Back to School – 2018-2019

abc books chalk chalkboard
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I think by now most of the country has resumed school for the 2018-2019 school year. My own children started back last Thursday, so this is their first full week of school. I have a few things to say about restarting school.

Who am I kidding? When have I ever had a “few” things to say about anything?

The upside down

First off, have you been outside in your neighborhood during the day since the kids went back to school? I find it more than a little disturbing. The streets are deserted. It’s like a creepy science fiction movie. Where did everybody go? Are they in The Upside Down? Should I start stringing up the Christmas lights? I digress into my Stranger Things obsession….

Staples Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Anyway, you don’t even have to be a parent to know that most parents can’t wait for the first day of school. There have been tons of funny back to school ads depicting gleeful parents and distraught youngsters school supply shopping. (My personal favorite is still the StaplesIt’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” ad. Hilarious!) The Holderness Family has made a career of their YouTube  back to school parodies. (Love them all Holderness Family. Keep up the good work.)

Holderness Family Baby Got Class

But, true confession time. I am not one of those parents who rejoices when my kids go back to school. Let me just state, that I am all for education and the betterment of my children as people and citizens of this country, but I do love the lazy pace of summer and just having them around.

Me and the boys at the luau

I used to look at the beginning of school as the New Year’s Eve of my year (’cause I actually hate New Year’s, ugh). I looked at it like a fresh start and a time to clean up my act, make good changes, work on great habits and grow. And then October comes.

flat lay photography of calendar
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By October, my new school year buzz has worn off and I start sliding back into my old, procrastinator ways and my “well this is as good as it’s gonna get” attitude. Truth hurts.

Things to do today dated tomorrow

This is the first year that I didn’t feel like it was New Year’s Eve. This is the first year that I wasn’t hypin’ up the new year with trips to Target for supplies, a mall run for new clothes, and constant banter of, “I wonder what teacher you’ll get.” Yadda, yadda, yadda. Blah!

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I’ll admit that I did get amped when I took the kids for their orientations. Their schools are magnificent and their teachers seem so excited to teach. (I’ll check in with them again in February and see if they still feel that way. Fingers crossed.)

Fingers Crossed

I think it’s good to get excited about things (not to the point of nausea, of course). I long for those moments of excitement again. Instead I feel dread of the fast pace of the fall school and extracurricular schedule, the lack of off days to catch up on sleep, the minimal family time (because the kids just want to escape into their computers just to get some down time), not hearing the laughter and getting the extra hugs that I can sneak in during the day (whether they want them or not).  And let’s not forget the pending doom of the physical drop in temperature as the seasons change. (Winter is coming.)

Brace Yourself Winter is Coming

On the flip side, I won’t miss the yelling: “He targeted me!, “No, No, NO! The DIAMOND sword!”, “Mooooommmmmm, he’s mocking me!”, “Moooooommmmmmm! Make her stop singing that song!”, “Moooooommmmmm……” Instead I hear the air conditioner kick on and off…and on and off…

Pure joy

I sincerely want to wish your children and mine, all of the parents, and especially the teachers and coaches a spectacularly meaningful school year. May your passion and excitement on the first day of school sustain you throughout. If it doesn’t, I’ll meet you at Starbucks and we can complain together. Cheers!  Lol.

Me and Starbucks cup

Rose Colored Glasses

I recently purchased a pair of rose colored glasses. In truth, I don’t really know what color the tint of the glasses is, I just know that these new sunglasses of mine make the whole world look AMAZING!!!  (Ask anyone who I have forced to try on my glasses and look around.  LOL)


So let me back up. I recently had my annual eye exam and decided to purchase a pair of prescription sunglasses so that I wouldn’t have to worry about wearing contact lenses at the pool or beach in the summertime or when we travel. My primary purpose for the purchase was to use at the beach and pool, but I was kind of sad that I wasn’t using the glasses, so I decided to start wearing them for driving.

view from sunglasses

I was not prepared for what I experienced the first time that I wore these new magic glasses. It was the peak of cherry blossom season in Northern Virginia, which as I’ve established several posts back, I’m obsessed with this time of year. When I stepped out of my front door onto the porch, sporting my new sunglasses, I was nearly knocked off my feet at the colors of everything around me. These new glasses of mine even make brown look amazing!!!!

white pear blossoms

Have you ever seen video of a little kid…a really little kid getting glasses for the first time? Their reaction is always of such amazement and joy. They look around their little world and just smile at everything and everyone! Well, that’s what I found myself doing with my new glasses. I would even try pulling them down off my eyes to remind myself what the world really looked like. I was so hopeful that the difference would not be dramatic, but it was. I found myself preferring the world that I saw through my glasses to the real world. I began wishing that everyone could see what I see out of these magic lenses. I began dreaming of what the world would be like if we all did look through these glasses. And what it would be like if we could look at each other with equal assistance and filter.

Baby with glasses

I wondered, is it a bad thing that I prefer this enhanced world view? Is it bad that I would prefer to live looking through a filter than enjoying reality? Many would argue that living in any form outside of reality would be a bad idea; a mistake that could have dangerous repercussions. But then I thought, maybe it depends on the filter we use.

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If what we see filtered invokes thoughts of beauty and amazement in the simple, could that be bad? I think that we do this naturally, even without the aid of glasses. Don’t we see the ones that we love in the most beautiful light; maybe somewhat blind to reality?

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And don’t you think we might already be looking at the world through a filter? A filter of someone else’s design and not of our conscious choosing. Our culture has a way of telling us what to think and how to see things. Just look at any commercial on tv. Are they not LOADED with innuendos of how we should think? Blonde is better. Taller is better. This brand of clothes makes you better. This car makes you better. It’s all a filter put in front of us to keep us from seeing the truth.

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The truth is the world is a beautiful place. It is filled with beautiful people of variety, and creativity, and heart. I wish I could shield everyone from the negativity that we are assaulted with everyday, but I struggle with it myself.

Caroline and friends last day of 4th grade

But I can tell you one thing. I’m going to continue to wear my rose colored glasses. I’m going to soak in as much as that filtered world can give me and I’m going to work hard to look at others through these magic lenses.

Sunglasses love

Guest – Jodi Cali – Voilà

Voila logo

I always like to ask my Guests to describe their business in their own words. I think it’s very important to get their vision of what their business is and not what you or I might assume it is. In the case of Jodi Cali, of Voilà, this exercise was very important. Jodi has created a service offering for her clients that is fresh and unexpected. Jodi shares, “I would describe my business as kind of a mix. I do a bit of interior styling, I do a bit of staging, and I also do a bit of floral design.”

Jodi Cali pic 1

After 15 years in floral design, Jodi made an important self discovery. She needed variety. With her creative personality, she found that she was happiest when she had the opportunity to mix up her activity. She says, “When I was only doing floral design I found myself extremely bored just doing flowers. And even when I was having fun doing floral design, there would be times when I would want a break from it. For example, I would want to do the window displays and then I would just go crazy! I wouldn’t want to go back to flowers for a while and I realized that the break was really good for me.” She admits that it wasn’t until much later that she connected that she actually needed to do this; incorporate variety in her professional life.

Jodi’s floral background began in her 30s. Having never gone to college, Jodi pursued a career as an administrative assistant. She says, “I was pretty good at it so I thought it was my calling.” Jodi transferred her administrative skills to work in a doctor’s office for many years thinking she would use her skills towards something “good”; the health field. It was at this time that Cali’s husband, who worked for the Department of Justice, got an assignment that would require the family to move to Italy. After 7 years working at the doctor’s office, Jodi was in need of change.

Jodi admits that early on she did not realize that she was creative or had creative potential. She explains, “Growing up in the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s, if you didn’t play an instrument, draw, or sing, you weren’t creative so the art teachers didn’t push you, so I didn’t know!” When the relocation to Italy happened, Jodi started cooking. She says, “Cooking was my first creative love. I really went crazy when I lived in Italy; crazy, like obsessed crazy. Like I am now with interior styling and everything else that I’m doing.” That’s the spark that lit her creative fire.

When it was time to come back to the states, Jodi’s father inlaw, who had worked in the floral industry in New England for 40 years, offered to get Jodi into the Ritner’s School of Floral Design for free. Jodi took the three week class and hated every minute of it. She explains, “I hated it because I wasn’t perfect at it right away. There were other people in the class who had experience. They maybe were working in grocery store flower departments and were actually doing something involving flowers. I was just trying this to maybe do it for a living.” After she completed the class, her husband encouraged Jodi to go into a local flower shop to see if she could “help out”.

The owner happened to be hiring for a sales position. No flower design experience needed. This foot in the door led to Jodi eventually doing floral design at that shop for several years. Jodi shares, “I fell in love with floral design, but being in a small shop, over time I found it very limiting for me creatively.”

Jodi and her family then moved to Connecticut and lived there for 5 years. While there Jodi worked for a garden center. Says Jodi, “It was a big beautiful garden center. There was a full service flower shop, gift shop and a nursery. And there was a river that ran behind it with canoeing. It was everything all in one for me. The displays, flowers, learning about the plantings, doing outdoor window boxes and the fact that it exposed me to using cuttings off of some of the extra huge trees in the lot and using them for arrangements. That started a passion that I could not stop. I no longer wanted to use anything from a flower shop in my arrangements, I just wanted to cut from what was on the property.”

Jodi Cali flower buisness

Through her work at that garden center where she made lots of friends and connections, Jodi started her own little business called Flowers on the Fly. The majority of her clients were a little bit older gardeners, or women from The Garden Club. Jodi would go to their homes, clip flowers from their yards and make them arrangements. Says Jodi, “It kind of took off from there and started growing rather quickly. I was featured in the local paper a few times. It was really exciting.”

Her business grew enough that Jodi started to get wholesale flowers and incorporated them which allowed her to do very small weddings. Jodi says, “I didn’t have a cooler, just like now. I don’t have a cooler in my home. I don’t do every day florals. You can’t call me and say I want something for tonight or in two hours. I’m not able to do that.” That business was really taking off when Jodi and her family moved to Australia.

During this time, the home styling, DIYing, and creating stylish homes on a budget was sweeping the nation. This is where it all started for Jodi. Before leaving Connecticut, Jodi took her own kitchen and redid the cabinets herself. She lightly sanded them and applied a gel stain. She changed all of the hardware, upgraded the counters and the appliances, added some legs to the island, and put in a window seat. Says Jodi, “The whole thing, including a kitchen table and chairs, a light fixture and a pot rack hanging over, was under $15,000.” Her transformation was featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine! That’s when her passion took off.

Jodi Cali kitchen redo

In her experience, Jodi finds that most people don’t have the money to renovate, nor do they need to. She believes that they just need to improve, or update but don’t know how. So they stay stuck with what they have. Says Jodi, “Most of the time, it’s really just one or two simple things. It’s a paint color maybe, it’s new pillows, it’s a new rug, or it’s new chairs. It’s not always a whole room, and people don’t understand that.” This is where Voilá comes in. Literally.

Jodi is very clear in stating that she is not an interior designer. She worked as an assistant to a high end designer and found it just wasn’t her lane. She shares, “I am spontaneous. That is when I’m the most creative. It’s stressful at times, but that’s how I find that ideas just come to me. I’m not a big planner.  Although I am capable of creating a traditional room board for you, I would rather just see your things in person and be inspired by that one piece that you’re in love with and work from there.”

When working for her clients, she’s eager to make all desired changes on a realistic budget. She shares, “You see on Pinterest the gals and the guys that are doing DIY and people think that is so great. I want to be that real life person for you right here, in Loudoun County and the surrounding areas. I can think of a lot of things to do with your belongings.” Her goal is to make your space look like those that you find when you search for inspiration. This is one of her strengths. Jodi finds that home styling is a lot like flower arranging. She shares, “Basically, it’s the combination of height, scale, texture, and color. That’s how I apply my styling.”

Jodi has also been doing home staging for years and is often called upon by local real estate agents to prepare homes for sale. Jodi shares, “Staging is the easiest thing for me. It’s moving home owners’ stuff around, decluttering, and making what they have look 100 times better. It’s not really buying anything or ordering anything. It’s a no brainer for me. I could do that with my eyes closed.”

Jodi Cali bookshelf

Unlike professional stagers that you see on TV, Jodi does not have a warehouse, nor does she want to rent furniture. She adds, “I really just want to make it easy and that is by rearranging and styling what you already have.” Part of Jodi’s service for styling or staging involves trips to Target or Home Goods to pick up basics. She will also go for full shopping runs for a client, as well as accompany a client to make selections. She does not mark up any purchases and extends to her clients every discount that she is entitled to.

Jodi’s whole professional vibe is casual and fun. She shares, “I want to be a breath of fresh air. I don’t want to make people feel like they have to impress me, nor should they feel embarrassed to show me their house. That’s not me.”

Her creative use of home owners’ belongings has earned her nicknames such as Rumplestiltskin, spinning seemingly mundane into gold, or Tinkerbell because she, no doubt, has sprinkled fairy dust in the spaces she has worked.

Jodi Cali NVSL spread

And let’s not forget her floral design background. Jodi has several clients who she services with fresh flower arrangements on a regular basis. (MY DREAM!)

Jodi imparts, “When you find that thing that makes you so happy, you have to listen. You cannot listen to your parents, or teachers, or guidance counselors if your heart is telling you otherwise. I am living it now. When you do something that you love, it is not work. It doesn’t mean that your hobby can’t just stay a hobby. Go to college and figure that out. But don’t ignore it.”

She’s small, she’s fast, she’s fun and she’s cheery, all wrapped up in a professional package of a woman with years of experience and oodles of creative acumen. “That’s who I want people to realize that they’re connecting with or hiring. That’s who I am,” says Cali. She goes on, “What I really love is that it feels to me that the clients I’m making now feel like they become friends. I love it.”

Jodi Cali pic 2

To contact Jodi you can find Voilà on the following social sites:  Facebook and Instagram


Do you believe in fate or divine intervention?  Are ironic occurrences serendipitous or just a coincidence?  Do you believe that everything happens for a reason?

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I know I’m a bit late to this party, but I recently (and finally) watched the movie The Shack.  I read the book years ago, but needed to wait until I was ready for a good, ugly cry before I could commit to watching the movie.  Now usually, the book is way better than the movie, but I think they did a great job making the adaptation.  There was a moment in the movie, that I don’t remember from the book, that really resonated with me in a very positive way.  No spoiler alert needed here (I don’t think), but it was the scene where the main character was in the garden with Sarayu (the Holy Spirit).  The beautiful spirit shares with the guy that the garden was a reflection of him and his life.  The garden was a complete mess.  There were some lovely things growing in it, but there was absolutely no order, it was overgrown, neglected and just a mess.  But when the camera raises up to give a view of the garden from above, it was a gorgeous, orderly design.  It took my breath away and I think back to the image often.  I try to remember that is what my life is.  It might feel like a giant jumbled mess, but it’s actually a collection of lovely things, and not so lovely things, that are designing a beautiful bigger picture or life.  I had a little reminder of that recently.


pics from The Shack

In my journey to recreate myself, or I sometimes feel a more accurate description would be my journey to create myself, I’ve been exploring new avenues and experiences particularly centered around writing.  The sequence of events that have happened in my life this year, looking back, have been laid out perfectly.  And not of my own doing, except the first step.


Let me start at the beginning.  For reasons that I still can’t explain, I decided to start this lifestyle blog.  I know almost nothing about technology and, at the time that I had this crazy idea I didn’t follow or even read any blogs.  Writing for my blog has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  It turned on something in me that I didn’t know was there, and I liked it.  Couldn’t get enough of it.  I worked hard at it and loved every minute.  Best year of my life.

Early on in my blogging career, one of my Guest pieces caught the eye of an editor of a new local magazine.  She liked my work and asked if I would consider being a profile contributor for her magazine.  Damn straight I would!

Gumspring Farm mag article

I did it!  I took the offer, showed up for my first assignment sweating with nerves.  I was so fortunate to be given the unique assignment of interviewing a person who had the rare career of farm to fashion.  Yep.  This lady was a shepherd who would spin her sheep’s wool into yarn and turn it into garments.  As luck would have it, I got my bachelors degree in clothing and textiles.  I’m not kidding.  (And I haven’t worked in my field of study for over 20 years)  It was a match made in heaven.  And I’m beginning to think that those type of occurrences really are! I understood her industry. (Ok, maybe not the shepherding part, but I knew textile and clothing manufacturing.)

Winter issue NVSL mag - proud moment

The editor was pleased and hired me for more.  I became a regular contributor having several more articles published.  Ironically the amount of money that I earned writing for the magazine allowed for me to be able to hire an illustrator for my children’s book that I had been wanting to have published, nearly to the penny. Besides my own fears, hiring the illustrator was the one piece that was holding me back from going for the dream of getting published.

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The process for publishing my book started in earnest.  I’m the first to admit that I don’t know a thing about self publishing.  Simultaneously to all of this, I had rekindled a friendship with a very talented photographer in our area.  I featured her story on my blog, and because of how pleased she was with that article, she asked me to write a cookbook that she was working on.  As part of her own publishing journey, she joined a Facebook group to help learn the ins and outs of self publishing and invited me to join the group as well.

I began the month long workshop with the group.  The first exercise that we had to do was to friend all of the people in the group and several other groups of our choosing.  I’ll admit, I did not want to do this at all. I was uncomfortable opening up my somewhat private life that I have on Facebook with complete strangers. I did it anyway and incredibly reluctantly.

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Meanwhile, in the rest of my life, I had been suffering with a frozen shoulder along with tendinitis for months (and when I say months, I mean since before Christmas…a long@$$ time).  I’d been seen by several medical professionals to try to resolve the problem or at least minimize the excruciating pain.  (I’m gonna tie this in, I promise). I had literally been tortured for even the hope of the tiniest bit of relief.  I had regular acupuncture treatments, chiropractic appointments, steroid injections as well as voluntarily withstanding two treatments of gua sha which is the Chinese practice of using a thin polished stone to scrape away scar tissue.  It’s not for the faint of heart, nor for anyone who can’t tolerate extreme pain.


It was after one of these treatments that I found myself in deep reflection.  I was emotionally and physically tapped out.  I can remember driving home from the last gua sha session trying to understand and unravel what was happening to me and how I could change my focus so that all of this was for a higher purpose.  I can even remember exactly where I was, as I was driving home, when I had the analogous thought (which I do a lot) that I am like a teacup.  I started thinking of the attributes of a teacup and me.

  • I was strong
  • I was capable
  • I could definitely withstand some serious heat
  • But if dropped the right way, I would break

And I was damn near the edge of the proverbial tea party table.

beads blur bouquet celebration
Photo by Ana Paula Lima on

I found satisfaction with this new association.  Say what you will about me, but I can endure significant pain for a very long time.  (I think it might be my super power!)  I was not just tough, I was super tough and I felt good about this realization.  I’d been blinded by the pain for so long that I didn’t see that it was bringing to the surface a very admirable quality that was in me; is in me.

calling all superheros

That afternoon, after the self-empowering moment of thought, I was cruising through Facebook and a post from one of the new strangers turned Facebook friend popped up.  She had posted several pictures of the most colorful and gorgeous teacups that you’ve ever seen.  I nearly sucked all the air out of the room with my audible gasp of surprise.  (And let’s not go into the tear fest.  Kind of a given if you know me at all.)

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I felt compelled to reach out to my new “friend” and tell her this story al beit the Cliff Noted version.  It was a stunning collection of pictures.  A total wave of acknowledgment from God (or the Universe, whatever higher power makes sense to you).  It was a stunning reminder that God sees me, and is always with me, and that even when we are the most fragile, there can still be great beauty.

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So I am a teacup.  Strong, enduring, but occasionally fragile.  I will keep on keeping on and am grateful for those close to me who nudge me gently away from the edge and help to keep me whole.

Me and teacup

1 Pics from the 2017 motion picture The Shack

Guest – Jennifer & Jay Breeden – Java Jen’s Coffee Roaster LLC


Java Jens Logo.jpg

Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I am passionate about my daily cup of coffee. And I’m a decaf girl, so I am enjoying for the taste, not for the insta-buzz. So one day, when I spied a food truck by the name of Java Jen’s, I had to pay a visit. I mean, it literally had my name all over it. Not just an oasis from a chilly fall morning schlepping Folgers, Java Jen’s is a full fledged coffee roasting business serving their artistry in bean form, or cup, in Loudoun County and beyond since 2016.

Java Jens coffee bags

It all started when Jennifer and Jay Breeden happened upon a documentary starring Hugh Jackman called Dukale’s Dream. Jackman traveled to Ethiopia and met a coffee farmer for the film and became so inspired that he returned to the US and opened a coffee company called Laughing Man Coffee, with a few coffee shops in New York City. Jay explains, “In the documentary you saw the farmer and you saw the coffee shop, and everybody’s sitting around drinking coffee. So I said, ‘You don’t grow roasted coffee, how did the coffee get roasted?’ They said nothing about roasting in the documentary. I said, ‘Let’s do roasting! Somebody’s got to do it.’ So we started investigating. We originally started roasting with a hot air popcorn popper.” Jennifer adds, “It was a great way to learn. Roasting that way is very hands on. It’s open and you’re able to watch everything that’s happening to those little beans.   It’s not like a big drum roaster where you’ve only got little windows.”

Java Jens coffee beans

It began as a hobby for the couple, making little 80g batches at a time. Jennifer attended a roasting certification course provided by the Specialty Coffee Association of America to gain her level one roaster certification. Says Jennifer, “In the course, you’re not just roasting everyday and learning all the ins and out outs of roasting. You are learning the industry, all the way from the seed to the cup. You learn the history of coffee.”

While perfecting their craft, they burned through several popcorn poppers they had purchased at thrift stores. Next thing they knew, they were being courted by the Loudoun Valley HomeGrown Markets Cooperative to sell Java Jen’s coffee at their markets. Says Jay, “We just started getting more into it and one thing lead to another. We ordered an 800 lb roaster that was custom made in Oklahoma City, we drove out there, took possession of it and got trained on it.”

Java Jens commercial roaster

Java Jen’s has come a long way from their popcorn popper days. Like most industries, roasting coffee comes with its share of technology. To achieve their desired roast, Jennifer uses a computer that is connected to their roaster. Software allows them to develop their unique roasting profile. Says Jay, “It looks very scientific when you’re doing it. We do sample roasts, and what’s called a cupping, where we taste the different roast profiles and then decide which ones we like the best. Typically, with specialty coffee, you don’t roast really dark. It’s more in a medium roast range that enhances the natural flavors of the particular origin.” Jay explained that when you create a medium roast, you’re roasting the coffee up to a level where the natural flavors of that particular origin are enhanced without burning off too many of the sugars. Jennifer adds, “For example, if you go with a Central American coffee, you can get cocoa and nutty tones. If you roast it right, it really enhances those notes. A lot like wine (and chocolate!), coffee beans will take on the flavor of whatever is grown around it. If you make the coffee too dark you burn away the inherent flavors.”

Java Jens frest roasted coffee

Quite passionate about the coffee roasting business, the Breedens are very conscientious business owners. With their base business in coffee roasting, ethical sourcing is of the highest priority for them. Says Jay, “We source coffee from around the world and have direct trade relationships with some farms. We like to do fair trade and direct trade as much as possible.” It is important to the couple that as much money as possible goes back to the community in which the farmers reside.

Java Jens with farmers

Java Jen’s beans come from Central and South Americas, Indonesia, and parts of Africa. Sourcing beans takes earnest research. The couple works with coffee importers to make their initial bean selections. Importers post the coffees available and provide information about the farm, the altitude the coffee was grown, harvesting and processing techniques, and flavor notes. This is where it gets exciting (to me).   Some flavor notes that can be achieved in growing are fruity peach notes, lavender, floral, cocoa, stone fruits, or grape notes, to name a few.  Jennifer explains, “The notes can change from lot to lot. I like to look at what the notes are and pick the ones that I think are the most pleasing. I’ll receive a sample and I’ll do a sample roast so we can taste it.” Cultivating their sharpened palate, Jennifer is able to create unique blends used in their espresso and their cold brew.

Java Jens - Jen with coffee shipment

But before they even get to roast the sample batch, Jennifer must first do what’s called green grading. When the raw beans are received, they are green. They must be inspected to find and eliminate defective beans. For specialty grade, there is a certain amount of partial defects allowed per sample lot. Jennifer pulls out all the defects and will determine if the quantity is too much of her projected coffee lot. Through green grading and running a sample roast, if she is not happy with the way that the coffee tastes, she won’t order it. If the coffee passes green grading and Jennifer samples it and it tastes good, then they order. Jay jokes, “We’ve tasted a lot of bad coffee.”

Java Jens coffee at farmers market

As a side note, the higher coffee is grown the better quality and flavor the coffee is able to achieve. Higher altitudes allow the beans to grow slower which allows the unique flavors to develop. At lower altitudes the beans mature faster and don’t absorb as much of the surrounding flavors. Coffee farms shade-grow their coffee. Farmers grow other plants around the coffee trees to shade them. The coffee trees pull up the flavors of the surrounding plants.

Processing techniques can also impact the final flavor profile of a coffee lot. Says Jay, “Different origins process their coffees differently. Africa and Brazil do a lot of naturally processed coffees. In the natural process, the fruit is dried and allowed to ferment for a few days before the pulp is mechanically removed. This allows the pulp and the flesh of the fruit to impart more sugars into the beans so a more full-bodied coffee is produced.

happy coffee
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On a personal note, I had to ask if Java Jen’s offers decaf coffee (‘cause that’s how I roll). Thank goodness, they do! They can provide decaf as well as half-caf to their customers. But there’s more. Java Jen’s is even quite discerning with regards to the processing of their decaffeinated coffee. A lot of commercially sold decaf is chemically treated to remove the caffeine with some pretty caustic chemicals. The decaf that Java Jen’s roasts and sells is decaffeinated through the patented Swiss Water Process which uses no chemicals whatsoever. Says Jay, “We have Swiss Water Colombian and Peruvian coffee. They are really good coffees and no chemicals are used.” The chemical process to decaffeinate coffee beans involves parboiling the beans to remove the flavor and the caffeine. The chemicals that are introduced attach to the caffeine and get separated out of the liquid.   To infuse the flavor back in, the beans are put back into the solution that is basically flavored water. It really makes me want to rethink and question what I’ve been drinking for the last 17 years.

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Photo by Martin Lopez on

Official members of the Loudoun Valley HomeGrown Markets Coop and still growing their farmers market presence, you can also purchase Java Jen’s products at Round Hill Grocery Co. Their brewed coffee is exclusively served at the Herndon Centennial Golf Course Egg Karne Café, Broad Run High School Coffee Café and Java Jen’s offers home delivery within Ashburn and Sterling, VA (even during snow storms!). Don’t live in the Northern Virginia area, fear not! Java Jen’s ships!! They supply customers residing in New Mexico to Dubai and anywhere in between. And don’t let bags of whole roasted beans scare you. Java Jen’s will also grind for their customers.

But if you are local, be on the look out for Java Jen’s bright green food truck-esque trailer at local events. The trailer provides them with a tremendous amount of flexibility since it is able to go anywhere. Some of the events that you might find Java Jen’s in attendance would be Chicks Picks by Hillary (which is where I found them), the Blood and Guts Zombie 5K at Bull Run, and Eggs and Kegs at Lost Rhino Brewery Company. Community service and involvement is also a hot button for the Breedens. Java Jen’s provides sponsorship for the Ashburn Aqua Jets Swim Team and the Ashburn Village Kid’s Triathalon.

Java Jens truck

Says Jay, “In the summertime we roast close to 100 lbs a week for the markets.” A new offering for Java Jen’s this summer was the roll out of nitro-cold brew (NCB). Sounds really science-y, no? An emerging trend in the coffee industry since roughly 2015, NCB is the process of cold brew coffee being charged with nitrogen to give it a rich, thick head not unlike that of a stout beer. YUM!

cold brew coffee

On the horizon for Java Jen’s would be the acquisition of a commercial space. Quickly outgrowing their garage-converted roastery, they are on the hunt for affordable space to expand. Says Jennifer, “The space has to be the right fit. It has to be the right size and make sense financially.” Part of that dream also would include a craft beer brewery style space with the roastery in the back and a tasting room up front for visitors to come, do a cupping, hang out and drink good coffee. Until then, they continue to work out of the commercial roastery space built at their home, which has gone through inspection by the Department of Agriculture.

The movement for consumers to buy locally is important to the Breedens, especially here in Loudoun County. Jay explains, “I read recently that the Loudoun farms are in a decline because developers are buying up the land and they’re building stuff all over the place. It helps to buy from local farmers. Loudoun has dairy farmers, produce farmers, and meat farmers raising cattle, pigs, chickens and eggs. Buying locally helps the community. You know where your products come from. You can go out to the farm and see how they produce their products, so you know that they’re not using chemicals and they’re growing organically. You can meet the people that you’re buying from.” He goes on, “At the farmers market, the people that you see there are the ones out there cleaning out the stalls, or milking the cows; they’re doing it all. I think it’s exciting to be a part of that community.”

Java Jens - farmers market

What brings Jennifer and Jay the most joy, are happy customers. Says Jay, “It’s great to have someone new to us come in and sample a coffee and buy a cup. And then they say, ‘Ah, that’s the most amazing coffee ever.’ That makes us feel good. And then they buy a bag of coffee. And then they become regular customers. That’s what it’s all about.” Jennifer adds, “Our focus is specialty grade coffee. We’re roasting weekly, so you get the freshest coffee. We want to bring really fresh, high quality coffee to the community. It feels really good when we see someone else really excited about our product. I think, wow, I did that!”

Java Jens marketing pic

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