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2016 Holiday Festivities

What do you get when you mix 5 people that love to cook, a fun office culture, and the holiday season? A holiday potluck and white elephant!

For the white elephant, we each brought a $20 gift, which ended up perfectly reflecting our individual personalities, then played out the white elephant. Chancee’ got the gift of kitchen gadgetry, which of course I brought since I love cooking and baking. It was an all in one food gadget that came with a grater, spice grinder, juicer, egg separator, measuring cup, funnel, and much more. I received the gift of pampering with a delicious smelling candle and beautiful painted jewelry dish brought in my Mei, a lover of small, precious items. Chanceé loves fun and hosting game night, so her gift of Jenga and a poker set went to Mei. If something is organized and reorganized in the office it was probably Fabiana, so it’s only natural that she would bring in a bag organizer complete with business card holder, which Veronica received as a gift. Given Veronica’s appreciation for organization, I think this was the perfect gift. Although Veronica works hard, she strongly believes in self-care. She brought a luxury foot spa that went to Fabiana. I know what Fabiana will be doing during our time off for the holidays.


Now, onto the main event- the meal. We like to brag when it comes to our potluck skills because we all love food and know how to whip up something delicious. As engineers and planners, we don’t just bring a dish, we detail our meal planning. This year, as the originator of our holiday potlucks, I made a google sheet in which people put dishes they were willing to make. We all reviewed the options, voted for our favorites, and decided on the menu as a team the Friday before the potluck. Planning note: we hold potlucks on Mondays because we then have a weekend to prepare our delectable dishes.

The menu shook out like this:

I scream, you scream, we all scream for Hallacas!!  By Fabiana

Main Course(s):
Veronica’s Low and Slow 10-hour Luscious Pulled Pork- Cholulah Hot Sauce on the side
Chanceé’s Creamy, Dreamy Baked Mac n’ Cheese
Fresh and Tangy Brussels Sprout Slaw by Christine
Mei’s Famous Chicken Lo Mein

Sweet Southern Pecan Pie (á la mode of course) by Chanceé
A Decadent Sweet Potato Pie that would rival Grandma’s by Christine
Rollo Frío de chocolate con Galletas Marías (or chocolate roll with cookies)- Fabiana

We rolled into the afternoon in a happy food haze, with our intern for the day, Leanne, in tow. During my time at Nspiregreen, the holidays are always a special time to show our appreciation for one another through food and gifts. Maybe next year you can join us. Look out for your invite! 😉

Christine E. Mayeur is an urban planner with a unique set of skills and interests. She has been called a “renaissance woman” by her coworkers and is interested in all things creative and challenging. Christine uses her history of working with communities through grassroots organizations along with her planning skills to help plan transportation systems that meet the needs of all users. 

People sit in a park surrounded by large trees

How to Connect with Nature while Living in a City

I have always being a strong supporter of protecting and adding more vegetation and green space in urban areas. I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, where the  “Ávila” mountain  was so big you could see it from everywhere in the city. Below is a picture of the Avila to give you a sense of the size . Even though I was surrounded by buses and cars, large buildings, and crowds, looking at the Ávila made me feel somehow connected to nature. When I moved to the Washington, DC metro area it became more difficult for me to find those spaces where I feel the same type of connection with the natural environment. I have found some parks and green areas in DC, but they are not in my way to work or home. I am only able to enjoy those pockets of nature during my free time.

Distant photo of a city with a large mountain in the horizon.

View of Caracas with the Avila National Park in the background (Photo by Daniel)

There are many benefits of connecting with nature in our daily lives, including mental health, stress reduction, and emotional wellbeing. The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health (UD/MH) website provides many articles and posts that discuss the benefits of to bringing nature to our cities for our mental and emotional well-being.

Until we are able to build and live in Biophilic Cities, we have to make a conscious effort to find ways to connect with nature while living in the city. Here are some ideas on how you can do that:

  • Find pockets of nature on your way home or work: Just taking a few minutes to admire a tree in front of your home or work place can help to connect with nature. Everyday, I walk near Franklin Square on my way to work. Observing the park while I walk makes me feel better, especially during the fall when the leaves are changing.
Historic sculpture and people walking at a vegetated square. Buildings in the background.

Franklin Square, Washington, DC

  • Keep a living plant at work: There are a variety of plants that require little care that you can put on your desk or in the office. One of those are succulents, such as the ones we created on our team building few months ago.
Photo of a succulent plant in a circular bowl in a work desk near a computer keyboard and display

Plant in a work station

  • Visit vegetated parks on weekend: In DC, there are various national parks and green areas within and around the city. Taking a time to see the leaves of the trees moving, breath fresh air, or look at the running water from a creek can make you feel refreshed and energized.
Picture of a stone bridge over a rivers surrounded by large trees.

Rock Creek Park, Washington, DC

  • Take leisure walks along streets with old, shadow tree-lines: I love walking in Old Town Alexandria because it is full of large trees that make me feel connected to nature even though I’m in an urban place. Identify streets like that near your work or home, and take leisure walks during the day.
Picture of a sidewalk with buildings on the left and tree-lines on the right

Old Town Alexandria, VA



Fabiana I. Paez is passionate about creating visual designs to communicate and engage people in urban planning projects, as well as social and environmental causes.


Livable, Walkable, Poopable?

On November 17th, the National Capital Chapter of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professional‘s (APBP) hosted a Night on Biking, Walking, Streets and Cities. As one of the speakers, APBP asked each of us to give a fun and lively presentation related to walking, biking, streets, urban design, or city building. To ensure a fun evening, we were asked not to give a presentation on a topic that we know well or is part of our professional brand. For me, that ruled out transportation and equity, biking and equity, public engagement and equity, and, well, equity.

The presentations ranged from how to destress on trails to using ice cream shops as indicator for placemaking. For my presentation, I “borrowed” my dear friend Tommy Well’s campaign slogan ‘Building a Livable and Walkable DC’. However, I added ‘Poopable’. The main focus of my presentation was the challenge of finding places for my dog to poop in my walkable neighborhood.

Below is a video of my presentation. The last 40 seconds are missing, but the important points were included.

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.



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