Monday, October 13, 2008

The Big Blue Ocean!

This past weekend we visited the Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. With two little ones, the Natural History Museum has always been a favorite, and we're definitely blessed to have such great museums--free, no less!--so close to us. The exhibit is a new part of the permanent collection, joining the ever-popular dinosaur room, the very realistic mammals room, and, of course, the gemstones, including the Hope Diamond.

We went early in the morning on Sunday (well, around 10:30 by the time we actually got there!) and the crowds were definitely manageable. By that I mean, plenty of room for our stroller, but also room enough that we were comfortable letting the kids walk around by themselves with us following right behind them. (Sometimes it's so busy, particularly in the dinosaur room, that I wouldn't set the kids down for a minute.) There's nothing too scary in the exhibit with the exception of one small video being shown on killer whales hunting seals. It's tucked away in the corner, behind the giant Megalodon mouth, and definitely to be avoided for little kids. Or any soft-hearted seal lovers, really.

As always, bring your own snacks and water--they will let you in with them as long as you are discreet--as the food in the museums is on the pricey side. A much better option is to bring your own sandwiches and have an impromptu picnic somewhere on the mall, or, as we discovered on Sunday, in the lovely Smithsonian Castle Gardens.

We stuck to a very manageable three hours, and still saw the whole Oceans exhibit, the mammals next door, and made a quick run into the dinosaur room. In one morning we saw sharks, whales, giraffes, "cute, tiny!" mice, and tyranosaurus rex--which made for two very happy little kids.

American Red Cross Needs Help!

My sister lives in NYC and has been a volunteer with the NY Red Cross since shortly after moving there. She does all kinds of exciting things, like being on scene at various emergencies to provide food and other aid to people affected. Although we all know that the Red Cross goes in to major disaster areas, to help victims of floods, hurricanes, etc., what many people don't know is that each local Red Cross chapter works to help the people in their community. For example, my sister's chapter alone responds to more than 3,000 emergencies a year - about eight a day - in the form of fires, floods, building collapses, blackouts, etc. For more than 100,000 people a year her chapter volunteers provide the immediate aid needed in terms of food and shelter.

Sometimes, the Red Cross gets a lot of publicity for their work in helping people, and donations of both blood and money go up. At other times, other concerns are given more media coverage, and the important work the Red Cross does goes un-noticed, or at least un-reported. She recently sent me an email with an appeal--the first time she's ever asked family to help, so it must be a very great need!--for donations in support of the work the Red Cross does. Please read her note below, and consider donating. As times get harder and money gets tighter for those of us blessed with good fortune, imagine how much more difficult it is right now for all the organizations working to provide food and shelter to the survivors of disasters both big and small.

I am a volunteer of the American Red Cross in Greater New York and am writing to enlist your help.

Over the course of the past month, we have witnessed two of the largest hurricane-related evacuations ever mounted in this country. These resulted from Gustav and Ike that devastated major parts of the gulf coast in Louisiana and Texas . To date, 16,000 American Red Cross volunteers and staff have opened over 900 evacuation centers/shelters, served 4.5 million meals and snacks in the affected areas and we expect this to be a lengthy recovery operation.

Our Chapter has already deployed 117 volunteers and staff, including a 46 member Rapid Response Team. Our team, led by Scott Graham, Chief Response Officer and including our CEO, Terry Bischoff, managed a mega-shelter for 3,000 evacuees in Alexandria , Louisiana . Hurricane Gustav passed within 20 miles of this evacuation center and our team worked with the evacuees to make sure everyone was sheltered, fed, and comforted, and returned home safely after the storm had passed.

Although the Red Cross has responded well to these disasters, the reality is that we have not had the media coverage of people on rooftops or huge numbers of deaths and injuries that motivate people to donate, and so the outpouring of spontaneous financial gifts that we saw during the tsunami, hurricane Katrina and the recent Chinese earthquake, has not occurred. As a result, we have been forced to borrow the money to do this vital, life-saving work.

That’s why I am echoing the appeal made by the CEO of the American Red Cross, Gail McGovern, in asking for your help now as we participate in a national campaign to raise $100 million for the Disaster Relief Fund. Together, we can ensure the Red Cross is there to help, whenever and wherever disasters strike.

Here is how you can help: First – send this note on to as many of your friends and colleagues as you can. We need to use this new era of social networking to get this word out as I don’t believe the American public knows that we need their help. Second – go to our website - - and make a tax-deductible donation to the Disaster Relief Fund . No amount is too small – if we all give $5 or $10, it will mount up quickly.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Arlington Fire Stations Open House!

Open House: Visit your local fire station!

child sitting next to fire engine #105All Arlington County fire stations will be open to the public Saturday, Oct. 11, from 10 - 4 in celebration of Fire Prevention Week. Bring the kids, climb into a fire truck, learn about fire safety, and more! Find your neighborhood fire station.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hot Air Balloon Festival!

Having grown up in Albuquerque, home of a world-famous balloon fiesta, one of my favorite childhood memories is of getting up early to watch the balloons go up. So, it is with great excitement that I found out there is a Shenandoah Valley Balloon Festival next weekend! Starting at 7a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, October 18th and 19th, the balloons will be inflated and, I'm told, take off around 7:30-8:00a.m. Longbranch is about an hour and a half from D.C., out towards Winchester, VA. (See map, below). With the leaves changing fast, by next weekend reports show that the Shenandoahs should be covered in beautiful foliage.

So, take a drive, pack a picnic, and have a wonderful autumn adventure!

View Larger Map

Friday, October 3, 2008

Slow Cooker Series!

Given that autumn is here, slow cooking seems to be on everyone's mind! Just as I experimented with two new recipes recently, the topic recently came up on the DC Urban Moms listserv. A wealth of recipes were shared, and I've compiled them all here for easy searching. None of them are of my creation, but as they were posted anonymously, I can't give credit where credit is due. So, if one of them is your recipe, let me know and I'm happy to credit you for it!

Here's what I have so far:

And my own two recipes:

More recipes to come!

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