Posts Tagged ‘Northern Virginia’

The Universal World of Singledom

Every now and then we need to escape our lives. Getting away is therapeutic and oh-so-necessary. This is especially true in the Type A Land that is the Washington region.

Well, I did escape recently, as I do at least once a year. I went to Belize for a glorious, epic, furious, busy, exemplary 16 days. Some trips are relaxing. This one was invigorating.

I hiked, I snorkeled, I spelunked (which maybe sounds swankier than “I trudged through caves”) and I swam.

But along the way I also chatted and conversed with everyone who crossed my path— locals, fellow travelers, bartenders, guides. A constant topic, though not driven or instigated by yours truly, somehow always seemed to be relationships and the state of being single. Specifically being a single woman is, I guess, a situation that others crave to know.

“Why,” for certain, seemed to be the prevailing question, as if every singleton spins a “Wheel of Fortune” wheel and selects it.

It’s what the very first taxi driver of the excursion posed not 15 minutes after I had disembarked from a plane and wanted to not have to address. Actually, this gent’s phrasing was more like the following:

Why aren’t you married? You need to find a good man and then that guy should
handcuff you unless you’re traveling with him.

This sounds sexist or offensive. It was half in jest and half a result of not getting it, not being in my shoes. Yet his sentiment was somewhere along the lines of this:

I’m too independent. I’m too free, too wild. To some, the notion that a woman who
is not legally bound or otherwise tethered to a man is almost dangerous, crazy,
certainly out of their realm.

Why travel solo? Why run off and interact with strangers in strange lands? Why not follow the well-worn path?

Mind you, I met wonderful and progressive Belizeans with incredibly articulate perspectives on gender roles. Some men seemed honestly worried about being the type of man who allows a woman to do her thing. Yet, at the same time, they also want to “be a man” and flex their masculine muscles and step up as provider. It’s a tough spot to be in. I certainly didn’t have the secret formula for them to follow and concoct.

But I did have some answers for my taxi driver. We bantered for a few minutes, him saying how unusual it was that—at over 30—I’m childless. In Belize, he was quick to point out, many women have already delivered several babies by several men at this point in adulthood.

“I guess I’m behind. Or maybe I’m ahead. I don’t know,” I said to him, as some sort of ridiculous explanation.

The thing is it’s not really possible to explain such things. Why am I single? I haven’t met my soul mate. I date and I try. I’m not opposed to a male mate. Other than that, however, it’s a one day at a time pursuit.

Then it occurred to me that, way off in Belize, as I made my escape, it was the same type of discussion I’d have on American soil. Single ladies the region over constantly find themselves defending or explaining or just relaying stories from the war zone of dating.

I guess there’s no escape from that, even in far-flung travel.


Mark Your Calendar: SJP is Coming to NoVA

Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Photo courtesy of Nordstrom

By Helen Ray

Ladies, grab your wallets and clear you schedules because Sarah Jessica Parker is coming to Tyson’s Corner on August 22. The “Sex and the City” star is celebrating the launch of her fall 2014 Nordstrom’s collection at local stores.

The line made its first debut earlier this year, making quite a wave in the fashion world. The collection, “SJP,” is designed by Parker and George Malkemus, president of Manolo Blahnik, who together created a line of brightly colored shoes, trendy handbags and “city-chic” outerwear. The collection is nothing short of fabulous and a line we’re sure would have Carrie Bradshaw exclaiming “me likey.”

It’s going to be a real treat for die-hard SATC fans as well as the fashion obsessed of Northern Virginia to be able to shop the new collection and see SJP in person later this month. Check out the images  below for a sneak peak of the upcoming line. 

Where:  Nordstrom’s at Tyson’s Corner

When: August 22nd from 5-6pm. 

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What’s In Our Bags?

Posted by Editorial / Monday, August 11th, 2014

By Helen Ray

To call a handbag just an accessory seems like an insult. A women’s handbag is like her life vest: she never takes it off and its contents prevent horrible incidents from happening—like having chapped lips or riding the metro without headphones. Since what you keep inside your handbag is just as important as picking out your trendy satchel, the editorial department at NoVA Mag has decided to strip down the contents of our purses and show you what our lifesaving essentials are.  


  • Angela, Fashion and Beauty.

    Life Essential: "Having a neutral bag that goes with every outfit."

    Must have beauty product: "Red lipstick because I believe a red lip goes with every look." Mac Lipstick in Ruby Woo. / Photo by Helen Ray.

  • Emily, Arts and Entertainment.

    Life essential:"My favorite product would probably be the wallet…because the gold studs are French bulldogs—my favorite type of dog. It’s a simple and classy way to show a part of me in my accessories.”

    Must have beauty product: The EOS chapstick! It slides on really smooth and smells good." / Photo by Helen Ray.

  • Elke, Arts and Entertainment

    Life essential: “ I’m obviously a Vera Bradley addict and I like anything that keeps me organized.”

    Must have beauty product:"Clinique almost lipstick also, the Covergirl fix stick.” / Photo by Helen Ray.

  • Kate, Arts and Entertainment.

    Life essential: “I always try to carry a book on me because if I don’t find time to read during the day I won’t find time at night.”

    Must have beauty product: "I always carry sunblock on me because I don’t need premature aging.” "Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock Broad Spectrum SPF 55." / Photo by Helen Ray.

  • Jess, Arts and Entertainment.

    Life essential: “My notebook I keep in there always, because I like to have something to write in, in case I get inspired for a story.”

    Must have beauty product: "The Burt's Bees chapstick in pomegranate." / Photo by Helen Ray.

  • Allison, Food Desk.

    Life essential: “I have a type-A personality so I can never leave home without my planner! Using the calendar in my phone just doesn’t cut it.

    Must have beauty product: "My Clinique lipstick in the color Berry Freeze" and a spritz of "Philosophy perfume in the fragrance Loveswept." / Photo by Helen Ray.

  • Stefanie, Food Desk.

    Life Essential: "Since I spend a lot of my life in restaurants and they can be chilly especially with heavy air conditioning in the summer, I always bring a cardigan or scarf to keep warm"

    Must have beauty product: Local Vienna-made Fat Lips chapstick because it's made out of cow fat and feels like I'm putting butter on my lips. I also always have a bold lip color because I feel like a bold lip will always pull my look together." e.l.f. Studio Matte Lip Color. / Photo by Helen Ray.








Sales and News in NoVA

Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

photo courtesy of

South Moon Under Student Sale 
South Moon Under has paired up with Teen Vogue’s “Back to School Saturdays” series for the second year in a row, bringing students sweet deals before school starts again. On August 16 all South Moon Under locations will be giving students a 20 percent discount as well as an opportunity to win a shopping spree, get some free styling advice and get a special gift with every purchase.

Lili the First Fashion Support Launch 

As of August 1, Vienna boutique Lili the First, added a unique “Fashion Support” rack to the store in order to fundraise for The Women’s Center. The designated clothing rack is made up of locally donated gently worn clothes which are resold through the store all year long, with 100 percent of the proceeds donated to the Women’s Center. The Women’s Center is a Vienna-based non-profit organization dedicated to improving “the psychological, career, financial and legal well-being of women, men, teens and children, regardless of their ability to pay.” 

The launch of the event will be on August 14th from 6-8 where CEO of the Women’s Center, Shirley Clark, will speak, hors d’oeuvres from Culinaria Cooking School will be served and a silent auction of boutique goods will be sold to celebrate the new way Lili the First is raising awareness.

Nordstrom Pop-In

Nordstrom is at it again this summer with a continuation of their Pop-in series. Beginning August 8 and going through to September 7 they will host Pop-In@Nordstrom with Rag & Bone as they introduce their Fall 2014 women’s and men’s collections. Pop-In@Nordstrom houses curated goods at select stores which features exclusive items and limited-edition collectibles. Visit Nordstrom at Tysons Corner Center or online at to shop this limited time offer when it launches.

Cutting Out the Digital Middleman

Facebook’s where I post links to music videos and songs that I’m rocking out to as of late. It’s where I jot down observations or overheard conversations and direct friends to an article that I find interesting or that I’ve written. It’s where I see pictures of the babies of pals that haven’t directly been in my life since college, yet it brings me comfort to know that they’re happy and bearing children or climbing that corporate ladder, as the case may be.

Twitter’s where I follow topics that make me smile. Some person that I’ve never met in real life, yet who is an authority on digital engagement or travel in South America can share their thoughts and their work, and I can see it even though we’re not acquainted. I can post photos of slides that strike a chord during a Powerpoint at a conference. Then I hashtag it, and the observation gains a life of its own.

But are both platforms also rich sources of matchmaking?

A Washington Post story this earlier this summer sure thinks so. Michael Rosenwald writes about all of the couples striking up relationships digitally. Rather than connecting over OkCupid, matching on or using sexual innuendos as currency on Tinder, though, their digital playgrounds are social networks usually reserved for other matters like keeping in touch with full-fledged friends.

If this is the case, it’s a different thing altogether—and maybe even a phenomenon at that.

Facebook, mind you, has played a role in online dating in the sense that dating apps like Hinge and Tinder ask you to sign up through your Facebook account. Then as you’re viewing pictures of nearby singles the app lets you know that you do have Facebook friends in common and who they are. The notion is that it feels a bit friendlier, like a buddy is setting you up, as opposed to a computer. They’re not strangers persee, since you know others in common and they probably won’t murder you.

The Post story would suggest a bit of a cutting out of the middle man, with the middle man, of course being the dating application.

A recent study quoted in the article found that nearly 21 percent of people who discovered their spouses online and then married between 2005 and 2012 met through a social networking site. This is as opposed to a site or app that was specifically delineated as being for love-seeking.

How does this work?

In the case of Facebook, the matchups described go a little something like this: The man and woman know people in common, start to see each others’ comments in mutual friends’ updates, like the sense of humor or tone and then reach out to each other in the manner that they would at a happy hour where they both were present.

Twitter’s love matchmaking is more tied to interest, it sounds like. There’s an example of two people who both work in a digital content strategy capacity, tweeting for work. They follow each other because of a shared fascination around political campaigns, begin tweeting each other to an extent that the tweets becoming flirtier. At some point an in-person meeting takes place and love blooms.

Personally I’ve never struck up a romance in either of these scenarios, but I could see how it happens. How about you?

In my mind, there are a few pluses and minuses:

Main Advantage: The thing about dating apps is that people lie, sometimes in small ways (think of a 10-year-old or 30-pounds-ago-photo) or sometimes about their entire identity (instead of being a 40-year-old dude, they’re a teenage girl). People also are putting out a certain dating self made for a dating hub. This isn’t so much the case on a social network. It’s more of the whole person and less sanitizes to snag a date. It could be a more refreshing profile to begin with as a foundation.

Main Disadvantage: You’d better be ready to flirt in a more public content than just chatting on an app. By their natures, Facebook and Twitter are open networks. You can choose who to follow and friend yet, to an extent, the world is watching.

According to Jeff Hall, a University of Kansas expert on flirting (who knew such a thing existed), the trend of social networks as matchmakers is only going to go up. So get ready for more social network-originated pairings. Not only will the wedding be shown on social media, the path leading up to it will all be carried out there.

Six Smart Sandals for Office Wear

Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

By Helen Ray

When it’s hot and humid out the last thing you want to do is suffocate your feet with closed toe shoes. Sandals are the quintessential summer accessory and there’s no reason why our favorite trending sandals shouldn’t be worn seven days out of the week. So, before you splurge on a new sandal that’s only weekend approved, here’s a list of smart sandals that are the perfect combination of summer chic and office appropriate. 


'Syris' Sandal by Dolce Vita

Photo courtesy of

This sandal characterizes summer in so many different ways: the straps, wedge and color blocking are on point with summer trends. This is the perfect sandal for a picnic in the park or as an accessory to a pair of work trousers.  DV by Dolce Vita ‘Syris’ Sandal $39.47.

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FBI headquarters could move to Northern Virginia; Gov. McDonnell to testify in own defense

By Elke Thoms

One Northern Virginia, two Maryland sites make shortlist for new FBI headquarters

Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office announces that Erica Smith’s alleged killer has committed suicide
(Loudoun Times)

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell to testify in his own defense in corruption trial

U.S. economy grows 4 percent in past spring, beating analyst’s expectations
(The Washington Post)

Lessons to Avoid the Psychos

Flipping through channels on my TV the other week I came upon a comedian boiling down online dating.

The guy, a contestant on “Last Comic Standing,” was riffing on the concerns of men vs. women when it comes to meeting a romantic interest and transitioning from digitally connecting to the real thing.

Guys’ biggest fear, according to the comedian: I hope she’s not uggo.

Ladies’ biggest fear, according to the same comedian: I hope I don’t die. I hope my head stays on my body after this date, and I survive.

Hearing this, my first reaction was to laugh. Then, I realized my laughing, nay my cackling, was because of how true the statement was.

On nearly all of the dates that I’ve gone on lately, especially as a product of Tinder, I’ve showed up and the man I’m meeting feels the need to make some statement about how I compare in person to my pictures:

“You look like your pictures.”

“You look better in person.”

“Your pictures seem like they’re recent.”

Or even some vague reference to women and what they post to show how they look, such as “You never know what someone’s actually going to look like in person.”

Literally, these are all statements males have made. God forbid a woman is five pounds heavier than they anticipated, less busty or somehow not their physical ideal. 

I understand that some women lie and post photos that are not a true reflection of how they appear at the moment. Clearly men do, too. I met a date once who, unbeknownst to me, was bald. His photos clearly showed him in hats or with a full, thick head of brown wavy hair. False advertising much.

In my experience, it’s the men that put so much stock in this photo/in-person match. God forbid she’s not as hot as imagined.

I’d also have to agree with the comedian on women’s worries. Yup, I’ve entered a date and thought the same things I did before skydiving, “Here are the steps I need to take to make sure I stay safe.”

Yet when the person is someone you discovered on a website or app, there’s this extra uncertainty and fear factor. Is he who he says he is? Is he a he? Do I even want to find out?

The other night a former soldier in the Army wanted to take me out. He lives in Laurel. Actually, his employer’s putting him up in a hotel in Laurel and then on weekends he returns to the remote part of Pennsylvania where he has a house. Not exactly geographically ideal, but he seemed kind and complimentary, so I agreed to meet him—if he abided by a few rules.

Now, I’m not the rules type. “The Rules” has never been my Bible. I have a serious spontaneous streak, and I live an unstructured, freelance lifestyle. Still, I value, you know, having a head and living, so I decided to take some control. Army guy met me in D.C. where I wanted to eat. He parked his car, I walked over to the tavern. Afterwards, he went his way and I went mine. And, because a drone isn’t penning this post, I did, in fact, live to tell the tale.

As I go on dates, especially ones arranged by Tinder, here are the safety precautions I’ve started taking. The goal isn’t to be a buzzkill but also not to be a sucker at someone else’s mercy or put in a really horrible, awkward position if he skews toward jerk (though, let’s face it, there will be awkwardness):


Stay in your neighborhood, at least for the first date if you have any qualms. At first this felt really selfish to me, to have someone come to me. But then I realized that I live in a central area that has amenities, so this is not a huge ask. Any guy worth his salt, too, should be willing to head your way. Keeping close to home can allow for a quick escape, too, if it comes to that.

Don’t reveal certain personal tidbits just yet. Your last name, your kid’s name are better saved until it’s clear you’re not dealing with a serial killer.

Don’t friend him on Facebook. Particularly if you link up on social media prior to the date, then the date turns out to be a dud or, worse yet, one you never want to remember again, this gets messy. Being connected on whatever app or site first brought you together is enough for starters.

Tell someone know where you are. This is an oldy, but goody that needs to make a resurgence. Let a pal know that you’re at that taqueria down the street or just that you’re out that night with “the scruffy guy we talked about.” It may seem cliche, but he or she can text and create a reason for your departure should that be necessary.

Trust your instincts. Whenever I listen to that little voice in my head I make the right call. When I put her in a corner like Baby in “Dirty Dancing,” no good comes. Go with your gut in love, not to mention life.

Oh, and be the girl in your photo. Represent yourself correctly and at least the guy is getting you. If he doesn’t like it, forget him. Plenty more singles are online.

Just be careful parsing through them.


Keep Your Cool: Jeans and Tanks Re-purposed

Posted by Editorial / Monday, July 14th, 2014

By Helen Ray

You know the heat is too much when you wake up and it’s already 90 degrees. You want to dress trendy but you know more then likely you’re just going to end up feeling sweaty and wanting to hide away in the air conditioning. You’re wondering ‘what’s the point in dressing up’? So, you opt for a classic look– something that’s comfortable, familiar and appropriate for multiple occasions. We’re talking about the good ole jeans and tank look. And yes, we love our jeans and tanks, but just because we’re opting for a simpler outfit doesn’t mean it has to be boring. To help inspire your heated mornings we’ve put together four looks you can keep your cool in, while being comfortable and still feeling fabulous. 

Leather tank and white jeans

Photo courtesy of helen-ray/

Leather tank, white jeans, red flats, necklace and bag

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Strong is the New Skinny: Four Ways to Get Your Muscle On

4 Ways to Get Your Muscle On

Photo courtesy of Edyta Pawlowska/

By Helen Ray

The trending mantra “strong is the new skinny” has made a wave in women’s health in recent years.  Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook are seemingly flooded with images of women flaunting their six packs over six ribs.

This world of strong women has even welded their own celebrities including Virginia native, Christmas Abbott, who is a well-known CrossFit enthusiast, NASCAR’s first female pit crew member and mega-muscle woman. If becoming the next G.I. Jane is an interest to you, here are some exercise routines and nutrition information you can adopt to suit your new muscle needs. 

Is a general strength and conditioning technique that incorporates functional moves such as squatting, jumping, pulling and lifting, performed at high intensity. CrossFit varies workout routines by following a workout of the day (WOD) method so you avoid a monotonous routine.  CrossFit is great for people who get bored at the gym easily, who don’t have a lot of time to work out and who thrive off working in groups.  

Ballston Crossfit, 1110 N. Glebe Road Arlington, 22201

Crossfit Verity, 22710 Executive Drive Sterling, 20166


General Strengthening
There are some local gyms that specialize in strengthening, incorporating similar functional moves to build strength but don’t follow the intensity of CrossFit. These gyms are great for people who are looking for more personalized routines, who like working out  in a smaller group of people and if you’re not quite the competitive type.

Underground Athlete, 3150 Spring Street Fairfax, 22031 and 101 Executive Drive Suite D Sterling, 20166


Was adopted from the idea of generating controlled movements. It incorporates a unity of mind and body where you’re constantly trying to strengthen your “powerhouse”— the core of your body including your abdomen, lower back, inner thighs and buttocks. Pilates is great for people who want a general body strengthening and toning, who are introverts when it comes to working out and who believe in quality of quantity.

Inner Core Wellness, 2108-A Gallows Road Vienna, 22182

Mind the Matt,  3300 B Fairfax Drive, Arlington, 22201 and 2214 Mount Vernon Ave, Alexandria, 22301


Pole Fitness
This type of exercise has become very popular in women’s fitness as a way to hone strength and confidence. Pole fitness incorporates acrobatics and dancing for an ultimate workout that tones your core, arms and legs. It’s great for open-minded women who work out best in female-friendly zones and who want to work out in a unique and feminine way. 

Diva Fit, 4080 Lafayette Center Drive Suite 210 C Chantilly, 20151, 157 B Hillwood Ave Falls Church, 22046 and 317 Sunset Park Drive Herndon, 20170

Pole Pressure, 2304A Huntington Avenue Alexandria, 22303


While deciding the right workout is important for the appearance of your body, you also don’t want to neglect what you put into it. Danielle Omar, local registered dietitian/nutritionist, suggests keeping your calories up through protein intake and watching portion sizes. She also recommends increasing water intake since muscle is mostly made out of water, “you need to keep your water intake up to preserve muscle and to build more muscle. The more dehydrated you are, the less muscle you’ll be able to build.”

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