Have you checked out the new Build-A-Bear store at Fair Oaks Mall? I'll be honest, this is one of those stores that I'll pass by as fast as I can so that we don't get distracted and dragged in. However, I am actually quite impressed with the new store design and enhanced technology interaction with the kids. We were invited in to take a look at what's new and experience making a "bear" ourselves.
Of course, we did not choose a bear (that would make too much sense) - we chose an Ice Age character (a squirrel or something?) which Build-A-Bear @ Fair Oaks is carrying to correlate with the Ice Age theme of Santa's Palace this year. #Genius!
When you walk through the store, motion sensors talk to you along the way. Almost everything has been transformed to a touch-screen for the kids - for the most part, it is completely do-it-yourself and hands-on (aside from stuffing and sewing the bear together). Our favorite part was giving the animals a bath. The tub was a large touch screen - kinda like an iPad - and the different tub toys had effects on the screen. For instance, if you put the rubber duck on the screen, two little legs appeared under it and you could see it swimming in the water and the boat made waves. If you guessed I was quite captivated... you should have seen the kids.
Check out our pics below for a look at the new store! or, you can take a virtual tour of the store.
*I was invited by Build-A-Bear to visit the new store and was provided with a complimentary product. The opinions are always my own!
We recently spent a weekend in beautiful Shenandoah County, Virginia. It also just happened to be my birthday weekend. I was looking forward to experiencing the falling leaves, green pastures, and the quiet pace of life that can be found just about an hour west of Northern Virginia.
We left Fairfax at 2pm on a Friday and headed towards the mountains. With no traffic on 66, it only took us about an hour to land at our first destination: the Shenandoah County Tourism Office. We met with the Director, Natalie, who had our whole weekend planned for us. To top it off, she had a swag bag packed with Shenandoah-style goodies!We snagged a copy of our itinerary and headed into the mountains towards our first stop.
We arrived at Bryce Resort just before dinner and were greeted by Rob, the General Manager. Rob gave us a walking tour of the beautiful resort and newly fitted ski lift for the 2012 season. Bryce Resort offers skiing, tubing, ski-wee (think pee-wee ski camp for the little ones) and more for the winter season.
We came inside for dinner and a drink - I was totally caught off guard. The food was amazing - so good that we wanted to come back later in the weekend for seconds! I never, ever, ever eat ribs. but Rob kept encouraging us to try them... and for a good reason. Delish! If you make it out this season and are looking for something lighter - try the chicken drumsticks with homemade ranch paired with a spicy bloody mary. #lush!
Saturday morning, we say goodbye to The Feathered Nest B&B and headed to Shenandoah Uncorked at The Yellow Barn. I was excited to check out the wineries located a little further south down I-81. The neatest part of the wine tastings was that since it was getting chilly outside... all of the wineries brought their own version of muddled wine for tasting. And most were being served out of a crock-pot -- such a comforting feel.
Of course, we couldn't leave before taking a one hour walking tour of the Caverns.
i think this formation @ the Caverns looks like Capitol Hill
On the second night, we stayed at the AC Stickley Bed and Breakfast in the heart of old town Strasburg. AC Stickley is a beautifully restored home within walking distance to the downtown scene. Donna, the inn keeper, was so welcoming even though we arrived a little after schedule. We were invited to a gorgeous suite with two fire places, beer in the mini fridge, and a delicious breakfast the next morning. Donna loves to cook - and she is always changing up the menu and snacks. Our fruit in the morning was a warm apple crisp with a spoonful of vanilla bean gelato. It didn't stop there... Check out her southern trifle made with layers of grits, sausage, cheese, hard boiled egg, garden tomatoes - topped with cheese, sour cream, and chives. Served with baked bacon.
I told Donna to start pinning her recipes so that I could follow!
a few other stops we made along the way --
We walked to dinner at Hotel Strasburg after checking into AC Stickley. Fine dining, white linens, but with the comfort of a small town.
Ran into Sarah, the leading lady behind the successful Route 11 Potato Chips brand. Swing by and take a tour of the factory!
We had a fabulous time - special thank you to Natalie Wills @ Shenandoah County Tourism for putting together our itinerary and inviting us with opportunity to experience everything Shenandoah Valley has to offer.
If you're planning a trip out, here are a few other recommendations:
The Strasburg Emporium
160 North Massanutten Street
Strasburg, VA 22657
Three French Hens
143 North Main Street
Woodstock, VA 22664
Three French Hens Facebook
Hupp’s Hill Civil War Park
33229 Old Valley Pike
Strasburg, VA 22657
Woodstock Community Theatre
136 North Main Street
Woodstock, VA 22664
by Jennifer Hemmick
It’s my birthday and I’ll bake if I want to!
Last weekend was my birthday and birthdays with my husband’s family are not birthdays without ice cream cake. Call me crazy, but ice cream cake is not my favorite; I’m a frosting and cake kinda gal (the thicker the frosting, the happier I am) and I decided that this year, I was going to bake myself some cupcakes.
A couple of months ago, my coworker mentioned she was going to make some salted caramel cupcakes that she found on Pinterest for her sweetie’s birthday. When the day came, she posted about them on Facebook and I was so jealous I wasn’t a part of the festivities. Knowing how sweet Ms. A is, I should’ve guessed she would save some to share
with her wonderful coworkers.
As soon as I tasted it, I was in heaven. The combination of salty and sweet was amazing and I was so sad when I ate that last bite that I vowed to find an excuse to make them ASAP. What better excuse than my very own birthday?
Ms. A shared the original recipe with me, but told me she used yellow boxed cake mix instead of the written one. Hers were so good, that when I went to the store to stock up on baking supplies, I decided to just get the box. In my excitement, I ended up getting Sugar-free yellow cake mix and while looking up reviews on Amazon I found out that “excess consumption may cause a laxative effect.” I’m sorry, but diarrhea and birthdays don’t mix well in my opinion, so I ended up following the original recipe.
In full disclosure, these are time-consuming and use A LOT of sugar, but trust me, they are definitely worth it! You will also end up with a lot of leftover caramel and frosting, which, in the original poster’s opinion, “only matters if you’re an alien.” For an added treat Ms. A topped the cupcakes with a chocolate-covered pretzel, which I forgot to buy, but they were good
• 12 Tbsp butter
• 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
• 3/4 cup light brown sugar
• 3/4 cup whole milk
• 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
• 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp salt
• 12 Tbsp butter, room temperature
• 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
• 3 eggs
• 2 tsp vanilla
• 3/4 cup whole milk
• 3/4 cup reserved caramel sauce
• 3 cups powdered sugar
• 4 Tbsp butter, room temperature
• 2 Tbsp milk
• Sea Salt for topping
1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and light and dark brown sugars, and milk together. Bring to a boil.
2. Let mixture boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
3. Preheat oven to 350°
4. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners.
5. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together.
6. In mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar over medium speed for 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and continue beating
until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl when necessary.
7. Add the flour and the milk, beating on low speed until ingredients are just combined.
8. Fill each liner about 3/4 full, about 1/4 cup batter.
9. Bake approx 20 minutes until centers are set.
10. Transfer to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
11. While cupcakes are cooling make your frosting. Combine butter, powdered sugar 3/4 cup prepared (and cooled) caramel sauce and milk in a mixing bowl. Beat ingredients together about 2 minutes until creamy. (Mine came out really thin, but it hardened once on the cupcakes)
12. After cupcakes have cooled for about 10 minutes, pierce tops of cupcakes with a sharp knife or skewer about 10 times. Pour about 1 tablespoon of caramel sauce on top of each cupcake, allowing it to absorb into the holes. (This step can get messy! I had the cupcakes on a cooling rack placed over wax paper for easy cleanup)
13. Let the cupcakes finish cooling completely and then frost with about 2 tablespoons of frosting on each. Lightly
sprinkle your cupcakes with (coarse or flaked) sea salt.
Today, my best friend from college is deploying to Afghanistan. So very thankful for her courage and defending our freedoms here at home. Love you, Anne!
Did you ever watch Desperate Housewives? I'm not embarrassed to admit that I loved the show. Not that it was the best acting/script/storyline ever, but I will never forget when Lynette had a breakdown because she realized she was "in a rut" with Tom. I vividly recall being an early twenty-something sitting on a leather couch I snagged off Craigslist and promising myself that I never, ever, ever would find myself "in a rut" like that old couple on TV.
Maintaining a date night ritual, especially when you have kids, is a great way to keep the spark going in your relationship. But a ritual doesn't need to be a routine. If you and your man hit the town every Friday, try to change it up and avoid doing the cliche dinner and a movie every time. Keep each other on your toes and avoid the ruts by surprising each other with novel date ideas every week.
Need some ideas? I got you covered.
Watch a meteor shower together.
Grab a few coats, blankets, popcorn, and wine and spread out on your lawn or a big open space during the next meteor shower. Find upcoming ones here. There's usually one every few weeks.
Go adventure dining.
Head out to an area that is heavily populated with restaurants and then stop in at each one for each part of your meal. Stick with all one theme, like Asian cuisine, or mix it up. Rate the food, service and atmosphere as you go.
Have a picnic on your floor.
Want to save money? Change up date night by staying in. Spread out a blanket on your living room floor, make a dinner consisting of finger foods, turn the lights down low and light some candles.
Take a trip to a novelty store. *GASP!*
If date night has become a little routine, your bedroom sessions may have too. Spice it up by taking a trip to a novelty store together. Pick out some new toys, videos or lingerie for the two of you to try. Need some ideas of what to get? Head over to Adameve.com. I'm sure you'll be find a way to end the date.
Watch sky rockets in flight.
Head over to the observation deck at Dulles or Reagan International Airport. It's great any time of day and exciting to watch the planes land. One of my favorite spots is Gravelly Point. Take a blanket and look over the Potomac and monuments while watching the low-flying planes above you. Talk about past vacations or fictitious ones you would like to go on.
Get your boat on.
Go kayaking down the Potomac river--well once it gets warm again. There's no reason to limit your dates to night time. Venture out during the day and do exciting outdoor activities. Dock your boat and grab a drink a riverside bar.
Put a cork in it.
Virginia is known for some pretty fabulous, award-winning wineries. Grab your man and chart out a few that are close to each other and then make a day of it. Drink responsibly! Hike amongst the grapes, learn about pairings and buy a bottle or two.
Take a class together. Whether it be a dance class, painting class, boxing class or even a motorcycle riding class. There's so many options, surely you can find one that interests the both of you. You can bond over this new, shared experience and maybe even pick up a new hobby that the two of you can do together.
Use some of the ideas and build your own. Keep it fun by keeping secret what the date will consist of. Just remember to think creatively and keep an open mind!
Feel free to share your favorite "outside the box" date ideas in the comments section!
Thank you so very much to everyone who came out last week to make my blogiversary (and my birthday!) a night to remember! Huge shout out to AT&T for sponsoring the event and supporting Mission Sleep.
If you missed it - you can check out photos of the event thanks to Valerie Bey Photography.
I had five leaks in my house thanks to Hurricane Sandy. The worst of the worst was in my kitchen where a leaky roof turned into puddles on my counter tops. Thank goodness for my homeowners insurance - although it took them a week to come out because my adjuster quit the day after Sandy hit. I don't blame him.
The only thing I don't understand about insurance - they cover the damage, but not the cause of the damage. So, they will cover 5 leaks, drywall repairs, water restoration, painting of rooms and trim... but they won't caulk the exhaust pipe on my roof where the seam needs to be mended? Seems crazy to me. The pic below is a grave exaggeration of my leak. It really was just a pinhole leak... I think the restoration guy had too much fun with the demolition.
Hi! my name is Andrea and I'm a not-so-average Northern Virginia blogger, mom, and transplant from the Midwest. I host Girls Night Out events, meet ups, and write about events and my adventures in the DC area. I love to travel, brunch, and drink wine with my neighbors! I'm known to live on the wild side and order Venti iced double shots at 5pm.