Archive for November, 2011

Holiday Fun: The Nutcracker at the Puppet Co.

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Guest Blogger: Erin Gifford, Director of Communications and Development at the Puppet Co.

Well, it’s that time of year again. There’s shopping to be done, parties to attend, and shows to be seen. You’re probably going to see one of the many productions of “The Nutcracker” by a ballet company in the D.C. metropolitan area. And although the music is quite beautiful and really gets you in the holiday spirit, it’s probably not Dad’s favorite time of the year to go to the theater. Sitting through a two-and-a-half ballet is not his idea of a good time. It’s not too much fun for the kids either.

But wait – the Puppet Co. is here to save the day! We have a version of this infamous holiday production that Dad and the kids will definitely enjoy. It’s a puppet version that is only 50 minutes long, featuring marionettes and larger-than-life costume characters. All your favorite Tchaikovsky tunes are there, accompanying Clara-Marie and Fritz as they play with the toys given to them from Godpapa; as the Nutcracker and his toy soldiers fight off the Mouse King and his minions; and as Clara-Marie and the Nutcracker venture to the Land of the Sugarplum Fairy to watch a dancing donkey, a glittering dragon and of course, waltzing flowers!

The Nutcracker and his toy soldiers battle the Mouse King and his minions in the Puppet Co.’s “The Nutcracker." Photo credit: Christopher Piper.

Now, Dad, you are probably thinking, “Puppets?! Puppets are for kids.” Yes, this is a production for children. But this show brings out grandparents and even young couples on dates! It’s such a magical experience with lots of special effects that we promise to “wow” moms, dads, grandparents, teens and kids alike. You will walk away knowing the story of “The Nutcracker” better than you ever have before. And you will even come back year after year, as many of our patrons do. Even after the kids are all grown up.

So come on down, Dad. It is a truly a treat for the WHOLE family.

Parent Blogger Brunch Preview: Sandie Chen

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Over the next week, we’ll be sharing interviews with bloggers to be featured at our Parent Blogger Brunch on December 9, co-hosted by Jessica McFadden of A Parent In Silver Spring. Meet members of the new media and sign up for the brunch now!

Sandie Angulo Chen has been writing about movies and pop culture since 1998, when she landed her first job after college at Entertainment From there, Sandie moved to AOL’s, where, as a content editor, she wrote features, conducted celebrity interviews, and tracked upcoming blockbusters and indies. Since 2007, Sandie has contributed as a movie critic and writer to Common Sense Media, The Washington Post, Variety, AOL’as Moviefone, and MTV’s Next As a blogger, Sandie has a personal journal-style blog called Urban Mama and is the Editor of the collaborative local blog, The DC Moms. When she’s not running after her three children or at a movie screening, she enjoys crisscrossing the DC area in search of memorable museum exhibits, concerts and standout restaurants.

What has inspired your new material on your blog, and how do you keep generating new material?
On the collaborative blog it’s sometimes difficult to keep 25-30 writers motivated, so we have several categories that are easy to brainstorm and write for, because we all have a favorite place to hang out in DC or a celebrity we’re in love with or a special place to go on a Date Night.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have met through your blog?
Honestly? The other women on this panel and dozens and dozens of writers I’ve met from across the country at various conferences and events. My sister and I started a YA book blog a couple of months ago, and I’ve already corresponded with several published YA authors on Twitter and through the blog, and that is so much fun — to see how these published novelists are interacting directly with their fans and taking amateur reviewers seriously.

What is the best thing a blogger can give to his or her readers? Truth and passion. Before the FTC regulations came out, it was ambiguous for a while when a blogger was telling the “truth” or being paid to prop up a product or service. I stopped reading several blogs once I cottoned on to the fact they weren’t disclosing their associations. Passion is the obvious key — write about what moves you, whether it’s a celebrity you’re crushing on, a cause that motivates you or your family whom you adore.

Which post of yours is your favorite and why?
I don’t have a favorite post, but I guess the one that I love to reread the most is the story of my youngest child’s homebirth. It was a dream come true for me, and I loved sharing it with my readers. Then there’s the post I wrote the night my mother died. It was so difficult to write, but I wanted to describe my mother and the joy it was to be her daughter with everyone.

What is your favorite blog to follow? Are / were you inspired by someone else’s blog?
I love all of my friends’ blogs, but because I appreciate humor so much (and can’t write it very well myself), I look forward to reading Stimeyland, written by our friend Jean, on a regular basis. She never fails to make me laugh.

If you could say one thing to a perspective new blogger, what would your advice be? Decide why it is you want to blog — if it’s to write because you love to write, don’t worry about monetizing and book deals and trips and product reviews you see everyone else scoring — write with passion, with integrity, with love, and the other stuff is just icing.

Visit Sandie’s blog, Urban Mama, and follow her on Twitter at @urbanmama! You can also meet her at the Parent Blogger Brunch on December 9 – sign up now.

Parent Blogger Brunch Preview: Jessica McFadden

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Over the next week, we’ll be sharing interviews with bloggers to be featured at our Parent Blogger Brunch on December 9, co-hosted by Jessica McFadden of A Parent In Silver Spring. Meet members of the new media and sign up for the brunch now!

Jessica McFadden writes the popular parenting blog, A Parent in Silver, which has gained attention locally as a resource for Washington-area parents, and nationally as a parent blog must-read. Over the last four years, A Parent in Silver Spring has become Montgomery County parents’ top stop on the web to find a fun outing, activity or performance to share with their children.

Jessica has also served as an editor at Nickelodeon ParentsConnect , a contributing blogger to TLC’s Parentables, written the Mom of a Million Mistakes column on Montgomery County Patch sites, and has contributed to The Washington Post Weekend and other publications.

Before taking up the laptop as a writer and blogger, Jessica worked in public relations at Hill & Knowlton and as an aide to two United States Senators. She received her B.A. in political science from University of California, Berkeley.

Jessica is a mother of an eight year old son, a five year old daughter and a baby daughter born in April.

What has inspired your new material on your blog, and how do you keep generating new material?
Input from my local community is the number one source of material and innovative posts on A Parent in Silver Spring. As my personal life gets crazier daily due to my and my family members’ busy lives, I am so thankful for the great relationships, post suggestions and feedback I receive from area organizations and individuals.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have met through your blog?
Fellow parents and spouses who are passionate about their careers and causes, while still successfully balancing their families, always awe me. I am thankful to have met many such gifted people in the arts organizations, small businesses and educational institutions in our community.

What is the best thing a blogger can give to his or her readers?
An honest voice and candor, hands down, are your greatest assets. Your readers do not want to read a press release, a news article or a shilly commercial. They are coming to your URL for your words, opinion and unique perspective, and every time they visit your site it is an honor.

Which post of yours is your favorite and why?
About once a year (usually when school is out of session in summer and I did not secure enough childcare) I write a ranty, blubbering post about how I am a horrible failure of a mother and have bitten off more than I can chew professionally and personally. These posts are my favorite not because of my wussy words, but due to the supportive and hilarious comments from other working moms who chime in that they have been there and survived.

What is your favorite blog to follow? Are / were you inspired by someone else’s blog?
The first blog I read from start to finish was The Washingtonienne, so every blog after has been a dramatic step up. But seriously, I am daily inspired by The Bloggess because her humor is unlike anything anyone else in the world is producing, Toddler Planet for bravely chronicling her battle with inflammatory breast cancer, and every innovative first-person site that fills an information and entertainment void. The Washington, DC area is blessed with a wealth of fresh voices, especially in the parenting blog community.

If you could say one thing to a perspective new blogger, what would your advice be?
You can’t do it for the money. You know those little old ladies at craft fairs selling hot pads? That’s how much you will make…if you’re lucky.

Visit Jessica’s blog, A Parent in Silver Spring, and follow her on Twitter at @jessicaAPISS! You can also meet her at the Parent Blogger Brunch on December 9 – sign up now.

Prayer is not a good marketing strategy!

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Marketing in today’s global economy, social media-mania, info-obsessed takes a lot more than prayer. But what exactly does it require? What makes a good marketing strategy?

In the next few blog posts, your AHCMC Marketing Team, Shellie and Megan, will explore that question based on knowledge gained from our three-day experience at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference. We’ll share golden nuggets from the sessions, presentations and discussions we attended. We’ll share creative ideas we heard from the new friends we made and friends representing cultural organizations spanning the continent from Saskatoon to the Big Apple.

First, maybe you’re wondering what is NAMP? The National Arts Marketing Project is a program of Americans for the Arts focusing on bolstering marketing skills for cultural organizations. NAMP produces an annual conference, hosts monthly webinars, organizes regional training programs, and provides on-site workshops on a range of arts marketing topics. Click over to for more information.

This year’s conference was held in Louisville, KY, home to the Muhammad Ali Museum, the Louisville Slugger Museum, bourbon and horse racing. Some 500 marketing specialists from the US and Canada showed up for the conference, texting, tweeting and social networking like there was no tomorrow. In fact, our own Megan (@andmegansaid) was recognized for her tweeting prowess at the end of the conference. Her award? A five-bottle bourbon sampler. Not bad!

This was one of the most exciting conferences I’ve been to in a while. The energy from this crowd could have powered all of downtown Lville—maybe it did. I loved the exchange of ideas whizzing around the conference hotel from dawn to ah…dawn. (These marketing people don’t seem to need sleep.) It was like being immersed in a creative think tank for 72 hours. What a rush.

The conference theme, Winning Audiences, is especially poignant in this our third year of the recession. As cultural institutions around the country face tighter and tighter funding, we must turn to more creative and well-informed marketing strategies to engage with audiences that share our core values. Not just to get butts in seats, but to connect in deep and meaningful ways. (Though, no one would turn away a  butt who wants a seat.)

I was heartened by the depth of research organizations had undertaken and their willingness to share findings with this broader audience. While all these studies were specific to a particular geographic region or a discipline, I found incredible value in all of them and key information that I can use today in understanding the needs and motivations of our MoCo audiences.

So over the next week, keep your browser tuned to Megan and I will post the most relevant lessons we learned as we seek an answer to: What makes a good marketing strategy.

Give to the Max Day–Today

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

To many of you this morning probably seemed like any other Wednesday—that ho-hum Hump Day of the week. But, for thousands of nonprofit staff and supporters, today—November 9, 2011—is no ordinary Wednesday.

No, it is Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington, the inaugural launch of a massive 24-hour online fundraiser to support nonprofits serving the greater Washington region, including, yours truly: the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County.

So yes, AHCMC staffers are tap-dancing to work today, chugging our vitamins and stoking the fires with fully-caffeinated beverages.


Because, we’re hoping you’ll be our champion today and make a donation to AHCMC at the Give to the Max (GTMD) website (Click the GTMD button to hyperlink to the site, or if you need a little more information, keep reading).

GTMD kicked off at midnight last night and will cease at 12:00 AM on the dot Thursday morning. You’ve got 24 hours to give to all your favorite charities, like AHCMC. With every gift, you’re giving nonprofits the chance to add to their overall total with cash prizes.

I’ll admit that this feature of GTMD aroused my curiosity and in the far recesses of my mind, I heard Bob Barker saying, “Yes, AHCMC, you too can win valuable cash prizes!”

What sort of prizes?

Good stuff, like $25K for the most money raised, and another $25K for the most donors. They’re also smaller, but no less worthy prizes in these two categories, plus a Golden Ticket Award of $10K and a Care2Fundraiser Challenge for $ 10K.

So why should you care? Why should you get excited? Here are a few answers that I came up this morning:

1. For those charitable-giving procrastinators out there (you know who you are), you can get it all done today!  Off your plate! Your year-end giving with all its lovely tax ramifications could be finished TODAY. That’s right! No more leaving it until the last minute. Do it now and be done!

 2. You can make a statement about the value of your favorite charity (AHCMC right?) by helping us today when all eyes will be on DC area nonprofits. Plus, your participation helps us qualify for valuable cash prizes! which leverages and extends your gift.

 3. If you’re shallow like me, you’ll want to do what all the hip people are doing now that they’ve tired of Occupy Wall Street. On the docket today? GTMD! That’s right! And if you act early you might just scoop those hipper people in your office! Sorry, we can not guarantee your hip-ness will extend to Thursday. C’est la Vie!

Have I convinced you that your index finger should click on the big GTMD button yet?  

No? Still unsure? Ok, then let me tell you a secret: IT’S REALLY EASY TO GIVE AT GTMD.  Click here to go to the AHCMC page on the GTMD website. Scroll through our fabulous photos, read about what we do and then check out the right sidebar for a shopping list. Only have $12? That’s ok with AHCMC. We’re looking for 2,000 donors who’ll give $12 as part of our 2012 Overture Campaign.  Got $20?  We can put it to good use. Even lean, frugal nonprofits like AHCMC have to buy office supplies. Your $20 goes a long way with us.

Perhaps you’re thinking a more substantial gift (Oh, goody!). Then support the revival of Magical Montgomery a cultural arts and heritage festival unique in Montgomery County. 

Whatever your contribution amount, giving to AHCMC through GTMD is very simple. Anyone can give. Donations made through the website to nonprofit organizations are tax deductible. Contributions may be made via credit and debit card only.

I hope you’ll click that GTMD button right now and show your support for the many programs and services AHCMC provides to Montgomery County.

And when you’re done? Crow about it! Blog, tweet, post, text, sing and dance. We’ll be doing the same.

Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington was created by online fundraiser Razoo, and organized and supported by The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and United Way of the National Capital Area.