Exploring Minimalism

In July, I read an article in the New York Times titled, “The Class Politics of Decluttering.” In it, the writer argues that decluttering is only for the well-off middle class. She concludes by saying that minimalism is often a form of social shaming, encouraging those below the poverty level to do with less when they simply cannot.

In response to this argument (one I hear frequently), I would like to start an open dialogue on the topic of minimalism.

First, it is important to emphasize that I have never had the intention of socially shaming anyone through my musings. Secondly, I firmly believe that parts of minimalism—from decluttering to being a more mindful consumer—can benefit anyone, regardless of your financial circumstances.

In the New York Times article, the writer states, “For people who are not so well off, the idea of having even less is not really an option.”

With these words, I am instantly sent back decades to my first grade year and the bags of clothes I received from cousins for school. They were so obviously second to me that a group of my young peers took me aside during a lunch period to tell me that I would not be popular unless I wore better clothes. I think, “I know what social shaming is, and minimalism in and of itself does not fall in that category.”

Instead, I would argue that the same Black Friday ads the writer defends in this piece socially shame those facing financial difficulties into rushing to a big box store at 3 a.m. for “deals” on televisions (where they will undoubtedly see more shows and advertisements telling viewers if they work just a little bit longer over the holiday season, they can afford another trinket promising happiness).

In that spirit, I’m going to share a secret with you that isn’t really a secret at all.

The people in charge of these large corporations don’t care if you had to work five hours to afford a new dress at their department store. They don’t care about how many dresses you already own. They only care about selling you a temporary retail high. And, if you can’t afford full price, just pull out your credit card or wait until it hits the sales rack where, if you’re lucky, you can still purchase it at 30% off.

Telling yourself that such purchases provide lasting comfort is believing a lie you’ve been socially shamed to try until it works.

Except surrounding ourselves with objects isn’t working to distract us from the fact that we never really have enough resources to obtain the magic number of items to achieve lasting joy.

Case in point? The writer of this article says that she and her daughter were forced to downsize and move into an apartment that did not have space for “car loads of clothes, school papers, books, movies, and art work.” She describes these items as “things that I grew up with that brought me back to a time of living a care free life.”

Car loads of clothes. School papers from the childhood of an adult raising children.

I’ve been under the weight of those objects when I was forced to downsize after a career change, and the anxiety caused by this burden alone was overwhelming.

I’m not advocating that the poverty-stricken do without. I can’t speak for other minimalists, but I don’t think that is their intention either. Instead, I hope for a world where we can find comfort outside of the big box stores. I long for a time when people cancel their cable subscriptions and fill the libraries again to read—not get lost in the internet. Most importantly, I need to believe that a place exists where people can spend more time enjoying the sites around them with the people they love instead of suffering from the crippling anxiety that accompanies starting over with car loads of clothes and papers tethering them so firmly to the past that they cannot breathe in the present.

Chateau Morrisette’s Delicious New Cider!

Chateau Morrisette, Virginia winery and restaurant, unveiled its newest drinks this past Labor Day Weekend. Nestled beautifully within the town of Floyd, Chateau Morrisette now serves a line of three hard ciders: Barrel-Aged, Cherry Ginger and Chai Spiced.

“While we are winemakers, we are also farmers,” explains Keith Toler, Director of Marketing at Chateau Morrisette. “We maintain a good relationship with other local farmers for both our winemaking endeavors and our restaurant.”

Chateau Morrisette Winery and Restaurant is known for its wines, dog-friendly grounds and event hosting, but after careful consideration and talk of expansion, the concept of a hard cider arose quickly.

unspecified-1“From a marketing standpoint, we recognized a trend for wines with a lower alcohol content,” Toler says. “Our ciders are made from apple wine at the base, and through the development process, we were able to bring that alcohol content down to 6.9 percent, providing customers with a low-alcohol alternative to our other fruit wines. Handcrafted ciders work really well for people who do not like the bitterness of beer, but do not want the higher alcohol content of wine.”

Also playing a large role in the cider development at Chateau Morrisette is Brian Smyth, winemaker and cider connoisseur. Smyth oversees the decisions and tasks such as fermentation, picking, and fruit harvest times–all key elements in the development of Chateau Morrisette’s ciders.

“We’ve been trying to develop the ciders here for about a year, so we’ve spent a long time on the ciders just to get them together,” says Smyth. “This run is mostly a trial run, so the volume is relatively small. We’ve made about 300 gallons of each of the three flavors.”

The three new ciders are currently offered exclusively at Chateau Morrisette. Tastings can be scheduled throughout the week in the winery’s tasting room. Tickets are $5 a person, and tastings are held at the bottom of the hour.

“We want to hear customer feedback and gauge future demand,” Toler said. “If well-received, then we will use our distribution network to bring the ciders to retail outlets throughout Virginia—and possibly beyond.”

For more information about Chateau Morrisette, wine tastings, cider tastings, directions, or events, visit www.thedogs.com.


Written by Emily McCaul

Nesselrod on the New

Planning a wedding is a beautiful experience. Selecting the right venue, often the earliest and most important step, can predict whether or not the subsequent items on your list will be stressful or enjoyable. We have spent the last several months in search of the perfect venue that offers multiple services and a phenomenal back drop for your celebrations. When we came across Nesselrod on the New River, we knew immediately that we had found the perfect wedding location.

Nesselrod is a romantic oasis surrounded by formal boxwood and hemlock gardens in Radford, Virginia. Its outdoor gazebo, gothic arches, and ethereal florals create a magical environment for weddings, receptions, rehearsals, and bridal portraits. Their outdoor season is from April through October, and during it they can accommodate up to 250 guests. From November to March, their guesthouse is perfect for more intimate weddings of up to 25 guests.

Roanoke Virginia Wedding Photographer and Photography
Roanoke Virginia Wedding Photographer and Photography

Couples may choose from one of four wedding packages. All packages include a wedding coordinator, parking attendant, and sound system for the ceremony. They also include tables, chairs, and linens on the patio and reception area for up to 120 guests. Additionally, gourmet meals are prepared by an onsite chef and served by staff, and the grounds are available for engagement and bridal portraits. For a truly unique experience, couples can add a horse and carriage to their ceremony and take advantage of amenities like golf, paddleboarding, fishing, tubing, or kayaking.

The Unforgettable Wedding package allows exclusive use of the estate from noon on Thursday until noon on Sunday, dinner on Thursday night for guests of the Inn, a massage for six guests of the bridal party, a bridal luncheon on Friday, a rehearsal evening complete with dinner options on the patio or in the gardens, and much more!

Those looking for a smaller ceremony with a reception inside the inn and a honeymoon suite for the bride and groom can find everything they need with the Intimate Wedding package. There are packages offered for elopements, mid-week and off season weddings, and everything in between.

Couples married during the month of October will have the added benefit of the fall foliage to create beautiful photos and priceless memories.

nesselrod1“A fall wedding at Nesselrod is unforgettable as it is a bride’s exclusive haven amongst the beautiful foliage and grounds that are unique to Nesselrod,” says Wedding Coordinator Kelsey Macintosh. “Brides can expect so many colors and backdrops for their October wedding, from the most vivid of greens to beautiful rustic oranges.”

This venue is the definition of unforgettable. Nesselrod brides will have their own dressing room, decorated with 18K gold cherubs and fine antiques. It is complete with a vanity, full-length mirror, ironing board, and shower. Here, the bride can relax with her bridesmaids and family before embarking on her special day.

A venue that helps you plan the length of your wedding weekend and includes the amenities best suited for your needs? Count us in! (Don’t forget to send an invitation to your favorite Bella girls!) For more information or to book your special day, visit www.nesselrod.com.

Halloween Reads: Local Author K.L. Kranes

K.L Kranes is a Virginia author debuting her first novel, The Travelers. This novel is about two Wiccan tribes and the love story between the two main characters, from opposite sides of the feud. I reimagined Romeo and Juliet story that takes place in the underbelly of our beloved state. I had the pleasure of speaking with K.L. Kranes about her experience writing her debut novel, a feat that took her 10 years to complete.
This book is an important part of K.L. Krane’s life. One scene is even based on one of her own memories with her husband. According to Kranes “[The Travelers] centers on this relationship between Marc and Dagny, who actually meet by chance on a plane. That chance encounter was actually based on how I met my husband, obviously without the witches and magic. But, many of the details in that meeting in the book are exactly what happened when I met my husband on a plane from LA to Australia. I had an editor once make a comment that the scene wasn’t realistic and would never happen like that and I could only think ‘but it did!’”

What is The Travelers about?
K. L.: The book follows Dagny and her family, who are Travelers. Imbued with magical abilities, they can transfer their souls from body to body, staying young forever. But it is not safe in the world for Travelers. For centuries, Dagny’s family has been pursued by an unknown enemy bent on their destruction. The only way to stay safe and hidden is to keep Traveling. But when Dagny meets Marc, everything changes. For the first time, she wants a future that doesn’t involve changing bodies. Despite the risk, Dagny vows to stop Traveling and be a normal girl. But as her enemies start closing in, Dagny starts to wonder if she can ever really be normal and if she can actually trust Marc.

travelers-cover-finalWhat makes The Travelers stand out from other fantasy novels?
K. L.: The Travelers isn’t just a standard fantasy novel about witches, where a girl meets a boy, falls in love and sinister forces try to tear them apart. My overall goal was to create a story about two groups of people who hate each other and, then, make the reader feel sympathy for both sides. Therefore, the book changes perspectives often. Although Dagny is the main focal point, it doesn’t just follow her character. The book takes a scene or experience and shows it to you from several different points of view. I hoped this approach would underscore the idea of trying to understand differences rather than judging with little information (i.e, “walk a mile in someone’s shoes”).

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? 
K. L.: Dagny is a Traveler, which means she is part of a group of witches that can move their souls from body to body and stay young forever. Travelers are rare and powerful, but also hated in this Wiccan world. Even among Travelers, Dagny is different. She is even more powerful than other Travelers. But, Dagny doesn’t want this power. She just wants to be a normal girl. I think that desire makes her special. Everyone wants to be a superhero. Here is someone who has great power and can stay young forever, travel the world with ease. Instead, she would rather grow old in one place and live a normal, peaceful life.

In a previous interview you describe her as “feisty.” Why is that?
K. L.: Travelers are hated in book and because Dagny is so powerful, her family fears even more for her safety. They keep her life strictly controlled. Unfortunately for them, Dagny is headstrong and impulsive. At the beginning of the book, she tries to be a good daughter and sister. But as the novel progresses, you see her rebel against her family, refusing to let their prejudices and fears become her own.

Where did the idea for this book come from?
K. L.: The idea started with the concept. I wanted to write a book about two people on opposite sides of a feud who’d been taught to hate each other and how they overcome that engrained hostility. I also wanted to turn the tables on the typical story often seen in YA fantasy books, particularly vampire novels where the older, wiser vampire falls for a young girl. And I didn’t want to write another vampire story, plenty amazing ones have been written already. So I came up with the idea of Travelers who move from body to body and stay young for centuries and made the main character a female Traveler who falls for a technically younger boy.

How much research did you have to do for this book?
K.L.: This may sound strange, but I tried not to do too much research. My fantasy novel is about magic and Wicca. However, I didn’t want it to be reflective of the actual Wicca religion. Sometimes I would research symbols or meanings for inspiration. But, in general, I wanted the witches not to be constrained by current convention.

What is the hardest thing about writing this novel?
K.L. I think the hardest part was actually showing it people. I spent 10 years writing this book, not because it took me 10 years to write it. But because it took me a long time to build up the courage just to show it to my husband. Then, it took even more years before I showed it any additional people. My parents and best friend only read it with in the last year during the publishing stages.

What draws you to the fantasy genre?

K.L. I’ve always enjoyed the dark, mystical aspect of stories. My first favorite books growing up were by R. L. Stein, Stephen King and Anne Rice. As a girl I wanted to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I like that fantasy takes you into a different and exciting world, but still reflects something about real life. In fantasy, novels you can explore issues and concepts through a different lens and I think, sometimes, that can be even more effective than showing people reality.

How long did it take to write your book?
K. L.: It took me about 10 years. However, as I said previously, I didn’t write it the entire time. I shelved the book for years on end at different points because it took me so long to build up the courage to show it to anyone, let alone submit it to a publisher.

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
K. L.: My best tip is to stop whatever you are writing and write something else. For me, it’s kind of like when you can’t think of a word or an idea, so you do something else and then it pops into your head. Writing something completely different, even it if it something mundane like an email, clears my head and helps me move forward on my other project.

klkranes-pictureWhy do you write?
K. L.: The simple answer is because I love it. I can start writing something and spend hours on it and it feels like only minutes have passed.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
K. L.: I wish I wrote a lot of books. However, I recently read Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I couldn’t help thinking as I read it how much I wished I could write something so unique and powerful. To me, it was like The Color Purple meets Gulliver’s Travels. I’d never read anything like it.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
K. L.: Don’t be afraid to show people your writing or wait so long before submitting it to publisher.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
K. L.: Probably the same advice I’d give my younger self. Don’t be afraid. Show your work to people. Feedback is critical and helps to shape you as a person and a writer.

Be on the look-out for this Virginia Native’s debut novel The Travelers paper back was recently released on June 23, 2016! It would make a great read for October or gift for the Halloween lover in your life! Also, be sure to check out her blog at klkranes.com/blog.


Written by Nicole Brobston

The Craftsmen’s Fall Classic!

What’s better than Feeding America? Feeding America while attending one of the country’s highest ranked craft festivals for free! The Craftsmen’s Fall Classic is a Roanoke favorite and is celebrating its 29th annual show. This event is a top 20 national qualifier for one of the best classic and contemporary craft shows. It has also been named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society. The Craftsmen’s Fall Classic chooses instead of charging admission to only ask for a food donation, because of these efforts this event has become the second-largest food drive that Feeding America South West Virginia put on. In 2015 the event pulled in 25,000 pounds of food! This year they are hoping to even surpass that. Monetary donations are also welcome.

ajanaku_obayana_31There’s hundreds of artists that participate in the event every year from 20 states. Of course, there’s the event favorites, but each year the event brings in many new artists. Items from baskets, to pottery, to fine art, and wood-work; from classic to contemporary styles there are thousands of pieces just waiting to be purchased. If the “big box” retail store items are not your taste this event is perfect for you! Each item being sold are made by the craftsmen participating. That makes these truly unique pieces for your collection. The styles vary widely so it is unlikely you walk away from the event without finding something just your taste. Many of the artists welcome custom work.

img_1205Not only can you find a special piece for your home or the perfect gift for that one aunt that is terribly difficult to shop for, you will be contributing to a great cause! This year the event falls on October 14, 15, and 16. Friday from 10 am to 8 pm., Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm., and Sunday 11 am to 5 pm.

Admission is free with a food donation! Let’s all help Feed America this weekend at The Berglund Center!

Written by Nicole Brobston

Blue Ridge Potters Guild Annual Show

Blue Ridge Potters Guild will host their 17th Annual Show and Sale at Patrick Henry High School on October 14-16. This event showcases over 70 local artists and offers an incredible range of hand crafted pottery. It will also mark the 20th birthday celebration of the Blue Ridge Potters Guild, a community made up of over 115 members who share ideas and promote the work of local and regional potters. Their mission is to promote community awareness, understanding, and appreciation of pottery. Members can often be found teaching or attending workshops and volunteering their time to teach pottery in local schools.

Regardless of how many years they have worked with the guild, members seem to reflect this mission in both their work and their interactions with the community.

Artist Beth Wiseman

Beth Wiseman, who is serving as the Publicity Chair this year, joined the guild two years ago. Within the guild, there are those who have been creating pottery for over forty years and there are also beginners.
“I’ve been doing pottery for three and a half years,” says Beth. “With this organization, I’ve found a great place for a newcomer, like myself, to reach out and get some expertise from those who are more experienced.”

Beth Wiseman pottery

Beth’s pieces tend to fall more in the functional category of pottery. Her works include coffee mugs, bowls, and soap dishes. Recently, she’s been excited about creating jewelry pieces that she thinks are going to be pendants.

Using a technique called sgraffito, Beth creates unique designs in the clay that reflect her mood. “Sgraffito is the process of painting on an underglaze and carving the negative space to reveal a design underneath. It is akin to woodblock carving. It can be used in any surface design,” she explains.

As far as the design she chooses, much of her inspiration comes from her previous occupation as a park ranger. She does not strive to duplicate any design as she prefers each piece to be an individual piece of art. However, some of the process is influenced by her children, ages five and eight.

“My children are with me most of the time. My husband recently set up a studio for me in our basement and they are usually in the playroom while I’m working. This allows me to do something for myself and be there for my kids,” says Beth. “Sometimes, my daughter will come over and make a suggestion. I once did a series of foxes on mugs just because she suggested it. Children are so uninhibited. They haven’t been told what’s right and what’s wrong, so some of their ideas tend to be fresher.”

Of course, going into a piece of work with a plan does not always turn out the way Beth intended.

“Clay doesn’t always turn out the way you think it’s going to. You have to be accepting of that, and sometimes it can turn out better than you planned. The entire process has helped me let go of being a perfectionist. As I get older, I’m far more accepting of things that don’t turn out the way I think they should. I remind myself to not let the perfect get in the way of the good,” says Beth.

Artist Elane Watson

For Elane Watson, an experienced potter of several decades, planning is not an issue. At 41 years old, she enrolled at Kansas State University, where she got her BFA with an emphasis in ceramics. Initially, she was interested in painting, but those classes were full. Upon receiving this news, she wandered down the hall where a pottery class with one empty seat awaited. The teacher assured her that she could paint on clay. There, she started in a form of pottery called Raku and continues to work in it today.

“Basically, I don’t plan. I call myself an intuitive artist. I always start with a bowl. I call my pieces ‘Praise Pots’ because they always start with a pot. I then let it guide me as to how I end up with my design. Sometimes I will put actual arms on them. Sometimes I’ll shape them into the pots themselves,” explains Elane.

Viewing Elane’s work is a memorable experience. She often records the reaction of passersby in a notebook, even if they don’t make a purchase.

“My Praise Pots always have their mouths open and rejoicing,” she adds. “Everyone can recognize my work by that. Even if I don’t sell it, it makes people happy, and that is my goal.”

Elane Watson Pottery

With her Praise Pots, Elane works with a technique called coiling. This process requires that she add one coil at a time to create the piece. She also works with a slab roller for her beautiful tiles with intricate designs that often include an array of geometric shapes. Additionally, Elane creates beautiful jewelry and works of art from fused glass. Each piece is unique and showcases the skill she has developed over the years.

One of Elane’s Praise Pots, inspired by the Prodigal Son, will be on display at this year’s show. The Gallery theme is “Coming Home,” and one can’t help but feel the joy of the son wrapped in his father’s arms, forever cast in a happy embrace.

Several other members of the Blue Ridge Potters Guild will have work on display in the same gallery, and they will be judged by PR entrepreneur, River Laker. Winning pieces will be awarded certificates of merit based on the quality of the work as it relates to various aspects of the theme.

To learn more about the Blue Ridge Potters Guild, and for more information on their annual show, go to www.blueridgepottersguild.com. The show will take place at Patrick Henry High School on Friday, October 14 (6pm-9pm), Saturday, October 15 (10am-6pm), and Sunday, October 16 (12pm-5pm). Admission is free and cash, checks, and credit cards are accepted for purchases.

Purchasing With A Purpose

Of course, we all like to find that one gorgeous piece of jewelry or decoration for our homes, but it is important that we consciously spend our money on things that make a difference. With that in mind, check out two of our favorite product lines that are making the world a better place!

both-candlesFirst, the Starling Project by Sterling McDavid is a series of candles that can fill your home with four unique and wonderful scents. What makes this candle special is every time you light it, you are reminded of the deeper purpose behind it. Starling Candles are an entirely American made product whose sales are donated to key philanthropic organizations, like UNICEF. These donations go towards providing solar energy for communities in under-resourced countries.
According to The World Energy Outlook 2015, 1.2 billion people are without electricity. This contributes to poor hygiene and a dependence on unsustainable energy. Unsustainable energy is the leading cause of air pollution; which is a factor in over half a million infant deaths, with poor hygiene resulting in 1.4 million children deaths. Solar energy would provide energy alternatives, cleaner air, and cleaner water in turn saving those lives otherwise lost to air pollution and poor hygiene. One little candle could be the beginning of a change. This candle can make a difference and so can you.
So far The Starling Project has raised over 100,000 dollars which have all been donated to provide solar energy. For more information on how you can help, visit www.starlingproject.org.

songa_shop_bracelet_600x600_luna1-478x480_1024x1024Another awesome retailer, Songa Designs, is also doing its part in making a difference. They create high quality accessories that empower women. Songa Designs is an employer of women for women. According to their website, it is typical for women in developing countries to rely solely on their husbands for income—rendering them completely dependent. Songa Designs seeks to create jobs for these women to grant them their independence. They believes in fair wages and economic independence for all.
They have a number of different bracelets, necklaces, and baskets for sale on their website. Any purchase benefits women in developing countries find their own economic independence. They seek not perfection, but meaning and fulfillment, and their pieces are more than accessories. They are art with a greater purpose. Songa means, “The Path Forward.” Let’s walk together.
We like to buy, but now we can buy with purpose; consciously spending on things that make a difference.

Visit our Facebook page for a chance to win a candle or bracelet of your own this month! Don’t forget to pick up our October issue for more of our favorite fall items!

Written by Nicole Brobston

Giving Back: Creative Therapy Care

Creative Therapy Care is a local nonprofit organization that supports children and adults with special needs through the use of occupational, physical, and speech therapies by incorporating animals. They also provide music therapy onsite through Anderson Music Therapy Services.

The newly-expanded campus includes a gym for sensory integrative activities, a woodworking station, and a shop where items made by clients are sold. It will soon include a room renovated for expressive art.

photo-aug-26-4Occupational therapist Mona Sams owns and cares for all of the animals used at Creative Therapy Care. Dogs, rabbits, and llamas comfort and bond with clients on the grounds. This unique form of treatment is not only soothing, but also helps in the development of key life skills. “Animals help because they don’t pass judgement,” explains Mona. “They give unconditional acceptance. They also help in that they create an awareness that beings other than just yourself need to be cared for. It helps develop a nurturing aspect and social skills. They each pick a llama to care for and they share.”

In addition to occupational therapy, clients can participate in music therapy with Noel Anderson and Cassie Smith from Anderson Music Therapy. Music is used therapeutically to address physical, psychological, communicative, cognitive, behavioral, and/or social functioning. Often clients are co-treated with the two therapies since they are at the same site. This allows parents and caregivers to take advantage of both in the same trip.

“Sometimes a client has been in a session with me and Cassie will come down and I can let her know what we’ve done during the day,” says Mona. “They can then make up a song about something that happened with a llama. If the client gets restless we can walk around the building again with the llama.”

Through a door in the music room awaits a gym. Once a garage, it is now a room of discovery and growth. There, nonverbal children learn to communicate with the animals without speaking by making motions with their hands or indicating direction with their bodies. In the last few months, clients have been using the gym to practice with the llamas for Llama Fest, which will take place on Saturday, October 8 from 10 am to 4 pm (with a rain date of Saturday, October 15). The event will take place at their location, 8209 Williamson Road, Roanoke. Clients will lead their llamas through obstacles and it will be categorized according to skill. There will be judges present for the event, which helps teach sportsmanship and self awareness.

If you are interested in learning more about Creative Therapy Care and Anderson Music Therapy, their websites are www.monasark.org and www.amusictheraphy.com, respectively. Don’t forget to check out Llama Fest on October 8! We’ll see you there!