At Maryland Fencing Club, it's all fencing, all the time. The club's name graces a 2,000-square-foot facility dedicated to the centuries-old Olympic sport, complete with three electric strips and one for private lessons. A seven-member coaching staff—each a member of USA Fencing and certified by the US Fencing Coaches' Association—runs the show, grooming young novices and seasoned swordsmen alike to become the next vanguards of the sport.
Students enjoy focused attention as they learn the nuances of footwork and sword handling, particularly during their most formative years. Elementary-school classes are held at an 8:1 student-teacher ratio, while that number moves to 14:1 for high-school and adult classes. The coaches encourage vigorous competition, but they never do so at the expense of fun, reminding pupils to thoroughly enjoy their company and time on the piste.
Underwater Playground submerges aspirant deep-sea divers, pruned snorkelers, and strident swimmers in a waterlogged array of parties, lessons, and aquatic aerobics. Eschew dangerous, unsanctioned gill-insertion procedures with a Try Scuba session, a beginners' course laying out the basics of subaqueous submersion. After each Cousteau-in-training has suited up with professional diving equipment, a Scuba Schools International (SSI) dive professional leads a two- to three-hour lesson at Underwater Playground's heated, saltwater pool before participants make their first tile-scouring dive in search of priceless treasures and wayward swim trunks.
Home Escapes' home-decor specialists help clients infuse their living spaces with colors and designs that reflect their personal tastes. During a consultation, they meet with residents to discuss their decorating aspirations, including color, pattern, and theme preferences. The gathered information is then used to create window treatments, throw pillows, and other decorative flourishes that embody the vision of homeowners.
The staff members at Sylvan Learning's numerous centers understand that each child learns differently. Therefore, they don’t try to implement a uniform tutoring system; instead, they design custom lesson programs based on the results of a skills assessment using diagnostic tools and one-on-one interviews.
Tutors work with students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, illuminating topics ranging from basic reading and writing to remembering complex algebraic formulas without having them tattooed on your chest. Many of Sylvan’s instructors work in local schools, so they are intimately familiar with common curricula and understand how to gear lessons toward optimal results. Camps and after-school and summer classes can ready high-schoolers for the rigors of the ACT or the SAT, or they can help students to wow college-admissions officers with their superior essay-writing skills.
Amazing Glaze makes it simple for amateur artisans and ceramic virtuosos to produce colorful pottery pieces using a variety of stencils, stamps, and tracing outlines. Start by choosing your desired paint-vessel from a vast selection of more than 400 ceramic compositions ($3–$50), including coffee mugs and dinner plates to adorn kitchens and vases to grow your pet panda's bamboo snacks in. Pick a design from the store's volumes of sample books or enlarge a wallet-sized photo of your homecoming date on the studio's copy machine, select from more than 100 colors, and then create a design for your earthenware masterpiece. For the artistically stymied, on-staff artists will be standing by to assist with the pigmenting process. Glazing, firing, and brilliantly hued paints are included in the $7 per hour studio fee (caps off at $12/day), and polished objects are ready five days later.
Gardiners Furniture offers a variety of traditional and contemporary furniture for living rooms, bedrooms, home offices, and more in its expansive storerooms. Outfit your living room with an in-vogue two-piece ottoman ($161) by Signature Design Rayanne and a Toscana rectangular cocktail table ($179) from Ashley Furniture. Or, replace unsightly metal with stately wood in your home office with an Ashley Furniture two-drawer file cabinet ($224). Other items include a traditional handsome wooden 3-drawer end table ($242) and a Heritage TV cart by Eagle Industries ($359), ideal for taunting the floating TVs of the future with what could have been.