Stocking Stuffer Ideas brought to you by Virginia Gateway and PwcMoms

I got some of my Christmas shopping done early this year filling stockings for my eldest son (turning 13 on Sunday!!) and my youngest daughter (she's 8).  Need some ideas? Here's what I came up with shopping all in one convenient location at Virginia Gateway!

I got new knit stockings for all three of my kids from Target.  I love the homey, comfortable look of them, and they're going to look great with the colors in my family room where we put our tree.  They were $13 each, but they seem really well made and I'm hoping to have them for a long time!

Stocking 1: Boy, 13
 Riley just got accepted to the page program, so he's going to need more ties, and I found him a really cute one at J. Crew Mercantile! I also picked him up some bright colored socks, which seem to be a thing with the kids in his scout troop.
Plaid Oxford Tie- $22
Festive Socks- $5
At Five Below there were tons of affordable options.  We don't usually do candy in our house, so it's always a welcome treat.
Tic Tac Snowman- $3.99
Pez Santa- $1.79
Reese's Tree (that I might eat before Christmas)- $1
 At my house there are some must-haves in every stocking.  A new pair of gloves and some tooth-care are on that list! My kids lose their gloves, so a new set is vital, and I'm not sure why we always have toothbrushes except that when I was a kid I got them, too, and I'm continuing that tradition. These items are from Target, too.
Two Pack Oral B- $6.99
Merona Hat/Gloves- $4.99 (hat)/$4.99 (gloves)
Listerine Healthy White- $5.50

 I have several ornaments that were given to me as a child that now hang on my tree as an adult, so when I saw this Rob Gronkowski ornament (because my son is a brilliant child and knows that the best football team on this great green Earth is the New England Patriots) at Hallmark, I knew it had to be his.
Hallmark Keepsake Ornament- $17.95
 Grooming is a thing that has to happen when you're 13, and if you've got super curly hair like my son, it requires product.  I stopped by Bubbles and snagged him this Cibu Origumi which is going to be perfect for his hair type.
 A gift card is always a great idea- my kids feel really excited when they can pay for themselves.  Riley has a bi-weekly patrol meeting for scouts at Subway, so this is the perfect gift card for him, and there's one right in Virginia Gateway!
Subway Gift Card- $25 (but you can choose your own denomination)
It's Sugar is an amazing candy store with lots of cute options, and the very helpful employee recommend Bean Boozled to me.  It's like candy and a game- the spinner tells you what color to pick, but you might get a good flavor, and you might get a bad one.  For example, the green jelly beans might be grass clippings- but then again they might be lime. I think this will be fun for him to use on his friends, which is what I see happening.
Bean Boozled- $8.99
 Again, since Riley is going to page, he needs to have things to keep himself looking sharp when he's away from home.  HomeGoods had this cute "Dapper Chap" manicure kit for guys, which I think will prove quite useful.
Clean Cut Gents Manicure Set- $7.99

Riley's Total Stocking (including a new stocking)- $146.23

Stocking 2: Girl, 8
 I started off for Savannah at Five Below.  Again, they have some great gift options, especially for under the tree, at great prices.  For her stocking, I picked up the same items as for my son in the candy department, and then found these polka dot colored pencils- and polka dots are her FAVORITE.
Tic Tac Snowman- $3.99
Pez Santa- $1.79
Reese's Tree (that I might eat before Christmas)- $1
Prang Groove Colored Pencils-$3.00

 At It's Sugar I picked some cute themed items for her- a candy dispenser and some lip gloss.  I love that the lip gloss has a glitter lid!
Pixy Stix Lip Gloss- $3.99
Shopkins Candy Dispenser in Strawberry-$4.99
 Back at Target I was able to get a two pack of toothbrushes (and they're Frozen themed!!) with toothpaste and a Christmas duck scrubby.
Crest Frozen Tooth Care Kit-$5.99
Rubber Duck Pouf- $2.49

 For my daughter there is no better store than Justice, and while an outfit would definitely be a little too pricey for a stocking, I knew they'd have some cute stuffers! I got this adorable Ty Snowman, and I picked up a few things off their 4 for $10 rack of party favors!
Pencil Case, Pencils, Jumbo Eraser, Keychain- 4 items for $10
Peppermint Hand Sanitizer (with glitter!!)- $1.25
 While I was at J. Crew Mercantile for my son's tie, I noticed these adorable star cupcake kits and crewcuts glitter socks in holiday red! Couldn't resist! They've also got really adorable jeweled headbands (but my daughter hates things on her head) and necklaces.
Cupcake Kit-$13
 Also Target- hat and gloves! A must, as I mentioned! The hat reminded me of the middle sister from Despicable Me.  Agnes? And the gloves have hot pink stitching on them- so both of them will match her coat.
Gloves- $8.99
 Again, a gift card! I stopped into Starbucks for me (momma needed some caffeine to keep shopping!) and their holiday gift cards are so cute, I couldn't resist!
Gift Card- $15 (but you can choose your denomination)

I also got her a super adorable gold plated necklace with her name on it at Hallmark for $7.99- but I'm going to have to update with pictures of that because it appears to have vanished in my car somewhere!!

Total for Savannah- $130.86

Now, my budget from Virginia Gateway was $150 for each stocking, but Savannah's was very full and I still had $20, so I headed over to Pier One Imports and picked up the cutest wrapping supplies!! We always pick a special set of wrapping paper for Santa to use, so this year he's going to be red and green.  I snagged
Peppermint Wrap- $6.95 (but I bought 3, so $20.85...and there went the last of my budget)
But I couldn't just have the wrapping paper because there was so much adorable stuff- so I got out my own budget and got:
Polka Dot Bags- $5.95
Green Glitter Ribbon- $7.95
Jingle Bell Tags- $4.95
Red and Green Holographic Bows- $4.95 (but I bought 2, so $9.90)

So there you have it! I got everything I needed for Christmas Stockings in one great shopping location, and I had a great time doing it!

Be sure to check back on Monday- we'll have a gift card giveaway for you to go with this post!


Guest Post Review: Disney's Moana

Moana is a Disney feature that has you follow the only daughter of a chieftain who is tasked to go on an adventure to save not just her island, but the whole world. This movie is the perfect mix of humor, sincerity, and excitement. One of the nicest aspects of this film is that there is no “love interest” on the female main characters part. It helps to keep you immersed in the film in a new unexpected way. The theatre was full of young children, and the easiest way to explain how good the film was, was that even though the theatre was fully packed, it was SILENT during the whole show, except for the frequent bursts of laughter.

This film is perfect for a daddy daughter date night or for the whole family. Great message and amazing singing, no bad language that I can remember.  Not that it was bad, but the crab scene adds nothing of substance and the song was out of place for the tempo of the movie. 

One warning: Parents…. Be ready for a repeat of the Frozen soundtrack, these songs are catchy and your kid will most likely burn out your eardrums with repeats!!

Kevin is a physical therapist in his very early 30s.  He's married to Lauren, and they live in Maryland with their two fur babies and frequent short-term additions in the form of Foster Puppies.  If you're interested in adopting or fostering, or would like to support a great cause, their rescue is called Saving Grace Animal Rescue of Maryland, and can always use support. 


Ice! At Gaylord National 2016

We were fortunate enough to be invited back to ICE! At the Gaylord National Hotel just over the Virginia/Maryland line at National Harbor.  Here's what to expect this year. 

 We started off with a delicious brunch with the characters from "Peanuts".  With a custom omelette station, Belgian waffles, eggs, pastries, and more, there's something for everyone.  While you eat, the characters come to your table for pictures.  Prints are $20, or you can purchase an "all inclusive" package and receive all the professional pictures you get taken all day for $89.  Brunch is $39.99 for adults and $26.99 for kids.

As always the atrium of the Gaylord National is absolutely amazing and they have it decorated for the season.  My kids were disappointed that we came in the morning so we didn't get to see the Christmas Lights show- but we've already made a plan to come back up for one of National Harbor's Friday night events and to watch the lights and "snow" at the Gaylord. 

After breakfast we headed to ICE- which was mistake #1!! If you're doing the "Play All Day" pass, or if you just want to add on the Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunt, you'll want to pick up your scavenger hunt materials BEFORE you head into the exhibit.  There's a bonus elf we didn't even know to look for! However, we still had fun- I just wanted to give you guys a heads up! 

The theme this year is Christmas Around the World, and you start off with a video (I missed the video last year- it shows how the artisans from China make the ice sculptures, but my kids didn't like seeing footage of the ice sculptures we were about to see before we went in- they wanted to be surprised.) After the video we went in, and this is where I made mistake 2- I forgot our gloves.  It's 9 degrees in ICE! and you're going to want gloves. Also closed-toed shoes.

 There are several featured countries with ice carvings, and next to them are signs explaining how Christmas is celebrated in that country.  They were really fascinating, although they're long, so read outloud to children who are slower readers because you get cold quick! 
There was a hall of children from all over the world holding hands- and I kind of expected "It's a Small World" to start playing, but luckily it didn't! ;) 

 The slides this year light up, which is really cool- but I don't think they're quite steep enough- kids weren't quite making it all the way down without their parkas slowing them down.  The room is full of ice sculptures from around the world and the Christmas greeting from each country.  I liked the room a lot. 
There was a "North Pole" where several stuffed animals had been replicated in ice, which was really neat, and there's a viewing station where you can watch sculptors from China work on a carving. 
 Finally is the crystal nativity, which is always my favorite part.  It's so beautiful and simple after all the colors that you've just seen, and I enjoy it immensely. 

When you're done viewing ICE you head back into the Christmas Village, which has several fun additional activities.  There are teacups, a carousel, build a bear workshop, holiday store, hot cocoa station, cookies with Mrs. Claus, and a gingerbread workshop.  
 The teacup ride was little, so I thought my kids were going to be too old for it, but they actually used their tickets AND my adult tickets and rode it twice.  They really got that little cup to spin! 

Next we made mistake #3 and went to decorate our cooking in the gingerbread area.  Gingy from Shrek is there for pictures.  Kits range from $30-40 in price depending on what you select.  The Ugly Sweater Kit comes with 6 cookies in it, so it's easy to break up if you have multiple kids, but the gingerbread house is a fun one to put together as a team. 
 Obviously the sugar is working on them already. I got made fun of because none of my sweaters were "ugly enough" but I had fun anyway.  What was the mistake here? We did our cookies and THEN we did the scavenger hunt- so I ended up schlepping these things around and then ultimately making a trip back to the car so I could put them down.  Decorate your cookies LAST so that you don't have to carry them everywhere! 
We had a great time kicking off our holiday season with the Gaylord National Hotel's Christmas on the Potomac.  We hope you will, too!

Disclaimer: This was a hosted event, but all opinions are my own.


Report: Less Than 1/4 of US Kids Meet Activity Guidelines

The 2016 United States Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth shows only 21.6 percent of children ages 6-19 meet U.S. physical activity guidelines. Further, nearly 63 percent of children are exceeding sedentary behavior guidelines, which suggest no more than two hours of screen time per day. Less than 13 percent of children walk or ride their bike to school, a habit that has been associated with lower odds of obesity among children. The report does show an improvement in the number of youth who are participating on at least one sports team—half of America's children—since the 1970s but shows a significant gender disparity with more boys participating than girls. 
"We hope the information in this Report Card will be useful to health professionals, community organizations and policy makers as they strive to respond by developing and implementing strategies that improve access to physical activity opportunities for kids," said Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, associate executive director of population science at LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center and committee chair on the report.
There is a strong consensus among health professionals that physical activity plays a major role in promoting children's health. The World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that children and youth engage in a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily, including vigorous-intensity activity at least three days per week.
"The results of this new Report Card demonstrate that we have much to do to ensure that our children become active, fit and healthy adults. The National Physical Activity Plan lays out a strategy for increasing the physical activity level of all segments of our population, children and youth included. We call on parents, school personnel and community leaders to review the Plan and make the changes that will enable many more of our young people to meet national physical activity guidelines," added Dr. Russell Pate, chairman of the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance Board of Directors.
SHAPE America CEO E. Paul Roetert has invited Dr. Pate to the SHAPE America National Convention & Expo on March 14-18, 2017 in Boston to speak on the Report Card and present "New National Initiatives to Promote Physical Activity in Youth." Roetert adds, "It is critical we all work together to develop effective strategies to raise the grade for our nation's youth. SHAPE America is committed to getting America's 50 million school-aged students physically active and healthy by 2029." 
Dr. Pate's convention session will present summaries of three current large-scale, national initiatives that are aimed at increasing physical activity among children and youth in the U.S. The programs have been planned and implemented by national and/or federal entities working in collaboration with an array of not-for-profit health organizations. The projects provide unique information on the status of efforts to increase the physical activity levels of U.S. children and adolescents through activities in school and community settings. 
Four key messages and recommendations to increase physical activity among youth were included in the report:
  • Schools should work to increase physical activity opportunities among youth and should be a key part of a national strategy to increase physical activity. 
  • Preschool and childcare centers should enhance physical activity. 
  • To advance efforts to increase physical activity among youth, key research gaps should be addressed. 
  • Changes involving the built environment (such as safe outdoor and indoor recreation spaces) and similar sectors are promising, but need additional work.
The Report Card assessed data from multiple nationally representative surveys to evaluate levels of physical activity and sedentary behavior in American children and youth, facilitators and barriers for physical activity and health outcomes related to physical activity, among 10 key indicators: 
  • Overall physical activity levels 
  • Health-related fitness
  • Sedentary behaviors 
  • Family and peers
  • Active transportation 
  • Schools
  • Organized sport participation 
  • Community and the built environment 
  • Active Play
  • Government strategies and investments  
The 2016 U.S. Report Card was released today in conjunction with 37 other countries at the 2016 International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health in Bangkok, Thailand. This is the second comprehensive assessment of physical activity in U.S. children and youth, updating the first Report Card released in 2014. The U.S. Report Card can be downloaded from the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance website (http://www.physicalactivityplan.org/projects/reportcard.html). Further information about the international release of the Report Card can be obtained from the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance website (www.activehealthykids.org). The Report Card is produced by the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance's (NPAP) U.S. Report Card Research Advisory Committee. Find more information about the Plan at www.physicalactivityplan.org/index.html.

Thanksgiving at Whole Foods Market

It's so pretty!

Let's start with the obvious:  We don't have a Whole Foods in Prince William County (although if you guys are reading this, there are Wegmans at either end of our county and so I think a 365 Market in central Manassas- have you seen Old Town, it's adorable- would be really fantastic).

Let's move on to some more obvious: Whole Foods is known for above-and-beyond quality ingredients and products.

So, it's pretty intuitive that with the super bowl of cooking (i.e. Thanksgiving) coming up, a trip out of county to get the best quality ingredients is not a bad idea. And, if you hate cooking, I'll go one further and tell you that a trip to Whole Foods Market is a MUST for your Thanksgiving- and I can explain why in ONE picture.

And now, because I'm a blogger and our job is to write, I will explain.  

I headed out to Whole Foods Fair Oaks, which is actually right on my hubby's way home- so I plan on making him stop in more often- and got to check out their Holiday catering and wine menus.  

It's a tough job, y'all, but somebody's got to do it. 
Boom, 2.0

Williams Sonoma sent out some people from their Fair Oaks store to let us know they will come and do free in-home tables cape or decor consultations.  They also let us know they have "entry-level" price point options, including the dinnerware we ate off of, which is priced for when you're having 20 people over and don't want to spend $40 a place setting.  Everything they did was beautiful. How amazing is this turkey tablescape? They also let us know that they have cooking classes for adults and kids- I know you guys frequently ask me about those, so check it out here. 
My table doesn't look like this...yet.

After we learned how to set a gorgeous table, we obviously needed to add a little holiday cheer, so we sampled Whole Foods Top 10 Wines for the holidays, of which I had a few favorites- the H&M Hofer is an organic wine that's crisp with peach and meyer lemon flavors that goes great with turkey.  The Santa Julia Malbec and the Criterion Chianti Classico were reds I would actually drink! I'm not a huge fan of champagne but the Camino Calixo Cava was very apple-y and pleasant. 
Red wine I actually liked!

After sampling eleven (11) wines, it was definitely time for dinner.  Here's where Whole Foods really shone for me.  (Shone? Shined? I'm never sure.) 

I love to cook.  And, not to toot my own horn, I make some pretty delicious food.  But I would say that with the exception of the mashed potatoes, Whole Food's Thanksgiving Dinner was every bit as good as mine.  And their mashed potatoes weren't bad, they were just a different style and I like mine better.  So there.

They offer you the best turkey possible- with 5 step animal welfare ratings, and you can pick a locally raised, organic, kosher, heirloom, or brined bird.  You can select a ready-to-roast full turkeys, a boneless breast only, or a pre-roasted organic turkey.  Then you add on side dishes, which, if your family is anything like mine, are fantastic because there are several vegan options for those who would prefer to avoid meat. From stuffing to potatoes (sweet or white), casseroles (mac and cheese, green bean..nom), veggies, soups, gravy, and relishes, your table is going to have everything that grandma made and then some.  They even have a "Just the Sides" package that includes homestyle mashed potatoes, sage stuffing, 2 veggies or casseroles, cranberry orange relish, and gravy- which I love because in our family the person who's hosting is in charge of the turkey and the people coming bring the sides, so this gives you the option of looking like a rock star! (Just the sides packages are $59 for 6-8 people or $99 for 12-16) 
If you just put these in your own containers I won't tell anyone you didn't cook.

However, if you want to do the whole thing, Whole Foods offers several options.  A traditional turkey dinner with an oven-ready turkey and all the sides is normally $119.99 for 6-8 people and $199.99 for 12-16.  Their organic turkey dinner is normally $129.99 for 6-8 people.  I would say, from years of Thanksgiving cooking experience, that this is one heck of a deal as is.  I usually spend more than that in groceries for the big day, and that doesn't count in all my time prepping and chopping and roasting, and cleaning up before everyone gets there. 

BUT RIGHT NOW!!! The traditional turkey dinner is on sale for $89 (6-8) or $169 (12-16).  I cannot make Thanksgiving Dinner from scratch for 12-16 people for $169, I'm going to tell you that much right now. The organic turkey dinner is on sale for $99, and I don't think I could do an organic dinner for that price, either. 

There's also a turkey dinner for 2+ ($45) and a Vegan Dinner for 2+ ($39), so Whole Foods has you covered no matter what the size of your party or the type of food you'd like to serve. 

You can also add on rolls, flavored butters, cornbread, pies, cakes, cheese platters, seafood platters, extra sides, and whatever  you need to make your Thanksgiving amazing. I hear their pumpkin pie is fluffy and delicious and the apple pie is sweet and sugar-crusted.  I don't like pie as a rule, so I just asked the people around me :) 
That pie looks homemade as all get out. 

They've also extended a special offer for you guys.  When you purchase your Whole Foods Thanksgiving Feast by November 22, they'll give you $10 off your next purchase (Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years).

In conclusion, if you don't want to cook this year, go order your Thanksgiving Dinner at shop.WFM.com.  Do not make yourself go to the grocery store and buy things, and don't cook if you don't like to do it.  Snag a great deal on some food that tastes homemade and delicious, and just enjoy your time with your family and friends.  

Thanks to Whole Foods NOVA for having me out to sample their holiday offerings.  While this post is sponsored by them, all opinions are my own.  Especially the ones about pie. 


Santa's Flight Academy at Fair Oaks Mall

When we headed out to breakfast with Santa at Fair Oaks Mall, I thought that only one of my kids (the youngest) was going to have fun and the others would tolerate it- but surprisingly my almost-thirteen-year-old had a great time making sure his sister had a great time.  My middle guy, well, he's in a too cool for school phase right now, but he definitely had a few smiles, too.  

What I really enjoyed, though, was watching the 3-8 year old crowd be totally taken in by the Santa's Flight Academy experience! From receiving their own "work badge" to dancing in a flight suit to loading the sleigh with presents, this setting has been thoughtfully designed to ensure kids have a great time while they're waiting to see the big man. 

Santa's Flight Academy will be available exclusively at Fair Oaks Mall from Friday, November 11th through Saturday, December 24th.  Due to the anticipated demand, visitors are encouraged to pre-register for Santa's Flight Academy entrance badges online.  We did our badges online and it was very easy- then you just print them using your email address. 

A variety of packages are available for purchase, along with some adorable extras like pop up cards and glitter frames.  You guys know how I feel about glitter!!
There are also some special photo options for your family to get pet photos with santa.  Pets must be up-to-date on their vaccinations and must be on a leash or carried in a pet carrier.  Pet photos with Santa will be available November 13th 6:30-8pm, November 26th 8-9:30am, November 27 6:30-8pm, December 4 6:30-8pm, December 10 7:30-8:30am, and December 11 6:30-8pm.  
If you're looking for a magical, immersive Santa experience, this is definitely the place to bring your kids this season! We think you'll have a fun, memorable time at Santa's Flight Academy as you head to meet Santa! Use the coupon below for additional savings!