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Monday, February 4, 2008

Honey, I'm home

Threw out the cough medicine last fall when the USDA recommended not giving it to kids younger than 6? Now a researcher whose data led the USDA to make that recommendation says he believes honey could be a good alternative to easing coughs in kids older than 1 (Honey isn't safe for infants because it can result in life-threatening botulism). Read the story at Science News for Kids.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Winging it at Wegman's

Instead of driving 20 minutes in the rain to downtown Leesburg to find the Ah!laska organic chocolate syrup my kids have gotten used to after I weaned them off Hershey’s, I thought I’d take a chance and check Wegman’s. I usually go to Wegman’s when I want something special or exotic, like foie gras, but I’m going to have to go there more often. Why? Let me count the ways:

1. WKids Fun Center: It took me about 5 minutes to fill out a form and register La Princesa to play in their playroom. It’s open to kids 3-8 years old, and you get an hour to shop whine-free. Pure bliss. They give you a pager like they give you at Panera in case your wee one needs the bathroom, and you each get a paper bracelet to ensure the right kid goes home with the right mom or dad. Which may not be helpful to you. But I digress; a final tip: make sure your kid has socks on, or else they won’t let her play on the playset. La Princesa, alas sockless, was mighty pouty about it when I picked her up.

2. More than 900 organic items in their Nature’s Marketplace. Their section isn’t as big as a Whole Foods, but bigger than Giant’s or Bloom (formerly Food Lion). Harris Teeter integrates their organic items into the general food population rather than keeping a separate section. And the one item that will ensure my return: Spectrum Children’s DHA for $9.99. That’s $5 less than at Whole Foods, the cheapest I’d found anywhere, including the Net.

3. The option to eat in, upstairs, which I haven’t tried yet. What makes this more attractive than the Whole Foods dining area is the huge food court, where you can get pizza, subs, sushi, Chinese food, kosher deli sandwiches and more

Overall, Wegman’s feels more trendy, more pop culture—to wit: the Cookie Cones, “As seen on Food Network!” in four flavors: Pretzel, Chocolate, Chocolate Chip and M&Ms Minis. It costs an outrageous 5 for $5.99 and the M&Ms version contains artificial colors and flavors. Did I get one anyway? Sure did, the M&M’s version! I’ll save it as a suspend-the-diet treat on a weekend or holiday.

Friday, February 1, 2008


In the mind's eye of the mom I'd like to be, I'd be taking my 4-year-old daughter to storytimes and other events at the library. Haven't gotten around to it yet, though, because there's always other things we want to do. Not to mention the fact that she can't sit still and would ask the storyteller to hurry up, already.

But in fits of optimism, I check the events at all the county libraries to see what their events are. I've only lived in NoVa for two years now, so I don't know where all the libraries are located and whether it's worth driving that far to get to an event.

So, I made myself a Googlemap of Fairfax County libraries. I can easily see now the distance from any library from my house, and can even plot a driving route. I plan to add mini-reviews with photos/video of the libraries as well later, as well a Loudoun County map. Gotta love Google.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ode to Summer

Yikes! Registration for Fairfax County Park Authority's summer camps starts in 7 days; it just seems so wrong to have to think about summer plans when the snow hasn't completely melted from my backyard, for heaven's sake. But they always fill up quickly, so I'll be one of those lurkers waiting for Parktakes Online to open on Feb. 7. (Spring registration starts Feb. 5) It's a breeze to browse for classes, sign up or cancel online; the only problem a first-time user might have is how to decide among the dozens, possibly hundreds, of classes the system offers.

It's not clear when Loudouners can sign up their kids for summer camps; the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services says late February or early March. Their browsing tool, Web-Trac, is as unwieldy as the agency's name, at least for a first-time visitor or someone trying to register for the first tim
e. A search for "camps" turned up a list that appears to arranged by when it's offered, with no other information. When you click on one of the offerings, it'll tell you dates and times of the classes, but then you have to click on four different symbols to find out location, cost, enrollment and details such as ages and class description. The classes themselves sound just as interesting and fun as Fairfax's but I'd be put off from browsing online and would probably just turn to their print version. At least the Activity Guide can be downloaded as a PDF document from their main site; they currently have the Winter 2007-8 available now.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Natural cookie decorations

If I want my kids to try a new food or I just want to jazz up a treat, I reach for colorful sprinkles. Ten-year-old doesn't like mashed potatoes? A dash of green decorating sugar gets him in the mood. But with the new dietary restrictions I've imposed, which includes eliminating artificial colors and flavors, they've had to do without their culinary touchups.

Now, however, I've found an organic cookie decoration supplier and they can have sprinkles in their ice cream again! Natural candy store sells decorating sugars and nonpareils (those little candy globes) that are colored with natural ingredients such as paprika, annato, turmeric and vegetable juices. As with most organic alternatives that I've found, you'll pay more for it; they go for about $4.80 to $5.40 for about 3 ounces.

At least I found 'em before I started making my Valentine's Day cookies!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hanging out at Whole Foods

Gotta big ol' crush on Whole Foods, and it gets deeper every time we shop in the Reston store. By we, I mean me and the 4-year-old, who make up the 11 a.m. lunch crowd in their dine-in area. Yup, that's right, dine-in area. Sometimes we sit at the bar-style counter facing the walls, sometimes we sit at the tables, but it's become one of our weekly lunch spots. I feel like such the virtuous mom as she piles into a small tub of fruit and I chow down on a rosemary roll and French onion soup. The soup can be found at the salad bar, but I've also had the mushroom quesadilla from the cold section—all of which have been great. Have yet to try their sushi (still addicted to the take-out sushi from Harris Teeter) or anything from their prepared foods section (salmon, steak, chicken, you name it, they have it). The absolute highlight, though, is their dessert bar and display case. I've been in such awe that I haven't brought myself to buy much more than an oatmeal cookie.

I also couldn't resist getting one, OK two, of their new reusable bags, made of 80 percent recycled plastic bottles, for 99 cents each. I could never remember to bring the plain blue ones I got from Giant, but these are so bright and cheerful there's no way I'll forget them. As I reveled in my new grocery bags (yeah, simple things make me happy) while eating, I also noticed they provide pads so you can write down your grocery list, which seems backward to me because we eat after we shop. Anyhow, as we left the dine-in area, she picked up a free calendar that I can now use to teach her days of the week.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Groundhog Day Feb. 2

Learn the story behind Groundhog Day and meet a real groundhog at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly. They have a neat little nature center that includes a small exhibit, a ministore that sells snacks and a separate conference room for classes and presentations. This park's staff really have it together, or at least their Web site makes it seem that way, since they're one of the few Fairfax County parks that list their events through May.

The 1-2 p.m. groundhog presentation is free, but you need to make reservations by calling 703-631-0013.