Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gift Ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week

Gift Ideas for Teacher Appreciation Week 
May 5-9, 2014
I love my children's teachers. I admire their patience and appreciate their love, personal attention, and prayers for my children. We appreciate our teachers every day, and next week we have a whole week to show them just how much we appreciate them for all they do for our little ones!

I am gathering ideas now to give to the teachers at CCS next week, (nothing like waiting until the last minute, huh?), and thought I would share some ideas from last year for those of you who, like me, may still be looking for ideas of your own. Please feel free to take these ideas and use them, modify them, share them...  Let me know if you tried any other these project and how they turned out.  

Last year parents at our children's school joined together both in effort and financially to show our appreciation for our teachers. Each day we gave a small gift to each teacher, and on Friday held a Teacher Appreciation breakfast. Here are a few pictures of some of the gifts we made and gave.

Day 1: Apple stacked upon chocolate dip, wrapped in plastic baggie with a note that read "Thank you for being so SWEET to us!"

Day 2: Bottled water with note that read "Thank You for Quenching our Children's Thirst for Knowledge!" I cut pieces of card stock into long rectangles, then folded them, stapled the sides, and added a water flavoring packet. I cut slits in the top of the construction paper packet so it would hang over the bottle cap. This was super easy, very inexpensive, and a nice treat that the teacher's enjoyed.

Day 3: "We need S'MORE teachers like you!" Fill a container (in my case a baggie) with marshmallows, a couple of miniature Hershey bars, and four graham crackers. Again, an inexpensive simple, yet sweet treat. Seriously, who doesn't love S'mores?

Day 4: Marvelous and Magnificent Teacher Jars-We filled small mason jars with M&Ms and tied a note on each jar. In retrospect, we should have used wither a larger jar or a smaller note, but the sentiment was the same. This was by far the most expensive daily gift we made, because M&Ms can be pricey, plus the cost of the jars. To cut costs, you could consider packaging them differently in something other than glass jars.  I found this great idea and printed the poem at Happy Clippings.

Day 5: As the grand finale, we hosted a Teacher Appreciation Breakfast. We made sure to have muffins and doughnuts from South Boston's Windmill Bakeshop, fruit salad, fresh fruit, a breakfast casserole, and broccoli provolone quiche.   We also served juice, coffee, water, and had a framed note of appreciation and recognition of each teacher and staff person.
Our wonderful Centerville Christian School teachers and staff: Left to Right: Donna Matthews, Marion Ridgeway, Carol Elliott, Linda Link, Rebecca Heims, Pastor Trevor Heims, Rhonda Glascock, and not pictured Pastor Todd McClure and Kelly McClure.
Remember, I'm still looking for ideas for next week, so if you have a gift you've given that is simple, inexpensive, but super cute and would make a great Teacher Appreciation gift, please send it my way. Now, Let's go out there and show our appreciation!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

SoVA Mom Tip Tuesday: Lowes Build and Grow - Free Saturday Morning Fun!

SoVA Mom Tip Tuesday: Lowes Build and Grow is free, fun, educational, and a great way to keep the little ones occupied on Saturday mornings from 10-11am while you pick out ferns and get your spring and building project ideas together. Did I mention that it's FREE?  

Go to to see the schedule of events (usually held two Saturday mornings each month) and register your child online.  When you arrive at Lowes, your child will receive a pair of goggles, child size hammer, an apron, and a badge for completing the activity. For every subsequent session and building project that your child completes, s/he will earn a badge to add to their apron. 
Heart shaped Valentine's Day flower vases.
Courtie and Cary were happy to give handmade Valentines Day gifts to their "G." 
The Next Lowes Build and Grow is scheduled for Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 10am. Children will be making a "Flower Delivery Truck" just in time for Mother's Day.
For a full schedule of upcoming Lowes Build and Grow events, and to easily register online, CLICK HERE.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Art, Theatre, Lego Camp and More: Kids Kollege 2014 at the Prizery, South Boston, Virginia

We love Kids Kollege!  I have been anxiously awaiting the Kids Kollege Schedule to be announced. Our family has enjoyed taking advantage of attending this quality program for the past few years.

Without further ado, Parsons-Bruce Art Association has announced the dates and class schedule for Kids Kollege 2014.  Classes will be held for three weeks this summer:  Week One July 14-18; Week Two July 21-25; Week Three July 25-August 1.  Classes are held from 9am until noon each day. Plan to get to the Prizery 15-20 minutes early so children can line up with their teacher.

Classes such as Books Alive! Remote Control Mania, Cool Science for Kooky Kids, Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice, I'm a Star, CSI, Viva El Espanol, Hooked on Art, and many more classes will be offered.

Our family learned the hard way our first year that to get into the classes you want, you need to sign up sooner than later. Some classes are so popular, such as Remote Control Mania (Lego class), that they fill up very quickly.

Children ages 4-12 can attend Kids Kollege, and can choose their classes according to age and interest.  Classes are held at the Prizery, Innovation Center, and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, all in South Boston, Virginia. Registration is $55 per class. More class information, schedules, and registration forms are online at Parsons-Bruce Art Association's website at

Saturday, April 26, 2014

An Afternoon at the American Girl Store and Cafe, Washington DC

Easter Weekend 2014 ~ Our family secured four tickets to the 136th Annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House Lawn, so we decided to make a weekend of it and do as much as we could while we were there. Read more about our trip here and find out how your family can do the same. 
We left our home in South Boston, Virginia early on Saturday morning and drove straight to Northern Virginia to Tyson's Corner Mall, where we had reservations at the American Girl Cafe. I made the reservations several weeks in advance at There are American Girl stores across the United States at this time, with one new store soon opening in Canada, plus rumors of one opening in nearby Charlotte, North Carolina this coming September. Find your nearest store on the website and click to open the information for that store, then follow the prompts to make reservations to eat in the cafe. You can also schedule birthday parties, can have a personal shopper, and can have your dolls' hair styled in the doll salon. You must reserve your spot in the doll salon in person.
This is the view of the American Girl Cafe from the sidewalk at Tyson's Corner, which is located by Dulles Airport just outside of Washington DC.  Our reservations at the American Girl Cafe were at 1:45, and we were seated by 2pm. The resturaunt was decorated in a lot of pink. The booths, flower arrangements on the tables, the menus, walls, and even the waiters' aprons were various shades of pink.
 When Carrington first saw this, he buried his head into his folded arms on the table and shed a few tears. We explained to him how imporant this day was to his Sissy, and promised him a trip to the Lego store, also at Tyson's Corner, if he promised to be a good sport.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, and we're not above bribing in special circumstances. It obviously paid off, because he quickly perked up, and we all enjoyed our meal and the whole American Girl experience. I wonder if American Girl and Lego have ever thought about teaming up and offering a sibling package? Hmmm...
When you go to the American Girl Cafe, be sure to take your American Girl Dolls. Courtland took Caroline of the War of 1812 and the 2013 Girl of the Year, Saige. The girls were seated at the table with us and given tea to enjoy.
 $8 champagne cocktail drinks such as Mimosas and Bellinis were on what I like to call the "mom" menu. I enjoyed this Pomegranate while waiting for our lunch to be served.
The American Girl Cafe menu was actually impressive. I ordered the Caprese Salad followed by the Herb Roasted Salmon with Lemon Beurre Blanc, served with oven roasted potatoes, sauteed greenbeans, and tomato-caper relish, all of which were absolutely delicious!
Mark ordered the Cuban Chicken Panini with ham, swiss cheese, grilled chicken breast, chipotle mayo, and sweet pickles on grilled sourdough served with fries, and was equally as pleased with his sandwich as I had been with my salmon.  
Courtland ordered the Perfect Picnic Time entree, which incuded a mini burger and hot dog and a fruit kabob on fruits cut like flowers. Both children ordered the Dancing Dessert Sampler, though Carrington's two pink cupcakes were brought back to the hotel room in a to go box. It's ok, Mark and I didn't let them last too long in that box.
Before we took our seats at the cafe, we took the escalator the the store's lower level where we made reservations for the dolls to have their hair styled at the doll salon. We were told to give ourselves an hour and a half for lunch, so our reservations for the salon were at 3:30.  At the salon, girls can choose from dozens of hairstyles for their dolls, each costing between about $15 and $20. The dolls can also get a good cleaning for $5. The stylists give instructions to the girls as they style the dolls hair on how to brush and keep the dolls' hair neat at home and how to curl and style the hair themselves. They give the girls a tip sheet, as well, to take home with them.
This is Saige having her hair done by stylist Julaine.
Aren't these salon chairs the cutest? They think of everything!
Caroline is having her curls restyled.
Courtland with her doll Saige, and stylist Julaine
 Courtland, Caroline, and Saige ~ Three American Girls
 We made our way from the American Girl store to the Lego store in record time, but not before I had the chance to do a little window glancing.  I am always so impressed by the beautiful eye catching store displays. Aren't they pretty? 

Here's another sweet one!

Ah, the Lego Store! We made it!
Carrington is one happy Lego lover! See, it pays to be a good sport.


Hotel Monaco in Historic Old Town Alexandria

Easter Weekend 2014 ~ Our family secured four tickets to the 136th Annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House Lawn, so we decided to make a weekend of it and do as much as we could while we were there. Read more about our trip here and find out how your family can do the same.  
When we left Tyson's Corner, we drove to Old Town Alexandria, where we checked into the Hotel Monaco. I can't say enough nice things about this wonderful boutique hotel in the heart of the historic shopping district. This is an evening view of the street directly in front of the hotel. The hotel entrance is on the right underneath the hotel sign. Valet parking in the covered parking deck was provided at a charge no more than the regular parking rate. 
Our Boutique Hotel Room at the Hotel Monaco
It was the little touches that made our stay at the Hotel Monaco so special.
We were greeted with a chalkboard in our room welcoming our family to the Hotel Monaco. There were goldfish cracker packs for the children and chalk and erasers for endless chalkboard activity. The hotel hosts a Kids Hour each evening in the hotel lobby from 4-5 where children are served snacks and participate in child-friendly activities.
Hotel Monaco (and really all of Old Town Alexandria) is the dog-friendliest place I have ever visited. You can take your pets with you to the hotel, and unlike many other dog friendly hotels, there is no weight limit. We could have taken Olive, our English Mastiff if we thought she could stomach the travel time.  Since we weren't able to take Olive with us, the hotel had John the goldfish waiting for us in our room when we arrived. When making your reservations, simply state that you are unable to take your pet with you to the hotel and that your children would love a fish for the weekend, and it will be waiting for you when you arrive.  
There is a complimentary adult happy hour each evening in the lobby from 5-6. We talked for a long while with a family who had traveled to DC from Michigan. One of my favorite parts of traveling is meeting people from other places. The happy hour in the lobby gave us a great opportunity to do just that.
Believe it or not, the hotel just keeps getting better. There is a swimming pool on the third floor, where on select nights, the hotel plays family oriented movies above the pool.  We may have been tired from a long day, but we weren't about to miss the pool and movie!
They don't look tired, do they? Maybe it was just the parents who were wiped out.
We didn't have time to take advantage of this sweet ride, but if we had wanted to, we could have checked out these old fashioned bicycles and gone for a ride in Old Town.
Love, love, love the bathroom. Am I the only one?
Ahhh, marble shower.
The restaurant affiliated and connected with the hotel is Jackson20. For an extra $1 per night, we received two breakfast tickets for a complimentary continental breakfast or $7.50 discount on something from the menu.  We stayed two nights, so we received four tickets.

I kind of absolutely love Eggs Benedict, and I usually order it when it's on the menu.
We took a stroll through Old Town. I believe that if a street musician makes you stop to listen, then you own him a dollar. Carrington thinks so, too.
Old Town Alexandria's free trolley, which stops every two blocks or as requested.

We stopped at Bishop Boutique on our stroll through Old Town. There were treat filled eggs hidden in the shoes throughout the store. That's my kind of Easter egg hunt!
How many eggs can you find?
We also visited The Dog Park to buy Olive a couple of doggie toys.
The shop sold gourmet dog treats.
Look at these gourmet doggie Easter egg treats. Have you ever seen such a thing? These have Olive's name written all over them!
They have treats for humans, too, like this funny t-shirt.
The Alexandria Courthouse
While strolling through Old Town on the way back to our hotel, we stopped at La Madeleine, sort of a french gourmet meets fast food restaurant. I could not make that up if I tried.
Not your typical fast food. We placed our order, including our french wine, and paid at the counter.
And our food was delivered to our table...
The children shared the rosemary roasted chicken with broccoli and seasoned rice. 
Remember the family we met from Michigan at happy hour? We recommended La Madeleine to them, and they love it, too.
The next night, we had dinner at Columbia Firehouse, which is an actual firehouse that has been refurbished.
It was the drink menu I found to be most clever at the Columbia Firehouse. Drinks from different hotels and resturants in different eras of time were featured on the drink menu.  I wasn't planning on ordering a drink, but curiosity got the best of me, and I had to try the Aviation/Circa 1916/Hotel Wallick/New York, made with Bombay Dry, Luxardo, Creme de Violette, and Lemon Juice. It was very floral, and I loved it. Mark did not.
I wish this picture had turned out better. I tried to capture the stained glass ceiling at the Columbia Firehouse, but some things are best seen in person.