Posts Tagged ‘Vienna’

Beyond the Supermarket

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Brassicas Farm Fresh Market & Cafe

Photo courtesy of Brassicas Farm Fresh Market & Cafe.

Before most farmers markets reopen in May, here’s where to find local produce, pantry items and provisions. —Susannah Black

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Unexpectedly Kid-Friendly Restaurants

Posted by Editorial / Friday, March 27th, 2015

Kid-Friendly restaurants in Northern Virginia

Photos by Ann Hsu Kaufman.

Where to take children for more than a grilled cheese. —Ann Hsu Kaufman

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Modern Family

When it comes to families, the new ‘normal’ is that there is no ‘normal.’

Adoption in Northern Virginia.

Bonnie Gardner & Owen. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Gardner.

By Cynthia Long

Owen Gardner, 8, was in first grade when his teacher asked him to bring in baby pictures to class. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any photos from when he was an infant. In third grade, he was given an autobiographical assignment called “The Day I Was Born.” He was supposed to list the time he was born, the people who were present at his birth and other details about the momentous occasion. The assignment made the little boy’s stomach turn somersaults. He worried he would get a bad grade on the project because he couldn’t answer any of the questions.

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Got a Foodie-in-Training? Check out these Kids Cooking classes

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Kids cooking classes in Northern Virginia

Photo courtesy of Hrecheniuk Oleksii/

Food-loving youngsters can explore their kitchen instincts at local cooking schools.

Often out of the instructor’s home, kids will learn kitchen safety while experiencing culturally diverse cuisines. —Susannah Black

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Rocknoceros Grows Up

At 10, the kids’ music trio is still making fans young and old.


Photo by Erick Gibson.

By Buzz McClain • Photography By Erick Gibson

Among the fans waiting for the musicians to take the stage is a boy with a ukulele in his hands. He looks determined not to miss the band’s imminent entrance as he bounces in place in a spot in front of where the guitar player will be.

Next to him is a girl in a frilly satin and tulle princess dress—in fact, there are several princesses in attendance, and they swirl around on the floor in front of the stage, bumping into moms and dads who are sitting on the floor and struggling not to spill juice boxes. Another girl, wearing a tiara, has a doll in a white dress that she “walks” across the front of the stage for reasons known only to her.

The clearing in front of the stage quickly becomes clogged with 3-foot-tall 3-year-olds who will use the area as a pogo-dancing mosh pit when the music starts. Their parents, the ones not sprawled on the floor picnic-style, are in chairs just behind the dance floor, behaving as if this were a “normal” concert. Normal, except for those juice boxes.

Jammin’ Java is living up to the “jammin’” part of the name, particularly in the front. The Vienna venue is filled near capacity; anticipation for the performance is high. And it’s not even 10:30 in the morning on this Friday. Fortunately for the parents, the place is also living up to the “java” part of the name, and the freshly brewed coffee hits the spot.

This is the way it is and has been for 10 years for the band known as Rocknoceros—early shows with lots of fans accompanied by lots of parents. In an hour, when it’s still not even lunchtime for those working in nearby offices, the trio of musicians with deep roots in Northern Virginia will have revved up the crowd with a fast-paced set of adventurously ambitious offerings, autographed their wrists with hand stamps and sent them home for nap time.

Not a bad day’s work.

Most of these kids have seen the band before and will be back next week, and many of the first-timers will be back again as well if an exit poll of their parental escorts is to be believed. Kids like repetition—how many times have you put “Frozen” in the DVD player this year?—and they like what they like without having the vocabulary to explain why they like it.

But a parent knows when something affects or touches their child in a meaningful way, good or bad. Four years ago and without knowing it, Rocknoceros profoundly affected a young fan, and a childhood took an unexpected turn. If that kid with the ukulele in the front row is an indication, it could happen again.

Rocknoceros might never have been born if not for the morning children’s shows at Jammin’ Java, which is a coffee cafe by day and a popular rock club by night. The three band members might still have their day jobs if David Cotton hadn’t accompanied his then 3- and 1-year-old sons to see one of the club’s daytime “Tot Rock” shows in 2005.

“It was one dude with a guitar,” Cotton says, and as he surveyed the packed and happy house that morning, lightning struck. “That was the aha moment. I saw you could do this and play your own music and make a living.”

Daniel Brindley, one of the Brindley clan that owns the Vienna club, had the idea in the mid-2000s to capitalize on the growing children’s-music trend by creating a go-to place for it, booking kids’ bands sometimes six mornings a week and giving parents, nannies and their charges something to do after breakfast and before nap time. The idea worked, and the strollers would line up on the sidewalk well before the 10:30 a.m. showtime.

Little did Brindley know that a band inspired by his music series would eventually be the most popular act of them all. After seeing one guy with a guitar playing to a packed house, Cotton, who had recently stopped teaching middle school to be the at-home dad for his young family, enlisted the help of Patrick Robert Williams, a guitar-playing classmate from Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, to compose a few kids’ songs.

They worked up some lyrics and tunes rooted in the melodic structures of their favorite band, The Beatles, and followed their instincts. After trying them out live, they discovered they could make babies dance and sing, make the moms happy and please the venue owners while enjoying themselves and making money at the same time.

Eventually they called on another childhood friend and Robinson grad, Marc Capponi—in fact, all three attended James Madison University together as well—who added his unusual rig of an electric keyboard mounted on a kick bass drum and a kick snare drum, which he plays in his stocking feet, to Cotton’s percussion and whistles and Williams’ guitars and banjo.


Rocknoceros’ morning concerts are the most popular act coming through Jammin’ Java’s doors. Photo by Erick Gibson.

Rocknoceros was born, but identities changed at birth.

• Cotton, 44, became Coach Cotton, dressed for the sports field in shorts, knee socks and an Adidas pullover.
• Williams, 43, became Williebob, outfitted in blue jean overalls, cowboy boots, a vintage straw hat and shoulder-length hair.
• Capponi, 44, became Boogie Woogie Bennie, dapper in a vest and pink-and-black striped hat.

“The nicknames grew from an organic place,” Coach Cotton says, which explains how well they fit the characters. Besides the names, they also wanted the personae to be “occupation-oriented characters,” says Williebob, who is a “hobbyist gardener” at his home in Washington, D.C. “Coach” comes naturally as well because Cotton still teaches kickboxing at a gym in Fairfax. And Boogie Woogie Bennie, with his vest and hat, is “an old-timey piano player modeled after Fats Waller,” says Capponi.

They call each other their stage names even off stage, not to conceal their real identities or protect some secret life but because it’s more fun. 

This June Coach Cotton, Williebob and Boogie Woogie Bennie will celebrate their 10-year anniversary as Rocknoceros, a landmark they will happily celebrate but seemingly never had doubts about reaching. The trio started off fast and shows no signs of slowing down; they’re performing some 220 shows a year including the weekly gig at Jammin’ Java and “tons of annual gigs and school fundraisers,” says Boogie Woogie, making it the full-time job for the three members.

T-shirts, including babydoll-style ones for the moms, and sales of four CDs of their songs, including the whimsically titled collection “The Dark Side of the Moon Bounce,” supplement the income from live performances.

Rocknoceros’ music isn’t kids’ music, although it appeals from toddlers to near-teens in the way something from “Meet the Beatles” might, with bright melodies, tight harmonies and clever turns of phrase. Boogie Woogie says the songs are for “families, not just kids,” and that’s apt. The lyrics refuse to be simplistic, though they are easy, and they tend to be about concepts that take a bit of contemplation to enjoy fully.

“(I Wish We Used) the Metric System” plays up the difficulty of converting measurements to feet, pounds and teaspoons while metric is more logical, and still we don’t use it, leading Boogie Woogie to bemoan in the song, “It’s easy with the metric system, but the other one’s the one we use.” One of their most popular songs, “PINK!,” a former No. 1 on SirusXM’s Kids Place show, celebrates everyone’s favorite hue: “You get it when you mix red and white; used judiciously it looks outta sight!”

Judiciously? Barney was never that polysyllabic.


Since the early 2000s, Rocknoceros’s tunes have turned Jammin’ Java’s mornings into a children’s rock show. Photo by Erick Gibson.

Many in the audience are the kind of die-hard fans most bands would kill for. “It’s shockingly common to hear from parents that their kids have bedtime routines where they will grab musical instruments and pretend to be Rocknoceros and do a little Rocknoceros concert at bedtime,” says Williebob. “We hear this a lot.”

It’s pointed out by the one fan toting a ukulele on the dance floor.

“That ukulele is no accident,” says Boogie Woogie. “There are several who follow us who bring their ukuleles.”

“Nicholas brought his, remember?” Coach Cotton says. “He was 5 when he first came. Then he would bring a guitar and stand in front of Williebob and play along.”

“He’s in a band now,” says Boogie Woogie. “He’s, like, 10 and playing in a band with teenagers.”

“He’s 8,” corrects Coach Cotton.

Wait. What?

In fact, Nicholas Miller was 4 when he first saw Rocknoceros.

After seeing the band the first time, the Ashburn tyke brought a ukulele the next time. After a year of Rocknoceros-ing, he began bringing a half-sized guitar to Rocknoceros gigs at Jammin’ Java and Dulles Town Center.

“We had to always get there early so he could watch them set up and get his position in front of Williebob,” says his mother, Jennifer. “He would stare at Williebob and strum along.” He also asked Williebob questions about his guitar, about why he did this and how do you do that? And Williebob, who was also music-obsessed as a child, patiently answered all the questions.

You know you’ve made a deep impression on a youngster when they turn up at an event dressed like you. Jennifer had patches put onto a pair of blue jean overalls, and with the hat and boots, Nicholas matched his idol at the shows.

Although he tried not to miss performances, life, they say, gets in the way of what we really want to do. So it was with Nicholas when kindergarten reared its head and kept him from the band’s Friday morning gigs. Still, if Jennifer rushed across town and picked him up early, they could make it to a few. First grade at Newton-Lee Elementary really complicated things, so for the last few years Nicholas has only gotten to see special events gigs.

But Nicholas’s fandom, even at age 8 and in the third grade, hasn’t diminished. Last October he began taking guitar lessons at Minton’s Academy of Music in Ashburn, and only then by special dispensation: “Other music schools said they wouldn’t take him until he was at least seven,” Jennifer says. But his teacher at Minton’s, Mr. Jeremy, had been in a band with Williebob, so he was in.

In a month he knew the basic chords on a guitar. “He continues to amaze us with how he’s able to figure out chords,” says his father, A.R. Eventually A.R. made a stage out of wood odds and ends in the basement where Nicholas plays his Squire electric guitar plugged into amplifiers.

That pretend stage has led to a real stage; on occasion, Nicholas performs in an ensemble with other young rock players from music school who happen to be about twice his age.

As for playing Rocknoceros numbers, Nicholas says, “I know some of the songs but not all of the songs. They have, like, four albums. They have so many songs.”

And what does he want to do when he grows up? You had to ask?

“I want to be in a band,” he says.

Does he want to take Williebob’s place in Rocknoceros?


“That’s great to hear,” says Williebob when informed of Nicholas’ intent. “He would make a great Williebob if he wanted the gig.”

(March 2015)

Fairfax Band His Dream of Lions Makes Dreams Come True

Posted by Editorial / Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Photo courtesy of Seth Coggeshall.

(From left to right) Guitarist Nick Jones, drummer Jack Dunigan, singer Seth Coggeshall, keyboardist Colby Witko, bassist Blair Kilner. Photo courtesy of Seth Coggeshall.

By Matthew Tracy

Fairfax may be a great place to settle down, but it’s also a hotbed for rock music. Take it from alternative rock band His Dream of Lions, whose five members came together through the local Fairfax music scene in February 2012.

“There were quite a few pop, punk, pop rock kind of bands (in the area), and it was difficult to make yourself known any other way than to just play shows,” says the band’s singer, Seth Coggeshall.

His Dream of Lions’ first show was at Vienna‘s Jammin’ Java, where they’ll return this Saturday, Feb. 28, alongside fellow Fairfax band The Project.

“My first time ever singing in front of people was at Jammin’ Java, which was huge for me,” Coggeshall says. “So we just have a lot of history with them. We have a lot of good memories there, and we played with a lot of incredible bands at Jammin’ Java.”

The band continued playing at venues like Jammin’ Java, determinedly captivating more and more locals with their energetic performances.

“It took a while for people to be like, ‘maybe these guys are different,’” says Coggeshall. “(Now) we have a lot of friends that we still have today and we will always have just from coming up in this area and doing it the way that all bands start out doing it, just playing a ton of shows.”

Photo by Tyler Mazza, courtesy of Seth Coggeshall.

Photo by Tyler Mazza, courtesy of Seth Coggeshall.

His Dream of Lions have accomplished a lot in the three years since they started playing together. They released their debut record, “Part One,” last March. Its opening track, “Novel,”  climbed to number seven on both the New Music Weekly Top 40 and Hot 100 Singles charts.

More recently the band has released their second record,”Part Two,” as well as a number of music videos.

“It’s a lot of work, but when it pays off, it really pays off,” says Coggeshall.

His Dream of Lions have tailored the story of their determination and success into their music’s message. They use their music to inspire all of their fans to follow their dreams.

“Really when it comes down to it, your life is truly your own,” says Coggeshall. “Whatever that one thing is that you’ve always wanted, there’s no better time to go for it than right now.”

Now the band is tracking a new single, with an accompanying music video coming out later this spring. After that, they plan to continue touring and spreading their hopeful message to all of their fans.

Local audiences will have a chance to see His Dream of Lions when they perform at Jammin’ Java this Saturday at 8 p.m.

Visit Jammin’ Java’s webpage for show and ticket information.

For more information on the band, visit His Dream of Lions’ Facebook page.

Let the Good Times Roll: Indoor Roller Skating in Northern Virginia

Indoor Roller Skating in Northern Virginia

Photo courtesy of cdrin/

By Micaela Williamson

It’s great exercise, nostalgic for parents and perfect for an indoor family outing. Roll your crew over to one of these fun local roller rinks. Legwarmers and neon laces are optional.


Bush Tabernacle Skating Rink
250 South Nursery Ave.

This skating rink has a full schedule of events including toddler time, $3 skate wacky Wednesdays, open skate times, birthday parties and family fun nights. In-line and quad skates are available for rent in a variety of sizes. They even rent adjustable over-the-shoe skates for little ones. Take a break from skating and enjoy other activities such as basketball, air hockey, table tennis, arcade games and more. Plus there is free Wi-Fi available for the parents, and food and drinks are served daily.


Cavalier Family Skating
1924 Jefferson Davis Highway

Cavalier Family Skating is a huge facility with roller skating rentals, lessons, birthday parties, open skate times, video games and a climbing play zone for children. On Wednesdays between 10 a.m. and noon, children under 5 can visit for Stroll & Roll, a special time for little ones to run, play, skate, or ride their favorite ride-on toy around the giant floor. Parents and caretakers get in for free, and admission is just $3 per child. Other regular events include a Saturday morning Disney skate featuring popular Disney music and family appreciation dayon Sunday afternoons when admission for a family of up to six members is just $15. Check out the website for details and the full calendar of happenings.


RollerWorks Family Skating Center
12099 Marsh Road

With decades of experience in the roller skating business, the owners of RollerWorks aim to bring guests the very best. Teens can have a blast at Friday night teen jams offered year-round, and toddlers can roll out their riding toys on the first Wednesday of the month for stroller skate. Weekends at RollerWorks are geared towards families with Saturday’s Rollin’ Fun Matinee, Saturday night open skate and Sunday afternoon Sunday Funday skate. Skate rentals are just $3 all the time. Birthday parties, fundraisers and group events are available.


Skate-N-Fun Zone
7878 Sudley Road

There are many themed events and special discounts for families at Skate-N-Fun Zone. The venue rents and sells in-line and quad skates, hosts birthday parties, scout groups and fundraisers and teaches skating lessons too. Smaller children still learning how to balance on skates can push around a special “skate-mate” wheeled cart. Besides skating, there is a laser tag arena, a large netted play zone, and a cafe.


Thomas Jefferson Center
3501 Second South St.

Every Saturday night from October to March, join the fun with a live DJ in for roller skating. The evenings start with family skating from 6:30-9 p.m. and close with teen nights from 9-10:45 p.m. Birthday parties, skate rentals and moon bounces are also available. Plus there is an on-site cafe serving food and drinks.


Vienna Community Center
120 Cherry St. SE

Family skate nights are held in the Vienna Community Center gymnasium on Friday nights from January through mid-April. Participants are required to bring their own roller skates and safety equipment, and parents must stay with their children. At just $1 per person, these family skate nights are easy on the wallet.

Courtesy of Tiffany Brown, Mamaratzy Photography

Micaela Williamson is a coauthor of local travel guide Kid Trips Northern Virginia, an extraordinary resource that provides descriptions, useful information and insider tips for hundreds of local destinations. Micaela is also an award-winning blogger who enjoys supporting area businesses and scouting out family-friendly venues with her two young sons.

Cooking Up a Great Birthday Party

Where to find a birthday cake in Northern Virginia

Photo courtesy of Richard M Lee/

By Micaela Williamson

Do you have a budding little chef? Is your child a huge fan of the Food Network? Then let your culinary kid whip up a feast and host a fun, hassle-free birthday party at one of these great Northern Virginia venues.


Amphora Bakery
294 Sunset Park Drive
Herndon, VA, 20170

Be a cake boss and help a professional pastry chef decorate a master birthday cake. Then guests can learn pastry and sugar techniques to decorate their very own 6-inch cake and/or fondant cookies. Deluxe parties can even add on homemade pizza and tea sandwiches.


Champion Chefs
4701 Plank Road
Fredericksburg, VA, 22407

The hands-on parties occur in their special kid-friendly kitchen and are recommended for ages 4-17. Festivities include a personalized menu with an appetizer, entree and dessert; customized invitations; and all party supplies. Plus, the birthday child will love receiving a special keepsake apron for future chef adventures.


Creative Kids Kitchen
(Classes take place in private home in Arlington)

From cupcakes and pizza to less traditional international fare, Creative Kids Kitchen will work with you and your child to plan a customized cooking party. There are even signature spa parties where kids make healthy granola and smoothies and create homemade spa products like lip gloss, bubble bath or bath salts.


21100 Dulles Town Circle
Sterling, VA, 20166

Children ages 4-15 can have a delicious time at one of the area’s most popular cooking schools. Events are hands-on and fully customizable based on the child’s age and interests. Cookology will provide all the ingredients, supplies and cleanup, and the kids get to have a blast cooking.


For the budding culinarian

Culinaria Cooking School
110 Pleasant St. NW 
Vienna, VA, 22180 

Children ages 9 and up who are serious about quality cuisine can hold an event in this charming cooking school in downtown Vienna. Culinaria places importance on using seasonal ingredients and teaches children both proper preparation and presentation of food.


Tiny Chefs
(Mobile parties)

A party professional will visit your home and instruct the kids how to cook a complete meal. Kids get to decorate their own unique chef hats and place mats, and they get copies of all the recipes. While guests nosh and chat, Tiny Chefs takes care of all the dirty dishes.

Courtesy of Tiffany Brown, Mamaratzy Photography

Micaela Williamson is a coauthor of local travel guide Kid Trips Northern Virginia, an extraordinary resource that provides descriptions, useful information and insider tips for hundreds of local destinations. Micaela is also an award-winning blogger who enjoys supporting area businesses and scouting out family-friendly venues with her two young sons.

Q&A with George Pagonis; Opening New Restaurant Kapnos Taverna Tomorrow

Posted by Editorial / Monday, January 26th, 2015

Kapnos Taverna's George Pagonis.

Photo courtesy of George Pagonis.

From summers in the olive fields of Greece to making toast at his dad’s restaurant in Alexandria, George Pagonis was born into a life of food.

Even though his dad tried to talk him out of the family business—his uncle owns Nostos in Vienna, his great uncle started Amphora diners and bakeries and his dad owned Four Seasons—Pagonis knew he belonged in the kitchen. 

After attending culinary school, working in New York and  staring on this season’s “Top Chef,” the 31-year-old is back in Virginia and opening Kapnos Taverna tomorrow with “Top Chef” alum Mike Isabella. A spin-off of D.C.’s Kapnos, the Arlington menu will highlight Greek seafood. —Stefanie Gans

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Warm Up this Winter with Paint-Your-Own Pottery

Posted by Editorial / Friday, January 9th, 2015

Pottery painting in Northern Virginia

Photo courtesy of Brian A Jackson/

By Micaela Williamson

Your house is already too messy from snow days and delayed openings. Bring the kids to one of these great paint-your-own pottery places in Northern Virginia to create one-of-a kind treasured gifts to last a lifetime and get the creative spirits flowing.


Art from the Heart
325 Garrisonville Road
Stafford, 22554

No appointment is needed at this creative little studio. Try your hand at the great paint-your-own pottery selection or glass fusing. There are also “Pottery to Go” kits that allow customers to paint their pieces at home and bring it back to the studio for glazing. Refer to their website to learn about special events, such as a monthly homeschool days, preschool story hours, ladies’ nights and much more.


Clay Cafe Chantilly
13894 Metrotech Drive
Chantilly, 20151

Clay Cafe Falls Church
101 North Maple Ave.
Falls Church, 22046

These award-winning pottery studios continuously offer the largest selection of pottery and glass fusion pieces in the metro area. Plus, all materials are non-toxic, lead free and safe for the environment. Besides pottery, young artists can participate in origami, bottle cap magnets, scrapbooking, beading and card making. Always check the website for special events, coupons, and promotions.


Color Me Mine Ashburn
22855 Brambleton Plaza
Ashburn, 20148

Color Me Mine Fairfax
4209 Fairfax Corner Ave.
Fairfax, 22030

So much at the Color Me Mine locations is geared towards families. There are frequent kids’ nights out and pajama paints on the calendar. All the paint used is non-toxic and safe for kids. Both studios are in great locations (Brambleton and Fairfax Corner) near lots of shops and restaurants.


Jimmy Potters
6504 Williamsburg Blvd.
Arlington, 22213

The motto at Jimmy Potters Studio is “there are no mistakes in pottery,” and they strive to create a fun, artistic space for people of all ages.  Jimmy Potters offers open studio time for clay work and paint-your-own ceramics, as well as parties, workshops, and special events. Their special handprint pieces make the perfect keepsake, and a staff member will even come to your home, upon request, to capture your little one’s handprint.


Kiln & Co.
132 Church St., NW
Vienna, 22180

Artists of all ages are invited to work with pottery, sculpture, painting and other mediums at this new whimsical studio in downtown Vienna. Special classes and workshops are offered like Mommy & Me (ages 12 & under), Cupcake Sundays, Daddy-Daughter Date Night and Come Play Footies Fridays.

Paint This
1013 King Street
Alexandria, 22314

Situated in the heart of Old Town Alexandria, Paint This is a great outing. Families can select to paint pottery products such as dinnerware, ceramic pieces, and picture frames, or have a go at mosaics or glass fusion. Please check the website or call ahead for special events and promotions.


Paint Your Own Pottery
10417 Main Street
Fairfax, 22030

With a selection of over 600 pieces, everyone is bound to find something they want to paint. All their glazes are lead free and non-toxic. Studio hours, coupons, and updates are constantly updated on the website.


Courtesy of Tiffany Brown, Mamaratzy Photography

Micaela Williamson is a co-author of local travel guide, Kid Trips Northern Virginia, an extraordinary resource that provides descriptions, useful information and insider tips for hundreds of local destinations. Micaela is also an award winning blogger who enjoys supporting area businesses and scouting out family-friendly venues with her two young sons.

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