Year: 2022

Pets of the Month, Pets, Places, & Things

Pets of the Month – December 2022

By Gina Hardter Nyla What does Nyla want for the holidays?  Well, besides a brand new family to call her own, she’d also like toys – lots of toys.  Stuffed toys, squeaky toys, balls, exercise toys – she’s a fan of the whole lot.  And she’s happy to teach you how to play with her toys as well, like how to throw the ball, then get it, then throw it again.  But most of all, Nyla would just like a dedicated human lap (or two or three or four) to call her own.  Could it be yours?  Learn more about Nyla by emailing or calling 703.746.4774 (opt. 2). Meowy Cyrus Meowy Cyrus has her eyes on the prize: Superstardom in her brand new home!  Meowy is a talented feline soloist who thinks she can go all the way to the Big Show with the help of her new family.  Oft-requested hits include “If I Just Had Breakfast, When Is Lunch?” and “Couch Cuddles 4 Life!”  Meowy has made human fans – or friends – young and old, and can’t wait to make her most dedicated fan club out of her new family.  If you’d like a ticket to the Meowy Cyrus experience, email her bookers at or call 703.746.4774, opt. 2 (no service charges apply). Alaska and Moana Best buds Alaska and Moana aren’t shy about expanding their crew!  When you roll with this twosome, expect to live the life: all the leafy greens you can chew, a plastic castle for chilling and of course, guinea pig “wheeeeeees” all the way home.  These lovely ladies are cheerful and social, made especially confident by their time together, and they would make the perfect addition to any family this holiday season.  Schedule time to meet them at or 703.746.4774 (opt. 2).

On the Road, Pets, Places, & Things

On the Road – December 2022

The OTC Headed Out to the Water!   Avid readers of the OTC, Lee and Jennifer (Moore) Meadows took the issue with them on their annual two week trek to the Outer Banks.  They took several pics but this was our favorite. Here is Lee in Duck, NC overlooking the Currituck Sound. Curtis and Teresa Dyer traveled with their copy of the OTC on their 19 day Chesapeake Bay trip. The photo was taken in August at Haven Harbour Marina in Rock Hall, Maryland. Teresa and Curtis are very familiar with our Maryland waters since they spent many years living in Flag Harbor. We are happy that they have chosen Alexandria as their home now. If you have submitted a photo and it hasn’t been published yet, rest assured that it will appear in a future issue. We have been inundated with submissions and appreciate each and every one that we receive. If you would like to see your photo in this space, email a high resolution image (along with a brief description of your locale and any other special information you would like included in the caption) to

From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, National Harbor

Freeze the Day – ICE! Is Back!

By Lani Gering I am so happy that ICE! is back at the Gaylord after a two year hiatus and runs through New Year’s Eve. One of my favorite things to do is to sip on a holiday beverage or two at the Belvedere Lobby Bar and take in the tree lighting and laser light show before donning the blue parkas and trekking through the fantastic ice maze.  We missed this year’s media preview event so I haven’t taken my ride down the ice slide or ice tubed yet either so….that is on the calendar in the next couple of weeks. I don’t usually like to use press release information but since I couldn’t attend the preview, their PR people provided me with all of the info I needed so I am passing it on: Using more than 2 million pounds – or 1,000 tons – of ice, the amusing holiday classic, ‘A Christmas Story™’ will be brought to life in ice sculpture form by a team of 40 world-class ice artisans from Harbin, China. This is the first time A Christmas Story has been featured at ICE! during the resort’s holiday celebration. This year, guests will experience over 10 scenes from the hilarious family tale in magnificent hand-carved sculptures made of ice. Featured scenes include the old man’s major award, Aunt Clara’s pink nightmare and the ultimate triple dog dare at the school’s flagpole and more! Starting with more than 6,000 massive ice blocks, the carvers work approximately six weeks – more than 12,000 man-hours – to create the nearly 17,000 square foot frozen attraction. The artisans, using skills passed down from generation to generation, follow a 300-page design book to create the ice spectacle. The specially designed ICE! tent will be kept at a frosty 9 degrees Fahrenheit…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Single Space

A Season of Giving, Healing, and Leaning In

Matt: This is a sobering column so let’s put an uplifting image(s) with it. By Lori Welch Brown I’m feeling a bit conflicted as we approach the holiday season.  Part of me is poised to go dashing through the snow, caroling and merrymaking, holding hands and spreading the Christmas spirit while the other part of me wants to lock my doors, bolt my windows and hunker down for eternity or at least until I run out of champagne and chocolate. I’ve just read about the shooting at the University of Virginia where three young athletes—Devin Chandler, D’Sean Perry, and Lavel Davis, Jr.—were shot down in the prime of their lives.  I am heart broken.  How can this be?  How is it that someone would want to destroy the lives of these young men—not to mention their families and friends—and also traumatize everyone who has a child in college or pretty much all of us with access to a news outlet? Is it drugs? Mental illness? Childhood trauma? Bullying? Access to firearms?  D) All of the above? At this point, does it matter?  What matters is that Devin, D’Sean, and Lavel are gone from this earth, and those poor families will never be the same. I didn’t know any of these young men, and I do not have a child in college, and yet I feel immobilized.  What is there to celebrate? What about my friend who has a son at nearby JMU?  Is he safe?  Are any of us? How are we supposed to hang our mistletoe and stockings, hover over fragrance counters trying to select the perfect gift, and drag out our ugly sweaters in the midst of grief, turmoil, and utter chaos? Of course like most, I’m sending prayers and healing thoughts which in this moment, seems about…

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Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

Fishing for Holiday Gifts

By Steve Chaconas Shopping for anglers is frustrating. For people on the receiving end, there’s a guaranteed stint in return lines! Choose gifts for on and off the water! Quality, comfort, and durability in a variety of enhanced materials make for long lasting gifts. In 1897 people were tough and clothes were tougher. Filson became legendary to outdoor enthusiasts. Filson’s Lightweight Alaskan Guide Shirt, a multi-seasonal heavyweight, is comfortable with plenty of room for outdoors activities. Midweight 5-oz. cotton twill allows comfortable airflow during activities. Prewashed for shrinkage control, Filson’s Alaskan Guide Shirt feels broken in. Gusseted chest button-close flap pockets are secure. Perfectly placed pleats provide comfort and function. Give the boot to someone. Comfort and quality are sewn into Tecovas timeless Western footwear, clothing, and leather goods. Better quality and half the price of similar top-quality boots, Tecovas cuts retailer markups with direct-to-consumer pricing. Artisan teams in León, Mexico take over 200 steps by hand making a single boot, sitting on stacked leather heels with rubber end caps. Gift the right pair of boots to suit his or her style or color. They’ll look taller, feel taller and find comfort in their new favorite ultra-soft, hand-burnished calfskin, bovine, or goat leather boots. Fish are wet, you shouldn’t be. For 45 years, Gill has been perfecting outdoors gear for on and off the water. Features and function abound in 2 layers with Gill’s Aspect waterproof and breathable lightweight jacket. A soft touch mesh lining wicks moisture away. A unique hood adjusts securely for boat rides. A fastener pulls the hood away for better views. Gill’s 2-way Vortex Hood Technology streams airflow to keep the hood in place with ventilation. Covered zippers, double cuffs and a shock cord hem seal the deal.  Three outside pockets stay dry.  No…

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Beauty & Health, From the Trainer

Holiday Stress….What?

By Ryan Unverzagt December is a great time to exercise because exercise is a great way to relieve some holiday stress. This month’s exercise is the Cable Row. This is a machine resistance exercise which targets the back and spinal muscles, mainly the rhomboids, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, rear deltoids, and biceps. Many variations of the cable row exist because of the numerous cable handle attachments that you can use. In this example, I chose to use a narrow-grip handle. Before you begin, select an appropriate weight in which you can pull through a full range of motion without the need to lean backwards. Most cable row machines will have a flat bench to sit on with an angled foot-plate to position the legs and feet. Others might have an adjustable seat and chest-pad to lean against without a foot-plate. The start position for this exercise is shown in Figure 1.     What I do first is grab the handle with both hands and then place one foot on the plate to help scoot back on the seat. The handle will be too far forward to reach if you sit down in position and then try to grab it. Once you secure the handle and pull it away from the machine, both feet should be placed on the foot-plate, knees slightly bent, arms extended straight in front of you, and seated in a good, tall posture without leaning backwards. Now you’re ready to begin. Pull the handle toward your abdomen using your upper back muscles (not just your arms) until the shoulder blades come together and your elbows are slightly behind the torso. Stay in the upright position (Figure 2) throughout the row. You can pause for a moment before controlling the weight stack back to the start position by…

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Beauty & Health, Fitness

Start Early and Walk Away Winter Weight

By Nicole Flanagan Every January hundreds of people head out to join a gym or activity group to make a New Year’s resolution. One of the top resolutions on just about everyone’s list is some type of fitness goal, losing weight, training to run a 5k or starting a weight training program to tone up. Make this upcoming new year more successful by starting your fitness program BEFORE the new year gets here. Experts say it takes 30 days to create a habit. If you start your workout plan in December, by the time the new year rolls around you will be ahead of everyone else! One of the simplest forms of exercise that just about everyone can participate in is walking. There is no equipment needed except for a good pair of walking sneakers. With the weather that we have been having here there is no reason not to grab a buddy and get outside for a walk. If going outside is not an option then a walking workout on a treadmill is great as well. Here are a few ways to boost your walking routine into a fat burning session. Walk at a Steady Pace: Aim for a speed at which you’re hustling but still able to carry on a conversation. Your rate of perceived exertion, or RPE should be about a 6. RPE is measured on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being sitting still and 10 being an all out sprint. If you are on a treadmill this speed will be between a 13 and 17 minute mile. The goal is to maintain this speed for 45minutes. Calories burned at this pace can be between 150 and 300, depending on your pace and fitness level. Walking Hills: walking up hills or climbing stairs will burn…

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Beauty & Health, First Blush

Five Holiday Skin Sins

By Lauren Bowling Forget Hallmark movies or Christmas trees in Home Depot. I know the holiday season has started when my skin starts freaking out on Black Friday. If you’re like me and experience multiple nasty breakouts every yuletide season, you’re not alone. And while you may wonder, “Is it just the types of foods I’m eating and all the holiday booze that’s driving my skin crazy?” the answer is yes. And also no. This month long period known as “the holidays” are the perfect storm for bad skin ― not only because of food and alcohol, but also because of holiday travel, unavoidable winter weather, irregular schedules and expected holiday stress. And while these things definitely happen all at once during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the tips for mitigating holiday skin woes work for any period during the winter months when chaos wreaks havoc on your normal diet and routine. Holiday Skin Sin #1: Skipping Sleep Maybe you don’t associate the holidays with a lack of sleep, but there are many sneaky factors that can make December the most sleepless time of the year. To start, alcohol majorly impacts sleep, and holiday stress ― from financial obligations to juggling work and a packed social calendar ― can keep us up longer. But if you want to keep your skin in peak condition during the holidays, getting good sleep is key. “Lack of sleep not only makes us feel bad, but makes our skin look tired, too,” said Sandra Lee, a board-certified dermatologist and doctor behind the popular TLC show Dr. Pimple Popper. “Bags under the eyes are more obvious, skin looks more sallow, we are probably smiling less, and this translates to negativity,” she told HuffPost. Holiday Skin Sin #2: Indulging In the Wrong Holiday Foods “Most people believe greasy foods lead…

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Let's Get Crafty, Wining & Dining

Three Cheers for Holiday Beers!

By Timothy Long It was 1995, a few days before Christmas. I was arriving at Pittsburgh International Airport, visiting my family for Christmas. As usual, my father was there to pick me up. Mom was home making Christmas cookies. A yearly job that none of us would ever dream of interrupting. In my unbiased opinion as her son, the woman truly made the best Christmas cookies in the world. When Dad picked me up, he always liked to stop for a drink on our way home.  It had become a tradition. A little father and son time before arriving home and being swarmed by the family. I, of course, was always game. On this occasion, I did ask that, before we stopped for our yearly Christmas drink, we visit a local wine and beer store that was nearby. Dad replied that he and my brother had already picked up beer and wine for Christmas. The thought of this nestled into my gut like a lump of coal. My father did not drink beer, so he was no connoisseur. And I know what beer my brother would have purchased, Budweiser, the King of Beers. This had to be handled gently. I needed to dethrone the King of Beers with tact and poise. “Dad, I want to buy good beer.” OK, not very tactful. “What’s wrong with the beer we bought?” A typical Irish American steelworker father response. “Nothing. I just thought adding something different might be nice.” There’s the tact. “Son, I’m not sure we need any fancy beers.” The problem with the conversation so far, we had not even discussed the wine yet. I could picture a bottle of Riunite Lambrusco sitting on the downstairs bar. “Dad, it’ll just take a minute to stop.” After a while, he agreed. I…

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Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

Who Gets To Judge?

By Doug Fabbioli Any form of competition needs to have people involved as officials, experts, or judges to make sure the process is fair. Wine competitions are no different. But how do people get to be chosen as a wine judge and is there a process that leads to becoming one? In order to be able to judge a subject, one needs to be an expert in that subject. There also needs to be the desire: the willingness to do what is needed to become educated and prepared. For wine education one way to enhance your knowledge is the WSET program (Wine & Spirit Education Trust). The courses start out relatively light and simple at Level 1, and then a person can continue through the program with more challenging wines, subject matter, and tests in order to train the palate as well as the brain. Time in the industry helps a lot as well. Making wine, selling wine, buying wine, even just being intentional about tasting wine with others are all good for gaining the knowledge. The idea is to understand the grape growing and winemaking process in such a way that one can taste a wine, identify characters in the wine, and judge whether that character is good or bad based on the typical characteristics of that wine and style. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? A friend of mine as well as of the Virginia Wine industry is Kathy Wiedemann. She says “My journey to being a wine judge has been long, encompassing a decade of wine studies, tasting thousands of wines, and having a deep passion for wine. I consider myself an unofficial wine ambassador for Virginia wine as it is where I truly found that passion. Having worked for seven years just about every weekend in VA wine,…

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