Week in Preview: December 30, 2013, to January 5, 2014

Happy New Year, readers!! Thanks for sticking with me, even as things got a little spotty while I was in treatment.  I appreciate you guys :) Thank you also to the businesses that have worked with me this year, whether as sponsors or simply by adding their events to our calendar!! I appreciate you guys, too.  I'd like to give a special shoutout to Bessie Bender from Prince William Libraries who has been adding their events to my calendar for some time.  She's moving on from that task (don't worry, there's a new person!) but I so appreciate all the time and energy she's put into ensuring that you guys are up-to-date on all the fantastic (and free!) programs that the library offers!

Since most of you are probably still getting caught up from Christmas/visitors/school break, I'm just going to feature NYE and pre-registrations this week.  Have a fantastic week and I wish you health, happiness, and hope in 2015. 

Pre-Register/Pick Up Tickets For:
The Life will be offering an College Essay Writing Workshop for students planning to apply for college scholarships. Seating is limited and will be held Saturday, January 4, 2014 at New Life Anointed Ministries "The Life" [Marumsco Plaza 14045 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Woodbridge, VA 22191 – LOCATION CHANGE] from 11am to 1:00pm. This FREE workshop is designed to assist students to write effective essays to accompany scholarship applications. Registration is not required. POC: Christina Finley youth@thelifedc.org or 310-218-9002

Tuesday, December 31st-
New Years Eve Happenings
The Yards in DC is hosting a daytime family celebration to kick off the New Year. “Noon Year’s Eve” will feature music and activities including a countdown and balloon drop at noon, train rides, face painting, magic, and more.

Skate N Fun Zone in Manassas will have 2 balloon drops- one at 3pm and one at Midnight during their "Rock Around The Clock" skates.  Admission includes party favors, a one-hour pizza/soda buffet at 2pm and 10pm, and skating.  Two times, 12pm-6pm or 8pm-1am

The Cavalier in Stafford will host an all night 7pm-7am skate with a prize-filled balloon drop at midnight.

First Night Warrenton will include fun family celebrations at an alcohol-free event.  Over 50 performers are lined up including juggling, music, hayrides and more.  There is an entry-fee for this event, but a "large family rate" is available if that applies to you.

First Night Vienna will also be alcohol free and includes kid-favorites like Groovy Nate, the Great Zucchini, and a 9pm celebration for those with an earlier bedtime, as well as one at midnight.

Watch Night Falls Church includes a dragon slide, moonbounces, a scavenger hunt, entertainment, free popcorn and more. This free event will even have shuttles running every 30 minutes from the East Falls Church Metro Station.

Kids N Motion will have a Kids New Year's Party with optional sleepover.  You must reserve in advance. 7pm-9am, Balloon drop at 10pm.


Come Play at Animated Child!

Hello, everyone!

You guys have gotten so good at giveaways/contests on the website that you all are terrible at the newly-legal ones on Facebook.

Horrible ;)

So, I'd like to invite you do join my daughter Savannah and me on New Year's Day at The Animated Child in Montclair for a 9am Open Exploration for FREE! We'll pick 10 random winners to join us.

Please note that each winner will get ONE free spot for a child in grades K-3. Luckily, though, there are lots of people home on December 31st, so if you have older/more kids, they can enjoy a playdate elsewhere! We'll have coffee, hot cider, and a fun giveaway for the mommas, and kids can play and enjoy the space. (Dads, grandmas, whomever enters)

To enter, head over to the Animated Child Facebook page and be sure that you "like" it. Leave them a comment saying that you want to come and play on New Year's Eve Day with PWC Moms. (I know their page doesn't allow you to just "post" but if you use this:

You can just comment on what they already wrote.

I'll pick winners on December 28th. AND NO WORRIES!! If you were able to enter on Facebook, you'll be included in my random drawing, too (although if you want to enter again here, you absolutely can!!) If you aren't picked, Animated Child has daily open explorations, as well as the ability for moms groups, playgroups, MOPS, and preschools to schedule their own private open exploration sessions on Mondays!

Can't wait to see you there!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
As always, by entering you agree to be bound by our official rules.  If you win a spot and cancel at the last minute, you will not be eligible for our next reader meetup contest.  I know I'm a big meanie head, and I know stuff happens, but it is amazing to me now that I'm doing events that 20 people's grandfathers can all have a heart attack at the exact moment they're supposed to be at an event.  There are lots of people who would like to come, and I only have so many spaces, so if you take a spot, please plan to attend, or cancel no less than 24 hours in advance.  


Party Ideas: Leftover Potluck

Entertaining is one of my favorite things.  I love to fill our house up with family and friends and have a really great time.  Since we celebrate several holidays and birthdays between Thanksgiving and New Years, it's a good thing that I like entertaining, too!

However, entertaining for the holidays doesn't have to be complicated!  Last year, when I looked into my fridge at our Christmas leftovers (Day 3) and realized that I didn't have room in the fridge for anything new, but I didn't want to eat prime rib anymore, I decided that I was going to have everybody over!  A few Facebook messages later, my equally nutty friends had thrown some plastic wrap over their leftovers (and in the case of one party fan-favorite, grabbed a 12 pack of Taco Bell Tacos) and headed to my house for what would become the first-annual "Christmas Kotluck".  Everything I ever host somehow becomes annual.  In fact, when people RSVP "no" to things they frequently say "I'm busy this year- but when you do it next year, I'll be there!" Not sure how that happened, but whatever! I thought that we'd have trouble getting people out for a "leftover buffet", but everyone I asked said yes, and while you can't see it in this picture, we had over 30 people crammed in our townhouse for this between adults and kids! Half-drunk bottle of wine? Bring it over! Half a honeybaked ham that you can't eat anymore? Great! We had beef, so it's a welcome change!  It was actually really fun!
Unrelated Aside: Yes, Kotluck.  Because our last name is Kotlus.  I grew up with the last name "Schnack" and I thought I'd gotten over things like "I'm really hungry, I could go for a Schnack" and "Hey, Kristina! We're going to call your group of friends the "Schnack Pack"! Like Pudding!" and "Running, huh? I guess that makes you a healthy Schnack!" But noooooo, now there's a Kotluck.  Brilliant. 

This was BY FAR the best party I've ever hosted.  Nobody had to prepare anything, so everyone was completely un-stressed.  I threw a few plastic tablecloths on over every surface I could find that would pass as a table, everyone enjoyed someone else's new-to-them food.  We even all agreed to be horrible parents and feed the kids first before sending them off to play so we could enjoy "grown up" dinner! After eating, everyone stayed and played games until late into the evening. 

Even this "guy":

While I may joke about everything becoming "annual", our leftover potluck is definitely a new tradition I plan on keeping this year, too!  Fun, low-cost, and fabulous, it was worth repeating as a great way to have friends over without busting our budget or stretching our sanity to the breaking point!!  How do you keep your holiday entertaining simple and easy? 

(PS- sorry about the odd pictures- I forget to ask people's permission to use them in posts, which limits me to pictures without faces!!)


PwcMoms Christmas Cocktails 2013

I had so much fun getting to meet some of you at Bar Louie in Gainesville on Thursday night!! I had a momma email me in November and ask if I could please host moms nights, and much like everything else I do on this website, my response was "sure, why not?"  Virginia Gateway was so kind to host us for our first moms night out, and I think everyone had a good time! I heard great things about all the flatbreads and the spinach artichoke dip, and I didn't notice anyone's drink sitting idle, so I'd guess those were good, too :)  I will mention that Bar Louie is loud- so if you're noise sensitive, wait for spring and grab a spot on their outdoor patio- I love that they have that option!
 Syma K Photography came out to snap pictures for me so that it would happen (I always forget!!) and I so appreciate her! She was very sweet and right at home in our group.  Be sure to check out her Facebook page for more pictures and details on her family/event photography!!
Loved the couches- even though people stood forever!!
Drama Mama Cakes not only came out to party, she brought cupcakes with her.  I wanted to try a chocolate strawberry one, but somehow, they were all gone at the end of the night....hmmmm ;) I heard nothing but praise for every flavor, though, and I did snag a spice cupcake for my hubby, who said it was fantastic.  Kara (Drama Mama) does custom cakes and cupcakes for any occasion, and is such a sweet lady!
Giveaways!! You know I love giving stuff away :) Virginia Bliss from Premier designs was handing out jewelry (as well as discounts in our swag bags!), The Little Gym gave away a Parent's Survival Night (score!) and one mom got a really cute set of nail wraps and application tools from Jamie Vuong with Jamberry Nails, which are a chemical-free alternative to nail polish, and come in mini-sizes for your little diva, too.

Swag Bags- of course- Virginia Gateway was kind enough to provide these, although a huge shoutout to the girls that helped me throw in last-minute items!! Thanks to Lindsay Adams from Juice Plus (purveyor of tasty gummy vitamins!), Katherine Breyfogle of Perfectly Posh for the spa samples (additionally, Katherine brought me a glitter stick.  In case you haven't noticed, glitter/sparkles is the way to my heart. <3 a="" href="http://potomaclocal.com">Potomac Local
provided free copies of their community guide, The Little Gym of Gainesville provided a free class for every mom in attendance, Prince William Living tucked in a copy of their December issue, and Virginia Gateway also had some special coupons for everyone!!
I hope that you guys had a great time (I heard rumors of a Bunco group forming and I want an invite!) and that I'll see some of you back at our January moms meet up (details coming soon!!).

Thanks to everyone that made this night possible!!


Featured Organization Friday: Wreaths Across America

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

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!


Veggie Tray Soup

Believe it or not based on my cow-like build, I actually try to keep things relatively healthy around here.  That means that when I'm doing lots of entertaining, I make a lot of veggie trays.  I feel like if I fill 3/4 of my plate with raw veggies, I can fill the last 1/4 with a treat and not being doing too badly for myself.  That means, too, though, that I end up with a lot of odds and ends form my veggie trays.  Celery, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower all end up in baggies together and they never make it to the next tray, they just hang out in my fridge.  

Inspired by my children's love of Panera Bread's Broccoli Cheddar Soup, I decided I would make Veggie Tray Soup using a similar  flavor profile.  It's super easy, too!  Shred/Chop/Coarsely Food Processor the mixed veggies of your choice.  I used 2 cups of chopped veggies, total.  

Next, in a soup pot, place 1 tablespoon of butter and 1/2 a cup of chopped onion and sauté until the onions are clear and cooked through.  Next, add the veggies plus and 3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil and cook until the vegetables are your desired level of doneness, between 5-10 minutes depending on your taste and the size you chopped your vegetables. 

Next, add one can of Cheddar Cheese condensed soup (I said it was easy and good, not gourmet!) and 1/2 cup of whatever mixed cheeses you have laying around, and heat until cooked through and warm.  If the soup isn't thin enough, use milk to think it out.  I also added salt and pepper to taste.

If you'd rather not use the condensed soup, you can easily switch it out.  After cooking your onion and butter, and then add and additional 3 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of flour, and cook while stirring for 3 minutes.  Then, add 1.5 cups of milk, 1.5 cups of chicken stock, stirring until slightly thickened, and then your vegetables (cooked in water and drained).  1 cup of shredded cheese will finish you up nicely.  

Enjoy!  (We had ours with warm Pampered Chef Beer Bread, and it was awesome!) 

Week in Preview: December 16-22, 2013

RSVP/Pick Up Tickets/Pre-Register For:
Holiday Break Camp at Freedom Center- Keep your child active during school break! Camp will include sports and recreation arts, crafts, swimming and loads of fun. Campers at age 5 must be currently enrolled in full day kindergarten.  Ages 5-12 Fee: $55 per day (6:30am-6:30pm)

Kids N Motion will host a New Year's Eve Party/Sleepover. Details here.

Monday, December 16th
7:15pm, get ready for bed with story time at Chinn Library- For children ages 2 & up with a caregiver. Storyhours are designed to support the pre-reading skills every child needs to become a good reader. These are free, drop-in programs; no tickets are required. Dec 16 - "Listen to the List"

Tuesday, December 17th
Santa visits have been rescheduled for today at Independent Hill Library (10:30am), Dale City (4:30pm).  These are free and pictures will be taken and emailed.  Santa will also be at Chick Fil A Signal Hill from 5:30-8:30pm for Kids Night.

If you haven't been out to the Bull Run Festival of Lights yet, a weeknight is a good pick, and their website even has a $3 off coupon.  Festival of Lights: November 20, 2013 - January 5, 2014. Hours: Monday - Thursday & Sunday: 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Fridays, Saturdays & holidays: 5:30 to 10 p.m.  

Wednesday, December 18th
There are a couple of great opportunities for your child to work off some energy:
10-12, Stroll and Roll at the Cavalier in Stafford (bring strollers or ride-on toys)
10-12:30, Kiddie Tyme at Dale City Rec
10:45, Open Gym at Novak's Gymnastics
12-1:30, Splash N Tot at Chinn
5-6:30, Open Exploration at Animated Child

Thursday, December 19th
10-11am, it's Kidgits week at Potomac Mills Mall.  They'll be having Holiday Music with Mr. Knick-Knack.  These events are free, but Kidgits members get a fun prize.  Membership is $5.

Friday, December 20th
From 5-8pm, there's free admission to the Children's Museum in National Harbor, sponsored by GEICO.  While you're there, there's also free entertainment at 6pm, a lights show every 30 minutes from 6pm on, at 6:30 you can get a free Peeps holiday treat, at 7pm, there are free fireworks over the Harbor, and the Gaylord has their indoor snow and lights show at 6 and 8pm, as well as ICE! which is going on, as well.  If you've got company coming into town, this is a great way to spend an evening and drop very little cash! (Well, okay, or a ton depending on where you make dinner reservations)

Hylton Planetarium has three shows on Friday night, two laser holidays and "Star of Bethlehem".  Tickets are $10/pp and can be purchased in advance during school hours, or the night of the performance if tickets remain.  Bring exact change in cash.

Saturday, December 21st
From 10-4, celebrate Christmas Civil War style at Leesylvania. See the park's very own jolly Civil War era Santa in his handmade, festive suit. Bring the entire family out for an afternoon of holiday cheer. Enjoy period music, costumed interpreters and light refreshments. Make decorations as folks during the Civil War did. Bring a camera for pictures with Santa. It's $2 per person or $6 per family.

While spots last, you can bounce with Santa at Jump N Jimmy's- Ho Ho Ho! Santa Claus is coming to Jump-N-Jimmy's on Saturday, December 21st. We will have 3 sessions for you to choose from: 4:30pm-5:45pm, 6pm-7:15pm or7:30pm-9pm $10 per child-includes Picture with Santa, Bouncing, Crafts and Cookies! Call Today to Register! Space is Limited! 703-753-5867

Sunday, December 22nd
Free carraige rides will leave from the Train Depot and take you around Old Town Manassas from 1 pm-4 pm. There is no admission charge for this event.

If you'd rather see the lights in our area, check out some of our readers' suggestions for great houses to drive by.


Santa at the Manassas Park Community Center 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

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

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.


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

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 7th birthday? 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.


High School Parents' Summit 2014

Attention Parents: You're invited to a High School Parent Summit at Hylton High School on Saturday, January 11 from 8 a.m. - 11 a.m. The program offers expert presentations on graduation requirements, earning college credit through tests, financial aid and scholarships, college admissions and programs, SAT/ACT information, career and workforce information, trade and technical options, and much more. Attendance is free, but space is limited.  

Register ONLINE to ensure a space. 


Cute Christmas Foods: Santa Cheese Tray

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.  


Christmas Crafts: Embellished Wine Bags

These were such a fun craft for our Cookie Swap and Craft, and they can be done on the cheap! Dollar store frequently have the wine bag sized gift bags, and you don't have to use them for wine! If you prefer not to drink, these will dress up a bottle of sparkling cider just as easily, and they're a much more festive way of toting your drink to the next party you attend!

There's not much here in the way of directions- just snag a few embellishments and get going! We did cut out trees on the Cricut, which most people wrapped ribbon around since they have "indentations" between the tree layers, but other than that, you'll just need ribbon, stickers, cutouts and jewels.  Quick and easy!


Harry Potter Party and Magician Michael Chamberlin

We had a Harry Potter fiesta for my son's 10th birthday.  I love birthdays- I absolutely go nuts for them.  I figure I only really get a few before the kids are too "cool" and "grown up" for them, and I want to enjoy every magical moment of their childhoods.  (As always, apologies for my junky iPhone pictures and the lack of pictures- I don't want to email a million (read: 10) parents and ask for permission to use their kids on my website, so I had to find kidless pictures or pictures without kids looking at the camera, which is not easy!!)
So first, a little about the party.  We spent a small fortune in plastic so that we could turn our house into Hogwarts.  We did a "Platform 9" and "Platform 10" sign outside the door, which we covered in brick-colored plastic sheeting (because only a muggle would put a Platform 9 3/4 sign- everyone knows there's not a sign there!)
Once inside, we had a dressing station.  I made Hogwarts capes (I think they look like graduation gowns, but whatever) out of duct tape and black plastic tablecloths.  I got 3 out of each one, and they were pretty decent looking for the pictures, but the boys tore them to shreds, so I wouldn't waste your time, if you're also about 10 years behind the times and having a Harry Potter Party even though it's 2013 (or later). We also made wands out of dowel rods that we used hot glue guns to make look more "wandy" and then spray painted.  I used Rustoleum Hammered Finish spray paint and it did a really great job- the wands turned out really well, and I was very happy with them.  Super Grammy also made Gryffindor scarves from red and yellow fleece.
Once they were dressed for the occasion, we did a short potions class (I made flaming basilisk skin, foaming truth serum, and ooblek) and then the boys had a Hogwarts feast.  Of pizza.

Because Papa John is totally magical.  How else could it arrive hot and fresh at your door at exactly the right time even though you ordered Monday? (Bless you, internet, for pre-ordering)
 We did serve everything on gold chargers and had lots of candles, and there was, of course, butter beer and pumpkin juice (we re-labeled some V8 Splash).  We did a candy store display for goody bags that included chocolate frogs (I filled mine with green marshmallow fluff) and boxes, "every flavor beans" (just mixed Jelly Bellies), golden snitches (Ferrero Rocher chocolates with wings), acid pops (blow pops with pop rocks on them) and glow wands (just glow sticks).

The high point of the party, though, was definitely the entertainment, though.  I found a new website called Thumbtack, which allows you to request quotes for local services, and it was awesome.  I put in that I needed a magician, entered a few details (size of the party, age of guests, theme, date/time) and within minutes had responses from several magicians in our area.  I was actually quite nervous about having a magician since the kids were all going to be 4th/5th grade and I wasn't sure if they'd like it or think it was completely lame.

When people respond to you, they're able to include a brief note along with their price.  Magician Michael Chamberlin stood out to me because he noted that older children need "more sophisticated" humor and tricks, and he also clearly read my note that it was a Harry Potter party because he offered to open with a trick featuring one of the books from the series (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).

The other part about hiring a magician that made me nervous was that our party was Friday evening, and our magician was going to have to take 95 south to get there.  In what was perhaps the best magic of the night, he arrived on time, though, and came in through our back gate so he could set up without the kids even knowing he'd arrived.  It was a great surprise for our birthday boy.

Then there was the show.  The kids loved every bit of it and were all very eager to come up and assist.  Books lit on fire, card tricks were performed with the assistance of audience members, one boy was even brave enough to use his hand to demonstrate a magical chopper.  Several of the kids asked for Mr. Chamberlin's card as we finished- they truly enjoyed the entire show (I kept a few to give to parents).  What surprised me most, however, was how much the three adults (my husband, my mom, and myself) enjoyed it, too!! We couldn't have fit any more people in our basement- it's a townhouse after all- but I sincerely wished we'd had parents stay so they could have enjoyed the show as much as we did!  He did a great job, and not that anyone's asking, but I would totally recommend him for your next event, whether it's for PTA or a par-tay ;)

They're only little once, right?
All opinions, including the awesomeness of Papa Johns by candlelight and the magic show, are my own.  I was not compensated or provided with a discount, or even asked to write anything, although if Papa John wants to start throwing some of that money he's giving out to Football players my way, he can totally email me anytime.


Christmas/Holiday Gift Guide 2013 and Giveaways....Lots of Giveaways

Here's the deal.  Shopping Local isn't just trendy, it's a great way to support your community.  The money you spend with a MBB (that's mom-based-business for those not in the know) or locally owned company stays in our community.  It pays for dance classes and baseball, for pizza dinners on busy nights, and PTA dues.  I love shopping local, and I'm happy to offer you some fun local options, mom-owned options, and some fun gifts to boot.  Not everyone is going to be a small business on this list, but they're all people in our community, and I think that's super cool.

Happy Shopping, and good luck if you enter to win something!! I'll draw winners on Monday, December 23rd.

Single Item Giveaways (Alphabetical):

Offering classes in foreign language, arts, STEM, and more, The Animated Child is the perfect place to send Grandparents for Gift Cards.  I personally love the idea of giving my child an activity rather than a present- it takes up no room in the house and engages their brain! Perfect! Or, tell Grammy and Pop-Pop that a great gift would be a night off for you and your hubby! The Animated Child offers great Parent Night Out Programs with various themes including Minecraft!! A PNO is the perfect time to check out Animated Child, especially if you're considering one of their preschool/day school programs which include Last Child in the Woods and French Immersion. They're offering a free night out for a lucky reader, too!
Enter to win a free parents night out at Animated Child. 

Fit 4 Mom PWC
Fit 4 Mom PWC(formerly Stroller Strides) offers exercise programs for EVERY mom in ANY stage of motherhood. Check us out on FacebookTwitter and our website or call 571-220-9687 for more information.  See individual giveaway for December/January specials. All new Stroller Strides members BUY ONE MONTH GET ONE FREE AND 1/2 off Equipment fee (exp. 12/31/13)  20% OFF Passes. (10 Class Pass, Tri-Class Pass and 2 Class Pass) Body Back Session beginning January 7 in Woodbridge:  NEW ENROLLMENTS RECEIVE 1/2 OFF SESSION COST (expires 12/31/13) NEW YEARS SPECIAL:  Stroller Strides Equipment fee lowered to $20.14 for all new members. (for January ONLY). 
 Enter to win- 2 winners will receive a $40 gift card to use on any class/pass/session. 

Game Truck
Game Truck can heat up any winter gathering, holiday party, or birthday celebration with the hottest games brought directly to your home or office!! Any Gametruck party booked in December for a December party is $75 off, code zm42.  In addition to their great savings for PwcMoms readers, they're also giving away a Battroborg Robot with the "rare and coveted gold fist of fury!" I have no clue what that means- but I know that the kids in my life would absolutely flip out over it!! 
Enter to win a Battroborg Robot. 
"Once upon a time there was a girl who loved to dance, workout, and then go out (coffee shop, mall, lunch)! Sometimes she didn't have time to do an entire outfit change and just wanted to do the minimum to look fashionable, chic, and be comfy." If this sounds like you, or a girlfriend, then Skirt the Issue may be the perfect present this year! In a variety of colors and prints, Skirt the Issue has something for everyone! 
One Skirt
a Rafflecopter giveaway 


Soccer Shots
There is no better gift (as far as I'm concerned) than one that doesn't take up space in your closets, and Soccer Shots has you covered! With winter seasons starting January 13th, Soccer Shots is a great way to teach your child the essential skills of a great game.  Soccer Shots is for children ages 2-8 that meets once a week in various locations, including schools and daycare centers, if you'd like to get the program to come to your child! Skills covered aren't just "soccer skills" but include speed, agility, coordination, and balance.  With sessions all four seasons, you can keep your child healthy and active through Soccer Shots!!  
Enter to win a $40 gift card to Soccer Shots
a Rafflecopter giveaway _________________________________________________________________

The Tiny Human is an online boutique specializing in handmade accessory items.  Owner-mom Caitlin makes custom shirts, skirts, dresses, headbands, snack bags, and more!! Visit her website to place your order, and mention PwcMoms for $5 off your December order!  The Tiny Human is offering a $40 gift card good for any of the items in their store!! What an awesome prize!!
Enter to win a $40 gift card for your choice of items. 

Touch of Gold

Touch of Gold is my favorite jewelry store (which may be because I worked there and love the ladies, but may also be because I'm totally addicted to Troll Beads!).  Located in Historic Occoquan, Touch of Gold's fun favorite for Christmas 2013 is Kameleon Jewelry- which is an awesome pick for anyone because it's Sterling Silver bases are very affordable, and with hundreds of interchangeable jewel "pops" to choose from, you can change your jewelry with every season with just a change in pop! Touch of Gold is offering a Limited Edition Pendant with an Angel Pop, and Emerald Isle Pop for you to swap out, a silver chain, and a holiday compact to hold your jewel pops.  You can purchase this special set for $89 at Touch of Gold all season long, or win it here!
Enter to win a "Make the Season Pop" set. 

The PwcMoms Basket of Awesome 2013:

Baby Blossom offers a variety of baby, toddler, and child friendly products, including strollers, car seats, travel gear, high chairs, bath and potty, clothing and gifts, and more.  Check them out online or in-store for high-quality products for your child!  $25 gift card

Brixx serves up salads, wood-fired pizzas, pastas, and more.  A great atmosphere with fun special nights on a regular basis (usually featuring beer or wine), Brixx is a great place to spend an evening.  gift card

Cartoon Cuts makes getting a haircut fun! While some children are horrified at the idea of a little trim, Cartoon Cuts makes it easy with a kid-friendly environment, games, movies, and more.  $25 gift card

Shop not only local, but to do good, and order custom ornaments from Eme's Army.  Ornaments come in a variety of colors and styles, and can feature any word you want! Perfect as a gift on its own, or as a "finishing touch" to a special wrapping job! Hostess gifts, teacher gifts, the possibilities are endless! Ornament

Fit 4 Mom PWC(formerly Stroller Strides) offers exercise programs for EVERY mom in ANY stage of motherhood. Check us out on FacebookTwitter and our website or call 571-220-9687 for more information.  See individual giveaway for December/January specials.  2 $25 gift cards for use on any class/pass/session

Hitchcock Creative produces beautiful and original paper crafts including invitations, save the dates, menus, programs, note cards, thank you cards, and more.  Find them at their website, etsy, or Pinterest. PWC Moms readers get an exclusive offer of FREE shipping on all items through Dec. 20, 2013. Use code FREESHIP during check out. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more holiday deals and thanks for shopping local! Box set of 12 "Wizard of Oz" quotation cards with envelopes. 

Slumber Parties by Alyssa won't have a gift for your kids- but she will definitely have the perfect gift for your boyfriend/husband/baby daddy/life partner.  Alyssa's site features items from bath/body to lingerie and beyond.  Please note that her site is for moms only, not little ones.  Those who book a "Ladies Night In" in December will get an extra $50 in products.  Order placed before 12/14 get free shipping, which is the deadline to ensure Christmas delivery.  $20 gift card for your choice of item

The Smart Car Wash offers eco-friendly car wash, interior cleaning, and detailing right in Woodbridge!  This holiday season, Buy a $50 Gift Card, get an extra $25 FREE (You could give it away...or keep it for yourself!) $20 gift card

Soccer Shots offers skills sessions for children ages 2-8 teaching
cross-discipline skills including agility, coordination, balance, and speed.  With year-round programs, keeping your child healthy and active through soccer shots is easy! They even host programs for daycare centers and schools if you want to build a team at your location and avoid driving! $20 gift card

Tastefully Simple consultant Courtney Pomietto can help you shine while entertaining this Christmas! Count on her for easy-to-make and delicious to eat dips, seasonings, soups, sauces and more! PwcMoms who order over $50 will receive free shipping on their order, but be sure to contact Courtney directly to get that special deal! Warm Gatherings Collection

Truestar with Victoria Guarente offers a FREE diet and nutrition website that you can start using today.  Get 10% off vitamins and supplements by using Victoria's link when placing your order.  TrueStrength Whey Protein

Also included in this gift basket are a few extra goodies from me.  There are some Jamberry Nail strips, a Citrus Calendula Soap from Ruby Reds Creations, a few Chick Fil A freebie cards, and a couple other surprises :)

Enter HERE using this convenient one-stop Rafflecopter:


Other Great Shopping Options:
Fit 4 Mom PWC(formerly Stroller Strides) offers exercise programs for EVERY mom in ANY stage of motherhood. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter and our website or call 571-220-9687 for more information. See giveaway for December specials. 

Jamberry Nails- Let Jamie Vuong help you look great this holiday with over 300 designs for your fingers and toes.  Jamberry Nails come in adult and junior sizes, have no harsh chemicals, and right now, buy 3 and get 1 free!

Lilla Rose- Hollie Dermer can keep you looking gorgeous this season with hair clips and accessories for all ages.  Buy 3 get one FREE for new customers, free shipping on orders over $40.

Move More Fitness- Mom Adrienne Vose will help you give yourself the gift of fitness this year! Get in shape, have more energy, meet whatever goals you set for yourself!

Origami Owl- Jinette Glassco will help you design the perfect, meaningful gift for friends, family, teachers, or anyone on your list!!

Poshing Maggie- Maggie Montgomery's Perfectly Posh products are all-natural, petroleum-free, and made in the US.  Posh has 7 holiday bundles starting at $19- perfect for the gift of pampering! Find Maggie on Facebook, too.

Ruby Reds Creations- Jami Harward creates doll accessories, fleece jackets (with hoods- so cute!) nativity sets, and more.

Taking Care of Business- Tatiana Horne will help you with all your errands, prep work, and other holiday hullabaloo! Give her a call, or schedule a gift car for an over-worked friend!

Wess Home Improvement- Getting your home ready to host for the holidays?  Maybe your list for Santa reads more like a honey-do? Purchase a $300 voucher and get $100 FREE (bonus for use on labor only)

Wild Ruby- Sarah Mesienhelter runs her business via Amazon and can help you score great deals (check out this play kitchen!) check her out at Wild Ruby on Amazon.
As always, by entering you agree to our full rules, this contest is not affiliated with Facebook, any mobile carrier, or any application site.  Prizes provided by sponsors.  All opinions are my own.