This Saturday, December 3 Wolf Trap’s Holiday Sing-A-Long returns to the Filene Center after two years of virtual performances!

Guests are invited to take part in this free tradition that dates back to 1968.

This Washington-area holiday mainstay features “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band and local choristers from the metropolitan area performing a variety of Christmas carols, Hanukkah songs, and seasonal ballads. Audience members will be invited to sing-a-long to holiday favorites, and can expect jolly appearances from special guests.

There will also be a “Jingle-A-Long,” during the singing of “Jingle Bells,” and attendees are encouraged to bring their own bells to ring along with the merriment. The event concludes with audience exiting the Filene Center in a candlelight processional during the last verse of “Silent Night.” Attendees are asked to bring their own candles (LED preferred) for this portion of the program.

Concessions will be open with warm seasonal drinks, but guests who choose to sit on the lawn can also bring their own picnics and make this a fun, family outing! Parking is free, but limited, so attendees are encouraged to arrive early for parking and bag check. The Wolf Trap Shuttle will not run for this event.

Wolf Trap’s Holiday Sing-A-Long started in 1968, when local choirs were invited to Wolf Trap founder Catherine Filene Shouse’s farmhouse to share in holiday mirth. A few years later, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band and audiences were invited to the Filene Center and the concert took its current form.

Generations of holiday concertgoers have gathered since in celebration, and audiences have performed many of the same traditional songs throughout the event’s 50+ year history.

Prior to the start of the celebration, Wolf Trap will be participating in Toys for Tots, a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve. New, unwrapped toys will be collected at the entrance to the Filene Center. Donations are voluntary and not required.

Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long will take place on Saturday, December 3, at 4 p.m. Admission for the event is free and no tickets are necessary.

Make sure to follow Wolf Trap on Facebook, Instagram, and @Wolf_Trap on Twitter for the latest news and information!

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

Deli Italiano will open a restaurant in the Town of Herndon (courtesy Deli Italiano)

Deli Italiano is planning to open its location in the Town of Herndon in early- to mid-December.

The pizza shop — which originally was slated to open in early September — was hit by staffing shortages and ongoing renovation work. It will be located at 700 Elden Street.

“To keep our vision for what the Herndon community needed we delayed the opening,” Bianca Moskaitis, a spokesperson for the company, told FFXnow. “Between staffing shortages which is being felt across many sectors in the local workforce and making sure our renovations of the space were conducive to our business future potential, we were not able to keep our original timeline.”

A ribbon cutting ceremony and opening day offers are planned once the opening date is determined.

Meanwhile, the Reston location is still undergoing renovations. Located at 1631 Washington Plaza, that spot plans to open at Lake Anne Plaza in early 2023.

Deli Italiano serves a variety of salads, sandwiches, pizzas, subs, pastas, and calzones. The menu is available online.

The restaurant has other locations in Leesburg, Sterling, Great Falls, Arlington and Burke.

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Looking at the Tysons Corner Center Plaza past a sign for Earl’s Kitchen and Bar (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

I-66 Express Lanes Opening Celebrated — “The I-66 Express Lanes outside the Capital Beltway are open as Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and other officials celebrated Tuesday with a ribbon cutting…Youngkin said the Express Lanes can help busy families get to school, work and other extracurricular activities.” [Patch]

Inova Reports Surge in Emergency Room Patients — “Due to another spike in flu, COVID-19, RSV and other illnesses following the Thanksgiving holiday, Inova’s hospitals are experiencing unprecedented patient volumes and strain on hospital capacity, the health care system reported Tuesday…For every patient discharged another is waiting to be admitted.” [Inside NoVA]

Fairfax Connector Bus Stop in Sterling Changes — “Route 924 Stop Update! Effective immediately the Kohl’s Connector stop will no longer be operational. Beginning December 5, passengers must utilize the bus stop located near 7-Eleven. Use the crosswalk at South Cottage Road to get to the @novaloudoun campus.” [Fairfax Connector/Twitter]

Tysons Corner Center Hosts Holiday Photo Contest — “Our friends at Visit Fairfax are adding more love to the holiday season with a special #LoveTysonsHolidays Giveaway, including a 2-night weekend stay at the Hyatt Regency Tysons Corner Center, breakfast for two at Barrel and Bushel, and a free photos with Santa package at Tysons Corner Center!” [Tysons Corner Center/Facebook]

Mosaic Elementary Expansion Plan Advances — “Plans to expand and renovate Mosaic Elementary School in Oakton — and bump up its student capacity by a wee tad — received the Fairfax County Planning Commission’s unanimous recommendation Nov. 14…The School Board’s plans call for the school to be expanded by 55,365 square feet, bringing the total to 125,000 square feet, but extending the school’s design capacity by just 12 more pupils.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

McLean Cybersecurity Company Acquired — “McLean, Virginia-based Avantus Federal, one of the area’s largest government contractors, has been acquired by Lorton-based QuinetiQ U.S., the U.S. cybersecurity contracting division of London-based QinetiQ Group plc, for $590 million.” [WTOP]

Learn About Upcoming Tysons Transportation Projects Tonight — “The McLean Citizens Association is holding a public meeting virtually on Zoom with Fairfax County Department of Transportation Director, Tom Biesiadny, who will give a presentation and take questions on pending and planned transportation projects and initiatives in and affecting the greater McLean Area.” [MCA]

Mystery Author Extravaganza Coming to Reston Library — More than 20 mystery and crime writers will gather at Reston Regional Library from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 3) to discuss their new books and short stories published this year. Books will be available to get autographs and to buy. [Fairfax County Public Library]

It’s Wednesday — Rain in the morning and afternoon. High of 58 and low of 44. Sunrise at 7:09 am and sunset at 4:49 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The former private venue will be preserved as part of the overall infill residential proposal (via JR Catering/Facebook)

A nearly 9-acre property near Lake Fairfax Park in Reston could be the sight of future infill residential development.

SEM Fairfax Land Associates is seeking Fairfax County’s blessing to build eight single-family homes on the property and preserve a 1790s building on the land, according to the Nov. 22 application.

The building known as the Fairfax Hunt Club — a 3,064-square-foot private avenue venue for up to 300 guests — will remain on the site alongside the original log house, which was built in the 1790s after it was relocated on the property from a farm in Vienna. The venue, which incorporated the log house, was affiliated with JR Custom Catering.

The property also includes a small cemetery that is roughly 14,106 square feet in size.

To move forward with the change, the county would need to approve the zoning from the Residential-Estate District to a more intense use — Planned Development Housing District, according to he application.

The community would be called Fairfax Hunt Estates. The applicants hopes to preserve the log house “in perpetuity” by imposing covenants on the lot that houses it.

“The Applicant will require preservation of the Log House by imposing covenants on Lot 3, which will ensure that it is maintained and preserved in perpetuity, without burdening the Fairfax County Park Authority with additional facilities to incorporate into their fiscal and administrative portfolio of various parks, historical sites, and recreational areas,” the application said.

A 5-foot-wide sidewalk along Lake Fairfax Drive is planned to complement the existing path along the east side of the road. The applicant also plans to extend the sidewalk from its southern property line along the Fairfax County Park Authority’s western frontage to the existing striped crosswalk at the entrance of Lake Fairfax Park.

The application has not yet been accepted for review by the county.

Photo via JR Catering/Facebook

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The Fairfax County Government Center building (staff photo by David Taube)

Local officials are already preparing for “one of the most challenging” budget talks in years due to inflation, the changing real estate market, and staff retention challenges.

Right before the Thanksgiving holiday, Fairfax County staff offered supervisors and the school board an early look at projected revenues, expenditures, and points of potential discussion as the county and Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) prepare to release proposed budgets early next year.

The fiscal year 2024 budget forecast that staff presented on Nov. 22 didn’t paint a particularly rosy picture, however.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay called the forecast “a real mixed bag.” County staff said that generated revenue remained “healthy,” but others weren’t so sunny.

“This is probably going to be one of the most challenging budgets in my 11 years on the [school] board,” Braddock District School Board representative Megan McLaughlin said. “It’s going to be a tough one.”

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity concurred, saying there wasn’t “a lot of good news in here.”

As is the case across the county, the local real estate market has been slowing due to increasing interest rates and rising prices. While it increased from last year, growth is expected to flatten going forward for the rest of 2022 and into 2023.

Fairfax County staff forecast a dip in revenues available for fiscal year 2024 (via Fairfax County)

Non-residential tax revenue is in even worse shape, at least partially due to the change in work-from-home habits resulting from the pandemic. It’s expected to increase by only 0.6% compared to last year when the growth was about 2.3% compared to 2022.

While hotel, retail, and apartment revenues are all expected to increase next year, office revenue is expected to decline between 5% and 6%, raising concerns among some supervisors and school board members.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw said he has talked to companies in the county that have no intention of renewing office leases due to decreased need with more employees now teleworking.

He called it a “slow-moving crisis” that could create a “very significant hole” in terms of missing revenue.

“[This] is very troubling,” Walkinshaw said. “It’s a structural challenge now in our economy…I’m not confident we have our arms around what that challenge is going to look like over the next 5 to 10 years.”

New construction and transient occupancy (or lodging) tax revenue are also expected to grow, but at much lower rates than prior to the pandemic.

Real estate taxes are the largest source of revenue for the county, providing more than two-thirds of generated money. Last year, home values soared, while commercial tax revenue dropped, resulting in a 3-cent decrease in the real estate tax rate.

All told, revenue is predicted to rise by about $266 million, a 3.8% increase from last year, per the presented forecast.

However, revenue isn’t keeping pace with expenditures, due mostly to anticipated staff salary increases.

Between recruitment and retention challenges and inflation, an additional $159 million will be needed for salaries and benefits compared to the current budget — plus another $113.5 million for school staff. Adding in other costs, the county and FCPS are looking at a combined shortfall of about $125 million for fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1, 2023, staff said.

Since this is a baseline forecast, a number of county and school priorities were not taken into account, including infrastructure upgrades, increased investments in affordable housing, and an expansion of early childhood education programs.

As county staff and McKay both reiterated, the forecast is only an estimation subject to change.

“As the economic outlook is uncertain, staff is approaching FY 2024 revenue forecasting very conservatively,” the presentation said.

Adoption of the fiscal year 2024 budget remains six months away. Advertised budget plans for the county and schools will be released in February with final votes coming in May 2023.

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PayMore plans to open a location in Reston within two to three weeks (via PayMore)

An electronics trading store is slated to open in Reston’s Home Depot by the end of the year, according to a company representative.

PayMore plans to open at a 2,160-square-foot store at 1675 Reston Parkway in Suite J within the next two to three weeks, the company representative told FFXnow in a statement.

The business started in 2011 in New York to serve a small community on the southeastern portion of Long Island, Nassau County.

The concept aims to repurpose items instead of recirculating them back into the marketplace.

Since then, the company now has four operating locations in New York and North Carolina — along with several franchises underway in 31 states.

PayMore offers options to buy, sell, trade and recycle. All devices sold to a PayMore store are professionally data wiped, according to the company. PayMore also buys broken electronics.

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Morning Notes

Wolftrap Creek in fall (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Route 7 Lane Shift in Reston Starts Today — “On or about Tuesday, Nov. 29, the right-turn lane from eastbound Route 7 to Baron Cameron Avenue will shift to the north (toward the median). Between Nov. 29 and Thursday, Dec. 1, crews will construct a temporary entrance from eastbound Route 7 to the Sunoco-Baron Cameron Service Center and Three Cees Car Wash & Quick Lube.” [VDOT]

Mobile Notifications for Covid Boosters Begin — “The Virginia Department of Health is sending text and voice message reminders to residents aged 50 and above that they are eligible for COVID-19 bivalent boosters. The text/phone reminder campaign begins on Monday, November 28th in multiple counties across the Commonwealth, including the Fairfax Health District.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Wings & Burger Now Open in Huntington — “WNB Factory, an Atlanta-based franchise specializing in wings and burgers, opened its doors at Huntington Gateway Shopping Center on Sept. 19, according to manager Doug Hwang. Hwang, who’s preparing to open another franchise in Centreville in January, said the restaurant is known for its 100% certified Angus beef, which is not pre-frozen.” [On the MoVe]

Apple Allegedly Discourages Unionizing at Reston Store — “In emails sent from an employee to AppleInsider, Apple is said to have used the mandatory daily download from Saturday morning to promote the idea that unions aren’t the way forward. The meeting was required and for any employees clocked in at the time it occurred.” [AppleInsider]

Fairfax City Council Candidate Seeks to Have Recall Petition Dismissed — “John W. Farrell of McLandish Lillard, who was representing city council candidate Billy M. Bates, told Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Penney Azcarate that the petition filed by Anahita N. ‘Ana’ Renner requesting a recount of the Nov. 8 election should’ve included all candidates on the ballot.” [Patch]

County Hiring Day Care and Recreation Employees — Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services will host open hire events at the Lorton and Providence community centers tomorrow. Available positions include activity facilitators and School Age Child Care day care center teachers. [NCS]

Library Winter Reading Program Launches Soon — “Our Winter Reading Challenge is December 1-January 31, 2023. Want to learn how it will work? Have questions about Beanstack? Join us for a short presentation and a Q&A.” [Fairfax County Public Library]

Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-a-Long This Weekend — “It’s time to head over the river and through the woods to Wolf Trap National Park for the free annual Holiday Sing-A-Long on Saturday, Dec. 3. Since the Filene Center opened in 1971, ‘The President’s Own’ United States Marine Band has participated in the Holiday Sing-a-Long every year.” [WTOP]

It’s Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 52 and low of 36. Sunrise at 7:08 am and sunset at 4:49 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Students at West Potomac High School walked out in September to protest Virginia’s proposed policies on the treatment of transgender students (photo courtesy of Mara Surovell)

The Virginia Department of Education has no clear timeline for when its new policies on the treatment of transgender students will take effect, leaving Fairfax County Public Schools and other local school districts waiting to see if the state makes any changes in response to vocal opposition to the proposal.

It has now been over a month since the state closed its public comment period for the draft “model” policies, which would require schools to identify students based on their sex assigned at birth and prohibit discipline for deadnaming or misgendering a student even if they get their official school records changed.

“The model policies document has not been finalized. The department is still in the process of reviewing public comment,” VDOE communications director Charles Pyle told FFXnow.

The department received more than 71,000 comments on the policies — some supportive, some critical — while the forum was open from Sept. 26 to Oct. 26.

The policies could’ve taken effect as soon as the comment period ended, but the VDOE said last month that the implementation would be delayed by 30 days under a state code provision that requires a delay if a guidance document might contradict state law.

Opponents of the proposed policies have argued that they would violate the Virginia Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. A section on student participation in athletics also goes against the state law that directed VDOE to create the model policies, which explicitly excluded sports from consideration.

Though the additional 30-day deadline has now passed, Pyle says VDOE has no sense of when its public comments review might finish, citing the volume of comments. The department’s staff can make revisions to the draft guidelines, which must be approved by the state superintendent.

The Fairfax County School Board has indicated it won’t adopt the model policies, which contradict its existing policies supporting LGBT students. The Board of Supervisors issued a formal statement opposing them, arguing that they would defy legal precedent and harm transgender and other gender-nonconforming students.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who has championed the policies as “protecting parents’ fundamental rights to make decisions for their children,” will be in Fairfax County tomorrow to celebrate last week’s opening of the extended I-66 Express Lanes.

According to a media advisory, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay will also attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony in Fairfax Corner, but no policy discussions are expected between the Democratic chair and Republican governor.

“We are guessing the Governor is already well aware of Chairman McKay’s on-the-record staunch opposition to the proposed change in model policies and its impact on Fairfax County families,” McKay’s office said.

After the ribbon-cutting, Youngkin is scheduled to appear in Arlington for an unspecified economic development announcement.

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The arts center could be located on Block J in Reston Town Center (via Fairfax County)

A proposal for a new arts center in Reston will be the topic of discussion at a town hall tomorrow evening (Tuesday).

Developer Boston Properties plans to work with the county to provide a space for the performing arts center on Sunset Hills Road as parts of Reston Town Center’s next phase of development.

So far, draft proffers by the developer contemplate a performing arts facility of up to 60,000 square feet in Block J of the development. Block J is located next to Sunset Hills Road in the southwestern corner of the proposed development site. 

The discussion comes after Reston Community Center worked with a research team at the University of Virginia to gather input about the project.

A feasibility study conducted by the county found that the center could cost up to $81 million, accounting for inflation.

Alcorn requested a six-month extension to make a decision about the proffer. A July 31 deadline was first planned by the Board of Supervisors this year.

The meeting, slated to begin at 7 p.m., will take place online. Participants can also call 571-429-5982 and use conference ID 982 587 410.

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The office building at 11091 Sunset Hills Road in Reston (via Google Maps)

A solar and roofing company is moving its location in McLean to Reston — a $350,000 relocation that is expected to bring more than 400 jobs, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced today.

Currently based at 6862 Elm Street, SmartRoof is expected to create the additional jobs over the next five years, according to the announcement. It will be relocated to 11901 Sunset Hills Road.

“SmartRoof’s mission is to positively impact lives through roofing and solar,” SmartRoof founder and CEO Joshua Jerge said. “This starts with our employees and ripples through the local communities where we work. We were founded in Virginia and are excited for the opportunity to keep our headquarters in Fairfax County and improve the lives of Virginians for years to come!”

The company, which was founded in 2016, uses technology to make homes smart. It services Northern Virginia, Maryland, Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern Jersey, Northern Delaware, Washington, D.C., and Florida, and has helped over 7,500 customers.

A move to Maryland was a possibility, but the Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority to secure the project for Virginia, according to the governor’s office press release.

Here’s what state and local officials said about the relocation:

“SmartRoof is an innovative, Virginia-founded company that is changing the standard of service in the roofing industry, and it is exciting to see one of our homegrown businesses thrive and expand,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “With one of the nation’s largest transportation networks, a skilled workforce pipeline, and a pro-business climate, the Commonwealth is an ideal location for SmartRoof to reach its growing customer base.”

“We are proud to partner with companies like SmartRoof that support high-quality job creation in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick. “This Virginia company has built its business based on exceptional quality, customer service, and rapidly evolving product offerings, and we look forward to supporting SmartRoof’s continued growth in Fairfax County.”

“SmartRoof’s mission is to positively impact lives through roofing and solar,” said Joshua Jerge, CEO and Founder of SmartRoof. “This starts with our employees and ripples through the local communities where we work. We were founded in Virginia and are excited for the opportunity to keep our headquarters in Fairfax County and improve the lives of Virginians for years to come!”

“It’s great to see SmartRoof growing their presence in Fairfax County and adding hundreds of new jobs,” said Jeffrey C. McKay, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “Our climate change resilience will be powered by solar and other alternative forms of energy, and SmartRoof is helping to lead that effort in both residential and commercial locations. We’re proud to have their headquarters here and look forward to their continued innovation.”

“Congratulations to SmartRoof on their expansion in Fairfax County,” said Senator Janet Howell. “SmartRoof is a fantastic example of an innovative company that doesn’t just add significant value to Fairfax County’s economy, their focus on giving back to our community is very welcome and appreciated.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Construction machinery at the I-66 and Nutley Street interchange during sunset (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

In-Person Black Friday Returns — “Over at Tysons Corner in Virginia the parking lot gave you an idea of what to expect inside the mall. ‘Parking is insane,’ said Alisha McDougal. One shopper tells us it took 30 minutes to find a spot. For some, the traffic and congestion was worth it.” [FOX5]

Teen Indicted in West Falls Church Fatal Shooting — “A grand jury indicted a 17-year-old boy in connection with the fatal shooting a Fairfax County man at an ATM last year. Winston Lark IV is accused of shooting and killing 73-year-old Nelson Alexander in October 2021.” [NBC4]

Mount Vernon HS Stabbing Still Under Investigation — “Fairfax County authorities are trying to determine precisely how a student from West Potomac High School entered nearby Mount Vernon High School and allegedly stabbed another student earlier this month, authorities said.” [The Washington Post]

Tysons Corner Center Tweaks Plan to Replace Lord & Taylor Store — Property owner Macerich still intends to replace the former retail store with a mixed-use tower, but a newly submitted plan made some changes. The building’s location has been shifted, enlarging the mall plaza, and it would be slightly larger than previously proposed. Streetscaping and a staircase have also been added to improve accessibility for street-level pedestrians. [Washington Business Journal]

D.C. Students Thank Fairfax County First Responders — “Students, teachers and parents from Ben Murch Elementary School in Northwest D.C. got a chance to thank first responders in Fairfax County who showed up after the driver of their charter school bus crashed into a ditch on October 27.” [NBC4]

New Health Clinic Planned for Kingstowne — “VHC Health is planning a new primary care clinic near Springfield. The health system behind Virginia Hospital Center has applied for building permits with Fairfax County to open a 15,816-square-foot clinic at 5971 Kingstowne Village Parkway in Kingstowne” [Washington Business Journal]

Huntington Metro Development Opening Soon — “The Arden, a 126-unit affordable housing complex near Huntington Metro station, is expected to be ready for tenant move-in beginning Dec. 15…The Arden is the single largest building that Wesley has ever developed, according to Greg Lloyd, Wesley Housing’s construction manager.” [On the MoVe]

Korean Steakhouse Opens in Tysons — “Ingle Korean Steakhouse, in its new digs in Tysons Corner, is a cut above. Offering beef with a bold Korean flavor and a seafood-centric menu, the surprisingly elegant spot is a bustling restaurant sure to win loyal customers with its refined service, excellent cuts of meat, and intriguing cocktails.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Fairfax Gift Guide Released — “The Made in Fairfax directory features dozens of artisans who create a variety of products in the county like custom furniture, baked goods, jewelry, and more. This holiday season (or any time of year, really!) take ‘shop local’ to new heights by directly supporting the makers of these gift-worthy products — created right here in Fairfax County, Virginia.” [Visit Fairfax]

McLean Holiday Concert This Weekend — “The McLean Symphony will present a ‘Holiday Wonders Concert’ on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, 543 Beulah Road in Vienna. ‘This concert includes seasonal favorites, solos for voice and the Amy Beach Piano concerto No. 1,’ symphony officials said.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Monday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 54 and low of 41. Sunrise at 7:07 am and sunset at 4:49 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Live Fairfax is a bi-weekly column exploring Fairfax County. This recurring column is sponsored and written by Sharmane Medaris of McEnearney Associates. Questions? Reach Sharmane at 813-504-4479.

There are so many fun things to do over Thanksgiving Weekend.

If you find yourself looking for an experience to create memories and get ready for the holiday season, here are a few of my recommendations!

Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights is an elegant garden trail decorated with thousands of sparkling lights. The half-mile walk through the enchanting Meadowlark Botanical Gardens features nature themes and animated displays along a paved wheelchair and stroller-accessible trail. Stay warm by sipping on a hot beverage (with or without spirits) as you walk and s’mores to finish out the evening.

Welcome the beginning of the holiday season with a merry and bright tree lighting. Santa will spread holiday cheer and make his way through Mosaic on a firetruck with live entertainment and fun for the entire family.

Reston Town Center launches the season with the annual Reston Holiday Parade celebrating its 31st year! The one-of-a-kind, one-hour, half-mile parade along Market Street also welcomes the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus in a horse-drawn carriage.

This show features 40-60 local juried artists and crafters offering original, handmade arts and crafts.

Come out to Shipgarten for their Thanksgiving Barks & Brews Festival! The event will include live music, live character performances from Princess Parties DC featuring Encanto as well as various activities, crafts and games throughout the day!

Come see some of the best comics in the DMV and let laughter burn off that last piece of pumpkin pie you shouldn’t have eaten.

Explore Fairfax with Sharmane Medaris of McEnearney.

Sharmane Medaris | Live Fairfax | www.soldbysharmane.com | [email protected] | @soldbysharmane | 813-504-4479 | 374 Maple Avenue Suite 202, Vienna, VA 22180

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

November — a month containing both Veterans Day and Thanksgiving — is an ideal time to focus on feeling thankful. Concentrating on feelings of gratitude helps you feel happier and more positive in the short and long term.

“Multiple research studies have examined the benefits of a simple gratitude practice,” says Jennifer Smith, PhD, director of research at Mather Institute. The Institute is the research arm of Mather, a not-for-profit organization with three senior living communities that plans to open The Mather, a Life Plan Community for those 62 and better, in Tysons in 2024. The Institute is an award-winning resource for research and information about wellness, aging, trends in senior living and successful aging service innovations.

“Gratitude can help us feel more connected to others, increase positive emotions, and reduce negative thoughts,” says Dr. Smith. “And emphasizing the positive can create more positivity.”

The Gratitude-Happiness Link

Many studies have linked higher levels of gratitude to more happiness and satisfaction with life; in other words, it seems the more one feels gratitude, the happier and more satisfied one feels in general. One study that earned an Innovative Research on Aging Award from Mather Institute points out that older adults consistently report the highest levels of gratitude, compared to middle-age and younger adults. That link between level of gratitude and overall life satisfaction does not change with age, which means those over age 60 have a “happiness advantage” due to their high levels of gratitude.

The good news is that you can practice gratitude at any stage of life to actually improve your happiness, positivity and life satisfaction. One study showed that a regular habit such as daily journaling can enhance your long-term happiness by more than 10%.

Feelings of gratitude have also been shown to make us more resilient, boost optimism, increase self-esteem and reduce depressive symptoms. Focusing your attention on the positives rather than the negatives — which is what a gratitude practice does — can actually switch your outlook for the long term.

Physical Health Benefits

Feeling grateful also carries some physical benefits. It seems obvious that feeling optimistic and generally positive would impact one’s blood pressure, and research confirms this. A study of people with hypertension who were asked to practice gratitude at least once a week showed a “significant decrease” in their blood pressure. A similar study showed that practicing gratitude can improve quality of sleep.

Give Gratitude a Try

If you want to enjoy the benefits mentioned here, try to focus on feeling grateful at least three times a week, if not daily. Here are some examples of habits you might adopt:

  1. Gratitude journal: Whether you use a special notebook or scrap paper, take time every day or evening to list five things you feel grateful for. Ideally, you’ll save your lists so you can look back on them over time. Reviewing them will also increase your positive feelings.
  2. Thank-you notes: Write a note or email to someone who has had a positive impact on your life — whether it was a single action or a lifetime of support. Expressing your gratitude in writing gives you a chance to think more deeply about your thankfulness — and will make the recipient happy!
  3. Gratitude meditation: Take some quiet time to reflect on what you’re grateful for, then examine the feelings brought up when you identify those items, people or experiences. Focusing on what you value will bring moments of peace and joy.
  4. Share gratitude: Find a “gratitude buddy” — perhaps your spouse, child or a close friend — and take turns listing a few things you are grateful for. This adds extra depth to gratitude, as you can build off of each other’s comments.
  5. Take a gratitude walk: Take a stroll and look for positive things — from the walkability of your neighborhood to appealing sights and friendly people.

Whether you’re a natural pessimist or an optimist, try a regular gratitude practice. It will improve your outlook right away, and could result in lifelong benefits.

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in 2024 for those 62 and better, is a forward-thinking Life Plan Community that defies expectations of what senior living is supposed to be.

The preceding sponsored post was also published on FFXnow.com

The annual exhibit returns to Reston in early December (courtesy RCC)

Reston Community Center will host its 24th annual gifts and shopping exhibit in early December.

The Gifts from the HeART Exhibit and Holiday Gift Shopping Event will take place on Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at RCC Lake Anne (1609-A Washington Plaza North).

“Gifts from the HeART is an event that brings the community together, showcases great local artists, and helps Cornerstones,” RCC Arts Education Director Cheri Danaher said. “Our artists and the community eagerly participate in this unique shopping event, and their support of Cornerstones exemplifies the Reston spirit of providing support for those who need it.”

Started in 1999, the annual exhibit and sale has raised more than $19,000 for the nonprofit Cornerstones over the past 23 years, according to RCC.

Artists will display their creations on display in the Jo Ann Rose Gallery at RCC Lake Anne through Jan 9. The 3D gallery exhibit will remain on display through Feb. 18. Artist entry fees and 10% of all sales will be donated to Cornerstones.

Proceeds will go toward the organization’s Embry Rucker Community Shelter, Laurel Learning Center, and community services, including emergency food assistance and job counseling.

RCC will offer a directory of visual artists on its website the day of the exhibit. Interested shoppers can shop directly from the artists’ links.

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Curative will operate COVID-19 testing mobile labs at six sites in Fairfax County (courtesy Fairfax County Health Department)

Curative is set to shut down all of its public COVID-19 testing sites in the D.C. region, including Fairfax County, by the end of the year.

All six Covid public testing sites run by Curative in collaboration with Fairfax County are expected to cease operations sometime next month, a Fairfax County Health Department spokesperson confirmed to FFXnow.

While the county didn’t confirm a specific date, DCist reported earlier this week that all of Curative’s testing sites will be closed by Dec. 15.

Per the county health department, the reason for the closure is a lack of demand.

“The County health department has closely collaborated with Curative over the past several months,” FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell wrote FFXnow in an email. “There has been a decline in demand for testing in recent months, perhaps since home tests are widely available and convenient for people to use at home, as well as ample supplies available at pharmacies and retail locations.”

Fairfax County partnered with Curative this summer to open six new mobile testing sites at community centers, libraries, and a church in Bailey’s Crossroads, Centreville, Springfield, and Groveton.

An additional site was added in Annadale on Hummer Road, but that one closed earlier this week due to “low utilization and ongoing maintenance issues with the van used for this specific route,” Caldwell said.

Other neighboring localities had partnered with the California-based contractor dating back to early 2021. At times, there were long lines at the Arlington sites, particularly during the holiday season.

Over the last year, the county has gradually seen a number of covid testing sites close. The mass Covid testing site at the Fairfax County Government Center was closed in February, only a month after its launch.

The county’s mass vaccine clinics have also been winding down and are scheduled to close in mid-December.

There will still be Covid testing options in the county, however. The health department offers testing at five county clinics, per the website, but an appointment is required.

Additionally, Fairfax County Public Schools will offer diagnostic testing to all teachers, staff, and students from Nov. 28 to 30 from 5-8 p.m. at five locations. Registration is required, and testing is intended for those who have Covid symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has Covid.

For the moment, no additional county testing sites are scheduled to launch, but any changes will be posted on the health department website.

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