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    Sterling, Cascades & CountrySide
    When I first moved up to this area, I would stop the car and stare out the window to look at the deer on the side of the road. For months, when riding with others, I would shout “Deer!” and wonder why no one seemed enthralled. Then I figured it out. This area has a lot of deer.

    The white-tailed deer that lives all over this area is so prevalent that it’s actually named after our state. The official Latin name for these ubiquitous animals is Odocoileus virginianus. Probably because the first colonists were as stunned by the numbers as we sometimes are. These deer are found in North and South America, and have been introduced in other continents as well. Even though some animal experts now divide the white tail into a lot of subspecies, the Virginia White-Tail is one of the most prevalent and lives all over the area.

    However, there used to not be so many of them. By the end of the 1800s, the white-tail was in a perilous decline. Hunting and disappearing habitats were causing the deer to be endangered, with less than half a million still around in the U.S. in the middle of the 1900s. Virginia, along with many other states, put in place strict protections to help the deer populations recover. The good news is that it worked, and the deer have come back strong. Some estimate that over 30 million deer are now living in the U.S. doing what deer do.

    Regardless how many deer there are, they are beautiful, graceful and seem almost the embodiment of the forest. As much as we might become a bit underwhelmed when we see a deer, children don’t seem to ever find it boring. If you’re riding with a child, you can be sure they will shout “Deer!” just like a Loudoun newbie.

    That’s why on Tuesday, Feb. 3, Claude Moore Park off of Cascades Parkway is hosting a Nature’s Explorer program on deer. Our youngest explorers (ages 4-6) will learn about the deer through music and art, along with going through the Discovery Grove, an outside learning center. The program cost $14 per child and you must preregister. For more information, or to preregister, call the Visitor Center at 571-258-3700. You can also ask about all their upcoming programs, including one on owls – but that’s another column.

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    COUNTRYSIDE/CASCADES/STERLING: Grants for Eastern Loudoun Classrooms
    Eight teachers in eastern Loudoun won’t have to dip as far into their own personal funds to provide their students with innovative programs this year, thanks to grants from the Loudoun Education Foundation. The latest local grant recipients are Carol Black of Countryside Elementary, Amy Boehl of Seneca Ridge Middle School, Steven Charlish of Potowmack Elementary, Erin Hazlett of Potowmack Elementary, Janie Gaudens of Potowmack Elementary, Jeff Marsh of Park View High School, Patricia Peterson of Algonkian Elementary and William Stremple of Seneca Ridge Middle School. The grants, ranging from $245 to $500, will fund classroom projects such as a mobile maker space and community building. The Eastern Loudoun teachers were among 130 applicants for the funds; a total of 34 teacher classroom grants were awarded.

    Choir honors: Catherine Lee of Dominion High School was selected to perform in the Senior Honors Choir at the Virginia Music Educators Conference in Norfolk. Lee was one of 15 Loudoun County students chosen following auditions of more than 750 high school seniors from Virginia.

    Best lettuce: Sometimes doing your homework can become a prize-winning experience. Brendan Grove of Seneca Ridge Middle School was awarded first prize for the best hydroponically grown Bibb lettuce in the 4-H Youth Development Program. Grove and his classmates in teacher Rick Peck’s life science class grew their leafy greens from seeds and the resulting plants were judged by a panel of Loudoun County master gardeners. Loudoun extension agent Katie Thomas presented Grove with the first-prize award.

    Get a clue: The Cascades Library After Hours Teen Center presents an 80s night featuring a real-life version of Clue, the mystery game, on Friday, Jan. 16, from 7 to 10 p.m. Teens are invited to dress up in 80s attire—and dance to 80s music, too. As always, gaming, computers and art supplies will be available. Teens must arrive by 7:30 p.m. and must have a permission slip on file. For information, call 703-444-3228.

    Lunch with friends: The Restaurant Review group of the CountrySide Women’s Club kicks off the new year with a Mexican feast at Uncle Julio’s Rio Grande Café in Reston Town Center on Jan. 20 at noon. Carpooling options are available. This is one of at least 10 activities the club presents monthly, including a general meeting, a book club meeting, three bridge sessions, a stitching session, a bunco party, a coffee talk get-together and a monthly social night. Members and prospective members are welcome to attend. To RSVP, call 540-882-4970 or 703-642-0448.

    Contact Kathie Felix at KFinLoudoun[at]
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    STERLING BOULEVARD:  Cookies versus crackers
    When my nephew was a wee lad, my brother had him convinced that saltines were actually cookies and would give them out as a treat. This worked fine until my nephew paid a visit to grandma, asked for a cookie – and got one.

    “Daddy, grandma’s cookies are much better than yours.”

    Needless to say, the jig was up. I’m afraid salty crackers can’t hold a candle to a good (or even a mediocre) actual cookie. I would also bet that nothing in your house right now – even the stuff that has “cookie” written on the packaging – is nearly as good as Girl Scout cookies. At Mount Olympus, while Zeus feasts on ambrosia and nectar, he is wishing it tasted like a Samoa.

    Right now, your local neighborhood Girl Scouts are taking preorders for your cookie needs. And yes, they are needs. You can make sure that come February and March, you’ll be knee deep in Thin Mints and Tagalongs. Of course, we both know that you will still buy additional boxes when you come across a booth, because they are cookies sold by kids and we’re all suckers for that.

    All you have to do is reach out to your favorite Girl Scout in the next week and let them know how many boxes (or cases, I won’t judge) you are wanting. Then just sit back and let the expectation of cookie goodness drive you mad.

    Not the sugary type? You can donate boxes that will be sent to organizations selected by the girls themselves. Troops in our area selected hometown heroes, local food banks and military personnel. If you think your face brightens up when you see a box of cookies, just imagine if you’re overseas serving your country. Talk about a care package.

    Don’t know a Girl Scout? Don’t worry. The Service Unit for our area has a website and you can get in touch with our local Girl Scouts and find out how to place your order. Just email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to learn more, or to find out how a girl you know can become a Girl Scout.

    Give blood at your convenience

    If you are eligible, you should consider giving blood – for so many reasons that it would fill a multitude of columns. However, many of us find reasons not to – like “it’s not convenient.” Inova Blood Services on Nokes Boulevard now has weekend hours, so that reason is nipped in the bud. The center is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Visit to learn more.

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    COUNTRYSIDE/CASCADES/STERLING: On stage, on the court, out of the cold
    STERLING BOULEVARD:  Won’t you be my neighbor?
    STERLING BOULEVARD: Not a creature was stirring
    COUNTRYSIDE/CASCADES/STERLING: Nights of Lights, Nights of Sights
    STERLING BOULEVARD: Have you been naughty … or nice?
    COUNTRYSIDE/CASCADES/STERLING: Eastern Loudoun Students in the Spotlight
    STERLING BOULEVARD: Holiday happenings
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