A New Ben's Chili Bowl, A Bit of Go-Go, and A Whole Lot of D.C. Soul!

A New Ben's Chili Bowl, A Bit of Go-Go, and A Whole Lot of D.C. Soul! IMG_4733

Ben's Chili Bowl H Street

Go-go, so named because the music just goes and goes, is a love child of the blues, funk, salsa, gospel, and soul that emerged in the '70s- Abdul Ali in How Washington, D.C. ,Turned its Back on Go-Go, the Music It Invented

Go-Go music is quintessentially D.C.!

It tells the story of a vibrant and resilient people. It carries hope drenched in raw, at times raunchy humor. It's syncopated soliloquies and tribal beats stir within the most conservative among us, a primal urge to dance.

Go-Go is a D.C. cultural mainstay that speaks to the soul.

Another cultural mainstay, dating back to 1958, is Ben's Chilli Bowl. A D.C. local favorite, Ben's Chili Bowl speaks through the stomach to the soul.

It makes sense then, that one complimented the other during the highly anticipated grand opening of the second H Street location of this classic D.C. eatery.

Loved by locals.

Visited by presidents and dignitaries, tourists and celebrities.

Featured on the travel channel: Man Versus Food, No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, and Bizarre Foods America, Ben's Chilli Bowl has been delighting palettes for generations.

A form of R&B founded in D.C. by Chuck Brown with roots in Africa -call and response, congas. It has jazz improvisation, it utilizes arrangements, it's instrumental, it reminds me of a drum circle, it's tribal at its core. - Mark Williams, Former Trombonist with Chuck Brown

We found our way, to the grand opening of the second Ben's Chili Bowl on H street by way of my husband Mark, a former D.C. resident and trombonist with the late but legendary Chuck Brown.

The afternoon was blazing. The sky broke apart into an abyss of blinding white light which cascaded acutely off of any and every metal surface. The pavement was so hot it was sticky. The notoriously humid D.C. air was almost drinkable, but somehow it didn't matter,  a crowd was gathering. A crowd that was growing by the minute.

Out the door of the new Ben's Chili Bowl, a line, snaked for a block and a half. In front of the bandstand, revelers gathered, dancing despite the heat, despite the sweat, to the intoxicating rythms of the Chuck Brown Tribute Band.

I wanted to run for shade, (eventually I did, sneaking into the pristine new Ben's Chilli Bowl before the rest of the public was let in- we were the first to be served!) but I found myself dancing, my one year old bouncing joyously in his carrier, my three year old bending his knees, swaying his hips to the rythms.

To the left of me, secret servicemen ushered the mayor and senators through the crowd. To the right, people of every age, race and social economic demographic effectively broke it down to the music.

For decades, the D.C. community has rallied behind Ben's Chili Bowl, it survived the race riots of the 60's, like a giant oak, it has stood the test of time.

They say it's the chili- soulful, spicy, sweet.

Some swear it's all about the chili bowl half smoke.

Whatever your flavor, whatever your fashion, Ben's is simple, sloppy, soulful, stick to your ribs food. They even have turkey options for those who don't eat red meat.

Since we ducked into the restaurant early, before the public was allowed in, to escape the heat, we were among the first to be served. Ohm even made it on the evening news as he sampled some chili fries.


No visit to Washington, D.C., is complete without a visit to Ben's Chili Bowl and while you're there, find some Go-Go music to listen to. It's just as unique to D.C. as Brass Band is to New Orleans, though much less popular across the country which means, it's kind of like a well kept secret, one you need to discover for yourself.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Mall

The Dr. King Memorial in Washington D.C.


What makes a man or woman great? Is it their actions? Their thoughts? The words they share that inspire others? Their writings? Their courage? A combination of the above?

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

                                                   -Martin Luther King Jr.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.


As I stood at the entrance of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial taking in the memorialized words of this great man, I began to wonder.

Ohm and Mark beat me to the entrance. I stayed behind trying to take pictures as my fingers turned to ice.

The sun was deceiving. It was sunglasses weather, but it was also skin a bear and wear his fur to keep yourself warm weather. As the heavy wind gusts pushed us to and fro, we made our way beyond the murky frozen Potomac, past the Lincoln Memorial and along the Washington Mall towards the relatively new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

The Potomac in the distance. Parking for the memorial is quite a ways away from the actual memorial. In the winter, that equals one cold walk, but a walk that is well worth it.

Making our way down Independence Ave., the National Monument in the distance, Dr. King's memorial seemed to appear suddenly, three dignified cream colored peaks before us.

A side view of the memorial. Behind the doctor king statue, stand two sides of a mountain.

I was drawn immediately to the wall of Dr. King's quotes, presented in a smooth arc behind his statue. A powerful living memorial, I followed the semi-circle of quotes, taking each one in, letting them resonate.



The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial was dedicated on August 28th 2011, 48 years after the historic March on Washington.

Behind Dr. Kings image lies the mountain of despair, which is divided into two pieces to symbolize the hope of the present. In the distance, between the mountain of despair, one gets a clear view of the Jefferson memorial, a symbol of freedom and liberty.

Located in West Patomac Park in Washington D.C., the memorial is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is a parking area.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial: 1964 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC

Dr. King's legacy should inspire us all to aim to be great. To live lives of service, lives that matter. Whatever your mission, whatever your cause, let it ring from the mountaintops and refuse to be moved.



The National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum It was like being in a flashback of my childhood.

My feet clicked across the glossy white floor, bright light streamed in from the window spaces above, and everywhere around me, suspended overhead, bolted to the ground, were massive relics of aviation and space exploration.

I remember being dragged here as a child by my grandfather, a former Tuskegee Airman. He would stand and marvel at the B-52 bombers and telescopes, the space shuttles and astronomy dioramas. Not at all interested in science, airplanes or space exploration, I was always bored and unimpressed.

"Come on grandpa, is it time for ice-cream yet?"...

Flash forward twenty years and I've found myself the proud yet baffled mother of an airplane obsessed two year old. His love of all things aviation certainly didn't come from me or my musician husband, it must be an inherited love from his great-grandfather. My role as a mom is not to question, but to support, so off I found myself, yet once again heading to the National Air and Space Museum. At least I told myself, this time I was the adult, and could control when we would leave and how long we would spend lost in space.

Located on historic Independence Avenue, the National Air and Space Museum boasts the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world.  A part of the Smithsonian museum collections, the museum is FREE! A great perk of many things in the nation's capital.

I found myself drawn towards the exhibits that focused on astronomy. I am thoroughly enchanted by the night sky and would love to learn more.

It was really great to see Ohm's face light up. He thoroughly enjoyed his trip to the Air and Space Museum. Too young to truly understand what was going on around him, we spent a good hour just looking at the airplanes, spacecrafts and exhibits.

There is a children's room which is probably best suited for children 5-10. Ohm did get to sit inside an airplane though, which thrilled him to no end.

I've got to admit, even though I still as an adult don't get particularly excited about science or space exploration, the Air and Space Museum is fascinating.

The National Air and Space Museum

600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, District of Columbia 20560


The Virtues of a Green Maternity Massage at the Nusta Spa

bamboo reeds "Oh, yes, Mrs. Williams, we've been expecting you. What size are you wearing now?"

The receptionist looked from my face to my stomach with a smile and a wink.

"Errr... I, I'm not sure anymore. Maternity size?"

"No problem Mrs. Williams. Have you been here before?"


"Well, welcome. Jeanine here will show you around."

A woman, dressed in head to toe black, appeared suddenly from behind the counter.

"Follow me Mrs. Williams." She said, her black framed glasses sliding slightly down the bridge of her nose.


I was led through the bright lobby and down a wood paneled lavender scented hallway.

"Here we are." She pushed open a set of large glass doors.

The bright room smelled of eucalyptus. My feet slid across the spotless bamboo floors.

"This will be your locker, behind you you'll find the washroom, and on the other side the showers. Here is your robe and a pair of slippers. Once you've changed you can make a left out the door and take a seat in the treatment waiting area."


Wrapped in a velvety robin's egg blue robe and matching slippers, I made my way down the fragrant hallway towards the waiting room. A babbling fountain echoed in the distance as I settled into the plush sofa with a glass of cucumber water and a handful of trail mix.

No sooner had I started flipping through Organic Spa Magazine than I was called in for my treatment.


This Christmas, Mark surprised me with a maternity massage. Well into my second trimester with our second child, he'd grown weary of my daily, sometimes hourly requests for massages.

My first maternity massage, I wasn't sure what to expect. The massage table was outfitted with an elaborate network of body pillows, that the masseuse had to help me wriggle into so I could lay comfortably on my side.

The massage began, as most do, with a back rub. Instead of laying on my stomach, I was on my side. First my left side was gently attended to and then the right. It was heavenly. Classical music played in the distance. A soothing heat pad covered my feet and lower back.

The legs came next, then the feet, followed by my arms, neck and finally my head. When my hour was up, I felt blissful and new.

Nusta Spa is a green spa. I was able to relax and rest assured that nothing but the cleanest and purest ingredients were being massaged into my skin. In my case, an unscented olive oil blend.

The maternity massage at Nusta Spa was exactly what I needed. Before this little guy makes his grand appearance in June, I will definitely be back.

Wondering how to make your pregnant friends, wives, girlfriends, daughters, or sisters smile? Find a luxurious spa and gift them a maternity massage.

If you're in the D.C. area, Nusta Spa is a great place to start.

Nusta Spa, 1129 20th Street, NW, Washington, DC

Seattle's Original Pyramid Ale House- An Inside Look

Introducing my awesome cousin-in-law Master Chef Marcos Villagran!

Okay, maybe that's not a real title, the cousin-in-law part that is. Either way, Marcos is the brilliant head Chef at Seattle's original Pyramid Brewery.

Pyramid Breweries Seattle Alehouse is the original Pyramid Brewery site. Doubling as a brewery and restaurant/alehouse, the restaurant is popular amongst locals looking for a specialty brew, savory bar food and a place to watch the game.

There's also a beer garden.

This is where the magic happens. Pyramid produces award-winning beer. They've been winning awards consistently since 1985 for their quality brews. The Pacific Northwest has a distinct brew culture and at Pyramid, there is a lot of brewer's pride.  It was clear that Pyramid wasn't your standard chain sports bar establishment that shoveled forth mediocre burgers and Budweiser. Here you can find a complex bar menu, one that relies on their prized brew to enhance the flavor of the food. Pyramid is a place for the beer connoisseur, a place where food is expertly paired with complimentary beers.

Located directly across from Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, and just a block south of Qwest Field, Pyramid is the place to hang out for a pre or post game meal, or if you're not lucky enough to score tickets, serves as the perfect vantage point from which to join in the frenzied action at the bar.

Ohm wasn't very excited about the beer, he's more of a milk guy. Brielle, on the other hand, was thrilled.

After our tour, we got to sit down and have lunch with the chef! The food was awesome. My turkey burger was tender and the fries were really yummy. No complaints from this gal! As I'm not really a beer drinker, I didn't order one of my own, but Mark and Marcos were very happy with their selections. Back to the food, there are vegan and gluten-free options (love it! just saying).

After lunch, it was back to work for the chef!

Brielle, Mark, and I, waddled off our meal with some downtown Seattle sightseeing.

Pyramid Alehouse, Brewery & Restaurant 1201 First Avenue South Seattle, WA 98134
(206) 682-3377

Explore Seattle's Funky Neighborhoods

No trip to the Seattle region is complete without exploring the beautiful neighborhoods surrounding the city.

Washington state is breathtaking.

Luckily my cousin Brielle and my friend Elisha were amazing tour guides who not only showed me the heart of Seattle, but the beauty of the surrounding areas as well.

Ohm and Brielle before our Vegan brunch

Loved these meditation cards. Each card had a quote about peace or inner-reflection. Excellent talking points. Sometimes it's the little things.

Silence-Heart-Nest, not only served up amazing Vegan and Vegetarian food, they were ready for my toddler. Not only did he get a high-chair and sippy cup, but they came out with toys for him to play with- right on! He was happy and I was able to chitty-chat with Brielle.

Catching up with Elisha in Ballard

The Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden - really beautiful

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard- Fish conservation project

The Troll under the bridge in Fremont

Neighborhoods Visited: Fremont (North of downtown)  and Ballard (North West of downtown) Washington

I loved Freemont's bohemian, quirky personality. Freemont is a wonderful place to go shopping. It's lined with boutiques that surprisingly (at least compared to NY) were not too expensive. Freemont is also a great place to grab Vegetarian food or to relax and people watch at a cafe.

Ballard was absolutely picturesque. Right on the water, the views, the sunset, were all truly astonishing. Ballard was super family friendly.

The Seattle, Washington region is lovely and worthy of exploring. This is a wonderful city for a family vacation.

What to see and do at Pike Place Market

I must have visited the Pike Place Market every day that I was in Seattle.

Besides being a lover of all things by the water, and all things locally owned and of farmer's markets and flea markets, I fell in love with Pike Place's quirky and eclectic finds.

Here's what my Pike Place adventures looked like.

The Pike Place Market is a great place to go to grab a good meal, do some window shopping, or simply hang out and gaze at the water. The Market is super kid friendly and is an inexpensive (contingent upon what you buy) way to spend a great afternoon in Seattle.

Have you been? What were your impressions?




Impromptu Wine Tasting in Seattle

I really don't do a whole lot of planning when I take a trip. Barring securing a hotel, I did no planning whatsoever for Seattle.

How did I set out to see the city?

Well, I grabbed all of the brochures in the hotel lobby, I questioned the hotel front desk workers with the intensity of a defense attorney, and I allowed my cousin Brielle and my friend Elisha (both enthusiastic residents) to show me their beloved city.

Usually the best things are not planned. Such was the case when Brielle, Mark, Ohm and I found ourselves engaging in an exquisite and intimate impromptu wine, cheese, and fruit tasting.

The Scene:

Down the street from the Seattle Space Needle

If you look really closely, you'll spot Brielle, Ohm and I posing in a random parking lot.

The Place:



100 4th Avenue North, Suite 150 Seattle, WA 98109 Phone (206) 404 2743

Unobtrusively tucked inside a small plaza, we just happened to glance at the window and like children in a candy store spotted floor to ceiling walls of wine.

The Cheese Cellar was calling our name. The staff was super friendly. We got a quick briefing on the local wines. We were educated about the merits of sheep's milk and cheeses.

The shop was empty and very baby friendly. Brielle entertained Ohm, as Mark and I drooled over the wine.

Intending to only get a glass each, we found ourselves seated at the large communal table in the center of the shop, a platter of locally crafted goodies before us.

What was on our plate?

Pure goodness!

We were given a selection of artisanal cheeses, local cured meats, and savory olives.

Brielle drank a Chardonnay,  Mark drank a Cabernet, Ohm had almond milk and I had Merlot. Wine in hand, we slurped, cackled and laughed while delighting in the gifts on our platter. There was plenty to go around.

To my surprise, I learned my one year old is a fan of olives and goat cheese.

It was all so very good.

The Cheese Cellar was a wonderful find.

Walking Seattle


Seattle, it turns out, is a very pedestrian friendly city. Seattle, it also turns out, with its many hills and steep inclines, is a city that resembles a level ten treadmill course. With Ohm, strapped to me in his Ergo carrier like a twenty pound weight, my time walking the streets of Seattle felt a lot like boot camp.

Unlike boot camp, I had the pleasure of sipping lattes and taking my time as I strolled the piers, jaunted up and down the fancy downtown, and rambled around the outer districts.

Seattle is a cool city. Holding the best of both worlds, it is distinctly gritty and urban, and stunningly beautiful. A place for hip singles and young families, Seattle has a culture of its own, and despite being super friendly, it possesses a definite edge.

Seattle I've decided is a lot like a cup of Starbucks Breakfast Blend coffee, deeply satisfying, ultra stimulating, with surprising notes of bitterness undercut by aromatic tones.