Category Archives: Bella Features

Learning from Pet Adoption

I was featured in a video back in 2015. It was supposed to be a quick screen test for my business partner Dan Wensley. During the test, Dan kept the video running, and it turned into quite a testament to the influence pets can have on us. Sadly, this became a type of eulogy for my cat, Sydney. Shortly after making the video, Sydney developed diabetes and other complications and died on March 16, 2015. The following is an excerpt from that video, adapted for print:

Sydney

“I got Sydney, then aged one, spontaneously from Angels of Assisi in downtown Roanoke. I just popped down there, answered various questions, filled out the forms, and adopted him. He was mine.

I didn’t like cats at that time. I used to call the city to catch cats that wandered into my yard! It was all quite strange. I remember that first day when I got him, carrying him in the transportation box to various business meetings, quite at a loss on what to do with him! But I brought him home, and friends helped me get a litter box, food, toys, and a climbing tower.

Sydney

Since then, I have become one hundred percent blown away by how attached you can become to an animal. I was studying cats recently, the history of them. They weren’t pack animals. Before they were somewhat domesticated, they used to roam about on their own. I think that explains some of the mystery of their behaviors. They don’t necessarily bond in the way that some other pets do. Contrary to popular opinion, they are extremely affectionate. They like to be given attention, petted, and loved. When they’ve had enough of that, they just go off with no warning, and do their own thing. That’s what makes them tremendous I think, their little independent spirit, exploring, sleeping, and investigating for hours on end.

Sydney is the gentlest cat I have ever seen. With his sweet purring, the way he jumps on the bed and gives his soft little pushes to my face with his little head, curling up right against me. He likes to make sure his body is against mine when he sleeps. He’s never hissed, never scratched me, he’s really just totally perfect. But then he goes hunting and it’s like Jekyll and Hyde! He hasn’t lost those wild instincts.

A huge thing Sydney has taught me, is about my life with God. I’m a person who believes in Him. I think what moves me so much with Sydney is that I have nothing but affection for him. I want him to live the most exciting life possible, which he does– and I just know he’s gonna live for many years. He’s not gonna die young! But it can be heartbreaking, [when] I want to approach him, or give something to him that I know he’d like. He’s very timid, and he’ll run away. It’s like he won’t believe that what I’m going to do is a good thing. Sometimes I may believe in certain instances that God isn’t out for my good, or isn’t interested in me. And just seeing my relationship with Sydney and my desire for his best, I can’t help but think of God and me. I’m not meaning to humanize Sydney, but his lack of belief towards my goodness extended towards him is a learning experience. It’s like because of Sydney and his life with me, I can now experience so much more clearly the feeling of God being grieved when I don’t trust or respond to Him. Who would have thought that a cute little cat, adopted a whim, can have such an impact on one’s life!”

When Sydney died, I never would have expected the sense of loss I felt. I know this sounds silly, he is just a cat after all. As I said before, when I adopted Sydney I didn’t even like cats! However, on March 19, 2017, I was ready to adopt another cat.

Willow

I went to Petco, with my friend Ben, because they provide cats from Angels of Assisi. They had just one cat, Willow. Ben picked him up, cuddled him, and said, “He’s the one for you, River!” He was sure of it. So, I trusted Ben and we got Willow. It turns out Willow was a cat I met at Angels a few weeks earlier, when I was cat browsing, before he was moved to Petco!

Boy, could one cat be so different from another! The vet says Willow is “type A” personality, and feisty too! Unlike Sydney, who delicately nibbled on his food throughout the day, Willow sounds like a piglet when he eats and never has enough. He’s already on a weight loss diet!

Willow

Willow quickly won the hearts of many at The Aurora Studios in Downtown Roanoke, where I bring him to the office with me. He is an easygoing cat, riding in his carrier to work on the handlebars of my bicycle, like nothing out of the ordinary is happening!

I still miss Sydney. Writing this article is the first time I have looked at photos of him since he died. And I threw out everything that was his after he died. I just kept the photos. But now Willow lives with me and I love him.

River and Willow

Angels of Assisi have been wonderful throughout. If you can have a pet, please do consider adopting one from Angels. They have many available, and are terrific at helping you choose one that has the personality that suits you. Who knows what wonderful impact that cuddly bundle of sweet personality and mystery will have on you?

Visit www.angelsofassisi.org for more information on animals you can help through donations, adoption, and volunteering.

 

 

Written by River Laker

Virginia Western Community Arboretum

The Virginia Western Community Arboretum began 24 years ago when the state college allowed use of the property with the understanding that it would be developed and maintained using private donated funds. The grounds have one full-time and one part-time staff member, and they rely on volunteer assistance to accomplish the many tasks that face them throughout the growing season.
“Our volunteer program is vital to us because of our limited budget,” explains Clark BeCraft. “Right now we have twelve regular volunteers who come out weekly and help us in the gardens. We have six tour guide volunteers that help us with groups that come into the Arboretum.”
Tour guide volunteers also help out with children’s tours, and will often provide assistance with activities like a scavenger hunt or a learning activity with the children that is related to nature or gardening. Additionally, the Arboretum hosts horticulture students though a program that allows them to complete a one semester internship there.
The garden helper is one of their most popular volunteer opportunities. Garden helpers visit the Arboretum twice a week during growing season, and work closely with an Arboretum tech, Sarah Isley, to care for the plants.
“There is no specific skill set needed,” adds Clark. “We help you identify weeds and instruct you on how to plant things if that is part of the task for the day. Sarah and I work with [volunteers] to answer any questions they have.”
A majority of the current volunteers are retirement age, but the Arboretum is open to all volunteers ages 16 and up. Although they have a need for volunteers who can work during the week, they are open to setting up times for those who work on weekdays to volunteer on occasional Saturdays or evenings if there is enough interest. Every volunteer is required to complete a background check as they are acting as an agent of the college.
“Our volunteers look forward to coming to the Arboretum to work. For many, it is the highlight of their week. They enjoy working in the gardens because it is for the community, but also an opportunity to come out and fellowship with one another. We look at it as getting work done, but it is also a nice way for our volunteers to spend time together and work in the gardens,” says Clark.
If you’ve ever visited any of their gardens, you know that the community effort results in an unforgettable experience. That effort includes a partnership with the Roanoke Master Gardeners, who have worked with the Virginia Western Community Arboretum since 2008. In 2016, the Arboretum logged over 700 volunteer hours, showing that the volunteer program is an essential part of their success in serving the community. Many of the volunteers are Friends of the Arboretum as well, contributing both time and money to maintaining the location.
You can also support the Arboretum by attending one of their events. They will offer a Garden Tour to the Gardens of Pennsylvania and Delaware featuring Longwood Gardens September 7-9, and host a Fall Accent Plant Sale on September 23 from 10am-1pm.
To learn more about the Virginia Western Community Arboretum, and volunteer opportunities, please visit www.virginiawester.edu/arboretum

Bella Sips: Sloshies

The temperatures are climbing, and we find ourselves longing for a nice cold drink under an umbrella by the water. If it’s your day to relax, or you’d like to try a new drink by the lake with your friends, Sloshies: 102 Boozy Cocktails Straight from the Freezer has you covered! With everything from tart drinks like Whiskey Smashed, to spiced drinks like High on the Hog, your experience is destined to be unforgettable!

Whiskey Smashed
Give your party an extra kick with this smashing combination of small-batch Kentucky bourbon on top of a citrus blend and minty frozen love.

ABV: 9.77%
Glass: Up & Down
Garnish: mint leaf, lemon wheel, and a floppy hat (for you to wear)

2 3/4 ounces water
9 ounces Simple Syrup
7 1/4 ounces Mint Simple Syrup
6 ounces lemon juice
6 3/4 ounces lime juice
8 3/4 ounces Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Combine
Place the ingredients in a medium-size metal bowl and stir.

Freeze
Pour the liquid into a large freezer bag and place it in the freezer until frozen, approximately 4 hours. Alternatively, pour the liquid into an ice cream maker and proceed per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Serve
When you’re ready to drink, massage the freezer bag by hand until it’s a wet, slushy consistency. If it’s not breaking up, run the bag quickly under hot water and massage some more.

High on the Hog
Bacon is the candy of meats. It’s so delicious, we decided just to build a drink around it. Ginger, maple, and bourbon roll on your tongue while you fight the urge to just eat the bacon garnish first.

ABV: 12.78%
Glass: Up & Down
Garnish: strip of crispy bacon

27 ounces ginger ale
2 ounces Dolin Dry Vermouth de Chambéry
2  3/4 ounces Cabin Fever Maple Flavored Whisky
8  1/4 ounces Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Combine
Place the ingredients in a medium-size metal bowl and stir.

Freeze
Pour the liquid into a large freezer bag and place it in the freezer until frozen, approximately 4 hours. Alternatively, pour the liquid into an ice cream maker and proceed per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Serve
When you’re ready to drink, massage the freezer bag by hand until it’s a wet, slushy consistency. If it’s not breaking up, run the bag quickly under hot water and massage some more.

Makes at least 4 drinks.

Visit our Facebook page for details on how to win a copy of this book!

FloydFest 2017: Freedom

Where will you find your freedom on the mountain?

Will it be somewhere between the nine stages? 
A “natural amphitheater,” Streamline Stage at Hill Holler is a place to bring a blanket, lay back and relax while you take in the music. Or, dance with friends (or even by yourself!) to your favorite bands. Take in the Speakeasy Stage: an amazing covered dance space that has featured everything from the festive nature of musical performance to sword swallowing and burlesque dancing.
Of course, if quiet is what you need, seek out the Healing Arts Village for body-mind balance. Visit the Workshop Porch, hosted by Ferrum College, a space that transports audiences to the front porch music jam sessions of earlier times while artists share their music and stories to accompany it.
Take the kids to the Forever Young Stage where they can enjoy open mic sessions, Taekwondo classes, and tetherball matches, all in the main field area. FloydFest, as you may already know, is famous for the fun it offers for the entire family. Parents can enjoy the show on the Dreaming Creek Main Stage while the youngsters explore their own creativity.
And, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Pink Floyd Garden Stage. This serene location is surrounded by trees, picnic tables, and craft beer vendors. It is the perfect place to meet new friends and spot old ones throughout the day. You don’t want to miss it at night, as it transforms under the aura of brightly colored lights to a brilliantly funky stage.
The VIP Pub Stage is for those with a backstage pass only, but Bella girls it is well worth it! Complimentary beverages, a comfortable lounge tent, and memorable performances await.

Will it be on an adventure with your FloydFest family?
FloydFest has multiple opportunities for outdoor adventure. They even have a tent dedicated to it! Sign up for one of their On the Water in Floyd Float Trips (Thursday-Sunday), the Parkway Brewing Company 5K Trail Running Race, or a guided hike. You can also join the Belcher Mountain Beatdown, a guided FloydFest 19-mile mountain bike journey (just make sure to bring your own bike and helmet!). In addition, there will be an Innova Disc Golf Tournament on Saturday! The mountain bike journey and float trips are catered, and include a small fee. Entering the 5K race, walking the Moonstomper Hiking Trail on your own, or joining a guided hike are free for FloydFest attendees.

Will it be in the performance of your new (or old) favorite artist?
Rebekah Todd & the Odyssey take the stage on Wednesday, along with talented musicians that will help you celebrate your first night on the mountain. On Thursday, enjoy Thievery Corporation, and honor artists of all ages with Girls Rock Roanoke. Friday welcomes Michael Frantz & Spearhead, Leftover Salmon, and Steel Pulse. On Saturday, Rising Appalachia (featured in this issue!) and St. Paul & the Broken Bones perform. Sunday, round out the weekend with Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, the TSisters, and HoneyHoney. These big names are just a few of our favorites, but there is a long list available on the FloydFest website. You will be surrounded with music all weekend—and really, there is no better way to enjoy the summer.

Visit www.floydfest.com for a complete lineup, list of activities and workshops, and to purchase your tickets! Don’t forget to bring donations for Floyd’s Plenty! Food Bank. Every two nonperishable items or one jar of peanut butter donated is an entry to win a FloydFest prize pack which includes a free 5-day ticket to FloydFest 2018. We’ll see you there!

Rising Appalachia at FloydFest

Rising Appalachia began years ago as the front porch project of sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith to pay homage to their family. However, the dedication the sisters share to social activism started many years before through their involvement in community justice work and local food movements. Using their talent as a way to both share stories and encourage introspection, the sisters combined their interests to create an experience that is unique and inspiring. Joined by their beloved band, percussionist Biko Casini and bassist/guitarist David Brown, they share their colorful sound all over the world. Born and raised in the concrete jungle of Atlanta, Georgia, Leah and Chloe sharpened their instincts in the mountains of Appalachia, and fine-tuned their soul on the streets of New Orleans. This has resulted in a 6-album career that showcases a melting pot of folk music simplicity, textured songwriting, and “those bloodline harmonies that only siblings can pull off.”

Though it is not without challenges, Leah and Chloe stay true to their passions in the face of a fast-paced environment that has a tendency to push talented musicians into egocentric rockstars. They call their approach the Slow Music Movement.

“We’ve always explored sustainable touring ideas and options. We do everything from alternative travel methods like touring by train, to making sure as much local food as possible is brought to the green rooms and encouraging festivals to have a relationship with farm-to-table food. We don’t use plastic water bottles, and we avoid single-use plastic, encouraging the venue to take that on themselves as well,” explains Leah.

Fans will not find the band at strip malls or in hotel parking lots either. They make a point to seek out lodging near national parks, cabins, or stay with friends in farm homes. Additionally, they often visit urban gardens in the cities, and try to put their time and energy into neighborhoods, communities, and land-based projects.

“We are constantly trying to steal away moments for introspection, writing, and mindfulness. I walk every day, all over the place, wherever I am,” says Leah. “That’s kind of my movement meditation.”

Staying so close to the community keeps their desire to help others and be present as focal points in their journey. The band makes time during their performance to share the power of the stage and introduce audiences to those doing important ground work in social justice and equality efforts. Their tour schedule does not allow them to remain and nurture the impact in any one community, so it is important to Leah and Chloe to make sure the seeds they plant of emotional and environmental sustainability can grow even in their absence. Shifting the power to local faces helps ensure that will happen.

“Music is the tool with which we wield political prowess. We are building community and tackling social injustice through melody, making the stage reach out with wide arms to gather this great family. It has taken on its own personality, carrying us all along the journey,” says Leah.

“I’m really inspired by the beautiful, radical creative folks that show up in our audiences, “she adds. “Night after night, there are so many creative bright lights. We are inspired by our fan base. They have always been powerful, productive, and proactive folks in their communities. I think for our band and interpersonally, it has given us more purpose. We hope [our purpose] is reaching wider than us, and we are all grateful to have this vehicle to express ourselves.”

Rising Appalachia is touring all over Europe this summer, but FloydFest has a special place in their hearts, and is one of few festivals they will play in the United States in 2017. Catch them on stage both Saturday and Sunday, and follow up by learning how to support local farmers, seeking out sustainable resource options, and finding a quiet place to meditate on personal growth.

The best way to keep the feeling of a good show alive is to carry the inspiration from it with you and learn from it long after the audience dissipates. From Leah’s perspective, Rising Appalachia is going to do everything they can to put on a show that feeds your soul and lights that spark.

“At it’s best, [being on stage] is magical,” she explains. “We spend concerted effort trying to make sure we create a radical setting for the audience. We want to a take them on as much of a journey as possible.”

If you can’t make it to FloydFest this year, be sure to check out their new live album, Alive, this fall. Do yourself a favor when you do, and make it a truly immersive experience. Turn off the notifications on your phone, meditate, and enjoy the tapestry of stories woven into song by this talented band.

For more information about Rising Appalachia, visit www.risingappalachia.com.

Hill Crest Bed & Breakfast

The historic Hill Crest Bed & Breakfast is the perfect weekend getaway. A short hour drive from Roanoke, it welcomes guests from around the world to the picturesque landscape of the Clifton Forge mountains. Some guests come for the privacy, others to enjoy the opportunity to support local businesses, and the beautiful 107-year-old home occasionally hosts weddings. Recently, it was named one of the Top 10 Best Romantic Inns in the United States for 2017. Those who have visited consider the home a hidden treasure, but what makes it special is not limited to the setting or the architecture. The feature that will keep guests returning is the Hill Crest’s owner, Martha Crawford.

Photo Credit: Nicole of N. Nicely Photography

“I love to pamper. It brings me joy to make people happy,” she explains. “We don’t bother guests if they don’t want to be bothered, but we are friendly if they want to visit.  I like to treat people the way I want to be treated. The whole house is theirs through their stay except the kitchen and my room. They can wander, use the drawing room, the parlor, or the morning room. We have a baby grand piano, guitars, and an old Victrola in the music room.”

Martha has years of experience as a Bed & Breakfast owner in Illinois, and several years as a personal chef. She fell in love with Hill Crest from the moment she saw it for sale. Her husband joked that they should purchase the property and move from Colorado to Virginia, but the idea was one that she took seriously. She soon found that she couldn’t get the house out of her head.

“We called the real estate agent over dinner one night, and he explained that it was a very large home. If we didn’t have a job lined up, we may have to commute to Roanoke or Lexington. Then, he told us that the owner wanted to see the house turned into a bed and breakfast. In fact, it had just been zoned six months prior to be one,” Martha says.

They moved into the house on Halloween night in 2011, and have since remodeled the home to include private bathrooms for every suite. Martha is very active in community events, and the bed and breakfast will host everything from corporate events and weddings to Christmas dinners and holiday parties.

Mostly, it is a place for adults to get away from the chaos of everyday life. There are no televisions in the home, which encourages guests to focus on one another or get out and explore the region.

Photo Credit: Nicole of N. Nicely Photography

“I’ve gotten a lot of compliments that you are forced as a couple to take time and step back in the past. It is a warm, good spot to be in,” she adds.

Amenities at Hill Crest Bed & Breakfast include a swimming pool, a terraced yard with gardens, a three to five course breakfast (complete with a sit-down silver service), nightly-turn down service, and Wi-Fi. Guests can also enjoy afternoon wine on the front porch, coffee and tea service in the morning room, and even professional in-room massages. Surrounded by oak flooring, grand stairwell balustrades, columns, and crown molding that are all original to the home, it is an experience that echoes a sense of luxury from the past while embracing the unique modern leisure needs of the diverse guests welcome there. Visit www.virginiahillcrest.com for more information and to reserve your room.

Photo Credit for Featured Photo: Nicole of N. Nicely Photography

 

P.S. Hill Crest Bed & Breakfast will host New World ~ Old World Winery Tours June-October 2017!

The tours will begin at the historic Bed & Breakfast where guests can get to know one another at a wine reception on Friday night. They will also meet their wine connoisseur, Angelia Wengert, who will accompany them to various wineries in the Shenandoah Valley via limousine service.

The next morning, they will be served a seven course breakfast by candlelight and with fine silver. After visiting three to four wineries on Saturday, guests can participate in a wine pairing in the evening. They are asked to bring a bottle of wine back to share with their new friends.

Sunday morning, they will be served another seven course breakfast, offered a 2 o’clock checkout, and have the option of purchasing an in-room massage for two.

Book your reservations now by calling 385-201-4106. Ask for group discounts!

 

Meet the Maker: Thistle Hill Botanicals

Rhonda Withington has pursued natural products since her late teens. She’s passionate about taking care of health-related issues naturally, and has spent most of her life researching her options. Today, that research is something that she shares with the community in addition to handmade products that have changed the lives of her customers. Before she moved to Virginia, she spent time working off room and board on an organic farm in Connecticut, learning as she worked.
“In a way,” she recalls, “the experience pushed me to be independent. I decided to start making a couple of products.”
Her first two, a healing salve and a dental cleaning powder, went over so well that she could barely keep up with the demand. Today, as Thistle Hill Botanicals, she makes and sells these two popular creations in addition to several natural products including Drawing Paste for Bug Bites and Poison Ivy, Foot Soak, Beard and Mustache Oil, Body Scrubs and Butters, Goat’s Milk Soap Bars, Natural Deodorant, and even Dry Shampoo!
Rhonda sells primarily wholesale now, placing her creations in stores around Southwest Virginia and other nearby states. Although she misses the direct interaction of farmer’s markets, what she makes often lasts so long that setting up at one every week is simply not ideal for her business. Fortunately, she’s found that the interaction with the community has not disappeared. Customers still call and request things from her, and she is very active in Floyd, where she lives and works. “The direct customer contact was, and is still, invaluable to me,” she explains. “When customers call to place an order personally, I’m thrilled to talk to them.”
Between the sustainability and quality of her products, and her dedication and appreciation for her customers, Rhonda is making an excellent impression on the community. Floyd has a reputation for being one of the most open and accepting places for diverse groups of people pursuing their dreams, so it is no surprise that they have welcomed her with open arms.
“There isn’t a lot of judgement here, and there are so many people in town that like to help one another. That’s the way the world is supposed to be,” she says.
The Floyd C4 Business Development Series and Competition is proof of that statement. They offer prizes, funded by grants, to local businesses. In 2015, Rhonda won first prize in the com- petition. This gave her a cash prize to boost her business and a discount for a spot in Floyd’s Innovation Center.
“It was a help in expanding the business and making it what it is today,” she says. “Up until then, I was making products in my little yurt. I didn’t have a lot of space. Being able to move it into the Innovation Center, and having money to buy containers in bigger sizes, larger quantities, and redesign labels gave me the push over the edge to get there.”
If you’d like to meet Rhonda and try out samples from Thistle Hill Botanicals, she will be set up at the Roanoke Natural Food Co-Op on Saturday, May 13 from 11am to 2pm. You can also find stores that sell her products via a store locator on her website, or order directly at www.thistlehillbotanicals.com.

Books We Love

I used to think the whole #adulting thing was something that someone attempted to make popular so they could show off the fact that they bought a lawnmower, or actually loaded and unloaded the dishwasher in the same day. After reading a couple of books exploring the reality of adulting, I am changed.

510VK8Q1dbLAdulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown
Through her personal vantage point, she didn’t hold back when she wanted to tell all. She explains things like a friend giving helpful advice, and even gives ingredients to a “grown-up soup.” Not surprising that this one is up there on the New York Times Bestseller list. Self-discovery starts on the first few pages and it was hard, but it helped me to realize that you and everyone you know are not the most perfect people in the world. Making yourself realize you are not perfect is really the first step in lacing up your boots and growing up.  I personally related to Kelly’s struggle to clean the cobwebs off of the baseboards of my 10×10, 67-year-old dorm room. She didn’t shy away from scolding me for not having a separate mop, broom, and dustpan. Moving into college 5 months ago, I firmly believed I only needed a Swiffer.

Womanskills_Hi+Res+CoverWoman Skills: Everything You Need to Know to Impress Everyone by Erin La Rosa
If you’re really into learning exactly how to combat fruit flies or making your own cleaning solutions, this one really gets down to the ingredients of being the ultimate adult. Through encouraging words and detailed advice, the author feeds on the fact that while “adulting” seems hard to wrap your head around, not everyone knows how to do everything you’re “supposed” to know when you move out. Hey, if I can read a book to keep my refrigerator from bursting into flames without learning it the hard way, so be it. The book may be titled “woman skills,” but the vast majority of it is “everyone skills.”

I would recommend these picks to people of all ages, but I’m biased to gifting them to your fellow twenty-somethings, because trust me, they need them. They are hilarious, entertaining, and you can only benefit from reading them.

 

Written by Zoë Pierson