Moms of Fredericksburg Blog

Lessons for Local Moms in Mindful Grocery Shopping – Farm to Table 101

Moms of Fredericksburg asked Flavor magazine to write a guest blog periodically for the site – and we happily agreed. Flavor is a mother-owned independent food and wine magazine that covers and celebrates the sustainable farmers, ranchers, winemakers and food artisans plying their trade between the Blue Ridge and the Chesapeake, and the chefs and restaurants who support them.

www.flavormags.com

market sign

“Locavore” is a trendy term that just this week took a hard, and unfair, thump on the head by some idiots at the Washington Post. No offense to any Posties out there… but come on.

If you didn’t see the article, three enterprising young television journalists from Baltimore went to the farmers market across the street from the USDA (I guess they were trying for an added measure of irony) and tested a farmer’s pasture-raised chickens for salmonella. They found it. The Post blared a headline: “DC farmers market highlights an array of food safety issues.”

dc farmers' market

No, it didn’t. Before you run panicked from your farmers market, let me unpack it a bit for you.

Unfortunately, salmonella is endemic to our chicken supply.

Last year Consumer Reports tested 382 chickens from more than 100 stores in 22 different states. Two-thirds harbored salmonella and/or campylobacter, the leading bacterial causes of foodborne disease. Worse, 68 percent of the salmonella and 60 percent of the campylobacter organisms showed resistance to one or more antibiotics.

Chickens contract salmonella from the feces of other infected animals. Industrially produced chickens stand cheek to jowl in their own feces 24 hours a day, so salmonella is a fact of life on big industrial farms.

Pastured chickens—the kind mentioned in this article – live in open fields, pecking at grass and insects that can be contaminated with salmonella from other animals. (I like my chances there better).

The contamination of meat occurs during slaughter if the chicken is not handled extremely carefully. Indeed, industrially processed chickens – the cheap, bloated kind you see in supermarket packages – are often water chilled after slaughter, a practice almost guaranteed to spread bacteria, as contaminated and uncontaminated chickens share the same bath. To control but not eradicate bacteria, the government permits large chicken processors to dip their chickens in disinfectant. Yum!

Salmonella is serious business, but it’s common in all American chickens. That’s why the government shifts the burden to citizens to protect themselves. Cook your chicken properly and don’t allow it to cross contaminate other foods in the fridge. For safe handling, read this from Consumer Reports: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/january/food/chicken-safety/what-you-can-do/chicken-safety-what-you-can-do.htm

But The Post’s real journalistic crime was to set up a teetering straw man and then knock it down: People patronize farmers markets because the food is safer + We found salmonella = OMG!

You should buy your meat from small farmers because the animals lived healthier, happier lives. Because they were not cooped up in their own feces, and allowed to wander in fields, eating what nature intended, because their marching grounds were clean, they didn’t have to be pumped full of prophylactic antibiotics (the kind that contribute to antibiotic resistant germs) to keep from getting sick and falling over dead. If you haven’t seen the movie “Food, Inc.” please do. It will cure you of buying industrially produced chickens forever.

Because pastured chickens eat a wide variety of things, their meat is more nutritious, healthier for you, and tastier, too (this also applies to lamb, veal, cows, and goats). Because they are not eating medicated feeds like industrial chickens do, there is no danger you and your family will be exposed to arsenic (Google arsenic and chicken. You’ll see.)

And that’s just the start. Small sustainable farms are better for humans too. The people who work there are not complicit in the mistreatment of animals. Neither do they breathe in harsh chemical fertilizers or pesticides. The workers don’t have to wear face masks to interact with the animal because they are out in the fresh air. They are not part of a massive labor force that is underpaid and abused (again… see Food, Inc.).

Small farms that produce meat are also better for the environment. The animals live in a symbiotic relationship with nature. Their poop fertilizes the fields naturally. It’s broken down by air and sun and rain and absorbed and filtered into the soil. In large feedlots, the poop is piled up; there is too much for the Earth to process and consequently when it rains dangerous amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous — in addition to other nasty bits – contaminate the water. There those elements wreak havoc with marine life, causing algae blooms and dead zones. (There is a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico totally unrelated to the oil spill that is 6,000-7,000 square miles, created by fertilizer, runoff and soil erosion. The Chesapeake Bay is similarly affected – see the Washington Post story today on the Chesapeake dead zone.)

Shopping at local farmers markets is also good for the local economy.

healthy chicken

Produce and meat at grocery stores travel on average 1,500 miles to get to you. When you buy that food, your money is spent on gas for the truck, the truck itself, for the time the driver spent, and ultimately your money lines the pocket of an industrial food producer far away. Even if a small farmers sells to a traditional distributor, he takes home only about 10 percent of what you paid for that peach.

Contrast that with a farmers market: the food was picked that day or the day before, was most likely grown with minimum or no chemicals (ask your farmer), travels an average of just 60 miles, and more than 90 percent of the money goes right into the farmers pocket. It stays in your community.

You should shop at farmers markets for a host of reasons – to eat seasonally, to encourage environmentally sane practices, to support the humanity with which both animals and humans are treated, to support green open spaces, and because fresh, local food just plain tastes better. And you should feel safe eating this food because small, local farmers WANT you to visit their farms and see how well they practice their craft. Just try that at an industrial food production facility (If you need further convincing consider this: In at least five states, legislatures are considering bills to PROHIBIT whistleblowing on big farms; three of them would make clandestinely filming the abuse of animals illegal.)

So go to your farmers market. Talk to the farmer about how the food was raised. Take your kids out to visit the farm. And dig in.

Fredericksburg Grand Opening Event For Families

This week, check out the “grand opening” of Fredericksburg’s newest Tires Plus located at 4632 on Mine Road in Fredericksburg!  Tires Plus is planning 4 days worth of fun-filled, family oriented activities suitable for the entire family.  You won’t want to miss out, and neither will your children.    

tires plus store

Tires Plus Grand Opening - 4632 Mine Road, Fredericksburg

There will be cookouts on both Friday and Saturday, including popcorn and sno-cones for your little ones.  A “BIGFOOT” truck will also be on hand to satisfy the “off-roaders” in your family.  Moms, if your husband has any interest in cars and racing (mine is fixated on both), please bring him by on Thursday when one of professional racing’s greatest living legends, Mario Andretti, stops by to sign autographs.  Between Mario and the monster truck, I don’t who is going to be more excited about the grand opening – my husband or my children.  Not that it really matters because my entire family will have a great time supporting a new local business.  

Fredericksburg moms, please come out and join us as we welcome Tires Plus to our area.  Here is a timeline of events for the grand opening: 

Thursday, July 28

3:00 to 6:00 pm – Mario Andretti Autograph Session

Friday, July 29

10:00 am to 3:00 pm – Cookout 

12:00 pm to 6:00 pm  - Bigfoot Truck 

Saturday, July 30 

10:00 am to 3:00 pm – Cookout 

12:00 pm to 6:00 pm  - Bigfoot Truck  

Sunday, August 1

9:00 am to 5:00pm – Grand Opening 

 

Fredericksburg Coffee Shop Hosts Fun Family Events

For those Fredericksburg locals unfamiliar with Blackstone Coffee, it’s located in the new Eagle Village Shopping Center, which is just between Mary Washington University and it’s affiliated hospital.  Here are just a few great reasons to stop by and hang out with the entire family at  Fredericksburg’s newest favorite coffee shop.  

blackstone coffee

Several weeks ago, Blackstone Coffee began “Tuesday Morning Story Hour” to give community children some organized entertainment while we Moms (and Dads) kick back on one of the extra large and comfy arm chairs with a cup of delicious “in house” roasted coffee and/or one of the homemade desserts personally prepared by Chef Elan.  For some time now, I’ve been stopping by with my children when we’re out and about in Fredericksburg.  This past Friday, I brought the kids in for a smoothie sampling – what a treat that was for them!  I’m now beginning to think my boys enjoy this locally owned business as much as I do.  

little kids sitting on arm chairs

Kudos to Blackstone Coffee for brewing up an excellent selection of coffee products and assorted pastry products but, most importantly, for being such a child-friendly business so we parents can start the morning off right!  They aren’t just a morning spot either.   Tonight , they’re hosting local guitarist and song writer, Justin Richters, from 7 to 9pm. Check out Blackstone’s Facebook page for events.   Read More…

Fredericksburg Children’s Art Expo

Moms, wouldn’t you agree with me that even the most rough and tumble kids out there still take immense pride in creating their very own works of art? Whether it’s just crayons and a coloring book, or a more involved project utilizing paint, brushes, and canvas; we as moms understand what it means when our kid’s faces shine with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as they happliy display their latest “masterpieces.”

chid's painting

Cole (6) painted a picture for Father's Day this year.

Jennifer Heiller, a local mom and Special Events Coordinator for Fredericksburg City Parks and Recreation Facility, shares her run-down of events for this weekend with Moms of Fredericksburg:

Do you have a budding Picasso or Van Gogh at home? If so, THIS is the weekend for them! The Children’s Art Expo will be held this Saturday, July 23rd, at the Dorothy Hart Community Center. The Art Expo was designed to foster kid’s imagination, creativity, and love for the arts. This year’s expo features a multitude of fun art stations for children to explore, plus there is a new science addition.

children's art canvas

DIY room art created by Lance (5)

Since art has long been proven to help children develop and learn other subjects, we’ve added an art/science booth this year, along with a roaming MAD scientist! Our mad scientist will be combining some Dry Ice with Super Duper Bubble Solution to get one of the most intriguing objects in the universe – a “smoking” bubble! Children can also play “catch a bubble”, do the bubble bounce, taste “air” soda, and perform our “genius” test as we educate young attendees about the amazing properties of Carbon Dioxide. We guarantee all participants, both young and old, will be completely captivated.

Other art stations include:

Queen or King for a day – decorate your own crown using markers, glitter, rhinestones, sequins, and more to feel like royalty for the day!

CO2lor Creations -With a little vinegar and baking soda, you’ll observe a chemical reaction that explodes with color! When everything is done, you’ll reveal a hidden masterpiece that could be the fizz of the art biz.
Back Pack Buddies -Create your own back pack buddy using yarn and googly eyes.
Mosaic Magic – Create your own mosaic by gluing items onto a mat board. Make shapes, patterns, or your own original design.
Junque Jewelry- Using macaroni, sequins, buttons, and yarn – you’ll become a jewelry designer and be able to wear your creation home!
Art to Eat – Make a candy necklace or bracelet out of licorice, gummi savers, and more.
Funny Faces -Create your own silly faces or bugs using paper plates, pom poms, and more.
Wind Discs – Create your own wind disc using CDs, colored tape, and labels.
Sticky Shapes – Design your own shape using feathers, glitter, sequins, and colored paper.
Archi-Texture – Help paint the town red…or blue, green, even yellow!! Our cardboard town will come to life as children showcase their painting skills.
Radical Rocks - Make a bug, or a rainbow, or whatever your creative mind can think of. They’ll make great paper weights or door stoppers.
Goody Bags – Decorate your own goody bag using markers, sticker, glitter glue, and more! Take your other masterpieces home in the goody bag or use it as your lunch bag.

We will have Chick-Fil-A available to purchase for lunch. This event will be a great, inexpensive way to foster your kid’s creativity and imagination! Children can do all 14 activities for $5.00, and see the roaming scientist.
Where: Dorothy Hart Community Center @ 408 Canal St. Fredericksburg, VA 22401
When:Saturday, July 23, 2011 from 10:00AM- 2:00PM
FREE Admission- some art activities are free. Others cost between 25 cents and 1 dollar. Or, do all the activities in the entire place for $5.00

Fredericksburg Families Welcome Reptiles Alive!

One of the most wonderful things about living in the Greater Fredericksburg area is having access to activities sponsored by three different, but equally engaging, Parks and Recreation Departments very nearby! Take this morning, for example. A large number of local moms and their children packed into the Stafford Rowser Complex for a great one hour presentation given by Reptiles Alive’s Rockin Reptile Rachel. For less than $15, my three small children (ages 2 to 6) and I were able to catch some quality indoor entertainment, which included an informative lesson regarding the importance of our environment and how it affects many wetlands species.
kids petting large snake

By far though, the highlight of the presentation was getting to see, and feel, some live animals – a bull frog, sea turtle, soft shell turtle, alligator and a gigantic snake!

kids looking at turtles

Fredericksburg Water Park Day Trip for Families

As a Fredericksburg based mother of three VERY active little children, I am always on the lookout for some new and exciting local day trips for us to spend quality family time together. While the summer continues to heat up, I naturally gravitate more and more toward water-based activities.

This past Sunday, we packed up our two older boys and took them to the Massad Family Branch YMCA’s Water Park, conveniently located on the North side of Fredericksburg. We thought we’d test the waters, literally and figuratively, with them first to see if it’s appropriate for our toddler. Moms, I am very happy to report that this place was an absolute hit with our children! The physical grounds were very neat and clean, to include restrooms, and it was completely fenced in. No matter where you looked, there was always a lifeguard standing by to ensure everyone’s safety.

Steve & Cheri Thurston Water Park - Massad Family YMCA

Steve & Cheri Thurston Water Park - Massad Family YMCA, Fredericksburg

With such a wide variety of water slides available, families won’t become bored easily. Two of the slides are almost three stories high, while others are small enough to accommodate a toddler. In addition to the water slides, the facility features other amenities sure to please both child and parent alike, such as an olympic-sized pool, plus a few water obstacles and a large sprayer.

water park slides

Unfortunately, patrons cannot bring food and beverages, BUT you can either purchase these items on-site (cash only) or pack a cooler and keep it in your car for snack time. There are also plenty of beach chairs for moms and dads who want to catch some rays while the kids play.

Day passes are available for $10 to Y members and $15 to non-members. Children under 2 are free. Having had such a pleasant first experience, you can bet I’ll be returning here with my 2 year-old in the near future.

frog water slide

Follow me as I continue to find Fredericksburg family friendly activities which will then be added to the site’s activities directory. Please remember to post a comment if you’ve discovered a Fredericksburg summer HOT SPOT for families!

Fredericksburg Day Trips FOR Kids ONLY

As we near the half way mark of summer vacation, I’m beginning to hear those two FAMOUS words, “I’m bored!” more and more often.
Moms, let’s face it…, by mid July, the less structured days of summer we long so much for around the new year are beginning to drag somewhat as we search for new and exciting activities to occupy our kids. As a stay-at-home Mom, our job description has always included duties as the family event planner, however, summer times seems to elevate this added responsibility a few levels, right?

One of my biggest challenges this summer vacation is staying within our “extra curricular” budget. As our boys get older (a whopping 5 & 6!), the activities and camps get more and more expensive. As we can all attest, our children have a limitless supply of energy and, by this time of the month, I’ve just about exhausted the funds for day trips. So, one morning this past week, I called a neighborhood friend to see what her itinerary looked like for the day. I was shocked to learn she intended to take her children to a local beach for the day, a simple 45 minute drive east of Fredericksburg.

Deciding to be spontaneous for the day, I packed up the kids and pointed our SUV east for some sun and, hopefully, some surf. Now, please understand, I absolutely LOVE THE BEACH! As such, my expectations for a day trip to the beach are MUCH greater than those of my three little boys. I cannot, however, just pack up and drive 3-4 hours to a more traditional Atlantic Ocean beach town similar to what I grew up with. So, taking this short trip to Colonial Beach brought so many smiles, giggles, and excitement to my three little guys, it was well worth my concession as a beach lover. So I made the decision to place my beach expectations on the back burner so that my children could do something fun with their friends for the dayI saw this opportunity for fun through my children’s eyes and it was well worth it!

"Look at me Mom - Making my own fun!"

For those unfamiliar with Colonial Beach, it’s a small town located off a bend in the Potomac River.

colonial beach, va

baby playing at beach

Here’s a list of the great things about a trip to Colonial Beach from Fredericksburg:

1. It doesn’t use a whole lot of gas.
2. You don’t have to pay to park, play and/or swim.
3. You can pack your own lunch.
4. There aren’t any huge white seagulls swooping down to attack your cooler.
5. There’s a fantastic homemade candy shop on the way home in King George called Mary’s Cakery & Candy Kitchen!

Mary's Cakery and Candy Kitchen

On the downside,

1. There aren’t any lifeguards on duty so you’ll have to be extremely diligent about watching your little ones splash and play in this brackish body of water.
2. Because the town fell on some hard times after being a hot tourism spot over 50 years ago, it’s been trying to “revitalize” it’s image.

3. NOT too much published information on the internet regarding water quality. I did, however, find an outdated article from 2007 on the VA Department of Environmental Quality regarding Algai Bloom in the Potomac. I can report that the water at Colonial Beach was a “reddish brown” color. This is an topic I will conduct additional research on before swimming in the water at Colonial Beach again.

Fredericksburg’s Outdoor Summer Concert Event

We came, We saw….HE sang, AND he didn’t sign any autographs! Yep, Darius Rucker (a/k/a “Hootie”) graced Fredericksburg with his live performance at Celebrate Virginia Live’s outdoor concert pavilion near Central Park. It’s my understanding that this is Celebrate Virginia’s 2nd year hosting concerts here in the Fredericksburg area, where last Friday a few thousand folks gathered in an as yet undeveloped piece of commercial property to hear live country music.

Darius Rucker performing live in Fredericksburg

To my surprise, I found a blog article written two years ago to the month describing the venue as the same underdeveloped piece of land.

When I heard Darius Rucker was going to headline one of the summer’s concert series, I immediately dished out $40 for a Gold Circle seat, hoping to get the most out of his performance and my “date night.” According to some locals, the concerts at this venue typically start at 6:00 pm and end before 10:00 pm.

Held last Friday night, my husband and I purposely arrived late because we had no interest in seeing the opening act, Mickie James. As it turned out, our decision was for nothing since James bailed anyway, no doubt due to the threat of severe thunder storms moving through the Fredericksburg area that evening. NOTE TO FUTURE CONCERT ATTENDEES – concerts are not cancelled due to weather and refunds are not given. Once you purchase tickets, plan on going to the show, rain or shine. In the event a band decides to back out, or is simply unable to make the show, no refunds or promises of a make-up date will be given. Check Celebrate Virginia Live’s website for additional information.

Darius Rucker performing live

Darius Rucker really rocked the Burg! We thoroughly enjoyed the entire performance from beginning to end, however, the concert venue itself was just pathetic. A few hours prior to the start of the concert, Fredericksburg got BLASTED with major rain storms. Because the venue was physically located out in a semi-grass, semi-dirt field, patrons walked, danced and stood in varying amounts of red clay, muddy goo, and dirty water.
ANOTHER NOTE TO FUTURE CONCERT ATTENDEES – be prepared, depending upon the weather, to stand in what I just described, i.e., boots, galoshes, old sneakers…you get the point. Nice shoes, sandals are a definite no-no. You’ll also need to park on the street to prevent a trip to the car wash immediately after the concert. That is, unless you want to test out your vehicle’s “4 Wheelin Skills!” The pavilion grounds need to be completely covered with thick, full grass and/or small stones to alleviate this not-insignificant issue. I am not a landscaper so my words should be taken more as a suggestion or at least a good starting point. Having only seen photos and video, I had to wonder if this was what Woodstock concert goers experienced back in the day.

I greatly appreciate the effort being made to provide Fredericksburg residents and it’s visitors with popular live music, however, there needs to be some aggressive “fine tuning” done before I revisit this particular venue again. Lots of level grass, stone, or some other type of suitable surface would be a fantastic start to providing Fredericksburg with a true summer (all weather) outdoor concert venue, to see and hear “world-class” musicians perform their greatest hits.

Tips for Fredericksburg Moms living the real life “Toy Story.”

By Moms of Fredericksburg guest blogger, Linda Clevenger

Toys, toys….where to put them, how to store them? This is a question that puzzles so many parents. We all know the value of positive stimulation and educational tools to help our children develop their emotional, gross and fine motor skills. But where do you store them all? How do you avoid having toys clutter up your living room, family room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, etc., etc.? Would you like help from a Professional Organizer?

toy story kids laptop

I have seen, firsthand, the wrath that toys can have on a household. With three grandchildren, all under the age of 6, their dolls, matchbox cars, stuffed animals, coloring books, and crayons all have a particular place. Even now in our attic, Teddy Ruxpin, Cabbage Patch Dolls, Strawberry Shortcake toys, and My Little Pony continue to occupy a specially designated spot. My goodness, are any of these back in the stores yet!

It’s been 20 years since I had a toddler running around in my home, and that’s why I decided things were going to be different this time around. I now utilize just one basket and one wicker trunk to hold all of their toys, puzzles, dolls, coloring books, matchbox cars (yes, she loves her cars), and anything else.

The local Target has a good selection of organizing cubes, wicker baskets, etc.

toys in wicker boxes

Keeping your children’s toys organized can be a challenge. In fact, you may feel, at times, like toys have overtaken your home. I’ve worked with moms who allow toys to be in the kitchen, living room, family room, bedrooms, bathroom – just about every room in their home. Of course, bedtime toys are in the bedroom and bathtime toys are kept in the bathroom but, really…should you be kicking toys out of the way to avoid tripping over them?

messy kids toys

So what’s been our key to keeping things under control this time around? Simple – we have a rotation process…nothing can come in unless something goes out. I use this analogy all the time: “the walls of your home won’t expand to accommodate everything that comes in, unless something goes out.”

Joining Moms Of Fredericksburg’s Main Mom, we’d like to hear your best, or should we say “worst,” real life Toy Story as it unfolds behind your home’s front door. Summer is a great time to get toy clutter under control and have your household back in order prior to the start of a new school year. The winner of the contest will receive 2 hours of special “Toy Purge” time with Linda Clevenger, Professional Organizer and owner of Organization Direct. You’ll also receive a consultation and Action Plan to organize your children’s toys. With over 3 hours of professional consultation time, this prize has a value of over $200.

So, let’s hear your real life “Toy Story.” Send a picture along!

Please comment on this post for your entry to win!

Local Theater Group – Fredericksburg CYT Seriously talented!

Have you ever been so excited about a newly discovered local gem that you just HAD to share it immediately with all of your friends (or even strangers for that matter) because you couldn’t stop thinking about how fantastic it was?! Well, that’s exactly how I felt while watching a live performance of Disney’s MULAN, by Fredericksburg’s Christian Youth Theater (CYT) two weeks ago.
mulan actor with girl

Taking my children to one of CYT’s performances has been on my agenda for some time now. How sorry I am that it took so long to find an opportunity to spend less than $50 for an afternoon filled with top notch entertainment! What was really surprising to me, more so than the obvious dedication and talent of this non-profit theater group, was the level of commitment to each and every aspect of the performance itself. The stage props, costumes, music, lighting – everything was just perfect! Don’t get me wrong, I have no theater background, nor could I act if my life depended upon it. BUT, what I can do is compare these 100+ incredibly talented local kids to the cast of a Broadway show. And let me tell you, I came away feeling just as satisfied and drawn in by the quality of the performance. Simply amazing! Bravo!

I took my two older boys and one of their neighborhood friends along to see the 2 hour show. At the end of the performance, my five year old son turned toward me and said, “It’s over already?” The three were absolutely elated to meet the cast. So much so that they made plans to put on their own show as soon as we got home. These, by the way, are rough and tumble kids who, prior to settling down for the show, were swinging from my chandelier!

From July 28th through July 31st, CYT will be presenting their next live performance, “THE SOUND OF MUSIC,” at the Spotsylvania High School. Thursday and Friday (07/28-29) each offer a nightly show beginning at 7pm. Saturday and Sunday (07/30-31) each offer a 2pm afternoon show as well as a nightly 7pm show. Tickets ordered online go for $13 each, while waiting to purchase at the door will set you back another two for a total of $15 each. I hope you enjoy this performance as much as I enjoyed the last. CYT is a theater ensemble not to be missed!