All posts by Guest Writer

Kindness Matters: House of Bread

To break bread is probably one of the oldest human traditions that continues to ignite the spirit of sharing. In the Christian faith, it is symbolic of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. To make bread is the activity that unites women who are participating in job training sessions offered by the House of Bread, a new non-profit in Roanoke.

The House of Bread was created in January 2017 to help formerly incarcerated women gain skills to strengthen their confidence and hope. Over the course of a six-week session, women learn new skills through hands on training in the Local Environmental Agricultural Project Kitchen (LEAP kitchen located in the West End) and gain spiritual development while baking and selling bread alongside volunteers from the community.

In addition to learning basic kitchen and baking skills, the women in the program receive ServSafe food handler training, develop marketing and customer service skills, and partner one-on-one with mentors who shepherd them through a job search and resume building process. The students are given a $50 weekly educational stipend and are expected to attend a weekly class and sell bread with the organization once a week. They meet weekly with their mentors. Each session culminates with the ServSafe certification exam and a mock interview clinic where students practice their interviewing skills and receive feedback. The first clinic was staffed by attorneys, business leaders, and people in the restaurant industry.

The inaugural session kicked off in October 2017. Most of the first session’s participants were chosen through Transitional Options for Women or Total Action for Progress. Six women began the program, and four graduated, all with ServSafe certifications. Alongside women from the community, the students learned how to bake a variety of breads and sold over 350 loaves, often selling out in an hour.

What was the recipe for this success? The baking skills honed at home and shared in the LEAP kitchen by Lisa Goad (co-founder), the organizational finesse of former teacher and current seminary student Jordan Hertz (co-founder), and the vision of licensed professional counselor and seminary student Jen Brothers (co-founder). Sprinkle in a handful of motivated students, passionate volunteers and mentors, wide-ranging community support, and generous funding from church grants and private donations, and House of Bread was born.

Brothers realistically anticipated some attrition, and it did happen in the case of one student, who relapsed after finding herself in an unsafe living situation. Her mentor did not give up, saying she wouldn’t leave her until she was ready to stand on her own two feet. She connected her mentee with resources to help her regain her footing and start a new job.

Currently in its second session, the House of Bread has big projects on the rise.   Transitional Options for Women, a recent recipient of a Roanoke Women’s Foundation grant, will open a coffee shop this January on 13th Ave. It will be staffed by TOFW residents and House of Bread graduates. A former HOB student and current House Manager at TOFW will manage the shop. HOB plans to rent a space beside the coffee shop to host meetings, hold interviews, and allow for greater connectivity to the neighborhood and its residents.

Brothers wants to hold the graduates together in community and is currently working on organizing weekly “soup nights” where program graduates, volunteers, and friends come together to break bread and share in storytelling and prayers, with local ministers presiding over a simple round table Communion service.

House of Bread fills a unique niche in our community, offering hope to those who may have lost it along the way and the tools to rebuild a life and become a healthy and productive citizen. It also allows for the formation of friendships across neighborhood and socio-economic divides. House of Bread actively seeks volunteers, donations, and customers. To learn more about House of Bread please visit www.houseofbreadroanoke.com.

Written by Kate Ericsson

 

Warm and Cozy Winter Nights

Looking for a fun way to get through these cold nights? Never fear! Our new intern, Lilith, shared a few of her favorite winter night activities with us. Check them out below!

  • Make some tea or hot cocoa and then bring out the board games! A board game night is a good way to hang out with a large or small group of friends and include everyone in something. My friends and I love this activity! Over the summer, we collected some of our favorite board and card games; now at least once a week we like to get together and get a little competitive. I know it might seem lame at first, but it can lead to fantastic memories and is an easy way to spend a night with friends that doesn’t have to include trekking out into the cold weather. Some of our favorites to play are Clue, Ultimate Werewolf, and Cards Against Humanity.  SIDE NOTE: Get a little adventurous and see if there’s a Dungeons and Dragons group in your area!
  • This one is classic! Binge watch Game of Thrones or put on Moana, either way just make sure you grab your closet friends. Start the movie, order a pizza, pop some popcorn, and curl up on the nearest couch for a lazy night. Too basic? Try out a new baking recipe to have a treat while you watch your favorite movies! You’ll need something sweet to balance out the pizza and popcorn anyway!
  • With the cold weather drying out my skin, I think this is a very beneficial and fun way to spend a winter night! Try your local drug store for some premade face masks. Or if you want to get more creative, make your own for a little DIY action. Want more? Try doing nail art! Any drug store will have plenty of nail polish and nail tools. Get adventurous! Combine all this with a sappy romance movie or put on some good music and you have yourself a winter night well spent. Perfect for hanging out with friends or a relaxing night in by yourself!!

P.S. We hear that wintry weather may be returning next week, Bella girls! So stock up now, and be prepared for a fun, safe time indoors with family and friends.

 

Written by Lilith Turman

Virginia Made: Shop Local!

Cozy. The word itself evokes images of crackling fires and hot chocolate with extra marshmallows. Cold days are here and snow is on the horizon. Extra blankets are thrown over beds, winter decorations adorn the walls and scarves are a must. The season for all things cozy and warm has arrived.

Simple and classic. That’s how Chandy Haskins of The Nifty Needles describes her knitting style. Taught at a young age by her oldest sister, the 24-year-old has turned a hobby into a business. Palettes of navy, gray, and cream come to life in her downtown historical Danville apartment. There Chandy creates puffy cloud-like blankets using super soft bulky yarn. “I am definitely the cat lady of the family, known for my love of naps and carrying my own blanket to the movie theatre.” When she’s not knitting Chandy is likely to be hiking, reading with her cat, or watching old movies. That is, if she’s not travelling the world.  (Find Chandy on Instagram @theniftyneedles. This month, she is giving away a 45×65 Bulky Knit Blanket to one lucky Bella reader! She has also provided a coupon code for free shipping:SHIPMEFREE12.)

Under over, under over, under over. As a working mom of two young children, Christine Dwyer is no stranger to stress. Looking for a creative outlet from her day to day job in public relations, Christine discovered the meditative process of fiber arts. Learning through books and tutorials, a class with Maryanne Moodie along with a nudge from friends and family, inspired her to start Copper and Fringe. The unique wall creations are made on a frame loom using cotton, wool and alpaca yarn for varying textures and are customized to order. “Advice starting a business? Don’t rush into it. Take it slow, hone your skill, and invest time. The rest will come.”
Christine enjoys weaving, teaching classes and spending time with family in the Virginia Beach area. Find her at West Elm and somewhere between avoiding seafood and grooving to Landslide by Stevie Nicks.  (Email Christine at copperandfringe@gmail.com, or find her on Instagram @copperandfringe! This month, she is giving away a free custom small weaving to one lucky Bella reader.)

The Minted Evergreen is more than just the name of a business. For Kasie Chapman it brings back memories of her childhood home in Michigan surrounded by blue spruce trees and camping amongst evergreens. Kasie is a self-taught maker of knits, crochet and macramé in Lynchburg. She enjoys working in earth tones and neutrals with a pop of color to create stylish knitwear and home décor. “I’m a wife, mama, believer, maker and wanna-be homesteader.
Making and Jesus are what help keep me sane. Well, those and date nights.” Kasie and her husband hope to own a farm one day. In the meantime, homeschooling her wildlings, gardening, and tacos will have to do. (Find Kasie on Instagram @themintedevergreen. This month, she’s giving away a $50 credit to her Etsy shop to one lucky Bella reader, and offering a coupon code: MEETMINTEDINBELLA for 15%off!)

 

Written by Faith Jones of The Hill City Handmade and Faith Inspired.

Six Ways to Optimize Your Tax Refund

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the average taxpayer received a $3,000 refund in 2017. This chunk of change—depending on how you allocate it—could make a big impact on your bottom line. Before you’re tempted to spend it on impulse buys, consider these options for maximizing your tax refund.

Boost your emergency fund. Financial experts say you should have three to six months’ worth of living expenses saved in an emergency fund to protect yourself in case of a job loss or another unexpected financial hardship. Stashing your tax refund into an emergency fund could get you well on your way to reaching that dollar goal.

Pay off high-interest debt. Doing this results in an instant return on your investment because you’re saving yourself from paying interest to the lender. If you have several debts to tackle, aim for the one with the highest interest rate first. If you can’t pay off the entire balance, look into transferring the remaining debt onto something with a lower interest rate, like a credit card or personal loan.

Prepay your mortgage. Putting extra money toward your mortgage payment is a great way to save money over time. Use your tax refund to make one additional, full mortgage payment. If you do this every year, you could shave off thousands in interest, shorten your repayment years, and build equity faster.

Fund an investment account. If you’re new to investing, a great place to start is at your local financial institution. Many offer competitive, low-risk investment options like money market or share certificate accounts. You could also consider putting your tax refund toward a Roth or traditional IRA, which can be great ways to save for retirement.

Save for the future. The IRS allows you to split up your refund into several accounts. Consider putting some, or all, into a special savings account to help fund a future purchase, like a vacation or next year’s holiday gifts. This is also a great opportunity to jump-start a college savings fund for your child.

Make home improvements. While your refund won’t cover an entire kitchen or bathroom remodel, you could make minor improvements such as painting cabinets, updating hardware, or installing a new backsplash. Look into replacing old appliances for more energy-efficient models or installing new windows to save on heating and cooling bills.

 

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

 

 

 

Earth Girl Wellness: Convenience Food

Yes, I am putting it out into public knowledge that Earth Girl sometimes has to rely on the convenience of foods that come in a package. This is typically an extremely hectic and stressful time of the year. I spend more time in the car than I would like, and I often arrive home well after 8pm. I refuse to allow a crazy schedule side track my healthy eating, so I am always on the lookout for foods that I can eat straight from the package. Recent years have seen food manufacturers trying their hand at optimal health in a box. So here it goes: these are the three foods that you just might see Earth Girl munching on at the soccer field, in her car, or when she finally arrives home!

My first favorite is a frozen product, the Luvo Bowl. The Luvo Bowl has over 15 different variations. Recipes such as So Cal Kale & Bean, Orange Mango Chicken, Roasted Vegetable Lasagna, and Roasted Cauliflower Mac & Cheese entice the tastebuds! Luvo’s promise is to provide plenty of fruits and veggies, whole grains and responsibly sourced proteins, while limiting sodium and added sugars. My personal favorite, the Quinoa & Veggie Enchilada Verde bowl, packs in 10 grams of protein, 37 grams of whole grains and a full cup of vegetables! At 290 calories per bowl, Earth Girl is left feeling full, and accomplished. After all, I just ate the easiest one cup of veggies of my day!

Number two on my list of foods in a box comes from Tessemae’s. Tessemae’s Salad Kits are USDA Organic! Four different varieties including Sesame Ginger Greens, Power Kale Caesar, Spinach Bacon Ranch, and Sweet Kale Crunch all pack in the nutrition with ingredients such as chickpeas, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. The kits contain around 400-450 calories and virtually no added sugars. These kits do have a little more sodium than Earth Girl would like, but compared to other packaged meals, the comparison makes Tessemae’s look like a “sodium-less” saint. The range of vitamins and minerals included in each package makes these salads a top performer in the nutrition world.

Finally, a super and quick snack or side to any meal are Good Foods Chickpea and Quinoa Salad packs. Leading the charge with a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan alternative to most convenience foods, Good Foods knows how to combine a great protein source with a variety of vegetables including carrots, green and red peppers. Earth Girl has been known to throw these packs on a bed of lettuce for added satiety. This manufacturer has perfected the art of combining a yummy combination of herbs so that the sodium and sugar content can remain low. At only 190 calories you can load up on 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and 21 grams of whole carbohydrates.

Earth Girl recognizes that we all have moments, days, weeks or months of “survival” mode and we need to learn what healthy options are out in the vast jungle of heavily marketed convenience foods. Let me do a little of the dirty work for you! (Okay, it wasn’t so dirty—just really yummy!) I have compared hundreds of products and found the above top three to be in my grocery cart, my refrigerator or freezer, and in my cooler on a daily basis! Here’s to another meal “on the go” so you can be the best at what you do!

 

Written by Tina Hatcher of Earth Girl Wellness.

Managing Your Blood Pressure

Managing blood pressure can be difficult, especially during the holidays and winter months. A change in routine, family visits, traveling, illness, holiday menus and financial concerns can all conspire to derail your best efforts at keeping chronic conditions, like high blood pressure, under control.

If you are one of the millions of American adults with high blood pressure, it is vital to keep your blood pressure stable. Drastic changes can put you at risk for heart attack or stroke.

Here are three ways to control your blood pressure throughout the holiday season from the American Heart Association:

Be wary of decongestants
Decongestants are in many over-the-counter cold and flu medications, but they have some harmful side effects. They can raise blood pressure and decrease the effectiveness of some prescribed blood pressure medications. It’s best to use them for the shortest duration possible and avoid in severe or uncontrolled hypertension. Consider alternative therapies, such as nasal saline, intranasal corticosteroids, or antihistamines, as appropriate.

Keep track of medication
The winter months tend to bring an increase in both heart attacks and strokes. According to research from the Journal of the American Heart Association, a 4.2 percent increase in heart-related deaths occurs away from a hospital from December 25 through January 7.

“Factors like cold weather, sudden increase in activity like shoveling snow, stress and dietary indiscretion can contribute to a chain of events leading to more stress on the heart during the winter months, potentially triggering a heart attack or other cardiac event,” says Jorge Plutzky, M.D., director of Preventive Cardiology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a volunteer with the American Heart Association.

It is vital to keep track of your medication and take it as prescribed by your doctor to decrease chances of heart attack and stroke. The American Heart Association’s Check Change Control Tracker is one way to monitor your health, as it allows you to set up text message reminders, text in blood pressure readings, connect with volunteers or providers, and receive messages from volunteers or providers.

Maintain healthy eating habits
The holidays can be a bad influence on healthy eating habits. However, it is important to stay active during these times and continue eating healthy. While you are enjoying holiday feasts with family, be aware of sodium, often found in seasonal foods like bread, cheeses and prepared meats, which can increase blood pressure. Don’t feel like you can’t indulge a little, but make sure to incorporate healthy meals.

Staying active while traveling can also be a challenge. Try bringing simple exercise equipment like a jump rope or resistance band with you. Consider walking to sights or restaurants nearby, or finding a local park or indoor walking path.

For more information and tools about blood pressure management, visit heart.org/hbp.

Bayer’s Consumer Health Division, maker of Coricidin HBP, is a sponsor of the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure website.

 

Holiday Stocking Stuffers!

The holidays are right around the corner, which means you’ve already begun the stress of finding gifts for your loved ones. If you’re like me, diving into the stockings on Christmas morning is one of your favorite holiday activities. Here are some new ideas for gifts to add to your list of stocking stuffers for the adults in your life!

For Her:

  • TonyMoly I’m Real Mask Sheet Bundle: Get her a week’s worth of TonyMoly face masks this Christmas. From skin brightening to pore care, this fan-favorite skincare brand has 11 different face masks for you to choose from!
  • Tile Style Pro Series: If she’s like me, she’s always losing her phone! That also means she’ll love this gift. This small and sleek-looking Tile gadget will help her find her phone wherever she’s left it. Simply double tap the Tile and their phone will ring, even when it’s on silent!
  • Eos: A gift that every woman loves? Chapstick. We just can’t get enough of it! Throw some Eos in her stocking this Christmas that will leave her lips feeling healthy and smooth with the added vitamin E.
  • Burts Bees Everyday Beauty Essential Kit: Everyone loves Burt’s Bees, and this set contains five of their most popular beauty products in the cutest travel sizes. Pamper your whole body with their Soap Bark and Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream, Hand Salve, Milk and Honey Body Lotion, classic Beeswax Lip Balm, and Coconut Foot Cream.
  • Invisibobble Hair Tie: This revolutionary hair tool will put an end to all the challenges she’s ever had tying up her hair. Invisibobble hair ties will take the pressure off her ponytail with these hair caring, no split end, stretchy hair ties that won’t leave a single crease in their hair.

For Him:

  • Anker Phone Charger: Keep his phone charged with this Anker charger that will power up his phone four times faster than it would at any computer USB port. When at full capacity, the Anker charger can give his phone up to two complete charges.
  • Harry’s Razors Winston Set: Give him the gift of a Christmas shave. Complete with a comfortable die-cast zinc and polished chrome body, a set of two extra blades, shaving cream, and a protective case, this shaving kit can be made even more personal with his engraved initials.
  • Duke Cannon Big American Bourbon Soap: Taking a shower will be his new favorite activity with this Buffalo Trace bourbon-infused soap that’ll leave anyone wondering where you found this!
  • American Crew Forming Cream: One of the best brands in men’s haircare, this Crew Forming Cream helps hair appear thicker while providing hold, pliability, and shine.

Written by Taylor Ward

 

Avoiding a Financial Doomsday

A major car repair, job loss, or medical emergency—all are scary realities and could lead to financial ruin unless you’re prepared. While these misfortunes are often unpredictable, there are things you can do to prevent financial catastrophes. With a new year on the horizon, now is the perfect time to get your emergency fund in place.

Build up your emergency fund. According to financial experts, you should have three to six months worth of living expenses saved in an emergency fund. This should protect you in case of a job loss or another unexpected financial hardship. While that amount might seem daunting, you can start small. Make a goal of saving one month’s worth of living expenses in six months or a year. This will help boost confidence in your saving abilities while getting you to your goal.

Determine where to store your money. Your emergency fund needs to be readily available, so don’t tie it up in things like investment accounts. A high-yield savings account or a money market account is a good place to start. If it has checks or a debit card, it’s a safe bet. Set up an account that’s separate from your regular savings. Some even recommend getting an account at a different financial institution altogether. Consider setting up automatic deductions into that account so you don’t even need to think about it.

Find extra money. If you find it difficult to build up your emergency fund, look for other ways to contribute like putting your tax return toward your fund or selling items you no longer need or use. Closely examine your household budget and discover ways to save. Maybe it’s time to cancel subscriptions you don’t need (cable, magazines, or the gym), or cut down on eating out. And if you haven’t done this yet, make a household budget so you know exactly where every dollar you earn and spend is going.

Maintain your fund. It’s recommended that you visit the dentist every six months for a cleaning and to spot any problems before they become major issues. The same attention should be paid to your finances. Commit to regular check-ins to make sure you’re on track with building up your emergency fund. If you do and a financial disaster occurs, the impact will be much less devastating.

 

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union