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Feb
24

Is Your Child Ready for Some Fun?

The Quest for the Perfect Summer Camp

Lake Drummod. Photo credit: John Henley. Virginia Tourism Corporation.

It’s hard to believe, but those long, lazy days of summer are just around the corner!  While the summer months can conjure up nostalgic memories of relaxed, school-free days, they can also be a challenge for parents who work, or who are looking for ways to keep their kids engaged and active as the summer wears on.  Luckily, in the DC-metro area, there are a variety of camps available that range in price and cater to different interests. With so many available options, keeping a few things in mind can help you find the perfect camp for your child:

What interests your child?

This is probably the most important question to answer. With so many themed camps to choose from, it helps to think about the types of topics and activities that interest your child.  Some camps are very focused. Would your child be happy playing soccer or basketball every day? Is your child happier playing indoors or outdoors? As a camp instructor, I witnessed more than one unfortunate mismatch between camp and child. Picture a kid who is fearful of worms and finds fishing boring at a camp where that was the activity all day, everyday – this actually happened.  The camp, aptly named “Fishing Camp,” was a dream come true for most of the kids, but perhaps the parents of this young man didn’t realize to what extent the kids would be fishing, or thought he would “warm-up” to
the sport.  

Do your homework. If you can, talk to someone who has a child who has previously attended the camp. If you have any questions or uncertainties, call the camp director.  And, by all means make sure your child is part of the camp decision process.  By the way, STEM camps are all the rage right now, so if that is something that interests your child, be sure to sign up early!

Sleep-Away Camp?

Most overnight camps are offered to children starting at about seven years old. Camps range from high-adventure (think ziplines, white water rafting and horseback riding) to performing arts-focused to traditional camps that touch on a little bit of everything. Once again, think about what interests your child.  You might also want to consider accommodations – is the camp single sex or co-ed? How many kids attend the camp? Do campers spend the night in tents or cabins? These types of details can make or break a camper’s experience. 

Day Camp?

When we hear “camp,” many of us think of the traditional “sleep-away” camp, but there are many exciting day camps to look at too. Day camps are typically offered to children beginning at four years old. Similar to overnight camps, think about the theme and camp size.  While many day camps offer a variety of activities, there are a number of specialty camps focusing on sports, the arts, nature, etc. Additionally, you want to think about transportation – is busing an option, or will you need to drive your child each day?  Do camp hours coincide with work hours, or do they have an aftercare program?  You may also want to inquire about lunch options for your child.

Interested?  

The following are more resources to help you and your child make some decisions about how to spend a week (or eight weeks!) of their next summer.

Week-long day camps are offered through the Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William County Parks and Recreation Departments. 

With zoology, soccer, fishing, gymnastics and chess camps (to name a few), there truly is something to fit every child’s interests. 

Fairfax County:
www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/camps/

Loudoun County:
www.loudoun.gov/camps

Prince William County:
www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/park/summercamp/Pages/default.aspx

For a comprehensive listing of private day and overnight camps, check out Washington Parent’s 2020 summer camp guide:

www.washingtonparent.com/guides/guide-camp.php.

The American Camp Association has guides on how to choose and prepare for camp, as well as comprehensive information on topics like camp accreditation, the value of camps and camps as an industry. 

Find more information here: www.acacamps.org.

Jan
6

Silver Line Work Continues As Winter Approaches

As 2020 approaches, the owners, builders and future operators of Phase 2 of the Silver Line from the Wiehle-Reston East Station to Ashburn Station are working to ensure construction completion so that commuters by this time next year can be riding the trains.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s Dulles Corridor Rail Project Vice President Charles Stark has a goal to have the project ready for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to take over next summer.

Today, finishing touches are taking place at all five stations and support facilities. Construction of a windscreen at the Dulles Airport Station is taking place. Art in Transit exhibits are being installed.

But there is still a lot of work to be done and challenges
to be met.

There are months of different kinds of tests still to be done. This will require close cooperation between the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, WMATA and both contractors: Capital Rail Constructors (CRC), led by Clark Construction, which is building rail system; and Hensel Phelps, builders of a 90-acre rail yard on Dulles Airport property. WMATA says the completion of the yard is essential to its taking over the project.

Meanwhile, WMATA and the Airports Authority are working to complete testing operations. Those tests require WMATA to loan some of its rail cars to the project.

The Airports Authority continues to work on several issues on the rail line itself construction itself.

At this point, all of the parties involved continue to respond to several issues including special track work, ballast deficiencies and
concrete panels.

For example, there are issues with the long-term durability of the precast panels at the five at-grade stations. Responding to problems with water/cement ratios, low air content and insufficient covering of rebar in the panels, CRC has applied protective coats to the panel that were affected. Final acceptance of latest results and completion of a plan to test and reapply coatings over the next 100 years are forthcoming. 

Project officials had consistently said these concrete problems are not a
safety issue.

 A major challenge facing all involved is the tie-in of the Phase 2 system to the existing rail system.  This work in now taking place at the Wiehle-Reston East Station and it has caused some service disruptions on weekends at that station.

Mother Nature is the wild card as work through the cold winter months can readily be slowed by temperatures too low for paving and
other work.

On the bright side, the different parties meet frequently to address outstanding issues on a timely basis.

Project officials say the goal has always been to build the safest and most durable rail system possible.  And, they frequently insist that the schedule – and the pressure—to open the line is secondary to safety and quality.

Jan
6

The Perfect Destination: Orange County’s Inn at Willow Grove

Escape, Unwind, Indulge, Unplug

By Jennifer Waldera

Copyright Camden Littleton.

Mention the name Inn at Willow Grove to locals in Central Virginia and responses inevitably reference the “beautiful yellow house on the hill,” a nod to the Federal manor house that serves as the centerpiece of the village-style getaway nestled in Orange County. While the award-winning spot serves as a boutique hotel and a picturesque wedding venue, the approachable Forbes Travel Guide Four Star-rated restaurant Vintage and the peaceful Mill House Spa (replete with a pool to enjoy before or after services) are destinations for locals and visitors alike. 

 Acquired in 1778 by Joseph Clark, the 40-acre plot of land that is now home to inn has also played host to visitors in its previous iteration as a bed and breakfast. However, it has a rich historical context as well. In addition to the manor house, the still-standing structures like the schoolhouse, smokehouse, weaving house, ash house, and spring house were home to those on the original plantation, and the land itself played a part in the Civil War, with trenches and gun emplacements still visible near the house. 

 In 2008, David and Charlene Scibal purchased the property and began a massive two-year, multi-million dollar renovation. The two used their talents in tandem while renovating the property, David capitalizing on his background in building and Charlene drawing from her previous ownership of an art gallery to assemble the decor. 

 “They wanted to maintain the historic nature of the home but add enough modern chic design to make it comfortable,” explains Matt Scibal, the couple’s son and general manager of the inn.

 The Scibal’s extensive work on the manor house and surrounding structures yielded impressive results. Flowing fountains and perfectly pruned greenery accent the entrance to the main building and each evening the illumination of the structure even further enhances its stateliness. Inside, cozy gathering spaces and guest rooms harbor elements of new and old alike, with antiques sharing space alongside more contemporary art or furniture, lending each area an ambience of quiet elegance.

 However, in the spirit of approachability, the Scibal family has also included unique elements of interest, and often playfulness, in the decor. In the parlor just inside the entrance to the manor, bibliophiles will adore the chair crafted almost exclusively of books, while the quirky picture of the cow prominently placed above the fireplace is a nod to the family’s sense of whimsy.

 “There’s a cow in just about every room. It’s our unofficial mascot,” laughs Matt.

 With its exposed-beam ceilings, brick walls, cathedral-style windows, a cozy fireplace, and plenty of nooks for an intimate dining experience, the inn’s restaurant, Vintage, adheres to the concept of approachability as well, both in its style as well as its food and drink program. 

 Classically French trained chef Ken Hughes heads the kitchen at Vintage, where he prepares dishes with ingredients sourced from local purveyors when possible. Described by Scibal as being Southern Americana with a twist, the restaurant’s southern- and French-inspired menus include casual lunch or pub fare with affordable dishes that range from salads and sandwiches to pasta and plenty of seafood, as well as a more upscale dinner menu that includes a variety of entrees that incorporate seafood, beef, duck, lamb, chicken, or pasta. Vintage also offers themed nights like tapas on Wednesdays and “Three on Thursday,” an affordable three-course prix-fixe menu. Brunch is served on Sundays, with a range of breakfast-style options including seasonally inspired pancakes and a variety of egg-focused dishes such as benedict and an egg quesadilla, and more lunch style choices like shrimp and grits, salads, or a burger.

 Behind the bar, Matt had previously headed up the wine program before passing the reins to the highly knowledgeable Wednesday Sampson. However, they both share the same philosophy.

 “We’re open-minded about wine,” explains Matt. “We also try to have unique bottles — bottles that you won’t see anywhere else.”

 Vintage’s diverse Wine Spectator Award-winning wine list is accessible, too, with bottles ranging from $34 to $600 and a multitude of wines by the glass. For those who may have procured bottles while visiting the region’s vineyards for the day, or who just prefer to bring their own, the restaurant charges a nominal fee for corkage.

 While the wine list steals the show, when it comes to drinks at Vintage the cocktail list is creative and features classics alongside quirky riffs, like Elvis’s Old-Fashioned, a mix of Screwball Peanut Butter Whiskey, Mularky Banana Whiskey, brown sugar simple syrup, and bitters, garnished with banana and bacon. Seasonally inspired sips are on the menu, too, like the autumnal The Butler featuring spiced rum, apple butter, cranberry juice, and spiced simple syrup, and the Pumpkin Fizz with pumpkin puree, Smirnoff Vanilla vodka, and prosecco.

 From the expertly crafted cocktails and cuisine, and the classy yet comfortable ambience, to the always attentive and professional service, dining and imbibing at Vintage is an expertly curated experience in an upscale yet casual environment that gives visitors and locals the opportunity to enjoy the inn’s motto: Escape, Unwind, Indulge, Unplug.

 Just a few hundred feet from Vintage and the manor is the Spa at the Mill House, the epitome of escaping, unwinding, indulging, and unplugging. Offering massages, facials, scrubs, and wraps, alongside add-on services like waxing, the spa is a serene space where visitors can relax and enjoy just one service, or an entire day of tranquility with the ability to visit the outdoor pool and enjoy lunch with a relaxing rural backdrop of mature trees and rolling hills. 

 “People should be able to enjoy themselves. We’re fans of experiential travel — we want people to have an experience here at the Inn,”
says Scibal.

 Spa visitors receiving treatments are greeted by friendly professionals and a glass of prosecco before being escorted to a private, comfortable changing area with personal lockers, lush and cozy robes, and an enormous shower. Treatment rooms are comfortable and are filled with the faint aroma of the plant-based natural Elemis brand products that the spa uses. After services, knowledgeable spa treatment members can provide information on the wide range of products available for sale, or provide small samples for guests to take home. While the Spa at Mill House is certainly a draw for travelers, the inn shows its love for locals by offering 20 percent off all services to residents of Orange.

Since the inn’s inception, the Scibal’s have been huge supporters of the county and town and were pleased to be welcomed by the tight-knit community when they moved in.

“We try to partner with local businesses. We source ingredients from places like Darnell’s, hire local contractors, and employ services from local businesses,” Scibal shares. 

 Additionally, the inn contributes to organizations within the community.

“We work with Grymes Memorial School, we have three pet-friendly rooms and some of that [revenue] goes to the humane society, and we also do fundraising for the humane society,” says Scibal.

The inn is involved in contributing to the greater good in the community, working regularly with county on how to preserve the area appropriately and responsibly while also expanding the growing tourism industry that benefits the community as a whole in multiple ways, not the least of which is expanding job opportunities in the area.

Scibal points out that the inn and country’s tourism board are on the same page, philosophically, with ideas about where they want the community to be and the preservation of the local space and maintenance of the culture of the area. 

“Look around us — it’s beautiful. The Shenandoah — it’s an amazing treasure,” says Scibal.

As for the future, Scibal says they are always looking at doing something, but intend to maintain the small, quaint village feel that the inn currently has and that if expansion were considered, it would be done so carefully. After all, there is a reason why locals love Orange, and why visitors are increasingly making the area, which is just a short drive from D.C. but also in the heart of Virginia’s wine country, a destination.

Scibal concludes, “Orange is in the middle of nowhere but it’s the center
of everything.”

To learn more about the Inn at Willow Grove, and to book a reservation, visit www.inatwillowgrove.com. 

About the author: Jennifer Waldera shares her hunger for, and curiosity about, food, drinks, and exploration as a freelance writer for numerous mid-Atlantic and online publications. Read more of her work at jenniferwaldera.com and follow her travels at
@jlwriter on Instagram.

Jan
6

Virginia Telework Week Begins March 2

By Miriam Foster

Telework is one of the most desired benefits among employees and in today’s competitive job market; telework can attract and keep the most talented workers.  Virginia’s Telework Week is a great time for businesses to start a telework program or learn how to better manage teleworking employees in an existing program. 

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and local commuter assistant program  partners, like DATA, are encouraging businesses across Virginia to allow qualifying employees to work from home at least one day during Telework Week, March 2-6.

Stress from the daily grind of commuting to and from work manifests both physically and mentally, which has a direct impact to your business by decreasing productivity and increasing staff turnover. Telework Week is an ideal time to enhance your company’s policy to include information about flexible commuting options that can be a win-win for your business and employees.

Telework can also be a crucial part of your continuity of operations (COOP) plan during natural disasters, inclement weather and other
emergency situations.   

DRPT’s Telework!VA website has all the tools you need to start and manage a telework program.  Businesses can access a wealth of documents, resources, and e-learning modules for implementation and training.  Employees considering telework can get tips on selling the idea to management, and helpful information on successful teleworking. 

For business located in Northern Virginia, Telework!VA offers free technical assistance.  Our telework experts can meet with you to answer questions and support your organization in developing a customized telework strategy for free.  

And for a limited time, businesses on the I-66 corridor that start or expand telework programs with the assistance of Telework!VA may receive up to $10,000.  Go to teleworkva.org and complete a request form to have a Telework!VA representative explain how your business can receive the I-66 $10,000 incentive.  

Jan
6

Winter Driving Tips

Commuters, Car and Van Poolers Should Focus on Your Safety

Adapted from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 

When the chilly temperatures of winter set in, will your vehicle be ready for the cold? We live in a part of the country that experiences inclement weather, such as heavy rain, snow and ice.  And we have a large number of car-and-vanpoolers in our region.  Inclement weather can have a paralyzing effect on your daily commute. Are you prepared to drive in those conditions? Planning and preventative maintenance are important year-round—but especially when it comes to winter driving.

BEFORE YOU GO 

Get Your Car Serviced – No one wants their car to break down in any season, but especially not in cold, icy or snowy winter weather. Start the season off right by ensuring your vehicle is in optimal condition.

Know Your Car 

Every vehicle handles differently; this is particularly true when driving on wet, icy, or snowy roads. Take time now to learn how your vehicle handles under winter weather driving conditions. 

Before driving your vehicle, clean snow, ice or dirt from the windows, the forward sensors, headlights, tail lights, backup camera and other sensors around the vehicle.

For electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, minimize the drain on the battery. If the vehicle has a thermal heating pack for the battery, plug your vehicle in whenever it’s not in use. Pre-heat the passenger compartment before you unplug your vehicle in the morning. 

 

VEHICLE SAFETY CHECKLIST  

Stock Your Vehicle 

Carry items in your vehicle to handle common winter driving-related tasks, such as cleaning off your windshield, as well as any supplies you might need in an emergency. Keep the following inyour vehicle: 

Snow shovel, broom, and ice scraper; abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter, in case your vehicle gets stuck in the snow; jumper cables, flashlight, and warning devices such as flares and emergency markers; blankets for protection from the cold; and a cell phone with charger, water, food, and any necessary medicine (for longer trips or when driving in lightly populated areas). 

Plan Your Travel and Route 

Keep yourself and others safe by planning ahead before you venture out into bad weather. Check the weather, road conditions, and traffic. Don’t rush! Allow plenty of time to get to your destination safely. Plan to leave early if necessary. Familiarize yourself with directions and maps before you go, even if you use a GPS system, and let others know your route and anticipated arrival time. 

ON THE ROAD 

Keep your gas tank close to full, even with a hybrid-electric vehicle. If you get stuck in a traffic jam or in snow, you might need more fuel than you anticipated to get home or to keep warm. If road conditions are hazardous, avoid driving if possible. Wait until road and weather conditions improve before venturing out in your vehicle. 

On longer trips, plan enough time to stop to stretch, get something to eat ,return calls or text messages, and change drivers or rest if you feel drowsy. 

Avoid Risky Driving Behaviors 

Do not text or engage in any activities that may distract you while driving. Obey all posted speed limits, but drive even slower if necessary for weather conditions. 

Driving in Winter Conditions 

Drive slowly. It’s harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snow-covered surface. On the road, increase your following distance enough so that you’ll have plenty of time to stop for vehicles ahead of you. Know whether your vehicle has an antilock brake system and learn how to use it properly. Antilock brake systems prevent your wheels from locking up during braking. If you have antilock brakes, apply firm, continuous pressure to the brake pedal. If you don’t have antilock brakes, you may need to pump your brakes if you feel your wheels starting to lock up. 

Navigating Around Snow Plows 

Don’t crowd a snow plow or travel beside it. Snow plows travel slowly, make wide turns, stop often, overlap lanes, and exit the road frequently. The road behind an active snow plow is safer to drive on. If you find yourself behind a snow plow, stay behind it or use caution when passing. When you are driving behind a snow plow, don’t follow or stop too closely. A snow plow operator’s field-of-vision is limited; if you can’t see the mirrors, the driver can’t see you. Also, materials used to de-ice the road could hit your vehicle. Snow plows can throw up a cloud of snow that can reduce your visibility to zero in less time than you can react. Never drive into a snow cloud – it can conceal vehicles or hazards. 

What To Do in a Winter Emergency 

If you are stopped or stalled in wintry weather, follow these safety rules: Stay with your car and don’t over exert yourself; Put bright markers on the antenna or windows and keep the interior dome light turned on. To avoid asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning, don’t run your car for long periods of time with the windows up or in an enclosed space. If you must run your vehicle, clear the exhaust pipe of any snow and run it only sporadically — just long enough to stay warm.