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Party Planning 101

Where will you be jingling and mingling this Winter?

By: Mon Ami Gabi

‘Tis the holiday party season! Read these party planning tips to create the perfect holiday bash that will leave your guests in awe.


Scout It Out

Live local? Set up a time to see the space and meet the catering team. Out-of-towner? Request photos or schedule a visit for when you’re in town.



Restaurants offer multiple drink options to best suit your needs. “Does Uncle Mike love single-malt Scotch?” Select an all-inclusive beverage
packages so Mike doesn’t blow your budget. If you don’t want your guests drinking on your dime, offer them a cash bar!



From passed hors d’oeuvres and reception style cocktail stations to full seated dinners with perfectly paired wines, find a restaurant that can cater to all your needs. Don’t forget the kids, either!


Make the space yours with decor! Candles and ambient lighting make everyone look better. Add a splash of color with a table runner or linen napkins. And remember, flowers aren’t just for spring; work with a local vendor or use DIY arrangements.


At Mon Ami Gabi’s cozy French bistro, we’ll work closely with you to plan your holiday event in one of our private party rooms. Choose your menu items, bar package and time of day. Contact our Catering Manager at and visit our website at for more information.


Northern Virginia Strong – Show It and Volunteer

Northern Virginia is one of, if not the most, wealthy region in the United States, yet there are many, many residents in need of a wide variety of assistance.  During the holidays there seems to be an uptick in volunteerism, yet volunteers are vital year round to the lives of many of the people these organizations assist.  Visit one or more of the organizations below and make a difference in your community.  Volunteer so that every resident in Northern Virginia can Live More!

Fairfax County-Wide Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteers contributed more than $33.8 million worth of their time to make the Fairfax Community Thrive!

Recognizing the significant value and importance of volunteering, Fairfax County has created an easy way to see, apply and track ways to volunteer…The Volunteer Management System or VMS.  Located online at, the system serves as a one-stop shop for volunteering to support Fairfax County programs and services.

Those interested can fill out one application electronically and then search for opportunities by geographic location, dates, type of people or program type. It also allows for group volunteering, and highlights opportunities for students needing service hours or anyone looking to fulfill court-mandated volunteering requirements.

VMS also allows users to track their hours and review upcoming and past volunteer jobs and, when needed, volunteers who indicate their willingness to serve in times of emergency can be called upon and placed quickly through an automated alert system that is all built into the new system.

 Contact Information

Childrenís Science Center

The Children’s Science Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to filling the gap in Northern Virginia with a permanent, world-class interactive exploration center that incorporates traditional museum exhibits with cutting edge discovery experiences.  Our mission is to instill the love of learning STEM in all children by providing unique opportunities to explore, create, and be inspired.

Volunteers are the foundation of the Children’s Science Center. Volunteers do not need a math or science background or any specific experience to help out; they just need a lot of enthusiasm and a little bit of time.  We offer a variety of opportunities for children, teens, adults and groups depending on interests and availability, including behind the scenes preparation or direct interaction with children and families.  We welcome volunteers to help at our Children’s Science Center LAB (11948 Fair Oaks Mall, Fairfax, VA 22033) or at events throughout the Northern Virginia area.

Contact Information:

For those interested, please visit our website to fill out an online Volunteer Application ( For further information, please contact Traci McGillicuddy, Volunteer and Program Coordinator, at

Connect Northern Virginia

Connect Northern Virginia is an initiative to expand understanding of important community needs in Northern Virginia.

The Connect Northern Virginia website offers public and private sector information about a wide range of community issues and resources. The website also connects you to a regional calendar of events and activities, volunteer opportunities and more. Organizations may register and submit events for the online calendar.

In addition to information about Loudoun County, it also connects the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, and Prince William with the Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park and with the Towns of Dumfries, Herndon, Leesburg, Purcellville
and Vienna.

Connect Northern Virginia’s funders include governments, chambers of commerce, nonprofits and foundations. In addition to the Loudoun County Government, funders include the Claude Moore Foundation, Comstock Partners, Fairfax County Government, HCA/Reston Hospital Center, Town of Leesburg, Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, McLean Community Foundation and Unanet.

Contact Information:

Alexandria/Arlington CASA

Be the chance for a child- CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteers are ordinary people – men and women, retirees and busy professionals – who become the voice for a child whose home is no longer safe.  When a child enters the foster care system, because his or her home is no longer safe, a judge may appoint a committed volunteer to help them. That volunteer is called a Court Appointed Special Advocate®, or CASA.

CASA volunteers are screened and highly trained and then appointed by Family Court Judges to represent and advocate for a child’s best interests while they are involved with the child protection system. Once assigned to a child, advocates gather information from the children, families, and professionals involved in the case and submit a written report to the court with their findings and recommendations.  A CASA’s job is to be an objective observer who advocates for the best interest of the child. Our single goal is to ensure that every child has a safe, stable and permanent place to live.

If you are interested, the next step to learn more is to sign up and attend an orientation.  Orientations are held once a month and the next two are scheduled for Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 12:30 PM and Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at 6:30 PM Tuesday, at the SCAN office at 205 S. Whiting Street, Alexandria, VA.  Sign up at

Contact Information:

Amy Wilker, Program Manager,Alexandria/

Arlington Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program

SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) of Northern Virginia

205 S. Whiting Street, Suite 205
Alexandria, VA 22304
Telephone: (703) 820-9001 – ext. 112
Fax: (703) 820-9002

Fairfax CASA

The mission of Fairfax CASA is to advocate for the best interests of each abused and neglected child referred by the Fairfax County Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court through the promotion and support of quality volunteer representation.

We seek to ensure that each child’s needs are identified and addressed with the goal of living in a safe and permanent home.  As permitted by our legislative charter, we also provide assistance to youths entering adulthood who have been referred to the CASA program by the Court, up to the age of 21.

Needed: Volunteers 21 and up that advocate for abused and neglected children, being their voice in the Courts. Our volunteers are committed for the long term, serving a child on a case for an average of 23 months.

Contact Information:

Fairfax CASA
4103 Chain Bridge Rd, Suite 200,
Fairfax, VA 22030

Volunteer Coordinator:
Shaina Goldberg,

Phone: 703-327-3526, ext. 18

Loudoun Cares

Make the connection to serve through Loudoun Cares’ online Volunteer Center. Organizations and individuals should register in preparation for severe winter weather and other emergency events. The Loudoun Cares Volunteer Center provides an online tool that helps connect nonprofit and community organizations in Loudoun County with volunteers and resources.  For example, homeowners associations can create profiles and post volunteer needs. The Volunteer Center connects residents who have previously signed up to the volunteer opportunities that are posted by the HOAs and are alerted when needs arise. For assistance creating your profile, contact Loudoun Cares.

How Do You Get Started?


1. Create a profile before a winter weather event occurs. Groups, such as nonprofits, HOAs, faith communities, and others, should identify a person to act as the “Agency Manager,” who can create a profile now to prepare for winter weather or another emergency event where volunteers are needed.

2. Once the profile is created, Loudoun Cares will provide more information and training about how to use the tool and post a need for volunteers. Groups can then invite members of their communities or neighborhoods to sign up to volunteer.


Individuals can create a profile and become a “fan” of any group that they would like to follow. By becoming a fan of a group, volunteers will receive notifications when the group posts opportunities to serve.

Loudoun Cares Information & Referral Helpline

Loudoun Cares also operates an Information & Referral Helpline at 703-669-INFO (4636). The helpline offers free and confidential assistance to Loudoun residents who have questions or issues related to health and human service needs. The helpline connects callers with the agencies and programs that can best assist with callers’ specific needs.

Contact Information

SCAN of Northern Virginia

Our vision is that every child in Northern Virginia will grow up in a safe, stable, nurturing family, with the supports they need to contribute to stronger communities today and as adults tomorrow.

Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Northern Virginia is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the well-being of children, improve parent-child relations and prevent child abuse and neglect by:

EDUCATING the community about the scope, nature and consequences of child abuse and neglect and the importance of positive, nurturing parenting;
PROVIDING   direct parent education;
& ADVOCATING for children in the community, the legislature and
the courts.


The first steps toward becoming a SCAN volunteer are to complete the SCAN Volunteer Interest Form and to attend a volunteer orientation.
Attendance at an orientation is required before volunteering with SCAN. After orientation, potential volunteers will receive a volunteer application to complete and be routed to the appropriate program(s).


SCAN also accepts donations to help fund their programs.  To donate, go to

Contact Information:
SCAN of Northern Virginia
205 S. Whiting Street, Suite 205
Alexandria, Virginia 22304
Phone: 703-820-9001
Fax: 703-820-9002
TTY: Dial 711

Se Habla Español

Women Giving Back

WGB’s mission is to support women and children in crisis, and build their confidence and self-esteem, by providing great quality clothing at no cost, assisted by caring and committed volunteers who offer personalized service and interaction.

WGB has ongoing volunteer opportunities throughout the year, every month.

WGB consistently has opportunities the second and third Saturday of each month from 9 AM to Noon.  Parents with children > 10 years old are always welcome.  Sign up is always preferred and other options in addition to the two days mentioned are available by visiting WGB’s website:

WGB also accepts donations.  WGB typically asks their volunteers to help us sort and organize clothing donations.  Adult Women can opt into helping our benefactors with a dignified shopping experience by helping them choose their clothing items.

WGB needs gently used, clean women’s and children’s clothing in good condition. Gently worn shoes, jewelry and accessories, purses and totes, new toilet kits, make-up items and toiletries. Baby clothes, but no opened disposable diaper supplies.

Contact Information:

Women Giving Back
20 Export Drive
Sterling, VA 20164
Phone: (703) 554-9386


Dockless Bike Share Comes to Washington

With distinctive bike color differences, a veritable rainbow of bike sharing options have arrived for the workers and residents of this region.  Dockless bikesharing, an approach that has been incredibly popular in China and other foreign countries, is now just appearing in U.S. cities such as Seattle, Dallas and San Francisco.  In September pilot programs were launched in DC.

The concept does away with having to retrieve and replace a shared bike at specific “docking” kiosks, as the popular Capital Bikeshare program that we use now, requires.  Instead, the smart bikes are equipped with electronic locking systems and GPS technology that allows users to find and unlock the bike using an app on your phone.  When you are finished using the bike, you leave it at your destination and lock it with your app.  The companies track fees through the GPS and time that you have had the bicycle unlocked.  Like Uber and Lyft, payments are made electronically when you establish an account with the bike service.

In September, four new “dockless” bike sharing companies were given the green light by DCDOT to start pilot programs in the city.  Mobike, Spin, LimeBike and Jump were all given permission to place 400 bikes each.  In October, Montgomery County granted Mobike permission to place bikes in downtown Silver Spring and indicated that they may permit Mobike’s competitors to start pilots as well.  Virginia’s inner localities, Arlington and Alexandria, are contemplating similar programs.  In a recent Washington Post article, the owner of LimeBike predicted that, based on the high usage of bicycling and the demographics, DC needed a 20,000 bike share infrastructure to substantially reduce single occupant vehicle usage.

Capital Bikehare currently has 4,100 bikes and 480 stations in DC and the suburbs.  The new competition is cheaper, charging $1 for every 30 minutes compared with $2 for the same trip on Capital Bikeshare.  Local mobility planners think the addition of competition will increase and expand availability of bikes into areas that might not by typically served.


Holiday Recipe: Apple Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Ice Cream

by  Chef Phil Frederick, Mon Ami Gabi

Yields 4 portions 


¾ cup sugar

5 oz. butter

6 gala apples

Frozen puff pastry sheets
(4 5” diameter rounds)


1.Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.Put butter and sugar in small saute pan. Cook over medium heat until it has reached a deep golden brown color. (Mixture will appear separated.)

3.Divide mixture evenly into four 4½” diameter oven-safe baking ramekins.

4.Peel apples, cut in half and remove the cores.

5.Place three apple halves in each ramekin standing upright.

6.Place four ramekins onto a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degrees oven for 25 minutes.

7. Flip apples over and bake another 25 minutes, then flip apples again. Continue baking until the apples are caramelized and very soft.

8. Remove from oven and let cool.

9. With a fork, prick puff pastry rounds several times.

10. Place a puff pastry round over each ramekin, tucking the edges in between the apples and the edge of the ramekin.

11. Place back in the oven and bake until pastry is golden brown and puffed (approximately 25 minutes).

12. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

13. To serve, warm Tarte Tatin briefly in oven.

14. Remove from oven and run a knife along the edge to loosen, and unmold onto a plate.

15. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Stay Local, Buy Local This Holiday Season

The farm to table movement has gathered serious momentum in the restaurant industry, and it should be doing so at your table too!  There is nothing better than fresh, locally grown products. This holiday season, venture out to some of these local suppliers and order your turkeys, hams, veggies and assorted accoutrements and help support our local growers.  Buy local and “Live More!”

Checkmate Farm
18923 Checkmate Lane
Bluemont, VA 540-554-2858

Freezer lamb from fat tailed sheep. natural and dyed roving, fleeces, pelts, sheep breeding stock, eggs, poultry, buckeye chicken breeder.

East Lynn Farm
19955 Airmont Road
Round Hill, VA
571 257 4243

CSA, inn and events on a 143-acre working farm nestled between the beautiful Bull Run and Blue Ridge Mountains. Seasonal produce, eggs, flowers, poultry, duck, heritage breed fowl, pasture raised angus beef and lamb, Thanksgiving turkeys, Easter and Passover lamb, Kosher beef and lamb.

Fair Oaks Farm
23718 New Mountain Road
Aldie, VA

On-farm shop and CSA. Free-range turkeys, beef, chicken, lamb and eggs. A large assortment of locally grown and all natural produce is available seasonally. Locally grown sunflowers, corn, beans and squash. CSA shares of fresh, locally grown vegetables, herbs, free-range eggs, flowers, pasture-raised beef, lamb and poultry directly to our members.

Fields of Athenry Farm
38082 Snickersville Turnpike
Purcellville, VA

Beef, lamb, pork, poultry, Thanksgiving turkey

If It Flies Farm
Alexander Bates
42969 Buna mae Lane
Leesburg, VA 20175

Free range chickens and holiday turkeys along with bee hives.

Meadowview Farmstead
Meredith Kope
P.O. Box 2663
Purcellville, VA 20134

A small farm located just outside of Purcellville, Virginia. We grow cut flowers and herbs and raise heritage breed hogs, chickens, and turkeys on pasture.