Evolution

evolution

Did you ever think of your life in terms of evolution?  I never have.  Heck, up until recently, it seems the only thing that ever evolved in my life was the size of my jeans. But I’ve taken notice of a definite change in myself. This change began happening after I started writing.  It’s been a terribly interesting, eye opening, and exciting time of evolution for me.

writing

I have always been a creative person, but interestingly, equally right and left brained.  I used to view this duality as somewhat of a hinderance.  I wanted to throw my whole soul into creative endeavors, but my pragmatic side kept me chained.  My left brain would argue that I needed to maintain a hold on responsibility and “reality”, but my right brain would be left aching, as would my heart a little bit.

chained

As most teenage girls, I loved fashion.  I even went to college and earned my bachelors of science in Clothing and Textiles.  I was going to design wedding dresses.  (Step aside Vera Wang, I’m coming for you.)  But as graduation approached my left brain said, “Girl, you’re going to starve.  One step at a time.  Get your foot into the fashion world and then see.”

climb the ladder

I did that.  I worked for an amazing high end running and cross training apparel company right after college.  Ok, so it wasn’t high fashion, (it wasn’t even formal wear) but the company had an impeccable reputation, produced top quality garments, and I learned a ton.  It only took a few trips to the fabric store with some of our design and development girls for me to realize that I had no business in fashion.  My true love was interior design.  We would go to look at fabric and they would say, “Oh look at this fabric!  It would make a beautiful ball gown.”  To which I would reply, “It would make a beautiful chair!”

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True love and passions have their way of badgering people.  I moved on from that company and took an admin job until I could figure out how to change my life.  Any extra money I had, and believe me, there wasn’t much, I spent on my living space.  I’d make EVERYTHING. Shower curtains, duvet covers, I’d paint feature walls (even in my rental..shhhh!).  I’d buy special carved chopsticks and pretty pieces of pottery, anything that would enhance my home.

olive oil jug

Home interiors became my muse.  I thought about it constantly.  I watched interior design shows endlessly, studying and learning.  I read and read and read.  Learning as much as I could.  Implementing as much as I could.  I even thought about going back to school for Interior Design, but guess who stepped in?  My dang left brain.

nope

Years and years and years of this obsession played out all while I was starting my young family.  Responsible and overworked and exhausted, I couldn’t wrap my brain (my left brain) around how I could possibly go back to school.  But I kept going, dabbling in my obsession.  I tried to make a go of a career in interiors, but I just couldn’t get it off the ground.

inspiration

And then…..

The truth is, I cannot pinpoint what happened or how I ever came up with the idea of blogging.  Neither my creative right, nor my bossy left brain understands technology. I knew I wanted to make a difference in my community by sharing the plethora of amazing businesses in our area.  But blogging?  Me? But here I am.  And this is a brand new, fresh and exciting obsession.  I love to write!  Who knew?!  And the seriously interesting part is that I’ve sort of lost the capacity and desire for interiors!  No one is more shocked than I.  Sure, I still have my favorite designers that I follow on Instagram, but instead of wanting to create my space myself, I’d rather just have them do it.  I’m busy.

Caroline surprise

It’s sad in some respects to see that old dream folded up neatly in my past, but I couldn’t be happier in my new life.  This new path of mine is perfectly suited for my crazy brain.  The left side of my brain sees the structure and dedication that it takes, all while my right brain enjoys stretching it’s creative legs and appreciates the serious evolution that my creativity has grown through.

create

A little self reflection and you might see an evolution in your own story.  It may not be a dramatic shut down of one skill giving way to the birth of a new one, but it is what it is.  Some might just call it growth, but what if it’s really more than that?

Guest – Chef Rich Rosendale – Roots 657

roots657 - building exterior

If you’ve ever taken a drive out Route 15, past Leesburg heading toward the Potomac River and into Maryland, you have, no doubt, seen Roots 657. It is an outstanding (and I mean that in its literal sense) wooden building at the corner of Route 657 and Route 15…hence the name Roots 657. I’ve been intrigued by this structure for some time and finally made my way there. Roots 657 is a cafe and market servicing the great community of Northern Virginia. It is service to the community that is the driving inspiration for the concept of this establishment. Roots offers catering services, space for special events, and cooking classes conducted all over the world for the culinary adventurer. On sight they have a delicious dine in space and a market filled with wares from local and up and coming vendors.

roots657 - rich rosendale

THE CHEF

Headlining the “show” at Roots is renowned Certified Master Chef Rich Rosendale who has developed a crazy impressive resume. With a background in fine dining, Chef Rosendale has held the title of US Culinary Team Captain participating in the infamous Bocuse D’Or, which is one of the world’s most prestigious cooking competitions held in Lyon, France at the SIRHA International Hotel, Catering and Food Trade Exhibition.

Prior to relocating to Virginia, Chef Rich was working at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV. As their executive chef and director of food and beverage, Rosendale oversaw their $50 million food and beverage operation, 12-15 kitchens, and 185 chefs. Desiring a less remote and more metropolitan lifestyle, Chef Rich and his wife and three children made the move to Northern Virginia. Says Rosendale, “I literally just started Google searching. I was looking all over the place. We were considering [moving to] Los Angeles as I had spent a lot of time in California working on CBS’s television show Recipe Rehab, but I’m an East Coast person. Ultimately we ended up in DC. We kept getting further and further out [of The District] as we were looking at houses. We came to [the Leesburg area] and loved it.”

Rosendale has spent a tremendous amount of time traveling and has studied in so many different places that he has developed a robust skill set for cuisines of all types. Says Chef, “It’s not like some chefs where they [identify with one cooking] style. For me it’s not so much. You could put a whole pig in front of me and I could cook it. Or I could do a super refined, 7 course tasting menu. My tagline for the company is ‘Food. Inspiration. Adventure.’ The adventure component, for me is really important. I’d get bored doing the same thing every day.” He goes on, “I love to go to India, for example, and do a cooking demonstration, but then spend the rest of the time out learning from all the street vendors. There’s always something to learn.” His flexibility in the kitchen is a pure gift. Says Chef Rich, “I could get excited about making a pot of red sauce and spaghetti, or something super healthy like a light tuna dish and a citrusy salad. But for me, I also love to have a great burger and some fries. I just want to make sure that if I’m going to spend those calories then I’m going to get something good. That’s why I wanted to create this place.”

roots657 - interior

THE CONCEPT

Explains Chef, “When I was at the Greenbrier, I could bring [my kids] there, but it was a very formal environment. It’s beautiful, with big stately columns and plush beautiful rooms, but it is formal.” He goes on, “What I’ve learned over the years, fine dining is the ultimate ego trip.   It’s so much about your personality and your style. But sometimes not everybody can enjoy that. To me I thought that was sad; to think that most of the food I was doing all of these years, at that high level… a lot of my friends, and family, and people that love me, would never be able to come and experience that. It was executed at an almost out of reach level that a lot of people knew of me, but they really couldn’t enjoy [my food]. I didn’t want to have a place that you have to wait until your birthday to come and eat. I still like to keep the same quality standards, but now I can share this experience with anybody.”

Patrons can come into Roots in shorts, they can run around outside, and eat a cheeseburger. It’s meant to provide a venue to spend quality time with friends and family. Says Chef Rich, “I found a way to align my family life with the work. It’s nice to come in here and see the employees bringing their kids in. That’s exactly what I wanted.”

This community-centric establishment began almost humbly. Instead of developing a huge campaign resting on Rosendale’s impressive resume, he and his team quietly opened their doors on a Wednesday afternoon and let word of mouth do its thing. Says Rosendale, “People began trickling in, and trickling in, and the next thing we knew we were way busier than we thought we would be.”

roots657 - market

THE MARKET

On the market side, visitors will find an assortment of locally made products like candy, beer, honey and hand painted note cards and pottery, to name a few. And if you’re headed to one of the wineries for the day, just bring your empty basket and you can pack a handsome picnic straight from their shop. Chef Rich also uses his international reach, and every engagement that he does, as a platform for people to be able to put their products in Roots’ market. So for somebody who sells maple syrup, or just has a passion for making salsa (Shout out to Texas Trey’s!), for example, they can work with Rosendale and his team to potentially put it on the shelves and have him as an ambassador.

Chef Rich explains, “I might take some of the products from here, like for example, the handmade pottery, to one of my cooking classes and share it with the class. It’s a way to introduce the artisans to people beyond this region and this store.”  Chef will also bring products back from places that he visits. He explains, “I traveled to Michigan and met one of the guys that was just featured on CNBC’s The Profit, called Detroit Denim. They make aprons and high-end jeans. I loved the aprons, so I’ll work out the details and I’ll sell them at Roots. Another guy that I met, Christopher Stavely of Stavely Woodworks in Atlanta, was passionate about woodworking and is just getting started. I loved his cutting boards.  I bought a bunch of them and brought them back here to Roots and sold them.” But it’s Chef’s travels and real desire to help others that opens the door for these collaborations and opportunities. Chef Rich adds, “I really am trying to do what I can within this industry that has been very generous to me. What can I do to try to recycle that?”

roots657 - table markers

THE TEAM

The team at Roots 657 consists of partners and co-owners Rosendale, Muriel Sarmadi, her husband Mehrdad, and Chef de Cuisine Joe Peroney (also from The Greenbrier). Says Chef, “I’m a big believer in having win-win situations with everybody in collaboration. What can we do where everyone is going to benefit?” Rosendale is not the only person that has applied a vision to Roots. Their model allows all members to contribute so everyone has a stake in the success. Even their really cool modern, yet rustic name was a collective effort.  (Ok, I just really love the name.  The whole duel meaning…I’m a word geek.  LOVE it.  It’s just so smart.  I digress.)

And he means for this collaboration and benefit to trickle all the way down to the farmers by allowing the farmer to grow what they grow best as opposed to dictating products based on the menu. Rosendale built the menu around what the farm was already producing and producing well.

But all eyes look to Chef Rich as the idea man. He admits, “I tend to have a lot of ideas, and at times too many ideas, but in the end we try to make Roots something that everybody feels really good about.”

roots657 - burger

THE RESTAURANT

As I touched on earlier, Chef Rosendale’s resume is quite impressive. Participating in over fifty national and international cooking competitions, Rosendale has a strong background in fine dining, but desired to create a place that wasn’t all about ego and him dictating to the guests what to eat. While conceptualizing this project he asked, “What does everybody want to eat? Let’s just make that really well. Set the ego aside and make really yummy soups, big pieces of oversized apple pie, chocolate cake, and hand-cut French fries. But know that when you come in to Roots and get a soup or some corn pudding, we made that right here from scratch.”

Along with their dining room, Roots provides catering service, online ordering and take out. (I was really excited about the take out because I had my eye on some Maryland Crab Soup!). The burgers are made from ground meat that is all natural, dry aged, grass fed beef from Roseda Black Angus Beef Farm in Maryland.

Something to keep in mind with Roots 657; when they are sold out, they are sold out. Says Chef Rich, “I am actually kind of proud of the fact that, yes sometimes we’re going to run out. We may have a little bit more in the refrigerator, but we won’t reheat that. For me, the quality is really important.” Every day, the meat is trimmed and cooked fresh overnight for the next day. So when it’s gone, it’s gone. But not to worry. If they are ever sold out of what you were after, they have plenty of other really delicious things on the menu: sandwiches on fresh bread baked daily, and yummy soups too; all made on sight. Wash it all down with wine by the glass (or a bottle can be purchased) or a local craft beer on tap.

Although Roots tries to stick to the same core menu, you may have some subtle seasonal changes. Chef Rich might add, or feature as a special, items based on whatever products their supplying farm has harvested. A continuing evolution is to be expected for sure.

roots657 - straight outta brisket

THE COMMUNITY

Having owned other restaurants in the past, Rosendale wanted Roots 657 to be a place that was less about him and his accolades and more about having something for the community and a place for him to make a connection with the residents of Northern Virginia. He loves that his neighbors come in to take his cooking classes. He loves being able to donate a chocolate cake to his kids’ daycare. He loves having the local school sell their merchandise in the market, which creates money for them. Roots has become a meeting place for a lot of the community. Chef Rich adds, “I love coming in and seeing people who are owners of wineries or people who make honey. It’s nice to come in here and see business people, or someone right off the baseball field coming in with their family. Everybody can come in and be comfortable. I’m kind of recycling the money, the concept, and my experience and trying to give back to the community as much as possible.”

roots657 logo

THE FUTURE

Regarding future plans for Roots, Chef Rosendale shares, “I think where we’re going to be, even a year from now, is going to be a lot further down the runway than where we are now. In the early part of my career, I would try to control the process as much as possible. As I’ve gotten more experience, I’m able to really let Roots grow more organically, so it’s more about where it goes and less about where I want to take it.”

But current plans do include a live fire theater where cooking classes will be conducted. They will build up the patio with a solar paneled pergola as well as the greenhouse for outdoor event space, but that’s not where it has to stop. And whatever is on the shelves in the market a year from now, might be very different just based on the people that come in. Says Chef Rosendale, “That’s something I’ve learned over the years. Sometimes you might have a vision of what you think success looks like, but you also have to be a bit nimble these days because that’s just how the world is.”

roots657 - easter brunch

Roots 657 is hosting an Easter Brunch on April 1, 2018.  Advance tickets available for three seatings.

Roots 657 is located at 42301 Spinks Ferry Road, Leesburg, VA 20176

Visit Roots 657 online at roots657.com and be sure to follow them on the these social media sites:  Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @roots657.

Cherry Blossom Season & 2nd Annual Spring Smellabration

cherry blossoms free download

If you live in Washington D.C., or it’s surrounding suburbs, you are well acquainted with Cherry Blossom Season. It is the time of spring that we celebrate the absolute splendor of the Tidal Basin busting with blossoms from almost 3000 cherry trees.

cherry blossom tidal basin

The trees were given as a gift to the United States by Japan in 1912, as a symbol of the enduring friendship between the two countries and throughout the years, similar gifts have continued to be exchanged. In 1915, the US government gifted flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan. (Boy would I love to see that!) And in 1981, the US was able to give cuttings from our trees back to Japan, to replace cherry trees that had been destroyed by a flood.

cherry blossom on gray

The people of our area really embrace this cultural and horticultural phenomenon and utilize the outstanding beauty of the trees as inspiration for several events. Besides the annual Cherry Blossom Festival and parade (festival dates, this year, are March 20 – April 15, 2018), it is typical for local spring brides to use the blossoms for their wedding theme.  (The trees make a SPECTACULAR backdrop for wedding photos.) In 2004, the Washington Ballet had a changing of the guards, if you will, with the retirement of Artistic Director Mary Day. Along with her personal retirement, she decommissioned her traditional version of The Nutcracker. The new Artistic Director and Choreographer, Septime Webre (now with Halcyon House Stage) jumped on the amazing opportunity to draw from his love of American history and really tie the story to the Washington area. He set the stage for the ballet in Georgetown, featuring the, wait for it… Cherry Blossom Fairy as opposed to the Sugar Plum Fairy. Did you see that coming?!? (If you read my post “The Nutcracker” from November 8, 2017, then you totally saw it coming.) I was fortunate to see this version in its debut season. With the local setting and the familiar images of the gorgeous cherry blossoms, it really resonated with the locals.

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Another spectacular display that I’ve been lucky enough to experience in person, was the inaugural spring seasonal decor of Cherry Blossoms at the MGM National Harbor grand  atrium in 2017. It was a breathtaking, larger than life presentation of thousands of real blossoms. The hotel/casino also pays homage to the beloved flower with their cocktail lounge, Blossom, located within the casino. You can enjoy freshly mixed specialty cocktails (including a cherry blossom themed drink!) surrounded by images of blooming cherry trees.  They even have floor to ceiling black and white photos of the blossoms in the hotel elevators.  (If you haven’t stayed there overnight, you should!)

Cherry Blossom MGM

Drink Company has opened it’s 2nd annual pop up bar, cleverly named Cherry Blossom Pop Up Bar, in NW DC (open now through April 29).  The bar is set up to celebrate springtime in DC and features a blossom filled space with interesting beverage choices and spring themed cocktails on the menu, namely the Cherry Blossom G&T.   In fact, several establishments in our area offer a cherry blossom cocktail! Check out this Washingtonian Magazine article from 2016! YUM!!!! https://www.washingtonian.com/2016/03/23/8-cherry-blossom-themed-cocktails-to-try-peak-bloom-dc/

cherry blossom washingtonian article

Last, but not least, you may have noticed my inclusion of the sweet little cherry blossom in my Jennifer the Beholder logo. It honors my fondness of beauty, flowers, (and pink!), and the area of the country that I live and love.

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I wish that cherry blossom season was longer. But like anything truly special, it might just crush the excitement if it were. I get sad when the blossoms start to fade and die off, but they leave a final gift when they snow down pink confetti with every gust of wind. Now that’s just fun. And COOL! (Pink snow! Or a pink autumn?  I dunno.)

cherry blossom petals

Some who live here might be jaded to the hoopla of Cherry Blossom Season because a lot of our neighborhoods are loaded with these trees.  (We have at least a dozen just at the pharmacy in our ‘hood!) BUT, if you live here and have never experienced the Tidal Basin in full bloom, it really is worth a lap around the waterfront (even if you just stay in your car). It’s not just for the tourists. And if you are from outside of the beltway and beyond, I encourage you to make it a point to add the DC cherry blossom experience to your bucket list. It truly is a breathtaking sight to behold.

cherry blossom border

2ND ANNUAL SPRING SMELLABRATION

The girls and I were at it again!  Smelling our way into another season.  (That sounds hilarious!  LOL)  It’s really shocking to believe that this is our SECOND annual Spring Smellabration! It was Spring of 2017 that Jennifer The Beholder was born and quickly out of the gate, the girls and I hit the shop to discover our favorite scents for spring.

bath and body spring 2018

I think we all felt that the new Spring candle offering was challenging for us this year. As much as we are ready to leave winter way far back in the rearview mirror, it’s just easier for us to gravitate to the comforting, warm and spicy smells that we associate with the cooler months. But I have no doubt that once the sun breaks through the veil of our frigid atmosphere, we will welcome the 2018 Bath and Body Works spring scent offerings. Here’s how it went down….

lifes a beach

You’ll recall that Meredith is our seasonal/beach girl and she stayed in her lane, but with a slight merge to the fruits. Says Mere, “TIKI BEACH is my go to. It seriously smells like the beach and when I want to escape the craziness of my house with kids screaming, dishes and laundry piling up…basically everyday life, I burn this scent and escape it all!”

TIKI BEACH is a combination of Vanilla Musk, Orchids, and Toasted Coconut.  It is available in Wallflowers Refills, 3-Wick Candle, Scentportable Fragrance Refill, Concentrated Room Spray, and Fragrance Melts.

bath and body - tiki beach

New for Meredith this year are MIDNIGHT BLUE CITRUS and ALOHA KIWI PASSIONFRUIT. She shares, “MIDNIGHT BLUE CITRUS has a fresh, fruity scent without being too heavy and overbearing.  ALOHA KIWI PASSIONFRUIT is a mixture of an “umbrella drink” and the beach…take my money, Bath and Body Works!! Very fragrant and a fun scent for the spring and summer.”

MIDNIGHT BLUE CITRUS combines notes of Juicy Citrus, Fresh Spring Water, and Sweet Mango.  It comes in Wallflowers Fragrance, 3-Wick Candle, Concentrated Room Spray, and a Single Wick Candle which sports a very modern container.

ALOHA KIWI PASSIONFRUIT, a combination of Tropical Passionfruit, Radiant Kiwi, Juicy Pineapple and Fresh Coconut.  This scent is available in Wallflowers Fragrance Refill, Scentportable Fragrance Refill, 3-Wick Candle, and the Concentrated Room Spray.

bath and body - midnight blue citrus & aloha kiwi passionfruit

Jen, our foodie! Like me, Jen had a hard time picking this season.  She’s not much of a floral fan (also like me) so she found her gourmand choices limited this time. But here’s how she weighed in…

strawberry cupcakes flickr

Says Jen, “I liked GRL PWR (Shocking, because it’s called Strawberry Cupcake – Juicy Red Strawberries, Sparkling Sugar and Vanilla Cake).  Hands down, my favorite.  I do like the sweet smells!”  Sadly for Jen, Strawberry Cupcake is only available in the 3-Wick Candle. (Guess she’s gonna have to stock up!)

bath and body - GRL PWR

Jen’s number two fav was COCONUT COLADA.  A tasty blend of  Creamy Coconut, Spicy Banana and Dark Rum (YUM!) available in Wallflowers Fragrance Refill and the 3-Wick Candle.

bath and body - coconut colada

Also on Jen’s list of likes was Meredith’s favorite, TIKI BEACH.  Shares Jen, “Apparently I am also a big fan of coconut fragrance!” We’ll have to see if that carries over from season to season!  Imagine if they put coconut and apple together.  Jen would be in HEAVEN!

john muir creek

This season was tough for me. You know I go for the woodsy scents as a rule. In the past, Bath and Body Works has carried a candle reminiscent of fresh cut grass which I LOVE! One year it was sold under “Sugar Snap Peas”, the next it was sold under the name “Rainforest” and then, “Fresh Bamboo”.  They’ve come darn close to it with “RAINFOREST GARDENIA”. RAINFOREST GARDENIA is still available, as is another past favorite of mine, FRESH CUT LILACS, but I was hoping for something less floral and more fresh grass smelling.  And FRESH BAMBOO is only available as a Wallflower Refill. Sadly, this year, they did not offer anything close. So the hunt began to find something that I could wrap my nose around.

FRESH BAMBOO is a combination of Sweet Bamboo, Lush Jasmine, and Swaying Beach Grass (as opposed to unswaying beach grass?)

bath and body - fresh bamboo

Queue AVOCADO COCONUT.  New on the docket for me this year is AVOCADO COCONUT. I found it subtle and creamy smelling. Not containing an overwhelming amount of floral and the coconut was nicely tempered by the avocado so it’s not too suntan lotion smelling. (Sorry Meredith.)  This new combo of Hass Avocado, Creamy Coconut, and Lime Zest is available in Wallflowers Fragrance Refill, and the *3-Wick Candle.  *This version of the 3-Wick Candle is in the new wider but shorter container which causes problems if you have one of Bath and Body Works’ cool 3-Wick Candle holders.  (Dang.)

bath and body - avocado coconut

After doing this Smellabration exercise for some time now, I’ve learned that within my preferred scent profile is Pear, Gardenia and Vanilla. These notes are portrayed in the PURE WHITE COTTON fragrance along with the addition of White Cotton Blossom. A lovely, sweeter option.  Only available in the 3-Wick Candle.

bath and body - pure white cotton

BERGAMOT WATERS has been around for some time, but it wasn’t until this season that I realized that I like it as a spring scent. Bergamot is an orange, but leans more to the scent of a lemon. I find that I do like the freshness of lemon especially in the kitchen.  The combo of notes on BERGAMOT WATERS is Sparkling Bergamot, Pristine Blue Waters, Sugared Citrus, and Creamy Sandalwood.  (Oh, there’s the wood element that I love!)  This scent is available in Wallflowers Fragrance Refill and the 3-Wick Candle.

bath and body - beragmot waters

And lastly, I liked MINERAL SPRINGS. It’s combination of Soothing Mineral Water, Night-Blooming Water Lily, and a Dash of Lime were a very balanced spring fragrance. Not too floral, not too citrusy.  Only available in Wallflowers Fragrance Refill and 3-Wick Candle.

bath and body - mineral springs

Last but not least, Jackie, our brand new momma took the opportunity to get out of the house for a bit and contribute her findings.  She too had a hard time with the selection.  If you recall, Jackie is our “purist”.  She enjoys the less complicated concoctions, favoring the single note, or minimally mixed combos.

1

calvin newborn pic

Her No. 1 pick?  LEMON.  Says Jackie, “This one was fresh and summery.  I’ll definitely be burning that one this summer.”  A nice combination of Lemon Zest, Verbena, and a Hint of Lime.  LEMON is only available in the the new sized 3-Wick Candle.

bath and body - lemon

CARROT NECTARINE – Jackie admits that she didn’t expect to like this one as much as she did.  It is very subtle and she found herself drawn to the sweet orange oil.  This candle is a concoction of Sweet Carrot, Juicy Nectarine and Fresh Greens, only available in the new sized 3-Wick Candle.

bath and body - carrot nectarine

Honorable mention – YOU HAD ME AT ALOE aka WILD SAGE & ALOE – Although she didn’t like the scent as much as the others, she couldn’t resist how adorable the little jar was.  (Agreed!  Totally cute!)  This fragrance sports the mixture of Aloe Water, Agave Nectar, Desert Sage with Essential Oils.  If it doesn’t make a good candle, perhaps an interesting smoothie!  YUM!  YOU HAD ME AT ALOE is available in the Mini Candle only, but WILD SAGE & ALOE is also available in the traditional sized 3-Wick Candle.

bath and body - you had me at aloe

I hope you enjoyed this fun and a bit tongue-in-cheek review of the Bath and Body Works spring fragrances.  It’s something fun that my friends and I look forward to doing together.  It gives us an excuse to get out, and spend a little time together and welcome the new season in an aromatic way.  Maybe we’ll inspire you to do the same.  HAPPY SPRING!

1 Photo by Ampstudiollc.com located in Phoenixville, PA

Guest – Kira Luca – Artist

Kira with two paintings

Kira Luca has been painting since she was a little girl. Having always been creative, she took art classes throughout her childhood and into high school, but ultimately studied business in college. Says Kira, “I chose marketing because I felt that it was the most creative form of business. I wish I could have double majored in studio art, but the business school and the art school combination didn’t work.”

Kira Luca Galaxy 2

After college, Kira relocated to the DC area from Pennsylvania and began working at USA Today doing advertising in their sales department. From there, she moved to a start up called Vox Media, now a huge media company. Life at the time was hard. All of her free time was spent learning a new city, adjusting to a new career, and attending to the stresses of building a new life. Those stressors took a toll and her health took a hit. It was that low point that caused Kira to prioritize aspects of her life and get back into what she loves. Once she dove into the fresh art supplies gifted by her husband, she hasn’t stopped painting. It was this past Fall when she started to connect the “professional dots”. She thought, “I work in advertising. My husband works in marketing. I know everything about social media. It would be such a shame if I didn’t take my business degree and turn my passion into a business.” Four months later, Kira launched her business. She shares, “I’ve done everything myself. I’ve built my own website and started to post [my art] on Instagram and people began asking about buying it.”

Kira Luca Pool+Party

Kira’s goal is to make beautiful art that inspires people and makes their home feel more chic, beautiful, or fun. She aims to produce art that fills people’s homes with wonder and inspiration. Being an abstract artist, Kira likes that abstraction is not a literal representation of an object or place. Says Kira, “I like when people look at [an abstract painting] and all see different things. They see different shapes. I like that art can spark ideas, and feelings, and thoughts, and I hope that my art gives people more creativity and enjoyment in their life overall.”

Kira Luca skyfall+2 2

Says Luca, “Painting is therapeutic in many ways. It’s kind of a lonely hobby in that you do it by yourself, but it’s nice. I’m an introvert/extrovert. Totally friendly and talkative with people, but I recharge alone. With painting, I can just be myself. I always joke, that I have this mermaid soul; this beachy, whimsical part of my personality. I feel like I can recharge in being that. It’s fun!”

Kira Luca color swatches

Speaking of mermaids…. Kira’s family owns a beach house in Rehoboth, Delaware, which she has traveled to throughout her life. Her love of the sea and the sky at the beach is her major source of inspiration.  Says Kira, “I love how you feel like you’re looking out to infinity. I love clouds and stars; anything [having to do with] the wonder of the vastness of the sky and the sea. I love the colors of the beach, the texture of the sand, the textures of the waves….” Recently, Kira has been working on her “Galaxy Series”. In the same way that she feels looking out over the ocean feels like looking out to infinity, her “Galaxy Series” also offers this idea of wonder. She muses, “Like, what is out there? What do you see when you look into the sky? What are the colors? What do you dream about? It doesn’t have to literally be a galaxy or the night sky, but it’s more of the thought of the feeling behind it.”

Kira Luca Galaxy 1

She goes on, “I know this probably sounds crazy, but sometimes I feel like when I’m going to sleep, I can close my eyes and I can see paintings that I want to paint. I see lines or colors, or I’ll be somewhere and I’ll look at something and I’ll think, that is so interesting, I want to incorporate that into a painting.” Kira often finds that places she has traveled to or wants to visit will also inspire. She explains, “Once you’ve been somewhere, the experience is only in your memory and I like to translate that into a painting. I like that it doesn’t have to be a literal scene of where you were. Sometimes I just paint something that makes you feel the way [you felt in that place].” She adds, “You can work with a local artist, to make something custom in whatever colors you want. They will help bring your vision to life from whatever inspiration point that you are working from.”

Kira Luca DoubleTrouble

Kira’s original artwork is currently available for sale on her website, www.kiraluca.com, or inquires can be made through her Instagram account @kira_luca, but on the horizon is Kira’s dream to appeal to shoppers with a more modest budget. Short-term plans are to make her artwork available as prints. Says Kira, “There obviously is a market for original art, but there are a lot of people who just want an inexpensive 8” x 10” print. They’re ok that it’s not an original. I feel like I can service those clients by offering a select grouping of prints.” This idea nicely transitions into an even bigger dream for Kira. Ultimately she would like to form a lifestyle brand around her art. Says Luca, “I think it would be cool to do partnerships with other brands and stores and have my art on products and décor items.” She would love to be a part of design and fashion in the form of her artwork and style in the luxury lifestyle space.

Kira Luca fuschia

But the dreams don’t end there. Kira would also love to be involved in some kind of live abstract mural piece. She shares, “I would love to work with a really cool, up and coming restaurant that wants me to do an abstract mural on their wall. I’m really into alternative art. I don’t like to just paint, I want to add texture and make it cool and different. I think that translates into me wanting to do murals or make art that goes onto purses or wine bottles or whatever it is.” She goes on, “How cool would it be if I got a winery to contact me to design [artwork] for their wine label? [I’m interested in that type of] partnership or collaboration. I would love to have my art on a product or be a co-owner of a brand where someone says, ‘This is what our wine tastes like. Here are the elements of it, here’s what our bottle looks like, here’s what we’re all about. Can you give us an abstraction of that wine experience?’ I think it would so cool to paint something from a flavor or an experience.” (Hey Loudoun County wineries!! There are over 40 of you! Anyone in need of an artist to create a label for your newest creation?) Says Kira, “I feel like I want my art to be more than just a canvas. I want it to be more experiential.”

Kira Luca black gold pink

What’s the reality versus the dream of running a business that sells original art? Kira answers, “I found that Instagram is such a creative medium that I didn’t expect, but it’s definitely a hustle to get yourself out there. The reality is you spend a lot less time painting than you do working on the business side. Thankfully, I love the business aspect. That’s what I do. I worked at a start up. I work in advertising. It’s right up my alley, so it’s comfortable for me, but I see so many artists that are so talented, but are overwhelmed. They don’t know how to build a website. They don’t know anything about social media. They’re not confident in front of a camera.” But even being educated in all of these things, and having professional experience, Kira admits that it hasn’t been easy to build a brand around cultivating a certain look of photos of her work which is dictated by social media. A lot of time is spent editing photos. She also adds that you have to have pretty thick skin. You put your creative self out there in the form of art braced for feedback, good or bad. She says, “When I share a photo I’m saying, ‘Here’s what I’ve poured my soul into and now I’m going to see if people even like this’. Or what if they don’t buy it, or what if they were to write a negative comment? That’s definitely an aspect I didn’t really consider but has been challenging to think about.” As most small business owners, Kira spends more time shipping art, responding to inquiries, updating her website, or posting on Instagram, than just painting. She goes on, “Sometimes I wonder what if I never did all of this and all I did was paint in my basement? I would paint all the time and I wouldn’t have to worry about all this other stuff, but then I’d have a house full of art that no one ever bought. I think that’s definitely the challenging part with most people who are creative. They want to produce and they love their creativity and what they’re making, but there’s so much more to it if you want to make it a business.”

Kira Luca Summer+Days+2

Growing her Instagram following has been a huge professional accomplishment for her. “I’m proud of it,” she says. “I think when you look at my feed, you see a specific look and feel of my art and style. I’m proud that I put myself out there. That takes a lot of courage to do.” Kira has sold the majority of her art through Instagram. She’s confident in her artwork and has been able to sustain her business through social media sales alone. What she considers her best accomplishment to date.

Kira holding painting

Parting Words:

Says Kira. “It’s easy to fill your home with stuff that’s trendy, or you go into Pottery Barn where they’re telling you what is cool, but if you invest in a piece of artwork, something from an artist, something that’s original, you’re getting an heirloom piece that you can have forever. Original art is completely unique to you and you’re supporting a local artist that made it.” She adds, “Fast fashion and fast design [are not meant to last]. A piece of art that you love and that speaks to you, will never go out of style. Don’t think of it like those throw pillows you’re going to get rid of in 6 months. It’s not going to get stained. It’s not going to get ripped. It’s a beautiful piece for your home. It’s an investment.” She goes on, “I think people sometimes spend all this time on the furniture and paint colors and then think, ‘Oh, we’re just going to throw some junk up on the walls’. Cheap frames, or pictures they don’t even like. I think your artwork should be the one thing you spend money on. Your kids are just going to destroy your furniture and you’re going to get rid of your rug in the next year. Buy something you really love and that speaks to you, it doesn’t have to be something that’s trendy and then you get rid of it.” Says Kira, “I feel that a lot people think original art is unaffordable, but if you’re willing to spend a couple hundred dollars for an end table, spend a couple hundred dollars on a really cool piece of art that you’re going to love. And when that end table breaks, you’re still going to have your piece of art! Lol.”

You can follow Kira on the following social media accounts:  Facebook @kiralucaart, Instagram @kira_luca and at www.kiraluca.com, or email her at kiraluca@gmail.com.

Beige is Beautiful (No I haven’t been drinking.)

As I have discussed multiple times now, I am obsessed with color. It energizes me and excites me.  I love to be surrounded by healthy doses of it. I know it’s current, super chic and trends point to white everything right now.  I’ve tried, sometimes desperately, to embrace the neutral life in my home, but it always leaves me empty and longing for something to bring the room back to life.

Valentine Candy

In addition to my love of color, I also have a habit of searching for beauty around me. It’s almost like a dare. I like to look at the ordinary and try to find something about it that makes it beautiful or special.  It helps me, particularly during the dregs of winter, to look for beauty where seemingly there is none.  I visited a friend’s farm a few towns over with my family. It’s the dead of winter here in Northern Virginia which means that nearly all of nature has been robbed of it’s spring or summer vibrancy and has been reduced to, well, beige. (Mother Nature’s version of the Restoration Hardware catalog.  Ugh.  Oops.  Did I say that out loud?)  With my surroundings being so devoid of color, I started to take in everything and began the search to find something lovely.  It’s my way of coping with the drab.

Joubran Farm tree and pasture

I was delighted to find that this exercise was surprisingly simple! Since my natural draw to a pop of color was missing, I found myself utterly fascinated and completely captivated by the unending display of textures. Whether is was the ruggedness of a hand-stacked stone wall, or the smoothness of the glassy surface of the pond, there was a compelling little treasure around every twist of the thoughtfully laid mulched path.

Joubran Farm pond

And just as I was relaxing into the textural symphony that was playing around me, I would be rewarded with a lovely shock of red here and there, just to tease me and remind me of the pending promise of the change of season.

Joubran Farm - berries

For me, I’ll just continue to hold my breath until Mother Nature wakes up and graces us with the fireworks of spring flowers. But I will no longer take for granted the beauty of texture. I’ll appreciate the winter drives through the lovely country roads of Loudoun County, Virginia, with its rolling hills of beige grasses, peppered here and there with the occasional tonal hay bales and civil war-esque stone fences. Even though it’s missing the splashes of color that energize me, there is still a grace and beauty to be found.

Joubran Farm - stone wall

So if you are not a lover of neutrals, but long to be, either to create a timeless space in your home, or a more peaceful atmosphere for an over-stimulated family, try layering on different textures in one color family to keep your room fresh and interesting. If you stick with organic materials, it’s almost foolproof. Consider the combination of warm wood accent tables and smooth leather armchairs, layered with a dreamy, creamy alpaca throw. It won’t have the energy of a colorful palette, but I think that just might be the point.

beige interior