Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Donor's Choose Gift Cards... - Teachers ask. You choose. Students learn.

The three gift certificates from Donors Choose that I gave away on Tuesday were able to fund three exciting classroom projects.  I was shocked that they were gone in 30 minutes so this time I want to give a chance to people who don't happen to be sitting at their computer at the right moment.  I have two $25 gift certificates (thanks to the Donor's Choose Board of Directors) that you can use to help fund important projects in classrooms across America. If you are interested, from now until Saturday at noon (eastern time) please leave one comment to this post with your email and a link to a project at Donor's Choose that you would like to help fund.  Please make sure to leave your e-mail so that I can send you the giftcard. I will randomly select two entries to each receive a $25 gift card! I hope that you are enjoying the giveaways as much as I am :)

For more information about the awesome non-profit Donor's Choose and how even $5 can make a difference, please see my earlier blog post.

And for examples of the types of projects you can help fund, please see below for the three that were partially funded with the first three gift certificates (and could use some more help). I've included a very short synopsis but I encourage you to visit their pages for more information.

The first project: (I think these look so cool and I would have loved using them in school!)
"I'm requesting a classroom set of Boogie Board paperless LCD writing tablets. I've been doing reading on these boards and have found that they would be perfect in my classroom. They are small enough to not take up a lot of storage space. They don't use up the battery except when you erase what you have on your screen. But, probably the best part is that they will keep my students engaged as they respond to questions and use them to write their spelling words and math problems."

The second project:
"I teach the most wonderful group of special needs Pre-K and Kindergarten students. My goal is to create a "World Class" Early Learning Environment that encourages reading through a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Curriculum. I want to marry the latest book by Dick Vitale which teaches children their basic ABCs and 123s with the Think Bugs Alphabet Curriculum. Think Bugs encourages children to learn their alphabet by building each letter with specialized building blocks and curriculum cards...There are no A is for Apple cliches here. A is for Awesome-of course, and B is for Baby. C is for Cheer, and D is for Dunk. Every page also has a collection of other words that start with that letter. Along the bottom are colorful basketballs to count out the page number...Wacky little illustrations of Vitale dancing, broadcasting, getting an X-ray add humor and humanity...Paired with Think Bugs ABC Curriculum my students will be able to practice their letters over and over with custom-designed big bricks that make it easy for small children to build their letters in a hands on way...a win-win situation!"

The third project has now been fully funded after the gift card helped the teacher get closer to the amount needed.   The students will soon be receiving copies of "Keesha's House" so they can start reading! The same teacher still has another project that needs to be funded, dry erase markers for the students.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fascinating book on the Chilean Miners

This post is the first in hopefully a series of “what I just finished reading”.

33 Men: Inside the Miraculous Survival and Dramatic Rescue of the Chilean Miners
by Jonathan Franklin

I literally couldn’t put this book down. The author had been living in Chile for a while at the time of the mine collapse and was the only reporter to get a special pass that allowed him access to the secured area.  He was able to talk with the miners while they were still underground, he listened in on conversations with psychologists and rescuers, and he was the one who actually procured the Oakley sunglasses the miners wore when they were brought out of the mine.  After the miners were rescued, the author spoke with many of them in the hospital and once they were home with their families.  

This book does not just recount everything already covered by media reports. Instead, you read about what was happening above and underground. Including interesting questions, such as:

- What else besides food and notes were sent down to the men?
- Why was the video feed that seemed live from inside the mine during the rescue was sometimes actually showing an earlier feed?
- What kind of demands the miners had? etc. etc.

This book is well written.  It effectively describes how tedious life must have been in the mine while still being an easy read. I do wish that there was more information about the men’s acclimation with their families and society (especially the miners who were juggling a mistress and a wife and how they dealt with the sudden media attention) but that would have postponed the publishing. If you remember watching the rescue live on TV while each man emerged after so many days trapped underground and were curious about what really happened in the mine, then I recommend that you pick up a copy (or as I did, get it instantly sent to your kindle).  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Donor's Choose

I have three $25 gift certificates to Donor's Choose to give away to the first three people who comment on this post with your e-mail address!  Wow - the gift cards were gone in less than 30 minutes! Sorry if you missed it and I hope to do another giveaway soon! In the meantime, please check out Donor's Choose - it is such a great non-profit and is a way for your small donations to have a really large impact. - Teachers ask. You choose. Students learn.

What is Donor's Choose? 
Donor's Choose is an awesome online charity.  Teachers from all over the U.S. post online a need for their classroom.  You can sort for various criteria (such as high poverty schools in D.C.) and donate online any amount.

Everyone's small donations come together to help fund what the teacher requested and Donor's Choose will buy it and deliver it to the school.  You will receive a thank you note and pictures from the teacher, and additionally if you give more than $100 you will receive handwritten thank you notes from the students!

Please check out  There are thousands and thousands of projects posted by teachers across American and right now there are 155 projects in Washington D.C. I highlighted just a few below and pulled out a short synopsis to give you an idea of the different types of projects that you could help fund, but I definitely recommend spending some time on the site for much more information.  

Enjoy helping a child's education!

- Digging, Planting, and Growing - "We are 3, 4 and 5 year olds preparing for kindergarten in the Nation's Capitol. Neighbors to the First Lady and going hard for the "Let's Move" campaign, we need to learn that we can plant our own vegetables and get digging!"

- Applying Geometric Concepts through Art - "I serve a student population that consistently performs poorly on standardized math tests. In order to excel in higher level math classes, my students need to be able to visualize mathematical information in graphical terms. The rulers and compasses that we found in the storage room were in very poor condition and did not produce very professional results. We need six different art supplies, including paper, compasses, pencils, erasers, and rulers for our geometry exploration. I would like to maintain the level of excitement the students have for geometric art by motivating them with the necessary tools."

- Preserving Oral History in Anacostia - "My students cannot even fathom the history that is found right in their own community. I teach 10th grade D.C. History in a public charter high school in Washington, D.C. Every one of my students is African American, and 95% of my students live in Wards 7 and 8. My school is so close to the home of the great Frederick Douglass, and most of my students' parents and grandparents remember in great detail the civil rights riots that destroyed many parts of the city. Many even listened to Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. This history needs to be preserved. Unfortunately, my school does not have the resources to buy camcorders to record these interviews. My classes last year created an oral history project about some aspect of their city or family's history they wanted to preserve. They were incredibly invested in this project. My students enjoyed learning about the history in their community so much that many wanted to continue the research. I did, however, discover that it could be much more valuable to my students if I could loan a camcorder to every one of them while they conducted their interviews."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Followup on Colonial Williamsburg and Discounts

After getting back from our mini getaway I received an email survey from Colonial Williamsburg.  I think more companies should do this as it takes them practically no time and a very little cost to get great feedback.  I let them know that we had a wonderful visit and everything went well except that we were disappointed that all the taverns were closed except for one and that King's Arms Tavern was nearly impossible to get into to eat.  The next day I received an email from the General Manager at the Williamsburg Lodge thanking me for sharing my experiences.  She was sorry that I was not "able to enjoy our taverns during your visit as you had anticipated. I shared your comments and suggestions with our food and beverage director of historic operations. Thank you again for your time and valuable feedback which will help us to improve our guest's experience."  

Major kudos to Colonial Williamsburg for not only surveying their guests but also reading the results and quickly responding to any guest issues.  

Two promotional discounts to note:

For service members and their families: buy an annual pass for the price of a 1 day ticket (more information here). This is in addition to the typical discounts they offer to Seniors, military personnel, teachers, and local residents (click here for more information)

Also Colonial Williamsburg sent me a special offer to pass along to my "friends and family".  If you read my blog, thank you, and I consider you a friend :)  There is a code that is good through 2011 if you book one night at the Williamsburg Lodge your second night is free!!  This is a great deal with very few restrictions.  If you are interested, please leave a comment with your email address and I will pass along the info to you or you can email me directly at  

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 3 of Colonial Williamsburg

Click here for Day 1
Click here for Day 2
Click here for special discounts

Checkout day (note to self: should also not book getaways when we check out the morning of Daylight Saving Time)

Anyway, we decided to take in a few more things and grab lunch before heading back to D.C.

First stop was the Magazine and Guardhouse, where all the weapons were stored. Many of the weapons they have on display are originals. The guy in the magazine did a great job of giving a brief spiel and then let folks ask questions.

We also went to see the Joiner and Cabinetmaker – like the Blacksmith (but not quite as exciting) both were demonstrating their skills.

Lastly, we visited the Public Gaol.  There is a very small house for the gentleman in charge of the jail and cells outside for the prisoners.  Summer would have been miserable (and smelly) but kids seemed to really enjoy playing around in the cells.

We finally were able to get into Kings Arms Tavern for an early lunch – I had fried chicken which came with sweet potatoes and green beans and he had chicken pot pie.  It was quite yummy, and our waitress was great.  

It was just what we needed before the ride back.  We will definitely be returning for another weekend in Williamsburg one day, but will double check to make sure everything is open.  

Day 2 of Colonial Williamsburg

The morning started well, with a call from room service that our breakfast was on its way up (thanks to the tag I hung on the door last night when we got back to the room).  We shared a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, grits, and biscuits with gravy – plenty for the both of us (and good thing since the one breakfast was just over $20 once you add tax and delivery charges).  The boy then went back to bed (excessive basketball celebration the night before) and I went to walk around the historic area.

I bought one of the refillable mugs for $10 ($11 with tax) that can be refilled at any of the taverns (yes I realized later that it wasn’t such a good deal when all the taverns are closed).  I managed to make it somewhat worthwhile by sharing germs with the boy.

After just walking around and taking in the sights for a bit I realized that the one and only special presentation at the Courthouse for the whole weekend was that morning.  I highly recommend the 30 minute show, where they have “audience participation” in discussing very brief cases that would have been heard at that time in Virginia – for example, a man who didn’t pay his tab at the tavern or someone who missed Church without explanation.  

Inside the courthouse
Inside the courthouse

After the courthouse, I went to Bruton Parish Church (where you don’t need a Colonial Williamsburg pass to visit).  It is still used as a Church and I had attended several times when I was at W&M but it was neat to be inside again.   They have name plates on the outside of several pews showing who worshipped there including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as at the time all officeholders had to attend the Anglican Church. 

Governor's Palace
By then, the boy felt like joining the world so we wandered around and went into a few little craftsmen such as the Golden Ball and Silversmith.  We then went to Charlton’s Coffeehouse the newest reconstructed building, and the Governor’s Palace.  Our tour guide at the Governor's Palace was a little too into character and the spiels really dragged - so when we got the message that his friends had arrived we didn't mind ducking out early. 

Around 1pm his friends joined us with their two small children (6 and 3 years old).  They were just in time to watch the fife and drum corps march.  Some folks from Colonial Williamsburg were doing a good job of “recruiting for the army” and entertaining the kids while they were waiting for the parade – but the children we were with had no interest in joining the colonial army. 

Fife and Drum Corps
Fife and Drum Corps

Afterwards, the kids had to eat so we tried to get into the Kings Arms Tavern but it was booked and they weren’t even taking any more names – please Colonial Williamsburg don’t close all your taverns at once!  So we walked to the Cheese Shop, which is always a great (and crowded) option and with a little bit of effort we were able to get seats outside.  Definitely get the “house dressing” on your sandwich.  I don’t know what they put in it, but it’s so good.

By then it was time for the guys to go back to the hotel to watch basketball (do you notice a pattern yet, from now on I will check the sports schedule before planning a weekend trip).  So I spent the rest of the afternoon with the wife of the boy's friend and their kids.  They asked me for suggestions and not having kids all I really knew was that we didn’t want to do anything that involved long tours.  So first stop was the maze behind the Governor’s Palace.  There is a separate entrance for the gardens and if you go all the way to the back there is a hedge maze.  The kids had a blast running through it – we 
Blacksmith making nails
followed after them and being small is a very definite advantage.  After the burned off some energy we went to the blacksmith – where they were making nails for an upcoming restoration project.  That’s something I love about Williamsburg – rather than Disney where they just make the fa├žade of everything look nice, at Williamsburg they actually make everything the way they would have in the Colonial days. 

It’s a pretty neat process to watch and they were very good at explaining to the kids what was going on.  They really wanted to see the “Gaol” but everything was closing so they agreed to the next best option which was the kids section of the college bookstore (owned by Barnes and Noble and at the edge of the historic area). 

Dinner was an adventure since we had planned on taking the kids to Chownings Tavern and most of the restaurants within walking distance were booked.  So we went to the terrace room at the Williamsburg Inn.   For the casual dining place it was still pretty fancy and I wasn’t impressed with the food.  

Next up day three where we take in a few more colonial activities and then head home.

Click here to read day 3

Day One in Colonial Williamsburg

Old Chickahominy House, Aromas, Checking in at the Lodge, and Green Leafe
Click here for post about special discounts  

Despite the typical DC traffic on I-95, we made it to Colonial Williamsburg in 3 hours. First stop was lunch at Old Chickahominy House (1211 Jamestown Road), an easy stop between the I-64 exit and Colonial Williamsburg. 

Their menu says they "invite you to enjoy a real plantation meal in an 18th century dining room". I had Miss Melinda’s Special – a cup of Brunswick Stew, Old Virginia Ham on hot biscuits, Fruit Salad, Homemade Pie (we chose to share chocolate but they also had coconut, buttermilk, and cherry) and Ice Tea – all for $9.95.  A great deal! He had Chicken & Dumplings ($7.95) and Old Virginia Ham on Hot Biscuits ($2.95) and sweet tea ($1.75).  The fruit salad is kind of odd, it’s very small with a piece of lettuce some canned fruit and some shredded cheese – but that isn’t why you visit.  The Brunswick stew and ham biscuits are so yummy (be warned that this is the salty ham not the sugar cured stuff). We were so stuffed that it was our only meal of the day and we barely ate a snack for dinner.  

Lobby at the Williamsburg Lodge
Then we drove to Colonial Williamsburg and checked in at the Williamsburg Lodge.  I had never stayed there before, opting on previous trips to stay in the low-rent Hospitality House (they had rates of $84 the weekend we were in Williamsburg).  But we would have classy friends joining us so we had to pop for the $135/$159 Williamsburg Lodge (both hotels are within walking distance of the colonial area).

Room at the Williamsburg Lodge
We were able to park the car and walk all weekend.  The boy was still stuffed from lunch so he chose to take a nap while I walked to Aromas Coffee Shop on Prince George’s Street to meet an old professor from the College of William and Mary. 
On the way, I stopped along Duke of Gloucester Street (hereafter called DoG street) and bought the special passes for guests staying at one of the official hotels, $22 each for length of stay (in our case Friday – Sunday, so not a bad deal). 

Next was the most disappointing news of the trip – for the month that we happened to be there they had closed all of the taverns except one (Kings Arms Tavern where we tried to get into several times but finally got to eat lunch there on Sunday).   The highlight of our visit several years ago was Chownings Tavern. They had roving entertainment (magicians, musicians, etc) and colonial games to play.  We are a little competitive and there was a dice game we played until closing.

So we had to go with a disappointing back-up plan.  There are only three main college bars in town, Green Leafe, College and Paul’s.  My favorite is probably Paul's but he wanted to go to Green Leafe (which is fine).  They are all right next to each other so you can easily try them all and pick which one you prefer.  We shared a fried shrimp with French fries appetizer, which was just okay.  

We lucked out that college wasn’t in session so it was fairly calm for a Friday night.  They weren’t showing the basketball game he was interested in, so we went back to the bar at the Williamsburg Lodge to have a drink and then head to bed. 

Next up: Saturday where we do some of the colonial activities, his friends join us with their children,  and we eat at the Cheese Shop and Williamsburg Inn.

Click here to read day 2
Click here to read day 3

Sweetgreen Yogurt - a nice treat

I firmly believe that you should treat yourself every once in a while and this afternoon seemed like the perfect time for a treat. So I stopped by Sweetgreen which I have heard a lot about but never visited. 

It was clean and everyone was really friendly when I walked in the store.  I chose the small frozen yogurt for $4 which includes 3 toppings.  The kids in front of me were very confused because the toppings on the board did not match the toppings in the case, but they finally picked something among the many great toppings that were available such as: blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, chocolate chips, coconut, granola, and apple butter.  I went with strawberries, granola, and candied walnuts - which was so delicious and as I'm a creature of habit I might get it the next time I want a treat (yes there will be a next time) and maybe one of these days I will try one of their salads. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

2011 NCAA Bracket

Just filled out my bracket, including the silly preliminary games.  I know very little about basketball so it's probably no different than picking based on mascots or colors but it makes March a little more enjoyable.  I'm hoping for getting 50% or more right - how do you think I will do?

Also hoping to hear this week about President Obama filling out his bracket - I really appreciated the complex statistical analysis in 2009 on whether he favored swing states (FiveThirtyEight Analysis of Obama Bracket)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Great opportunity to clean out your closet and help DC children!

I just received this flyer from Child and Family Services in D.C.  They are trying to help the teens in foster care in D.C. have something to wear to their prom.  

I donated to their Christmas toy drive and was really impressed with how well it was run, and was really moved thinking about children living in a shelter who might not receive a gift if not for the generous donations. 

Please consider looking through your closet for this good cause and forward to others.  Thank you!

Prom logo

Project Prom & Graduation 2011
Need a reason to start spring cleaning?
Well, allow us to lend you a helping hand! How about donating your gently used formal wear to teens in foster care whom otherwise would not be able to attend Prom.

All you have to do is bring your donations to The Project Prom Boutique and we'll do the rest!
Prom Ad 
Through our Project Prom drive, teens in foster care are provided with beautiful dresses, handsome suits, shoes and accessories. 

Please note: Only items below will be accepted. 
·        formal gowns
  • tuxedos
  • formal shoes
  • formal purses
  • wraps
  • formal jewelry
  • new hosiery

April 11 - 15, 2011 from 9am - 5pm
Drop-off your donation at CFSA located on 400 6th Street, SW in the Children's Donation Center on the first floor.
Project Prom Boutique Day will be held on Saturday, May 7th from 10:00am to 1:00pm, at CFSA. Teens will have the opportunity to be pampered by personal shoppers, who will assist them in finding the perfect dress or suit and accessories to match. Make-up artist and hair dressers will be available to give beauty advice and demonstrate techniques.

Contact Beatrice Williar, Program Manager of Partners for Kids in Care at 202/727-7101 or via email
PFK Logo
Event Sponsors

About us

The Partners for Kids in Care is dedicated to improving the lives of children in foster care by providing  needed resources and positive life experiences to assist families served by the DC Child & Family Services Agency (CFSA).

Ways you can get involved!
  • DONATE  - You can donate items or make a monetary donation by check. Make the check payable to the DC Treasurer.

  • VOLUNTEER - You can assist  teens select formalwear or provide make-up and other pampering services during our Project Prom Boutique Day event.
Prom Boutique
    Project Prom Boutique Day