Monday, February 4, 2008
Sunday, February 3, 2008
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
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
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 time. 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
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
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
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.