Lifestyle, Home and Work

Top 5 Parks in Northern Virginia to Visit on Memorial Day

May 26, 2016
Contributing writer: Jose Lopez, Team SFMC —

Memorial Day is an important national holiday. We honor those who have fallen while serving our country. Many families and friends spend time together during  this three-day weekend.  Outdoor activities are a favorite activity.  Here are five parks in Northern Virginia that are favorite spots!

Crocket Park, Warrenton

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Crocket Park is a great park to visit with your family. They have many outdoor activities such as fishing, picnicking, tracks for hiking or jogging, and even winter skiing. This is definitely a park worth going to on Memorial Day! Park entrance is free for those who live in Faquier County. You can even rent a pavilion.

Curtis Park, Fredricksburg

Curtis Park is located in Fredricksburg. The park consists of 580 acres of open fields and fun opportunities for recreation. There is a lake for fishing, trails for hiking or jogging , a skateboard park, and even an 18-hole golf course. You can play many sports here including softball, soccer, tennis, and swimming in the pool. You can also reserve a picnic pavilion to enjoy a meal out in the woods.

Great Falls Park, McLean

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Great Falls Park is located 15 minutes away from Washington, DC. The beautiful water fall draws in viewers from all around Virginia. The park includes 800 acres and has various outdoor activities. There are three overlooks to view the water falls, bicycling on the five miles of trail, bird watching, boating, climbing, fishing, hiking, and even horseback riding. There are enough activities for your whole family. This is a great park to spend Memorial day on!

 Manassas National Battlefield Park

The Stone House at Manassas National Battlefield Park. Used as hospital in the "First and Second Battle of Manassas." It is remembered for it's "blood-soaked grounds."
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If you enjoy history and hiking trails, the Manassas National Battlefield Park is for you! There are over 40 miles of hiking trail at this park. Hikers at the Battlefield Park witness where the First and Second Battles of Manassas occurred during the Civil War. The visitor’s center provides maps and historical information on the battlefields. This is another great park to go to on Memorial Day.

Occoquan Regional Park, Lorton

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Occoquan Regional Park is 350 acres large and is located in Lorton, Virginia. There are athletic fields, batting cages, boat & kayak rentals, fishing, gazebos rentals, and hiking trails in this park. The hiking trails include the Fairfax Cross Country Trail and Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. There are even paddle tours that covers the natural, native, and colonial history of the region. There is endless fun at the Occoquan Regional Park.

Find a park, spend time with friends and family and have a memorable Memorial Day!

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Favorite recipes to celebrate Cinco de Mayo

May 1, 2016

Contributing Writer: Jose Lopez —

Cinco de Mayo is an important holiday for the people of Mexico. Cinco de Mayo translates to the fifth of May. On this day in 1862, Mexico defeated the French in battle in a small village called Puebla. Their victory was symbolic and is celebrated in the US and Canada as well. Here are some suggestions on food, decorations and music to celebrate 5 de Mayo!

Popular dishes on 5 de Mayo include tacos, tostadas, tamales, chips, guacamole, and churros. To make the tacos you can go with hard or soft shells. Then within the taco you can have either chicken or beef, along with lettuce and cheese. Tostadas are similar to tacos although they are a flat tortilla which you can also put the same ingredients as tacos on. Tamales are made with masa, which is a corn starch, and filled with meats and vegetables.

Here is a good home-made tamales recipe:

  • 3 lbs Pork shoulder or butt
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 10 lbs Masa (we use MASECA brand)
  • 2 cups of pork lard
  • 1 lb dried corn husks
  • ¼ lb Guajillo chile pods
  • ¼ lb Puya chile pods
  • Sesame seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp Cumin
    1. Soak corn husks in water til they moisten
    2. Mix masa with enough water and pork lard so there are no lumps and there it is thick yet spreadable. Salt as desired.
    3. Cut the pork meat into small chunks for boiling. Boil in salted water for approximately 90 minutes.
    4. Roast the sesame seeds and garlic cloves in a saucepan to release more flavor.
    5. Boil chile pods for until tender. Optionally remove seeds for a more tame flavor.
    6. Blend the chile, sesame seeds, garlic, cumin, black pepper, salt with added water in a blender. You now have your red chile!
    7. It’s now time to assemble the tamales. Take a corn husk and spread on masa with a spoon till it covers most of the husk. Put pieces of shredded pork with about 2 tablespoons of chile. Be moderate with your pork and chile sauce to not overfill! Fold in the top and bottom then fold over the flaps of the husks.
    8. Finally your tamales need to be steamed. Use a large pot and place tamales around the perimeter, stacking them higher as you go. Add enough water to keep it below the steamer but also add some extra corn husks to keep the tamales from getting wet. Steam for about an hour.
    9. Enjoy your hot tamales along with your favorite salsa!

Having good guacamole makes the celebration even better, especially when it is home-made with fresh avocados. To complete the food experience, churros are the perfect dessert.

Churros are pastry sticks with cream filling that are covered in sugar — check out this recipe:

1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 limes, zested
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Special equipment: Pastry bag and large star tip

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with water, salt and zest of 1 lime. Bring to a simmer and then slowly whisk in flour. Remove from heat and keep whisking until mixture forms a ball and breaks away from the sides of the pan. Slowly add eggs in thirds. Spoon batter into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and refrigerate 15 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a large saucepan 2/3 full with vegetable oil and heat to 350 degrees F. Remove batter from refrigerator and slowly squeeze 3-inch long strips of batter into the oil. Fry in batches, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes, flipping halfway through. Drain churros on paper towels. In a paper bag, add sugar, cinnamon and remaining zest. Once churros have cooled slightly, in batches, toss churros in bag and shake to coat with cinnamon sugar. Serve warm.
Recipe courtesy of Sunny Anderson

Having decorations for the celebration can make the party even more enjoying. Pinatas are one of the most fun decorations you can have because they are stuffed with candy inside. Traditionally, children are spun around and blind folded before hitting the pinata with a stick to see if they can break the pinata and drop the candy. This is definitely a fun game for the party. Another decorations you can have is papel picado, which translates to cut out paper. Papel picado is hung all over the streets of Puebla on 5 de Mayo so it is an authentic decoration. Other decorations can include colorful flowers, tissue paper streamers, and balloons.

Last on the Cinco de Mayo party check list is music. Traditional Mexican music is played during this celebration which includes mariachi music, corridos, meringue, salsa, and Latin music. All of these up beat music types are sure to get your party guests dancing and excited. Some specific song recommendations are La Bamba by Los Lobos, El Rey by Vicente Fernandez, and Cielito Lindo by Mariacha Vargas.

These food, decorations, and music recommendations are sure to make your 5 de Mayo celebration one to remember! Have fun with your family and friends on this upcoming festive day.

Team SFMC ready for Earth Day 2016

April 22, 2016

Contributing Writer: Jose Lopez | Images: Team SFMC —

Last weekend Team SFMC came out to improve the Occoquan River with members of Friends of the Occoquan and Osbourn Eagle’s Interact Club. An enormous amount of trash was successfully pulled from the river making the environment within the river safer and cleaner.

Happy Earth Day!

12 Top Spring Cleaning Tips

February 29, 2016


Contributing Writer: Andrea Lopez —

Winter is winding down, and it is time to get ready for the new season. The warm spring breeze in the air means that it’s time to open the windows and start spring cleaning. Although cleaning may not be everyone’s favorite thing to do, there things that you can do to make it a more pleasurable experience!  Here are twelve  tips from to start you off in the right path.

1. Defunk Your Fabrics: Wash the mattress pad, pillow coverings, and pillows from everyone’s bed (all pillow types except foam can go into the washer, but check the labels for specific laundering instructions). Then do a second load with your bath mat, shower curtain, and even the curtain liner on the gentle cycle with color-safe bleach.

2. Sanitize Your Work Station: Wipe down your computer screen with a lightly dampened microfiber cloth. Do the same with the mouse pad, then load a fun wallpaper on the screen.

3. Manage Microwave Messes: Fresh lemons smell clean so try this: Cut one in half, put the pieces in a microwave-safe bowl with water to cover, and cook on High for two to three minutes. The steam will soften hardened food inside the oven while you enjoy the citrus scent. Then grate the fruit in the garbage disposal to eliminate any musty odor and greasy gunk.

4. Shake It Out: Gather up throw rugs and take them outside for a good shake. Then air them on a clothesline or railing for several hours.

5. Purge the Fridge: Pull the trash can over and dump lingering leftovers, spoiled food, and open bottles of condiments, like grill marinade from last summer. You could remove all the glass shelves and bins and wash them or give them a fast once-over with a wet cloth or sponge. Don’t forget fingerprints and splatters on the door front and handle. A fresh box of baking soda absorbs odors, too.

6. Cut Table Clutter: Switch from tablecloths to place mats, and arrange a bowl of fruit or a vase of fresh flowers in the middle of the kitchen table. The mats are easier to keep clean — plus, if your table looks set, it’s a less likely landing pad for mail and other clutter.

7. Bring Spring Indoors: Buy a few potted plants and tuck them into nicer pots. It’s still too chilly for planting, but meantime you can enjoy their pretty petals.

8. Banish Garbage Odors: Take plastic garbage cans outside for a quick hosing out, and leave them upside down to dry. Then sprinkle the bottoms with baking soda to keep cans odor free.

9. De-Germ Sponges: Soaking a sponge in bleach killed 99.9 percent of the three bacteria strains from all our test sponges (scrub and regular cellulose), a benchmark based on the EPA’s requirement for sanitation of non-food-contact surfaces. Mix 3/4 cup of bleach in one gallon of water, and soak the sponge for five minutes.

10. Clean the Corners: If you celebrate Passover — thought to be one origin of spring cleaning, since it’s Jewish tradition to clean the home from top to bottom to get rid of any leavened bread forbidden on the holiday — you may have already done a number on your kitchen. But even if you won’t be at a seder, it’s a perfect time to sweep up or vacuum crumbs wherever they lurk.

11. Toss Old Toiletries: In the bathroom, see if your loofah or toothbrush needs replacing. You should get a new brush every three months and a new scrubber every 30 days, but toss immediately if the bristles are frayed or the loofah is mil-dewy. Also, check the cabinet for expired cold medicines and trash them.

12. Zap Oven Spills: Burned-on blobs welded to the bottom of your oven can give off odors and smoke. If you have time to run a self-cleaning cycle — even a short two-hour one — it’s your best bet (and you can go do something else while it works). If not, just focus on the worst stains. Take a metal spatula and gently chip off any loose pieces — with any luck, this alone might do the trick. If not, liberally spritz with full-strength ammonia from a spray bottle. Leave it for at least five minutes, then sprinkle on enough baking soda to completely cover the stain; add just a few drops of white vinegar. Let it bubble for a minute or two, then whisk away the grime with a scrub sponge. Rinse with a clean, wet, regular sponge.


Fun things to do during a snow blizzard

January 22, 2016


Contributing Writer: Mirna Martinez | Image: and —

So you want to stay in your bed all day and cuddle with your blankets. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. You can have a great day in this chilly, snowy weather! Here are fun and safe tips for you to do during the winter watches.

  • Watch classic movies/T.V. Shows – what a great excuse to have a movie marathon! Or even better —  Catch up on your favorite T.V. shows while drinking hot chocolate!
  • Make yourself a treat. Stock up on food and go to the grocery store the day before. I suggest making snow themed cookies. What better way than to just relax at home and enjoy some sweets.
  • Pamper yourself! Take a day off to just pamper yourself by taking a nice hot bath and treating your skin to moisturizing.
  • Exercise! Teach yourself a new routine for the winter. There’s many popular excising videos online and there’s a lot you can do from home! Try something new like yoga.
  • Last but not least, go sledding, build a snowman, and have a snowball fight! What a better way to have fun in the winter.

How do you have fun during a snow storm? Best wishes! Stay safe and warm.

Living healthy tips for 2016

January 15, 2016

Contributing Writer: Andrea Lopez —

If one of your new year’s resolution was to loose weight here are some helpful tips that can help you accomplish your goal! Achieving your ideal weight can be tough if you have no motivation.

The first step to any successful and productive day is to get a good night sleep. Sleep is very important, doctors recommend that you get at least eight hours of sleep every day. Another helpful tip is to drink lots of water. If you have a sports water bottle or any regular water bottle you can mark dashes down the outside of water bottle and each dash will represent an hour (or your preferred time). Once it becomes that hour you must have the water level down to that mark. This will help you stay hydrated and on track with your water drinking goals.

Your smartphone can be very useful, click here to see a list of the top 49 Best Health and Fitness Apps of 2015.  Apps like these can help you keep track of the calories you consume, they can show you how much you run and they can show you new work outs. It’s like having your own personal trainer!

You will never have as much fun working out if you don’t do what you love. For example, if you passion is soccer, boxing or racket ball, then you should play that sport as part of your daily exercise. Playing a sport is a workout and it is also healthy for your mental well-being to interact with others. In the end, if you do what you love it won’t feel like a workout!

I hope these tips can help you achieve you goal, good luck!

New Year’s Eve Events

December 29, 2015

Contributing Writer: Mirna Martinez | Image:

Don’t know what to do this New Year’s Eve? We’ve got you covered. Here are some fun events happening in the Northern Virginia area.

December 31st

Blue Ridge Mountain New Year’s Celebration at 10:00 pm in Wintergreen Resort. There will be skiing, riding, ice skating, and tubing.

Last Night on the Town at 222 Central Park Avenue Virginia Beach, VA 23462. Many fun events will be taking place.

New Year’s Eve at the Science Museum of Virginia from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Tickets are $11 for adults; $10 for youth and seniors.

New Year’s Eve Family Frolic at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden held in Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden 1800 Lakeside Avenue Richmond, VA 23228 from 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults, $11 for seniors, and $8 for children.

New Year’s Eve At The Mount Vernon Inn from 5:30 p.m to 11:59 p.m. at 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy Mount Vernon, VA 22121.

Have a happy new year and best wishes from SFMC!

Community holiday festivities

December 5, 2015

Contributing Writer: Andrea Lopez —

Friends and family members come from all over the area to celebrate holiday festivities. Communities host events such as Christmas tree lightings, light shows, and Christmas parades to bring people in the community even closer!

On November 27, 2015, Reston Town Center held their 25th holiday parade. It is an event that attracts 10,000 people annually. Like other parades, the Reston Town Holiday parade had balloons, antique cars, new-model cars, dancers, and other holiday attractions.

Roberto Goudi, Reston Town Center Association, said, “For me it’s all about community — building community. That’s why we’re so heavily invested in it.”

This event is important to Reston Town Center because it helps raise money for several different charities in the area.

Reston Town Center, is not the only community to have a unique holiday parade. In Manassas, people look forward to the annual Christmas Parade. This year the parade is going to be held at 10:00 a.m. on December 5th.  This parade showcases amazing floats, live performances, and other spectacular attractions.

The Bull Run Regional Park’s Festival of Lights has more than 40,000 animated lights on a 2.5 mile road. This event has become a Christmas tradition in Northern Virginia for many people.

Do you have any special community holiday celebrations to share?

It’s not too late to save for school

August 17, 2015

By: Team SFMC —

It’s that time of the year again when kids and families are beginning to get ready for school to start. If you are planning on going to back to school shopping, here are some helpful tips to save money.

According to the National Retail Federation families will spend on average $634.78 on back to school essentials. There are several ways to save money. For example, if you are looking to save money on clothes, you can always sign up to receive emails from your favorite stores. When you receive the emails you will get special notification of upcoming sales, offers, and even coupons! Sometimes as a special gift they will give you a coupon for signing up instantly. The same thing goes for school supplies. Staples and Office Depot offer email newsletters to sign up for school supplies.

Another helpful tip is to try to plan to go back to school shopping on different days. Although you may want to “shop till you drop” in one day, you may just save money if you try different days. Don’t settle if it’s not on sale. Chances are you can find the product somewhere else for less or if you come back another day you might just find it on sale.

Shopping on different days at different stores is also a great way to compare prices. Some stores such as Staples and Office Depot even offer price match. This is very convenient, especially if you have a rewards points card because then you will continue to earn points while saving money!

Going back to school can be stressful, but as long as you have a game plan and remember these helpful tips you are surely to succeed!

Pool season is here — so jump in — carefully!

May 27, 2015

Cascades Park

Cascades Park

By: Theresa Coates — The gates opened and the tubes were flying as pools opened in communities and homes across America.  It was Memorial Day weekend — and the fun began — but here are some pool safety rule reminders!

The American Red Cross offers these important responsible guidelines during pool season for communities and homes:

  • Secure your pool with appropriate barriers. Completely surround your pool with a 4-feet high fence or barrier with a self-closing, self-latching gate. For a home pool, place a safety cover on the pool or hot tub when not in use and remove any ladders or steps used for access. Consider installing a pool alarm that goes off if anyone enters the pool.
  • Keep children under active supervision at all times. Stay in arm’s reach of young kids. Designate a responsible person to watch the water when people are in the pool—never allow anyone to swim alone. Have young or inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Ensure everyone in the home knows how to swim well by enrolling them in age-appropriate water orientation and learn-to-swim courses from the Red Cross.
  • Keep your home pool or hot tub water clean and clear. Maintain proper chemical levels, circulation and filtration. Regularly test and adjust the chemical levels to minimize the risk of earaches, rashes or more serious diseases.
  • Establish and enforce rules and safe behaviors, such as “no diving,” “stay away from drain covers,” “swim with a buddy” and “walk please.”
  • Ensure everyone in the home knows how to respond to aquatic emergencies by having appropriate safety equipment and taking water safety, first aid and CPR courses from the Red Cross.
The American Red Cross and National Swimming Pool Foundation® have partnered to create an online Home Pool Essentials course that describes steps home pool owners can take to prevent tragedy and keep a well maintained pool or hot tub. The course is available at

Earth Day 2015

April 16, 2015

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Contributing writer: Carmen Thorpe––

Earth Day, April 22nd, is closely approaching us! It will be the 45th anniversary of Earth Day; an important day that is focused on the celebration of the ground we walk on and the impact we make on the planet daily. According to PR Newswire:

More than 1 billion people in 192 countries will take actions on Earth Day events this year, making it the largest environmental civic action in the world.  Through Earth Day and our year round programs, Earth Day Network is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement.

You can click here to find out more information from PR

Educating yourself on the tasks that you and your community can perform is key to creating the movement of change in waste disposal, which could start a ripple effect on other communities and businesses. A great local company that understands this effect is American Disposal, located in Manassas, Va. Click here to learn about what is recyclable.

American Disposal Services is a family-owned, family-run waste and Single Stream collection provider operating in Virginia, Georgia, and select area of Maryland, and the District of Columbia. They offer refuse and Single Stream Recycling collection to residential and commercial properties including family neighborhoods, apartment communities, small businesses and large industrial and government complexes. In addition to all their wonderful services they are active in neighborhoods through numerous local charities, sponsorships, and community outreach.

You can contact them by clicking on the highlighted link, check out their site here, and watch their video on the recycling process, this kind of knowledge truly is power. Happy Earth Day!  //

Still Winter

March 6, 2015

looking_up_through_trees_winter-t2A man skis across an intersection during a winter snow storm in Brookline

Contributing writer: Carmen Thorpe

Today it feels as if spring will never come because once again, Jack Frost has had his fun with us; he created icy roads, more snow, cancelled classes, and more. However inconvenient the weather may be, it is still very beautiful to look at, to glance outside your window and see the backdrop of your city covered in white is breathtaking. So, now that you have this time free available what will you do with it?  Here are some great ways you can enjoy the day!  Now, go out and enjoy these last few winter days, before we know it, spring will be here soon.

Don’t forget to put salt and sand down on your driveways and walkways so you don’t slip out there on the ice.

Also, if you are looking to tickle your funny bone, check out this article to see how some of the animals enjoy the winter work of Jack Frost.

Happy Snow Day!

So Much To Do and See!

February 24, 2015

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Contributing writer: Carmen Thorpe–

If you enjoy the theatre, fine arts, hands on activities; helping a cause, writing short stories, and celebrations then this is the post for you! This seemingly endless winter can make you feel a bit stir crazy; which may have a hand in our cabin fever, but we can break the cycle by heading out into our communities, poking around, and seeing what’s going on. Well, we took care of the searching for you, and found some pretty awesome events that will be taking place this weekend through the next.

Spring will come; we promise you this! Until then, here is a list –as promised– of some fun, inspirational, and heart-warming activities going on in some of the communities in Northern Virginia.

Activities and Dates

City of Manassas: First Friday in Historic Downtown gives you the opportunity to see some fresh art from local artists

Manassas Ballet’s production of ‘Peter and the Wolf’ is a must see!

On the 28th, Dumfries will celebrate Black History month with an event that is sure to inspire us all to grow as individuals and as a community.

Loudoun County Public Library: A Writing competition  for teens–excellent!  Application deadline is March 1

Reston: An amazing Dress drive that promotes the recycling of prom dresses

With an abundance of activities in your local area and in the neighboring communities, you are sure to stumble upon an activity that helps take your mind off the winter chill– at least for a few hours!

Do You Want To Build A Snowman?

February 17, 2015

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Contributing Writer: Carmen Thorpe–

Winter is clearly leaving its chilly mark on us; which is making us wish for sunnier days ahead but, while it has us captive why not make the best out of the situation? Remember, this season can be equally enjoyable as well as miserable.

Firstly, we can talk about how great it is, yes, the snow! If you are a snowboarder or skier of any type, this snow is perfect for those activities. So if you have four-wheel drive –and cleared roads– head on out to a local ski resort and hit the slopes for snow day fun. Here are a few ski spots in and around Virginia:

If on the other hand you prefer to stay inside, maybe making a stew, chili, or soup with a friend or loved one would be a more favored activity. Try out a new recipe and add your own twist to the dish, you are only limited by your own imagination, Bon appetite!

But, before you go out to ski or stay in to cook, don’t forget to clear the snow from your sidewalk areas before the night turns everything to ice. This link, from the weather channel, gives some awesome guidance on how to shovel the snow the “Right” way:

Happy snow day!

SFMC Community Events

February 11, 2015

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Contributing writer: Carmen Thorpe–

February 2015 is bustling with events throughout the multitude of communities in NOVA; everything from the First Friday art events in Historic Downtown Manassas to horse-drawn carriage rides, on Valentines Day, in Reston Town Center. You are only limited by the amount of time you have available to enjoy these activities!

Here are a few cool things that are happening, around February 11-24, around the communities near you:

Historic Downtown Manassas: Scope out the art at the First Friday art events; always every first Friday of the month

Four Seasons @ Historic Virginia: Valentine’s Day “Jersey Boys” movie night

South Riding Proprietary: Trivia Night!! Feb. 24th 7pm

Celebrate by Del Webb: Happy Hour Jam Session on February 14th 5:30pm -7:30 pm

Reston Town Center: Beaucoup Valentine’s Day events, from wine tastings/pairings, to horse-drawn carriage rides on Valentines Day, and even a masquerade costume contest on the 17th

The communities are kicking off 2015 with a bang; so many events and too little time!

So check out some art in Historic Downtown Manassas and show loved ones a good time with all the opportunities and adventures NOVA communities have to offer!

February Is Here

February 9, 2015

Contributing writer: Carmen Thorpe —

February is here! They say the ground hog saw his shadow; so we know that there will be six more weeks of winter, and soon it will be time to cut out little paper hearts and give and receive chocolates and so on with the traditions in this glorious month of February. But, all this we already knew. However, did you know about some of the cool happenings in Alexandria this February?

If you are a “Foodie”–something cool to check out this winter–are the restaurants in Old Town Alexandria. They are celebrating George Washington’s infamous connection with cherries by incorporating them in dishes on their menus from January 27-February 10, 2015. Here is more information on this celebration of President George:

After you’ve sampled the delicacies Alexandria has to offer, take the family out to see the parade! Yes, there is a parade on February 16, 2015 that celebrates this very famous president of ours. Here is a link to all the details of the upcoming event:

In addition to the parade, listed above, there are numerous activities–in the link above– that are sure to capture your interests. For example, there will be a ball held on February 14, 2015 and it is a recreation of a time long forgotten; set in the year 1799. On the 16th there will an Adulteration of Chocolate tasting; drinks paired with the chocolates will be brandy, whisky, and a variation of wines.

So if you are ready to leave the house and seek out some adventure in Old Town Alexandria check out the links above and pick an adventure!

Ground hog photo credit:

George Washington photo credit:

Flying through the city of brotherly love

December 8, 2014

By Theresa Coates / LivingFirst

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The Rocky statue wasn’t the only thing wearing a marathon shirt for the Gore-Tex Philadelphia Marathon. Runners visiting Philadelphia explored the city, fist-pumped with locals and devoured famous cheese steaks.

Security was tight, but the cheers were loud and friendly.  Colorful, hand-made signs were everywhere to encourage everybody from the first-timers to the experienced champs — like SFMC Team Leader, George Ellis.

George chalked up his sixth marathon in the city of brotherly love with — his brother.  Jimmy Ellis joined his big bro in a weekend of fun, sweat and nuns.  Yep, that’s right, nuns.

George’s family member, Sr. Bernadine Schmalhofer, a Missionary Servant of the Blessed Trinity and her fellow Philly sisters gave both brothers a special boost with a blessing.  It was no surprise that both of them finished with a personal record (PR), a finish that even the Italian Stallion would admire.

Family Vacation Series: Discover Yellowstone!

July 18, 2014

Planning a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, the “Cowboy State,” can offer a range of activities. Explorers can try tough outdoor hiking, camping, horseback riding or even white water rafting. The tenderfoots of the group can try an easier route with a stay at a rustic lodge or a four star hotel with guided tours. Whatever the plan of choice, the experience will be an adventure.

Discover Yellowstone — roughing it or a plush hotel?

Posted by guest blogger: Bull Run Foot Clinic

People can do the craziest things when they are unleashed into the wild. They can live without showers and toothpaste for days. They can wake up with a bison five feet from their tent and giggle about it. Even stranger, they can eat disgusting dehydrated pasta dishes and be proud of it.

Yellowstone is the first national park in the United States. Presidents like Roosevelt, Harding and Carter have been distinguished guests of the park. But today, the almighty Grizzly bear is the king. The absence of the real world — cell phone service, internet, hot water, a mirror and even electricity is “roughing it” to most people. Some prefer to endure this survival test of camping in the outdoors, while others choose an easier route.

Thank goodness Yellowstone National Park has the Lake Yellowstone Hotel – it is a historic, beautiful building with a view of the lake and plenty of hiking trails. However, like all the lodging in Yellowstone, it does not have reliable cell phone service, internet, TV or air conditioning. But it does have a great bar and a wonderful string quartet for soothing comfort.

Whether you visit for a long weekend or a 10-day trip, planning is crucial in exploring this vast wilderness.

Start your adventure at the popular Jackson Hole. It is the ritzy place in Wyoming — the home to celebrities like Harrison Ford and Sandra Bullock. It is hard to resist one last shopping trip with a stop to Starbucks before going into the park. Remember, Yellowstone is not Disneyland. The animals are real and they are wild. To be safe and have the time of your life, follow these important guidelines:

1. Prepare to be unplugged.

Cell phone signals and internet connections are scarce in the park. Teens will suffer from technology withdrawal. Before the trip make hard copies or cell phone screen shots of important maps and information because your GPS may not work in the park.

2. Plan to arrive in Yellowstone early in the day.

Avoid driving and/or walking at night. The animals rule the land — you are the visitor. Some roads close at night and the animals may roam the streets at night. It can be scary dangerous.

3. Gas up your vehicle before you enter the park.

Scenic stops and animal sightings can cause long traffic jams. Take note that the Fishing Village has a convenient auto repair shop.

4. Absolutely, positively invest in walkie-talkies.

Without cell phone service, they will be your only means of communication. And bring extra batteries. Bring a power strip with outlets to plug into your vehicle to keep cameras and electronics charged.

5. Be Bear Aware!

Visit the park ranger station when you arrive in Yellowstone. If you have die-hard campers, back-country trails and sites are available with a permit from the ranger station. Ask questions and get updates on weather conditions and animal activity. View the visitor’s video for important information about your visit.

6. Yellowstone is a big loop with “Villages” and trails.

Most villages have lodging, camping, a store, gas station and trails galore. Each village has its own personality. Roosevelt has cabins and a lodge with horseback riding. The Lake has the grand Lake Yellowstone Hotel and a rustic lodge to boot with boat rentals – a great way to finish the journey.

7. Temperatures and weather can change rapidly.

Always carry rain gear because storms can zip along dumping hail or rain without notice. Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots and wool socks from REI or Walmart are an absolute necessity. Merrell is a sturdy boot that is popular with hikers. Before the trip, wear them for a few weeks to avoid blisters and discomfort.

Getting wet in the elements of Yellowstone can ruin your day. Consecutive rain days while camping can cripple your adventure and your attitude. Rain is a sure-fire way to “weed out the weak” and send them packing to a lodge.

Hiking pants that are lightweight, baggy and with pockets are a good investment. You can hike, go out to eat and even sleep in these versatile garments. The best hiking pants zipper down as a pair of shorts.

Fleece is your friend. A North Face fleece jacket with a hood will keep you warm and snug in the mountains. The hood is especially beneficial for sleeping — it keeps your head warm.

The Yellowstone Fact Sheet lists the park in a high elevation area with 11,358 ft. as the highest point at Eagle Peak. Pace yourself on hikes, bring chapstick for dry lips and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Yellowstone is a must see for anyone that lives or visits America. However, it is not just a walk in the park — it is an adventure that needs intelligent planning and decision-making for safety and enjoyment.
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Celebrating America!

July 10, 2016

By Theresa Coates / SFMCNews  / LivingFirst Blog –


Let’s here is for the red, white and blue — America celebrated from sea to shining sea last week for its birthday.

Laughter could be heard echoing on the streets of parades, in yards with ribs and corn on the cob grilling while munching on a flag cake with fireworks bursting in the night.

Independence day was party time for families and friends in communities across the land!  How did you spend your fourth?

Family Vacation Series: A Toddler’s Dream — Disney in a Day

June 24, 2014

By Theresa Coates / SFMCNews / LivingFirst —

Summer is in full swing — let the getaways begin!  Many families plan their summer fling months in advance.  Some busy families wing it and squeeze in a vacation when the time is right.

The Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida is a top choice for families with little ones.   Disney is the ultimate treat.  Discounts for hotels are always available, but be prepared to pay a hefty price from $93 to $99 for a day with Mickey. There are some special deals available such as the Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets for just $169 each (plus tax) until September 27, 2014.

Laura, an elementary school guidance counselor, with two young sons, Colby and Jaxon, has been head of household for 8 long months while hubby has been deployed to the Middle East with the U. S. Air Force.  When an opportunity to visit family in an Orlando resort popped up, this mommy was on it — she was ready for a break!

Laura said, “It was a magical… planned in the spur of the moment.”

The mini-vacation for her toddlers included a surprise day trip to Disney with lots of hugs and kisses from their Nannie and Pop Pop. But careful planning to Mickey’s house was important for success — especially for only one day:



Their back! College kids and new baggage

May 25, 2014

by Theresa Coates —

Some college kids are back home for the summer and they may have brought some extra baggage.  This can be a problem.

College kids are at the age when they make decisions on their own. They do independent acts like lease crappy college houses for the semester and try to budget their money.  Some have done things that their mom and dad have forbidden.  Like get a pet.  Or maybe even an exotic pet, like say a tegu named Gizmo.

Tegus look like big lizards or small gators and they like to roam — the house. As much as a parent may want to support their student’s interests,  a tegu is a bit hard to grasp.  They are creepy-looking.

Penny the family pooch seems intrigued by Gizmo.  A black and white speckled reptile can be a buddy to hang out with on the deck. The tegu loves the sun and the dog loves to watch for bunnies. However, Penny always has a curious eye on Gizmo.

Summer is a time for family members to come together to plan vacations around a bonfire, grill burgers and char marshmallows for s’mores. But most of all, enjoy the outdoors while praying that the dog and the inherited pet continue to be chummy.

Next dilemma: What to do with pets during vacation?  Who will pet sit a tegu?

Memorial Day menu mashup

May 23, 2014

Hail to the heroes who have paid the ultimate price to defend our country!

 Mamma mia! The mothers of SFMC!

May 10, 2014

Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in my field, since the payment is pure love. ~Mildred B. Vermont


The day that no one should forget — Mother’s Day — is on Sunday.  SFMC honors the mums that make our business hum.  These fine ladies juggle family and work and do us proud.  No matter what you do on this special day — eat a great meal, travel, laugh or just relax — enjoy it because you deserve it!

Frost free! 10 top sun-loving flowers to plant in Va.

April 30, 2014

If you were holding back your green thumb from sowing seeds and planting flowers outdoors, start digging when the sun starts to shine.  The state of Virginia is split in two planting zones: Zone 6 and Zone 7.  The last frost date — a fear to young plants — ranges from March 31 to April 30.  Prepare your shovels, spades and hoes, time to get down and dirty.

Here are the top full sun flowers to sow or plant for the spring and summer season:

flower pet






1.  Petunia (annual)


flower salvia









2.  Salvia (annual)












3.  Daylily (perennial)








4.  Marigold (annual)








5.  Coreopsis  (perennial)








6.  Geranium annual








7.  Coneflower (perennial)








8.  Zinnia (annual)








9.  Cosmos (annual)








10. Sunflower (annual)


What is your favorite flower to plant in your garden?


Celebrating Earth Day 2014 — African-style!

April 22, 2014

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Let’s get wild about Earth Day! Kathryn Coates, an Old Dominion University Biology student, is studying abroad in Kenya and Tanzania, East Africa with the School for Field Studies. Not only is she tackling full-time course work in wildlife management, ecology, environmental policy, socioeconomic values,  East African tribal communities and Swahili, she and her team are capturing images of the breathtaking landscape of an unspoiled region of the earth.

Kathryn is researching her final assignment on wildlife ecology today — Earth Day — as we recycle, go green, plant a tree, or pick up trash in our communities. Remember to respect our earth today and always.

How are you celebrating Mother Nature today?

Happy Easter from SFMC!  

April 20, 2014

A happy dance for a happy day of celebration on Easter!


 It’s a bloomin’ cherry blossom!

April 12, 2014

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They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!  Washington D. C. is coming up cherry blossoms — on trees, costumes, balloons and parade floats.  The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade® presented by Events DC is today until noon starting along Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th streets, NW.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival continues with events until April 13.  Spectacular colors and celebrities are the highlight of the parade. The big stars of the day are the 3,750 Yoshino cherry trees clustered throughout D . C.  This most common cultivar can be found encircling the Tidal Basin.

Share your images of cherry blossom sightings from D.C. or from your community.

Running for the health of it

March 28, 2014

Team SFMC is gearing up for the 22nd Annual Van Metre 5-Mile Run and One-Mile Fun Run/Walk to benefit Children’s National Medical Center scheduled for Saturday, March 29, 2014. The fun begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Broadlands Marketplace, Ashburn, Va.

The goal is set for $150,000 with late registration available on race day. A post race celebration with awards and door prizes is planned for all participants.

The Bloodmobile will be at the event to accept donations. All skill levels are welcome to join the celebration to benefit this worthy cause.


Fun facts about St. Paddy’s Day

March 15, 2014

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St. Patrick’s Day is not just for the Irish. If you wear green — for fear of being pinched — you are in the spirit of the holiday! Parades are scattered throughout the country with pubs bursting with spirits. Enjoy the day, eat some traditional dishes, and do a jig to your favorite Irish tune.



Signs of spring at Leesylvania State Park

March 9, 2014

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Residents of Northern Virginia hit the beach as temperatures broke 65 degrees during the weekend. Leesylvania State Park, Woodbridge, Va., a historical park tucked along the Potomac River, offered something for everyone. Dogs pounced on balls, children dug in the sand and fisherman snagged catfish from the pier.

Hiking trails range from a path along the river to a hill-side climb to awesome views trickled with history. The Lee and Fairfax families had lived in the area but only a two-story fireplace and chimney relic remain. An iron pulley wheel from years gone by is showcased on the beach as a reminder of the nautical life of the Neabsco Creek, Powells Creek and Potomac River.

A $5 cash admission fee was charged per vehicle to enter the 542 acre park with a boat access, rentals, and grills galore. It was worth the price to see the sun light up the sky with brilliant color to remind everyone that spring is right around the corner.

Did you ever visit Leesylvania State Park? If so, feel free to share your experiences.



State snow budget topples “Snowmageddan”

March 6, 2014

Road crews had been called upon approximately 30 times this winter in the Washington region. Communities in Maryland, DC, and Virginia are anxious for the tulips and daffodils to break through the soil — a sure sign of spring.

The Maryland’s State Highway Administration (SHA) snow budget was only $46 million. So far the state has blown through $123 million. SHA’s Dave Buck said that 2,400 trucks had been deployed to combat the freezing rain and snow storms of the season.

The high snow budget concerns have been compounded by the scarcity of salt for the roads. SHA used a mixture of molasses and salt brine. Frederick County mixed the salt with a small stone chip for added traction.

To treat the roads prior to the storm a mixture of magnesium chloride and a corn byproduct, very similar to corn syrup was sprayed. This treatment made the salt “stick” to the roadway instead of bouncing off. These products are less corrosive and decreased the amount of salt.

The District reported in February that the last major snow storm put its $2.5 million budget up to $6.2 million. Department of Public Works spokeswoman Linda Grant said that the snowfall of the 2013-2014 winter is less than the record-breaking 2009-2010 season but the number of storms has been greater. Crews have mobilized 25 times so far this year, compared to 20 times in 2009-2010.

Virginia highway officials rolled out about 4,000 snowplows and salt trucks to the Northern Virginia roads. The snow removal tab of $157 million exceeds the budget by more than $100 million. Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) reported that the spending was far greater than what was spent in Northern Virginia for “Snowmageddon” in 2010.

There is a light at the end of this snow tunnel. March 9th will bring the big event: daylight savings time. Communities will spring ahead to one more hour of sunshine and gear up to retire the snowplows for the season.



Try a taste of Historic Manassas

February 25, 2014

This week from February 23 to March 1, Historic Manassas restaurants will be opening their doors with welcoming meal specials.

Restaurant Week, an annual event, is a great way to tour the city and try the local flavor. Taste cuisine from the Rajin Cajun fare at Okra’s to the New York style subs at the Deli Depot. The city offers a smorgasbord of choices from Italian, Mexican, Greek to American.

Stroll around the streets and enjoy the museum, galleries, and specialty shops that make this quaint town unique. Historic stops with signs are scattered throughout the area to take you back in time. Enjoy the experience!


8 Ways To Spruce Up Your House This Spring

Tips from the Experts:

February 20, 2014


Joe Levicchi, Co-Owner, Exterior Medics

— With the gorgeous Northern Virginia spring season right around the corner, it’s officially time to start thinking about sprucing up your home.

Here are a few great ideas on how you can give your home a complete spring time makeover.

1. Add Color To Your Metal Roof

Depending on the front elevation of your home, a large part of your roof is likely visible from the street. If your house has metal roofing, painting it with striking colors such as red, can easily accentuate your home exterior. Doing so can also be a form of preventive maintenance that can increase the life of your metal roof. There are specific types of paint made specifically for roofing systems formulated with coating ingredients that can protect your metal roofing from harsh weather elements.

Certain roof colors have a cooling effect and will help you prepare your house for the heat of the summer, saving you heaps of money on energy use. Painting your metal roof can be a difficult task without the proper tools and previous experience. For your safety and for the best results, it’s best to get in touch with roofing contractors in Northern Virginia who can help you choose the right color, assess and fix any damages before painting, and use paint products that will not wear off easily.

2. Freshen Up Your Wood Siding

One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to give your home a facelift is to repaint your wood siding. Before you start painting, clean your wood siding thoroughly and check for any damages. Repair or replace damaged wood siding and pick a color that will go well with your roof and window trims.

3. Paint Your Doors

Like your roof, simply adding some color to your door will greatly accentuate your home exterior. Paint your entry door, patio door, and even your garage door. Be sure to thoroughly prep the surface area before beginning (sanding, taping off edges, etc.) and take your time filling in the details. Our Northern Virginia home improvement specialists can help you coordinate colors and achieve the best finish for your door.

4. Repair or Replace Old and Broken Windows

With all the cold and gray days of the winter, we all miss seeing the sun. Check your windows for any damages the winter may have caused and repair them. You can also replace your old windows with modern window installations that are not only aesthetically pleasing but energy-efficient. Windows are the perfect way to welcome sunshine into your home.

5. Add Window Shutters

Another great way to add a brand new look to your home is by adding window shutters. Window shutters easily adds a charming look to your house, perfect for the spring. If you’re planning to repaint your home exterior, window shutters can be painted with darker colors sure to add life to your color scheme.

6. Stain Your Concrete

If you have a concrete patio or front porch, staining your concrete is a great way to make your home look more lively this spring. There are several different options, such as acid staining or epoxy coating. Choose the right stain that will give your plot of land a bit of oomph.

7. Coordinate Lighting Fixtures and Exterior Hardware

A little mix and match does the trick! Coordinating your lighting fixtures and exterior hardware such as door knobs or porch fans can add the perfect finishing touch to your home exterior. It increases the appeal of your house without breaking the bank.

8. Replace Dead Plants

If the harsh winter killed most of your plants, grass, or shrubbery, it’s time to revamp your flora. Planting colorful blooms and plants that thrive in the spring time will make your house look more lively and extra appealing. Leaving your dead plants as is, will make your house stand out for the wrong reason.

It’s almost time for spring! Don’t let your house be as dead as the winter this spring time. A little tweaking here and there can make a whole lot of difference when it comes to making your house look appealing.

If you want to explore your exterior home improvement options with professional contractors in Northern Virginia, don’t hesitate to give us a ring at Exterior Medics. Our team of friendly and experienced home improvement experts are always happy to help.

Guest blog by Joe LeVecchi, Co-Owner Exterior Medics


Roofing | Siding | Gutters | Windows | Doors

5706-D General Washington Drive,

Alexandria, Virginia 22312

(703) 365-2512



5 fun Valentine’s Day gifts

February 13, 2014

Ok, we all know that Valentine’s Day is really for the ladies. The gentlemen will gladly accept the chocolates, but the ladies want more than a box shaped like a heart. So guys, if you want some fun ideas to wow your date, try these. Take note of the ages following the names:

  1. Wake up to a trail of Hershey kisses leading to a big bouquet of roses with a big breakfast. – Terry, 53
  2. A romantic dinner with candlelight in the city with a reservation at a hotel for the night. – Laura, 33
  3. A night on the town with tickets to a concert, like Skrillex. – Alli, 26
  4. A new dress with a single rose and a note to meet for dinner at my favorite restaurant. – Amber, 36
  5. Flowers and a homemade dinner made by the man! Even if it is nasty, it’s the thought that counts. – Nat, 21

What was your favorite Valentine’s gift?



Hunker down for Winter Storm Pax

February 12, 2014

Ice and snow has slammed the southeast with rare snow days for the kiddies and traffic nightmares for drivers.

Winter Storm Pax is heading up to the DC Metro area tonight and will linger on into Thursday. Stay home in your nice warm house to avoid putting yourself and others in harm’s way.

Olympic super mom

February 10, 2014

USA’s Noelle Pinkus-Pace scored a silver medal last night in the skeleton event, the 80-mile per hour face-first sport. Great Britain’s Lizzy Yarnold won the gold with Russia’s Elena Nikitina adding the bronze for her home nation.

Pinkus-Pace, 31, mother of two, has had her challenges climbing to that medal platform. Training for Olympic success and raising little ones are a tough agenda. But it paid off with a big victory hug with tears from her family. Thumbs up from parent’s everywhere!


Top 15 Events in the XXII Winter Olympic Games

February 7, 2014

Let the games begin! Russia kicked off the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics today with light shows and Russian classical music galore.

At-home spectators hunker down for more snow and cold this week — a great time to rally friends and family together to root for Team USA!



Get warm with NY Super Bowl chili

January 31, 2014

Sunday, February 2, 2014 is the first Super Bowl football game to be held outdoors in a cold-weather city — and it’s going to be chilly. Kickoff temperatures could be in the 30s.

The Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will play in the MetLife Stadium with a stage set with cold breath vapor, bright red faces, shivering cheerleaders and fans fighting off frostbite — great special effects for the audiences in their toasty home.

Folks removed from the harsh elements can get in the spirit of the game with New York Beef Brisket Chili. It’s packed with spices and chunks of beef that will warm your belly while you cheer your team to victory.


Total Time: 3 hr 45 min
Prep: 30 min
Cook: 3 hr 15 min
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Level: Easy

5 pounds beef brisket, cut in 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions
6 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, crushed
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 green peppers, seeded and diced
1 bay leaf
6 cups tomatoes, chopped with their liquid
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup strong coffee
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans
2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
Serve with:
Sour cream
Grated Cheddar
Diced tomato
Tortilla chips


Pat the brisket cubes dry with paper towels. Heat the oil in a very large heavy-bottomed pot and quickly brown the meat, in batches, on all sides. Transfer the brisket to a separate bowl and set aside. Saute the onion and garlic in the same oil over medium heat until limp, but not brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chili powder, pepper flakes, cayenne pepper and cumin and saute for 1 minute. Add the green peppers, bay leaf, tomatoes with their juice, the reserved meat, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and season with salt, to taste. Add the coffee, cover the pot and simmer for 1 more hour.

Add the kidney beans and basil, and warm through. Transfer the chili to a large serving bowl and serve with sour cream, grated Cheddar, diced tomato, tortilla chips and guacamole.

Devon Fredericks Award Winning Chili


East Coast tries to thaw

January 22, 2014

Hello sunshine! Planes at Dulles were hit with the snow and cold blast that crippled the East Coast. Sun rays and crew worked hard to melt the ice to get travelers back in the air.



Remembering MLK Day

January 20, 2014

“I Have a Dream…” —

1963 speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the “March on Washington” —

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

(Copyright 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Home decorating trends for 2014

January 16, 2014

Karen Hockman

What’s Out and In for 2014

– Guest post by: Karen Hockman, Karen Hockman Interiors

Every year the “Design World” decides what’s hot and what’s not for the new year. I don’t really know how this is decided, except for the fact that this is what you will and won’t be seeing on the pages of your favorite magazines. This is true for your decor and fashion magazines, as they are so closely related.

Ok, so What’s OUT.

Ikat prints.


Diamond Ikat pillows from Z Gallerie.

I still like them.

All-white Kitchens


Image from House Beautiful

Well, I am not sure how you can go wrong with this kitchen. It looks clean and fresh. I probably would add a color to the back splash and color on the island. That wouldn’t hurt.

Woodland Creatures

woodland creatures from plow and hearth

Image from Vetstreet.

Seriously, just when I decided that a Woodland Creature Christmas Tree for next Christmas would be adorable. I can see how having these creatures all over your house may seem creepy, but a cute little tree. Just saying.

Books reduced to decor


Image from Babble.

Ok, so I am going to have to agree with this one. I love books. I love the feel of a book in my hand. Yes, I have an Ipad, and have been known to read a book or two on it (great for traveling). I also think books in decor enhances a table or bookshelf, that’s why I never liked covering a book. It takes away from their real beauty.

The Belgian look


Image from Modern Country Style

I have to admit that I had no idea what this look was. Once I looked it up I saw that it was linen upholstery and neutral tones, basically Shabby Chic. People like the comfort of Shabby Chic. I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

What’s In……………….

Macrame and Fiber-Art Wall Hangings


Image from Etsy

Are you kidding me? A throwback to 1970. I hope you all saved yours, because today this one will cost you $100. Anyone have a great DIY for this? Sorry, I am not a fan.

Window Sheers


Image from Overstock

You can buy these anywhere, and they will allow more light in a room.

Venetian Marbled-Paper Prints


Image from Paper Plate and Plane

It’s ok, just ok.

Corduroy Upholstery


Image from Taibobo

Great durable fabric for a sofa or chair.

Deco Hues


Image from Media Designer Pages

Throw back again to the late 1960′s.

Ok, so my take on the In’s and Out’s. I think I like the Out’s a little better. The In’s seem to be recycling the mod era of the late 60′s early 70′s. Nothing wrong with that, everything comes back around. The bottom line……your home should be the most comfortable place to be for you, your family, and your life style.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I would love to hear what you think.


Karen Hockman Interiors


A dose of sunshine and southern hospitality

December 30, 2013

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The doldrums of winter have arrived.  Many folks head south during the winter holiday break to find some much-needed sunshine.  South Carolina is far south enough to provide a ray of sunshine — and history too.  Beaches may be a bit nippy this time of year, however some other options are available.

A favorite spot to spend outdoors in South Carolina is the Boone Hall Plantation, near Charleston. The scenic homestead offers something for all ages. Cotton is growing near the mansion that is open for tours year round. The working farm even set the stage for films such as “North and South,” “Queen,” and a favorite, “The Notebook.”

An open bus gives continuous tours of the property with animals and wildlife scattered throughout the property.  Slave quarters and reenactment exhibits are displayed on the plantation  A restaurant is nearby offering dishes from the farm’s own crops.  But the highlight of the historical property are the live oak trees lining the road to the gate.

The trees with moss dripping from the canopies are over 200 years old and have survived war and hurricanes of the area.  This must-see tourist stop provides true southern charm and hospitality.

What is your favorite winter escape trip?


Where to find Santa in the DC area

December 10, 2013

If your kiddies have a wish list to drop off to Santa, check out these top spots in the Washington, DC Metro Area.  St. Nick will be parading, sleighing and ho-ho-ing until the big day!  Check them out:

  • Eileens Bakery and Cafe, Fredericksburg, Va. hosts a Santa Breakfast on Sun., Dec. 15. Reservations required.
  • Reston Town Center is decorated to the hilt and offers continuous holiday happenings.
  • Dumfries, Va. Victorian Holiday Parade on Sat., Dec. 14.
  • Fair Oaks Mall, Va. houses Santa in a blue festive Ice Palace.
  • Ticonderago Farms, Chantilly, Va. offers weekend fun for the family with Santa time.
  • Santarchy, Washington, DC unleashes Santa-wannabes to visit all over the city on Sat. Dec. 14.

Do you have a Santa spot to share?


Best Brunch Bonanza Ideas

December 8, 2013

Shop til you eat!  Marathon holiday shopping on a Sunday morning can lead to a well-deserved brunch bonanza.  Scrambling to find a place that serves a yummy dippy egg with a side of toast, a fresh carved piece of ham, shrimp and a decent bloody mary can be a challenge.

What makes a great brunch?

  • Fresh seasonal fruit, especially strawberries — with a cool chocolate dipping fountain.
  • Made to order eggs and omelets — and a waitress that brings them to your table. I haven’t found a place that performs this duty, but what a great idea! I hate to wait in line with my plate.
  • A bloody mary made with hot sauce, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, veggies and a lemon speared on top with Old Bay seasoning on the rim is the best. Cajun restaurants like Okra’s, in Manassas, Va., advertise a brunch and can’t be beat for their Proud Mary.
  • Carving station with turkey, beef, or ham. Especially the end pieces. Sequoia, a DC waterfront restaurant, offers views and meat slicing for your liking.
  • A place with atmosphere is preferred. Artie’s in Fairfax, Va is a comfortable place with nautical themes and a warm environment.
  • Great staff. A place where everyone will know your name is a diner. Diners usually serve breakfast all day, however, some offer a brunch spread too. Ashton Family Restaurant, Manassas, Va. is a friendly diner with an intimate brunch and homey decor.

A brunch is a nice treat for catching up with family and friends during the Sunday holiday shopping rush.

What is your favorite brunch spot and why?


Getaway: Amish holiday experience

December 3, 2013

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If you want to try a unique place to shop for the holidays, take a trip to Lancaster County, Pa. The Pennsylvania Dutch country is a great family experience for browsing handcrafted items made by the Amish — community members who prides themselves in quality.

The Amish shy away from electricity and “fancy” clothes, but can wheel and deal their goods in the Lancaster Central Market (since 1730) and the Kitchen Kettle Village.

Kids will love the Amish horse and buggies trotting along the back roads of the rolling hills and farms speckled in hex signs. The Strasburg Railroad (since 1832) chugs along the tracks giving rides to all ages.

pickle ornament


Shop for quilts, jellies, whoopie pies, and of course, shoefly pie. And don’t forget the legendary pickle ornament. There are many traditions surrounding this pickle. Hang it on a Christmas tree and let someone find in on the holiday morning. Some families award that lucky winner the first present of the day.


Farmers Market Fun

October 9, 2013

On Saturday while members of Team SFMC were at South Riding, LivingFirst Blog contributor, Adrianna was at the Fairfax Farmers Market.  Not only were there several farmers selling their produce, but there were many different local shops and small businesses with tables.

Next weekend, there will not be a farmers market because the City of Fairfax will be hosting it’s Fall Festival.


Homemade Apple Butter

September 30, 2013

photo via

photo via

Fall is in full swing and what better way to enjoy the season than to cook with seasonal fruits and veggies.

Apples are a fall staple so what better way to utilize them while they’re in-season than to turn them into a spread and put it on everything?

The trick to this easy recipe is to use a crock pot!

Homemade Apple Butter

makes 3-5 pints


25-30 apples
2-4 tsp cinnamon
1/4-1/2 tsp allspice
1/2-1 tsp ground cloves
2-4 cups sugar


Core and slice apples, dumping the slices into the crockpot as you go.  Stop prepping apples when the crockpot is full (just save the remaining apples for later).

Add 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/2 tsp cloves and 2 cups of sugar.  Mix well and put the crock pot on low for 10 hours.  Feel free to stir when you walk by!

After 10 hours, core and slice more apples to fill the crockpot.  Dump the new apple slices into what’s already cooked down.  Mix well.  Cook another 10 hours on low.

Repeat the process of adding more apples, mix, set the crockpot for another 10 hours.

Taste test your apple butter and add more cinnamon, allspice, cloves and sugar to your taste.  I usually add the same amount I did the first time, although sometimes I only add one more cup of sugar, depends on how sweet the apples are.

After it’s gone a good 30-40 hours, use an immersion blender to puree it.  (You could probably put through food mill or blender too). Continue cooking until it’s the thickness that you want.  If it’s not cooking down enough vent the lid a little.  If it gets too thick, add some water or apple juice.

When it’s the consistency you want, you can either can it or put it in mason jars using a “waterbath method.”


Happy Fall!

September 23, 2013

Photo via user "ChoBunny"

Photo via user “ChoBunny”

Sunday, Sept. 22 was the official “First Day of Fall.”  The weather even seemed to take notice.

Since pumpkin has become the star ingredient of most fall-themed dishes, we wanted to give you a recipe to help you get into the fall spirit!

Iced Pumpkin Cookies

You will need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.

3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool cookies, then drizzle glaze with fork.

4. To Make Glaze: Combine confectioners’ sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed, to achieve drizzling consistency.


No Bake Cheesecake

September 16, 2013

Simple Cooking Channel on Youtube posted this video on how to make a no-bake cheesecake.



In Honor of 9/11

September 11, 2013

Photo via

Photo via

For many, today ends the first week of school after a long summer vacation.  This means that kids all around are returning to their routines.  This could also mean that there are plenty of tired and cranky kids around.

So how do you beat the back to school blues?  We came up with a few hints to make it easier while your “back-to-schoolers” are adjusting.

-Insist on an early bedtime.  Even if it’s just for the first couple weeks, their bodies and their brains need to rest so they can process all the new things they’re doing and learning.

-Have a protein-packed snack waiting for them when they get home.  Whether you make it the night before or you’re there to make it for them when they get home, it’ll give them the energy.  They’re going to need it to tackle homework assignments and extracurriculars.

-Encourage them to talk about their days.  Ask specific questions about their schoolwork and their classmates.  The more kids talk about their days, the more they are able to adjust to the routine in their head.  It’s also helpful to get a feel for how they’re adjusting to teachers and curriculum.  That way you’ll know if you need to get them extra help — like a tutor.

-Insist on a well-balanced breakfast.  Even if it means waking everyone up a little earlier, it’s important that they eat a healthy breakfast before starting off to school.  It keeps them energized and ready to learn and with varying lunch schedules, it’s important that they don’t get too hungry before lunchtime.

Do you have any back to school tips?  Share in our comments section!

Back to School Blues

September 6, 2013

Photo via

Photo via

For many, today ends the first week of school after a long summer vacation.  This means that kids all around are returning to their routines.  This could also mean that there are plenty of tired and cranky kids around.

So how do you beat the back to school blues?  We came up with a few hints to make it easier while your “back-to-schoolers” are adjusting.

-Insist on an early bedtime.  Even if it’s just for the first couple weeks, their bodies and their brains need to rest so they can process all the new things they’re doing and learning.

-Have a protein-packed snack waiting for them when they get home.  Whether you make it the night before or you’re there to make it for them when they get home, it’ll give them the energy.  They’re going to need it to tackle homework assignments and extracurriculars.

-Encourage them to talk about their days.  Ask specific questions about their schoolwork and their classmates.  The more kids talk about their days, the more they are able to adjust to the routine in their head.  It’s also helpful to get a feel for how they’re adjusting to teachers and curriculum.  That way you’ll know if you need to get them extra help — like a tutor.

-Insist on a well-balanced breakfast.  Even if it means waking everyone up a little earlier, it’s important that they eat a healthy breakfast before starting off to school.  It keeps them energized and ready to learn and with varying lunch schedules, it’s important that they don’t get too hungry before lunchtime.

Do you have any back to school tips?  Share in our comments section!

How to Throw a Last Minute Labor Day Party

August 30, 2013

Photo via

Photo via

Do you suddenly have the urge to throw an “End of Summer” party?  If the mood strikes, you don’t need a lot of time to plan.  Some of the best parties are thrown together last minute.  All you need are friends, food, and an open mind.

First, you need a guest list.  For a last-minute get together, it’s important to remember that there’s a chance that some people may already have other plans.  Pick a smaller group of people that all know each other so you don’t have to spend too much time planning “get to know you” activities.

Second, you don’t need to worry too much about decorations.  Just figure out where you want the majority of the party to take place, clean it up a little, and ta-da!  The party area is ready.

Third, have your guests bring side dishes or desserts so you don’t have to spend too much time cooking.  This is also good if you have guests with food sensitivities.  You should also pick an easy-to-make main course such as burgers or chicken.  Items like that are usually on sale on holiday weekends, too.   To cut down “beverage” costs, serve a “signature cocktail” or have a “signature drink,” such as a beer that you like.  Tell your guests what you’re planning to serve.  Let them know if they’d prefer something else, they can bring it and you’ll leave room in the cooler or refrigerator.

That’s it!

What are your Labor Day plans?  Do you have any go-to’s for throwing a quick get-together?

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

No PB & J’s Here!

August 26, 2013

Photo via

Photo via

In celebration of the back-to-school season, we wanted to do another school lunch post.

Thanks to’s blog, we have a couple of creative ways to give your child a lunch they can be excited about.

Sandwich on a Stick

Okay, this is the most simple recipe on the list.  Before you decide to try it, make sure you’re allowed to send little kabob skewers in your child’s lunch.  If that’s okay, then go for it.

You will Need (for 10 kabobs):

  • 2 cups of bread cubes.
    For this, you will need a hearty bread such as Ciabatta or French.
  • 1 1/2 cups of cubed mozzarella and cheddar cheese.
  • 1 slice of thick cut lunch meat (whatever your child prefers) that is cut into strips or cubes.
  • 10 cherry tomatoes (one per kabob).

What to Do:

Add one cube of bread to the skewer, then alternate cheese, cucumber, meat, tomato, meat, cucumber, cheese, then add another piece of bread.

Margherita Pizza Wheels

You will need:

  • Pizza dough (instant or homemade)
  • Marinara sauce
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup (10 grams) basil leaves, chopped
  • Yellow cornmeal, for dipping
  • Coarse salt, for sprinkling

What to Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Roll the pizza dough into a rough 9×12 inch rectangle. Spread a layer of marinara sauce on top. Top with the mozzarella slices and chopped basil.
  3. Starting with the long end, roll the dough up towards you, making sure to keep it tight. The sauce and cheese may try to slide out, but try to keep them in place as much as possible.
  4. Use a sharp knife to cut into 1 inch rounds. Dip one end of the wheels into the cornmeal and place on the prepared sheet pan (cornmeal side down). Sprinkle with coarse salt.
  5. Bake until dough is golden and cheese has melted and started to brown, about 15-20 minutes.
  6. Let cool, refrigerate overnight, pack for lunch.

Do you have any other lunches that are a little different and that your kids love?  Let us know!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor 

Back-to-School Lunches: Bento?

August 21, 2013

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To bento or not to bento?  That is the question.

There has been a recent influx of photos on Pinterest and blogging sites of creative children’s bento lunches.  Bento is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento holds rice, fish or meat, with pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container.  However, now the trend is to present your child’s typical “bagged lunch” in creative shapes and characters.  This could range from simple cookie cutter shapes, to characters from popular movies.

Do you feel like there’s absolutely no time for that?  Of course!

Does that make you a bad parent?  Not at all!

You can shape the bento trend to fit your needs because there are some benefits to it.

For one, the containers being used hold many different things so you can create a well-balanced lunch for your child without having to scour your kitchen for all the little containers or sandwich bags.  Most of the “Pinterest” or “Blogger” bentos contain little sandwiches cut into shapes, fruits, veggies, and some kind of dip.  Not bad, right?

So tell us, have you ever tried to make a bento box?  How did it turn out?  Do you have any tips of the trade?

Leave us a comment and let us know!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

Homemade “Skinny” Caesar Salad Dressing

August 5, 2013

Photo via

Photo via

Caesar salad dressing is delicious, but is often considered “calorie laden” or “heavy.”

This recipe, found on, omits eggs and uses Greek yogurt to lighten the dressing.



  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 tbsp fat free Greek yogurt

In the bowl of a food processor add the cheese, the lemon juice, garlic clove, mustard and the anchovies. Turn the machine on and let it run for 15 to 20 seconds. Add the oil and yogurt and let the machine run for another 15 seconds.
Makes 3/4 cup.

Serve with romaine lettuce and grilled chicken.

Do you use Caesar salad dressing in any other recipes?  Leave us a comment and share!

Back to School Shopping

July 31, 2013

Photo via

Photo via

Have you started back-to-school shopping yet?  Whether you have or you haven’t, you should know that the back-to-school sales tax holiday starts on August 2 and ends August 4.  During those days, certain school supplies, clothing, and footwear will be exempt from the Virginia sales tax.

For a list of tax exempt items and more information about the holiday, click here.

Decorating Tips to Welcome Home Your Little Prince or Princess

July 22, 2013

Photo via

Photo via

In anticipation of The Royal Baby, we decided to compile a list of ideas to help you decorate for your own little prince or princess. has lots of ideas ranging from different color schemes to “How-To” videos.

We chose our favorite decorating ideas and we want to share them with you.

  • For an inexpensive way to decorate walls, frame pages from old children’s books. If you don’t want to ruin your own, search yard sales and bargain book sales for your favorites.
  • As children become mobile, you never know what might get dirty. The best advice is to keep everything in the room easy to clean and durable. For floors, large inexpensive rugs over either hardwood or the wall-to-wall carpet will insure that the surfaces stay clean for years and years.
  • Add a dimmer switch to the nursery. This will not only save on your electric bill, but it will help your child distinguish from bright “playtime” and a dimmer “bedtime story” or “calm down” time.
  • For quick diaper changing, keep diapers unopened in a basket or drawer that’s easily reached from where you stand at your changing table. That way, there’s less fumbling. Do the same with all necessary powders and ointments. Keep a change of clothes there too, just in case.
  • Use painters tape to create vertical stripes on the walls using soft colors. As the child gets older and prefers one color over the other, you can just paint over it with the one they like best.

While you’re keeping an eye out for the Royal Baby, leave us a comment and tell us how you decorated your children’s rooms.

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

How to Cope with a Heat Wave

July 19, 2013

Photo via Google Weather

Photo via Google Weather

Since we participated in #FlashbackFriday last week, we thought it would be fun to do another one. The LivingFirst blog already posted some tips for keeping cool this summer, but since we’re currently experiencing a heat wave we thought you could use more ideas.

The Daily Mail’s website has offered a whole article with tips to stay cool in the midst of a heat wave. The article can be found here. We’ve decided to share some highlights, though. Here they are:

    • Eat small meals and eat more often. The larger the meal, the more metabolic heat your body creates breaking down the food. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increase metabolic heat.
    • Take a tepid bath or shower just below body temperature, especially before bedtime. Although a cold shower might sound more tempting, your body generates heat afterwards to compensate for the heat loss.
    • Ditch your duvet and sleep under a sheet instead. Even better, put your sheets in a plastic bag and stick them in the fridge a couple of hours before going to bed. As we fall asleep our body temperature lowers, which is why it’s difficult to sleep in hot weather. Cold sheets straight from the fridge should help you sleep better.
    • While you’re out, keep the house curtains drawn to stop it heating up like a greenhouse.
    • Run your wrists under a cold tap for five seconds each every couple of hours. Because a main vein passes through this area, it helps cool the blood.

If you have any go-to methods for cooling down, please share in our “Comments” section.

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

How to Make Your Own “Cronuts”

July 17, 2013

The “Cronut” is a cross between a croissant and a doughnut. Serious Eats created a video for DIY Banana Cream Cronuts that look delicious.


By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

Simple Yogurt Toppings

July 12, 2013

In honor of #FlashbackFriday, we decided post more delicious breakfast ideas like we did here and here. created a list of easy-to-make toppings to dress up plain yogurt. The whole article is here, but we wanted to share two of our favorites.


Image Source: Izy Hossack

Blueberry Lemon Topping

You will need:
Granulated Sugar

What to do:
In a bowl, smash together half of the blueberries you want to use along with fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of granulated sugar (to taste).
Swirl gently into plain yogurt.
Top with whole blueberries and lemon zest.

Image Source: Izy Hossack

Image Source: Izy Hossack

Banana, Cinnamon and Peanuts Topping

You will need:
One banana
Ground cinnamon

What to do:
Mash banana together with as much cinnamon as you’d like. Use a fork and mash until smooth.
Swirl gently into plain yogurt.
Top with chopped peanuts.

Do you have any favorite yogurt add-ins? Leave us a comment!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

Keep Minds Sharp Over Summer Vacation

July 1, 2013

Image Source:

During the summer months, school-aged children get a nice break from their studies.  However, during the extended break, students’ academic skill will often get rusty.  While it’s important to relax over the summer vacation, it’s also important to spend some time each weekday practicing skills that will help in the school year to come.  There are lots of ways to do that.

Keep a Journal A fun and easy way to keep writing and handwriting skills fresh is to keep a summer journal.  Get a composition notebook for each child and let them decorate the covers with stickers or pictures.  Then have them spend 30 minutes a day writing about what they’re doing, what they want to do, what they’re excited about, or anything they feel like.  Try having them write a short story once every other week to keep their creativity up, too.

Workbooks Find a full-curriculum workbook for whatever grade your child is going into.  That way, they will be all warmed up by the time school starts.  You can usually find reasonably priced ones on  You can also Google “[insert grade] Workbook Page” and print them out from there.

Have the Kids Teach Do you have more than one child?  If so, have the older ones read to and give little lessons to the younger ones.  That way, not only will the younger ones be learning, but the older ones are refreshing skills that they’ve learned in years before.  Not to mention, they can practice “public speaking” in front of their siblings, which makes it easier.

These are just a few ideas that could work.  Leave us a comment and tell us what you’re doing to keep your kids’ skills fresh!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

Beat the Heat

June 28, 2013

Image Source:

As temperatures rise, it becomes a struggle to find ways to keep cool.  Yes, staying indoors is definitely the best option, especially when humidity levels rise too.  However, sometimes even in an air-conditioned house can feel too darn hot.  So what can you do to keep cool?

Play water games

Have a squirt gun fight.  Fill up a small, inexpensive kiddie pool and pretend to spend the day at the beach.  Run through a sprinkler.  On hot days, sometimes the best thing to do is to throw on a bathing suit and go splash around.  If you’ve got the time, but don’t have any kids to play with, throw on a bathing suit and wash your car.  That way, you’re beating the heat and being productive.

Make ice pops

Take fruit juices and small pieces of fresh fruit and fill up Dixie cups (or popsicle molds) with them.  Cover them in foil and add popsicle sticks.  Freeze for five hours or overnight.  Enjoy!

Wear a cooling face mask

Is it impossible to get cool in your house?  Get one of those gel-filled facial masks and pop it in the freezer.  After about an hour, wear it when you’ve got some down time.  Not only will it make your face feel rejuvenated, but it helps you to feel much cooler.

Avoid turning on the oven/stove

Most houses feel their hottest as soon as cooking needs to be done.  Ovens and stoves give off a lot of heat that can make cooling down feel even more impossible.  For dinner-making in the summer, try your crock pot.  You can make lots of recipes using just a crock pot and that doesn’t give off any excess heat.  More crock pot recipes can be found here.

Do you have any go-to cooling methods?  Share them with us!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor.

Flora and fauna of the Last Frontier

June 25, 2013

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Texans claim to do everything big, but Alaskans do everything gigantic.  Gigantic mountains, seas, bears, mosquitos, and especially flowers.

SFMC’s George Ellis ventured up to the Land of the Midnight Sun on June 21, 2013 to check out the Summer Solstice – where Anchorage reports 22 hours of sunlight.   The sun shines long during the short Alaskan summer. The largest state’s rugged landscape is a haven for its tenacious wildlife, flowers, and plants. Some of the region’s flora and fauna grows exceptionally larger than the  ”lower 48.”

During his visit, George also participated in the 40th Annual Mayor’s Marathon, organized by the University of Alaska and Anchorage, to run  through the historical district community and the scenic breath-taking foothills of the Chugach Mountains.

By: Theresa Coates, Editor

The Easiest Breakfast Popsicle

June 21, 2013

Photo by Adrianna
Photo by Adrianna

Once upon a time, we showed you a recipe for a fun breakfast popsicle made with Greek yogurt.  That seemed simple enough, didn’t it?  Well Adrianna, LivingFirst contributor, managed to make it even easier.  Rather than mix up yogurt, honey, and berries, Adrianna opted for the simplest option available.

What you’ll need:

  • Chobani Flip Yogurt in Key Lime
    Any brand/flavor combo will do.  I chose this one because it comes with a corner filled with yogurt chips and graham cracker crumbles.
  • Popsicle molds
    I got these JellyBelly brand ones in the Target “seasonal” aisle.  They were with snow cone fixings and pool toys.

That’s it!

I took the add-ins, mixed it with the yogurt, then poured it into the molds.  One individual package of yogurt was enough to fill two molds.

I froze them overnight and they were perfect.  I did find that holding the mold under some warm water helped to ease the popsicle out.


By Adrianna, LivingFirst contributor 

DIY Decorating Tip

June 17, 2013

Image Source: Adrianna.  Basement powder room

Image Source: Adrianna. Basement powder room

Do you have a room that needs sprucing up?  Do you or any relatives have old records lying around and you’re not sure what to do with them?  Find the ones that you’re sure no one would want to listen to and hang them up!

If you like this idea and  don’t already have records, you can find them fairly cheap and Goodwill or Salvation Army stores.

First figure out where you want to put them, then mark where you want to have the nails.  Allow for the entire diameter of the record when picking out where you’re going to place them.  Once you know where you want them to go, take nails and hammer them into where you marked up.  We used 1 1/2 inch nails for the project.  After the nail is in, simply hang the record on the nail — just like hanging a picture!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

Father’s Day Deal: get Decked Out!

June 14, 2013

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George Ellis, SFMC, deserved an early gift for Father’s Day!  His family of seven children decided to treat him to a shopping spree to Men’s Warehouse in Northern Virginia.  They had a great sale to honor dads on their big day.

Their promotion to “Buy one, get one FREE” was echoed through out the store.  Sleek suits lined the walls of the store with top designer tags. Conservative and funky ties and colorful dress shirts stacked throughout the store offered a huge selection to choose from.

Men’s Warehouse’s service was excellent!  Sam, Malcolm, and Ms. Q scurried around Men’s Warehouse to cater to Mr. Ellis’s wardrobe needs.  And what a savings!  This sale can’t be missed if you have a dad that would love to be decked out on his big day!

By Theresa, LivingFirst Editor

Upcoming Event: Taste of Reston

June 14, 2013

Image Source:
Image Source:

Reston Town Center will be hosting its annual “Taste of Reston” festival today from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m and tomorrow from 12 p.m to 11 p.m.  You can find out about all the details on their website.

On Sunday (Father’s Day), there will be a carnival from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Go out and enjoy!

It’s Graduation Time!

June 12, 2013

Image Source:
Image Source:

If June had a theme song, it would probably be “Pomp and Circumstance.”  School years are coming to an end and it’s time for the class of 2013 to celebrate their achievements and enjoy their graduation days.

The most exciting part about graduation is that it signifies the “next step” in life as many graduates head off to college.  The majority of students favor in-state universities such as the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, and George Mason University.

Another very popular school is Northern Virginia Community College.  For students who aren’t quite sure where they want to go or who want to save some money, NOVA offers the ability to get an Associate’s Degree which will allow students to transfer to any Virginia school with guaranteed admission.

So whether they’re off to school or ready to join the workforce, when you see someone celebrating their gradation day be sure to congratulate them!

Leave us a comment if you are a graduate or have a child who’s graduating.  We want to congratulate you, too!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor 

Father’s Day Gift Guide

June 3, 2013

Image Source:

Image Source:

After conducting some research, we were able to compile a list of gift ideas that are perfect to show dad how much you love him.  Don’t forget, Father’s Day is June 16.

Perfect Gifts for Dad

-Any gear for the activities your dad loves.  Does dad golf?  Are his shirts looking worn out?  Time for some new ones!  Is dad a fisherman?  Set him up with a new tackle box full of supplies.  For dads who like to run, new running shoes and workout clothes are perfect.

-Homemade cards.  This is good for any age group.  Even if you’re “grown up,” nothing brings back great memories like a homemade card with a simple note on the inside.  Take the opportunity to go nuts with glitter, stickers, and markers.

-Dad’s favorite treats.  Does dad have a sweet tooth?  Bake him a bunch of his favorites and give them to him in a decorated box or bag.

-DVD/Blue Ray box sets of dad’s favorite shows or movies.  This one is pretty simple.  Does your dad love the Lethal Weapon movie series?  Go and find one of those “4-Movie Feature” packs.  Does he already own every movie he loves?  Then take him to the movies.  Make it a family event!

-Some down time.  Does he want to spend the morning washing his car?  Does he love to tinker in the garage?  Let him do it.  While he’s enjoying some down time, surprise him with his favorite lunch — either cook it or go out and pick it up for him.  He’ll love it.

-Tackle some of his chores for him.  Do the yard work and let him “oversee.”  Tackle some of the household “To-Do’s,” like replacing the batteries in the smoke detectors or something like that.

-Cool grooming products like “beard conditioner” or a neat shaving kit from The Art of Shaving.  Dad’s aren’t necessarily known for their love of beauty products, but nowadays there are all kinds of more “masculine” products that are actually pretty interesting.

Hopefully this list will help you plan ahead for Father’s Day.  Leave us a comment with what you plan to do for your dad this Father’s Day.

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor 

Avoid the Burn

May 29, 2013

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Now that the pools are open and temperatures are on the rise, it’s important to think about protecting yourself from sunburn.  With more and more research coming out about the importance of protecting skin from the damaging rays of the sun, there are dozens of different sunscreens and sunblocks on the market.  Times have changed — it’s not just Water Babies and Banana Boat anymore.

The first thing to know is that there is a difference between sunblock and sunscreen.  Sunblock — as its name suggests — reflects the sun’s rays and therefore blocks them from even reaching your skin.  Sunscreen, however, absorbs UV rays (, 2007).  Sunblock will often appear thick and white when applied and sunscreen is much less visible.

SPF level is another thing to be aware of.  Dermatologists recommend SPF 30 for everyday use and SPF 50 when anticipating outdoor activity (The Huffington Post).  “SPF 30” simply means that it will take 30 times longer to burn after applying that level of sunblock or sunscreen than if you were wearing none at all.  For example, if it would take you one minute to burn with no SPF 30 on, it would take you 30 minutes to burn after application.

As for children and those with more sensitive skin, many recommend that you seek out a sunblock, rather than sunscreen, because it creates a protective layer.

What are your go-to sun-protection products?  Leave us a comment!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor 

Happy Memorial Day from SFMC!

May 27, 2013

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This Memorial Day, we’d like to extend our most heartfelt thanks to the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces.  Be sure to take a moment to reflect on and honor the sacrifice that so many have made to protect our country.

Tips for a Great Memorial Day Neighborhood Cookout

May 20, 2013

Grilling at summer weekend

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us and there’s still time to plan a great neighborhood cookout with help from all your guests.

First, organize your guest list.  Instead of mailing invites, you can deliver them door-to-door, create an email chain, or you could send a mass Facebook message.  Make sure to clarify on your invites that it’s going to be a potluck and create a list of things for people to “sign up” to bring.  

As the host, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll handle the main course and the preparation of the main couse.  Traditional cookout foods such as burgers and hot dogs are usually crowd pleasers.  If you have people with dietary restrictions, you could offer to supply substitutions or just say that you’ll prepare whatever they bring.

For a potluck, create two or three options that your guests can choose from such as “sides,” “desserts,” or “chips and dips.”  As for drinks, you can suggest that your guests volunteer to bring sodas and waters and you can provide the ice.  If you plan on serving alcohol, pick one or two items that you’ll provide and suggest that if guests have a preferred beverage, they can bring that along as well.

When it comes to planning a cookout, eliminate needless stress by not focusing too much on the decorations.  How often do you attend a cookout and think, “That party was amazing because the tablecloth was so cool!”  People are more concerned with food and friends than they are with how many red, white, and blue crepe decorations you have hanging up.  We recommend keeping it very simple with solid red, white, and/or blue tablecloths for all the tables you plan to be using.  Most stores will have specials on Memorial Themed paper plates and napkins, too.  Balloons and other decorations can only really be used once and don’t make the difference in the success of your party anyway.

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to make the most of this long weekend!

Leave us your party planning tips in the comments section.

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor 

Breakfast Popcicles

May 17, 2013

Image Source:
Image Source:

Summer is on the way and the temperature is about to start climbing.  Most breakfast favorites run on the hot side, so we found a recipe to help cool things off for breakfast.  These fruit, honey, and yogurt popcicles are healthy and fun for kids and grown-ups alike.

 You will need:

Popcicle molds

Popcicle sticks

2 cups 0% Greek Yogurt

1/2 cup raw honey

1 cup mixed berries, washed (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries)

*fruit can be substituted with whatever fruit you’d like as long as they’re washed and dried so the juices don’t make the yogurt runny


Blend yogurt and honey together in a large bowl

Fold in berries

Put mixture into popcicle molds and freeze for at least three hours (overnight is ideal)

*Another variation of this recipe would be to add granola to the mixture

Attention Fathers!

May 15, 2013

Father’s Day is a month away and here at the LivingFirst blog, we are working on a post that will be the ultimate gift guide to Father’s Day shopping.

To do that, we created a survey for dads to fill out about the gifts they want and the gifts they don’t want.  The survey will close on Monday and it’s only two questions.  Your responses will be kept totally anonymous as well.

Click for survey.

Please share the link with all the dads you know to help us out.

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

17-Year Cicadas due “Any Day Now”

May 6, 2013


It may be difficult to remember what it’s like for an area to be completely overrun by these large-eyed insects.  However, according to many news sources, the Northeastern US is about to be reminded.  The “Brood II” cicadas, as they’re being called, are expected to appear for a brief overpopulation in the very near future.

For those who do not remember, the 17-year cicadas surface for their four to six week mating season and then their offspring retreat underground for another 17 years.  It’s important to remember that while they are scary looking bugs, they are harmless to humans and animals alike.  Though, their mating call can be quite a nuisance.  The Huffington Post reports that their calls can reach up to 100 decibles which is equivalent to a nearby motorcycle.

According to the AP Newswire, the only damage likely to be seen by the cicadas is, “At worst, they might damage a few saplings or young shrubs.”

Are you ready for the cicada season?  Leave us a comment and tell us how you feel!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor 

Reminder: Mother’s Day is in Eight Days

May 3, 2013

Mother’s Day will be here before you know it and in the spirit of celebrating mothers everywhere, we’ve compiled a list of ways to show the moms in your life how much you appreciate them.

Homemade cards

No matter how old you are, getting out some construction paper and art supplies to make a card for your mom always feels good and it’ll be guaranteed to put a smile on her face.

Breakfast in bed

Whether it’s eggs, bacon, and hash browns or a simple breakfast of  tea and scones, pampering the special mom in your life with a tray of food in bed is the best way to show her you care.

Mommy’s day off

For the busy mom in your life — round up the kids and take them out for a movie or to do the grocery shopping and let mom have some down time.

Bonus: Surprise her with a basket of bath-time treats from Bath and Body Works who always has Mother’s Day specials.

Chore Coupons

Make a coupon book with things like “1 dishwasher load and unload” or “1 laundry day,” and offer to cover mom’s chores at presentation of the coupon.  Get creative and try and offer a coupon or all of mom’s least favorite chores.

Tackle some “Around the House” projects for her

Got a mom with a “to-do” list that’s a mile long?  Take care of some things for her without her having to ask.  They’ll definitely love that one.

Leave us a comment with some of your go-to Mother’s Day ideas!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

Welcome, May!

May 1, 2013

Cinco De Mayo Festival 2012. Image Source:

Today is May Day and it won’t be long before summer is here.

Sunday is Cinco De Mayo (or “Fifth of May”).  For those of you who do not know what Cinco de Mayo actually is, this blurb from should help:

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage…

There will be a Cinco de Mayo festival on the National Mall on Sunday, May 5 from noon to 6 p.m. — rain or shine.  The festival will feature traditional live music and dance, children’s arts and crafts workshops, food, games and activities for the entire family.

If you’re looking for an activity for the weekend, be sure to check this one out.

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

Brace Yourselves, it’s Prom Season

April 29, 2013

LivingFirst contributor, Adrianna, before her prom. June 13, 2008.

As the school year begins winding down, many high school students turn their thoughts to prom.  While students are thinking about dream dates and dancing the night away, parents are likely worrying about how much this whole thing is going to end up costing them.

Does this sound familiar?  CBS News says that the average family will wind up spending roughly $1,139 on prom and costs are steadily on the rise.  Because of that, it’s never too late to start thinking of ways to cut down costs without taking away from the experience for your son or daughter.

1. Shop smart when looking for a dress or tux.  Be sure to look for sales, clearance options, and special promotions.  Don’t be afraid of coupons.  Many times, stores such as Ross or TJ Maxx will have beautiful dresses for a fraction of what some department stores have.  Even Target is offering more formal dresses at low prices.

2. Skip the professionals and take care of hair and makeup at home.  Thanks to Youtube and tutorials like these, at-home hairstyling has gotten a lot easier to accomplish.  As for makeup needs, why not suggest having a “getting ready” party at someone’s house and pool talents.  Be sure to do a test run beforehand so you know what you’re going to do.

3. Plan far in advance if you’re looking for a limo.  Prices increase dramatically as events approach.

4. Instead of finding a pricey restaurant, eat at home.  This can be done easily and at a fraction of the cost of a fancy restaurant.  All of the parents in the group get together and divide up the food stuffs — drinks, appetizer, main course, side dish, and dessert.  Whoever’s house is being used for photos generally should just host the dinner so there’s no need for extra travel.  Split decorating responsibilities and set it up like you would any dinner party.  If there are younger siblings, offer them incentives (money, presents, love and affection, etc) and use them as wait staff.

*Writers Note: This is how we did it for my prom and it worked out wonderfully.  Each family chipped in ten dollars and we had the younger siblings split it up evenly.  

Of course there are many other ways to cut down costs, but these are just some suggestions.  Even if you don’t have a child attending prom this year, these ideas are applicable for years to come.

Leave us a comment with some of your ideas!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

The Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich

April 12, 2013

Ice cream sandwiches are a warm-weather favorite.  Making them at home, however, isn’t always easy.

Whether you’re having difficulty with the “ice cream to cookie” ratio or your ice cream starts melting before you’ve got the sandwich assembled, Buzzfeed has created a how-to video to solve the problem.


By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor 

2013 National Cherry Blossom Festival

April 5, 2013

Cherry Blossoms

According to the National Park Service (NPS), the cherry blossom’s peak blooming period will be this weekend (April 6-8). “Peak bloom” is when up to 70% of the blossoms are open. While the blooming can last up to 14 days, it’s best to go and see them while they’re at their peak.

Some of the events happening this weekend are:
Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival (April 6)

Fireworks Cruise with Georgetown Cupcakes (April 6)

Asian Pacific Heritage Celebration (April 6)

Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run and 5K Run/Walk (April 7)

Art for Families: Koinobori (Carp Streamers) (April 6-7)

Even if you don’t attend any events, Saturday and Sunday are supposed to be mostly sunny and warm so get out there and enjoy the blossoms.

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor.

No-Mayo Potato Salad

April 3, 2013

potato salad

Spring is here and soon there will be picnics and cookouts that will require no-fuss side dishes that will be able to hold up outdoors.  Potato salad is a staple, but sometimes mayo doesn’t always maintain its taste or consistency.  Not to mention, some people just don’t like mayonaise.

Here’s a quick recipe from that cuts out the mayo and adds Mediterranean flavors.

You will need:

2 lbs potatoes

1 minced green bell pepper

1 cucumber that has been sliced and quartered

1/2 cub sliced red onion (you can add more or less to fit your taste)

8 oz crumbled feta cheese

Juice of one lemon

1/2 cub Italian salad dressing

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. Drain, cool and chop.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, red onion and cheese.
  4. Whisk together the lemon juice, salad dressing, salt and pepper. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Serve with pita bread wedges if desired.

Leave us a comment with your favorite seasonal side dishes!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor.

Underdog Madness

March 25, 2013

Image Source: USA Today

Harvard and Florida Gulf Coast University — one is considered to be one of the most prestigious institutions in the country, the other has only been in existence since 1997.  Yet both schools have become this year’s “Cinderella Stories” in the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament.

When searching for news about both teams, words like “Underdogs” and “Bracket Busters,” are being used to describe their performance in the tournament thus far.

This is the first that that Florida Gulf Coast University has even made it into “the bracket” after becoming eligible last year, so to have them upset an “old standard” like Georgetown is surprising and intriguing.

Then there is Harvard, who has produced presidents, politicians, and Nobel Laureates.  It goes without saying that their accomplishments in the academic realm are incomparable.  However, up until this tournament, when one thought of Harvard, they did not think “Basketball Stars.”  That’s a great story — being the unexpected victor when you’re only known for your academic prowess.

Whether you follow basketball or not, it’s always fun to see an underdog story in sports.

Leave a comment if you’re following the tournament and tell us what teams you’re rooting for!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

A Way to Repurpose Marshmallow Peeps

March 25, 2013

Image Source: Robyn Lee

With Easter approaching, there are shades of it everywhere.  In stores, among the brightly colored plastic eggs, there are displays of the sugary, pastel Peeps.  If you aren’t fans of the Peeps but your children keep eyeing them in the store, there is a way to put them to use.

If you’ve ever made Rice Krispies Treats this recipe found here shouldn’t be too difficult.  According to reviews, they turn out slightly sweeter than regular Rice Krispies Treats.

You Will Need:

3 tbsp butter

35 Peeps

6 cups Rice Krispies cereal


In a large pot, melt butter over low heat.

Add Peeps and stir until completely melted.

If you plan to use different colors, melt in separate color sections within the pot.  Wait to mix colors.

Remove pot from heat once butter is melted.

Add cereal and stir until it’s well-coated.

Coat a 13 x 9 x 1 1/2-inch pan with cooking spray.  Press mixture evenly into the pan.

Allow mixture to cool completely before cutting treats into desired shapes.


By Adrianna LivingFirst Contributor

Simple Veggie Quesadillas

March 22, 2013

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Whether you’re observing Lent or you just want to add more vegetables into your diet, this recipe for vegetable quesadillas is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

For one quesadilla you will need:

Two large flour tortillas (any brand will do).

A “handful” of Julienned bell pepper slices — feel free to use all varieties of bell pepper.  The recipe does not depend on what colors you use.

A “handful” of Julienned cabbage — if you don’t like cabbage, feel free to omit this.  It’s all about your personal taste.

Grated zucchini — enough to equal the amount of peppers.

1/4 cup of diced or slicedonion — this is likely the only specific measurement in this recipe.  How you cut the onions is based on your taste and if you really like onions or not.

Enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a medium sized frying pan.

Four “deli slices” of pepper jack cheese (like Sargento) — again, you can use more or less depending on your taste.


Coat frying pan with olive oil.

Add onions and sauté until onions are translucent over medium-high heat.

Add cabbage, peppers, and zucchini.

Sauté  until all veggies are soft.

After you are done cooking the veggies, warm up a square griddle pan over medium heat and place one of the tortillas on it.

Add the cheese and the veggies (you may end up not being able to use all the veggies that you sautéed, if that’s the case they can be refrigerated and used to make quesadillas again or just make another quesadilla).

Put the other tortilla on top.  After about three or four minutes, flip quesadilla over and allow it to cook for four minutes on that side.  Flip periodically until both sides are slightly browning and the cheese is completely melted.

Remove from heat, slice, and enjoy!

Let us know how it turns out!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

Springing into Spring

March 20, 2013

Image Source:

Image Source:

Happy First Day of Spring, readers!

What better way to kick spring off than with a list of fruits and vegetables that are going to be in season?  Each item will be a link to a “spring-like” recipe that includes it.











Hope you enjoy!

Leave us a comment with your favorite spring recipes.

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

Zucchini?  For Breakfast?

March 18, 2013

Zucchini Breakfast Casserole

Zucchini Breakfast Casserole. Recipe makes 6-8 portions.

Even though it’s supposed to be “the most important meal of the day,” many people find themselves skipping breakfast due to time limitations or sleepiness in the mornings.  While searching for a make-ahead breakfast recipe on’s blog, this recipe showed up.

Zucchini is delicious, but not many people would consider it a “breakfast-time” food.  This recipe seems good enough to make you think otherwise.

You Will Need:

  • eggs
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan (cheese)
  • 14 tsp tabasco sauce (hot chili)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 14 tsp black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 3 cups zucchini (grated, 2 3 fresh zucchinis)
  • 1 12 cups plum tomatoes (chopped, 4 5 fresh)
  • 12 cup fresh basil (sliced, 20 leaves)
  • 4 cups old bread (cubed day old bread from about 4 slices)
  • olive oil

What to Do:

The Night Before:
In a large bowl beat the eggs. Add the ricotta and beat until smooth. Mix in the grated Parmesan cheese, Tabasco, salt and pepper.

Next, get the veggies and the bread ready. Once you chop the tomatoes, squeeze the extra moisture out of them by wrapping in paper towels and squeezing.

Add the tomatoes, basil, and zucchini to the egg mixture. Moisten the bread cubes with a little water then squeeze out any excess moisture using paper towels. Mix the bread cubes into the egg mixture.

Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

In The Morning:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Coat the bottom and sides of a 9×13 baking dish generously with olive oil.

Pour the mixture you made the night before  into the baking pan.

Place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F.

The casserole should puff up and brown lightly. If it hasn’t after 30 minutes at 350, increase the heat to 425° and cook for 5-10 minutes further. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.

Or Try This:

Prepare and bake the casserole the night before, allow it to cool fully before storing in the fridge.  Then just warm it up in the microwave in the morning or take it to work for “brunch.”

Leave a comment and let us know how it works!

By Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

Hot Potatoes

March 4, 2013

by Adrianna, LivingFirst Contributor

Tomato, Ricotta, and Thyme Baked Potato Source:
Tomato, Ricotta, and Thyme Baked Potato Source:

One of the best go-to dinners for some is a loaded baked potato.  However, the same old “butter, sour cream, bacon bits” combo can become a little monotonous.  Luckily, compiled a list of ways to dress up a baked potato and we here at LivingFirst picked our favorites.

First, if you don’t know how to bake a potato:

  • Use a russet potato
  • Preheat an oven to 400 degrees.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  • Scrub the potato clean under water, dry it with a towel, then poke a few holes through to the center of it with a fork.
  • Bake the potato for one hour or until tender.
  • Slice into it, fluff it up inside with a fork, then add butter, salt, and pepper.

From here on is where the fun begins!

Baked Potato with Tomato and Ricotta

You will need:

2 russet potatoes

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 tsp and 1 tbsp of olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

Salt and pepper

Fresh thyme

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese


Follow basic instructions for baking a potato but before baking, rub potatoes down with a teaspoon of olive oil.

Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with foil and toss the tomatoes with the tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of salt and a grinding of black pepper.

15 min before the potatoes are done, put the sheet of tomatoes in with them and roast until they start to split.

Once everything is of the oven, split the potatoes, top with ricotta, roasted tomatoes, and thyme.

Pizza Baked Potatoes

You will need:

3 large potatoes

1 can (or jar) of spaghetti sauce

2 cups mozzerella cheese

Pepperoni (or other pizza toppings if you don’t like pepperoni)


Microwave potatoes until tender (12-15 min).

Slice potatoes in half, scoop a small well into the center of the potato and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Spoon a little sauce into the well.

Sprinkle with cheese and add toppings.

Place on baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly .

Sea Salt and Arugula Baked Potatoes

You will need:

2 large baking potatoes

Flaky sea salt

Butter or olive oil

2 large handfuls of arugula

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon Champagne or tarragon vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

An egg yolk

A scant 1/2 cup / 100 ml olive oil

2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan

2 Teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Follow instructions for basic baked potato, but rub with sea salt before baking.

While the potatoes are in the oven, make the dressing — whisk in the vinegar, mustard, egg yolk, and olive oil with a big pinch of salt.  Then add cheese.  Finally, add lemon juice.  Taste and make adjustments as needed.

Slice open each potato and allow it to open enough to scoop out a little of the filling.

Add in a splash of dressing.  Separately, toss the arugula with the dressing.  Then pile into the potatoes.


Bonus Recipe from Adrianna:

Greek Inspired Baked Potato

What you’ll need:

1 large russet potato

1 tbsp olive oil

3 tablespoons tzatziki sauce (Greek cucumber yogurt sauce)

Feta Cheese




Bake the potato according to basics, after rubbing the potato down with olive oil and salt.

Once baked, slice open potato allowing room to add enough feta to your liking and the tzatziki sauce.


President’s Day celebration

Feburary 15, 2013

presidents day

Monday, Feb. 18 is President’s Day. For some, this means a long weekend and a much-needed day off of work or school. For others, President’s Day weekend is all about shopping because it is often a good time to take advantage of all kinds of discounts. From clothing to cars, retailers of all kinds offer promotions during the holiday weekend.

Hot President’s Day sales, include ” Macy’s, Target, JC Penny, Sears, and Wal-Mart.  If you are looking for the super bargains, try the  Premium Outlets locations in Virginia — one in Leesburg and one in Williamsburg.

Some states are offering tax-free savings on items such as appliances for this holiday weekend. Furniture stores have sizable discounts on celebrating Lincoln and Washington’s birthday holiday as well.

Leave a comment and tell us what you’re shopping for!

A really easy Valentine’s Day treat

February 6, 2013

photo credit:

With Valentine’s Day only a week away, the pressure is on to find fun and easy ways to celebrate and show your family that you love them.

Nothing says “I Love You” like food, right?  Though, when searching for the perfect recipe to make with your kids, it’s easy to feel like you need a professional catering team to come up with some of these treats.

Making treats for Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be complicated — we did say “fun and easy,” didn’t we?

A common recipe out there is for Sugar Cookie Conversation Hearts, however waiting around for cookies to bake and cool off can be tedious for some of the younger kids.

A simple solution?  Skip the baking!

What you’ll need:

  • Store bought sugar cookies — most grocery stores have these in the bakery section where they sell their muffins and loaves of bread
  • Heart shaped cookie cutters — assorted sizes depending on the size of cookie you bought
  • White icing — enough to separate so you have different colors
  • Assorted food coloring — whatever colors your kids want to use
  • Whatever kind of “decorating icing” you prefer to use — this is to add the message to your conversation hearts

Now, for the kids who can’t write words yet and can’t apply their own icing pick up sprinkles, small candies used to decorate such as M&Ms or Skittles, or anything you can think of that would look good on a cookie.  That way, all ages can be included.


  • First, separate your white icing into bowls and add your different food colorings.  Remember, the more food coloring, the more intense the color will be.  Start out with one or two drops and add as needed.
  • Next, help the kids use the cookie cutters to cut the sugar cookies into hearts.  Don’t forget to enjoy snacking on the leftover pieces.
  • After that, apply your favorite colored icing to the cookie.  This part can obviously get a little messy, but it’s supposed to be fun!
  • Once that icing is smoothed on, it’s time to get creative.  Use your decorating icing to write messages on the cookies or add candies — there are no limits here.

Easy enough, right?

Cutting out the baking makes this entirely about sitting around a table and spending time together.

Yoga a-go-go

January 29, 2012

yogaI was in a slump.  Running, the gym, and power walks have been my past excercise routine.  But, frankly, I am tired of the strict routine and the constant need to be sore.  I took a yoga class a few years ago and fell asleep at the end of the session.  However, I decided to give it another try.

The local university had one spot open in the yoga class.  I jumped on it.  Showing up like a complete novice was a bit embarrasing.  Most of the people had their own mats and yoga pants.  I was in sweats, a t-shirt and gasp, socks.  Bare feet are recommended.

The instructor was very limber and had that yoga voice — like the artist Bob Ross’s hypnotic whisper of the “happy little trees.”  The bends and stretches were somewhat challenging, but the class was so boring. I know, I know, it is a class to relax and get in touch with your inner self and hear your breathing, but it is still boring.

What was missing?  Music.  The class needed a beat.  Something that was soothing, but motivating. I think if the movement had some grooving, it would be much more inviting.

I am committed for six weeks, so I guess I will hang in there.  I wonder if I could sneak an iPod and headphones in the class without being sneared at by the yoga die hards.

Any suggestions for yoga survival?

Amish soup brings family together

January 27, 2013
Photo Credit: Heather Parlato Laist

Photo Credit: Heather Parlato Laist

We are running circles around each other.  Parents zip off to work, kids scamper out the door for school, and in the evening we do not even sit down at the table together for a meal.  Eating on the run or in front of the TV is not unusual.

One hearty meal that will bring a family together is soup.  Think about it. You put a pot of yummy stew or chowder as the centerpiece of your table, break out the heavy-duty ceramic bowls and spoons and sit down together — as a family.

It is tough to eat soup on the run.  We are forced to sit down and eat at a slow pace, one spoonful at a time.  But the real treat of this meal is the conversation that will pop up.

Check out this authentic Amish Beefy Veggie Soup.  It will surely warm your belly and your heart.

Amish Beefy Veggie Soup

  • 1 soup bone
  • 2 lbs. stewing beef
  • 2 qts. water
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup tomatoes
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • black pepper
  • grated parmesan cheese

Into 2 qts. of water put soup bone and beef and boil for 2 hours. For a hearty, substantial soup, cut up the meat in small pieces and return to the broth. Add tomatoes, onions and celery. Also add other available vegetables, such as diced potatoes, carrots, turnip, string beans, corn, peas, cabbage or chopped peppers. Boil until all vegetables are tender.  Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on top of soup.  Serve some crusty bread or rolls and dip them into this scrumptious meal.  Serve and enjoy!

Winter blues? Spruce up your home

January 27, 2013


Be productive during the long winter days.  Spruce up your home with these top five projects.  Even better, Allstate Insurance reported them the most bang for your buck to increase the value of your home

Top 5 Home Projects on a Tight Budget:

1. Break out the brushes

And the rollers, plastic drapes, and tape.  Nothing brightens a room better than paint.  Punch some color in a room to brighten those drab winter days.  Try a small sample can of color before investing a large supply.

2. Set the mood

Lighting can create ambiance of the home.  A warm glow can relax you after a long day at work.  A bright reading light can keep you from squinting and harming your eyesight.

3. Caulk it

Your bathrooms, kitchens, exterior windows and any cracks in the building can use a bead of caulk to prevent leakage of water and air.

4. Tidy up

Pack up those old clothes in your closets and piles of unwanted toys and donate them to charity or hold a yard sale.  If you opt for the yard sale, set the proceeds aside for a family event, like a weekend getaway or dinner night out.

5. New hardware

Put some bling on your kitchen and bathroom cabinets and drawers to add shine to your most frequently used rooms.

What home projects do you get done during the winter?

2 thoughts on “Lifestyle, Home and Work

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