Category Archives: Bella Magazine

Meet the Maker: North Mountain Candle Company

Callie Altman, owner of North Mountain Candle Company, has been making candles for twelve years. Her journey began one Christmas while trying to come up with a way to make gifts for the holiday budget-friendly. She decided to take her love of candles to the next level and make a few herself. They were a hit with her friends and family, and over the next year she transformed the experiment into a business that continues to reflect her love of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

North Mountain Candle Company takes its name from an actual mountain in a small former mining community called Longdale, where Callie grew up.

Photo Credit: Brittany Smejkal, Eccentric Photography

“Almost all of my childhood memories involve the outdoors in some way, shape or form,” Callie recalls. “From hiking along the Appalachian Trail to camping at Douthat State Park, or fishing on the Cowpasture River. The main driving force behind my business is to share my love of the Blue Ridge Mountains around the world. It’s a wonderful place to live, grow up, and raise a family. Our scents are inspired by this area.”

With scents like Mill Mountain Magnolia, Hotel Roanoke Spoonbread, and Smith Mountain Lake House, just lighting one of these unique creations is enough to take anyone back to their best memories of Southwest Virginia. Every candle is 100% handmade. Callie and her family try to get everything they use for the candles locally to support local sustainable businesses. They don’t mass produce anything, and there are no machines. Every inch of the process from making the candles to printing off labels is done by hand.

When she isn’t making candles, Callie can be found throughout the community teaching classes at the Omni Homestead or set up anywhere from small school fundraising events to large vintage or antique shows.

This summer, North Mountain Candle Company can be found on and off at the Grandin Village Farmers Market. Currently, they are a fill-in when other vendors are unavailable, but it is a placement that Callie hopes will become permanent in the future. Customers can also find her products in The Hodge Podge across from Lord Botetourt High School, in the Local Artisans section at Natural Bridge State Parks, and The Flower Center in Clifton Forge. Of course, if you cannot make it to any of these locations, you can always check out her selection and order online at www.northmountaincandles.com.

All photos in this post courtesy of Brittany Smejkal, Eccentric Photography. 

Member One: Credit Score Quick Guide

It’s one of the most important numbers linked to your identity: your credit score. But are you fully aware of why it’s so significant, and what constitutes a good credit score? Read on for a brief explanation of what it is and tips for improving it.

What is it? Your credit score is a number that ranges from 300 to 850 and, along with repayment history, is an indication of your creditworthiness. Anything above 700 is generally viewed as good credit and signals to potential lenders that you’re more likely to pay back your debts on time.

Why should I care? A credit score helps determine whether you’re approved or denied for a credit card or loan and your interest rate. On-time payments have a big impact on your score, and just one or two late payments can significantly lower it. If you’ve ever had a bill go to collections, declared bankruptcy, or had a foreclosure, your score will go down. The number of loans in your name matter and the more accounts you have (in good standing), the better, because it shows that multiple lenders have approved you.

How do I find out my score? The three major credit-reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—are required by law to provide you with a free credit report every 12 months. Keep in mind that this is just the report and not the actual score. In order to receive your score, you typically have to purchase it. Visit MyFICO.com to buy your official FICO score. Also, check your monthly credit card statement as some lenders now include your credit score as an added service.

What are some quick ways to improve it? One of the best ways is to consistently pay your bills on time. Other ways include paying down a credit card balance to improve your utilization rate, and keeping lines of credit open with zero balances. Both of these strategies show lenders that you’re able to manage debt and aren’t biting off more than you can chew.

As a general rule of thumb, you should review your credit report along with your score at least once a year. Not only is it beneficial to keep yourself informed and aware, it could help protect against fraud or identity theft.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

 

Get Outside in Virginia State Parks!

Virginia State Parks provide wonderful opportunities for those who enjoy being outdoors and are looking for ways to use their time outside to give back to the community. Although almost all of the volunteers are users of Virginia State Parks, there are groups that sign up with members who have never visited them before. Both levels of experience are welcome, as all volunteers go through orientation and are supervised.

“There are volunteer opportunities that work for different age groups,” says Andrea Hasenfus, Camp Host Program Manager. “Retirees may be able to do a Wednesday gardening at noon, while someone who works a full-time job may be available to do trail maintenance on the weekends.”

There are also opportunities for young people. The Youth Conservation Corps is a great program for teens 14-17 who want to learn about conservation and working in parks. They spend three weeks living and working in parks around the state, supervised by college-age adults. Although the deadline to participate in this program has passed, visitors to the park may still get to see the group in action this summer. This is a competitive program. In 2017, 800 applications were received to fill 170 spots. If your child is interested in being involved in the future, it may be a good idea to sign up to volunteer and get some experience before the 2018 application process starts on December 1.

Joining a Friends Group is another way to contribute. It takes a lot of work to keep up state parks, and Friends Groups play a huge part in building and maintaining trails, helping staff visitor centers, working on educational outreach programs, and raising funds for park projects and facilities. There are several parks with Friends Groups looking for members. Being part of one of these groups has the potential to create a lasting impact for generations to come, as they also help with advocacy for the invaluable resources offered through the parks.

“Sometimes the most help, if you can’t put your elbow grease in on the trail, is to be an advocate. Whether you are a member of a friends group, or used to doing advocacy in the community, advocates are always great to have on our behalf.” explains Andrea.

For those who want a more immersive and active experience, the AmeriCorps program engages its members in meaningful service in Virginia State Parks by providing extensive training and professional development opportunities. They go through grants, and work on natural resource management in the parks. Some of them last all summer, and those who complete them receive an education award at the end.

There will be a big opportunity for volunteers on June 3 for Clean the Bay Day/National Trails Day. In fact, every park in the Virginia State Parks system will have a need for help that day. Those who wish to volunteer will not have to sign up through the website to be a one-time volunteer for the event. Simply show up at your local park and offer to lend a hand.

Visit www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks for a full list of parks in your area. Click on individual parks to see what they need.

Celebration Cocktails!

As the weather gets warmer, we are looking forward to poolside parties and backyard cookouts with friends and family. For those parties that allow for a little indulgence, impress your guests with delicious and unique recipes from Day Drinking: 50 Cocktails for a Mellow Buzz by Kat Odell. This collection features drinks for every season and event, from warm Irish coffees to thirst-quenching Micheladas. You’ll love the ‘70s design vibes and tones, perfect to create a relaxing mood for your party. Check out our favorite recipes in the May issue, and let us know if you try them on our Facebook page!

P.S. We are giving away a copy of the book on Monday, May 29 on Facebook! Visit our page for directions on how to enter!

 

Grove Collaborative

Using natural, chemical-free products for cleaning and personal hygiene is essential for improving your health. However, it isn’t always easy to comb through local stores and find affordable products readily available for your household. Fortunately, Grove Collaborative removes the hassle so you can spend less time shopping and more time enjoying life’s important moments.

This company is an online service that provides organic, eco-friendly, and sustainable items from top brands like Seventh Generation, Method, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, Acure, Dr. Bronner’s, and more! Every product they sell has been rigorously tested by industry experts for health, effectiveness, and environmental impact. Additionally, each item is all-natural and made in the United States. Customers can order products for cleaning, personal care, health and wellness, skin and hair care, oral care, and even babies delivered right to their door. They suggest a schedule to help keep families organized, stocked, and in line with their budget. However, customers can make changes, cancel, or rush a shipment at any time. Their goal is to help you make sure you have what you need, when you need it.

There is no fee to join Grove Collaborative. You only pay for the products that you buy, and often at prices comparable to or below the grocery store. Carbon offset shipping is free on your first order. After that, you pay only when products ship.

Need more reassurance to give it a try? Grove Collaborative is a Certified B Corporation, which means that it has passed through scrupulous standards for businesses that prioritize social, environmental, and community wellbeing. And, because we love you SO much, we are giving you a link to try it that will provide you with a $10 credit! If you’re interested, use this link. Check out what they have to offer by simply visiting www.grove.co.

Warm Up to Responsible Spending

With warm, sunny days upon us, it’s time to plan for more than just your tan: summer spending. Vacations, airline tickets, dining out, and entertainment—it adds up. If you haven’t budgeted for these expenses in advance, a quick swipe of your credit card takes care of it. But if responsible credit card use isn’t your strength (or you just need a refresher), these tips could help curb the temptation to overspend this summer.

Be selective. There are several factors to look at when picking a credit card. First, you’ll want to see what your limit is. If you don’t think you can handle the freedom of a credit card, start with one that has a lower limit, like $1,000. Additionally, look at the credit card’s annual percentage rate or APR. That interest will add up if you’re not planning on paying off the total each month, so shop around for a low APR. Finally, look out for cards that charge annual fees just for keeping them open.

Monitor your balance. You should keep credit card payments to 10 percent of your monthly take-home income. For example, if your monthly income is $2,000, your monthly credit card payment should not be more than $200. This doesn’t mean your balance should not exceed $200, but make sure your minimum payment is no more than that. Keep in mind, however, that paying off the entire balance each month is in your best interest financially.

Know the benefits. By making purchases with your credit card and paying the balance off each month, you’re proving to lenders that you’re a responsible, creditworthy consumer. It boosts your credit score and will help you in the future if you ever want to get a loan—or another credit card.

Stick to a budget. It’s important to set parameters for yourself when using a credit card. One simple way to do this is to use the credit card for one specific purpose, like gas or groceries, so it’s easier to keep your spending in check. Another way is to get a card with a low limit. This forces you to keep your spending under a certain amount.

Smart credit card use doesn’t have to be a mystery or limit your fun this summer. Follow these simple tips and your poolside lounge session (while possibly chasing the kids) will be that much more relaxing.

Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

Big Brothers Big Sisters Over the Edge

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Virginia will host their Over the Edge event on May 19-20. Participants will raise $1,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters, rappel 11 stories over the side of the Patrick Henry Hotel, and raise money for local Big/Little matches. One hundred percent of the money raised will stay in our community. The participant who raises the most money will receive tickets to Disney World for themselves and their Little.

To understand how important this event is for those who will benefit from the fundraising, we spoke to participant and Big Sister Sara Guerry. This will be Sara’s first time participating in Over the Edge. She looks at it as a way to raise money while setting an example for her Little.

“I haven’t found out exactly how she might need me yet, because we haven’t been paired very long,” she explains. “I’m getting to a place where I’m learning that she can be a little shy and unsure about new experiences. What better way to show her that it’s okay to be scared, but also to be brave, than by launching myself off a building?”

On a lot of different levels, the Over the Edge event symbolically mirrors that first step into creating a Big Sister/Little Sister relationship.

“The match process for Big Brothers Big Sisters is an extraordinary process,” Sara says. “They take the time to make sure the fit is the right one for both the child and the adult. That helped alleviate a little bit of fear, but at the same time she is someone else’s daughter and her family loves her so much. There is this other person that comes into her world and wants to be there for her. I hope this will show her how much I care about her, and how successful I know she will be.”

Although Sara did some rappelling and rock climbing in high school, she still finds herself getting a bit nervous as the day approaches. The scariest part, she says, will be climbing over the wall of a perfectly good building and realizing that she is about to go over it. However, the reward in the end will be much greater than any of the fear she is facing now. Sara hopes to win the tickets to Disney World for her Little.

“I would love nothing more to give her an experience that she otherwise wouldn’t be able to have,” she adds.

Yet, even if she doesn’t win the fundraising portion of the event, the symbolic gesture of rappelling 11 stories for her Little, her community, and in the face of her fear, is an important example in their relationship. If you’d like to help Sara, or any of the other participants reach their fundraising goals, visit www.bigslittles.org/ote for more information. We wish all participants good luck in this adventure!

Open Studios: Gina Louthian-Stanley

Gina Louthian-Stanley has been a creative person since she was born. In the first grade, she won her first art award for her visual narrative of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” She continued taking as many art classes as possible throughout school. While she learned techniques in college, most of what she does today is a combination of those techniques used in a totally new and different way.
“Formal training has brought its rewards,” Gina says, “but self-exploration has produced the greatest results. By taking all of the insights  that my teachers have taught me, I’ve been able to merge them to create my own artistic style or styles. Experimental art has always fascinated me.”
Which may be why Gina uses a variety of mediums including cold wax, encaustic, watercolor, oil, monotype and intaglio printmaking, pastel and ink drawing, pottery, and jewelry making. She even mixes the medium at times to “push the limit” of what the medium can do to convey the ethereal atmospheric landscape that she loves.

Which is your favorite medium, and why?
I have two passions at the moment, working in wax and printmaking. I have been a printmaker since the 70s, and working in hot and cold wax at least ten years. With the encaustic mediums, I can utilize photography, printmaking, and painting. I have also been introducing encaustic mediums into jewelry pieces. I am attracted to the natural elements of the damar resin and beeswax. 

What/who are your inspirations?
All of my inspirations come primarily from the earth and nature. I am influenced by artists and writers who are intrigued by nature and natural elements. I am also inspired by music and always have it playing in my studio. 

Would you say that any of your work is a reflection of living in Roanoke? 
Most certainly. I have lived in Roanoke all of my life and have always been inspired by the landscape here. I have a particular piece, Bent Mountain Marsh, that was created from a memory of a place. I was there on a clear blue day and the reflected blues of the sky in the glass-clear water against the textured brown grasses on the bank etched in my mind. I had to paint it. 
For me, driving to work and seeing a heavy mist rising just above the earth in the early morning sunlight–that moment, you take a deep breath and all is right in the world.

Gina’s work will be available alongside participating artists through Open Studios Roanoke, beginning on April 29-30. Visit www.openstudiostourroanoke.com for more information on Gina and participating artists!