{Giveaway} Junior League of Northern Virginia’s The Enchanted Forest – 2 Tix

Junior League of Northern Virginia The Enchanted ForestThe holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day makes me positively giddy. There’s an extra bounce in my step, a holiday tune in my head, and a usually a goofy grin plastered on my face. I make an extra effort to remember what I’m thankful for, to spread some holiday cheer, and to reflect upon what to improve upon in the upcoming year.

A big part of my “getting in the spirit” tradition is attending the Junior League of Northern Virginia’s annual The Enchanted Forest. This event is so incredible, so magical, it is nearly impossible to describe in mere words. One simply has to experience it to really grasp it, but I will do my best. Mark you calendar right now for November 23 from 10 am – 5 pm and Nov 24 10 am – 1pm and read on!

One lucky CaffeineandaPrayer.com reader will win a two-pack of general admission tickets, so be sure to enter! Full disclosure here — I am a member of the Junior League of Northern Virginia. But if you’re a regular reader here, you already knew that…

The Junior League of Northern Virginia’s 13th Annual The Enchanted Forest

November 23-24
Saturday: 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday: 10 am – 1 pm
Westin Tyson’s Corner (7801 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22043)
Tickets and schedule informationhttp://www.jlnv.org/the-enchanted-forest

The Enchanted Forest

trees 1-lightenedFirst and foremost, there is the forest itself. This event is a fundraiser to support the mission of the Junior League of Northern Virginia (JLNV), an organization of  women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.  The center of the event is a ballroom filled with pre-lit artificial Christmas trees that have been creatively decorated by theme with items and are up for bid via silent auction.  For example, there are trees filled with items for pets, or a tree that is all Barbie items, or everything needed to make martinis. Trees range from about 3 feet to 7 feet tall.  You can ooh-and-aah at row after row of creativity and generosity in the ballroom while performers such as Reston Conservatory Ballet, Pirate Magic and others are in the room. (See the TEF page for the schedule of performances.) Get your photo taken with Santa (see schedule) — and no, you don’t have to be a kid to do so! General admission tickets ($13) grant you access to the forest.

photo-kharris2More Family Fun

In addition to the forest itself, there are more activities at The Enchanted Forest event. The JLNV has brought part of their community work in-house for the public to see firsthand. The Kids in the Holiday Kitchen room allows the children an opportunity to learn about healthy food and exercise habits and prepare some food themselves. Family members of all ages can have fun with hands-on science experiments and learn more about the JLNV’s partnership with the Children’s Science Center in our exploration room.

What’s a holiday event without a model train? Marvel at the National Capital Trackers Model Train Display — popular not just with the kids, but with those who are still children at heart!

Get a jump on our holiday shopping at the Marketplace filled with a variety of vendors. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of “What Can I Bring?” – the JLNV’s coveted cookbook. (Hint: It makes a great gift for teachers.)

Premium Ticket Events

Extend your experience with these premium ticket events. See the Junior League of Northern Virginia’s The Enchanted Forest page for schedule and to purchase tickets.

Cookies with Santa: $25

Enjoy holiday cookies and some very special time with Santa. Event includes a photo with Santa, milk and holiday cookies, story time, a craft activity, and a General Admission ticket. Children under 18 months of age are not required to purchase a separate ticket, and all adults must purchase a ticket. When ordering, please indicate if you require gluten-free cookies.

Cocoa and Georgetown Cupcakes with Snow Fairy Princess: $25

JLNV The Enchanted Forest Snow Fairy

The Snow Fairy Princess is on her way to Town! Enjoy decorating Georgetown Cupcakes while visiting with the Snow Fairy Princess. Event includes a photo with the Princess, Georgetown Cupcakes and cocoa, story time, a craft activity, and a General Admission ticket. Children under 18 months of age are not required to purchase a separate ticket, and all adults must purchase a ticket. When ordering, please indicate if you require gluten-free cupcakes.

Breakfast with Santa: $30

Ever wonder what Santa eats for breakfast? If so, join Santa for a full breakfast of eggs, bacon, pancakes, assorted pastries, freshly baked bagels, assorted cream cheeses and jams and jellies, fresh fruit, assorted fresh juices, coffee, hot tea, and much more. Event includes a visit, story time, and photo with Santa, as well as a craft activity and a General Admission ticket. Children under 18 months of age are not required to purchase a separate ticket and all adults must purchase a ticket. When ordering, please indicate if you require gluten-free pastries and bagels.

Gingerbread Workshop: $35 per house

This is always one of my favorites! Attend a Gingerbread Workshop where you will decorate your own edible gingerbread house with royal icing and an assortment of candy.  Your completed house, covered in candy trim with a cookie roof, will be yours to take home that day.  Event includes a General Admission ticket. Children under 18 months of age are not required to purchase a separate ticket.

Mistletoe Masquerade Ball (Gala): $90 – Saturday, November 23, 7 pm – 11:30 pm

Need a night out? Indulge in an evening of dancing and merrymaking at the Mistletoe Masquerade Ball, featuring an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, DJ, live and silent auctions and casino events.

Giveaway Details:

The Junior League of Northern Virginia has generously provided me with two general admission tickets (a value of $13 each) to give to one lucky reader. These tickets are good for either day of the event and will be available at Will Call. My family has also been provided with two tickets.

To enter:

  • The giveaway runs between now and 9 am Eastern, Wednesday, November 20, 2013.
  • I am using the Rafflecopter widget for the first time — please let me know if you have any problems.
  • Winner will be notified via email Wednesday and you must respond by Wednesday 7 pm ET or I will have to move on to the next winner as this is a quick turnaround and tickets are only good Saturday or Sunday.  At that time I will need your name and phone number so I may add you to the Will Call list.
  • You can use this shortened link to share the giveaway with friends: http://bit.ly/1j7H49i

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What you will win:

  • Two general admission tickets valid for one day only either November 23 10 am – 5 pm OR November 24 10 am – 1 pm.  A general admission ticket includes access to The Enchanted Forest of Trees, Marketplace, Holiday Entertainment on Center Stage, Kids in the Holiday Kitchen, National Capital Trackers Model Trains Display, Pictures with Santa, and the Children’s Science Center exhibits.
  • Tickets will be made available through Will Call.
  • Ticket recipients should bring valid picture ID.
  • Premium events and gala tickets are available for separate purchase.
  • Event information and additional ticket purchase: http://www.jlnv.org/the-enchanted-forest

Whether you win the tickets or not, I highly recommend going, it’s a fun, fun time and a great cause!

{Review} Disney’s Planes in 3D Takes Off with Young Viewers

Disney Planes imageAs soon as the commercials came for Disney’s Planes came out, the comparisons to Cars were inevitable. After all, with a similar logo, the same simple moniker, and Disney’s penchant for squeezing out the formula of one successful movie enterprise to launch another one; who could blame us?

Disclosure: The PR company gave my family tickets to the sneak preview so that I may review the movie in time for opening day (today.) Opinions are my own.

While there are indeed many similarities (a world inhabited entirely of vehicles, a big race, an unscrupulous reigning champion); there are also enough differences in Planes to make this a delightful, standalone movie. The plot of this action-packed 3D adventure centers around Dusty, a cropduster plane who dreams of being an air racer. He comes from a small town and has a loyal set of friends — including a crusty war veteran plane — who prepare him for the qualifying races for a worldwide race.

It is in this global race that he faces his biggest challenges — in addition to the physical challenges of the international course — treachery, sabotage, snubbery and sometimes, self-doubt. JavaGirl very excitedly shared with us at the end of the movie that she really liked the movie’s message: That it is important to be yourself and to keep working hard to reach your goal. That a seven-year-old got that much out of the movie is terrific. As JavaDad and I deconstructed the movie on the way home, we noted that one of the key differences between Planes and Cars is that in Planes, the main character, Dusty, was always humble, vs. in Cars, where Lightning McQueen had to go through a humbling experience. There are two romantic interests in the movie, but unlike Cars, romance is not a major focus for the main character. Due to the international race, there are characters from all parts of the world as well as scenes set throughout the world, which makes for nice variety.

JavaBoy especially found the chase/race scenes exciting and cited these as his favorite part of the movie. Note that there are a couple of portions of the movie that are so vivid they may upset younger viewers. Because the planes are personified, there are many references to plane crashes as planes getting “killed.”

Watching the movie in 3D definitely enhances the experience as this is a movie about flying and many times you get a very first-person sense of the almost acrobatic flying done throughout the race (over mountains, between tight spots, banking turns). JavaDad, who has previously avoided 3D movies because he doesn’t like how the glasses feel over his prescription glasses, actually enjoyed the experience and wanted me to note that though he is prone to motion sickness, did not during this movie.

While the kids certainly loved the movie, JavaDad and I also walked away feeling like it was time well spent. (I am not always a fan of kids’ movies.) Overall, I would recommend this movie for a family night, and especially if you were a Cars fan. If you have an aviation enthusiast in the family, they may get a real kick out of it.

Dane Cook voices Dusty, and a whole host of celebrities bring the magic to the other characters — Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese, Teri Hatcher, Brad Garrett, Colin Cowherd and more.

Before you decide whether to buy tickets – check out some trailers. Already saw the movie and want to do some Planes-related activities? Here are recipes, oragami ideas and more on Flewtube!

Disney’s Planes takes off in theaters in 3D today, August 9, 2013, and will be presented in Disney Digital 3D™ in select theaters. For more information, check out Disney.com/Planes, like them on Facebook: facebook.com/DisneyPlanes and follow them on Twitter: twitter.com/DisneyPictures.

{Giveaway} Four-pack of Tickets to BrickFair ’13 for LEGO Fans

Last year's BrickFair exhibits included a working train.

Last year’s BrickFair exhibits included a working train.

Chances are you have one or more LEGO fans in your household. They may be kids or  AFOLs (adult fans of LEGO) or both. Imagine the looks on their faces as they check out 100,000 square feet of LEGO models, displays and winding trains at the Dulles Expo Center at BrickFair ’13 in Chantilly, VA! Even better, you can enter my giveaway to win a four-pack of tickets (see rules at the end of this post)!

Skyscrapers, mega-contraptions and other large displays demonstrated the level of creativity of LEGO fans of all at last year's BrickFair.

Skyscrapers, mega-contraptions and other large displays demonstrated the level of creativity of LEGO fans of all at last year’s BrickFair.

The fan festival expects to have more than a thousand exhibitors with LEGO creations of all sizes as well as vendors with items such as minifigures, custom-molded weapons, and unique models. If your kids are like mine, all this LEGO-stimulation will leave them eager to get their hands on a few blocks of their own, so fortunately there’s a Stay ‘N Play area filled with bricks where they can unleash their creativity! The first 3,000 people through the doors on each day will each receive a free BrickForge custom molded minifig utensil.

BrickFair ’13

August 3 -4, 2012
11 am – 4 pm
Dulles Expo Center
4230 Chantilly Center
Chantilly, VA 20153
Admission: 3 and under – FREE. Everyone else $12 at door or skip the long line and buy online (which I highly recommend!)
No strollers please

You pay $12 at the door, buy online (limited quantities available), but why not try for a four-pack of tickets right here?

Caffeineandaprayer.com’s BrickFair ’13 Ticket Giveaway Rules:

  • These tickets are good for one day only, at BrickFair ’13 in Chantilly, VA August 3 or 4 from 11 am to 4 pm. In fairness to others, please enter only if you actually plan on using the tickets. They have a total value of $48.
  • US entrants only, please.
  • Entrants must be 18 years or older.
  • Tickets will be physically mailed or delivered to you, so if you are the winner, you will need to be willing to provide me a mailing address (no P.O. Boxes) within 24 hours of being announced as the winner.
  • To enter: Please comment on THIS blog post with a comment that includes the phrase “BrickFair.” For example, you can say, “My kids have 6 billion LEGOS and we would LOVE to go to the BrickFair!” or “I am married to an AFOL and would love to surprise my spouse with BrickFair tix” or “Wow, JavaMom, you are the coolest blogger in the world for bringing us this opportunity for BrickFair tickets…” (no, really, complimenting me has no bearing on who wins, I promise!) If you do not have the phrase “BrickFair” in your comment, you are immediately disqualified!
  • You can earn EXTRA entries by tweeting about this giveaway as long as you meet the following conditions:
    1. Include a link to this post (Shortlink: http://caffeineandaprayer.com/?p=3869)
    2. Either include @brickfair or #brickfair
    3. Include @caffandaprayer
    4. Comment here with a link to your tweet and include “BrickFair” (i.e. “I tweeted about BrickFair and here is my link: _____)
  • In all your entries, you must include a valid email address so I may contact you if you are the winner.
  • I must be able to reach you via that email address within 24 hours of the end of the giveaway so I can notify you that you are the winner and get your snail mail address (no P.O. Boxes) and mail  or deliver your tickets. If I am not able to reach you, I will move on to the next person. I am not responsible for emails that land in your spam or junk mail or are otherwise blocked by your system.
  • Winners will be selected at random from all qualified entrants.
  • Giveaway ends midnight, Eastern time, Wednesday, July 31, 2013.
  • Have fun and good luck!

Hooray! We have a winner! She has been contacted and has responded! Congratulations STIMEY! Thank  you to ALL who participated.

Tired of stepping on lots of little LEGO pieces at home? You might enjoy my previous blog post about LEGO organization.

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Disclosure: BrickFair provided four tickets for the giveaway and a set of complimentary tickets for my family. All photos are provided by the BrickFair convention. LEGO is a trademark of the LEGO Group.

{Review} The Lone Ranger: Quirky, Inconsistent, but Fun

Image courtesy of Disney Jerry Bruckheimer Films

Image courtesy of Disney Jerry Bruckheimer Films

The Lone Ranger (Rated PG-13) opens today, but I was invited to a complimentary sneak preview last week for review purposes. My kids, having seen the commercials, wisely opted out, thinking it would be too scary (they were right), so it became a date night for JavaDad and I.

The Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ version of The Lone Ranger is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Gore Verbinski, the same team behind the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which will give you some hints as to the flavor of this movie, especially with Johnny Depp playing Tonto.

The movie is a retelling of the classic tale of how the Lone Ranger came to be, as seen through Tonto’s eyes. One might even go so far as to call it a reinterpretation. Audience members who have knowledge of the original TV show or comic books will be in on some of the jokes, but after that, it is best to leave any preconceived notions about the story and the characters behind and just enjoy the ride.

Johnny Depp does what Johnny Depp does in terms of character development. He is pure over the top. His makeup can be distracting, but as we learn later in the movie, it is symbolic, and in the credits, I learned it was inspired by the Kirby Sattler painting “I Am Crow.”  You will either love or hate Depp. I usually am not a Depp fan, but I decided to just “go with it” and actually enjoyed him in this role.

Armie Hammer has a long distance to go from the dedicated lawman John Reid to the Lone Ranger. He overcomes an awkward script and remains a likeable hero throughout.

As long as you set aside memories of previous Lone Ranger shows, this movie can be quite enjoyable. It is quirky and humorous. However, it is long and yet suffers from continuity issues that are either due to script issues, editing, or both. There are sudden leaps that have the audience wondering, “Wait, did I miss something?” Yet some scenes seem unnecessarily long in order to hit us on the head with some symbolism or milk all the jokes possible.

Is this a movie for kids? Not for MY kids, that is for sure. Take that PG-13 rating seriously. In addition to the expected fight scenes, there are several gory references to cannibalism, there is a scene in a whorehouse (I would not want to have to explain what “professional ladies” means to my kids), and there are many discussions about wiping out tribes of Indians. The cinematography is beautiful in every scene, which makes everything incredibly vivid and therefore could be that much more frightening to children. There are a lot of action scenes that include guns, arrows and hand-to-hand combat, as well as some train accidents and explosions.

A quick mention to collectors of antique glass like myself — keep an eye open for scenes inside the dining cars — you are in for a treat!

Overall I would say that The Lone Ranger suffers from some issues, but if you are game for a quirky movie that will make you laugh, it is worth seeing.

I’m including some trailers to help you decide for yourself.

 

Review: Monsters University 3D Delivers Depth and Entertainment

MU_FBProfile_180x180_12 MU_FBProfile_180x180_2Disney’s Monsters University has certainly been going through the hype machine. Could a movie possibly live up to so much build-up? Wednesday night my daughter (7) and I attended a complimentary sneak preview of Monsters University 3D (rated G) in Tysons Corner and found that indeed, it could.

Let me start with the 3D aspect of the movie. I often avoid 3D movies because I hate wearing the glasses and usually find the 3D to be gimmicky. The glasses were lightweight and easily fit over my own prescription glasses and I quickly forgot I was wearing them. The use of 3D was seamlessly integrated throughout the movie (yes, of course there were times when it was used to make something jump out at us), so it felt organic rather than gratuitous.

I’m not an expert movie reviewer, but having worked for a 3D graphics chip manufacturer, I  know some of the things to look for in 3D animation, and I’ll point out that water, lighting, and making anything round are some of the toughest things to do. One scene I found particularly striking is when you see a lake in the background when Mike and Sully are talking. The water on the lake looks as realistic as if it had been shot on film. There are several times throughout the movie when the geek in me was stunned by just how amazing the animation was — look for things like how well the light reflects off Mike’s round head and the individual hairs of Sully’s fur as he moves. Beware, however, that it is for this very reason that some of the scarier moments in the movie may be more intense for your children than similar scenes were in the original Monsters Inc. JavaGirl has watched the original movie several times, but had to cover her eyes during the “scaring” scenes and later told me it’s because the kids looked “so real” that she was worried for them.

As for the story, this movie is a prequel. It tells the story of Mike and Sully before they became scarers. Who knew one had to get a degree in scaring? We get further insight into what drew these two into their career choice to begin with and how they became a team. Hint: They didn’t start out that way. We finally find out why Randall is so nasty to the duo. The story covers many themes including overcoming adversity, being kind, why cheating doesn’t pay, working hard to reach one’s goals, and teamwork. The plot flows well and introduces new characters, some loveable, some quite fearsome. Central to the story is the Scare Games, which pits members of different fraternities and sororities against each other in various scenarios they may face as future scarers.

As long as you are sensitive to your child’s fear-level, I would recommend this as a family movie. JavaGirl was able to close her eyes for the parts she didn’t like and still enjoy the movie. (You can preview trailers and see images of characters at this site.) As an adult, I felt entertained, not impatiently tapping my foot until it ended like I have in other movies for kids. If you have the choice between regular and 3D, I would opt for 3D. After watching the movie, your family may enjoy visiting Disney’s Monsters University web site.

One additional note, there was a 3D animated short before the movie called The Blue Umbrella that was absolutely delightful, and again, a wonderful use of 3D animation. Be sure to make it on time to see it!

Monsters University opens in U.S. theaters June 21, 2013 and will be shown in Disney Digital 3D (TM) in select theaters.

Images of Sully and Mike provided by Disney’s Monsters University web site.