2/28/13

Guest Post: Better to Give than Receive: Kids' Birthday Party Presents




We love giving special presents to our friends...even to friends that we don't know very well.  Whenever my children are invited to a birthday party, we take time to think about the child and like to get something unique.  However, the past few birthday parties that we have gone to, we never even saw the child open the present!  We end up leaving it in some bin.  If we're lucky, we will get a generic card in the mail saying "Thank you for coming to my party."  There is NO mention of our specific gift.
I remember my grandmother complaining about such a party years ago.  She was invited to a  child's birthday, and there was no present opening.  She didn't even receive a thank you card, and that is a huge no-no in her book.  At the time, I didn't even have a child, but I vowed to her that I would never to do this.  She would be proud to know that two children and twelve birthday parties later, I have kept my word!

My children open EVERY PRESENT they receive from friends at their birthday parties (except gifts from people that are not in attendance.)  I don't care if other children are bored and don't like sitting around.  We have small parties anyway, and the whole process takes 10 minutes.  Everyone will receive a PERSONALIZED thank you card within a week (okay...maybe 2 weeks tops.)

I realize that some people invite the whole class to their birthday party, or they are paying for playtime at a fun kids' place.  If I had a 90 minute party for my child at a bouncy place, I would want the time to be spent playing or jumping too, but I would never send a generic thank you card.  I wouldn't subject my guests to sitting through 25 gifts being open, but I also do not want/need 25 new toys in my house.  (Another reason I like to keep the parties small.)

What do you think?  Am I out of line?  Do you feel like you pay so much for your child's birthday party that a generic thank you card is enough, or do you forgo thank you cards all together?

Image credit:  © Mschalke | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos
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Thanks to Micaela Williamson, AKA SuperNovaMommy for this fantastic guest post.  If you're on the Fairfax border, be sure to check out Micaela's fantastic site for even more great events to keep you and your family active and happy in Northern Virginia. You can also find SuperNovaMommy on Facebook

2/26/13

Win a copy of Seasons 1-3 of H20:JUST ADD WATER

 DVD release of Nick Teen's #1 rated series, H2O: Just Add Water with Giveaway







Watch what happens when three normal teenage girls growing up on sun-drenched beaches Down Under stumble upon an ancient cavern that transforms their lives forever in Teen Nick’s #1 rated series H20: JUST ADD WATER.    Emma (Claire Holt), Cleo (Phoebe Tonkin) and Rikki (Cariba Heine) are sixteen-year-old girls growing up on the beautiful beaches of the Gold Coast.  When they’re accidentally stranded at sea and land on the mysterious Mako Island, they find themselves exploring the eerie, jungle-covered island before becoming trapped in an ancient cavern beneath a volcano.  As they swim to safety through an underwater channel, the light from a full moon creates a mysterious glow in the water.  After they return to the mainland, however, they discover they’ve undergone a transformation that will change their lives in magical ways.  The series makes a splash this March when each fan-favorite season is released in March in three individual, specially-priced DVD releases.  Each collectible 4-disc set includes 13 episodes from each season, plus bonus cast photos sure to thrill the show’s fanatical fan base!


Enter via Rafflecopter below:






a Rafflecopter giveaway

2/25/13

Meet the County: Supervisor Pete Candland, Gainesville District

In this series of posts, we'll introduce you to local decision makers and policy-changers.  The goal isn't to be political, and doesn't indicate an endorsement, but is rather to help you learn the faces and positions in Prince William County who you can go to for help, or with your concerns.  You'll notice the question is always the same, "Tell me what you love about Prince William County", and at the end of the post, you'll find a job description of the person listed.  I will not post from people during campaign season (unless it's someone who's mid-term and not currently running for re-election).  Hope this helps you know our county better!!
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1) Tell me what you love about Prince William County
Prince William County is a great place to raise a family and make a living.  We have great schools, a tremendous history, and wonderful people.  That's why my family moved here, and that's why Robyn and I are committed to serving this community.  In addition to the family-friendly environment of Prince William County, we're working towards making our county more jobs-friendly, so that our citizens can live and work in the same area.

2) What parts of the county are included in your district?
The Gainesville District is the Western-most and Northern-most magisterial district in Prince William County.  It includes the entire area North of I-66, as well as Haymarket and specific precincts in Manassas near I66.  From the areas by Splashdown, to the hills of Bull Run Mountain, the Gainesville District is a beautiful area with wonderful, generous people.

3) What is it, exactly, that you do/how can you help citizens
First, I represent citizens of the Gainesville District and their interests on the Board of County Supervisors.  To do this, I engage in constant outreach to constituents via one-on-one meetings, town hall meetings, social media, and many phone calls.  Secondly, I have a top-notch staff that helps constituents every day with their interactions with county government.  Our office is usually on the front lines of helping constituents who need help with local government.

4) How can people get in touch with you?
www.SupervisorCandland.com
Gainesville@pwcgov.org
www.facebook.com/SupervisorPeteCandland
Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland
7001 Heritage Village Plaza, Suite 210
Gainesville, VA 20155
703-792-6195

2/21/13

Guest Post: 10 Tips To Save More Money At Grocery Stores (Besides Using Coupons!) Part 2



This guest post was originally published on BeltwayBargainMom.com.  We hope it helps you out, and that if it does, you subscribe to Laura Harders' blog posts for more money-saving tips each week! 
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I know most of you reading my blog are regular coupon-users, but I wanted to share some simple tips on ways you can save at the grocery store besides couponing. This post may also be helpful for those of you who are new to couponing and want to find ways to save money now as you gradually learn the ropes of “extreme couponing.” For those of you seasoned savers and savvy shoppers: I’m sure you’ve heard these tips from other frugal folks before, and there is nothing below that is a shocking, new discovery in the land of grocery store savings, by any means. But hopefully this will help some of you put on your thinking caps on how you can save even more money at the grocery store in addition to regular coupon use.

The second 5 of 10 tips to save more money on your grocery shopping trips: (To read the first 5 Tips, click here) 
  1. Get to know your store manager and the head of the meat department. If you’re a regular at the store, be friendly with the staff and get to know the management. You can build a rapport with them by simply chatting with them, writing nice reviews of them on customer feedback cards when they do a great job, being friendly and considerate, asking for help at the customer service desk, and just being an all-star customer. When you get to know them, be sure to ask about: upcoming specials and promotions, what days of the week/month that meat will go on clearance (due to a soon-to-expire sell-by-date), etc. Take advantage of these clearance and discount items to stock up your freezer.
  2. Ask for rain checks and price matching. Some stores like Walmart will price match if you bring in a local competitor’s weekly ad. If you already do most of your shopping at Walmart or another price-matching store, then plan on price matching some groceries while you’re there too (or perhaps you’ll find that their regular price is cheaper than the competitor’s sale). Ask your store’s customer service desk for more details. Also, most stores issue rain checks when they have sold out of an item. If you arrive a little late into a really hot sale, chances are the shelves might be bare or not re-stocked by the end of the week. Don’t be sad that everyone got there before you did; just go up to your customer service desk and ask for a rain check. In my experience you can request multiple quantities of a sale item on your rain check, depending on the store. That way you can stock up and still get the great price even after the sale has ended. See your store’s customer service desk for more details.
  3. Stop by your store in the late evening near closing to buy bakery items on the cheap (if your store has a bakery department). Often items are not their freshest in the late evening, but still “good enough”. If I see a loaf of French or Italian bread in the evening that I think the store will have a hard time selling, I will ask the manager if he or she can give me a discount on it. I figure it is better for them to make a discounted sale on that item, then have it go in the dumpster the next morning and not generate any revenue for the store. Recently I was given over a 75% discount on a loaf of bread late one evening and used it the next day for slow-cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches (Chicago-style, my hubby’s favorite!). Since the bread gets soggy from the beef anyway, the not-the-freshest-yet-good-enough-bread worked fine for me! I want to encourage you to not be afraid to ask for a discount! I admit, I used to be too timid (or perhaps proud?) to ask in the past, but now I have no problem (frugality has made me more bold at the grocery store I suppose!).
  4. Look to see if your store has a section for items that are “reduced for quick sale”.  These might be re-packaged fruit or veggies that are on their last leg (ie. the sell-by-date is that day) placed in a basket, cart or shelves near the produce section. Or these could be items that have flaws, dents or imperfections in the packaging. I sometimes find these items in a shopping cart near the front of the store (at Harris Teeter) or near the back of the store on stack-able wire shelving near the freezer section (Shoppers Food, Giant, Safeway) or sometimes in the very back near the butcher/deli section or hallway to the employee only entrance way (Safeway). It will vary by store and location, and if you can’t find it at your store, ask your customer service desk for help in locating it. I usually look through the “reduced for quick sale” items while at the grocery store to see if the “price is right” on any items I might use, and I also check to see if I have any matching manufacturer coupons to score an item for dirt cheap or free. I’ve gotten some canned goods for free, packages of 1 lb. pasta for $0.50 or less, and other good deals, just by perusing the quick sale items on a grocery shopping trip.
  5. Shop around at multiple stores. If you look at the weekly circulars and find great deals on different items at different stores, you can plan different shopping lists for each store, taking advantage of loss leader deals, and only buying the best deals at each store. This may not be easy for those limited on time or transportation as well as those who do not live close to a variety of different grocery stores. But if your focus is to save more money, taking advantage of the super sale items at a variety of stores during the week should help you save even more on your weekly/monthly grocery totals.
  6. Do you have any more useful tips for how to save money on your grocery shopping? Leave a comment and let me know!
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Laura Harders lives in Prince William County and is a native Northern Virginian who loves to share ways to save. She runs the blog BeltwayBargainMom.com and teaches local Savings Nation coupon workshops. You can find Laura sharing tips & being social on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

2/20/13

Guest Post: Switch Up Your Winter Workout

It's about this time that I hear many students say , "I'm bored with my workout and don't have many options". Here is some of what I tell them to beat winter workout boredom and spice up that cardio routine:
-Make a cardio medley by picking three different cardio machines, or circuits, and workout on each for 10 minutes or so. This is a great alternative to just getting on the same machine for a certain length of time.
-Break up your workout by separating them into segments, each with a different focus-speed, incline, resistance, steady state, etc. By changing your workout  every five minutes, you get  variety and,  because you're  focusing on just a few minutes at a time, the workout will fly by.
-Try  something  new.! We  all  have  our  favorite  machines & routines  but  winter is a great time to experiment with something completely different. Challenge yourself to do something new.  When was the last time you tried the rowing machine or the stationary bike at the gym? What about an at home workout?  Moving your  body in  a different way can  rejuvenate  your workouts.
-Try group fitness.  Even  if  you're  not into group fitness classes, giving  one  a try  can  give  you  new  enthusiasm  for your workouts.  Pick up a schedule at your club and make a deal to try one new class every two weeks. You get a lot of energy from working out in a  group,  so take advantage of it!

I have to say, I’ve tried all of these and yet not one is perfect for me.  One day I may feel like taking a class or,in my case, teach a class. Another day, I may turn on some music and create my own “cardio medley” at home or at the gym.  Other times, I may pop in Insanity or Turbo Fire to check working out off of my to do list.

I challenge you to try something different over the next two weeks. Be sure to share your experiences with someone. They may want to give it a try too!   
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Adrienne Vose is a Certified Fitness Trainer, Group Exercise Instructor, dedicated wife & mother of 3. She likes to workout & motivate others to "MOVE IT" and believes that without exercise, people are inhibited from achieving and maintaining their health goals.  
No matter what your fitness goals may be or how hectic life becomes, there is a way to accomplish those goals. As a trainer, her number one priority is to create a routine that works towards your needs and gives you the results that are best for you. "Eat Healthy, Move More & Stress Less" is her motto and she fully believes this is the KEY to a healthy lifestyle. 

This guest blog is presented as an opinion.  Health changes should always be discussed with a doctor. 

2/18/13

Meet the County: Supervisor Frank Principi, Woodbridge District

In this series of posts, we'll introduce you to local decision makers and policy-changers.  The goal isn't to be political, and doesn't indicate an endorsement, but is rather to help you learn the faces and positions in Prince William County who you can go to for help, or with your concerns.  You'll notice the question is always the same, "Tell me what you love about Prince William County", and at the end of the post, you'll find a job description of the person listed.  I will not post from people during campaign season (unless it's someone who's mid-term and not currently running for re-election).  Hope this helps you know our county better!!
 
What do you love about Prince William County?
Prince William has it all.  We enjoy the four seasons, rivers, premiere schools, good paying jobs, shopping, outdoor recreation, quick access to the nation’s capital, and a lot of American history!  Did you know that we have nearly 1,000 acres of national wildlife refuge, two rivers, and golf in Woodbridge?  Did I mention shopping?  Potomac Mills Mall and Potomac Town Center have several hundred retailers and restaurants to enjoy.  



What parts of the county are included in your District?
The Woodbridge Magisterial District is the Northern Gateway to Prince William County.  The Occoquan and Potomac Rivers constitute its northern and eastern borders with I-95/Route 1 and River Ridge Boulevard as the western and southern borders.  Significant local landmarks include the Occoquan and Featherstone Wildlife Refuges, Historic Rippon Lodge, Potomac Library, Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, Leesylvania State Park, Osprey Golf Course, five marinas, and the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. 
Plans are also underway in the District to build a 6,000 seat minor league baseball stadium to house the Carolina League World Champion Potomac Nationals Baseball Team.  We expect the first pitch to be thrown out in the Spring 2015.  


What is it that you do/how can you help citizens?
Members of the Board of County Supervisors are responsible for policy and budget decisions of local government, including decisions about our critical unmet public safety and fire, schools, transportation infrastructure, human services, and economic development needs.  I believe our most important responsibilities are helping the private sector create new jobs, eliminate our traffic congestion, ensure proper classroom sizes and teacher pay, promoting mixed use (town center) development, and working with the community to improve everyone’s quality of life.  
Since taking office, I have worked with the community to build and implement a vision of a New Woodbridge.  The vision includes building three mixed use developments along the Route 1 corridor, widening our roads and offering more transit options (including high-speed passenger ferry service), and helping to preserve our maturing neighborhoods.  Today, we have nearly $1 billion in public and private investment (not including the new homes being built) coming out of the ground so our vision is in full swing!
As the elected Supervisor, my responsibility is to ensure good government, keeping residents informed and a part of the decision-making process, and aggressively implementing of the vision of a New Woodbridge. Constituents often contact my office with concerns about street lighting, zoning violations next door, referrals to human service providers, and opening new businesses.  We are always glad to serve as liaisons to our federal, state, and local government agencies.

How can people get in touch with you?

People are always welcome to call or drop by my office any day of the week during office hours.  Constituents can also email me We also enjoy being invited to events and meetings in the community.
For real-time information on all things vision, visit us at www.NewWoodbridge.org and Like Me on Facebook
Supervisor Frank J. Principi
15941 Donald Curtis Drive, Suite #140
Woodbridge, Virginia 22191
 WoodbridgeDistrict@pwcgov.org

2/14/13

Guest Post: Top 10 Tips to Save Money at Grocery Stores (Besides Using Coupons) Part 1


This guest post was originally published on BeltwayBargainMom.com.  We hope it helps you out, and that if it does, you subscribe to Laura Harders' blog posts for more money-saving tips each week! 
__________________________________________________________

I know most of you reading my blog are regular coupon-users, but I wanted to share some simple tips on ways you can save at the grocery store besides couponing. This post may also be helpful for those of you who are new to couponing and want to find ways to save money now as you gradually learn the ropes of “extreme couponing.” For those of you seasoned savers and savvy shoppers: I’m sure you’ve heard these tips from other frugal folks before, and there is nothing below that is a shocking, new discovery in the land of grocery store savings, by any means. But hopefully this will help some of you put on your thinking caps on how you can save even more money at the grocery store in addition to regular coupon use.

Ten tips to save more money on your grocery shopping trips:
  1. Make a list and stick to it! To avoid impulse buys, create a meal plan and grocery list at home based on deals featured in the weekly circular or on frugal blogs/coupon forums. Take your list with you to the store and stick to it (an exception I make to this is purchasing “quickly reduced” items… see #9).
  2. Buy less prepared foods. For example, buying a small bagged salad will usually cost you much more than buying a head of lettuce, some tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, etc. You may not have quite the same convenience factor, but you will save money.
  3. Be willing to go generic, try new brands and put aside your brand loyalty/bias. Yes, I know it may be hard to “leave your loyalty at the door” initially, but think of it as a way to be adventurous and try new things with your main goal being: saving money. I will stock up on name brand items when there is a really good sale and/or coupon that brings that item price down to my “price point.” However, when my stock pile runs out and I want to purchase that item to use for a meal during the week, I’ll buy that item at ALDI (discount grocery store) or buy generic at another store. For example, a jar of Peanut Butter at my local ALDI is $1.29. This week Safeway has a deal on Skippy Peanut Butter for $2 each.  If there were any Skippy coupons available (which I don’t believe there are…there was one from the 1/31/10 Red Plum but it expired on 2/28/10) I would buy these if the coupon made it less than my regular ALDI price.
  4. Learn the different store policies. Find out the return policies, reusable bag policies, coupon policies, rain check policies, price-matching policies, etc. for your favorite or most frequently visited stores. Many, but not all, grocery stores in the DC metro area double manufacturer coupons up to $0.99. Some stores accept a manufacturer coupon combined with a store coupon on the same item (this is called “stacking coupons” because normally you can only use one coupon per item you are purchasing). Some stores offer a small credit (like $0.05) toward your total grocery purchase if you bring your own re-usable tote.  Most stores will accept returned items with an original receipt within a certain time frame (say 30-90 days).
  5. Sign up for your grocery store’s membership card and e-mail list. These are free to sign up for, and you need them to get the special sales price at many stores. For example, at Bloom this is the “Breeze Card”, at Bottom Dollar this is the “Membership Card”, at Giant this is the “Bonus Card”, at Harris Teeter this is the “VIC Card”, at Safeway this is the “Club Card” and at Wegmans this is the “Shoppers Club Card.” Also, sign up for email updates or special offers from the store.
Check back next Thursday for the rest of Laura's Tips!
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Laura Harders lives in Prince William County and is a native Northern Virginian who loves to share ways to save. She runs the blog BeltwayBargainMom.com and teaches local Savings Nation coupon workshops. You can find Laura sharing tips & being social on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

2/12/13

Guest Post: Stop Over Thinking (Over Reading) Parenting

Stop Over Thinking (Over Reading) Parenting
By Nicole Dash

34,711. This is the number of books on parenting that appears when searching on Amazon.com. Parenting advice books are a big business. So are their online counterparts, with dedicated websites, blogs, and message boards telling you how to put your baby to sleep, how to discipline your child, how to tell if he or she has roseola, the best way to swaddle your baby, whether or not to encourage the use of a pacifier, the best way to read to your child, how to tell if your child is going to one day be obese, and the list goes on. At some point you have to realize two things:

You cannot parent from a book
You will make mistakes and that is okay

No parent is perfect and trying to “learn ” how to parent from a book is just going to lead to frustration. We cannot let go of our instincts in favor of all the “experts.” Does this mean you should never read? No. Does this mean I haven’t turned to the Internet to figure out if my child’s rash looks normal? No. The information age is wonderful, but it is also a slippery slope, especially if you allow yourself to be swayed from your instincts.

Good parenting is about trusting your instincts, learning from your mistakes, reaching out to your community, and forgiveness – for yourself and your child. When I say community, I mean leaning on your family, friends, co-workers, and yes books and the web.

Raising children cannot be approached like a professional or a student. You cannot study for some test or find the answers in one place. Here is an excerpt from an article in the National Post, a Canadian newspaper:

"At the end of the day, parents just need to trust their instincts and pay more attention to their child — that unique little snowflake that will never be a carbon copy of the next, said Judy Arnall, a Calgary-based parenting educator, who recently wrote a parenting book entitled The Last Word on Parenting Advice. It contains a few short sentences and key take-home message: “Trust yourself.” The rest is a whack of blank pages."

Would you follow your GPS off a cliff or would commonsense prevail? I like to think that you would keep your eyes open and pay attention. The same applies to raising children – and I’m sure at least one of the 34,711 books out there would agree with me.
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Credit: K Photography
Nicole Dash is a writer, blogger, and child care business owner who lives in Annandale, VA, with her husband and four children. Nicole shares her journey on http://www.TinyStepsMommy.com – a blog about family, life and caring for children – yours and mine.
 

2/11/13

Meet the County: Supervisor Marty Nohe, Coles District


In this series of posts, we'll introduce you to local decision makers and policy-changers.  The goal isn't to be political, and doesn't indicate an endorsement, but is rather to help you learn the faces and positions in Prince William County who you can go to for help, or with your concerns.  You'll notice the question is always the same, "Tell me what you love about Prince William County", and at the end of the post, you'll find a job description of the person listed.  I will not post from people during campaign season (unless it's someone who's mid-term and not currently running for re-election).  Hope this helps you know our county better!!
________________________________________________________________

So tell us, Supervisor Nohe, what do you love about Prince William County?

My favorite thing about Prince William County is our people.  There are a lot of things to love about Prince William County, but none of them mean anything without the citizens who volunteer in our community, help out at our schools, participate in the public decision making process,
and invest in our future.  During the last few years, the whole nation has gone through some difficult times, but few communities have recovered more quickly or more strongly than Prince William County, and I know that our success comes from the hard work and pride that the residents of PWC have in their neighborhoods and in our county.


Where is your district? 
The Coles District is the most geographically central district in the county, and includes most of the neighborhoods in the Independent Hill, Lake Jackson and Signal Hill areas, the Yorkshire and Loch Lomond Communities, several neighborhoods in Dale City, the neighborhoods that border the Northern edge of the City of Manassas and small portions of Nokesville east of Broad Run.

What is the role of a supervisor? 
As County Supervisor, I represent the residents of the Coles District on the County Board and help craft policy that is in the best interest of our communities.  But perhaps more importantly, my office serves as the point of access to an array of County services for the residents of the district, as well as providing a source of information about what is happening in the County.  We send out a monthly community newsletter to let folks know about upcoming events and about county agencies and
policies; we host periodic community meetings on an array of topics to keep people informed; and we field numerous phone calls and e-mails every day to help residents navigate their local government.

How can people get in touch with you? 
The best way to get in touch with me or my staff directly is either by e-mail at mnohe@pwcgov.org for me personally or at colesdistrict@pwcgov.org to reach my entire office staff, or by calling us at 703-792-4620.  Residents can also visit my website at colesdistrict.org, where they can sign up for my monthly newsletter and find links with contacts to a number of County agencies.  We also just launched a new Facebook page "Office of Supervisor Marty Nohe".

2/10/13

Review of "Escape from Planet Earth"

Review of "Escape from Planet Earth" with Giveaway
by Sarah & Matt Meisenhelter





"Escape from Planet Earth" is a new animated kids movie that hits theaters on Friday, February 15th.   It starts on the planet Baab (pronounced "Bob"), with a dimwitted superhero (Scorch) and his nerdy brother (Gary) dealing with some unresolved sibling rivalry.  Scorch manages to head to the "Dark Planet" (Earth) and Gary inevitably goes after him. Danger, intrigue and humor follow leading to the inevitable 'happily ever after" at the end.

This space adventure animation did manage to keep a finicky three year-old (with perhaps the shortest attention span in the galaxy) engrossed for its entire 89-minute run time. An impressive feat considering this was his very first time in a movie theater!  There was enough "smart humor" is peppered throughout to keep the grownups quite entertained, too.  The movie seemed to drag a bit in the middle, but neither of our kids seemed to notice. I was concerned that our three year old would be scared based on some of the scenes in the trailer, but he did fine.

Fair warning, Escape from Planet Earth is chock full of lighthearted but gratuitous product placement. Someone got PAID to drop all the corporate names that this film does in quick succession. (Speaking of that, have I mentioned my undying love of Pampers, Target, and Kendall Jackson Chardonnay? We'll see how that works.) So expect deep questions about the existence of alien life along with requests to stop for Slurpees on the drive home.

More than a few recurrences of slapstick comedic violence and one or two "not really bad" but "not all that nice either" words are inevitable in mass market movies like this one these days. But nothing in this truly out-of-this-world production was anywhere near as offensive as today's concession prices! Talk about astronomical! But I digress.

Never mind the issue of how a universe full of playfully diverse and lovable alien creatures can somehow still all speak fluent English, Escape from Planet Earth really is a blast for the whole family! And when our five year-old rested his head on Daddy's shoulder during the film's resolution, Dad could almost rationalize spending an arm and a leg for those concessions.

The theatre resounded with applause from young and old alike as the credits started to roll, driving home the room's consensus that this film is well worth seeing. No bonus scene is waiting for you after the credits, just in case you were wondering.

Bottom line, Escape from Planet Earth really is a great way to have yourself an hour an a half of total family fun.



Review (By Sarah & Matt Meisenhelter -  Sarah is a stay-at-home mom and blogs at www.HappyADDmom.com  and Matt is the pastor of Spirit & Life Church, www.spiritandlifechurch.org) 


GIVEAWAY:  Enter to win a Movie-Goers goodie bag which includes popcorn, candy and all movie watching snacks + a $25 gift card for your readers to use towards a movie night to see the movie once it’s released nationwide on Feb. 15th.   To enter, simply enter the Rafflecopter below.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Field Trip- Arlington House Black History Month Events

Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial, presents
Black History Month at Arlington House
Join us as we celebrate the experience of African Americans at Arlington House!

African American History Tours
Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1 PM
 
Park Rangers will provide a tour of the African American experience at Arlington House and in its historic slave quarters.  Explore where the enslaved people of Arlington House worked, lived and persevered through their oppression.  Learn about their bondage to one of Virginia's first families, their lifestyles, and how they gained their freedom.

Faith and Freedom Sundays
February 3, 10, 17 at 2 PM
 
On select Sundays in February, local black churches will share the significance of their history in the greater Arlington area through discussion and music.  These churches have roots to Freedman's Village, a settlement for freed people on the Arlington estate and what today is the Arlington National Cemetery.
These activities are free to the public.  For more information, please e-mail arlingtonhouseevents@nps.gov  or call: 703-235-1530.
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial is a unit of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

2/9/13

Guest Post: Games to Improve Your Child's Strategic Thinking

There are a lot host of cool games available on the internet nowadays for your children to play with. A lot of these games are actually highly beneficial in the sense that they improve the way in which your child thinks strategically. This is because they help them to think on their toes, to become better at problem solving and to be more efficient. 
Your child may enjoy the games mentioned below:
  1. Ben 10: Cannonbolt Strikes
In this game your child will play Ben 10 who is inside a cannonball. Your child has to move the ball effectively around a platform – picking up diamonds along the way. Nevertheless, it’s not as easy as that; because there are enemies placed around looking to shoot the ball. Moreover, you need to avoid falling off of the platform as well. This aids your child’s quick thinking and they need to have a solid strategy to make it to the end.
  1. Scooby Doo: Creepy Castle
In this game your little one will get to play Scooby Doo and they will have to find the rest of the gang who are hidden in a creepy castle. The only problem is that there are lots of ghosts around. Thus, whilst trying to find the gang your little one will have to pick up objects e.g. a plank of wood, in order to seal a door shut to keep the ghosts out. This improves strategic thinking because your child needs to be clever when thinking how to use the objects they pick up by being effective and efficient.
  1. Gumball: Elmore High Jigsaw
Jigsaws are always great when it comes to improving strategic thinking because your child needs to think about how they are going to fit all of the pieces together. This requires forethought and clever planning.
  1. Tom and Jerry: Trap-o-Matic
This game is all about carefully planning and having a solid strategy. Your little one will play as Tom and will have a box full of tricks; such as a moving kid’s train. These all need to be used in order to create an effective path whereby Jerry will be trapped. Thus, your little one will begin with a mousetrap and then use their box of tricks in order to create a way to Jerry. If one thing is out of place, then the trap won’t work.
  1. Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends: Big Shot Checkers
This game puts a fun twist on checkers. And as you know; checkers is all about outsmarting your opponent. You need to think of all the possible moves and be strategic in order to win the game. There is no better game for thinking strategically.
  1. Ed, Edd n Eddy: Candy Machine
In this game there will be a gobstopper at the top of the screen and a bucket at the bottom. Your child will have a box of pipes and they will need to find a way for the gobstopper to make it to the bucket without being destroyed. This is all about being efficient, solving problems and thinking ahead.
The games mentioned in this article are all great when it comes to improving your child’s strategic thinking. Each game is linked to a different popular cartoon and thus your child is assured to enjoy at least one of the cool games that have been mentioned.
Author bio – 
CJ is a freelance journalist. She used Cartoon Network and tried several of their cool games in order to determine how they aided a child’s strategic thinking

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This is a submitted post and does not necessarily indicate the views of PwcMoms.com

2/8/13

Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Presents the 2013 “Heritage Family Day” Series


Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Presents
the 2013 “Heritage Family Day” Series

As part of the Smithsonian’s Heritage and History education initiative, the National Air and Space Museum presents a “Heritage Family Day” series celebrating ethnic and cultural diversity. The series coincides with national observances, focusing specifically on the contributions that diverse communities have made to aviation and space exploration. These activity-filled days, which take place at the National Mall building and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., offer parents and children the opportunity to meet role models—ranging from World War II veterans to astronomers. Support for the “Heritage Family Day” series is provided by Northrop Grumman Corporation.
“The museum’s dual mission, in history and science, come together in the ‘Heritage Family Day’ series,” said Maureen Kerr, education chair at the National Air and Space Museum. “The programs feature inspiring role models who have helped make history by their achievements in aviation and spaceflight.”
 “Northrop Grumman is proud to sponsor the ‘Heritage Family Day’ series for the eighth consecutive year at the National Air and Space Museum,” said Sandra Evers-Manly, vice president, Corporate Responsibility, Northrop Grumman Corporation. “We are excited to support this series because it recognizes the unsung heroes of STEM and is an incredible benefit to the community’s schools and families.”
The 2013 series begins Feb. 9 at the museum’s National Mall building with “African American Pioneers in Aviation Day,” where visitors will have the chance to meet members of the Tuskegee Airmen, African Americans who fought during WWII, and be inspired by their determination and perseverance. On Feb. 23, the second “African American Pioneers in Aviation Day” will be held at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
On March 23, “Kites of Asia Day,” visitors to the National Mall building will experience the beauty of kites by celebrating the first aviation-related objects collected by the Smithsonian—two Chinese kites. There will be indoor kite flying, and experts will explain how kites influenced the development of aviation and the science behind kite flying. Visitors can decorate and build their own kites.
Also March 23, the “Women in Aviation and Space Day” will take place at the Udvar-Hazy Center. Visitors will learn about the accomplishments of women in aviation, science and aerospace. Families can enjoy guest speakers, hands-on activities, a theatrical presentation and more.
“Explore the Universe Day” will take place at the National Mall building June 1. Astronomy will serve as a common theme for visitors to learn how different people and cultures view and talk about the sky. The museum’s Public Observatory will be open for daytime sky-watching, weather permitting.
There will be two “Heritage Family Days” in September: “A Century of Women in Aerospace” at the National Mall building Sept. 14 and “Hispanic Heritage Day: Innovators in Air and Space” in partnership with the Smithsonian Latino Center Sept. 21 at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
The last “Heritage Family Day” of the 2013 series will be Oct. 5 at the National Mall building and will also celebrate Hispanic Heritage in partnership with the Smithsonian’s Latino Center. There will be bilingual programming and visitors will have the chance to meet Hispanic scientists and engineers. 
For more information about the museum’s “Heritage Family Day” series, visit: http://www.airandspace.si.edu/events/heritagedays.cfm.
The National Air and Space Museum building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Va., near Washington Dulles International Airport. Both facilities are open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free, but there is a $15 fee for parking at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
 
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2/7/13

Guest Post: Are Health Foods Hurting You?

As a fitness professional, it is my goal to help others learn how to live a healthy lifestyle. By doing so, I like to lead by example & practice what I preach. With one living such a healty lifestyle,  you might assume that they are healthy, with no issues what so ever, right? WRONG! 


I recently discovered that the fruits and veggies I thought were good for me are actually hurting me. Who knew that my love for broccoli, beans, apples and brussel sprouts (yes even those) could make me so sick? I thought these types of foods were essential for living a healthy lifestyle. While for some people, this may be true but not for me. 
After an interesting discussion with my GI doctor, she handed me a paper which listed foods I should eliminate. Of course listed was the "normal" stuff like high fructose corn syrup , dairy, certain sweeteners etc ....all things I avoid anyway. But then in other catagories I noticed all of my yummy veggies, fruits and beans!! YIKES!
Seriously? I'm not getting it. Why in the world shouldn't I eat an apple ? It contains fiber, phytonutrients, vitamins & minerals.
I realized I had been consuming a high "FODMOPs" ( FermentableOligo-Di-Mono-saccharides and Polyols ) diet. FODMAPs are carbohydrates that are found in foods. 
I need to limit daily intake of anything containing Lactose, Fructose, Fructans, Galactans, Sugar alcohols (polyols), otherwise I'd keep having severe GI issues. Some of my favorite fruits and veggies contain these types of carbohydrates which can make me sick in the gut. Moving forward, I will try this approach and see if it has any impact on my body. My hope for you all is that you will listen to your body and know that just because products are supposedly healthy, they may not be good for you!
For more information regarding FODMAP, please check out these sources:
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Adrienne Vose is a Certified Fitness Trainer, Group Exercise Instructor, dedicated wife & mother of 3. She likes to workout & motivate others to "MOVE IT" and believes that without exercise, people are inhibited from achieving and maintaining their health goals.  
No matter what your fitness goals may be or how hectic life becomes, there is a way to accomplish those goals. As a trainer, her number one priority is to create a routine that works towards your needs and gives you the results that are best for you. "Eat Healthy, Move More & Stress Less" is her motto and she fully believes this is the KEY to a healthy lifestyle. 

This guest blog is presented as an opinion.  Health changes should always be discussed with a doctor. 

2/6/13

Dumfries Black History Month Celebration

The Town of Dumfries will present a Black History Month Celebration entitled "Believe, Achieve, Succeed: Showcasing Inspiring Testimonials from Change Agents in Our Community".  Light refreshments will follow. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013
12pm-2pm
Little Union Baptist Church
17150 Mine Road
Dumfries VA 22026

2/5/13

Upcoming: Sleeping Beauty Dreams


The Kennedy Center presents the U.S. Premiere of Marionetas de la Esquina’s
Sleeping Beauty Dreams
Co-Commissioned by Marionetas de la Esquina and the Kennedy Center
February 16 17, 2013 In the Family Theater
(WASHINGTON, D.C.)The Kennedy Center presents the U.S. premiere production of Sleeping Beauty Dreams in the Family Theater from February 16 17, 2013. Co- commissioned with puppet theater company Marionetas de la Esquina of Mexico, the play is written by award-winning playwright Amaranta Leyva and directed by Lourdes Pérez Gay. Sleeping Beauty Dreams is recommended for ages five and up. The performance on Saturday, February 16 at 11:00 a.m. will be held in Spanish.
Sleeping Beauty Dreams reimagines the famous princess as an overprotected daughter looking for a way to break free of her castle walls in order to search for true love...and her true self. A contemporary look at this classic tale, Marionetas de la Esquina’s humorous storytelling and whimsical puppetry awake this sleeping princess as never before.

In 2004, the company was recognized by CONACULTA and included in the program México en Escena (Mexico on Stage), a program that supports experienced and renowned groups. In 2006, company member and playwright Amaranta Leyva received the Mexican National Prize for Children's Theater for her play the dress. Also, in 2006 the company was awarded by the National Critics of Mexico. The company’s history has been published in a book called Marionetas de la Esquina, Tras Bambalinas (FONCA, Cal y Arena, México, 2004) (“Marionetas de la Esquina, behind the scene”).
Lucio Espíndola (Founder). Author, actor, director, puppeteer, and puppet-maker, Lucio Espíndola has dedicated himself to the production, exhibition, teaching and diffusion of the art of puppetry since 1973. He has written 13 plays, built more than 400 puppets, and has acted in approximately 10,000 performances.

TICKET INFORMATION
Performances of Sleeping Beauty Dreams run in the Kennedy Center Family Theater on February 16 at 11:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. and February 17 at 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. The performance on Saturday, February 16 at 11:00 a.m. will be held in Spanish. All seats are $18. Please visit the Kennedy Center website at www.kennedy-center.org or by calling Instant Charge at (202) 467-4600. Patrons living outside the Washington metropolitan area may dial toll-free at (800) 444-1324. 

2/4/13

Meet The County: Supervisor Mike May, Occoquan District

In this series of posts, we'll introduce you to local decision makers and policy-changers.  The goal isn't to be political, and doesn't indicate an endorsement, but is rather to help you learn the faces and positions in Prince William County who you can go to for help, or with your concerns.  You'll notice the question is always the same, "Tell me what you love about Prince William County", and at the end of the post, you'll find a job description of the person listed.  I will not post from people during campaign season (unless it's someone who's mid-term and not currently running for re-election).  Hope this helps you know our county better!!
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So tell us, Supervisor May, what do you love about Prince William County?

As a lifelong resident of northern Virginia , I believe this area is the wonderful place to live, work and play. I grew up in the Springfield area and while working for Congressman Tom Davis, I was first introduced to Prince William County . Right away I realized that this community, and Lake Ridge in particular, offered everything my wife and I desired in looking for a place to raise children.  So we decided to move here and start our family.

PWC is unique in northern Virginia in that even though it has over 400,000 residents, it still maintains a very friendly, small-town atmosphere.  To be sure, the county is urbanizing; however, as it grows, it has done a very good job of preserving its historical resources, parks and open spaces, and rural areas to the west.  As such, the county offers high end dining and retail amenities, while still giving residents the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors or cultural resources in their own backyard.  We are also far enough away from the "hustle and bustle" of DC and the urban core, yet close enough to be able to enjoy visiting these areas.

This dynamic gives Prince William residents the best of all worlds.  For example, my wife and I can go to a winery in Haymarket, a restaurant in Occoquan, or go hiking in Prince William Forest Park on a Saturday--all within Prince William County .  And the very next day, we can take the kids up to D.C. to visit the museums or the zoo.  In short, Prince William County  offers the best of city life, rural life, and suburban life.

In addition to the amenities, Prince William is also a safe community with great schools and friendly people.  It has so much to offer young families.  That's why I am glad that my own family has chosen to make this community our home.




Do I Live in Supervisor May's District?: The Occoquan District is home to not only the Town of Occoquan but also Lake Ridge; Westridge; and all the communities on the north side of the Prince William Parkway between its intersection with Old Bridge Road and Ellis Road , including the Davis Ford and Yates Ford corridors.

And What Does a Supervisor Do, Exactly?: Mike is the Occoquan District’s representative on the Prince William Board County Supervisors.  This is our local level of government.  The Board has oversight over all local matters, including our police and fire and rescue systems, our library system, and our local parks.  As a group, the Board sets countywide policies and approves the annual budget.  It also oversees implementation of the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance, which shape how our community grows and develops over time.  So, if you see a new office being built or construction in the area, Mike probably knows what is going on—or, if not, he can find out for you!  Mike and his staff also assist residents navigating county government with issues ranging from the permit process, real and personal property taxes, local park issues, and many more.

How Can I find Supervisor Mike May?
Occoquan District Supervisor, Michael C. May
Prince William Board of County Supervisors
2241-K Tacketts Mill Drive
Woodbridge , VA 22192
Phone: (703) 792- 5180 /Fax: (703) 792-4833
Cell: (703) 910-0594