10:15 Toddler story time | 11:00 Preschool story time
- Wednesday, December 4 and Thursday, December 5: Gingerbread and Candy Canes will be the delicious theme of our stories, songs, and craft this week! Siblings welcome.
- Wednesday, December 11 and Thursday, December 12: Enjoy some Christmas cheer during our stories, songs, and craft this week! Siblings welcome.
- Wednesday, December 18 and Thursday, December 19: Something we all enjoy this time of year is giving and receiving gifts. Our stories, songs, and craft will reflect the spirit of the season! Siblings welcome.
How to choose a host or hostess gift
If you get invited to someone’s home over the holidays, it’s best not to arrive empty handed. However, it can be hard to know what to bring, especially if the host or hostess is a relatively new friend or acquaintance.
Fortunately, there are number of things — wine, chocolate, coffee, tea, fancy hand soap and unscented candles, for example — that make great gifts when you don’t know the recipient very well.
However, if you do know them, you could offer your host or hostess something that you think they’ll appreciate. If they love to cook, for instance, a cookbook or an inexpensive kitchen gadget would be ideal.
Whatever you bring, make sure it’s not something that makes your host or hostess work. For example, if you choose to bring a bouquet of flowers, arrange them in a vase before arriving so they don’t have to.
Remember, this gift is meant for the hosts to enjoy after the guests have gone home. They’re not obliged to share it with you or anyone else, so don’t expect them to.
The Wonderful World of Rudolpha: The North Pole Christmas Extravaganza
There’s excitement in the air at the North Pole Auditorium tonight. The annual Christmas Extravaganza is about to start. Sitting in the front row, Santa and Mrs. Claus are excited to watch the show. The lights in the theatre start to flash, indicating that the audience should take their seats. Wearing an emerald green tuxedo, Taiga the elf takes the stage as tonight’s host.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 675th North Pole Christmas Extravaganza! Are you ready to be entertained?” The audience cheers and claps.
For nearly two hours, the master of ceremonies presents music, dance, comedy and circus acts. And while each is wonderful in its own right, the last three are truly special.
First, Rudolph and his sister Rudolpha the reindeer, teacher at the North Pole Animal Day Care, captivate the audience with a performance of a beautiful song they wrote about Christmases from times past. Their lovely harmonies are paired with touching lyrics that bring tears to the eyes of everyone in the audience.
Next, the Star Fairy, an electric guitar virtuoso, plays an instrumental piece backed by the children from the day care. While the fairy plays, the kids accompany her with maracas, bells, triangles and drums. Everyone in the room dances to their music, and the Star Fairy’s final solo stuns them all.
For the final act, Jack the elf-of-all-trades and his partner Nougat the chef perform an amazing dance number. Mixing ballet, jazz, salsa, hip hop and tango, the dancers perform a number they’d practiced in their living room for months. The audience shows their appreciation with a loud and long standing ovation.
As is tradition, at the end of the show, Santa and Mrs. Claus take the stage to congratulate the performers and to say a few words to the audience.
“Ho, ho, ho! Once again, you’ve amazed and entertained us,” starts Santa, “and my lovely wife has an announcement she’d like to make.”
Mrs. Claus smiles as the audience claps for her. “The North Pole is so full of talented individuals that we’ve decided it’s time to open a performing arts school. It’ll open in the spring.”
Hundreds of elves and animals clap and cheer. What a perfect way to end an amazing show.
Written by Johannie Dufour and Sarah Beauregard
Translated by Cyan Caruso-Comas
Top tips for long-distance house hunters
Buying a house from afar can be challenging. Here are four tips to make the process a little easier.
1. Clarify your needs
First and foremost, you need to establish your priorities and your non-negotiables. Are you willing to renovate? What’s your budget? How important are schools? This will help you narrow down your options and thereby save you time.
2. Go online
Your first step should be to find out as much as possible about the neighborhoods you’re considering. What are commute times like? Are there issues with crime rates? How good are the schools? Don’t limit your search to factors that affect you directly: a house in a great area has more resale value.
3. Get someone on the ground
The internet is helpful, but you’ll need someone on the ground to really get a sense of what your options are. Spend time finding a good realtor, especially one that’s familiar with the area and who’ll take the time to communicate with you and answer your questions.
4. Plan to travel
It’s a good idea to spend a few days visiting houses on your short list. Give yourself enough time to see each one without rushing.
Long-distance house hunting isn’t easy. However, with the help of a good realtor, you’ll be able to find a great home that meets your needs.
Turkey and three cheese lasagna
Wondering what to do with your leftover turkey? This lasagna is a nice departure from endless turkey sandwiches.
Start to finish: 2.5 hours (35 minutes active)
Servings: 10 to 12
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 onions, diced
• 2 celery stalks, diced
• 2 carrots, diced
• 2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
• 1 pound leftover turkey, finely chopped (you can use ground turkey too)
• 2 (26 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
• 1 cup beef broth
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 teaspoons dried oregano
• 2 teaspoons dried basil
• 16 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package instructions
• 1 (16 ounce) container ricotta
• 1/2 cup parmesan, grated
• 1 egg
• 4 cups mozzarella, grated and divided
• Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions, celery and carrots until soft. Salt and pepper to taste. Add one can of tomato paste and stir. Add the turkey and cook for about 5 minutes, making sure the meat and vegetables are combined. Add the other can of tomato paste, diced tomatoes, beef broth, sugar, bay leaves, oregano and basil. Bring to a boil.
2. Lower the heat and simmer for about an hour or until the sauce has thickened. Remove the bay leaves.
3. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, egg and parmesan. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Cover the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking sheet with a quarter of the prepared sauce and top with 4 lasagna noodles. Sprinkle one cup of mozzarella over the lasagna noodles. Layer the following ingredients in this order: sauce, 4 lasagna noodles, ricotta mixture, 4 lasagna noodles, sauce, 4 lasagna noodles. Cover with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle on the remaining 3 cups of mozzarella.
5. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Warren County Planning Commission considers short-term rentals
The Warren County Planning Commission Meeting of December 11th included a public hearing on a request by property owner Stephen Aaron for a conditional use permit for a short term rental on a property he owns in the River Ridge on the Shenandoah subdivision. Three other residents of the subdivision offered comments on the proposal, which the property owner described as an economic necessity due to the unforeseen cost of renovating the property which he purchased last May.
County planner Matt Wendling outlined some challenges the property owner had faced with the property since its purchase, when he found rotted floors under a bathroom and kitchen requiring complete renovation. In addition to those hidden condition problems, the property had never had a completed building final inspection or a certificate of occupancy. Mr. Wendling then outlined the conditions that would be required of the property owner in order for staff to recommend approval of the Conditional use permit.
Since the property lies within a subdivision with an Owners association, the property owner had submitted a document outlining his proposal to the owners association and received in return a list of issues from the association which he in turn had incorporated into his draft submission to the county.
During the public comment portion of the hearing, Vivian and Jack Paulikonis who are 23-year residents in the subdivision expressed their opinion that, while they were pleased to have a “nice family” as owners of the property, they were concerned about its use as a tourist rental with unknown people coming in and out of the gated community. Mr. Paulikonis indicated that the public hearing had been rushed through and that most owners in the subdivision were unaware of the activities of the planning department. They seemed to have less issue with the property owner or his plan for the actual use of the property than with the county’s approval process. Mr. Paulikonis described it as a “sneak attack”. The Planning staff reiterated that the public notice requirements had been met.
Mr. Pettengill, President of the property owners association and the nearest neighbor to the property in question weighed in by confirming that the property owner had sent the association a copy of his proposed property management plan after the association’s annual meeting in October, but that he had drafted conditions and cleared it with the association board of directors in response to the plan.
The property owner then provided background information indicating his willingness to incorporate all the input from the owners association and the county planning staff into his proposal and to continue to work with the county departments in completing the certificate of occupancy, required in any case prior to Board of Supervisors Approval.
After a few questions from commissioners and responses from Mr. Aaron or County staff, the commission voted unanimously to forward the request for a conditional use permit to the Board of supervisors, subject to the conditions outlined by the planning staff.
After the public hearing portion was closed, the planning staff outlined three additional requests that are preparing for public hearings at the January Commission Meeting.
Brian and Ann Conley, for a conditional Use Permit for short term tourist rental for their Agricultural zoned property at 64 rocky Lane in the South River Magisterial District.
Damon and Robin Feldman, for a conditional use permit for a short term tourist rental at their agricultural zoned property at 53 Crystal River Drive, also in the South River Magisterial District
Randall Parz, for a conditional use permit for an artisan and craftsman trades facility not to exceed 5,000 SF on his agricultural zoned property at 577 Esteppe Rd in the Fork Magisterial District.
Planning staff explained each of these proposals and the commission voted to authorize public hearings at the January 8, 2020 meeting.
Concluding its actions on proposals, the commissioner comments included farewells from three current members, Chairman Scott Stickley, Commissioner Ralph Rinaldi, and Commissioner Lorraine Smelser. Each of the three expressed appreciation for the hard work and professionalism of the commission members and the county planning staff. County planning Director Taryn Logan reminded the commissioners that they had made tough decisions and overseen many significant improvements to the county in their tenure and had plenty to be proud of.
Three new commissioners will be selected by the Board of Supervisors to begin service on the board in January.
Watch the entire Warren County Planning Commission meeting on this exclusive Royal Examiner video:
January 10th set for decision on EDA civil defendant motions to quash
Attorneys for multiple Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority civil litigation defendants argued for dismissal of their clients’ inclusion in that list in Warren County Circuit Court on Thursday, December 12. After hearing over 4-1/2 hours of testimony surrounding a 45-minute lunch break, Judge Bruce D. Albertson took those arguments and plaintiff counsel counter-arguments under advisement.
After an explanation to defendants present, including Donald Poe, April Petty and Jesse Poe, about the reason for the time he will take before returning to court to make a ruling on their and other defendants’ counsel arguments, Albertson set a date of January 10, at 2:30 p.m. to make his ruling.
That is the same date the judge continued a scheduled Show Cause hearing on a Civil Contempt charge against primary EDA civil and criminal defendant Jennifer McDonald earlier during the Thursday docket. McDonald’s civil contempt hearing will follow an already scheduled McDonald criminal hearing on the 1 p.m. docket on January 10.
McDonald’s criminal case attorney Peter Greenspun informed Albertson he was taking over his client’s civil case as well in the wake of the withdrawal of her former civil attorney Lee Berlik.
Greenspun told the court he needed additional time to familiarize himself with the civil aspects of McDonald’s legal situation.
A third EDA-related hearing on Thursday morning’s docket was Donald Poe counsel William Ashwell’s motion to Quash a Perjury charge regarding the Earth Right Energy principal’s testimony to the EDA Special Grand Jury. That case went forward first on what was slated to be an 8 a.m. start to Thursday’s docket, delayed by late arrivals of a court reporter and McDonald’s Northern Virginia-based attorney.
After hearing Ashwell and new Rockingham County prosecutor’s arguments, Albertson deferred a ruling on dismissal of Poe’s perjury charge to the January 22 date on which that trial is scheduled to begin.
Ashwell told the court that his client was the one defendant “not on the continuance train” with an originally slated perjury trial date of December 6 having been moved to a three-day slot in January to accommodate the recent placement of a new prosecutor’s office to handle all the EDA criminal cases. Incoming Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney John Bell has recused himself from EDA cases and current County Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Layton has withdrawn due to his pending departure from the office.
In addition to McDonald on her case and Donald Poe, April Petty and Jesse Poe who were present with counsel Thursday, EDA civil defendants represented in Thursday’s Demurrer motions hearing were Truc “Curt” Tran and ITFederal and Poe’s Earth Right Energy Solar Panel Installation company.
The basis of those defense counsel arguments for dismissal of their clients from the civil case revolved around several points. Primary among those is the plaintiff notion of an overarching conspiracy that somehow links the various defendants to central figure and former EDA Executive Director McDonald; and that there were definable contractual breaches by those defendants making them individually liable for funds that came their way through McDonald.
Lead plaintiff attorney Cullen Seltzer argued that there did not have to have to be direct knowledge among all defendants of each interlocking conspiracy McDonald is alleged to having been a party to for that conspiracy to exist.
He used an analogy to a gang that planned to rob every Bank of America in Richmond, saying a gang member assigned to one “bank job” did not have to know the detail of every other bank robbery to be criminally liable for the entire take.
Seltzer dismissed defense arguments that “McDonald is a rouge tornado dumping all this EDA money into all these pockets” without the recipients’ knowledge that something illegal was transpiring that they were beneficiaries of.
However, Jesse Poe and April Petty’s attorney William Schmidheiser argued that such a conspiracy theory did not apply to his clients, whose alleged “unjust enrichment” did not go directly to them, but rather to real estate companies handling the closings on their homes.
Schmidheiser noted his clients’ limited incomes, telling the court the reason he represented them both was a necessity to pool their resources to finance their defenses. He called their being packaged as part of an alleged $21 million civil suit conspiracy for mortgage payoffs of $125,000 (Petty) and $280,000 (Jesse Poe) was, short of the loss of a child or a cancer diagnosis, one of the worst things that could happen to an average person.
He said that while there might be “unjust enrichment” claims the plaintiff could argue – we’ll deal with those down the road, he told the court – the circumstance of his clients’ involvement distanced them from the plaintiff EDA counsel’s conspiracy theory.
He compared his clients’ circumstance to that of the casino McDonald is alleged to have lost at least $750,000 gambling at, noting that while the casino received cash from McDonald that could have been EDA assets, the casino was not a defendant.
In arguing that Earth Right Energy’s (ERE) contracts with the EDA through its then-executive director were valid and binding, attorney Ryan Huttar told the court that at the time those contracts were enacted “Jennifer McDonald (was) the EDA”.
That was a point the EDA legal team disputed, noting that large dollar (over $10,000) transactions had to be approved by the EDA Board of Directors, which they stated, did not happen.
ITFederal attorney Brandon Elledge argued that the EDA Board did approve the $10 million dollar loan it is seeking recovery of from his client, as well as the subsequent vendor payments of $1.4 million also in dispute.
Sands Anderson plaintiff counsel countered that the loan and the vendor payments were received under false pretenses concocted by Tran and McDonald in concert.
Elledge also stressed that Tran remains current on his loan payments, and that no proof had been offered that his client personally benefited from the payments, rather than professionally as intended. Oddly however, the Deed of Trust on the property was amended so that Tran only has to spend $2 million of the $10 million loan on the Front Royal property.
In setting the January 10 date for a decision on the motions to dismiss the defendants from the civil suit, Judge Albertson compared himself to a student.
“The attorneys teach us their view of what the law is” related to their cases “and it will take several weeks to fact check their arguments – I will treat this seriously, please be patient,” he asked the defendants present.