Opera Roanoke Presents Sweeney Todd

Opera Roanoke launches its Ruby Anniversary season with Stephen Sondheim’s musical thriller Sweeney Todd. Audiences can see performances of this popular drama on Friday, October 30 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, November 1 at 3 pm at the Jefferson Center’s Shaftman Performance Hall.
Sweeney Todd is an alias used by the main character, Benjamin Barker, who returns to London to seek revenge on a judge who banished him to life imprisonment fifteen years before. Below his former barber shop, he finds a struggling meat pie shop, inhabited by proprietress Mrs. Nellie Lovett. She recognizes him and, together, they form a plan of murderous revenge against the judge who sentenced him based upon false charges.
In this production, Carla Dirlikov makes her role debut as Mrs. Lovett, opposite young baritone Corey Crider, who will play the Demon Barber of Fleet Street title character. Dirlikov is widely- known for her roles in Carmen, The Flying Dutchman, and Julius Caesar. Crider was praised by Opera News for his “seductively sympathetic” portrayal of Sweeney Todd. Together, they are sure to deliver an unforgettable performance.
Visit www.operaroanoke.org for additional information on how to purchase tickets for this event.

The Blue Ridge Potters Guild Show and Sale

The Blue Ridge Potters Guild will host their 16th Annual Show and Sale from October 16-18 at Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke, VA. The largest all-pottery show in Virginia, it will exhibit the work of over 70 talented and renowned potters and artists.

lively 1The Show and Sale will be free and open to the public beginning on Friday, October 16 at 6 pm. Customers can enjoy refreshments as they have the opportunity to meet the potters and select from their latest work. The event will continue Saturday, October 17, from 10 am until 6 pm and Sunday, October 18 from noon to 5 pm. Demonstrations of pottery techniques such as hand-thrown, hand-built, and sculpted clay art will be held throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday.

“The artistry and talent expressed by potters exhibiting their work is diverse. Anyone who attends should find something that attracts them,” says Becky Carr, co-chair of this year’s show.

Bring your children with you– they will enjoy “Kids Korner”– complete with a hands-on activity for children to experience working with clay and to learn how pottery is shaped and formed.

“This activity brings children and clay together in exciting ways while parents can enjoy looking at pottery knowing their children are having fun, too,” says Nan Fooks, Kids Korner co-chair.

The Blue Ridge Potters Guild is a non-profit organization for potters located throughout Southwest Virginia and beyond. Based in Roanoke, Virginia, their mission is to promote community awareness, understanding and appreciation of pottery. For more information on the Blue Ridge Potters Guild and this event, visit their website, www.blueridgepotters.com.



A Weekend at the Taubman Museum of Art

If the rain is chasing you inside this weekend, consider visiting some of the unique and beautiful exhibits at the Taubman Museum of Art!

Rachel_Hayes_maquette web_0Currently on display, a fabric sculpture by Rachel Hayes entitled Not Fade Away has transformed the atrium of the Taubman. The multi-colored nylon, light gels, and thread culminate in a  stained glass-like canopy that manipulates the space with colorful light. It will remain on display until Sunday, November 6.

kuba vmfa Ngaady Mwash MaskWhile you are there, be sure to visit the Fortune, Courage, Love exhibit featuring arts of Africa’s Akan and Kuba Kingdoms from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. On display from Saturday, September 26 until Sunday, January 3, 2016, this will be a grand presentation of the extraordinary design of regalia and related arts of the Kuba Kingdom in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Djenne people of Mali, and the kingdoms of Ghana’s Akan people.

There are many more amazing fall exhibitions planned for the next  couple of months. Visit www.taubmanmuseum.org for more information.

A Few of Our Favorite Things

Fall is right around the corner and the holidays (aka the busiest time of the year) are soon to follow! You can prepare your body and your mind for the changing seasons and crowded planners by making a few small adjustments to your habits. You may be surprised at how much better you will feel!

Get Healthy
clarity_pink_frontStaying hydrated is the most important way you can pamper your body this fall. Drinking enough water each day will add to your energy levels, help with your appetite, and improve your skin. Pumpkin spice lattes are great, but looking and feeling your best at the pumpkin patch with your friends and family is even better! A cool water bottle might be just the inspiration you need to stick with it. Check out these unique colors and styles from Avex.

617qqRONuxL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_And, speaking of pumpkins, did you know that pumpkin seeds are technically a superfood? If you are interested in fueling your body with natural recipes that include pumpkin seeds, coconut milk, beets, and more, you are going to want to pick up a copy of Superfoods by Julie Montagu! Filled with suggestions for delicious creations, this book is the flexible approach to eating more superfoods.

Learn Something New
Technology can be a little overwhelming and distracting–especially as your schedule fills up over the next few months. Instead of spending your evening at home, glued to the computer or your phone, pick up a book or take on a new hobby. Cath Kidston’s Sewing Book is great for those interested in learning how to sew. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to make a gift that your friends and family can treasure for a lifetime!

Be Mindful
Little-Book-of-Mindfulness3It can be very difficult to stay mindful during this time of year, but it is necessary to maintain your sanity and some sense of organization. We keep a copy of The Little Book of Mindfulness in our office, and recommend it to everyone. You can open this book to any page and find inspirational advice on hot to focus, slow down, and destress. And, after all, isn’t that the best way to enjoy life?

Serve It Up Sassy: Caramel Apple– Delicious!

Recipe Development, Food Styling, Photography and Article by Liz Bushong

With a dash of cinnamon or a sprinkle of sugar, the apple is the favored fruit for fall. Would you like to smell the aroma of nutmeg, cinnamon and apples baking in your kitchen? These apple recipes will show you some of the sweetest ways to enjoy the autumn season.

Caramel Apples settingMemories of fall always include caramel and apples.  A big golden delicious apple on a stick covered with sweet chewy caramel and peanuts is just one of three apple-delicious recipes that you can make this season for your family and friends. Have you had problems with caramel staying on the apple after you dipped them? This homemade caramel recipe and ways to prepare your apples will keep your caramel from slipping off. Now you can make gourmet caramel apples with loads of caramel, chocolate, and various toppings without the caramel pooling at the bottom of the pan.

Caramel Apple Walnut Cookies are individual mini pies filled with a layer of caramel and thick homemade apple pie filling. The cookie is topped with a piecrust woven lattice that resembles an apple pie. As you bite into this little bit-of- heaven, the apple filling with its cinnamon and walnut bites ooze from the sides of the cookies. The cookie top is sprinkled with a generous amount of cinnamon and sugar.

Skillet Caramel Apple Pie (2)Another all time favorite is the apple pie, but this time it is baked like grama used to make it, in a cast iron skillet.  What makes this pie special is the caramel layer in the bottom of the skillet before you add the piecrust and filling. The caramel bakes through the two-layer crusts and rises to the top of the pie making this pie, caramel apple-delicious all the way through.

Apple treats are comforting desserts that should make a regular appearance at your fall get-togethers and meals. The sweet scents of apples and cinnamon baking in your oven will make your home cozy, warm and inviting. Decorating with apples is an inexpensive way to create pretty tablescapes and fall décor for your home.

For a dazzling fall table display bring out your favorite autumn accessories, pumpkins, gourds, leaves, and wooden bowls of granny smith or assorted red and yellow apples. Choose flat bottom pumpkins for stacking, mix colors that will make your display more eye appealing. Ornamental kale, mini pumpkins, mums, potted pansies and sunflowers create a simple but beautiful table and porch presence. For more ways to help you serve it up sassy go to www.lizbushong.com. Be sure to get your free downloadable copy of the Top 5 Fall Favorite  recipes when you subscribe to the Serve it up Sassy blog.

October harvest brings bushels of apples and plenty of apple and caramel-infused desserts. Surprise your kiddos with an after school snack and bake a batch of Caramel Apple Walnut Cookies. For the upcoming harvest party, dip and design Caramel Apples.  For supper tonight bake a little bit –of- happiness with the Skillet Caramel Apple Pie.  Don’t skip the vanilla ice cream on the warm pie.  It is truly apple-delicious!


Caramel Apple singleCaramel Apples

6 medium Gala apples, wax removed
1 cup butter + 4 tablespoons
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup corn syrup
1-14 oz sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon maple syrup or vanilla
Chopsticks or craft sticks

Diced peanuts, walnuts, pecans, mini m & m’s, white bark, chocolate morsels

Prepare apple toppings and place in bowls, set aside.
With 4 tablespoons of butter grease parchment paper or wax paper, set aside. Remove wax on apples by placing apples in boiling water for 40 seconds, remove and rinse. Dry apples, remove apple stems and add sticks. Place apples in refrigerator to chill while you make the caramel. (You will thoroughly dry apples with a towel before dipping in caramel.)
In large saucepan on medium heat, melt butter, sugars and corn syrup until smooth, but not boiling. Add condensed milk and stir with wooden spoon until candy thermometer reaches 178 degrees.  Remove from heat and add syrup or vanilla, let caramel cool for 3-4 minutes before dipping apples.
To dip apples; make sure apples are completely dry. Dip apple in caramel and allow caramel to drop off the bottom so it will not pool,  roll apple in desired toppings, place on buttered wax or parchment paper to set. Melt white bark and chocolate chips in separate containers and place in individual disposable piping bags. Pipe  white bark and chocolate around tops of apples in a drizzle design. Keep apples refrigerated.
Yield:  6 caramel apples


Caramel Apple Walnut CookiesCaramel Apple Lattice Cookies

2 refrigerated pie crust* tested Pillsbury
3 medium granny smith apples
4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon – divided
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg- divided
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup caramel ice cream topping
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts-optional

Peel, core and dice apples, place in saucepan with butter, brown sugar, salt and 1 teaspoon of each spice. On medium heat, cook apples until soft and thickened. Remove from heat and cool. Unroll one crust, using a 2 ½” round cookie cutter, cut out 12 cookie rounds.  Place rounds on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush tops of pie crust cookies with caramel topping. Add a ½ teaspoon apple filling over top of cookie round. Sprinkle with chopped nuts if desired.  Unroll remaining crust and cut long strips of dough ¼ “ wide. Weave dough strips to create a lattice design. Cut cookie lattice with round cookie cutter to create clean edges. Mix ¼ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and nutmeg. Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake cookies for 30 minutes at 350. Drizzle cookies with caramel sauce if desired. Best served warm.
Yield:  12-13 cookies

Skillet Caramel Apple PieSkillet Caramel Apple Pie

5 medium gala apples, peeled and sliced ¼” thick
¼ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
1- teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 – unbaked pie crusts* tested Pillsbury Refrigerated Crust
8 tablespoons butter- divided
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed, light or dark
2 teaspoons corn syrup
1 cup chopped walnuts-optional
1 teaspoon sea salt-divided

In 10”cast iron skillet, over medium heat, melt 6 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir caramel mixture together until smooth and bubbly around the edges of the skillet. Add walnuts, stir to combine. Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add apples, flour, sugar, and spices,  mix to coat apples.
Unroll one crust and place on top of caramel –walnut mixture in skillet. Pushing the crust up the sides of the skillet. Add coated apples and 2 tablespoons of butter diced into small pieces. Unroll remaining crust and place over the apple pie filling. Pinch and crimp both crust edges together.
Brush top of crust with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Bake pie on a parchment lined baking sheet for 55-60 minutes at 350 degrees.
Serve warm with vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce if desired.
Yield:  8 servings


Liz Circle 2013 smallHelping you Make a Statement, Make it Sassy and Make it Yours!®

Liz Bushong is an expert in the three-dimensional art of entertaining. She transforms simple dining occasions into beautiful and memorable moments by adding a touch of her own “sassy” style. For the past several years Liz been entrusted to decorate the White House for several Holidays. She is a featured monthly guest chef/designer on Daytime Tricities, Daytime Blue Ridge and other television shows. Liz is the author of the Just Desserts and Sweets & Savories cookbook as well as a contributing writer for VIP SEEN and Bella Magazine. For more information about Liz go to www.lizbushong.com/www.serveitupsassy.com

Putting the Fun Back in Family Road Trips!

On family road trips, do you spend the entire drive listening to the music your kids prefer, playing their favorite games and generally doing everything you can to keep them content – and peaceful – in the car?

It happens with the best intentions, but too often parents sacrifice their own enjoyment to keep the kids happy, thinking they can’t please everyone. Fortunately, with some creativity and the right travel “tools,” it’s possible for everyone to enjoy the drive.

Here are some ways parents can reclaim their fun on the family road trip:

* Expand musical horizons. Sure, you want everyone to connect with each other in the car and enjoy all the sights they’ll see. But it’s also okay to set aside some non-talk time. Pop in music they’ve never heard of and introduce the kids to different musical genres. There are a variety of songs out there that are kid-friendly. Do some research before your trip– you may even find a few new songs to enjoy yourself!

* Find an audio book that appeals to all. Bestsellers, non-fiction, self-help and children’s titles – audio books offer a great way for everyone to participate in the fun, including the driver. Look for material with age-appropriate content if you’ll all be listening together. “Borrowing” books through an exchange service is a great way to access a variety of titles. Cracker Barrel offers a service that allows you to get an audio book at one  location and return it at any other Cracker Barrel in the country. When you return the audio book, you’ll receive a full refund less an exchange fee of $3.49 for every week you kept the book. Visit www.crackerbarrel.com to learn more.

* Introduce kids to games from your childhood. Playing games is a great way to pass time in the car, but if you dread the thought of playing one more princess- or shape-shifting-robot-themed game, why not introduce the kids to games you loved as a child? Many require nothing more than your imagination, like group storytelling or license-plate bingo. Others like the low-tech classic peg game or Simon, the original electronic memory game you played as a kid, travel well in the car and provide challenging fun for all ages.

* Pack a snack bag with everyone in mind. Everyone will get hungry on the road, so if it’s not yet time for a stop, a snack bag can save the day. Pack with balanced nutrition and broad appeal in mind. Travel-friendly options like fruit and whole-grain snacks can be appetizing and satisfying. Be sure to toss in a few sweet treats for some extra fun. Look for nostalgic options that will appeal to kids while reminding adults of their own childhood, like Moon Pies or Cracker Jacks. 

Whether you are packing up to go visit a family member over the weekend this fall, or preparing early for a holiday getaway, these tips are sure to help your trip be a little less stressful for everyone involved!

Bakeology: Delicious Natural Snacks

We can give you a long list of reasons to fall in love with Bakeology.
Their delightful cookie bites are made with organic coconut oil, organic flax seeds, and other various pure ingredients that will help satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy fashion. Don’t be surprised if you feel a natural energy buzz after eating a couple of cookies!
Creators Dawn and Sasha (a fabulous mother/daughter team) began
Bakeology with the desire to share their home baked, pure creations with everyone. They believe that the experience of enjoying a cookie should never be marred by unnatural chemicals often used to lengthen shelf life.
Their website also devotes an entire section to yummy recipes from the mother/daughter pair that you can create in your own home– including this one for brownie bites that we will be making multiple times for the upcoming fall/winter seasons!
Order their cookie bites here— seriously, they will change your afternoon (or morning!) snack experience forever!



A Lesson From Long Lake

A year ago, I was given a gray t-shirt depicting two bears, a mother and baby, across the chest. They were printed in white, and the words “Long Lake” stretched beneath them like a path. It was a gift from my boyfriend, Robby, who visited me where I worked as a camp counselor. He had just returned from a trip to his family’s cabin on Long Lake’s shore. The lake is tucked safely away in Adirondack State Preserve, located in upstate New York.
As I unfolded the t-shirt, stories began to fly.
“You would love it there, Hannah,” he said. “My sisters and I went there all the time as kids. We used to pick blueberries from the bushes outside and my dad would make incredible pancakes.”
Long Lake sounded like something out of a fairy tale. Water so still that you could hear a far-off whisper, tiny islands with names like Pancake and Feather, chipmunks eating popcorn kernels right out of your hand.
“Next summer, we’ll go,” he said.
This past July, his statement came to fruition. We made the twelve-hour haul up to Long Lake with Robby’s three roommates. Toward the end of the drive, the air got cooler, the sky got brighter, and the tiny service bars on our phones began to drop.

IMG_0656“The cabin’s pretty isolated,” said Robby. “There’s no cell service or electricity.” He had said it before, but as buildings turned to houses and houses gave way to trees, the word “isolated” began to crystallize around us. I looked at my increasingly useless phone, realizing with a twinge of shame just how much time I let my world shrink to a five-and-a-half inch screen. Scrolling through Twitter and Youtube had become a go-to activity in between daily events. While I once painted or wrote or did yoga at random times during the day, I now found myself increasingly complacent, drawn into the hypnotic, humorous worlds behind the square-shaped apps. My battery was nearly dead, my laptop was back in Virginia, and I smiled calmly at the thought of being unplugged. Every few minutes, another phone would lose service and its owner would join the growing conversation.
A grocery trip and a boat ride later, we were floating up to the cabin in the suddenly-pouring rain. Two people jumped out of the boat and secured it to the dock with ropes, and the five of us ferried in backpacks, hiking boots, and cases of beer. When we were done, I walked back outside to look at where I would be living for a week. It was exactly as Robby had described. Wide planks of dark brown pinewood formed the walls of the cabin, and a green roof the color of aged copper stood in a high triangle. Simple, unadorned windows lined the sides of every wall, and a small deck wrapped around a corner. The entire thing was hidden shyly behind pine trees and blueberry bushes.
“What do you think?” Robby asked when I went back inside.
I smiled and said, “This place is perfect.”

IMG_0671And so began the delightful withdrawal from civilization. This particular group, excluding myself, was made up of video game enthusiasts. Gaming is used to bond and entertain, but also to fill the time in a way similar to what my iPhone had become. With zero access to anything electronic, the hours were filled with cooking, fishing, boat rides, and swinging in hammocks. It wasn’t until the fourth day there that I realized how much my lack of a cell phone had impacted me. It was the first time since our arrival that the weather had been anything but clear and sunny, and someone dusted off the board game “Risk.” I had never played Risk due to a deep and genuine loathing for strategic board games. I was handed dozens of tiny red pieces and told to learn as we went.
Playing a board game on a rainy day is an instance where I may frequently check out of the game and into my Twitter account, but I was left with no other option but fully engaging. I loved the game and almost won. Each person spent the whole time laughing and strategizing and pleading and making bets, as opposed to wasting significant chunks of attention on cell phone screens.

IMG_0657Conversations throughout that week were more meaningful, not split between a person and a device. With no alternative for distraction, we learned to really listen to each other, and creative outdoor activities replaced what would certainly be a Netflix binge for some. In a way, it was heartbreaking to see how different things could be without the widespread addiction to technology. It does not take a genius to distinguish between cyberspace and real life, but I required a brief withdrawal to observe the sheer power that my phone has over me.
Since that week of quiet water and leaping fish, stunning sunsets and group cooking efforts, I have tried to be less attached to my phone. My goal is to only go to it when I truly need to communicate with another person. When I find my eyes roaming automatically toward it, I try to catch myself. I breathe and picture a birch tree surrounded by blueberry bushes. It’s not always successful. It’s tough when I’m alone or when others around me are absorbed in screens of their own. However, my prayer is that people will collectively rediscover the value of human interaction, the value of silence, even boredom. Flicking off the screens gives me an incentive and venue for reflection, creativity, and friendship building. With this in mind, I pull on my Long Lake t-shirt and leave the phone at home.


Written by Hannah Bridges