Christmas Dinner 2015 Recipe Share

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Published: 12/26/2015

I think I've told you guys the story before that my first year hosting Christmas dinner at my house I decided I was going to make the complete Martha Stewart Menu.  This involved standing rib roast, yorkshire pudding, spinach salad, pear tart, and a host of other complicated things.  I cooked for 2 days in preparation.  It was insane.  And then my mom showed up with Thanksgiving Dinner, which was what my family traditionally had for Christmas (turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc), because my brother was really upset about not having what we always have. 

To my credit- I only spent about 10 minutes in the bathroom having a meltdown ;) So this year, since my brother was going to be spending Christmas Dinner with his wife's family, I took advantage of being able to make all new recipes for everything.  (Not that there's anything wrong with tradition, I just like new things!) 

So we had some hits and some misses.  I made Chocolate Chip Panettone overnight french toast, which should have been amazing but was just eh.  

JUST EH.

Have you ever had Chocolate Chip Panettone? It's amazing! There's no reason that should have happened.  I also made a version with cherries in it (chocolate cherry!!) that was EVEN WORSE.  So now I'm going to have to figure out how to fix this, because it's just boggling my mind. 

For dinner, though, I had some serious homeruns.  

1- Peppercorn Beef Tenderloin 
 Loosely based off the Pioneer Woman's recipe, which you can read here I swear that I watched her make it the way that I did, but I can't find a video of it anywhere.  Trim all the silver skin and big chunks of fat off a beef tenderloin.  I had to cut mine in half because I don't have a pan big enough to sear an entire beef tenderloin in.  Salt aggressively with seasoned salt (or salt, garlic powder, etc), noting that you're only doing the outside so you need more than you think.  Then sear the tenderloins on all sides in a hot pan with vegetable oil until it's nicely brown.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of crushed tri color peppercorns and place on a roasting pan (I used a cookie sheet), and dot with an entire stick of butter.  Yes I did.  Roast at 425 until desired doneness.  I did 135, which was still red in the middle for those in my family who like that sort of thing, and tender and evenly grey for me on the ends :) 

I made individual martini glasses of this because I don't have a trifle dish.  Use all the syrup mixture if you do that- don't get skimpy :) I also made my red velvet madeleines in a mini muffin tin and cut them into quarters because I don't have a madeleine pan and I decided they fit the glasses better cut in quarters.  My final change was that I whipped the mascarpone into the whipped cream with my kitchen aid, mainly because folding it in left lumps and I didn't like that. 

You'll learn I very rarely follow a recipe just exactly as written.  I did very much like this one, but I added a pinch of red pepper flakes and didn't add the cheese. I used white onion instead of shallots because I forgot to buy them :) 

4- Pear Salad with Goat Cheese
This was just an easy made-up one, but it was so good my 12 year old asked for it for lunch.  On a bed of mixed baby greens, layer thin slices of ripe bosc pear, dried cranberries, pomegranate arils, a sprinkle of goat cheese, crushed walnuts, and your favorite vinaigrette (I used Panera's Raspberry vinaigrette, but you can always make your own).  

5- Roasted Crispy Potatoes
Thinly slice 4 large, scrubbed potatoes on a mandolin, watching out for your fingers :), along with 1/2 a white onion.  In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with 2-3 tablespoons of the oil left from browning your beef (yes- just do it), along with a heaping tablespoon of Montreal steak seasoning (if you don't have that, it's coarse black pepper, kosher salt, dehydrated garlic, red pepper, and coriander, I think).  Roast these at 425 with your beef in a double layer on a cookie sheet, turning once or twice.  They will be crispy on the edges and soft in the middle.  For crispier potatoes, do a single layer.  Expect 20-30 minutes of bake time depending on the thickness of your potato slices. 

Gift Basket of Awesome December Giveaway 2015

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Published: 12/04/2015
Hey Readers!

Instead of running a bunch of giveaways during December, my tradition has been to just run one.  Our winner gets the whole kit and caboodle on December 20th.  We hope that you'll shop with some of our friends who have contributed! Most of the contributors are also website sponsors, and we appreciate them funding our calendar and information so that you can enjoy all that PwcMoms has to offer! This year's gift basket of awesome features:


*GMS Kids Gymnastics tote and gift card
*Little Loving Hands Box
*Two FREE months of dance at the Academy of Russian Ballet
*$50 Gift Card to The Smart Car Wash
*Scentsy Warmer and Wax
*$55 Gift Card (One FREE month of class) at Showcase Dance
*Toddlin Time Gift Card and T-Shirt
* Three Copies of "Prince William Living" December
*Perfectly Posh Bath Bombs from Got Posh? 
*Eme's Army braille "Love" ornament
*TWO parents nights out on January 23rd from 4pm to 8 pm from Animated Child



Whew!

So, go ahead and use the rafflecopter below to enter.  I wish you the best of luck, and please remember you must be available to MEET me to get your basket- I am not trying to hit the post office 4 days before Christmas!!  You should be able to get a little something extra for just about anyone on your list with this fantastic basket of fun!

If you didn't get your item listed in time, please just email me and we can get you added!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As always, when you enter you agree to our Giveaway Rules.

Giant's Peppermint Inspired Creations- Limited Time!

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Published: 12/03/2015
I love it when a brand wants me to eat their food.  As a person of fluff, I obviously have zero problems taking care of that aspect of my business.  However, when Giant Food sent me their latest box, I've got to be honest you guys, I had a problem.


I don't like peppermint.

I know, I know, I'm missing a soul, yadda yadda.  I just don't! Now I think peppermint stuff is ADORABLE, and I actually make candy cane stuff almost every year for cookie swap because that way I don't eat 144 cookies before I get there. #SecretWeapon

However, once I opened this box, I had zero trouble getting feedback from all the peppermint lovers around me.

Day one- I opened the box on the same day my friend Stacey swung by, and she almost lost her mind because there was peppermint bark inside!

This is hilarious to me because Stacey is about the same size as my 7 year old daughter, so the idea she was going to down a pound of peppermint bark at any point in time was just unbelievable.  She started snacking on it as soon as I got it out of the box, though! This bark is super cute, and it definitely would pass for homemade if you wanted to break it into pieces and put it on a tray.  I'm not saying any of us would ever be in such a rush we needed to resort to something like that.  I'm just saying that, you know, hypothetically, if you were in a holiday pinch, we'd all understand. 

The next thing in my box was the Peppermint Chocolate Sandwich cookies.  I took these to a marathon board of review for Eagle Scout in our troop.  We did FIVE board of reviews in one day.  Well, the collective "we", I actually only sat three of them.  These made the room smell delicious and they were all gone by the time I left on Sunday afternoon. 

Finally, we were sent a Peppermint Whoopie Pie kit. We haven't made this yet- we're actually saving them to use at a special event we have coming up (super secret!), but here's a link to another blogger who shows you how easily they go together! This would be an adorable baking project for you and your kiddos- even tiny kids could roll the finished product in crushed candy cane! 

Giant Food's Peppermint Inspired Creations line doesn't just include food, though, which is great for me because I love the smell!! Cleaning products, ice cream, floral arrangements, soaps, body washes, candles, cakes, and cookies, are all part of this versatile holiday line of products! 

Whether you're looking for a holiday treat for your own family, or you're in need of a hostess gift or something to spruce up your home for the season, head to your local Giant Food to stock up on this adorable line of Peppermint fun! 


Thanks to Giant Food for sending me some of their Peppermint Inspired Creations line to sample with my friends and family.  While they provided free products for this post, all opinions are my own. 


Town of Dumfries Christmas Festivities

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Published: 12/03/2015

This weekend! The 41st Annual Dumfries Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting! Parade at 12, Lighting at 5pm. 

Review: Busch Gardens Christmas Town

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Published: 12/02/2015
We were so excited to be invited to visit Bush Gardens Williamsburg for their Christmas Town festivities! We were offered opening day tickets- which ended up being very well attended.  It was Friday, November 27, which was also my eldest son's 12th birthday, so we were excited to spend his special day at the park!

Pictures of my birthday boy!
(This is my not-so-little guy with his Uncle Brendan who'd been staying with us for a few weeks- Brendan made him a special banana treat for his birthday) 

Driving down was a bit of an adventure because our GPS program decided we needed to do a scenic detour around William and Mary.  It was also the day after Thanksgiving so we sat in a little traffic.  Be ye not so dumb and don't go on an awful traffic day.

We printed our tickets out before we arrived, which ended up being a HUGE timesaver. We got to skip the will-call and purchase lines and go straight to the gates.  Note that there is a bag check involved in the process.  We did bring backpacks, though, because while we lucked out and got a fantastic day weather-wise, we knew it'd get cold as soon as the sun went down!

When we first entered the park around 3pm, it was very....cozy.
But by the time evening rolled around, most of the people had left for the day.  The Festhaus was so busy they were on a total standstill in the line, so I suggest booking your dinner time, but after dinner, there were really very few people- my boys rode Alpengheist three times in a row! Even at its busiest, we didn't wait terribly long for rides, which is what my boys were in it for.  Usually 2-3 cycles of a ride and we were in.

The lights were AMAZING.  Seeing them in the daylight you realize there are a lot of them, but when they start going on it's just incredible.
 The lights on the Festhaus dance to music- which is just beyond.  I highly recommend doing one of the "people mover" options- either the train or the sky ride- to just sit back and enjoy the lights around the park.  We brought my mom with us, and she's got some serious fear of heights, so we went with the train.  It was just amazing to see all the gorgeous lights!! On foot, one of our favorites was the bridge where they are playing "Let There Be Peace on Earth" with a light display above the water that reflects back up.  It was just charming.

We spent from 3pm until 10pm at the park, and we honestly did not get to do 1/2 of what we could have done.  There's so much to experience and the kids had a blast.  My kids are definitely daredevils and wanted to ride everything they could.  Not all of the rides are open, so they were able to focus on what they really wanted to get to. If you're going, be sure to check out the Busch Gardens website- they've actually created plans for you to get around the park and focus on what's most important to your family. 
There's so much I could tell you about this event.  It's the SAME PRICE as another Christmas event in our area, which you will not spend half as much time at.  It's absolutely gorgeous.  I definitely had a great time, and so did my kids. Let me tell you about my two favorite things, and then I'll just leave you with some pictures:

1- The North Pole
Holy heck you guys, the North Pole.  Looking in the large window at Santa meeting with children while the "snow" falls around you? Stop it.  It's magical and I don't even like Santa. Most of the bloggers I've read recommend you go to see Santa ASAP, but honestly, even if the wait is longer I wouldn't go until the North Pole is fully lit up because it is just incredibly breathtaking to walk around the corner into the Christmas lights and have that full experience.



2- Twas the Night
There are several shows that you can see while you're at Christmas Town.  We only got to one, and honestly, I'm pretty sure it was the one to see.  Twas the Night is an on-ice spectacular based on the classic poem Twas the Night Before Christmas.  The ice is small, but they use it incredibly well.  My daughter was amazed by Santa "really going down the chimney!" The skaters are all talented, the costumes are beautiful- we loved everything about it.  We ended our night with this show and then grabbed the last train out of New France back to the gates in England, and it was a perfect way to end our evening.



I would most definitely recommend Christmas Town.  We had an amazing time and I only wish we'd had a longer day to spend at the park! I think it would be great if there were more roller coasters open for the older kids, and depending on the weather I think you could have more or less fun, but if you're looking for a Christmas event, this is the one I'd go for.  My iPhone pictures really don't do the lights justice!



Review: Homespun Holidays: Fall and Winter

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Published: 11/24/2015
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine sent me a copy of their "Homespun Holidays: Fall and Winter" ebook to check out for you guys as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew! I was really excited to share this particular ebook with you because I know that you guys are always looking for fun ideas for the holidays with your kiddos.
Set up with reader contributions, this book reads a little like a Pinterest board, but without all the clicking.  Fall includes funny poems, book recommendations for you to read with your children, craft ideas for scarecrows, front porch decorations, etc, and a bunch of tasty recipes.  Winter includes an idea for a "Night Before" party, car bingo, paper angels and snowflakes, ideas for recycling all those Christmas cards, and additional tasty recipes.

What I like about the ebook format, as opposed to Pinterest, is that you don't get sucked into a death spiral of pinning.  The ideas are already selected for you, so you can't just pin one more thing (instead of spending time actually making something!).  I also enjoyed the sweet stories from readers who included their holiday traditions.  I know that we have several readers who are military and can't always be with their own families during the holidays, so being able to develop your own special traditions, whether it's a family leaf-raking or a special tree decoration, could be vital to keeping the holidays special when you can't be with the special people you love.

By the time I had a moment to read this, we'd actually had our Thanksgiving/Fall decorations up for some time, so I bypassed the decorating section altogether, although there are some cute ideas. However, we were able to pick up the two books recommended to read with your children and especially enjoyed the illustrations in the book by Vera Kay.  It is so overwhelming to try to pick holiday books- there are just a plethora and I want to know what's going to be quality, so I really appreciated these!

Next, I moved on to a recipe.  My brother-in-law is a Hare Krishna Monk (yes, this is related) and recently came to visit us and brought a GIANT bag of pecans from Texas, where he'd been just a few weeks before. My kids have actually had a blast shelling pecans over the last week, so we decided that we'd try out the recipe for pecan pie with our hard-won goods!

Nobody complained.

In the Winter section, I was a little bummed there wasn't a printable car bingo card.  We have a few car trips coming up to various hockey tournaments and it would have been nice to just print the page out without having to make my own boards, but I still like the idea. We went to the recipe section again for something quick to try, and ended up going with the hot cocoa jars because we had all the ingredients on hand.  My older son is excited to try the paper snowflakes, but he's waiting for a friend to come over.  I like that some of the crafts have very detailed instructions so that children who are older (like my almost-12-year-old) can feel confident following them on their own.
(All my hot cocoa pictures turned out SUPER dark because my iPhone was having a bad day.  This one is from google free images, but you get the idea! We put bows on ours and plan to give them as part of our teacher gifts this year.)

If you're looking for a fun compilation of holiday crafts that's ready-to-go without a lot of searching, give this a try!  It's a nice grouping of simple, easy-to-follow ideas that you can do easily with your children.  If you're looking for high-end crafts, this isn't it, but it is simple, fun ideas your family will enjoy.



Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of this ebook to perform my review.  All opinions are my own.

Review: ICE 2015

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Published: 11/24/2015
We were able to check out ICE at the Gaylord National again this year- and we always love marveling at what the talented artisans are able to sculpt from ice blocks! This year's theme is Santa Claus is Comin to Town, and if you're a fan of old-school claymation Christmas, you'll love it in ice, too!
This year we started out with the Kris Kringle Holiday Feast, which was adorable, mainly because of the desserts!! Check these suckers out!

So cute! The dinner is a buffet and is priced at $29.95 for adults and $19.95 for kids ages 3-11.  There are select dinner nights, and weekend breakfast options, too.  Our kids got the chance to meet Kris Kringle and his penguin friend during the dinner, as well as enjoying both adult (crab legs, carving station, pumpkin ravioli, salad) and kid (uncrustables, chicken tenders, mac and cheese) fare.
After dinner, we opted to hang out in the Atrium level and wait for the Christmas Tree light show, which happens at 6, 7, 8, and 9pm.  The show ends with falling "snow" and is always fun to watch. I recommend lining up a little early so your little ones get a good view, but you can also watch from one level up, you just won't have snow fall on you.  I was a big fan of last year's Christmas in Sarajevo themed tree, but the new one is nice, too. The beginning is a little slow, but it picks up for the finale!!  The tree light show is free to anyone who cares to watch.
Next we headed over to ICE.  Everyone is provided with a parka to wear over their own coat.  While there were definitely some strong-willed teenagers who wore shorts, it's 9 (Nine) very frosty degrees in the ICE display, so I recommend pants, closed-toed shoes, and gloves.  If you have very little people, make sure you are being realistic about how much time they'll be able to spend inside the display area.

And now, onto the junky iPhone photos:



The slide area is, of course, everyone's favorite.  There are 5 slides that you can go down and it's really fun to skid your parka-ed booty down the ice! At the end of the show there is an exhibit explaining how the artisans craft the ice sculptures, and the very last room is a clear-ice nativity, which I think is breathtaking every year.  The detail is amazing, and I personally like hearing the Christmas story and seeing the lights illuminate the clear sculptures.

ICE is definitely an investment, but discount codes and AAA/BJs/Costco coupons are available, according to my readers. It's my recommendation that if you can, you go on a Friday night and make a full evening of it.  National Harbor also offers holiday movie sing-a-longs, free holiday music performances and of course, shopping.  Make a full day of enjoying ICE, the tree lighting in the Gaylord, dinner, holiday music, and the movie, if you can. If you can afford a few add ons, there are also photo options, gingerbread decorating, pictures with Santa, and more.


The Gaylord National Hotel provided us with tickets to check out their Christmas on the Potomac Offerings.  All opinions are my own.


Mini Camps for Winter 2015 at Engineering for Kids

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Published: 11/18/2015
Come join Engineering For Kids for fun and educational Classes, Clubs and Mini Camps!

  Register before December 15th and save $10

Use code: WINTER15 at checkout




Our winter mini camps will be held from 8:30am-5:30pm on the following dates at our Lake Ridge Center.
*Lunch is NOT provided. Children are encouraged to bring a bag lunch and snacks. 
(Please NO peanut products)

Winter Mini Camp Schedule:
Ages: 5-14  Cost: $60 per mini camp

December 21st: MinecraftEDU - Traveling into the Future
December 22nd- Robotics 101
December 23rd- Frosty Framework
December 28th: MinecraftEDU - Traveling into the Future
December 29th: Electronic Game Design: Bug Invasion Games
December 30th: Electrical Engineering - Electrified

December Club Schedule:

Junior Engineering Clubs (Ages 4-6) $60 monthly per club
Jr. Discovery Engineering- December 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th (5pm-5:45pm)
Jr. Tinkerlab- December 5th, 12th, 19th, and 26th (9:30am-10:15am)

Apprentice/Master Engineering Clubs (ages 7-14) $75 monthly per club
Robotics Club: Robo Battles- December 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th (6pm-7:30pm)
Coding Club:Hardware Engineering-Makey Makey- December 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th 
(6pm-7:30pm)
Girls Only Coding Club: Robotics 101- December 5th, 12th, 19th, and 26th (9am-10:30am) 

Mini Camp Descriptions:


MinecraftEDU- Traveling into the Future
Join us in an apocalyptic future, one where the earth has been ravaged by a series of natural disasters. Each day, students rely on the engineering design process to solve a series of challenges such as building a city on a series of islands, escaping from a bunker on Mt. Everest and even building a rocket to land on the moon! Through the application of engineering principles, students solve numerous challenges as they make their virtual world of Minecraft a safe place for humanity once again.

Robotics101- 
During Robotics 101 program, students will learn the basics of designing, programming, and controlling a fully functional robot. Using LEGO® MINDSTORMS®, mathematical concepts, and engineering principles students will brainstorm, plan, test, and modify sequences of instructions to accomplish a given task. Students will also learn the sequence of communication between the robot, and the programmer by collecting and analyzing data using the robot's sensors.

Frosty Framework- 
Students will construct a gingerbread house in order to gain an understanding of structural properties in architecture, as well as the properties of different materials used in building construction.

Electronic Game Design: Bug Invasion Games 
Eek! The bugs are after our birthday cake!! In Electronic Game Design: Bug Invasion, we will create our own version of an invader defense game that is set in a home where we have to defend our birthday cake from an infestation of ravenous bugs! We will use the Engineering Design Process to create a storyboard to outline the rules of play and characters for our game. Then, we will use Clickteam Fusion 2.5® to bring our storyboard to life with programming. At the end of the class, everyone takes home a working Windows-compatible game (Clickteam Fusion 2.5® does not support Mac or Android operating systems).

Electrical Engineering- Electrified
During the Electrical Engineering classes, students use the Engineering Design Process to design, create, test, and refine basic electronics and circuits. Students experiment with Snap Circuits® to discover the capabilities of major electronic components. In addition, students build their own flashlights and explore the world of magnetic energy by building their own Magnetic Levitation vehicle.

HGTV Santa HQ at Tysons Corner Center

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Published: 11/17/2015
Here's the reality of visiting Santa at the mall. Are you ready? It's not really mind-blowing, but it's the most important thing to know:

You're going to wait in line. 

Yup.  That's right.  And, if your kids are anything like, most kids, they could easily move from the "nice list" to the "naughty list" in the time it takes to go from the entry elf to the big guy in red. 

The nicest part of Santa HQ, for me, is that they understand this reality.  Instead of winding your way through endless miles of rope partitions, you get to wind your way through various rooms with different entertainment features.  

This is my 7 year old, and her response is the one you want to worry about.  We've always been very honest about our views on Santa, which you can feel however you want about, but she likes him anyway. 

So, here's Santa HQ:
When you first enter, you get to check to make sure that you're not wasting your time.  I mean, who'd want to get all the way to Santa only to find out they were actually on the naughty list? 
Here's the Naughty or Nice O'Meter.  Children step up, enter their name, and then stand on the footprints to get a reading on how naughty or nice they are.  Spoiler alert, I'm pretty sure everyone is nice ;) Here's Savannah's reading:
I have to say, I think that's pretty accurate.  She's a good kid :) 


Next, you pass through a brief outdoor section lined with Christmas trees.  This is a good time to take pictures of your children pretending to be reindeer.  
Excellent.  Next, we're onto the HGTV living room, where you can create and email yourself an Elf video, sit on the sofa and relax, and enjoy the overall holiday ambiance. 



Next you enter a control room, which has some really cool interactive features that a crew member will help you see using special tablets.  My kids were a little too old to want to play  much with the control panel, but they did enjoy the fact that they thought it was making "TARDIS sounds" and were joking about Santa being an incarnation of the Doctor.  

#MyKidsAreALittleNerdy
Finally, you get to Santa.  I can't show you a picture from that because cell phones are verboten, but the santa is quite good.  Our pictures were par for the course for a mall kiosk picture, and because we were there on a day with a school full of radio winners I just got the first image, not to pick.  We actually have some cute images on our online file and I might order one of them :) 

You can visit Santa's Headquarters in the Fashion Court at Tysons Corner Center near Nordstrom.  Santa HQ will be available November 14-December 24, 2015. For operating hours and more details, please click here. 

Mon Ami Santa Pictures 2015

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Published: 11/16/2015
Want to have something a little different this year? Not interested in standing in line at the mall? Parlez-Vous Photography is offering "Mon Ami, Santa" sessions on November 22nd and 25th in Springfield, VA.  For more information, or to register, visit parlezvous.org/santa


Mon Ami, Santa {my friend, Santa} is a *15-minute interactive visit with your old friend St. Nick. Children are greeted by name, and spend their time with Santa talking about things that make them excited - things that make them genuinely laugh! Santa will guide children into jolly situations, without them ever knowing it. With a little help from you, we will make this time with Santa personalized and special for your family. (Parents are even welcome to send a gift early for Santa to deliver specially for your child).
Santa will be visiting from the North Pole for two special days!
Sunday November 22 (10am-1pm)
Saturday Nov 28 (10am-1pm)

at The Historic Sydenstricker School House
8511 Hooes Road
Springfield, VA 22153
$150 for a 15-minute personalized visit with Santa. Includes:
one-on-one interactions with Santa photographed by Parlez-Vous Photography
Print package including 1-8x10, 1-5x7, 1-4x6, 4 wallets (all of one image)
Online gallery for image review and additional purchases
Complimentary Christmas card design with purchase of cards.


Christmas/Winter Fun 2015

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Published: 11/10/2015
So, I know that it's November.  And you know that I like letting Thanksgiving do its own thing.  However, I also know you guys get cranky with me around mid-December if you think I let you miss all the tree lightings, Santa arrivals, and other fun Christmas/Winter stuff that happens around PWC!

So without further ado, here's what I know about so far.  If I'm missing your event, please send it to me via email.  (AND YES, PLEASE SEND YOUR HANNUKAH, FESTIVUS, WHATEVER YOU CELEBRATE TOO)

Events you have to pay for are in Green. Freebies are in Red.

Volunteer/Charity Opportunities
Operation Christmas Child Box Collection at Manassas St. Thomas UMC Nov. 16 – Nov. 23
Bring toys, toiletries, and plastic or cardboard shoe boxes to send to children who won't otherwise 
enjoy a Christmas gift. 

Operation Christmas Child Box Packing Party/Loading Trucks at Manassas St Thomas UMC November 20th 6-8pm
Help pack boxes for children in need


NOVEMBER
Frozen Dance Party for Kids at MyBodyMovez Woodbridge, November 14th, 11am-11:45am
Do you wanna build a snowman? Kids ages 2-5 dance, play games and enjoy crafts. Dress up, bring your friends and let's have some Frozen fun! $5/child

Virginia Gateway Fireworks Spectacular, November 14th, 5-8pm
Visit with Santa, fireworks at 7pm, Holiday Performances, Carriage Rides, WMZQ's Michael J, giveaways and more. Free.

Stonebridge PTC Holiday Tree Lighting, November 27th, 6-8:30pm
Funny Little People, Carolers, Carriage Rides, Balloon Art, Face Painters

Workhouse Winter Wonderland Saturday, November 28, 3-7pm 
This free, family-friendly event will feature holiday activities, fine art, Art of Movement demonstrations, entertainment, raffle prizes, food and music.Bring a canned good for the LCAC food drive and receive a 20% off coupon towards art purchases during the holiday weekend. 10% off on Art of Movement classes for new students only.

Candy Factory Presents "A Christmas Carol", November 28th, 7-9pm
Center for the Arts is located at 9419 Battle Street Manassas.  Tickets are $18 for general admission, $15 for students or seniors 55+.

Candy Factory Presents "A Christmas Carol", November 29th, 2-4pm
Center for the Arts is located at 9419 Battle Street Manassas.  Tickets are $18 for general admission, $15 for students or seniors 55+.

DECEMBER
Merry Old Town Christmas Tree Lighting, December 4th, 5:30-8:30pm
The fun begins at 5:30 with holiday music, Santa arrives by VRE at 6pm, and the tree lighting is at 6:30 at the Manassas Museum.  Free hayrides, skating at Harris Pavilion, talk to Santa.

Candy Factory Presents "A Christmas Carol", December 4th, 7-9pm
Center for the Arts is located at 9419 Battle Street Manassas.  Tickets are $18 for general admission, $15 for students or seniors 55+.

Breakfast with Santa at Old Country Buffet, December 5th, 8:30am-10am
Have Breakfast With Santa!  Each child will receive a FREE treat from Santa.  No reservations, first come, first served. Under 2 FREE 2 - 3yrs.$2.49 including beverage, plus tax 4 - 7yrs.$4.49 including beverage, plus tax 8 - 11yrs. $5.99 including beverage, plus tax Adults $10.37 including tax and beverage Seniors 60 & up $9.87 including tax and beverage.

Greater Manassas Christmas Parade, December 5th, 10am
Visit the website for route information.  Free parking is available in the parking garage on Prince William and Main.  Handicapped parking in the BB&T lot on Center Street.

Town of Dumfries Christmas Parade, December 5th, 12pm
Free parade begins at Town Hall, features Santa

Candy Factory Presents "A Christmas Carol", December 5th, 2-4pm
Center for the Arts is located at 9419 Battle Street Manassas.  Tickets are $18 for general admission, $15 for students or seniors 55+.

Town of Dumfries Christmas Tree Lighting, December 5th, 5pm
Town Hall, featuring Dumfries Elementary School Chorus

Manassas Chorale Presents "The Spirit of Christmas", December 5th, 5pm
Ticket prices vary, held at the Hylton Performing Arts Center

Family Advent Night at Manassas St Thomas UMC, December 5th, 6-8pm
See http://www.stthomasumc.org/ for details.

Holidays at Liberia, December 5th, 6-8pm
Experience an 1860 holiday.  Parking at 8700 Centerville Road.  Tickets may be purchased by calling 703-368-1873.  $15/person, $7.50/12 and younger.

Candy Factory Presents "A Christmas Carol", December 5th, 7-9pm
Center for the Arts is located at 9419 Battle Street Manassas.  Tickets are $18 for general admission, $15 for students or seniors 55+.

Carriage Rides in Old Town Manassas, December 6th, 1pm-4pm
Leaves from 9341 West Street.  $10/carriage (not per person).

Candy Factory Presents "A Christmas Carol", December 6th, 2-4pm
Center for the Arts is located at 9419 Battle Street Manassas.  Tickets are $18 for general admission, $15 for students or seniors 55+.

Candy Factory Presents "A Christmas Carol", December 11th, 7-9pm
Center for the Arts is located at 9419 Battle Street Manassas.  Tickets are $18 for general admission, $15 for students or seniors 55+.

"It's a Wonderful Life", December 11th, 7:30-9pm
Enjoy the beloved classic at the Ferlazzo Building in Woodbridge.  $12/adults, $8 ages 12 and under, ages 3 and under are free.

Candy Factory Presents "A Christmas Carol", December 12th, 2-4pm
Center for the Arts is located at 9419 Battle Street Manassas.  Tickets are $18 for general admission, $15 for students or seniors 55+.

"It's a Wonderful Life", December 12th, 2pm-4:30pm
Enjoy the beloved classic at the Ferlazzo Building in Woodbridge.  $12/adults, $8 ages 12 and under, ages 3 and under are free.

Drive Thru Nativity at Manassas St Thomas UMC, December 12th, 5:30-8:30pm
See http://www.stthomasumc.org/ for details.

Candy Factory Presents "A Christmas Carol", December 12th, 7-9pm
Center for the Arts is located at 9419 Battle Street Manassas.  Tickets are $18 for general admission, $15 for students or seniors 55+.

Carriage Rides in Old Town Manassas, December 13th, 1pm-4pm
Leaves from 9341 West Street.  $10/carriage (not per person).

Candy Factory Presents "A Christmas Carol", December 13th, 2-4pm
Center for the Arts is located at 9419 Battle Street Manassas.  Tickets are $18 for general admission, $15 for students or seniors 55+.

Winter Wonderland Train Show, December 16th, 5-8pm
FREE train show provided by the National Capital Trackers.  Admission is free, so please bring a canned item, a toy, or cash to benefit SERVE instead.

Winter Wonderland Train Show, December 17th, 5-8pm
FREE train show provided by the National Capital Trackers.  Admission is free, so please bring a canned item, a toy, or cash to benefit SERVE instead.

Winter Wonderland Train Show, December 18th, 5-8pm
FREE train show provided by the National Capital Trackers.  Admission is free, so please bring a canned item, a toy, or cash to benefit SERVE instead.

"It's a Wonderful Life", December 18th, 7:30-9pm
Enjoy the beloved classic at the Ferlazzo Building in Woodbridge.  $12/adults, $8 ages 12 and under, ages 3 and under are free.

Winter Wonderland Train Show, December 19th, 10am-5pm
FREE train show provided by the National Capital Trackers.  Admission is free, so please bring a canned item, a toy, or cash to benefit SERVE instead.

"It's a Wonderful Life", December 19th, 2pm-4:30pm
Enjoy the beloved classic at the Ferlazzo Building in Woodbridge.  $12/adults, $8 ages 12 and under, ages 3 and under are free.

Canticles in Candlelight Cantata at Manassas St Thomas UMC, December 19th, 7pm-8pm
See http://www.stthomasumc.org/ for details.

Winter Wonderland Train Show, December 20th, 10am-5pm
FREE train show provided by the National Capital Trackers.  Admission is free, so please bring a canned item, a toy, or cash to benefit SERVE instead.

Christmas Dinner at Manassas St Thomas UMC, December 25th, 11am-2pm
Please consider joining us on December 25th for this FREE meal served on Christmas Day.  Bring your families, friends and neighbors.  Enjoy a special time with scrumptious food, creating new memories, meeting new people and sharing in the celebration of Jesus’ birthday.


CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICES (Thursday Dec 24th Unless Noted)
Manassas St Thomas UMC
7pm, 9pm, 11pm, all are welcome. See http://www.stthomasumc.org/ for details.

Northern Virginia Youth Ballet's 2014 Nutcracker

NUTCRACKERS
November 28th NoVa Youth Ballet, Hylton Performing Arts Center, Tickets are $25 or $25
December 17-20 Manassas Ballet Theater, Hylton Performing Arts Center, Tickets are $25-$65

Holiday Camps at Engineering for Kids 2014

Permalink to Holiday%20Camps%20at%20Engineering%20for%20Kids%202014
Published: 12/12/2014
  
Engineering For Kids® 
 Holiday Mini-Camps  


 
Spots still open in Woodbridge & Stafford! 

Discovery Center - Woodbridge

Set Sail!
December 22nd
8:30am - 3:30pm; Ages 7 - 14; $60/child.   
During this one day camp, student will learn the principles of boat design, buoyancy, friction, and motors by working on various marine projects from Cartesian diver in a bottle to a motorized power boat. At the conclusion of the camp students will get to take home all of their creations.
 
Junior: Wind-Up Robot!
December 22nd
10:00am - Noon; Ages 4 - 6; $20/child
Step inside our workshop and build and design your own robot. Learn what goes on in side a wind-up toy and how it works - without batteries! Become a mechanical engineer and design your very own wind-up robot.

Junior: Software Engineering
Scratch - Go to the Moon!
December 22nd
1:00pm - 3:00pm; Ages 4 - 6; $20/child.
Learn the basics of computer programming while helping an astronaut complete his journey to the moon. Students will create their own custom character and write a script it to fly to the moon. All students will leave with a functioning program that they can run at home.
 
Rambling Roller Coasters!
 

December 23rd
8:30am - 3:30pm; ages 7-14; $60/child.
During this one day workshop students will work in teams to build the tallest, fastest and craziest roller coaster that Engineering For Kids has ever seen and explore the concepts of gravity, friction, centripetal force, and various kinds of energy. Join Engineering For Kids for this exciting and educational workshop.
 
Create a Video Game!
Platform Games
December 29th
8:30am - 3:30pm; ages 7-14; $60/child.
   
During this one day camp, students get a chance to explore the work of video game design, students will use Multimedia Fusion 2® to create their own video game. A platform game is a side-scrolling, Mario-type game where students program characters and a two-dimensional obstacle course. They attempt to avoid or overcome enemies and reach an end goal on multiple levels. At the end of the camp, students take home a copy of the game they create.

Chemical Engineering:
Crazy Concoctions!
December 30th
8:30am - 3:30pm; ages 7-14; $60/child.
   
During this one day camp, students use the Engineering Design Process to design, create, test, and refine various mixtures and solutions with different chemical properties. They develop solutions to clean up an oil spill, synthesize their own rocket fuel, and investigate the secrets behind color pigmentation.
 
Mechanical Mayhem!
January 2nd
8:30am - 3:30pm; ages 7-14; $60/child.
   
During this one day camp students will become Mechanical Engineers by learning about the different forces and energy such as gravity, inertia, kinetic energy, and potential energy through fun, hands on activities such as creating sail boats, balloon powered cars, and roller coasters.
 
 
Engineering For Kids - Stafford
 
Create a Video Game!
Platform Games
December 22nd
8:30am - 3:30pm; ages 7-14; $60/child.
During this one day camp, students get a chance to explore the work of video game design, students will use Multimedia Fusion 2® to create their own video game. A platform game is a side-scrolling, Mario-type game where students program characters and a two-dimensional obstacle course. They attempt to avoid or overcome enemies and reach an end goal on multiple levels. At the end of the camp, students take home a copy of the game they create.

 
Minecraft Madness!
December 23rd
8:30am - 3:30pm; ages 7-14; $60/child.
In this brand new camp, students will tackle a wide range of engineering challenges, all within the virtual world of Minecraft.  Students move through time into an apocalyptic future, one where the earth has been ravaged by a series of natural disasters.  At each point in the camp, students will need to rely on the engineering design process to solve a series of increasingly difficult challenges such as surviving on limited resources, building a city on a series of islands, escaping from a bunker on Mt. Everest, and even building a rocket to land on the moon!  The fate of the human race relies on the classes imagination and engineering know-how.  Through application of engineering principles, students will solve numerous challenges as they make their virtual world of Minecraft a safe place for humanity once again.
 
 
Create a Video Game!
Racing Games
December 29th
8:30am - 3:30pm; ages 7-14; $60/child.
During this one day camp, students get a chance to explore the work of video game design, students will use Multimedia Fusion 2® to create their own video game. Students design a racetrack, race cars and an environment in which their cars compete. At the end of the camp, students take home a copy of the game they create.

 
Minecraft Madness!
January 2nd
8:30am - 3:30pm; ages 7-14; $60/child.
 
In this brand new camp, students will tackle a wide range of engineering challenges, all within the virtual world of Minecraft.  Students move through time into an apocalyptic future, one where the earth has been ravaged by a series of natural disasters.  At each point in the camp, students will need to rely on the engineering design process to solve a series of increasingly difficult challenges such as surviving on limited resources, building a city on a series of islands, escaping from a bunker on Mt. Everest, and even building a rocket to land on the moon!  The fate of the human race relies on the classes imagination and engineering know-how.  Through application of engineering principles, students will solve numerous challenges as they make their virtual world of Minecraft a safe place for humanity once again.
 
Click Here for Mini-Camp Registration
*Registration is required for all of these programs*
 

 
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Kid Ornament Ideas

Permalink to Kid%20Ornament%20Ideas
Published: 12/09/2014
Remember that time that my husband didn't set up the Christmas tree correctly and it fell over and all my ornaments broke?

(Yes that really happened)

(Okay, fine, and yes, I'm just sharing that story because so many of you agreed that they're just towels....but it happened!)

Ever since that incident, homemade Christmas ornaments are some of my favorite things to get! Luckily PwcGrammy is amazing and frequently when the kiddos hang out with her they come home with presents for me! These ideas are all very simple and would be great for your house, or as presents to send to family and friends!

 Rudolph and Frosty here are super simple.  They're just made from 1.5 inch terra cotta pots that you can buy at Michael's! You'll need ribbon, white paint, brown paint, sharpie markers (black, orange, and pink), ribbon, brown pipe cleaners, goggly eyes, and pompoms.  You can use regular glue and let it set up, or if you have older kids, you can use the hot glue gun while they supervise- but you might still burn yourself....or maybe that's just me.

Paint your pot brown for Rudolph or white for Frosty.  Then, just let your child decorate! We added antlers and a red nose for our reindeer and ear muffs for frosty.  Use ribbon to make a loop to hang your ornament. If you're using regular glue or craft glue, be sure to allow enough time to fully dry before hanging.  Hot glue will basically dry instantly.
 Okay, so this guy is not so cute when you're looking at him like this....but....
HE HAS A LIGHT UP NOSE!! These are just tea lights wrapped with a ribbon scarf and decorated with sharpies.  I found the tiny tiny top hats on Amazon.  They're actually totally cute :) You could draw circles for coal or even regular facial features.  Be sure that when you buy your tea lights they already have the batteries in them.  You can find REALLY cheap packages of them, but then you have to buy and install all the tiny batteries, so just save yourself the hassle and buy them with batteries inside :)

Enjoy!

Holiday Ice Show at PW Ice Center!

Permalink to Holiday%20Ice%20Show%20at%20PW%20Ice%20Center%21
Published: 12/07/2014
Looking for a fun Holiday activity? Got a kid who's interested in ice skating? Check out this fun event from PW Ice Center! Be sure to bring a canned food item for ACTS as admission! 


Zoolights Review

Permalink to Zoolights%20Review
Published: 12/05/2014
Every year the National Zoo presents Zoolights which is "free" and presented from November 28th-January 1st, excluding December 24th and 25th and January 31st. It runs every night from 5-9pm.

Here's the general gist of what I'm about to say.  The lights are pretty- but plan to have really disappointed kids if yours are animal lovers, and be prepared to wait in some serious lines.
We went on Saturday, December 1st (the Saturday after Thanksgiving).  The smartest thing we did was arriving at 4:30pm.  The parking lots, which are $20/car, were already starting to fill up and the "sledding" was already going.  We purchased the ticket "sheets" so our kids could participate in the zoo tubing, train, and carousel.  The kids went twice down the hill when we first purchased our tickets, and when we came back later, the line was so long they decided they'd rather just go to dinner and we ended up selling our extra tickets to someone else.
We spent two hours getting up to the elephant trail from the entrance nearest the parking lot we were directed to, and after that the kids had enough.  We never made it to the train or to the visitors center, so those could potentially be really cool.
As you're walking, there are displays of lights all over the zoo.  This one "dances" to music, which is cute.  The small mammal house, great ape house, reptile discovery center, think tank, and kids farm are open, which are a nice respite from the cold, but don't expect to see tons of animals.  We explained before we got there that the animals would not be the main focus, but we still had some really disappointed kids.  The turtles are very active at night- so that's cool, but the think tank was empty, the snakes were sleeping, and if you've got an animal lover, this is NOT the time to go to the zoo.  We had 5 kids with us, and 4 of them just wanted to see the animals because we were at the zoo.  They liked the lights, but they like elephants more. 
By the time we got back to the entrance we came in, the crowds had gotten pretty substantial, as I mentioned.  You're going to have better luck if you want to ride things if you get there on the early side.  It wasn't completely ridiculous but I'd guess about a forty minute line for the tubing, and really it wasn't cool enough for that.  I'm glad we went and saw the lights, but I don't see this becoming a family tradition for us.  I know that some of you absolutely adore Zoolights, though, so I look forward to seeing your tips and tricks on Facebook. 

Zoolights at the National Zoo
November 28th-January 1
Pay $20 to park or pay to take Metro, Additional fees for rides/train/tubing
Don't go if your child will get upset at lack of animals, do go if you like walking around to look at lights! Don't forget your hat and gloves. 
Best tip: Arrive early and hit the rides first to avoid longer lines around 7-8pm. 

Messiah Sing A Long at the Kennedy Center

Permalink to Messiah%20Sing%20A%20Long%20at%20the%20Kennedy%20Center
Published: 12/01/2014
(This is a recap of the 2013 Messiah Sing Along.  For information on this year's event, please refer to the Kennedy Center website)

Each year, the Kennedy Center in DC hosts a free Messiah sing a long on December 23rd.  I'd never been before, and my friend had mentioned going early on in the month.  Little did I realize the draw that Handel has on people!  According to employees at the Kennedy Center, folks start lining up when the center opens at 10am to get their free tickets for an 8pm show! People play board games, picnic, and hang out all day.  We were a little later, arriving at 4pm.  We parked in the Kennedy Center parking garage, which was around $20, and got in line, which at this point, wrapped 4 times around the Hall of Nations and was wrapped around the outside of the building.
 People brought camping chairs, if they were smart, or just hung out and "chilled" (Ha! It's funny because it was cold outside!) They started handing out tickets around 6pm, and it took us about 40 minutes to get inside and get our tickets.  The staff is really great about keeping the line moving quickly.  Each person in line is able to get 2 tickets, so if you come in a very large group you might not all be in the same row.  After we got our tickets, we headed upstairs to a cafeteria and had dinner.  The options were varied, soups, sandwiches, a salad bar, or hot entrees.  I spent about $15 on my dinner, not horrible for DC :)
Finally, it was time for the 8pm start.  There's a choir, orchestra, four soloists, and the audience, which is part of the choir.  You can bring your own score, or they were selling them inside the Hall of Nations while people got their tickets.  Luckily for me, my friend not only came with serious pipes, but her own copy!  The entire audience, despite some of them having been at the Kennedy Center for over 10 hours at this point, are all in very high spirits and the atmosphere is truly festive.  When it's your "turn" to sing, the director will turn to face the audience and direct you.  It was a lot of fun.  We left after the Hallelujah Chorus, but the whole experience is probably about 2 hours long from start to finish, with some time for introductions, 50 minutes for the first section, a 15 minute intermission, and 50 minutes for the second section.  This was a lot of fun, and I'd definitely do it again!  We saw lots of kids in the audience, but I think if it were me and there were enough adults to make it work, I'd have the adults wait in line and one adult bring the kids a little closer to show time (remember, each person in line can get 2 tickets, so you only need 1/2 of your group in line for tickets at any point in time).

Christmas/Holiday Fun Guide 2014

Permalink to Christmas%2FHoliday%20Fun%20Guide%202014
Published: 11/18/2014
I know, I know, I like to let Thanksgiving get it's time in the sun, but then you guys would miss many of these tree lightings, etc. so I'm just gonna post it now.

ALL OF THESE EVENTS ARE ALSO ON OUR CALENDAR.  IF YOU WANT DETAILS OR DIRECTIONS, JUST GO TO THE DAY AND CLICK THE EVENT. 

If you'd like to add your event, please email me.  It's free. It's easy.  Whoohoo.

Ice Skating/Ice Events
Outdoor Ice Skating at Harris Pavilion is $8 for adults and $7 for kids under 10.  Skates are available for $4.  Best bet? Go on a Wednesday in January and skate for free from 6-8pm.  Note that on warm days I find this ice to be really soft (this is only a problem if you're a serious skater).

Indoor Ice Skating at Prince William Ice Center is $8 for everyone and $2 for skate rental.  Days and times vary.

Prince William Ice also offers a popular Snow and Story, which you can visit on open days or schedule for your playgroup.



And one day camps

Haymarket Iceplex offers ice skating for $7 adults, $6 for kids 12 and under, and $3 for skate rental.  Times vary.

Tree Lightings
December 5th in Manassas, begins at 5:30pm at the train depot, lighting at 6:30 at the Museum.  Free.
November 28th at Stonebridge 6-8:30pm, includes performances, carriage rides, and more!

Family Fun Days/Larger Events
Virginia Gateway's Festive Family Fun will be December 6th from 4:30-7:30pm and will host Santa, Mrs. Claus, face painters, balloon twisters, and more!

Parades
December 6th in Manassas begins at 10 am.

December 6th at Manassas Mall from 1-4pm (you can spend all day in Manassas!)



Crafting
December 6th at the Candy Factory in Manassas, you can make your own gingerbread house.  Preregistration is required. $27/adult and child couple, $10 each additional child, $10 supply fee.

Christmas History
Join Liberia Plantation for Christmas Past on December 6th from 4-7pm.  $15/adults $7.50/kids U12

It's 1943 and time for holidays on the home front at Rippon Lodge! Join them December 7 from 5-8pm for $5pp.

Learn about past Christmas Traditions and meet Santa at Rippon Lodge on December 7th from 12-3pm.

Take a candlelight tour and see what Christmas was like for those who were enslaved. Ben Lomond Historic Site, December 13th 5-7pm.

December 20th from 10am-4pm, join Leesylvania State Park for a Civil War Christmas.  $2pp or $6/family

Carriage Rides
Sundays in December until Christmas, hop a free carriage ride in Downtown Manassas.  1pm-4pm from the train depot.

Train Shows
December 10-14th join the Center for the Arts for a Train Show.  Admission is a canned food item for SERVE.

Santa
Tickets for the Santa Train will go on sale (and sell out completely in about an hour) on November 24th.  Visit their website for details.

December 6th at Williams Ordinary in Dumfries from 10am-4pm, Pictures with Santa: $5.00 for 4x6 or $10.00 for 8x10, also can make pomanders.

Learn about past Christmas Traditions and meet Santa at Rippon Lodge on December 7th from 12-3pm.

Children with special needs and their families can visit Santa at Manassas Mall on Sunday December 7th from 8-10am.













Performances (@Hylton Center unless otherwise noted)
Northern Virginia Youth Ballet will present their Nutcracker, featuring Russian ballet stars direct from Moscow, on November 29th at 2pm or 8pm.

Gainesville Ballet will present their Nutcracker on November 28th at 2pm or 8pm.

A Chanticleer Christmas will be November 30th at 4pm.

Catch a Big Band Christmas Extravaganza December 4th at 7:30.

Christmas in New York December 5th at 7:30.

Clara's Christmas will be presented December 7th at 3:30pm or 7:30pm

American Festival Pops December 12th at 8pm.


Manassas Chorale December 13th at 5pm.

December 14th at 8pm, Clint Black Christmas.

December 19th-23rd, Manassas Ballet will present their Nutcracker.

Family Friendly Religious Services

HGTV UNWRAPS ‘SANTA HQ’

Permalink to HGTV%20UNWRAPS%20%E2%80%98SANTA%20HQ%E2%80%99
Published: 11/13/2014


Los Angeles, CA - [For Immediate Release – November 3, 2014] HGTV celebrates the holidays with “Santa HQ,” an immersive experience that transforms the traditional visit with Santa Claus into a jingle-filled, interactive journey for all ages at 10 Macerich malls across the country. For more than six weeks, from Tuesday, Nov. 4, through Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, HGTV and Macerich will present a completely reimagined visit with Santa for the 21st century by pairing cutting-edge technology with an authentic holiday experience. Visitors can take an ELFIE selfie and star in their own holiday video, explore Santa’s Observatory using ELF-RAY Vision, test out the ‘Naughty O’ Nice Meter,’ and enjoy a memorable photo with Santa.

Santa HQ will be featured at Macerich properties including Danbury Fair Mall in Danbury, Conn., opening on Nov. 4; Deptford Mall in Deptford Township, N.J., opening on Nov. 5; Vintage Faire in Modesto, Calif., opening on Nov. 5; Los Cerritos Center in Cerritos, Calif., opening Nov. 7; FlatIron Crossing in Broomfield, Colo., opening Nov. 7; Washington Square in Portland, Ore., opening Nov. 7; Lakewood Center in Lakewood, Calif., opening Nov. 7; Tysons Corner Center near Washington, D.C., opening Nov. 14.; Chandler Fashion Center in Chandler, Ariz., opening on Nov. 7; and Scottsdale Fashion Square in Scottsdale, Ariz., opening Nov. 14.

“Santa HQ provides a unique twist on holiday festivities, while offering fans a chance to touch and feel the HGTV brand in a whimsical way,” said Shannon Driver, senior vice president, media strategies and partnerships. “We’ve enhanced the holiday experience at these top malls by creating a state-of-the-art venue for visitors to explore.”

Upon entering the magical structure, families can enjoy the wonder of Santa’s Workshop and Observatory by using innovative technology to customize their individual experience. Visitors can download the ELF-RAY Vision app or use a provided tablet to immerse themselves in the enchanting world of Santa HQ to see the night sky, the secret inner-workings of clocks and gears and to meet a playful pair of elves. By using their handheld device as a “portal,” visitors can see and interact with stunning digital scenes surrounding them inside Santa’s Observatory. Visitors can continue the adventure with a custom photo opportunity, followed by the ultimate moment with Santa inside his modernized sleigh. Visitors can reserve their experience time in advance via the Santa HQ website.

“Santa HQ reinvents the Santa experience at the mall for a new generation of digitally savvy, always-connected kids and their families,” said Ken Volk, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Macerich. “With HGTV, we are bringing a dramatically new and engaging holiday attraction to shoppers.  We know that people come to the mall for one-of-a-kind, in-person experiences they can share in real time and through social media – and the exciting new Santa HQ delivers exactly what families want today.”
Santa HQ will also feature “Sleigh Ride” - a featured track on the recently-released Pentatonix holiday album, That’s Christmas To Me - as part of the experience’s light show, which will play daily across Macerich’s 10 properties.  Additionally, Pentatonix will be performing at Tysons Corner Center on Friday, December 5.  That’s Christmas To Me is available in stores and online, and will be available to those visiting Santa across the Macerich portfolio throughout the holiday season.

Santa HQ was conceived in collaboration with HGTV, Macerich and Pop2Life, a New York-based experiential marketing agency.

Featured Organization Friday: Wreaths Across America

Permalink to Featured%20Organization%20Friday%3A%20Wreaths%20Across%20America
Published: 12/20/2013

We were so fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday with my daughter's American Heritage Girls troop.  I have to be honest and admit that I've been going to Arlington my entire life because my grandparents are buried there, but I never knew that the wreaths and flags that appear during Christmas and 4th of July/Veterans Day are put up by volunteers.

Wreaths Across America raises the funds to place wreaths on the graves of American veterans at veterans' cemeteries across the country, at sea, and 24 national cemeteries on foreign soil.  Quantico is also a participating site.  Wreaths are $15, and our AHG troop actually raised money as a fundraiser, which helped our organization and helped fund the wreaths we would be going to lay.  Arlington actually has to rotate the sections that receive wreaths each year because there are not enough to go around.  This year, there was a bit of a crisis at Arlington because while wreath sponsorships were up overall, they were down at Arlington until a huge last-minute donation from Google.  (Holla at Google!)

Each year, Wreaths Across America selects a date (a Saturday) and all of the cemeteries are provided with wreaths on that day.  Truckers from across the country ship the wreaths to the sites, and volunteers come out to help lay the wreaths.  You don't have to sign up to volunteer, you can just show up the day of.  Even the tiniest kiddos can help out- as long as they're big enough to put a wreath down, or hang out in a backpack/wrap/stroller while you do.  Note that strollers looked to be a little difficult to negotiate on the wet ground today, so you might want to plan for an option that's mud-friendly depending on the weather.

We drove to Pentagon City Mall and parked, and then we took the metro to Arlington.  I actually have a parking pass that lets me into the cemetery grounds, but we were told the line to get into Arlington can be massive with people trying to park in the limited visitors center spots, so we opted to do a short metro ride instead.

So did a lot of people.  Metro was, unfortunately, doing system maintenance on the blue line, so trains were only running every 20 minutes.  They also only have a few entry/exit points at Arlington, so the bottleneck and wait to get OUT of the station was pretty intense.  It took us about 20 minutes, and the trains were standing room only coming in.  I mention this, again, as a caution to those of you with strollers :) It was actually neat that there were so many people coming to volunteer.
This was just to get off the platform, not even to exit the station.
Our group met up at 8:30 so they could get good spots for the opening ceremony at 9:30 (Note that times vary by location).  I know I'm going to frustrate someone by saying this, but I didn't find the opening ceremony all that worthwhile.  It was standing room only, so my daughter couldn't see and just wanted to get to the business at hand.  There were a few speeches, a non-sectarian prayer, the national anthem, mention of dignitaries, and then God Bless America, oh, and the Presidential Helicopter did a fly-by.  It just didn't really do anything for me.

By the time we were done with the opening ceremony, people who skipped it (I venture to say the majority) had already been putting wreaths down for a few minutes, so my daughter and I opted out of a group photo and hi-tailed it to the section my grandparents are in so that we could place their wreath.  If you have a loved one in any section, you can lay a wreath for them, and you are able to skip the line at the trucks, walk to the front and ask for a wreath for a loved one. No one will give you any trouble, and in fact, the Army volunteer who gave us our wreath thanked me for my grandfather's service to our country and thanked my daughter for coming out.  (I found that moving- I teared up a little).
That's my grandfather's stone- my grandmother is listed on the back.  Not related to this story- but she was Anna and my daughter is Savannah in her honor.

We were actually able to lay numerous wreaths because we walked back to their section.  The lines can be incredibly long at the sections closest to the entrance, and in the newest sections.  Section 60 had a line a block long.  I know a few of our friends only made it through their lines once or twice, but we actually were able to go through our line six times, getting two or three wreaths each time, depending on whether Savannah felt like carrying her own wreath or not.  They got heavy for her after awhile!

Several of our friends sponsored wreaths, and she was very thoughtful in placing wreaths for them, finding someone who had a name that started with the same first initial as one friend who donated, and finding "USMC" on stones for Marine friends who sponsored others.  Because we're an interfaith family, it was a little hard for her to understand why we weren't giving wreaths to everyone (because Daddy is Jewish and he does Christmas with us), and it's a little hard to explain that we ARE being fair to everyone by honoring their traditions, even if it seems unfair that "everyone isn't getting one".  However, after a talking for awhile, she finally got it, and we did make a point of stopping at graves marked with a Star of David and reading the names and inscriptions as a way of honoring those veterans, too.  One of my favorite things about Arlington is the beauty of all the white stones, all the different ranks, branches, and faiths, all together peacefully at rest.  I hope that she understood a little of that, although I know it's a big concept for a Kindergartner!


There is a closing ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at noon, which I hear was very beautiful, but Savannah was exhausted, so we opted to head back home at around 11.

If you would like to get involved with Wreaths Across America, you can visit their website to sponsor wreaths or find volunteer information for next year's wreath placement.  You can also get involved this year by helping to remove wreaths, clean up at Arlington takes place in January, and you can email the site leader for details or to get involved.  I hear that clean-up is not nearly as well attended, and it would still be a very easy job for even little hands.

Did you attend, or have you attended in the past? Leave your tips or advice in the comments.

Cute Christmas Party Food: Olive Wreath

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Published: 12/17/2013
These are from my cookie swap last December (believe it or not, I'm writing this post in January 2013.  How's that for planning?) I have to warn you now, though, that while you may be used to my typical crappy iphone photos, these were taken on someone's flip phone.  That's right, a flip phone.  Apparently those aren't all in museums yet, because my kids' "Auntie Elaine" has one.  It takes EVEN CRAPPIER pictures! Holla!

Anyway, you'll still get the idea :)

Love it? Don't forget to Pin It!

 Olive and Tomato Wreath
On a round serving platter, arrange 3 large bunches of Rosemary in a circular form for your "wreath".  Next, arrange olives (these are three different types from the grocery store's bulk olives, which was much cheaper than three jars!) in three mounds at the "points" of an imaginary triangle around the platter, and then fill in the empty spaces with cherry tomatoes.  Be sure to provide toothpicks or forks for your guests to spear their olives!

Santa at the Manassas Park Community Center 2013

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Published: 12/16/2013
Join the Manassas Park Community Center for "Santa Paws" with your pets on 12/21/2013 from 11:30-12:30, and get your pets' pictures with Santa!  $5/dog.  No pets? Bring your kiddos to Breakfast with Santa, also on 12/21 from 9-11am, $5/child. 



Breakfast With Santa at PW Ice 2013

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Published: 12/14/2013
Breakfast with Santa at Prince William Ice Center will be Saturday December 21, 2013 from 10:30-12.  Be sure to register ahead of time, either online or in person!

Cute Christmas Crafts: Brownie Trees

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Published: 12/14/2013
How Cute Are These Cookies?

You don't have to answer.  They're pretty freaking cute.  For our cookie swap last year, these are what my mom made.  Again, this isn't even a tutorial, it's me showing off something cute as captured on a horrible mobile phone picture.

So, make your favorite brownie recipe.

Done? Excellent.

Cut into triangles.  You don't need an engineer for that, but if you have one available (we did) they can diagram the way to cut the brownies for minimal waste.  I don't believe you can have waste when cutting brownies, because it just means more for you.

Next, gently work a piece of mini candy-cane into the triangle to serve as the trunk of your "tree".  Decorate each tree with a swirl of frosting and ball candies or red hots.

Done.

These are such an easy and adorable treat, and I love that they're not cookies- it's a nice change!  What are you baking this year? Leave a comment and bonus points for a link to your blog!

Hylton Planetarium

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Published: 12/13/2013
While the Hylton Planetarium isn't my typical Friday non-profit/charity, they do only operate based on community involvement and attendance.  New shows run between $10,000 and $20,000 a pop, and that money comes from groups coming in.  We had an awesome time, so I'm sharing today :) If you have a child who attends PWCS, they'll benefit from the awesome planetarium at some point, too! 


We had the chance to take a field trip to the Irene V.Hylton Planetarium at Hylton High School this past week, and it was so much fun!

As part of our memory work curriculum, we are learning astronomy facts this year.  My kids have memorized the parts of the sun, the planets, types of stars, phases of the moon, types of other objects in our solar system, and the names of US space missions.  Our group decided to do the Planetarium as our culminating trip, although I know another group did it as their introduction. 

The planetarium offers several different programs that homeschool groups, moms groups, retirement communities, girl scout/boy scout troops, or just a bunch of people who are super into astronomy can choose from.  We selected a program for grades 3-7 called “Earth, Moon, Sun”, which could have probably included a little more technical information for our group of kids, but they absolutely loved everything about it, especially the coyote “scientist” who kept blundering things up.  They spent a lot of time laughing and definitely liked the presentation of the material in such a 360 format.  I enjoyed the fact that they wove in some mythology and talked about how much our understanding has changed over the years.  I thought it was very well done.

Other programs are available for various age groups.  When you email the director, Anthony Kilgore, to set up your program, he can help you select for your group. 

As for details, you’ll need a minimum of 30 people, and the facility can accommodate a maximum of 60.  Shows are $10 per person, and for groups they ask that you give one cash payment or write one check.

The show was really fun.  The program isn’t anything like I remember- when I was little and you went to the planetarium, there was a giant “ball” that projected stars onto the ceiling and then the attendant would point things out with a red laser pointer.  Now, the presentations are more like movies projected on a dome, but they’re still very cool and the kids like the presentation of the material in such a fun format.

At the end of our program, the director Mr. Kilgore, who is fun and engaging with students, took our extra time to show us one song from his current holiday laser program which was amazing.  First, he explained to us that there are only three lasers in the planetarium, a red, a green, and a blue.  However, using a complex series of mirrors, he’s able to turn those three lasers into an incredible show of light coordinated to music.  The kids were in absolute awe, and I thought they  might absolutely lose their minds when at the end of the song it started “snowing” in the planetarium. 

If you’d like to catch a laser show, there are public performances each week during December:
Friday, December 6th/13th/20th 2013
6:00pm - Laser Holidays
7:30pm - Star of Bethlehem
9:00pm - Laser Holidays

You can purchase tickets at the planetarium Monday-Friday 7:30am-4pm, or in person if there are seats left the night of the show.  Bring $10 per person, exact change, and be sure to arrive 10 minutes prior to showtime and use the restroom before you go in! Once the doors lock, you can’t get in, although you can leave- but that means if you walk out to use the restroom, you’re not going to see the rest of the show, so prepare accordingly!

We really enjoyed our field trip, and it would be an awesome way to earn an astronomy badge, or to enjoy a fun trip for any group (did I mention that we took a group of kids to the planetarium for my oldest son’s 7thbirthday? We did.  And we schlepped all the way to the David Brown Planetarium in Arlington(!) and it wasn’t nearly as nice as Hylton’s, which is right in our backyard.  I don’t remember what made us have to go to Brown, I think Hylton was already booked the night we needed to do his birthday party, but just for comparison’s sake, Hylton has a nicer interior and equipment, as far as I can tell!


For more information about the Hylton Planetarium, or to book your group or event, please contact Director Anthony Kilgore, via email or at 703-580-4000. 



Someone pointed out that I forgot my funny disclaimer!! My bad!!  I was not compensated or remunerated in any way for this post.  I didn't snag a discount for being awesome, either, although that's never happened so I'm not sure why it would start now.  All opinions are my own based on our experience. Your experiences may vary, and PwcMoms is not responsible for your kids trying to turn your basement into a laser show, or the crick in your neck from looking up at the show for an hour.  Try stretching first.

Cute Christmas Foods: Santa Cheese Tray

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Published: 12/10/2013
These are from my cookie swap last December (believe it or not, I'm writing this post in January 2013.  How's that for planning?) I have to warn you now, though, that while you may be used to my typical crappy iphone photos, these were taken on someone's flip phone.  That's right, a flip phone.  Apparently those aren't all in museums yet, because my kids' "Auntie Elaine" has one.  It takes EVEN CRAPPIER pictures! Holla!

Anyway, you'll still get the idea :)

Love it? Don't forget to Pin It!


Santa Cheese Tray
For the Santa Bellies- use Baby Bel Light cheese wheels.  Leave the cheese unpeeled.  Cut a 1/4 inch strip of black construction paper and then cut to fit around each wedge.  Attach with tape.  On the front of each piece of cheese, use a square of silver tape or silver or gold paper for the "belt buckle" For the Rudolphs, use unwrapped wedges of Laughing Cow Garlic and Herb cheese.  Gently wedge two mini pretzels on either site of the wide part of the triangle (this works best if the cheese has been on the counter for a few minutes).  Using a round piping tip, cut small circles out of red and green bell peppers, using the green for eyes and the red for noses.  
A Play Gym Designed for Parents and Children Aged 10 Months to 4 1/2 Years... PWC Library - Summer Reading Program