Nature’s Confetti



I usually go into Fall figuratively kicking and screaming. I love long, lazy, warm/hot summer days with nowhere to be. This year was particularly hard for me to relinquish summer. We had a shorter school break than normal and we traveled quite a bit, so I was especially enjoying what time I had at home with my kids. I seem to be a rare breed of mother who is not anxious for school to start in the fall. I really love hanging with my children. Of course they get on my nerves, but nine times out of ten, we have fun together particularly without the pressures of sports schedules and homework assignments.

me and kids

In the Northern Virginia area, we can experience summer-like weather late into October. This just increases my resistance to transition to autumn. But as the temperatures finally begin to dip, I start to slowly meander into the fall season. You’ll see me give up my shorts in exchange for jeans (For the record, once I give up the shorts for the season, they are gone. If we have another day at 90 degrees, I’m gonna sweat it out in my dungarees. (And I must interject that the word dungarees makes me laugh. It’s SOOOO 70’s. LOL. I bet my kids have never even heard that word. LOL. I digress……)).  October 1 is the day that opens the floodgates to The Holidays! I LOVE the Holidays (which to me consist of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years). The Holidays are the redemption for me freezing my @$$ off until April.


holiday mode - engage

Behind Pumpkin and the spicy smells of autumn, next up on my list of favs is the falling of the leaves. Although I do prefer to see the leaves actually ON the trees in spring as they are sprouting, and definitely in their colorful splendor this time of year, I’m tremendously mesmerized watching the leaves catch the wind and swirl and twirl their way to the ground. If you listen closely, you can almost hear them scream WEEEEEE with glee as they go. (That’s how I imagine it.  I like to reenact that for my kids.  Especially the teenager.  He’s so mortified.  He tries hard not to smile.) When I get to witness this gorgeous dance, I like to think, if only there was some lovely music in the background, it would feel like a glorious moment in a movie. (In truth I imagine Vince Guaraldi’s “Skating” from A Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack.) So perfect in it’s display of grace and beauty, that it’s almost as if it had to be staged. It’s like Mother Nature’s confetti. A last hurrah before the starkness and brown/black snow of winter.


fallen leaves meme

Taking in the technicolor show of the trees, and watching the leaves fall literally fills my soul. I truly could get lost in those moments leaving the rest of real life to be forgotten while I witness and absorb this amazing gift called Fall. Autumn can be, sometimes, a very short season. Perhaps that’s why the majesty of it seems so very special year after year. As I reluctantly release my vice grip on summer, I turn my sights to the beauty of the new season. The colors, the flavors, the way my husband gets so excited when the temperature plummets, these are my life preservers that I will cling to as I layer up and carry on.


falling leaves instagram

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4 Pic from Instagram @awesemtravels photographed by @markheaver

Guest – Trish Hawes – Artist


Trish Hawes and I met about 4 years ago after our sons began a friendship in elementary school. It was clear from the start, this woman had some serious talent. I am constantly being blown away by her skill, taste and attention to detail with every single project that she shares with me. From her paintings, to her cake and cookie decorating, her landscaping, and holiday and home décor, she is a true Renaissance woman.

trish landscape

A self-proclaimed Jack-of-all-trades–Master-of-none, Trish is an actual artist having studied art her whole life. From grade school through high school, she never missed an art class, and she ultimately earned a duel degree from Virginia Tech in Fine Arts and Marketing. Her talents were recognized at a young age. If there was an art award to be given, her classmates would be chanting her name before the winning name could be called. She was THAT kid. (I still remember THAT kid at my elementary school. Her name was Eleanor Kim and I always admired her God given talent.)

Trish hokie cake

From the beginning, art was just her thing. Her mother recognized her talent and would support and encourage and provide gifts of art supplies. She remembers back to seventh grade when one of her art projects was selected to be in National Geographic Magazine. Growing up, Trish took the time to learn as much as she could and continues this tradition. Her stepfather was an electrician and her mom was a meat wrapper, but they believed in doing everything themselves, never hiring anyone to do tasks for them. She once had a friend call her a “country girl” as a way of describing the way that Trish would take on any project and complete it herself. (It’s crazy impressive.) She marvels at the fact that most people will pay someone beaucoup bucks to complete a task that might only take five minutes of their time and the “smallest bit of know-how”.   She feels that people in our current culture have put themselves into “roles” to play and that we are not meant to be that way. She explains, “Back 20, 30 years ago, or back when our parents were growing up, they didn’t have people that they would pay to do stuff, they did it themselves. It’s a matter of figuring out what do we need to do to accomplish the task and [then] doing it.” She goes on, “With artists, we innately look, we watch, we see, we pay attention. We say, ok, it’s a process and you learn [that process].”

Trish seashell candy

Trish spends a lot of time researching. She describes herself as left and right brained. The analytical side of her loves to research. Prior to staying home with her three children, she was a marketing analyst, becoming the director of the department of, drumroll please, Research! She says, “I dig in. Anything I do, I over analyze to the point where I know everything I could possibly know about it and more than you want to know. So if you ask me a question, be careful how much you ask because I will tell you everything that I found out.” As a result of this tenaciousness, she discovers all of the necessary steps to complete something and thinks, “I can do that. Now why would I pay someone to do this? Let’s get started.” She adds, “Then if I can’t [complete the task]; after I’ve tried it, then I’ll call someone in for help.”

Trish baseball wood sign

Trish has traditional taste in art. She gravitates toward Renoir and Monet, but nature is her biggest form of inspiration. She loves the beauty of what Mother Nature has given us. She laments, “I think that’s what’s so hard when you’re in areas like ours where they’re ripping all of it down [for development]. You’re literally losing inspiration. You’re losing that beauty of the surroundings around us.” She goes on to say that inspiration for her doesn’t come from any one thing. She’s inspired by things that are literally going on in her life and it changes based on the stage of life that she is in. Right now everything is focused around her children.


It’s through this child-centric stage in her life that her art of cake decorating was born. Her children began to ask for elaborate themed cakes for their birthdays. Timed perfectly with the cake decorating industry explosion on television, she began watching the various programs and soaking it all in, finding cake and fondant just another art medium to harness and continue to challenge herself with. It became a new art to master. She explains, “I think any time an artist sees something they want to figure out how to do, figure out how to put their own spin on it, and have a new thing under their belt, they look for something new to try. They get bored reproducing the same things over and over again.” It’s these feelings or fear of boredom that have prevented her from opening a baking business. She explains, “When you take your art and you turn it into your business; you turn it into your job, it takes away a little bit of the spark that we have that gets us to start a project to begin with. It doesn’t mean we still won’t produce something good, it’s just, when you take the artist out of it and make it a production line thing, you lose a little bit of that joy that you get out of just doing it.”


Trish explains that an artist will always feel like they need to improve. And there in lies the catch 22. How does an artist learn to put [a project] down and walk away and say, “It’s good enough”? This is her wall that she needs to break down to be able to market her talent and turn it into a viable business. She shares, “One of the hardest things to do in art school was to listen to critiques. They’ve been told to express themselves and to have an opinion and to share it. If you are really invested in a piece and you don’t listen with open ears, sometimes you’re really missing valuable information to help you grow.   Artists are always growing and that’s why we feel like we’re never “great” because there is always room to improve. It’s who we are. It’s innate. It keeps us humble and I think we listen more to other people because we always know there’s room to improve.”

Trish Halloween House

I asked Trish if she had any professional goals for herself. Since she doesn’t have her own business (YET!), I was surprised that she said that answering this was easy. Her current goal is to create art for herself, not her family or her house. She wants to get back to actual painting; brush to canvas, not faux finishes on furniture or the like. She’s looking to get back into painting so that she might find her “niche”. Her dream would be to do commission work so that she could work from home, get paid to do something that she enjoys doing, and not have to create the same things over and over again, or return to the corporate world.

Trish table redo

She talked about some regrets of making, what most would consider safe choices. Receiving a duel degree, and listening to advice from those who only had her best interest at heart, Trish finished college and pursued marketing as her career. In doing this, she ignored the truth about herself. She has never been anything other than an artist and she knew that. The “starving artist” thing is scary, and at her young, post-college age, she was guided and swayed to following the marketing path. In theory, marketing has creative elements, but it wasn’t from the creative realm that Trish thrives in.

Trish crystal cake top

Says Trish, “I haven’t been doing art that I would find myself really proud of in a very long time. The stuff that I did back in college, when I was taking the classes and when I was exploring for the first time the real depth of what it meant to be an artist and my own talent. I was focused. This was what I was going to do and it was exciting.” Every day she would get up and go to class and was creating something that was a part of her and her vision, and what she wanted to do. It was freeing. She adds, “What I’m most proud of [as an artist] is what I used to do and I need to get back to what it was that I know that I am, and have lost a lot of, being a wife and mother.”


Creative minded people realize that tomorrow is always a new day and there is always a new “us” that can begin anew. Trish says, “I’m always finding new chapters in my life where I’m starting over. I don’t see that as a bad thing. When I’m starting over, I’m taking a step forward. Occasionally I get knocked back a step or two, but I’ll always pick up and go forward. Art will always be with me because beauty is always in the world. It’s something that I’m always looking for. I think it’s something that we’re all looking for.” She adds, “You can have wealth, you can have success, but if you don’t have happiness, [and] don’t really love what you’re doing, than you’re missing out on probably the most important thing in life.” She wants this for her kids more than anything and still wants it for herself. She hopes that her new chapter will provide an avenue that she’s a little happier with and that is truer to who she is.


Her advice? “Do what you love to do. You can be good at something because your personality dictates that you’re going to be good, but if you don’t love what you do, you are ultimately not going to do it really well.” She hopes that her children hear this and learn from what she would call her mistakes. She firmly believes that you have to [fail] to learn and to move forward and that most just need to accept their mistakes, get up, shake themselves off, [maybe] find a new path, but move forward. Life doesn’t stop and she doesn’t stop.


Says Trish, “Everyone is good at something. Don’t lose your light to make someone else’s brighter. Don’t diminish your light because someone else’s light shines in another area. [For example] If you are good at math, be good at math. Be who you want to be. Too many people get lost if their paths don’t turn out the way they intended. Take a right and keep going.”

Pumpkin Crazy

I made the mistake a few years ago of posting on Facebook a declaration of my love of all things pumpkin. This announcement was made near the beginning of the pumpkin craze that is continuing to seasonally sweep America. Why I say it was a mistake is that since, everyone identifies me with pumpkin everything. (I suppose there are worse things to be associated with. Indeed.) I made the post prematurely as I had not done enough research to make such a bold and nervy statement. Do I love pumpkin? You bet your sweet pumpkin spiced @$$ I do. But the reality is that I love REAL pumpkin. I actually abhor fake pumpkin flavoring. Now that I’ve publicly made myself clear, I do actually love pumpkin season and I get a kick out of the whole craze.


pumpkin love

The memes are hilarious. Pumpkin brake pads, pumpkin toilet paper, and pumpkin tampons are just a few of the autumnal giggles that I have enjoyed. And of course, at least one person will send each meme to me on Facebook, ‘cause, you, know…. Me + Pumpkin = Love, and all. (Please keep them coming. I do love them.)


pumpkin meme

Pumpkins are thought to have originated in North American with the oldest evidence, through pumpkin-related seeds found in Mexico, dating between 7000 and 5500 BC. They contain loads of antioxidants and are a great source of Vitamin A (20% DRA) contributing to healthy vision, neurological function and skin. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pumpkin production nearly doubled in value between 2001 and 2014 from $75 million to $143 million. (Imagine how those pumpkin spiced brake pads are contributing!) Even in an environmentally challenging year, the pumpkin still is the king of the crops, out performing other popular veggies like spinach, garlic and cucumbers. And Illinois is leading the proverbial patch producing 90% of all pumpkins used for canning. Thank you Illinois! The industry in IL dates back to the 1900’s when pumpkin processing plants were first established, solidifying the industry’s epicenter. (I was trying to see how many words that start with P that I could fit in one paragraph. Oh look! “Paragraph” – another one!! Booyah!)



Industries are thriving with the addition of pumpkin flavor (or the spices that we assume accompany pumpkin flavor). Pumpkin coffee, pumpkin Poptarts, pumpkin beer, pumpkin Oreos…there is an entire section at our grocery store dedicated to pumpkin flavored goodness. And if they slap “limited edition” on the packaging, there is a stampede in the seasonal section of the local Harris Teeter. I’m buying right into it. Literally. You can just stamp a big fat “pumpkin flavored sucker” right on my forehead, ‘cause if it says pumpkin on it, I’m going to buy it….at least once. But rest assured, if I don’t like it I won’t buy again. (I can’t afford to waste my calories on something I don’t like.)


Pumpkin selfie

All of those mass produced pumpkin treats are fine, but bring on the pumpkin baked goods. I have to thank the good Lord in Heaven that my husband and kids also love pumpkin, ‘cause momma’s gonna bake. I start “auditioning” Thanksgiving dessert recipes in September. (Don’t judge. I am VERY particular about my baked goods. But that’s a whole other post.) This year I had a burning desire to make pumpkin whoopie pies. They were RIDICULOUS! So delicious, but WAY too big. So, back to the drawing board I go.


whoopee pie batter

My most successful pumpkin recipe that I hijacked from the internet is a mouthful (pun intended). It’s called Cinnamon Swirled Glazed Pumpkin Coffee Cake. If you are a true pumpkin lover, there is no need to try any other dessert. (Except maybe pumpkin cheesecake ‘cause, come on, it’s pumpkin…and cheesecake. Sigh.) This bad boy is like the moist (yeah, I said it) part of a muffin top, but allllll the way through to the bottom. Have mercy. (And you’re welcome for the recipe link.   I got you.)


pumpkin cake top

Anyhoo, I hope that you can land on a delicious pumpkin treat that makes you feel all cozy and fall-like inside. It is such a comforting flavor, and it’s a VEGETABLE! We’re practically eating salad y’all. Pumpkin on.

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2 Screenshot from Google search “Pumpkin Spice Meme”

3 My mad Powerpoint skills.  LOL.

4 Me messin’ around with LiveCollage.  🙂

5 Pumpkin Whoopie Pie batter.

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Guest – Beyond the Barn Doors

I learned about Beyond the Barn Doors about a year ago from Facebook. Being an avid interior design wannabe, and constantly looking for things to grace our home, I was super intrigued by their sale events. Something about the limited engagements makes them feel really special. When the 2016 Fall show came and went without my attendance, I swore right then and there that I would not miss the Spring one. (I knew I would have to miss the Holiday show, so the Spring show was my only beacon of light.)

Beyond the Barn Dorrs sigh

Beyond the Barn Doors is a barn show that is put on three times a year (Fall, Holiday, and Spring) in Oakton, VA. The owners, Shelly Eagen and Bonnie Townshend travel all around to collect items that they love. They go to market, and to auctions, to collect furniture, old and new, to provide an assortment of different things in hopes of appealing to the biggest audience.

Beyond the Barn Doors 1

Prior to opening those barn doors five years ago, Shelly had an Interior Design business and Bonnie was starting to entertain getting back into the workforce after 17 years as a stay-at-home mom.  Bonnie admits that she was floundering. Her kids were growing up and she was ready and wanting to do something. She says, “I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I could go and find something that I just love to do.” Shelly, on the other hand, had been ten years in interior design. She says, “It was hard for me because I had four kids; trying to get them all situated.  But a lot of that type of work, you have to be up and out and meeting contractors. It was my one child’s last few years of high school and I didn’t want to miss that time with them [the kids] in the summer. I needed to find something that was better suited to my timing.” They both agreed that they wanted something creative.  They wanted an adventure.

Beyond the Barn Doors cow

They spent time determining what they could do, and what they were good at. The conclusion, says Shelly, “We’re good at shopping! Really good at it!” (LOL.) The question became, what could they do with a proficiency in shopping?  Says Bonnie, “When we started brainstorming about doing this [business], we were talking about bringing an eclectic blend of what we find out in the country to suburbia. We’re not really doing anything that other individuals couldn’t do, we’re just making it easier because we’ve done it for them. And we’ve brought it to one beautiful venue.” The women enjoyed going to these events themselves. They liked the exclusive and festive feel that would prompt them to mark their calendars and round up their girlfriends to make a day of it. Being veteran shoppers, they quickly realized that there was nothing like this in our area, so they aimed to take advantage.  (Cue The Barn.) Since Shelly and her family moved in, she and Bonnie would often day dream about, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could capitalize on this? Do something here [the barn]?” The property even has enough space for the masses to park! It’s really something. Bonnie adds, “In all honesty, we always had the barn in mind because she [Shelly] didn’t have horses. She didn’t have a desire to have horses.”

Beyond the Barn Doors fireplace

With anything new, there is always an element of fear. As they were preparing for their first show, Shelly explains, “We had a lot of stuff, but not a lot of stuff (as now we know). Are people going to come? And that Friday morning we were like, “Oh my God, there’s like 70 cars in the pasture! And they’re coming here!”” Needless-to-say, they were sold out of pretty much everything on day one. To their delight, the business has grown with every show, in sales and attendance. They have branched out from their first show where the customers were mostly their friends and family. Now every show brings new people.

Beyond the Barn Doors bunny

Beyond the shows, it’s clear that the ladies truly love the process. They enjoy getting a piece that looks beaten down, and wondering where it has been, what kind of life and service had it provided, and how did it end up here?  And they get a thrill from bringing that piece back to life.  They love the human connections they’ve made with their vendors, but they especially love the way the business has evolved organically. They are best friends who happen to really compliment one another. They may not agree on every purchase, but admit that keeps them “fresh.”

Beyond the Barn Doors cradensa

Bonnie made it a point to share, “Shelly has taught me a lot. She will downplay that, but because of her design background, and because of her knowledge of interior design, for me it’s been a really great learning experience. I have so much more confidence now in design.” What Bonnie brings to the table is her business savvy and negotiating skills. She hits the auctions ready to work her magic.

Beyond the Barn Doors medallion

During the winter months the women promote their design and color work services. They do charity events throughout the year, setting up vignettes of their wares to raise money for a variety of causes. Items are auctioned off and a percentage of the sale goes to the recipient charity. And a new venture that they are excited about is styling the store windows for one of Beyond the Barn Doors guest vendors, Undeniable Boutique, whose shops are located in Fairfax Corner and Mosaic District. The symbiotic cross promotion is quite inspiring.

Beyond the Barn Doors globes

So how do these two get inspired? Says Shelly, “We go to market and we’re overwhelmed and we just start buying. We don’t even really remember what we bought until the shipment comes. [And then] We’re like Gasp, oh yeah, we love that!” They admit that they pretty much know right away when they walk into a place, what big furniture pieces they will purchase.

Beyond the Barn Doors silverware

A lot of preparation and hard work is demanded to get ready for one of their events. When styling for their show, they start with a blank slate of just the furniture, allowing the style of that piece to dictate the look or theme of the vignette. It takes a lot of piecing things together from all of their different haunts, and having a vision. They are very particular about each vignette that they present, but they are also dictated by their space (which they admit is the best part of their business). The barn provides such an unusual and unique atmosphere for their shows, but comes with it’s own problems. As Bonnie explains, “Not everything can be stored in the barn. If it is soft or has any kind of upholstery, it has to go to my house. So now we’ve purchased it, we’ve shipped it, we’ve unpacked it, we’ve tagged it. And now we’ve moved it to my house. Which means then it has to be moved back. And if we get set up too early and we have inclement weather, there are a couple of spots in the barn that get tricky with water or moisture. We’ve lost a handful of merchandise to the barn. We can’t just go to auction, bring the piece of furniture home, paint it and set it. We can’t. We have to wait on the weather to find a good day that we can paint. Then we have to cover and store the furniture until we’re ready to set it out. It takes a lot more time. If we had a retail space we would just bring it in, set it up, and put a frame on top and we’re done, but we can’t do that.” They have talked about the possibility of a retail store, but determined that would take the fun out of it, and agree that a retail space would make it feel like more of a job because of the commitment to the rent.

Beyond the Barn Doors Halloween

Their high standards of presentation trickle into the details. Bonnie explains, “We take a lot of time. We stamp the back of each tag with [our] bird, and we stamp the bags with [our] bird, and everything is wrapped in tissue when you leave, and you get a receipt. We take a lot of pride in the little things too.” They work hard to stay true to their roots and branding. They described a trip they made in July to Atlanta where they met a lovely woman who produced bags. She suggested that Beyond the Barn Doors needed to up their presence on their bag because if the bag was nice enough, people would continue to carry it, which would be additional exposure.   Bonnie admits, “Shelly and I were like, no. We like that we stamp every one of them. Or my mom stamps every one of them. Or her mom stamps every one of them. I mean, that’s what we do!” They enjoy being more of a mom and pop business; it just feels right.

Beyond the Barn Doors stars

Beyond the Barn Doors is more than a partnership. It is a full on family affair. Between them they have seven children. Their entire families, including Bonnie’s and Shelly’s parents, have been such a big part of the business. Says Eagan, “That’s what makes it even more special. Not only on that weekend [of the show], but leading up to it, we’re moving furniture together as a family, we’re cooking out. It’s a big collaboration.” Instead of focusing on self-promotion, the ladies of Beyond the Barn Doors have simply followed their dream. It’s an inspirational story about a friendship and about family. They tease their daughters about one day taking over the business, making efforts to subtly educate them as they go. The journey has been a real family affair. They vacation together, their parents are close friends, and their girlfriends…. They both agreed, “We could not do this without our girlfriends. Our friends love to be a part of it, which then makes it so much fun and special.” They happily admit that they never factored in the family and camaraderie that the business has built. Adds Bonnie, “I think we just thought about, well this would be a cool thing to do.” But as they say, it takes a village to do most anything successfully. They love their jobs. How could they not?

Beyond the Barn Doors jars

The business has exceeded their expectations. They went into it hoping it would work, hoping people would come and like their concept and service. They have had great feedback and the people keep coming. They talked of how proud their children are of them; two women who have taken a leap of faith, invested in something, and succeeded. They are so proud to be showing their kids that they are doing something that they really love; that you don’t have to make tons of money if you’re pursuing your passion. Says Townshend, “We laugh about it a lot, but we never dread working. We’re working with our best friend.” Shelly adds, “It’s therapy every day.”



Address: 3006 Fox Mill Rd, Oakton, VA

You Say Kintsugi, I Say Kintsukuroi

I am enamored with the beauty of Kintsugi (also known as Kintsukuroi).   This is the Japanese art form of using gold, silver, or platinum powder, mixed with lacquer to repair cracks and imperfections in pottery. Kintsugi, translated means “golden journey” (likewise, Kintsukuroi means “golden repair”). The history of this work is estimated to date back to 15th century Japan when the military dictator, Ashikaga Yoshimasa returned a damaged Chinese tea bowl back to China for repairs. It is said that when the piece was returned to him, it had been mended with ugly metal staples. This prompted Japanese craftsmen of the time to entertain more aesthetically pleasing means of repair.


kinsugi 1

Not only is the appearance of this art form beautiful to me, but the philosophy behind it as well. The feeling is that the imperfections, or breakage of a piece is part of its history. History that should be “celebrated”, or embraced, not disguised. That sentiment resonates with me.


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In it’s basic form, I admire the beauty of the repaired ceramics. What once was perfect is transformed into something with new character and new beauty and interest. Making no attempt to hide the flaw, attention is brought to it with new appreciation. It reminds me of how a river cuts through the landscape. Not in perfect lines, but in jagged, interesting ruts and turns.


Aerial Photo

I love to apply this philosophy to aspects of my life. (Well, I want to.) The premise being that our history has shaped who we are. Our past has impacted our life, good or bad, to make us the people we are now. Each positive and negative experience has left its mark and carved and shaped us into who we have grown to be.


kintsugi 4

Indulge me while I transfer this philosophy to the human body. I think of my oldest who has endured three open heart surgeries. His chest scar, to me, is not something imperfect, but something amazing. The result of that scar is a saved life. The trauma that his body endured and the fear that my husband and I lived through (and still live through) is captured in that beautiful line down his body. The strength and perseverance that I associate with that scar reminds me of the golden thread that joins the broken.


Liam baby chest scar

I’d also love license to apply this philosophy to the bodies of mothers. Fathers enter parenthood with little or no affect to their bodies (except perhaps byproducts of stress eating. It’s a thing.) But mom bodies are changed forever. Oh, you may not see it buried under those Lucky jeans, or beneath the spandex making it’s daily trip to the spin class, but the remnants remain. Stretch marks, separated belly muscles, sagging tah tahs….need I go on? These are a badge of honor of motherhood. We hate ourselves for them, but it’s time to change that. They are the byproduct of the life-giving gift of motherhood; the gold that joins our singlehood to couplehood to family.


mom bod

Let’s also look to apply the Kintsugi philosophy to aging. (And let hurry up, ‘cause I ain’t gettin’ any younger.) As our bodies change with age, we begin to pay for every injury we sustained, every sunburn we endured, and every doughnut we ever ate. The wrinkles on our face are the gold of emotion; of sadness, of worry, of joyful smiles and laughter. The extra weight around our middles is the gold of celebrations; of birthday cupcakes, of graduation parties, of wedding feasts. And every ache and pain is the golden reminder of a lifetime of activity; of touchdowns scored, of races finished, of physical accomplishments.


mark twain aging

One day I hope to own a real Kintsugi piece. I want to hold it and admire its lovely uniqueness. I want to enjoy the addition of sparkle and precious metal highlighting the new design not put there by the conventional artist, but by the artist of life, of existence, of circumstance. I also hope to one day truly own the philosophy of Kintsugi and apply it to my own self-image and the appreciation of imperfections in myself and in others, also brought on by the artist of life, of existence and circumstance.



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3 My baby boy.

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Guest – T’Kila Latin Kitchen and Bar

J.C. Sanabria is the owner of a neighborhood restaurant called T’Kila Latin Kitchen and Bar. I’ve met J.C. several times on our visits dining with him, and also have worked with him when planning a few of our family events that we opted to host at his restaurant.

tekila logo

T’Kila offers very traditional Southern Mexican style cuisine, with Latin influences, all developed fresh from scratch. Literally everything that they serve is homemade.  J.C. says, “That was very important to me when I developed the concept and business plan. I wanted our guests to have a really great experience, just as if they were having a family get-together at home or celebrating an event.”   T’Kila caters to all kinds of guests: families with kids, lucky folks sharing a date night, or groups celebrating an occasion. That’s how J.C. created the foundation of the restaurant and, after establishing their storefront six years ago, they continue to see the business grow. (That’s what we like to see!)

tkila guac

When J.C. took over their current location, he was moving into an established restaurant footprint, but one that had previously been a Japanese steakhouse. To get the doors open as soon as possible, J.C. came in and did a quick fix on the restaurant’s interior. About 3 1/2 years in, they were finally able to put some money aside to remodel. He shares, “When we came up with the idea for the remodeling, we did kind of a funky, Day of the Dead thing. Guests seem to really enjoy it.” Inside the restaurant you will find Day of the Dead sugar skull masks and mural and a super cool cluster of star pendant lights. (My favorite and my daughter’s favorite.) A real Book of Life kind of vibe. He shares, “We definitely wanted to do something very different.”

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Admittedly, life for J.C. before starting his business afforded him a lot more of a social and personal life. He says, “Being a business owner is a big commitment. You definitely have to be passionate about it. You have to have the passion to really want to do it.” He adds, “If someone asks me for advice, I’ll tell them, don’t just do it for the money. Don’t expect to make millions of dollars. Do it because that is what you love to do and that is what you see yourself doing.”

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Prior to the opening of T’Kila, J.C.’s background consisted of 15 years in the restaurant industry. After graduating from high school, he went off to college and started working at a bank as a teller. While there, he was approached by a friend who managed a restaurant in D.C. Their business was looking to open new locations in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area. They asked if he had ever thought about changing careers and suggested that J.C. give the restaurant industry a try to see if he liked it.  Says Sanabria, “I did try it and have been working in restaurants ever since. That’s what ended up paying for college.” He started getting promoted within and gaining more and more experience. J.C. says, “My last restaurant experience before I started out on my own, was with Mexican cuisine. I had the privilege of doing a little bit of traveling internationally, specifically Oaxaca, in Southern Mexico. I did a lot of research and found that Oaxaca possessed one of the best cuisines worldwide in terms of the spices; chilies; flavors that they have.” This regional cuisine became the restaurant’s launching off point for developing the different dishes that they serve.

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J.C. is currently researching different areas within Loudoun County, and is in talks with a couple of shopping centers, to enable T’Kila to expand and add an additional location.  He says, “It’s very exciting; a lot of work, but very exciting. “ He explains, “That’s the goal. To be able to grow and to serve the community and other communities as locations become available.” Since T’Kila is a family run restaurant, J.C.’s long-term goal would be to eventually have his kids run the business. He says, “That was another big reason to do something on my own. It was a long-term project where I want guests to see that this is really a family run business. And generation after generation, hopefully, we’ll get to stay around for a while.”

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I asked how the reality of owning and operating his own restaurant differed from his dream. He laughed, “Big difference. Reality versus the dream; it can be stressful at points.” He adds, “I compare the restaurant to a football team. It’s offense, defense, and in the middle. It involves so much in terms of training employees, making sure your overhead costs are met… every little detail can definitely cost you a lot if you are not cautious about them.” He goes on, “Once again, you have to be passionate about doing it.“


People often ask him, “How come you’re here [at the restaurant] almost every day? Why don’t you start letting somebody else run it?” He explains, “I do have a full time manager, but the way I see it, and I could be wrong, but being a business owner, you are the face of the business. If you are not there, guests start to notice and say, “Where is he [J.C.]?” You start developing relationships. Customers get to know you by name. You definitely want to be available to them when they come in and have a question about anything.” He understands that customers like to put a face with a place.  (I agree. As a customer it’s reassuring to see him there. It sends the message, loud and clear, that he really loves what he does and is truly invested.)

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On a personal note, J.C. says, “I think we’ve accomplished quite a bit as a team. I wouldn’t be able to do this on my own. I have my employees, my wife, my family. That definitely keeps the momentum going for me.“

If you have not dined at T’Kila Latin Kitchen and Bar, definitely give them a visit. J.C.’s goal as a business owner, and the goal of his team, is to not only meet, but exceed expectations from every guest that comes in. He wants every guest that visits to feel like they are family. Says J.C., “My goal is to make everyone feel welcome, regardless if they live locally or outside of the area. We definitely like to cater to everyone.”

T’Kila Latin Kitchen & Bar:  42010 Village Center Plaza, #170, Aldie, VA 20105


Phone:  703-327-5490