Arlington, VA

With a mission to create educational, yet fun games, Arlington-based Semper Smart Games has a hit on its hands: a board game called Election Night!

Jim Moran, the creator of Semper Smart Games, is a retired Coast Guard officer and SAT and ACT tutor (no, he’s not the former local Congressman of the same name). Moran turned his passion for helping students learn math into games.

Election Night! was created to give students a better geographical, mathematical and mechanical understanding of the Electoral College. The game, launched as a result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, has recently seen its sales ranking rise on Amazon, as the presidential election nears.

In 2019, after it debuted, the Parents’ Choice Foundation awarded Election Night! a Parents’ Choice Gold Award.

The company has even attracted the attention of Shark Tank star and FUBU founder Daymond John, who recently interviewed Moran live on Instagram.

Moran told John that the game was made for “age groups eight and nine, but college students are loving it.”

Thanks Daymond John for the great interview! Other than my phone cutting out and then messing up the amount of Electoral Votes California has (If you play the game you will know why I said 48 instead of 55!) you can see the whole interview @thesharkdaymond in his IGTV https://www.instagram.com/p/CEmnF2FHL-l/

Posted by Semper Smart Games on Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Election Night! and Moran’s other games — including PlaySmart Dice and Blobby’s Pizza, his newest — can be purchased on the company’s website.

Photo via Semper Smart Games

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The annual Rosslyn Jazz Fest is not being held as the usual large public event this year. But it is returning in a different form next week.

Now called the Jazz Supper Club, it has been transformed into a virtual and socially-distant event. On Wednesday, Sept. 23 and 30, there will be outdoor jazz in Rosslyn — albeit in smaller settings. Groups will play at two outdoor dining venues around dinner time, with the performances live-streamed online.

The scheduled artists, locations and times are:

Reservations for the first night are now available online.

More from the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, which organizes the annual jazz festival:

Mark your calendars for the first ever Rosslyn Jazz Supper Clubs! With these curated experiences at Rosslyn restaurants, we’re reinventing our usual Jazz Festival format to one that supports virtual streaming and limits in-person attendance. To promote the safety of all attendees, guests are asked to wear masks when not seated and to practice physical distancing in accordance with Arlington County’s and Virginia’s guidelines.

Please review the Rosslyn BID’s and each restaurant’s individual COVID-19 policies and expectations before making a reservation. By making a reservation, you are agreeing to abide by the COVID-19 policies and expectations of the Rosslyn BID and each individual restaurant.

If you’re uncomfortable attending the Supper Clubs, we’ll be livestreaming each experience so you can enjoy the evening from home.

Photo via Jens Thekkeveettil/Unsplash

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A new hair salon that helps natural hair to thrive has opened in Ballston despite the pandemic

After initially hoping to open on June 19 to commemorate Juneteenth, Thrive Hair Bar (1010 N. Glebe Road) first opened its doors on Aug. 9.

“Thrive Hair Bar provides two-strand twists, braids, and leave out styles for kinky, coily, & curly haired naturalistas on the go. Embracing your hair texture with an emphasis on hair health,” the website says.

The website said Thrive Hair Bar aims to “revolutionize the luxury hair salon experience.”

Located inside the Sola Salon Studio, which hosts a number of solo entrepreneurs, the salon services its clients during a one-on-one, client and stylist experience.

“Our goal isn’t just for us to give them a hairstyle and they walk away, it’s really to help educate women on how to maintain their hair and care for their natural hair,” said Ajia Minnis, owner and founder of Thrive Hair Bar.

However, the single stylist and client combination is not the experience Minnis envisioned.

“It was definitely something that we had to adjust to. I had envisioned a salon with at least three to four stylists,” said Minnis. “I did definitely want to keep it small, to have that personalized experience, so the stylists themselves wouldn’t be rushed and because we’re just starting. But with the coronavirus, I realized that that wasn’t going to work. It just didn’t seem like the safest thing to do and I recognized that.”

Getting used to the restrictions on who can be in the salon wasn’t the only challenge Thrive Hair Bar faced.

“We still haven’t had our grand opening event yet because I had envisioned doing something where we featured local artists in the community and with the coronavirus, that doesn’t seem like the safest thing to do, even with masks,” Minnis said.

The good news is that clients have responded to Thrive’s policies positively.

“I think they like being the only one in the salon,” Minnis said. “Nobody likes having to wear a mask all day but it’s for the benefit of not only our customers, but for our stylists too. We want to make sure that they’re safe, so everybody has been respectful and keeping their masks on. We’re also using disposable capes — one-time use and throw it out. We’re disinfecting all chairs, door handles and anything that anybody touches after every single client, and then obviously staying within normal salon standards for disinfection with using Barbicide.”

“I think our clients have been comfortable with the precautions that we’ve been taking,” Minnis said, adding that she is optimistic about the future of the business as the country continues to make progress in the coronavirus fight.

Photos courtesy Ajia Minnis

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The candidates for School Board this November are weighing on how they might approach the prospect of additional cuts to the Arlington Public Schools budget next year.

The pandemic forced Arlington Public Schools to slash millions from its budget this year, and additional budget pressures may be ahead. The candidates — independent candidate Symone Walker, and Cristina Diaz-Torres and David Priddy, who received the Democratic endorsement — were asked about that during an online forum this past Tuesday (Sept. 8), hosted by the Arlington County Civic Federation.

Walker said she thinks “we need to ask for more money from the county.”

“What we absolutely cannot do is cut funding for curriculum and instruction,” said Walker. “That cannot be sacrificed on any circumstances or any programs that require equity. We have to look at how we’re wasting funds and how we streamline and save on funds. One way we could have done that is to replace iPads with cheaper Chromebooks.”

Diaz-Torres said the community should have more of a say on best choice of action.

“I think this is a really important place where collaboration is absolutely critical: work best with the community to identify where we can make cuts,” Diaz-Torres said. “But also, collaborating at different levels of government. The reality is that the only way that we’re going to get out of that 20-25% budget deficit is with a significant investment from the federal government.”

Priddy said budget cuts will not be easy and will require a deft hand.

“Your budget is comprised of: 80% is your operations and salaries, 10% is debt service, and that leaves your middle 10% where that’s what we have to look at and historically,” he said. “Arlington has looked at how do you cut programs instead of cutting personnel and I think we’re going to have it the same way.”

“This is where my professional background comes in,” Priddy continued. “I’ve had many decisions on what to cut and what’s in the best interest of the business and this way it’ll be the community and being from Arlington and knowing the policies of Arlington, I know that I’m the right person to make those decisions.”

Another topic of conversation was whether APS should try to use parkland to build new schools. The candidates largely said it was an option that should be considered, but stopped short of saying it should actually be pursued.

The candidates, who also spoke before an online meeting of the Arlington Committee of 100 this week, discussed why they were running for what’s usually a fairly thankless job. There are two open seats on the School Board this fall, after incumbents Nancy Van Dorn and Tannia Talento decided not to seek new terms.

Diaz-Torres emphasized that she’s a “former teacher and education policy specialist” who wants to “create an education system where all students have the ability to succeed no matter their race, income, or socioeconomic status.”

Priddy introduced himself as a “parent of two sons in Arlington Public Schools, business leader, and lifelong Arlingtonian, running for one of two open seats on the Arlington County school board because I know that with proper planning, we can build back in more equitable and transparent APS.”

Walker said she is an “APS parent and education activist, serving in the school community for the past decade, and as recently as co-chair of the NAACP.”

Walker added that she’s “running for School Board to be an instrument of change because a lot needs to change.”

“The opportunity gap has not closed in decades, the reading curriculum is leaving students farther behind, struggling students are graduating semi-literate, our Black and Latino students are performing far below their white and Asian counterparts,” she said.

The election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

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Thirty-three pets rescued from the devastation in Beirut, Lebanon are now in Arlington, awaiting adoption.

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington posted a video (below) of the Beirut blast rescues arriving at the airport and at the shelter near Shirlington. AWLA is now seeking new homes for the nearly three dozen dogs and cats.

More from an email sent to AWLA supporters on Thursday:

After a long journey from Beirut, Lebanon, 15 dogs and 18 cats arrived at AWLA last night to start new lives in the USA.

After the explosion in Beirut last month, Animals Lebanon immediately mobilized. For weeks they have worked tirelessly, rescuing animals who were injured or trapped in rubble, and reuniting as many pets as possible with their owners.

But the devastation was unimaginable.

Hundreds died. Thousands were injured. Hundreds of thousands remain homeless. Although Animals Lebanon stepped up to assist families, many could no longer keep their pets after losing family members, losing their homes, or being forced to leave the country.

Humane Society International (HSI) reached out and asked if AWLA would be able to take in some animals from Animals Lebanon. Without hesitation, we said YES and promised to do everything we could to help.

Animals Lebanon saved them from the wreckage. HSI flew them overseas.

All 33 animals will be staying in the shelter or in foster homes while they adjust to their new surroundings and we get to know them a little better. So many are scared and shy, several require urgent medical attention, and they all need a lot of TLC.

AWLA spokeswoman Chelsea Jones said the organization doesn’t usually take in pets from overseas, but the Beirut explosion is a special case, in part because of the work of the Humane Society.

“Since HSI did all the work getting them to Dulles Airport — we just had to pick them up!” she said. “I do know that getting that many dogs and cats on international flights takes a lot of organization and paperwork, so I’m sure they worked very hard to get it done. We don’t take international transfers very often, as we are mostly focused on helping local organizations, but we had the space to help in this situation.”

“It feels great to finally have the dogs and cats in their care,” Jones added. “The cats are all very friendly and social, and while the dogs are a little shy, we are excited to help them adjust to their new surroundings. We are so happy that we’ve been able to help these animals that have been through so much.”

Some of the cats are already up for adoption and ready to go home, according to Jones.

“We expect the rest of the cats will be available for adoption very soon,” she said. “Some of the dogs need to be spayed/neutered or medical issues, so we have to address that first. And then of course some of the dogs are very scared and unsure of this new step in their journey, so we will give them whatever time they need to adjust.”

AWLA is hoping to raise money for the care of these and other pets through its 2020 “Walk for the Animals” event.

The annual fundraiser, set for tomorrow (Saturday), has raised more than $77,000 of its $100,000 goal.

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Cinthia’s Bakery II has closed shop in Arlington amid road construction and the pandemic, but will continue to serve local customers at its original Bailey’s Crossroads location.

The restaurant announced the closure of its second location (5037 Columbia Pike) on its Facebook page this week. A sign in the window says it closed on Aug. 31.

“Cinthia’s 1 will open normally 7 days a week at 5860 Columbia Pike, Falls Church,” the sign adds. The driving distance between the two locations is just six minutes.

In addition to the pandemic hurting local restaurants, there has been ongoing construction and detours along Columbia Pike, in front of Cinthia’s Bakery II.

In January, a bakery employee told WJLA that the business saw “a significant drop off in the number of customers and an increase in empty tables due to construction.”

Staff photos by Jay Westcott. Hat tip to @bgannon97.

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