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New year new you

Kickstart your image resolutions with our self-improvement guide



Daniel Phoenix Singh says keeping your workout gear handy helps you squeeze in quick exercise breaks when windows of time open up unexpectedly. (Blade photo by Pete Exis; special thanks to the Maryland Youth Ballet))

Lean locals share fitness tips

After the inevitable holiday excess, many among us are bemoaning the ab definition we lost after the eggnog and peanut butter balls. But fitness topics are not esoteric — we pretty much know what to do. It’s a matter of finding the motivation to do it. That’s where little tips and tricks can come in handy.

Maintaining Herculean abs and guns can take over your life but what about all those local LGBT folks who always look fit and trim no matter when you see them? We asked a few of them to share their favorite workout and diet tips in the hope that something will click for you.

“I am not a good example for eating,” says Scott Beard, a concert pianist. “Breakfast is usually coffee. I would say the best thing is to be in a regular workout routine. Make time for it. And mix up your workouts so your body is ‘surprised’ by new exercises. Also watch the alcohol intake. A beer is like drinking a loaf of bread.”

Brian Watson of Transgender Health Empowerment was one of those lucky few who managed to stay naturally thin without working out. But he just turned 30 and decided he could use some ab definition.

“Something I think helps is that I drink a lot of water,” he says. “Whenever I eat, I have a glass of water. I think that not only has that helped keep me thin, but healthy. It eliminates a lot of the sugar, caffeine, etc., that a lot of people put in their bodies everyday. I’m also one of those people who don’t mind taking the stairs instead of the elevator.”

Clark Ray of the Greater Washington Sports Alliance believes in moderation, structure and maintenance.

“Eat what you want but be sensible,” he says. “For structure, make a schedule and stick to it. And with maintenance, you have to be persistent. Work to maintain the personal achievement you’ve made and set goals for new desires and results.”

Realtor Evan Johnson is an avid runner. He runs 3.5 miles six days per week and augments it with 30-minute weight training exercises five-to-six days per week. He says working out very early — before the sun is up — works well for him.

Ebone Bell (Capital Queer Prom) lost 42 pounds over the past six months. She was going for a “slim and healthy look,” and achieved it by sticking to a low-calorie diet (less than 2,000 calories per day), going to the gym three-to-four times per week and balancing cardio and strength training.

“And don’t sleep on Zumba,” she says. “It’s a fun way to burn a lot of calories in just an hour.”

Lesbian Anya Maleknasri is a trainer at Gold’s Gym in Manassas and has several tips. She says finding a gym near work is better than home.

“If you’re driving toward the house, you’re more likely to pass it up for the couch,” she says. “But if it’s near your work, you’ll consider it still work time.”

She also suggests organic, grass-fed meats, healthy fats, nuts, vegetables and fruit.

“Our bodies were intended to eat,” she says. “Fat does not make you fat. Processed food and sugar makes you fat.”

Also, “workouts should be short and intense,” she says. “If it’s easy, it’s probably not going to create any change. But three-to-four days of 20-30 minutes of hard work with a clean diet and you will see change in only a few days. Staying fit and healthy is not a resolution. There are no quick fixes or special pills you can take. But everyday is a new start and there is no end point. Stay realistic and change your lifestyle and your health will turn into a life-long reality.”

Josh Bennett, a singer and dancer with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington — he’s the one they always put in the scantily clad attire since he’s so buff, says getting into a healthy routine is “an entire lifestyle change.”

“You have to be ready to change your diet and to push your body to new limits,” he says. “It’s never easy but the health rewards are great. The single biggest hurdle is motivation. It’s never easy to get off the couch and put down the chips but think of an event or person whom you want to look good for and post pictures of them on your phone/TV/computer or mirror. Use that motivator as a constant reminder to clear the junk food out of your kitchen and get on your feet.”

Kevin Platte, founder and director of the eternally shirtless D.C. Cowboys, advises healthful foods in smaller amounts.

“It’s all about portion sizes,” he says. “As we get older, we don’t need to eat like we did when we were teenagers. And remember — drinking a cocktail is like eating a dessert.”

He advises a solid exercise program with a special focus on abs.

Jerry Zremski, a gay D.C.-based reporter for the Buffalo News, finds it helpful to make fitness part of a daily routine. Working out at the same time each day helps him stick to a plan. He also eats meals at regular times and doesn’t snack.

“Consider hiring a trainer if you want to add muscle,” he says. “I did and it worked, even at my advanced age, which I am not revealing.”

His other favorite tip, which works great for D.C., is — “if your destination is less than a mile away, walk.”

Gay dancer Daniel Phoenix Singh (he has his own eponymous dance company), maintains his trim physique by augmenting the workout he gets from dancing with yoga, cardio and weight training. He’s also a vegetarian.

“I watch what I put in my mouth,” he says with a sly chuckle.

“Also be ready to work out any time,” he says. “I always keep my yoga mat, workout clothes and sneakers in my car so there is never an excuse. Because believe you me, I’m just like everyone else — I’d rather spend the evening watching YouTube videos if I could find an excuse to skip working out.”


Freezing the fat

Achieve your New Year’s goal with safe, new procedure


The New Year brings many resolutions. Looking good is the first and most important one. Exercising and dieting can help, but there are some areas that won’t change, no matter how many Pilates classes you attend. The desire to look perfect can be frustrating, because you can only change so much on your own.

CoolSculpting by ZELTIQ is one of the non-invasive ways to reduce fat in targeted areas of the body that results in a natural-looking fat reduction in the areas treated. This method uses a cooling technology that targets fat cells through a process that does not harm the surrounding tissue. This procedure can reduce unwanted abdominal fat, love handles and back fat. It is performed in a dermatology office with a topical applicator that cools targeted fat cells under the skin. Only those areas targeted get fat reduction. All individuals can resume normal daily routines after the procedure. Patients may start to see changes as quickly as three weeks after their treatment, and will experience the most dramatic results after two months. The body continues to flush fat cells and will continue doing so for up to four months.

Some areas are not necessarily best suited for this freezing technique and are better handled with more immediate micro lipo-contouring procedures to remove bulges quickly. Identifying your specific needs is the most important thing, and can only be done after an evaluation. In many places, you can have a complimentary consultation with a cosmetic team. Some areas not suited for the Coolsculpting method are best treated using a tumescent lipo-contouring method.  Many of these procedures can be performed with you awake and pain free in office, with minimal to no down time. Certain areas of the chest, neck and the abdomen respond best with this treatment and offer results within the first week.

Using the newer modalities in reduction of swelling and bruising has made outpatient body contouring popular and achievable for anyone with the challenges of unwanted body fat.  Establishing a regimen best suited for your lifestyle needs with a board certified plastic surgeon is the first step toward succeeding in getting through the New Year’s resolution list. With all the newer innovative technology available, treat yourself to a procedure that can help you in your efforts to look as good as you can, quickly, effectively, and today.

In addition to getting the body you want this year, getting your skin in picture perfect condition is always right up there on the list. Smoother, softer, more even, unblemished and younger-looking skin are what people seek. There are so many things that can be done now to achieve the skin you want.

Lasers, combined with a good skin care regimen, can often solve almost any problem, or get you close to the desired result you’re looking for. Lasers can even out pigmentation, reduce redness, brighten, tighten, reduce and smooth out scarring, reduce or eliminate age spots, and much more. The most important thing when it comes to lasers it to go a dermatologist’s office, with board-certified dermatologists. Many states differ in their regulations on who can perform lasers, but you want to go to a dermatology practice if there is going to be someone performing lasers on your skin. Dermatologists see the skin differently than anyone else, and it is important for you to get someone who can look at your skin comprehensively, with an expert eye.

Dr. Khalique Zahir is with the Dermatology Center and Rockledge MedSpa with three Locations: Northwest D.C., Bethesda and Germantown. Visit or call 301-968-1200 for more information.



Real Estate

Chores for the fall before the chill arrives

Clean gutters, replace smoke detector batteries, and more



Get busy now on house projects before the winter chill sets in.

While it may not feel like fall is in the air yet, it won’t be too long before pumpkin spice will explode everywhere — in food, drinks, candles, and body lotions, to name a few places. If you’re not a fan, you’ll find air freshener plug-ins in scents like Frosted Cranberry, Fresh Fall Morning, and Sweater Weather among the offerings at Bath and Body Works.

Soon after, hordes of December holiday decorations will appear in the stores, often bypassing a smidgen of items for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Except candy. Halloween candy will always figure prominently.

But before you hibernate and chow down on mini-Snickers bars, there is work to be done to prepare your home for the winter.

Inside the home. To ensure your safety, check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries or buy new detectors if they are more than 10 years old. Have your chimney inspected and cleaned, and make any necessary repairs, then test your fire extinguishers. Seal doors and windows that might allow drafts to enter with weatherstripping.

Now is the time to take advantage of the discount prices on heating system tune-ups that some HVAC companies are offering. As little as $59 for a check-up will help your equipment function better and extend its life. 

A furnace tune-up should include cleaning all components, lubricating motor parts, checking electrical parts for rust or corrosion, making sure your thermostat is working properly, and replacing the filter. You may want to take this opportunity to have your vents cleaned as well. 

A heat pump inspection includes cleaning and lubricating the blower and fan motors, inspecting indoor and outdoor coils, flushing the condensate drain, and testing the controls.

If you have a boiler instead of a furnace or heat pump, you can expect your serviceperson to inspect, test and calibrate all gauges and safety mechanisms, measure and record the flame pattern concentration and carbon monoxide, check electrical connections, and more. 

Don’t forget to bleed the radiators to release air in the pipes and enhance the circulation of warm water. And if you’re like me, cross your fingers that your 47-year-old boiler will last one more season.

Outside the home. While the leaves haven’t started falling yet, the recent rain and winds may have blown yard debris into your gutters, so make sure they, and your downspouts, are clear. Position the downspouts so they will take any water away from your foundation and regrade the perimeter of your house, if needed.

Check your roof for lost shingles. Look for missing flashing or bricks in need of tuck-pointing or parging on the exterior of your chimney. Walk around your house and note any foundation cracks or unsealed openings. Check retaining walls for missing mortar. There is still plenty of time to make these repairs before the cold sets in.

Now that 90-degree temperatures have receded a bit, plan the power washing and painting of exterior surfaces that you have been putting off tackling. And since the Labor Day barbecue is now over, it’s time to winterize your gas grill.

In the garden. Far be it for me to profess to be an expert in the garden. I’m the first one on the phone to a landscaper to seek help. In fact, there is a barrage of weeding going on at my home this week. Nonetheless, here are a few suggestions.

Prune trees and bushes to promote future growth. Water, aerate, and fertilize the lawn. Select any bulbs you want to plant and enjoy next spring and consult a source such as Better Homes and Gardens magazine for tips on how and when to plant them. 

Drain garden hoses, detach them, and drain the pipes that run to the hose bibbs as well. If you’re lucky enough to have underground sprinklers (I am not), follow the manufacturer’s instructions for winterizing them, or call a professional.

Store lawn furniture and cushions in a shed, garage, or basement. Or do as I do – throw away the cushions that are dirty or moldy and buy new ones next spring. And when the leaves fall en masse, rake them, bag them, and recheck your gutters and downspouts to be sure they’re clear.

Finally, head to the hardware store to buy a snow shovel, some windshield de-icer and washer fluid, and a few bags of salt or pet-safe, snow-melting product before the rush. You’ll be glad you did.

And if you happen to live in a condominium or cooperative, when you have completed any relevant interior chores, relax for the rest of the season and enjoy some candy. I stash mine in the cabinet above the refrigerator. 

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Standout SUVs: Jeep Compass, Subaru Crosstrek

Americans still prefer larger vehicles to sedans



Jeep Compass

Last year Americans left many old-school chariots in the dust, buying twice as many SUVs as sedans. But while early pioneers like the Jeep Cherokee and Ford Explorer get props for leading the sport-ute charge, today there are more than 170 models. I recently test drove two newish SUVs that kinda-sorta remind me of my Pride bracelet: They make a statement, but at an affordable price. 

MPG: 24 city/32 highway
0 to 60 mph: 7.5 seconds
Cargo room: 27.2 cu. ft.

PROS: lots of amenities, good storage, all-wheel drive

CONS: some pricey options, stiff ride, bit noisy cabin

IN A NUTSHELL: Redesigned last year, the Jeep Compass gets a stronger engine for 2023. More power usually means reduced fuel efficiency, but mileage is up almost 10% from the previous model. Another plus: More stowage space, which had been sorely lacking. And all-wheel drive is now standard, so better traction and handling, especially on slick or gravelly terrain. 

Despite having chiseled looks like the midsize Jeep Cherokee, the smaller Compass feels lighter and more limber. But while this compact SUV can handle light off-roading, the short wheelbase makes it hard to ignore potholes or speed bumps. In fact, I often had to slow down to a crawl to not seesaw jarringly over them. In other words, any Barbie or Ken wannabes with perfectly coiffed hair will want to stick to smoother surfaces when driving this vehicle.  

The well-built cabin is much improved, with higher quality materials. The dash is covered in soft-touch leather—a nice touch—with a 7-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.1-inch touchscreen. Plenty of legroom and headroom in front, but tallish backseat passengers may feel a bit squished. 

There are five trim levels, including the top-of-the-line Trailhawk, with more aggressive styling and solid off-road capability. I tested the mid-range Latitude Lux, which costs $5,000 more than the base model but comes with larger wheels, heated seats, and other niceties. 

Notable tech features: smartphone integration, Wi-Fi hot spot, Bluetooth, wireless charging, voice recognition, remote start and nine-speaker Alpine stereo. 

But it’s the list of safety gear that rally wowed me, such as rearview camera, park assist, lane-departure warning, driver-attention monitoring, rear-seat passenger reminder, pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind-spot monitor, forward collision warning with active braking, and—whew!—so much more. 

MPG: 28 city/34 highway
0 to 60 mph: 9.1 seconds
Cargo room: 20 cu. ft.

PROS: decent mileage, comfy seats, user-friendly cabin

CONS: poky base engine, so-so storage, plasticky dashboard

IN A NUTSHELL: With so much sport-ute competition these days, automakers seem to be revamping their SUV models each year (not every four to six years, as in the past). This time, the Subaru Crosstrek receives some nifty design flourishes and major cabin upgrades. Compared to the butch Jeep Compass, the curvier Crosstrek looks trés chic. Think boyish Buck versus trendy Eddie on “911.” 

Based on the nimble Impreza hatchback, the subcompact Crosstrek feels car-like and agile. Two engine choices, but opt for the more potent powerplant so it doesn’t feel like you’re just treading water. While the Crosstrek is smaller and slower than the Compass, the ride here is smoother and more composed. Higher ground clearance, tighter suspension and quick all-wheel drive system all help, as does a new direct-steering system. Plus, paddle shifters, which I only needed to use once or twice when merging into traffic, provide plenty of extra oomph. 

The Crosstrek cabin, which is surprisingly quiet, offers good legroom for passengers in both the front and back. An optional 11.6-inch infotainment touchscreen is mounted vertically, similar to those iPad-like displays found in the Ford Mustang Mach-E and various luxury vehicles. 

It says something when my biggest beef with the Crosstrek is the placement of the odometer reset button, which is only a smidge above the remote start button. Both buttons are completely obscured behind the steering wheel, so I was constantly reaching around and pressing the wrong one. A minor annoyance, to be sure. But if Subaru could fix this ergonomic annoyance, then I wouldn’t have to listen to my husband claim that the problem is actually my own “user error.”

Subaru Crosstrek
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D.C.’s dining scene ready for a busy fall

Restaurant openings, culinary events abound



Food selections at The Square, the new food hall on K Street. (Photo by Scott Suchman)

Fresh off a hot summer of restaurant openings, fall shows no sign of slowing down for bar and restaurant openings and culinary events. Below is a taste of those openings, an exciting day-to-night festival and one fabulous fundraiser taking place this fall and winter.

The Square (1850 K St.). Debuting last week, The Square is D.C.’s newest food market opening within International Square. Although the first phase has just a handful of vendors, when fully operational, the food hall will feature a collection of more than 15 vendors, a full-service restaurant and bar, an expansive bar in the central atrium, and outdoor dining seating and retail. Opening right next door and from the same owner (Ruben Garcia) will be Casa Teresa, a family-style Spanish/Catalan restaurant.

Bistro Du Jour Capitol Hill (20 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.) is opening this month. Gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design announced yet another jewel in its growing crown of a restaurant empire with the upcoming Bistro Capitol Hill. Building on their existing ventures in the D.C. market, Bistro Capitol Hill is for locals, Hill staff, and tourists, according to the owners. The upscale restaurant will expand upon the Wharf location of the same name, with a much bigger space featuring 200 seats, a full bar, and the addition of a lounge. It will open for happy hour, breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. The upscale bistro will also expand its offerings beyond what they are known for at the Wharf, with a must more expansive menu.

 The Atlas Alexandria Brewery & Tap Room (2501 Mandeville Lane) is slated to open later this year in the Carlyle Crossing development. The 6,000-square-foot space will include a brewery with a production capacity of 2,000 barrels. The adjoining tap room has 16 draft lines and a full kitchen facility, plus a huge outdoor patio. The brewery and tap room, not far from the King Street Metro stop, slices up pies from Andy’s Pizza. The brewery’s six core beers include Silent Neighbor, which recently won a gold medal at the 2023 World Beer Cup.

Cleveland Park is getting a flip when big-name restaurateur Ashok Bajaj of Knightsbridge Restaurant Group opens Little Black Bird (3309 Connecticut Ave.), replacing his Indian spot, Bindaas. Located next to Israeli resto Sababa (also by Bajaj), the name Little Black Bird is a nod to the French word for blackbird, merle, which is also related to the wine name, Merlot. This wine list, with 100 wines by the bottle and 12 by the glass, will be global in nature, alongside a big menu wth Mediterranean inspiration. 

Restaurateur Stephen Starr, of Le Diplomate fame, opened El Presidente (1255 Union St., N.E.) last week in Union Market. This 6,000-square-foot space “artfully mirrors the essence of Mexico City’s gastronomy,” according to the restaurant. The menu, though, draws from across the country, serving oysters from the Pacific coast, al pastor tacos, and a handful of guac variations, including one topped with king crab. A raw bar anchors one corner of the vibrantly lit series of dining rooms, pairing well with several mezcal- and tequila-centric cocktails. Not far from Starr’s other property, St. Anselm, El Presidente fits in appropriately alongside nearby La Cosecha, the Latin food hall also in the Union Market district.

 On 14th Street, Bar Japonais (1520 14th St., N.W.) slides into the former Estadio space in early 2024. Similar to its sister restaurant Bar Chinois in Mount Vernon Square, Bar Japonais will blend French and Japanese flavors in an energetic atmosphere, much like Bar Chinois. Developed in the izakaya style, the restaurant will have Japanese-leaning food and French-leaning cocktails. 

And over in National Landing by HQ2 will be Surreal (2117 Crystal Dr. in Arlington, Va.), from Seven Reasons owner Michelin-starred Venezuelan chef Enrique Limardo and Ezequiel Vázquez-Ger. The Latin-inspired bistro has an eclectic menu, with dishes like queso fundido shakshuka, swordfish carpaccio, and “Flaming Hot Totopos.” The restaurant will have grab-and-go items and bakery for office workers, plus expansive beverage program to drink onsite – and possibly be able to take with them to have the park right outside the restaurant.

After the first Art All Night lit up Shaw in 2011, the 2023 Art All Night is reaching all eight wards, Sept. 29-30. The festival’s activations differ each night, bringing visual and performing arts, including painting, photography, sculpture, crafts, fashion, music, literary arts, dance, theater, film, and poetry, to indoor and outdoor public and private spaces. This year, Dine All Night is joining the mix, with dozens of restaurants participating to offer special menus Sept.21-Oct. 1.

We would be remiss not to mention a signature fundraising culinary event for LGBTQ rights, Chefs for Equality. After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and prominent food writer David Hagedorn are celebrating the return of Chefs for Equality on Monday, October 30, 2023, at the National Building Museum. Now in its 10th year, the evening of food, drink, entertainment, and live and silent auctions, supports the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s nationwide educational work and its fight for LGBTQ+ equality. This year’s theme, Plate of Emergency, calls attention to the state of emergency that the Human Rights Campaign has officially declared because of intensified attacks on the LGBTQ+ community,  particularly transgender and non-binary people, says Hagedorn. The expansive event features 55 savory tasting stations and 30 cocktail bars helmed by chefs and mixologists from around the city and the region. There are also 13 personal chef tables serving five-course meals with chefs themselves.

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