Through the county's free Merry Mulch recycling program, your Christmas tree can become useful compost and mulch. The annual program has kept thousands of trees out of the landfill since 1993.

From Jan. 3-20, the county will accept Christmas trees for recycling every day from 7:30 am to 5 p.m. at 10 drop off locations throughout the county. In Ellicott City, trees can be brought to the small circuit court parking lot on upper Court House Drive, just past Ellicott Mills Drive.


Another option for residents with curbside yard trim collections, they can place their Christmas trees out on the curb during their regular recycling days through Jan. 20. Please note that all decorations must be removed and the tree must be cut to less than four feet. Tree bundles must be tied and weigh less than 40 pounds each. Collections can take place as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 7 p.m.

After Jan. 20, residents can bring trees to the Alpha Ridge Landfill Wood Waste Area which is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

And the winner is..... Sweet Elizabeth Jane in historic main street Ellicott City. The store has been chosen as the official Judges' Choice winner for the 2011 Historic District Holiday Window Decorating Contest. Congrats Sweet Elizabeth Jane!

The Howard County Public School system is hosting several free upcoming events for parents, students and community members. Two events will be held on the same night, Jan. 4.

The Gifted and Talented Parent Academy will sponsor a talk by Dr. Jeanne Paynter, Maryland State Department of Education G/T specialist, about resources, advocacy tips and information in G/T education from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Homewood School's cafeteria. Snow date is Jan. 11. Call the Academy at 410-313 -6800 for more information.

The Office of Career and Technology Education invites parents and students to learn about the high school Career Academies from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Applications and Research Lab.

This Career Academies Information session will cover course study in career areas such as arts, media and communication, business, management and finance, career research and development, construction, consumer services, hospitality and tourism, health and biosciences, human resource services, information technology, manufacturing, engineering and technology, and transportation technologies.

For more information, contact the Office of Career and Technology Education at 410-313-6629.

If you miss the Career Academies event, the information session will be presented again Jan. 17 at the brand new Miller Branch Library and Jan. 26 at the East Columbia Branch Library. Each date will feature different career academies. Check the Application and Research Lab's website for times and information at http://www.arl.hcpss.org.

It's almost time for the Maryland General Assembly to convene. But before the 47 state senators and 121 delegates go back to work, The League of Women Voters of Howard County will host it's annual luncheon with our county's delegation to the General Assembly Jan. 7 at 11:30 a.m. at Bethany United Methodist Church, on Bethany Lane.

The luncheon gives the public an opportunity to hear from our state representatives about the upcoming legislative session and to ask questions. The luncheon is $15 per person for non-members. Please call the League's office to make reservations at 410-730-0142 or by email at info@howard.lwvmd.org.

Mo Dutterer of Silhouette Stages Productions is excited to announce that they are one of the first production companies in the country to stage Broadway's "Avenue Q," the 2004 Tony winner for Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score.

Mark your calendar as show dates are March 2-4 and 9-11. Follow the cast and crew on Twitter @silhouettstages (note - the "e" has been omitted in between the two words because of space constraints) as they get ready to present this Tony award-winning show or go to their website at http://www.silhouettestages.com or Facebook page at "Silhouettestages."