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{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 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 information

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:

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:

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

Shot At Life: Save Lives, Change the World, With a Few Clicks #shotatlifedc

If you could prevent a child’s death would you? Of course you would. Picture all the children who enter kindergarten in the US each year and then imagine half of them being dead by the end of the year from preventable diseases. That’s the number of children in developing countries who are lost each year, all for the want of some simple vaccines. (Statistics in this post are  provided by the United Nations Foundation).

One in five children around the world does not have access to the vaccines they need to survive, which means that a child dies every 20 seconds in developing countries of a disease that can be prevented by a vaccine.  

This does not have to happen. There is a very simple solution.

$20 can provide a lifetime of life-saving vaccines for a child in a developing country. The United Nations Foundation with many partners, has a program called Shot@Life focused on global health for children, currently by providing vaccines against four preventable diseases: polio, measles, diarrhea and pneumonia.

In the US, many of us have the option to delay or even deny vaccines, where in other parts of the world, mothers are walking 15 miles, desperate to get their children vaccines so they won’t lose another child to a preventable disease. United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Director Devi Ramachandran Thomas shared with us that in some countries, “They may have very few posessions, but they cling onto their immunization cards as their most precious possession, because it is that important.”

Every child deserves a shot at life. Every child should be able to reach the milestones we look forward to our own children reaching. His first smile. Her first bike ride. His first time reading a book out loud all by himself. Her first cartwheel. Knowing the facts, can we turn a blind eye? We can’t.

I learned about Shot@Life by attending a press event Friday evening, hosted by Monica Sakala of Wired Momma and Anastasia and Gianluigi Dellaccio, owners of the local business Dolci Gelati. They are ambassadors for the program and shared their stories about why they have become involved. And while the event itself was lighthearted and fun, the seriousness of the campaign was not lost on any of us who were there. Children are dying. And we can stop it. But we have to get the word out about how simple this solution is.

Here are a few more facts to know:

  • 70% of all unvaccinated children live in just 10 developing countries.
  • The Measles Initiative, which vaccinated one billion children in 60 developing countries since 2001, decreased world measles deaths by 78%.
  • Polio eradication is within reach — the world is 99% polio-free, but getting that final 1% is critical.

This week is World Immunization Week. Will you join me in advocating about the need to help? Here are some very simple things you can do:

  • Educate yourself further about the need and the program at the Shot@Life site.
  • Tweet about the program or World Immunization Week using the hashtags #shotatlifedc and #vaccineswork. Feel free to give a shout out to @shotatlife and to me as well @caffandaprayer.
  • Don’t know what to say? You can always tweet this post using the short link with the hash tags #shotatlifedc and #vaccineswork.
  • Keep current on the campaign by following @ShotatLife on Twitter and Liking them on Facebook.
  • Sign the pledge on their web site.
  • Put your money where your mouth is and donate whatever you can to the cause – remember, $20 can provide a lifetime of vaccines to a child.
  • Share, share, share the info any way you can, from old-fashioned word-of-mouth to your personal Facebook pages, to even offering to host your own informational night about Shot@Life.

Very rarely can we actually make a global difference right from our living rooms, but this time, we can.  Let’s do it!


Disclosure: I attended a press event with other bloggers and members of the media and was provided a PR gift bag. I have not been compensated for this post and everything is from my heart. I believe in this campaign. All statistics cited have been provided by the Shot@Life media kit. All photos are provided by and copyrighted by Shot@Life .

Get Involved: Child Hunger Ends Here

Capital Area Food Bank warehouse - forkliftOne of the most formative memories of my junior high days was when my confirmation class spent a day working in the local food bank.  First we sorted through massive boxes of donated foodstuffs and put them into bins of like items, carefully checking each can or box for an expiration date; then we were given a “pick list” and filled brown paper bags with a list of staples that was supposed to feed a family for a week — a list that was slim by comparison to what we ate at home, but that was carefully chosen to pack the most nutrition and bulk into the least expensive and perishable options possible.  It was the most effective way to teach young teens growing up in a insulated suburb a lesson in the starkness of not being able to make ends meet.

sorting bins at Capital Area Food BankTouring the Capital Area Food Bank today, much of the warehouse’s operations looked very similar.  And yet a few twists.  Of the 27 million pounds of food distributed last year, 10.8 million of it was fresh produce.  And although staff at the food bank acknowledge that often times donated food is not the healthiest, they spend the dollars donated to purchase healthy items and also have advocacy programs to provide children, families and seniors with tools and resources to live a healthier lifestyle.  For example a Kids Cafe program partners with after school programs to provide healthy after school snacks and dinners for kids, modeling what kinds of things they should eat at home. 

Although I was aware of Capital Area Food Bank’s existence, I was brought there today by the ConAgra Foods Child Hunger Ends Here Campaign.  Through my volunteer work, I was already acutely aware that children are often the most affected by poverty.  Even in the area where I live — Fairfax and Loudoun Counties in Virginia, two of the wealthier counties in our nation – at least 10% of the population fall below the poverty line and the majority of those are children.  According to ConAgra Foods, 17.2 million children in the United States don’t get enough food to live active, healthy lives.  One in four kids.  2006-2008 U.S. Census figures show that in DC, 1 in 2 children under 18 is at risk of hunger and in Northern Virginia, the figure is 1 in 6 children.  That’s why ConAgra Foods has launched the Child Hunger Ends Here program.  They have four specific advocacy actions they are asking you to consider taking:

  • Go Grocery Shopping:Through May 2011, if you purchase specially-marked ConAgra Foods brands and enter the 8-digit purchase code online at, the company will donate one meal to America, up to 2.5 million meals.  Participating brands include: Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice, Fresh Mixers, Kid Cuisine, Marie Callendar’s and Peter Pan.  Products should be purchased through May, but codes may be redeemed through August 2011.
  • Text to Donate:  Text “FEEDKIDS” to 50555 to make a $10 donation directly to Feeding America through June 30, 2011.  (Note– this has been edited to fix the “missing 5!”
  • Spread the Word on Twitter:  You can follow them on Twitter @ConAgraFoods and you can post about the issue with the tag #childhungerendshere
  • Share Your Story on Facebook:  See the stories of those you benefit at  Every time you share a story on your Facebook page through August 31, 2011, ConAgra Foods will help Feeding America secure an additional meal, up to 100,000 meals.

Brown bags - ready to goThese are quick, easy things to do that barely break your every day routine, but I would like to challenge you to do even more.   I suspect that if you read my blog, you are similar to me, and you participate in one or more canned food drives annually.  I would like to challenge you to take it a step further.  We often think of “the hungry” as homeless people living on the streets, and while that is a part of the population who are hungry, the majority of the clients of food pantries are actually what are called “the working poor.”  People who are working, but whose dollars aren’t stretching to cover all the costs — in fact, 56% of hosueholds served by Capital Area Food Bank have at least one working adult.   Often, these families have children who are coming to school hungry and who are often hungrier over the weekends because they can’t take advantage of breakfast and lunch programs offered at school.

Capital Area Food Bank is a large warehouse clearing house for food contributions that provides food for many of the programs in our local communities, what are known as food pantries, the organizations that directly give food to families.  In the summer months, they receive fewer donations as people tend to conduct food drives in the winter and around the holidays.

And yet, the need is often greater in the summer time — think of all those kids who are now not in school, not taking advantage of free and reduced lunch programs.

Will you consider volunteering in your local food pantry, or at Capital Area Foods to get a better understanding of the need?  Or better yet, working with a group of friends or an organization, conducting a food drive and bringing down the items and volunteering?  All of these organizations rely heavily on volunteers — Capital Area Food Bank serves over 478,100 people a year and couldn’t do it without the help of 14,000 volunteers — the equivalent of $1.7 million if they had to use paid staff.   You can find a list of their partner agencies on their web site.  Not listed on their web site, but a local food pantry I am partial to is Western Fairfax Christian Ministries.

Capital Area Food Bank offers tours from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm on the following dates or you may contact them to schedule a private tour by emailing

  • May 12
  • June 9
  • July 14
  • August 11
  • September  8
  • October 13

If you take me up on my challenge or do any of the ConAgra Foods advocacy items, please post here, I’d love to hear about it.  If you start a food drive, post the details so I can help you get the word out!


Many thanks to  Jessica McFadden from A Parent in Silver Springand Jill Smokler from Scary Mommy for coordinating this tour.

A Tale of Two Volunteers

Volunteering is the theme of this month’s Yahoo! Mother Board (yes, I’ve joined something else!) and I have to chuckle as I read the posts of the other bloggers because some of them talk about super-volunteers and some talk about slacker moms and I can say that I fall squarely into both categories, depending on which segment of my “world” you talk to.

As previously posted, I am the incoming President of the local Junior League. I commit many, many hours to this organization and part of their mission is to promote voluntarism (small nit, you can say voluntarism or volunteerism, there is a very minor difference not worth quibbling over in this post). I serve on another community board and serve my community in other ways. However, there are other groups which ask for my volunteer time and which I used to be more involved in and which I don’t. Yes, part of it is a matter of time — a girl can only be in so many places at once. But part of it has to do with volunteer appreciation.

I’m not talking about luncheons or awards or certificates or anything like that. In fact, I personally don’t like those things much, though I know some people find those types of recognition extremely gratifying.  I’m talking about actually appreciating the skills and time I have to give.  A particular organization I used to give not a lot of time to, but at least some, simply failed to see any value in my organizational, technical or communication skills.  My tendency to turn to the Web to solve problems was apparently against their organizational culture.  From time to time they’d throw me a bone and let me do a computer-related task, but mostly they did not want to learn anything new and they didn’t want me to ever suggest anything new.  My skills and experience were of no interest to them, they wanted to do things the same way they’d always done it and I either needed to get with the program or get out.  When I made one last suggestion to try to solve a problem and was greeted with, “Not everyone is like you and wants to use the Web,” I realized what my answer was.  It was time for me to get out.  Get out of the way.  I’m the “slacker mom” because I don’t volunteer there any more, but I don’t volunteer because I don’t find it enjoyable.  Every time I try to just show up and do shift work (vowing to “shut up and show up”), I’m reminded just how much of an outcast I am in that organization and I come home wishing I had spent my time elsewhere.  Life is too short to feel miserable during your volunteer time.

Contrast that to my volunteer experiences with Junior League or my involvement with Leadership Fairfax or my other Board work, where my skills and experience are not only welcomed, but the organizations are always asking for more of it.  I walk away from these experiences feeling recharged, energized, and willing to do just about anything they want me to do.  I have done everything from shift work to long-range strategic planning – even in the same day – and I always walk away feeling exuberant.  Naturally the mission or cause is the primary reason for volunteering, but knowing that you are valued as a volunteer keeps you coming back.

When I go to my children’s schools, I go there because of them.  But I appreciate how the teachers’ faces light up and they say “thank you!”  Cutting construction paper flowers is not my life’s purpose, but if it makes my son’s teacher’s life a little bit easier, then that’s a good use of my time.  The fact that she seems so grateful makes me all that much more willing to do it.  Not once has my help been turned down or turned away nor have I been shamed for not having more time to give.  They are willing to take me as I am and take what I can provide. 

I’ve just finished a half day of training the League’s incoming leadership about being inspiring leaders.  If there is one thing they’ve taken away from today’s training, I hope it is that part of being a good leader is remembering how to treat your volunteers.  If you are in the role of recruiting or managing volunteers and find yourself surrounded by “slackers” you may want to ask yourself what kind of message you’ve been sending.  Did I use to be your volunteer?  Your “slackers” may be someone else’s star volunteers — see if you can keep them from running out the door!

Check out Volunteer Fairfax’s Volunteer Bootcamp – a great training program for managers of volunteers!  I have no affiliation with them, I just think it’s chock full of great info!

Fun… For a Cause – Local Events Worth Checking Out

If you haven’t noticed by now, I love promoting events that are for a good cause.  Here are just a few going on in our area over the next few weeks:

Costume Halloween Party and Fundraiser October 31

What:  Haunted Halloween Costume Party and Fundraiser featuring a live musician, karaoke, prize raffles, costume contests and more.  This event is for all ages. There will be candy throughout the house, and the neighborhood for trick or treating!  There will also be food and drinks for snacking.

Guests must pay at least a $10 donation to support The American Cancer Society-Relay For Life.  Entry Donations for children are not mandatory, but encouraged.  Additional donations qualify you for other contests and raffles!!

When: October 31, 7pm – midnight.

Where: Ponds of Clifton Clubhouse, 13671 Orchard Drive, Clifton, VA

Additional Notes:  Raffles for this weekends party! Outback Steakhouse Basket: Gift Certificate for up to $45, free blooming onions coupons, and more… Glory Days Basket: $40 Gift Certificates, free ice cream, and wingless chicken wings… Mary Kay Basket: Filled with new and oldie but goodie products, AND gift certificates also! Pampering Gift Basket: Life coaching gift certificate worth $150, candle, body products and more…

Bring your $1 bills for tickets!! Tickets are $2 each or 5 for $5! The more you purchase, the greater your odds! All supporting the American Cancer Society!

Team Website for Online donations:


Shelter House Help the Homeless Mini-Walk (note date change) November 1

What:  Mile long walk, helps raise funds for Shelter House, Inc.

When: November 1, registration opens at 12:15, walk begins at 12:45  (You can register ahead of time using this form.)

Where: Falls Church Presbyterian Church, 225 East Broad Street, Falls Church, VA

Hosted by:  Falls Church Presbyterian Church and The Falls Church (Episcopal)

Additional notes:  Shelter House is also partnering with Applebee’s – Falls Church. When guests present the Applebee’s Flyer on November 1st, twenty percent of their food and non-alcoholic beverage sales will be  contributed to Shelter House. Dining flyers and the walker registration form are attached to provide additional information.

Shelter House is a non-profit organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of homelessness here in Fairfax County by providing families with crisis intervention, temporary housing, training, counseling, and programs to promote self-sufficiency. One of the programs operated by Shelter House is the Patrick Henry Family Shelter in Falls Church.  This facility is designated as Fairfax County’s shelter for large families of five or more members. With seven apartments, the Patrick Henry Family Shelter serves about forty residents everyday – nearly two-thirds of whom are children.  In addition to the Patrick Henry Family Shelter, Shelter House also operates the Katherine K. Hanley Family Shelter in Fairfax, three transitional housing programs, an After Hours Homeless Family Crisis Center, and Shelter House was recently awarded the contract to operate Artemis House, Fairfax County’s domestic violence shelter.

If you plan to attend the Shelter House Mini-Walk or should you have any questions, please contact Kristen Lenz via email or at 703-536-5383.


Holiday Shopping Fundraiser for the American Cancer Society – online or November 8, 2-6 pm

Get a jumpstart on your holiday shopping and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the American Cancer Society.  There are two ways to participate — you can either go in person to shop from the vendors, or you can shop online (gosh, doing going before you even change out of your PJs…)

What:  Shopping fundraiser, benefits the American Cancer Society

When: online anytime, or in person Sunday, November 8, 2-6pm

Where: Go to to shop online and/or to get added to the evite for the November 8 event (that’s how you get the address for the location)