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by Jennifer Currier December 18, 2015 at 1:30 pm 0

Oscar Takes Off from TODAY 12.17For those who wait until the last minute to finish their holiday shopping, NBC’s Today Show has compiled a list of 40 gift ideas. This year, a local author’s book is included on that list.

Arlington resident Liz Lord’s first self-published book Oscar Takes Off! The Eco-Adventures of “Oscocopter” is an illustrated story written for readers ages 3-8 but has a message for all ages about protecting the environment.

On Today’s list — which had its own segment on the show Thursday morning — the story is described as follows:

A kids book that even adults will love. This teaches kids about climate change and the environment in a fun way. Kids will love Oscar and parents will love the lesson he imparts.

Oscar Takes Off coverA synopsis of the story sent to ARLnow describes the main character as Oscar, an octopus who discovers he can fly like like a helicopter and uses that skill to go on “the first of many global eco-advenutres” after unwelcome debris settles in his ocean home. The story is meant to encourage readers to become environmentally conscious and friendly.

A Kickstarter campaign launched in March successfully funded the book, including illustrations, design and publishing. Oscar Takes Off! was put on Amazon about a month ago, and more than 150 copies have been sold.

The story’s message isn’t the only way the book tries to help the environment. All royalties the book earns are donated to Oceana, an organization working to protect oceans around the world.

As a last-minute holiday gift or otherwise, the book is available online for $6.99.

by Jennifer Currier December 16, 2015 at 2:30 pm 0

Santa Claus (via Macy's)One generous — and anonymous — Arlington resident has donated thousands of dollars to assist fellow community members in need this holiday season.

A man donated $10,000 to the Department of Human Services’ Secret Santa initiative, a program that collects donations of gift cards from area stores to be distributed throughout the community.

DHS Communications Manager Kurt Larrick has organized the program since 2007. He was called to the front desk after he was told a gentleman had questions about the program.

“I was a little worried at first, but he only had three simple questions for me,” Larrick recalled.

First, the man wanted to know who, specifically, donations assist to ensure money donated stays in the community. Larrick confirmed the donations are strictly for Arlington residents, including low-income families, children in foster care, seniors and people with disabilities.

Next, he asked if any overhead or administrative costs would be taken from the total donation amount. Larrick said he again seemed to give a satisfactory answer, explaining that all donations that come in “go right back out.”

Finally, the man asked if there was a donation limit. Upon hearing there wasn’t, he said he wanted to write a check for $10,000.

“I told him that would be incredible,” Larrick said. “He was a really nice, kind gentleman.”

That $10,000 will be used to purchase hundreds of gift cards for local grocery, clothing, convenience and department stores.

Though the soft deadline for the collection has passed, Larrick said interested residents are still encouraged to contribute to the cause by mailing or hand-delivering donations to DHS.

Last year, the Secret Santa program raised $54,000 in gift cards and donations, and Larrick expects this year’s final count to be about the same. He added the program is mostly supported by small donations from community members of all ages — which are important no matter the amount.

“This donation was obviously huge and very generous,” he said. “But for every donation, big or small, there’s always a great story behind it.”

File photo via Macy’s

by Jennifer Currier December 10, 2015 at 6:00 pm 0

National Chamber Holiday Concert 2014 (by Robert W. Jansen)The annual National Chamber Ensemble Holiday Concert will return to the Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre this Saturday for a tradition almost as old as the musical group itself.

This year’s concert is scheduled for this Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. General admission tickets are available online and cost $17 for students, $33 for adults.

The ensemble was founded nine years ago by Leo Sushansky, who is also the group’s artistic director. The holiday concert has been a part of the performance schedule for eight of those nine years.

“I think it’s one of the most fun events of the season in Rosslyn,” Sushansky said. “It brings together classical masterpieces and holiday favorites in one program, for kids, for families, for everyone.”

This year’s program includes classical music from Beethoven and Chopin, as well as a piece from the overture of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, a special performance of “Oh, Holy Night,” a Hanukkah medley and Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.”

Per tradition, the concert will end with a sing-a-long, led by performer and Washington Life Magazine performing arts columnist Patrick D. McCoy.

During the show, the chamber will also present the first ever Outstanding Young Artist Achievement Award to Avery Gagliano, a 13-year-old pianist and violinist from the metro area. She’ll be featured in a solo and will also play one song with the entire ensemble.

“She’s a prodigy and the winner of many competitions around the world,” Sushansky said about the young artist. “She’s very deserving of this award.”

Sushansky also said audiences can prepare themselves for more engaging experience than they might expect from a holiday concert.

“All our concerts are very interactive,” he said. “Musicians tell stories, jokes, and talk about personal experiences. Yes, you’ll get to hear some great music, but you’ll also get to know the artists.”

Audience members will have another opportunity to interact with the artists after the concert, as they’ll join a reception with wine, cheese and snacks following the show.

“We’re a society of internationally acclaimed musicians from the capital area, and we come together for chamber music,” Sushansky added. “We’re very excited to share this with the Arlington community again this year.”

Photo by Robert W. Jansen

by Jennifer Currier December 9, 2015 at 1:15 pm 0

2013 Holiday SoberRide posterArlington County is once again joining regional and national efforts to combat drunk driving over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) is offering its Holiday SoberRide program starting this Friday, Dec. 11 through New Year’s Day. Every evening on these days, free cab rides will be available for fares up to $30 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Residents who have been drinking and need a safe ride home can get their free ride by calling 1-800-200-TAXI toll-free. Those who have AT&T cellular service can also dial #WRAP to get the service.

“Last December, nearly 1,200 Greater Washington residents did the right thing and availed themselves of this lifesaving service rather than possibly driving home impaired,” said WRAP President Kurt Gregory Erickson in a statement. “For SoberRide’s hours of operation during just last New Year’s Eve, such ridership (420) translated into the removal of a would-be drunk driver from our shared roadways every 68 seconds.”

This year’s participating cab companies include Red Top Cab of Arlington.

by Jennifer Currier December 9, 2015 at 10:40 am 0

Traveling Santa (via Facebook:Arlington VA Traveling Santa)

A short, plastic visitor with blue eyes, a red suit and a long white beard has been popping up on porches around the county.

The Arlington, VA Traveling Santa began his journey shortly after Thanksgiving. Since then, he’s been visiting families throughout the county, showing up on their doorsteps unannounced. Similar to a holiday chain letter, Santa is trying to make as many stops as he can before Christmas Day.

There are rules when Santa visits, but they’re simple: he can only stay at a house one night before he must move on to visit someone else. His next destination is chosen by whomever hosted him the previous night.

Santa’s hosts are encouraged to take photos of his visit before posting them to the Facebook page where his travels are being tracked.

While most hosts opted for classic pose-and-smile photos, others have really taken him in by engaging in activities like brushing his teeth or taking him for a ride.

However, Traveling Santa isn’t just something fun for the holidays. The coordinators of the campaign — who couldn’t be reached for comment — are also asking those who interact with Santa to donate to the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

A representative for AFAC confirmed the organizers created a personal fundraising page for the cause. On Facebook, they’ve pledged to donate $1 for every “like” the page gets by Christmas — the count was nearing 200 Wednesday morning — and have agreed to match all donations made via the page.

by Jennifer Currier December 2, 2015 at 6:00 pm 0

ACPD Santa(Updated at 6:25 p.m.) Arlington organizations are asking community members to help bring some holiday cheer to children throughout the county this month.

The Arlington County Police Department is holding a toy drive and The Salvation Army is running its Angel Tree Program for residents to sponsor a child in need.

The ACPD’s Holiday Toy Drive started yesterday and will run through next Friday, Dec. 11.

The department is seeking donations of new, unwrapped toys suitable for children ages 1-17. They’ll also oversee the collection and distribution of the toys.

There are two scheduled collection events for the drive, both called Operation: Fill The Cruiser. Residents can stop by during designated hours to drop off donations and meet Santa.

The locations, dates and times for these events are:

  • Our Lady of Lourdes Parking Lot (830 23rd Street S.) on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 5:30-7 p.m.
  • Lyon Village Park (1800 N. Highland Street) on Friday, Dec. 11, 4-6 p.m.

For those who can’t make the collection events but still want to contribute, there’s Operation: Stocking Stuffer. The department has also set up donation boxes at businesses and organizations around the county.

Donation boxes can be found at the following locations:

  • Arlington County Police Department (1425 N. Courthouse Road)
  • Bracket Room (121o N. Garfield Street)
  • Don Tito (3165 Wilson Blvd)
  • Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant (555 23rd Street S.)
  • The Liberty Tavern (3195 Wilson Blvd)
  • Mister Days (3100 Clarendon Blvd)
  • Whitlow’s On Wilson (2854 Wilson Blvd)

Residents who would prefer to donate gifts to a specific child can do so through The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program. It’s a regional holiday assistance program that pairs individuals or groups with children in need.

Those interested can register for the program online. In doing so, they agree to sponsor a child or family in Arlington by purchasing toys, clothing, bikes, games and other gifts for them.

The program also needs volunteers later this month to help move, sort and distribute the gifts.

by Jennifer Currier December 2, 2015 at 1:30 pm 0

Santa Claus (via Macy's)Arlington hasn’t seen any snow — yet — but that won’t stop a winter celebration from coming to the Columbia Pike this weekend.

The second annual Winter Wonderland at Penrose Square is scheduled for this Saturday from 2-6 p.m. at 2501 9th Road S. It will be held in the breezeway between the apartment building’s leasing office and the Giant store.

The event is free and open to the public. Community members are invited to celebrate the season with holiday food and activities.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will join the celebration from 2-5 p.m. for visits and pictures. There will also be carolers and craft stations set up during this time.

A sleigh full of local businesses will be at the event handing out holiday beverages and goodie bags. Some of the participating area retailers include Starbucks, Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, Mancini de Paris and Jimmy Potter’s Studio.

Scheduled to make an appearance around 4 p.m.: “Arlington’s own Himalayan Yeti,” provided by the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization.

The wonderland will wind down after a tree-lighting ceremony and sing-along, which starts at 5:30 p.m.

File photo via Macy’s

by Jennifer Currier December 1, 2015 at 11:30 am 0

A long-vacant Cherrydale strip mall storefront, once slated to become a gun store, has been brought to life as a pop-up vintage gift shop.

NOVA Firearms cancelled its lease and its plans to add a location at 2105 N. Pollard Street this summer, following an uproar that pitted concerned residents against both local and national gun enthusiasts.

This holiday season, however, what was once an ideological battleground is now a temporary shop.

POP Vintage opened this past Friday as a vintage shop, featuring collected, donated, estate sale and consigned items, ranging in price from $2 to $20,000. It will be open every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. now until Christmas Eve.

“This is a place where people can sell, barter and trade their items openly and safely, they just have to do it by Christmas,” owner Olympia Hantzopoulos said.

The store is the Rosslyn resident’s first time operating a pop-up. It’s also her first time dealing with a space with such a heated history.

Hantzopoulos said she doesn’t go a day without hearing about what the store could’ve been.

“It was such a difficult issue for both sides,” she said. “Just this Saturday two women got in an argument in the store, which was full of customers, disagreeing over whether this space should be a gun store or not.”

Despite some leftover bitterness from the gun store debate, it hasn’t stopped customers from shopping. Hantzopoulos said her first weekend open was quite busy and the experience has been a positive one so far.

“I’m overwhelmed by the community support,” she said. “I think being here and having something here is doing a lot of good for the neighborhood.”

This also isn’t Hantzopoulos’ first time working with vintage and collectible items. She also owns Miracles in the City, a hair salon in Rosslyn that’s been open for nearly 20 years. The salon also has a small boutique where Hantzopoulos sells vintage jewelry, and all profits from jewelry sales are donated to charity.

She’s adopted the same charitable model for POP Vintage — any proceeds taken in beyond what’s needed to pay the lease will be donated to charities that support women and children in the United States and around the world.

One organization Hantzopoulos plans to support sends donations to an orphanage in Afghanistan, and another provides school supplies for local students. Hantzopoulos said helping in any way she can has always been a priority.

“Thinking about the reality of how little some people have just makes me miserable,” she said. “But you can’t dwell on that, you have to just do what you can do and trust it’s helping.”

From jewelry, to paintings by D.C. artists, to chandeliers, to one-of-a-kind rugs handmade in the Middle East, to tea sets and much more, Hantzopoulos has collected enough items to offer a little bit of everything for holiday shoppers. She knows where they came from, who they belonged to and why, in her opinion, they’re valuable.

“That’s the thing about vintage,” she said. “Everything has a story. It just so happens this space does, too.”

by ARLnow.com November 25, 2015 at 4:30 pm 0

Thanksgiving wishes at Arlington Auto Care (photo by Katie Pyzyk)The ARLnow.com team, along with our contractors and freelancers, wish you and your family a happy Thanksgiving.

We’ll be back on Friday with local news coverage that you can perhaps read while standing in giant checkout lines at the mall.

In the meantime, get ready to enjoy a couple of days of free parking: metered parking and residential zone restrictions will not be enforced in Arlington on Thursday or Friday, according to the county’s list of holiday closures.

County offices, schools and courts will remain closed until Monday. Recreation centers will be closed Thursday and Friday, and will resume normal hours on Saturday.

ART buses will operate on a holiday schedule. Trash and recycling collection will not take a day off — it will go on as normal and cart off scores of turkey carcasses and other Thanksgiving dinner detritus as you sleep off your food coma.

Gobble, gobble!

by Jennifer Currier November 25, 2015 at 3:30 pm 0

Christmas decorations outside of Nordstrom at Pentagon City mall

There are only a couple of days left to finalize Black Friday shopping plans, so it’s time to take stock of what’s open and when.

The biggest mall in Arlington, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, has announced its holiday hours and specials for holiday shoppers. The mall’s hours for this weekend are:

  • Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26 — 6 p.m. – Midnight
  • Black Friday, Nov. 27 — 6 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 28 — 9 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 29 — 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

On Friday, the first 100 shoppers who check in at Guest Services at the mall will receive a “Holiday Shopping Survival Kit.” The kit will include water, mints, snacks and store promotions.

Additional sales, deals and promotions will continue to be posted on the mall’s Facebook page.

by Jennifer Currier November 19, 2015 at 6:00 pm 0

Holiday decorations in RosslynThe Rosslyn Business Improvement District’s annual holiday market is scheduled to return for the third year in a row.

The Rosslyn Holiday Market Festival is a two-day festival this year, to be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10 and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 11 at Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway).

“Like Rosslyn, the holiday market has evolved over the years with a focus on creating experiences where people can spend time and have fun with their co-workers, neighbors and community,” Rosslyn BID President Mary-Claire Burick said in an e-mail.

The family-friendly event will host a full schedule of holiday themed activities, including live music, crafts, games and photos with Santa. There will also be local vendors at the festival, selling goods, food and beverages.

The festivities will end on Friday night with a bonfire in the middle of the market’s “winter wonderland.”

A complete schedule of events can be found online.

by Jennifer Currier November 12, 2015 at 3:35 pm 0

Shirlie Lights Up The Village (via Facebook:The Village at Shirlington)Update on 12/1/15: “PLEASE NOTE: Due to the forecasted inclement weather, Shirlie Lights Up the Village has been RESCHEDULED to Monday, December 7th from 6-8:30pm. We hope to see you there!”

Thanksgiving will barely be over before celebrations for the next holiday begin in Shirlington.

The annual “Shirlie Lights Up The Village” festival is planned for Tuesday, Dec. 1 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The event will feature holiday-themed performances and activities for all ages.

The tree lighting is scheduled to take place at 6:30 p.m. at The Village at Shirlington at 4280 Campbell Ave. and will be hosted by a special guest, to be announced at a later date.

Other festival events include pictures with Santa beginning at 6:45 p.m. at the UPS Store (2776 S. Arlington Mill Drive), holiday cookie decorating, face painting and live musical performances.

There will also be horse and carriage rides for guests who bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

The festival is free and open to the public.

Photo via Facebook/The Village at Shirlington

by Jennifer Currier November 10, 2015 at 5:00 pm 0

BalletNova Nutcracker (Ruth Judson)It may seem way too early, but it’s time to start making plans for the holidays, starting with BalletNova’s annual production of The Nutcracker over first weekend of December.

Tickets for the show are now on sale.

Members of the dance school will put on six full-length productions of the ballet at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theater (125 S. Old Glebe Road). The show is approximately an hour and a half long, plus one 15-minute intermission.

Tickets cost between $13 to $35, depending on the show date and location of the seats. There are also discounts available for groups, students under 18 and seniors over 65.

The studio encourages patrons to reserve seats early, as all the performances have sold out in the past. Performance dates and times are:

  • Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 5 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
  • Sunday, Dec. 6 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased online.

There is also a Nutcracker Tea and mini-performance scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 13, at the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City.

Photo via BalletNova Center for Dance/by Ruth Judson

by ARLnow.com November 10, 2015 at 11:35 am 0

Logo via Arlington CountyParking meters will not be enforced on Wednesday, as Arlington County observes the Veterans Day federal holiday.

Arlington County courts, libraries, public schools and other government offices will be closed for the holiday, and metered parking will not be enforced, the county said. Arlington Transit will operate on a holiday schedule.

Trash and recycling services, meanwhile, will operate on a normal schedule.

See the full Arlington County holiday calendar here, the Arlington Public Schools holiday pool schedule here and the ART schedule modifications here.

by ARLnow.com October 13, 2015 at 10:30 am 1,096 0

Christopher Columbus (photo via Wikipedia)Arlington Public Schools students enjoyed a long weekend thanks to Monday’s Columbus Day holiday.

Columbus Day may be a federal holiday, but it seems that with every passing year it becomes less relevant. Arlington County offices, for instance, remain open on Columbus Day. Purely anecdotal evidence — the volume of rush hour traffic on I-395 — seems to suggest that Columbus Day is the least observed federal holiday, at least in terms of workers taking the day off.

The root cause of this is Columbus and his legacy: the soldiers he led to the New World enslaved, raped, slaughtered and otherwise destroyed native populations. In recent years, the reality of Columbus’ harsh treatment of natives has increasingly outweighed his accomplishments in the collective consciousness.

Still, Columbus Day could optimistically be said to be more about the discovery of America than the man himself. And it’s the lone federal holiday in an otherwise busy month of October.

Do you think Arlington Public Schools students should continue to get the day off?

Photo via Wikipedia

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