We get used to watching DVDs on a small screen. It seems easier, cheaper, more convenient. And the high def TVs are getting so large that you can think its not worth it to go out to a theater to see a movie and hand over the $50 it costs to take your family. But sometimes going to the movies can be a big event – like going to see the big summer action movie that looks great on that huge screen. Here is a movie going experience that can be classified as a big eventthe AFI Silver Theater in downtown Silver Spring is showing a series of holiday classics and “modern classics” on the REALLY big screen all through the month of December. You can see Its a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, and Christmas Vacation, among others. The AFI Silver Theater is a restored old-time movie theater with long carpeted aisles, chandeliers, and a big huge movie screen. What a great place to see Jimmy Stewart yell about Zhu Zhu’s petals and sing Auld Lang Syne. Each movie will be shown several times, with times and dates different for each film. Check out the link above for more information.

This is going to be something of a random post, but I was so amazed by a photograph on the National Geographic Site that I thought I would put up the link. I love and a good photo! The picture shows a cuban tree frog in Florida that decided to get into the Christmas spirit in a very crazy way – you can take a look here! (You can even download the file from the National Geographic site to use as wallpaper on your computer.)

We have participated in a number of great events at the Agricultural Farm Park in Derwood. We have always had a good experience their and always try to make it out to the scheduled events if we are able. This weekend, the Ag Farm Park is hosting Christmas on the Farm – with live music and caroling, children’s activities, baked goods, and a farm house filled with period decorations. The event is FREE, and will run from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm on both Saturday and Sunday (December 12th and 13th). The Agricultural Farm Park is located at 18400 Muncaster Road in Derwood.

When I was growing up, my extended family would get together on Christmas Eve every year. I have 23 cousins, so this was VERY exciting when you are 9 years old. Combined with a visit from Santa at the party (played by a gregarious uncle with a few beers under his belt), this was a highlight of my year. In addition to the general fun bedlam that comes with 23 kids all in one place, and the crazy opening of gifts, one aunt would always organize a sing-a-long. The cousins, aunts, and uncles would all try to belt out the holiday favorites. Jingle Bells, Joy to the World, and the always popular Silent Night. The only problem with this was the fact that God did not grace anyone in my family with a good singing voice or any discernible musical gifts. So the sleep in heavenly pea..eaace.. part of the song was always a musical assault – no one could hit the high notes! It was painful! It makes me laugh just to think about it!

Since I now have my own family, I have had the opportunity to establish my own holiday traditions. There is still a sing-a-long on the list of holiday activities, but the musical quality is much, much higher and the people in attendance (with the exception of me) have no problems hitting the high notes. My family and I always try to make it to the Holiday Sing-a-Long at Wolf Trap. The music is played by the U.S. Marine Corp Band accompanied by a large choir made up of local singing groups. The audience is invited to sing-a-long to all of the holiday classics. There is a “jing-a-long” during the singing of Jingle Bells, so you can bring your bells. The event always ends with the singing of Silent Night and the lighting of candles as everyone slowly leaves the theater (bring your own candles). I always love this event – it is very highly recommended.

Details: Wolf Trap’s Holiday Sing-a-Long is this coming Sunday, December 6th and it starts at 4:00 pm. The event is FREE. Wolf Trap has requested donations of unwrapped toys for the “Toys for Tots” program that the Marines sponsor, but this is not a requirement. We always try to get there very, very early, so that we can get a seat inside the house, and not have to sit on the lawn. (You need to bring a blanket if you wind up on the lawn.) It is an outdoor event, so you should dress warmly. Be sure to bring your jingle bells and a candle. Wolf Trap is located at 1645 Trap Road in Vienna, Virginia. In the past, the snack bar has been open for the sale of hot drinks.

Christmas Ornaments

We own a high def TV and my son plays with his Nintendo DS as much as we will let him. So I would not be confused with one of the Amish. But I have been mulling over this “black Friday” phenomenon – the rush to acquire stuff. We happened to drive by a Best Buy store yesterday morning and saw people camped out with tents and sleeping bags, waiting for the stores to open at 5 am today. What in the world is going on here? What are we celebrating anyway?

In my house, we celebrate Christmas – the birth of the Savior. Its hard to remember this with the constant ads and the call to the sale. I figure I am not the only one looking for some alternative input on this day after Thanksgiving. So here are a few links to other articles that buck the trend – that encourage us to make do with less and keep some perspective.

    Antique Mommy writes about how she is trying to remind herself and her son what is important, and how she is not going to buy “Big Things” for her child this Christmas. This is a nice alternative to the Walmart and Best Buy ads on television.

    A while back the Small Notebook blog wrote an article called “Great Gifts for Kids that Don’t Involve Stuff” – the name says it all, really. And this is a nice blog overall.

    The Small Notebook blog also did a series back in the summer called “The No Spend Month Challenge.” It documents the writer’s quest to spend only $250 for herself and her family for the whole month of July.

    Simple Kids writes about “20 Activities Under $10.” The writer chronicles how she spent $10 and came up with twenty easy activities to do with her small child.

I bookmarked the older articles, because I thought they were good reads. If you have any more links on this topic, please leave the links in the comments. I could sure use more “perspective”! I’m sure I’m not the only one. Thanks everyone…

It’s the MOST wonderful time of the year…

Okay, okay I won’t go any further. I know that you will hear that song about 6000 times before the new year. That and the Bing Crosby/David Bowie version of The Little Drummer Boy. My son has even taken a liking to The Carol of the Bells as sung by the Ray Conniff Singers. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Garden of Lights in Brookside Gardens

In spite of Bing and David, Christmas is season is still one of my favorites – there are so many joy-filled special events. You can sing the Christmas Carols with the Marine Corp band and visit the Holiday train gardens. You can watch The Nutcracker performed (in more than one location) and other holiday performances. And you can see the Christmas lights in the two big holiday displays in the county.

Dragon at the Garden of Lights

This weekend, Brookside Gardens in Wheaton opens its Garden of Lights display and the City of Gaithersburg opens its Winter Lights for a “preview weekend” in Seneca Creek State Park. We love them both, and despite the cost we always visit both. Brookside’s Garden of Lights opens on Friday (November 27th) and admission is $15 per car during the week and $20 on the weekend. This is a “walk-through” event, so dress very warmly. Gaithersburg’s Winter Lights opens on Saturday (November 28th) and the cost is $12 per car during the week and $14 on the weekend. This display is drive-through only, except for the special walking night on Monday, November 30th.

Bridge at Brookside Gardens

If you are interested in French culture and the French language, a group of MCPS French teachers have organized the Festival Francophone de Montgomery County. The Festival will take place tomorrow – Saturday, November 21st at the Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville. The Festival will include French games, activities, stories and films. Student groups will give performance in French. Activities take place from 10 am to 3:00 pm and, all activities are FREE!

Montgomery County is holding its 12th annual Thanksgiving Parade a few days early – this Saturday, Novemeber 21st in downtown Silver Spring. The parade starts at 9:30 am at the corner of Sligo and Georgia Avenue. The parade will head north on Georgia to Ellsworth. The Parade will include floats and the Washington Redskins Marching Band! Parking will be free in downtown Silver Spring lots for those who want to attend the parade. If you want to see the floats being inflated you can visit the underpass on Georgia near Sligo at 7:30 am.

Can you say that title ten times fast? It’s a mouthful. Last month I mentioned the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center’s Air and Scare event, so I thought I would show you a little bit more of the museum.

Air and Space Museum

My father is an aviation junkie. He served in the Air Force in the 50s and flew two and four seat airplanes in his younger days. So we took him out to the Udvar-Hazy Center on his last visit. In fact, we dragged him over there right after stepping off the plane at Dulles! We figured that it would save us some driving! I am not sure if that was a fun thing to do or a form of tourism torture, but he seemed to enjoy it a lot!

At the Air and Space Museum

Most people have been to the Air and Space Museum’s location on the National Mall in downtown Washington – and it’s a fun trip. Because of its more distant location, less people have been to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space annex that is located adjacent to Dulles Airport. But I would argue that it is worth the drive.

Concord Jet

Mr. Udvar-Hazy is the annex’s chief benefactor – hence the long and interesting name. The idea of an annex can imply that it’s a place to hold the leftovers, but this place is really amazing. It is enormous – with several football fields’ worth of historical airplanes. There is a high speed Concord jet that flew for Air France.

Tomahawk Fighter

There is a very large section with military jets, covering most eras of military aviation history. My son likes the Tomahawk World War II era fighter the best. I think it’s the big snarling teeth painted on the aircraft that is the big attraction. (It’s a boy thing.) You can see part of the stealth fighter jet at the bottom of the photo, as well.

Satellite at Air and Space Museum

There is a section on space exploration, with satellites, astronaut’s space suits, rockets and other artifacts from the history of space exploration, along with the real – not a model! – Space Shuttle Enterprize. I learning in this section that the first real liquid fuel rocket was built by a scientist and professor in Worcester County, Massachusetts, which is the town that my father calls home.

Space Shuttle Wheels

Space Shuttle Wheels

For some strange reason, probably associated with my crazy need to try to be to be interesting when I take pictures (or maybe just the fact that I brought the wrong camera lens), I did not take any full length photographs of the retired Space Shuttle that is resident in the Museum. So here is a shot of the Space Shuttle wheels!

Rockets at the Air and Space Museum

Rockets

In addition to all of the airplanes, rockets, artifacts and displays, the Museum has several simulator rides and an IMAX movie theater. There is also a “control tower” where you can learn about air traffic control and watch the take offs and landings from Dulles Airport up close. We first took our son to this Museum when he was four, and he enjoyed it even at that young age. With Thanksgiving coming up, it is a great place to take your out of town relatives!

Details: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center is located adjacent to Dulles Airport at 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway in Chantilly, Virginia. Admission to the Museum is FREE, but you pay $15 per car to park. There are also admission fees to the flight simulator rides and IMAX movies. There is a McDonald’s restaurant in the Museum, but it costs more than a regular McDonald’s (which is pretty annoying!)

A NOTE ON LINKS

Just a heads up - because this blog is hosted for free sometimes links appear at the end of my blog posts that I didn't put there. That is one of the limitations of a free blog! Also, if you click on a category or tag that is listed directly under the blog post titles, Wordpress will send you out to its world of other bloggers who have used the same phrases. If you want to see all of the entries in a certain category that I have written related to Montgomery County and the surrounding areas, please click on the links which are directly below this note.

FIVE GREAT PLACES…

FREE ACTIVITIES FOR FAMILIES IN AND AROUND MONTGOMERY COUNTY!

Visit the International Spy Museum's free monthly community night

The National Philharmonic offers free tickets to kids for every performance.

STORIES…

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