Last weekend, we volunteered at the Capital Area Food Bank in DC. We were tasked with filling boxes that will be distributed to families in need. Our group made up more than half of the afternoon volunteer shift that filled 900 boxes!
The boxes go around on a conveyor belt and each pair of volunteers adds it’s designated food can or package. The boxes sped up as the group gets better at filling them. We never quite got to I Love Lucy speed, but there were a few intense moments. It was a great experience and several of the au pairs said that they would be interested in going back and volunteering on their own. If you are interested in helping the Capital Area Food Bank, check out their Volunteer Information Page.
If you want to visit Baltimore but are worried about driving, the MARC train is a great option. Here is some information on how you can enjoy visiting Baltimore via public transportation. Prices and info are accurate as of January 16, 2023. Please check the links to verify prices and schedules before you go.
Getting from DC to Baltimore
The MARC Train Penn Line runs from Union Station (DC) to Baltimore Penn Station. Cost for a one-way ticket ($7-9). Considering the cost of gas and parking in the city, if you drive, makes the train a pretty good deal. Fares & How to Purchase Ticket
On Saturdays, there are currently running 9 trains from about 8:55 am (1st train northbound from DC) to about 9:15 pm (last train southbound from Baltimore.) On Sundays, there are currently running 6 trains from about 10:25 am (1st train northbound from DC) to about 6:00 pm (last train southbound from Baltimore.) It is very important to be sure of the time of the final train back from Baltimore to DC.
On Weekdays, the MARC Penn Line runs from about 5:40 am (1st train northbound from DC) to about 9:35 pm (last train southbound from Baltimore.) All you need to do is to take the Metro Red Line to Union Station and get on the MARC Penn Line there.
Free Way to Get Around Baltimore
Baltimore offers a FREE Charm City Circulator service that features 4 shuttle bus lines and 1 water taxi line. The shuttle buses run about every 10-20 minutes, (depending on the line). The hours are Monday-Thursday: 7 am-8 pm, Friday: 7 am-12 midnight, Saturday: 9 am-12 midnight, Sunday: 9 am-8 pm. Visit the website here to view the maps and schedules: Charm City Circulator
To visit the Inner Harbor take the Purple Line from Baltimore Penn Station to stop #302 – S. Calvert St. & W. Pratt St.
Three of our DC/Maryland clusters did a tour inside of the Washington Monument for their May cluster meeting. This was our first Washington Monument tour since before the pandemic! We were very happy to have a great turnout and gorgeous weather.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual event that celebrates springtime in Washington, DC as well as the 1912 gift of the cherry blossom trees and the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan. This year’s festival will be MARCH 20-APRIL 17! This year the events are back in-person.
The predicted peak blooming period of the cherry blossoms for this year is MARCH 22-25.
Here are some of the highlights:
Blossom Kite Festival – Saturday, March 26, 2022 – (Christine’s cluster will be participating in the Kite Festival for our March Cluster meeting. Check Facebook and WhatsApp for details.)
Washington Monument Grounds (Smithsonian Metro)
10 am-4:30 pm
Cherry Blossom Parade – Saturday, April 9, 2022
Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Streets, NW
10 am-12 pm
The one-mile length of the Parade route is accessible from multiple Metro stations. Spectators who are standing along the free & accessible portions of the route from 9th to 15th Streets should utilize the following Metro stops:
To stand on the north side of Constitution Avenue – Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter (Green/Yellow lines), Federal Triangle (Blue/Orange/Silver lines) or Metro Center (Blue/Orange/Red/Silver lines)
To stand on the south side of Constitution Avenue – L’Enfant Plaza (Blue/Green/Orange/Silver/Yellow lines) or Smithsonian (Blue/Orange lines)
There are many more great events, visit the festival website for more information.
All of these dreams can come true over the next few weeks at one of the many area county and state fairs.
What is a Fair?
Usually held in late summer or early fall, county and state fairs often include agricultural exhibits or competitors, carnival amusement rides, and games, displays of industrial products, automobile racing, and entertainment such as musical concerts (adapted from Wikipedia).
Maryland and Virginia Fairs
Montgomery County Agricultural Fair (Images: Catherine McEaddy)
Interested in checking out an agricultural fair on urban turf? Then don’t miss the 10th Annual DC State Fair on September 8th. That’s right- DC has a state fair! It may be small in comparison to Maryland or Virginia’s state fairs, but the DC State Fair definitely has the best t-shirts. Plus as a DC resident, you can enter one of the contests!
The DC Public Library is the place to check out books and other materials for free for both yourself and your host kids. There are many branches located throughout the city. Also, there are more than 15 million free online movies, eBooks, music, and more available online for cardholders.
The DC Public Library offers loads of free classes for kids and adults including yoga, adult coloring, ESL conversation circles, kid crafts and many special seasonal activities. (They offer a lot more kid-friendly activities during the summer when kids are on vacation.) Check out the library event calendar for classes throughout the city. And don’t forget- they’re free!
ESL Conversation Circles*
Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Library’s English Conversation Circle: A drop-in group for adult speakers of other languages to improve their oral skills in English and gain more confidence in speaking is held on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10 am.
March 20th is the first official day of Spring, and the city is alive with so much to do. Take advantage of longer days and warmer temperatures to get outside and explore the city with your host kids. From cherry blossoms on the Potomac to Easter egg hunts at Hillwood or even Madame Tussauds, there truly is something for children of all ages.
Brr! In need of some ideas to keep the kids entertained this winter? Here’s a roundup of several great local blogs full of suggestions for spending the day exploring DC both before and after the holidays.
Nov 23 to Jan 1 (except Dec 24, 25 and 31) |5 – 9 PM
#DCZooLights includes live music performances, tasty winter treats and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. More than 500,000 environmentally friendly LED lights transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland complete with two dazzling laser light shows set to music.
The 96th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting at The Ellipse in President’s Park on November 28, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi)
Nov 29 to Jan 1 |10 am-10 pm weeknights/11 pm weekends
The National Christmas Tree will be lit every day starting from approximately 4:30 p.m. as part of the “America Celebrates” display at President’s Park (White House). The walkway surrounding the National Christmas Tree features 56 state and territory trees decorated with handmade ornaments that are unique to each tree. Please visit the National Park Service website for the most up-to-date information.
U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington DC, December 6, 2018. (Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo)
Dec 7 to Jan 1 |Nightfall-11 pm
This year’s 80-foot-tall #uscapitolchristmastree traveled over 3000 miles from the Willamette National Forest in Oregon to Washington, DC, aboard a 106-foot-long truck and trailer. Seventy smaller companion trees from Oregon also decorate government buildings and public spaces around Washington, DC. Oregonians contributed 10,000 handmade ornaments celebrating the state’s cultural history and people, landscapes, natural resources, and fish and wildlife. Click here to learn more.
We have host families from a wide variety of backgrounds and faiths; some of our host families celebrate Christmas, some celebrate Hanukkah, some celebrate Kwanzaa, and some celebrate more than one holiday or none at all. If you’re an au pair living with a host family who celebrates Christmas and you do not, I encourage you to take part and experience it with them. This can be a great opportunity for learning and culture sharing. I also encourage host families to ask their au pairs to share their holiday traditions and customs.
Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion.
Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)
In the United States, popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. (Source: History.com)
In the US, Americans celebrate Christmas with traditions that have been introduced from different cultures as well as some uniquely American celebrations.
The period of time in the US from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is called “the holidays.”
DecoratedChristmas treesbegin lighting up windows in homes, and shops and outdoor plazas shortly after Thanksgiving.
Christmas tree ornaments can be found in almost every store, but many families have boxes of treasured ornaments made by children out of paper and other crafts which are lovingly hung year after year.
Christmas lights decorate trees indoors as well as the front lawns and porches of houses. Many parks have special holiday light displays.
Children write letters to Santa Clausrequesting gifts. Shopping malls, parties, churches, and some schools host events where children can have their photo taken with Santa Claus and ask him for gifts in-person.
Christians remember the birth of Christ with nativity scenes displayed on church lawns, Christmas pageants performed by children in churches and some schools, and delicate, often handcrafted manger scenes set out among the Christmas decor at home.
On December 24, Christmas Eve, many families have special traditions and often attend Christmas Eve church services. Children hang Christmas stockings, leave cookies and milk for Santa Claus, and try their best to fall asleep so Santa can deliver their presents.
On December 25, Christmas Day, children wake up early to see the gifts Santa Claus left them. Families exchange gifts, which have been wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree.
Americans mail Christmas and holiday cards (often with photos of the family) throughout the holiday season. In 2010, Americans mailed 1.5 billion holiday cards.
Many Americans view the same beloved Christmas movies year after year. Some classic favorites include, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Christmas Story,” “Home Alone,” “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “Elf” and “A Miracle on 34th Street.”
The 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree (Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo)