I believe that it just as patriotic to support your local businesses.  We are all counting on you, and thank you, for your support!

Steve – aka “theguyfrom4staff” www.4staffllc.com - 4Staff is a small business, based in Washington, DC.

*Brown’s Hardware is in Falls Church, VA, but as one online reviewer wrote, it is just like Mayberry.  “Quality – Very good.  Appeal – Very good.  Service – Excellent!   Please don’t ever close Brown’s Hardware. These courtly gentlemen who work here will help you and advise you on how to solve your problem.  It’s like stepping back in time to Mayberry 1950″.