Is there anything better than celebrating your parents' 30th wedding anniversary? How about celebrating it with roulette, exotic cuisine, and dragon fire in your martini glass? That's what I call a celebration!
My brother, parents, and I hit up Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
on Friday for a night out on the town. Only 50ish miles away, the drive was not too bad on a typically-horrendous Friday rush hour. I kinda-sorta wasn't feeling so lucky. My brother, on the other hand, is eternally lucky. He wins, and he wins often. He spent the entire car ride psyching me up and trying to get the luck flowing through my veins.
I was a rookie at roulette. My brother's enthusiasm worked... for a short while. Before I knew it, he was up $700 and I was still placing $15 bets just trying to break even. In my non-casino life, I live by the motto "go big or go home" - so I figured "why change now?" and I started playing like a high roller and betting $100 chips. That worked three times until I was wiped out - completely. I'm not sure if he felt sorry for me (or just because he loves me so much), but my sweet sweet father then let me play with his chips - which I also promptly lost to the house. And I hadn't even started drinking yet... Meanwhile, my mom was playing a PENNY slot machine and somehow managed to turn $5 into $75.
We decided it was time to eat and headed over to 9 Dragons
- the space is newly renovated and boasts an updated menu of authentic Hong Kong-style cuisine and a selection of fresh sushi. The decor of the restaurant was so beautiful with deep reds and dark woods. Honestly, and I don't mean this in a bad way, it didn't even feel like we were in West Virginia.
If you go to check out 9 Dragons - you'd probably be set ordering from their specialty cocktails (I suggest the Drunken Dragon) and sushi menu. Since we were out celebrating a special occasion, we went ALL out. The service, presentation, and quality was extraordinary. I recommend the Wonton Soup, Hot Mama (spciy tuna, jalepeno) roll, and... well, everything else. Our waitress, Li Ling, took excellent care of us. Although 9 Dragons didn't offer dessert, we mentioned my parents' 30th and she said she'd get us a special surprise. Her surprise came in the form of a jumbo slice of fresh cheesecake made at The Final Cut Steakhouse. She literally walked across the casino to another restaurant to get us the best dessert in the building! Totally blew my expectations - and kinda made me forget that I had just lost $250 on the tables down the hall! Win or lose, it was a fantastic night out with the family! Happy anniversary, Mom & Dad!
*Special thanks to 9 Dragons for inviting us in to taste the menu!
I was honored to be invited by The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner
to host a Blogger Night Out Event for local social media influencers and their +1s. It was great to connect with old friends and meet and see new faces too! In the world of social media, you can never know too many people!
Iman, the marketing director, graciously invited us into Entyse Bar and Lounge
for a spectacular night of networking, laughter, and of course, food and beverage. I have to admit that Vincent, the wine director, had us all feeling quite fine with his luscious assortment of vinos (my new favorite is the White Haven Sauvignon Blanc
- try it, you won't be disappointed!). The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner is not just a swanky hotel for out of town guests - they offer so much more! For example: there are classes for kids in the kitchen, manicure and martini events for women, and sushi nights every Thursday! Check out the pics below of the night out - Special thanks to The Ritz-Carlton for hosting!
If you're a social media influencer and you'd like to be invited to an event hosted by Real Housewives of Northern Virginia, please email email@example.com with your contact info so that we can connect! *sponsored content provided by The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner.
Enterprising moms and local writers, Claudine Kurp, Amy Suski, and Micaela Williamson have combined their talents to create a new must-have book for area parents, Kid Trips Northern Virginia Edition
This local guide is a wealth of information featuring museums and historic sites, parks and playgrounds, skating, water parks, nature centers, arts, birthday parties, restaurants, and so much more. Families will also love the insider tips, “Kid Trips Top Picks,” ample seasonal guide, and final chapter, “Family Fun Across the Potomac,” highlighting many key attractions in Maryland and Washington DC. Kid Trips Northern Virginia Edition is the most inclusive and thorough book for Northern Virginia families ever published.
“It is our hope that this book becomes an indispensable resource that area families come back to again and again throughout their parenting years,” says author Micaela Williamson. She adds, “I have lived in Northern Virginia for a decade and didn’t even know some of the places in this book existed. It was fun to learn and discover as we researched the book too.”
The authors collectively boast impressive credentials and writing experience. After spending fifteen years in corporate America, Claudine Kurp founded the website DC Metro Mom which includes over 700 blogs and a list of over 4,000 vendors. Previously working as an attorney, Amy Suski switched over to blogging and professional editing and is the co-founder of DC Metro Mom. Micaela Williamson created the award winning blog, Super NoVA Mommy and writes family feature articles for Northern Virginia Magazine.
Kid Trips Northern Virginia Edition is now available for purchase in paperback and ebook format at Amazon.com and Smashwords.
for more information. Follow on Facebook facebook.com/GoKidTrips
and Twitter twitter.com/GoKidTrips
We recently spent a weekend in beautiful Shenandoah County, Virginia. It also just happened to be my birthday weekend. I was looking forward to experiencing the falling leaves, green pastures, and the quiet pace of life that can be found just about an hour west of Northern Virginia. We left Fairfax at 2pm on a Friday and headed towards the mountains. With no traffic on 66, it only took us about an hour to land at our first destination: the Shenandoah County Tourism Office. We met with the Director, Natalie, who had our whole weekend planned for us. To top it off, she had a swag bag packed with
Shenandoah-style goodies! We snagged a copy of our itinerary and headed into the mountains towards our first stop. We arrived at Bryce Resort just before dinner and were greeted by Rob, the General Manager. Rob gave us a walking tour of the beautiful resort and newly fitted ski lift for the 2012 season. Bryce Resort offers skiing, tubing, ski-wee (think pee-wee ski camp for the little ones) and more for the winter season.
We came inside for dinner and a drink - I was totally caught off guard. The food was amazing - so good that we wanted to come back later in the weekend for seconds! I never, ever, ever eat ribs. but Rob kept encouraging us to try them... and for a good reason. Delish! If you make it out this season and are looking for something lighter - try the chicken drumsticks with homemade ranch paired with a spicy bloody mary. #lush!
Saturday morning, we say goodbye to The Feathered Nest B&B and headed to Shenandoah Uncorked at The Yellow Barn
. I was excited to check out the wineries located a little further south down I-81. The neatest part of the wine tastings was that since it was getting chilly outside... all of the wineries brought their own version of muddled wine for tasting. And most were being served out of a crock-pot -- such a comforting feel. Of course, we couldn't leave before taking a one hour walking tour of the Caverns.
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i think this formation @ the Caverns looks like Capitol Hill
On the second night, we stayed at the AC Stickley Bed and Breakfast
in the heart of old town Strasburg. AC Stickley is a beautifully restored home within walking distance to the downtown scene. Donna, the inn keeper, was so welcoming even though we arrived a little after schedule. We were invited to a gorgeous suite with two fire places, beer in the mini fridge, and a delicious breakfast the next morning. Donna loves to cook - and she is always changing up the menu and snacks. Our fruit in the morning was a warm apple crisp with a spoonful of vanilla bean gelato. It didn't stop there... Check out her southern trifle made with layers of grits, sausage, cheese, hard boiled egg, garden tomatoes - topped with cheese, sour cream, and chives. Served with baked bacon.
I told Donna to start pinning her recipes so that I could follow!
a few other stops we made along the way --
We walked to dinner at Hotel Strasburg
after checking into AC Stickley. Fine dining, white linens, but with the comfort of a small town.
| |Ran into Sarah, the leading lady behind the successful Route 11 Potato Chips brand. Swing by and take a tour of the factory!
We had a fabulous time - special thank you to Natalie Wills @ Shenandoah County Tourism
for putting together our itinerary and inviting us with opportunity to experience everything Shenandoah Valley has to offer.
If you're planning a trip out, here are a few other recommendations:
| || |The Christmassy DreamWorks Experience Package November 16, 2012 – January 6, 2013
Give your holidays some character with The DreamWorks Experience! Vacation with favorite characters from such films as Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar through interactive experiences. It's a holiday getaway sure to fulfill your Christmas dreams!
by Kylie Hamaker
So, Kevin and I have been married for one whole year now. Since the first anniversary is supposed to be “the year of paper,” he got creative. Kevin wrote down 10 different places to visit and put them all into a box. He then blindfolded me, and had me pick out one. Whatever I picked would be what we did for our anniversary weekend. The first thing I pulled out was Apple Picking!
So………We went to Stribling Orchard in Markham, VA! It was a gorgeous day and so much fun to get out and enjoy the Fall weather with the hubby. It was the end of apple season, but there were still plenty of delicious apples to be picked. After picking, we bought apple butter & honey. We learned that the darkest honey had more of the apple flavor, so we thought we would give it a try. Everything we bought is delicious! We also tried a freshly dipped caramel apple and apple cider. AMAZING! I cannot wait until it is time to pick peaches at Stribling!
After the Orchard, we made our way to Hershey, PA so we could pretend we were kids again at Hershey Park in the Dark! (Because, of course, I ended up peaking at all 10 places after I picked the first piece of paper). While this is not NOVA, I thought I would still share a few pictures.
**Thanks to Dana for her comment on my first blog post about going to Stribling Orchard! It made for a wonderful afternoon and a great start to our Anniversary weekend.
A few weeks ago, I was looking for an adventure in Fredericksburg. I posted on our facebook page
and someone recommended hitting up Belvedere Plantation
... I checked the reviews online and it looked "just ok" to me. And, the charge is $16/person. Eh... might as well go to Cox Farms.
But then someone else commented and posted a Certifikid
deal for 50% off tickets which made the day trip a no-brainer. We packed up and headed out. Due to the constant ridiculousness of this delightful area we live in, it took me over two hours to actually make the 40 mile trip south on 95. I'm pretty sure that any cost-savings I incurred by buying the tickets at a 50% discount were severely offset by a SUV that only gets 14mpg on a good day.
We parked in a field and walked to the gate to check in. A simple X on your hand with a Sharpie was your pass to enter (oh, how the trust in fellow man exists in the South - no stringent wrist bands needed). From that point onward, I had a good feeling about this place. Here are the highlights of the FREE stuff: huge inflatible pillow for kids to bounce on, big red barn filled with hay and rope swings, zip lines for kids of all ages, pig races, petting zoo, pumpkin launcher, hay stacks to climb, potato sack slides, pedal car race racks, tractor ride, etc.With a FEE: pick your own pumpkin (although, you could enjoy the pumpkin patch without actually taking them home)pick your own flowers (my personal favorite part of the trip): buy a cup for $5 and fill it with as many flowers as you can. they provide the cup and a pair of scissors and you cut your own flowers from their garden.
paintball shooting @ targetsThe best part of the whole trip: NO LINES. Belvedere Plantation was busy - but there were no lines for almost all attractions. If there were lines, they were modest. I appreciate the reader-recommendation to give this place a try - I think it will be added to our list of Fall traditions! Check out our pics to see for yourself!
by Jenn Plant
What a beautiful day to travel to Millwood, Virginia for the Shenandoah Valley Wine and Music Festival. I fully expected a crisp autumn day but as the sun broke through the clouds, it warmed up nicely and ended up being absolutely perfect.
For our third date, David and I made our way to the fenced off area where the local wineries had set up their tents. There were ten Virginia wineries on location that day, none of which I had ever had the pleasure of drinking before. And was I in for a treat! David, being a chef, had already tried a few of the local wines, but most were new to him as well.
It was $20 for a commemorative glass and unlimited tastings. From super sweet whites to extra dry reds and every possibility in between. One winery had us try the “Kiss of the Devil” made from 30 varieties of peppers, including ghost chilies! They claim it’s “better for basting than tasting” - David and I tried it anyway. It was definitely hot and would be great in a chili recipe. We also discovered the beauty of mulled wine. Think hot apple cider and your favorite red wine. A few of the wineries had their own spin on the sensational drink, but all with the same basic ingredients.
Red Wine. Apple juice. Mulling spices. Keep on low in crock pot. Quick. Easy. Fantasticly delicious. Perfect for the upcoming holiday season. I plan on making large quantities of this and I may or may not share with my family.
After sampling most of the wines, David and I walked around the beautiful property at Long Branch. The paved walkway took us around the historic home and we found ourselves in one of the most beautiful and picturesque places we’d ever seen. Rolling hills, a small pond and horses running in the fields before us; it was absolutely gorgeous. We sat under a tree and simply enjoyed each other’s company and the scenery for almost two hours. Whether it’s another wine festival or maybe a tour of the historic home, I’m hoping that we will be able to visit Long Branch again very soon.
Here’s to an amazing third date and hopefully a fourth. Cheers!
A few of our favorites from the day:
Amissville, VAwww.unicornwinery.com We liked their Traminette 2011 and Chamboucin 2010
Barren Ridge Vineyards
Fishersville, VAwww.barrenridgevineyards.com We loved the 2011 Red Barren and 2010 Harmony
Gordonsville, VAwww.hvwine.com Mix their Chocolate and White Chocolate dessert wine for a bit of heaven in your mouth!
Peaks of Otter Winery
Bedford, VAwww.peaksofotterwinery.com If you dare – Try the Kiss The Devil Chili Pepper Wine
I finally tried hot, fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts right at the factory in Fredericksburg.
A fun-filled, action-packed, three-day family celebration unfolds with the 16th anniversary of the Shenandoah Valley Wine & Music Festival on October 12-14, 2012
. Held on the spacious lawns and rolling fields of LONG BRANCH in Clarke County, VA. Pumpkin Chunking will be making its debut this year, being the sport of hurling or 'chucking' a pumpkin by mechanical means for distance. This unique Festival is abundant with children’s activities, live entertainment, artisans and crafters, food vendors, antique fire engines, Virginia Wine Tasting, and so much more.
Friday, October 12 “The Glow”
The Pumpkin and Kite Glow takes place from 4:00 to 8:00 pm for picnicking (enjoy ours or bring your own) with the energizing sounds of local live entertainment. At dusk, and weather permitting, lighted kites will softly illuminate the skies. Bring your own carved pumpkin to our information tent by 6 pm and participate in the Pumpkin Glow or marvel at the intricate carving provided by the local Nalls Farm Market.
Saturday & Sunday, October 13-14
This year LONG BRANCH is excited to announce the 16th Annual Shenandoah Valley Wine and Music Festival will hit the sky with Pumpkin Chunking. Mechanical wizards of all ages will compete to launch pumpkins as far as possible with man-made devices such as trebuchets, catapults and torsions. Teams will compete using science and utilizing engineering skills that encourage creativity, originality, teamwork, and passion. Come out and see for yourself as these engineers test the limits of pumpkin physics!
Bountiful activities will delight the kids including hay rides, inflatable activities, face painting, a hay bale maze and the amphitheater will be located on the south side of the Historic House featuring magic shows and live entertainment. All activities in the Kiddie Korner are provided free of charge courtesy of LONG BRANCH.
Sunrise to Sunset Activities
Stay busy or just park your chair or blanket on the lawns of LONG BRANCH while enjoying a variety of live entertainment. An array of Kite Flying activities will also debut this year, including but not limited to; kite racing, kite battles, kite building, static displays and demonstrations. Festival foods sell non-stop throughout the weekend, including BBQ, Brick Oven pizza, funnel cakes and so much more. Virginia Giant Monster Truck rides, the Old Dominion Fire Society antique fire engine display, Lawn Mower Races, and much more continue throughout the weekend. Vendors will demonstrate, exhibit and sell a wide selection of unique and handcrafted items. Gourmet foods, wine accessories, quality artwork, gifts and hats are among the features.
Friday, October 12, $10 per person
Saturday, October 13, $20 per person
Sunday, October 14, $20 per person
Wine Tasting, $20 per person / per day
Beer Tickets, $5 each or 3 for $10
Children 12 and under, FREE
Directions from Northern Virginia: Go west on Interstate Route 66 to exit 23. Proceed on Route 17 north. Turn left on Route 50 at Paris. Just past Millwood, turn left on Route 624/Red Gate Road.
Other Important Information: • Kite activities are operational weather permitting • Festival held rain or shine – NO REFUNDS • Drink responsibly and designate a driver for the ride home • Pets and outside alcoholic beverages prohibited • Picnics welcome; however, we reserve the right to inspect all coolers, picnic baskets, and bags brought onto the property • Some activities require a nominal fee to participate.