RVA Fashion Week shows out in 2022

I’ve attended a few RVA Fashion Weeks over the years, but this one felt distinct. One might assume that since this is the furthest we’ve been from the pandemic, that it was the proximity and intimacy. But the difference wasn’t pandemic-related. It was the clothing itself.

This year, more than any other, I noticed stark differences between the designers and the moods. Whereas in previous years designers each had their own styles, there was a somewhat blended feel. But 2022 saw standout stars, strong moods, and risk-takers, all making for an intriguing finale at the fashion show Sunday night.

The Aziancy

Ryan Azia tapped into our collective ennui with all-black ensembles. In fashion, head-to-toe black is often considered a safe choice, but not with Azia’s line The Aziancy. The post-punk collection dripped with silver chains, dangling from rows of safety pins. Ripped-up trenches featuring the words “It’s Been Done Before” on the back in bold white paint.

The line 707 made some solid pieces for menswear – practical in design but pushing the envelope ever so slightly with unexpected textiles, and just-daring-enough color.

Keziah Amaree

Keziah Amaree was able to combine sumptuous tailoring and joyful colors. Even the most conservative dressers could not resist her extreme ruching and asymmetrical designs, because they are works of art.

Paige the Artist and BlueCatHouse

Paige the Artist and BlueCatHouse joined forces to create a playful line inspired by Prince. There was purple, there was lace, and there were assless purple pants.

The Linzel

My absolute favorite line was The Linzel, with sumptuous fabrics, architectural tailoring, and pops of color that could lift you out of any mood. Even the monochrome ensembles, made popular during the rise of athleisurewear, felt fresh. The Linzel was a joyful reminder that luxury can be playful.

Every year as fashion week winds down, I’m proud of the big-city heart of our mid-sized city. Richmond’s creative energy stretches beyond VCU’s renowned art school and chic dining options. We are cementing our spot in the fashion world, and it’s never felt more prevalent than it does right now.

California Dreaming

A lot has happened since my last post. We’ve recovered from Omicron, had a delayed holiday celebration with family, and I am fully fighting back against seasonal affective disorder.

Somewhere in the California desert

Of course, I fight that good fight every year, and have written about it more than once. A friend told me that it’s good to have things to look forward to when in the dregs of winter. She’s not wrong. I’ve planned a solo trip to the place I left my heart: Los Angeles. And I am counting the days.

When you have a family, you fall into a rhythm over the years. Not the grim reaper rhythm of monotony that we all fear, but a general expectation of pace over the seasons. Because our birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays ramp up in the spring, I like to view this as our family’s recovery time. Life moves at a slower pace. This is when I try to work on home projects, update my website, and the most cheerful activity? Party prep for my son’s birthday in spring.

We used giant cardboard boxes to create Gotham City

Sound crazy? Not when you’ve seen one of his all-out thematic parties. Instead of stressing about it in the spring, I get all the DIY details done in advance, and I love it. I have a new, pandemic-era art studio in my basement and I tinker away for hours, using what I already have to create something new. I was sustainable before sustainable was cool. Hopefully, it will create a core memory with my soon-to-be eight-year-old. You can check out some of my previous events on the Parties and Events section of my site. This year’s theme? He chose Pokemon.

One of the many thematic stations for Hamilton’s 7th birthday last year

If you generally struggle this time of year, you can find some inspiration with a road trip. Even if it’s a simple day trip to pull you out of your home, which can become a vortex during a pandemic winter. If you live in Central Virginia, here’s a day trip idea I wrote about for North of the James. A little good news here: I was given my own column in the North of the James newspaper, called Diversions.

Mining for gems on a recent road trip

…Which brings me to my next topic: I just cannot find enough time to get on here and post as often as I’d like. In addition to writing full-time at a regular job, I’m freelancing again for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, running a column at North of the James, and still posting weekly as a lifestyle columnist for Ladles and Linens.

Not to mention, counting the days until can get home to California!

Please follow me on Instagram to stay on top of all the unmissable content!

Have yourself a merry little lockdown

Remember last Christmas, when I warned you that things were going to be weird? Well, it was. We were masked and nervous, knowing that the Delta variant was on the rise. We thought 2021 would be a shining beacon, filled with vaccines and the world going back to the way things were.

He has a good life.

Little did we know that we were only half right. I sit here vaccinated, but also recovering from that ubiquitous Omicron variant. I’m grateful for the vaccines saving lives and keeping us out of hospitals, but I am frustrated that we’re still here.

Because I am forced to stay in, I have to get creative. And because I am a bon vivant, I insist on making the most of it. But making the most of it doesn’t mean doing the most. Rest is underrated. We’ve had a hell of a year, and sitting here doing nothing is absolutely warranted. I can binge watch low-budget holiday movies where the evil characters speak in exaggerated tones, and pop as many Harry & David milk chocolate cherries as I please, thankyouverymuch.

Hamilton building his gingerbread house, as Abe looks on.

I’ve also slowed down to enjoy holiday crafts with my seven-year-old that I’m normally too busy to do during this bustling season. We made a ridiculous gingerbread house with a reindeer outside pooping chocolate chips. We made a snow globe with a mason jar. Every night, we take in a new holiday movie, brushing up on all the classics. We’ve seen It’s a Wonderful Life. Home Alone, Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story and more. I actually get to snuggle in by the light of our Christmas tree, rather than seeing it in passing while dashing off to The Nutcracker or a holiday party.

Robert and I, before we got hit with the ‘Cron

There’s a good chance a lot of us are going to get Omicron, but even if you are one of the lucky ones, it wouldn’t hurt to take it easy this season. Stay in a bit more to be on the safe side, and enjoy the much-needed rest. It’s kind of great.

While I’m here, here’s a bit of a holiday round-up from posts I’ve written for Ladles and Linens!

I’m obsessed with Terry’s Milk Chocolate Oranges, and when I realized that the candy stores only sold it during the holidays, I made a connection. Between pomander balls and dried orange garlands, I decided to figure out the connection between oranges and Christmas.

To counter all that eggnog and pie, try these to-die-for salmon bites.

When it comes to the holidays, these are a few of my favorite things.

Do you think holiday dessert needs to be pie? Perhaps we should make way for these scrumptious alternatives!

Holiday cocktails your guests will gush over!

The best holiday cookies you will ever have: pumpkin chocolate chip!

Five elements that make Thanksgiving unforgettable – which can absolutely be applied to Christmas dinner, and dinner parties in general!


Thanksgiving lefftovers 3.0

There are only so many leftover Thanksgiving sandwiches you can eat. Iventive ways of preserving your feast are out there, and it goes beyond putting the same food between two slices of bread.

Leftover turkey makes a delicious jerky – a healthy snack to bring you into the new year. You don’t need a dehydrator, and since the meat is already cooked, there’s less prep time. Already-cooked meat can tend towards being dry once dehydrated, so unlike beef, it’s okay to add a little oil. The below photo demonstrates a delectable mix of fat, salt and heat. This hot sauce is addictive, and recently made the leap from Asian grocery stores to mainstream supermarkets.

Warning: This hot sauce is addictive.

Don’t stop there. The turkey has been stripped but is still fresh and full of flavor. Throw into a big stock pot and simmer, cover, and let sit overnight. The next day, remove the bones and strain the silky broth into mason jars. Leave a few inches at the top for when the broth turns to ice and expands in the freezer. Use as needed for soups, shabu shabu and more.

When packaging the broth, you’ll discover leftover meat and skin. Be sure to remove the tiny bones, and save in a container to mix in with the pet food at mealtime. This lean, seasoned meat will make it feel like a holiday for your furry friends too.

Leftover cranberries are perfect for the dehydrator, where you can turn them into Craisin-like snacks. They add sweetness and texture to salads, homemade trail mix and baked goods.

Since cranberries tend to be bitter, you have to blanch them to break the skin, and mix with simple syrup to sweeten them up. When you shake simple syrup with cranberries in a container, you are left with a festive cranberry simple syrup. Cocktail lovers rejoice!

These are but a few of many ways you can reinvent your Thanksgiving leftovers, and infuse new flavors. Happy holidays!

Diner en Blanc 2021: The glamour of it all!

This year’s event was proof positive that a global pandemic can’t hold us back from the sparkle, fizz & clink of Diner en Blanc! In 2020 we were still blindsided and figuring things out, but this evening was a breathtaking ride, and a reunion of sorts.

The Chloe wine was flowing, the dance floor throbbed – I even witnessed a proposal! The good kind, where he gets down on one knee. This revelry could not be possible, were it not for hosts Enjoli Moon, Christine Wansleben, and Ayana Obika.

Each woman embodies a spirit of creativity and entrepreneurship in their own way. Moon is the founder of the Afrikana Film Festival, Wansleben is the owner and chef at Mise En Place and Obika is the chief visionary at Gratitude Rising Events. I’m just lightly grazing their accomplishments – they bring the world of art, film, food and and culture to Richmond, and we could feel the culmination of their efforts at Diner en Blanc.

This year tried the Chloe Prosecco, and it was so refreshing, I stuck with it the entire night. And what a night it was! The location of the event is not revealed until the day of, and it was held at the newly-revitalized Monroe Park, by the VCU campus.

When I was a student at VCU, the park was dimly lit, falling into disrepair, and plagued by violence. After being closed for a time, it reopened into a thing of grandeur. A giant two-tiered fountain is encircled by enameled bistro tables and chairs. Students study and couples hold hands – it felt like Paris. Which is only appropriate, since Diner en Blanc started in Paris over 30 years ago.

Celebrating with artist Ryan Azia

Most notably, the sun set and the sky turned cobalt blue. The minarets from the old Mosque (now the Altria theatre) lit up, and matched the cobalt of the sky. The moon rose above it and a cool breeze swept in, offering respite as we danced with sparklers in hand.

I enjoyed an incredible meal. Garnish Catering featured a vegetarian beef wellington, with asparagus, hummus, and flaky pastry. They made kale salad, a cheese plate and vegetables. Croaker’s Spot provided their famous fried chicken and cornbread. l topped it off with a decadent red velvet cupcake from Melissa’s Cupcakes.

It was an evening to remember. We triumphed over these troubled times. It’s easy to rise above amidst the glamorous, inclusive, and beautiful spirit of Diner en Blanc. See you next year!

Ashley Jefferson (center) of Virginia Style Magazine, flanked by partygoers.

The Big Easy in RVA

Being a meteorologist in New Orleans is like being a Pilates instructor in LA. You are at the epicenter of where it all happens. My dear friend Michelle got the opportunity of a lifetime when offered a job to be a meterologist at the CBS station in New Orleans: WWL-TV.

I had to throw her a going away party. I wish I could have whipped up some cajun-style finger foods, or a giant pot of crawfish etouffee served in elegant bowls. But it was a surprise party, thrown together rather quickly, so we kept it simple. A stocked bar, bundles of fresh flowers, a kicking playlist (with a few zydeco songs mixed in) and unfussy foods, such as watermelon slices, hummus and a pocorn station, where you could sprinkle on a variety of toppings.

Michelle Morgan and her husband Andy

I decked the place out with Mardi Gras beads, hanging them en masse, just like it’s done in New Orleans, where fences or trees are chosen at random to become positively dripping with necklaces. I created a photo wall with splashy Mardi Gras colors: green, purple and yellow. There were masks and feather boas as props.

The music was blasting, many shots were thrown back, and people were so determined to party, that no one touched the food. What should have been a somber occasion (saying goodbye to a friend) was a raucous night of laughter, dancing and a plethora of blackmail photos.

For while we are sad to see Michelle go, we gained another friend in New Orleans. When we saw her off, she had our full bayou blessing. As they say in New Orleans: Laissez les bon tems roulez!

Gotham City Redux

Last year I wrote about how the pandemic put the brakes on my son’s birthday party. At the time, no one understood the virus and the world was prettty much closed down. On the bright side, it gave us pleny of time to craft a Gotham City out of giant cardboard boxes, a homemade Joker pinata, a comic strip photo window and so much more.

Fast forward one year, and we not only understand the virus, but vaccines are being distributed. So we created a socially-distanced party outdoors with masks. Was it awkward? The mask-on/mask-off situation is always difficult to navigate, especially when food is being served. But you only turn seven once!

Hamilton was happy to destroy his art project…because candy. It’s intoxicating, that excitement when the pinata bursts and kids scramble in desperation to grab all they can.

Part of the decor? An autograhed image by the best Batman in film history: Mr. Michael Keaton. This was pulled from my husband’s arsenal.

Stick a pile of high-stakes candy (no Smarties allowed! I’m talking Pop Rocks and 100 Grand bars!) in the middle, and play some dice. The kids get very cutthroat.

  • Roll a 1: Take 1
  • Roll a 2: Take 2
  • Roll a 3: Take one from someone
  • Roll a 4: Give one to someone
  • Rol a 5: Put one back in the pile
  • Roll a 6: Skip a turn and reverse order

The Gotham City Arcade featured a Pac-Man machine!

Batman villain Poison Ivy greeted guests, and the sign redirected guests to the back yard, to avoid having people in the house.

Instead of cake, the birthday boy wanted Rice Krispies Treats. So why not keep with the black and yellow theme, build it into a tower and feature Batman and Robin?

Kids love exclusivity, so no adults were allowed in the Bat cave! It was cool and dark inside, with a bat signal projected onto the wall.

Only brave children dare drink the Joker Juice, which could turn people EVIL!

The happy hosts!

Spring fever: Let it burn!

Spring is in the air, and I don’t care if it’s that old “fool’s spring” – the warm snap in March that makes daffodils bloom and gullible people dry clean their coats. I know Virginia winters, and we could very well be hit with snow in a week. But I don’t care. I blow past that unending stack of dirty dishes and into the backyard. I’m out there digging and watching the earth wake up until well after dark, when I get dragged in by the ear.

You wouldn’t believe all I’ve been able to do with repurposed materials. I used discarded slate from my neighbors’ roofs to stack up an elegant fire pit. I used extra slate and discarded pavers in the alleys to build pathways in the yard. It’s a mosaic-like hodge podge of marble (from broken kitchen countertops), concrete (from broken up hardscaping) and slabs of shale from my sister-in-law’s property in Pennsylvania.

Our Christmas card: Robert as Santaur!

The last time I had written was during the holidays. I spent many winter weekends hosting cooking marathons; the oven belting out serving after serving of comfort food, so that our freezer will be nice and stacked with homemade goodness. That’s what a second freezer really is: an excuse to turn your home into a food factory.

I liken winter cook-a-thons to saving for a sunny day, rather than a rainy day. You hunker down in bleak weather to cook ahead for sunnier times, when you’d rather be outside. Toss a few frozen goodies into your beach bag, and it will be delicious by the time you hit that salt air.

Not posting here hasn’t been for a lack of writing. I’ve been writing full time for a law firm (fascinating stuff, actually) and still have the privilege of being the lifestyle blogger for Ladles and Linens. Not to mention freelancing for North of the James! All pistons are firing right now, and it feels good.

My father, right at home working with our pizza oven

But before spring is in full swing, before we’re all vaccinated and swinging from the rafters, I’d love to catch you up. Since entertaining and traveling is still taboo, I’ve mostly written about food. Much of it comforting, all of it delicious.

I finally tackled cocoa bombs! This was one of the pandemic must-do activities, and I fashioned mine after Terry’s Chocolate Orange. For those who haven’t tried orange and chocolate together, it’s a sublime combinaton!

I’ve been learning to make guilt-free goodies. Well, not entirely guilt-free. But I sweeten this chocolate coconut bark with honey, and these peanut butter cups are made with less sugar. Yet both are addictive! Both also use a bit of coconut oil, which not only has antioxidants and provides immune support, but it’s manna for your hair and skin.

I love pie, but if I had a choice between sweet and savory, I always go for savory. My husband finally fired up the new pizza oven he built, and we spent at least six hours making Middle-Eastern spinach pies, meat pies, cheese pies, zaatar pies and egg pies. We had a whole team on the case, and hours later, we had stacks of freezer bags filled. We passed them out to ecstatic family members.

I’d also like to think that I cast a wide net of relief, as I wrote about five foods that people traditionally believe are unhealthy, but are actually good for you! This is the reverse of the usual article, which tends to list “health foods” that are secretly bad for you.

Speaking of “bad for you,” I had to cover some classics for the Super Bowl spread. Buffalo wings, when done right, are life. And I think potato skins are underappreciated, considering the myriad ways you can slather them with sin.

I teach people how to build an epic bowl of ramen, using whatever you have in your home. People have plenty sitting around to keep their bowl interesting, and ful of color. The same goes for grain bowls, which are even more versatile. I also teach people how to make congee, a comforting breakfast porridge from China. This simple crock pot recipe only uses five ingredients, and fills your home with the scent of warm ginger.

Many Instagram friends have asked me to demystify my ramen porn

I think we’re caught up for now. Hopefully this content-rich post makes up for my absence. This is always my favorite place to write; free from editors, free from overthinking on SEO algortithms – just a place to celebrate the good life.

While I love good food, I’m looking forward to opening this blog back up to all the other topics I’ve covered, from travel to fashion to parties. Especially the parties, and I plan to make up for lost time! As we are all beginning to get vaccinated, I can feel the world opening back up. Or is just that my spring fever?

Happy holidays, it’s going to be weird

Let’s start with the obvious. Things are weird. The coziness of a crowded house party, with steamed up windows and people laughing over hot toddies…it’s a thing of the past. And the future. Coziness is in short supply. Right now people are huddled under heat lamps on the sidewalk just to enjoy their favorite sandwich. They’re still attempting happy hours on Zoom, which are sterile at best. This year Christmas cheer is more of a private affair, with smaller groups staying as local as possible, or as local as their families will deem acceptble before making trouble.

I can’t get caught up in feeling sorry for myself. Being annoyed that your favorite sushi bar changed their hours is a First World Problem. To quote the deadpan Kourtney Kardashian “Kim, there’s people that are dying.” I also can’t get caught up in the excitement for 2021. When the clock srikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, COVID will still be here.

festive holiday eggnog

Are there things to look forwward to? Sure. We’ll once again be restored with a competent administration and vaccines will extend to every corner of the population. Knowing this helps me accept the current weirdness of it all. We can acknowledge how hard this year has been, but still make the most of what we do have, no matter how small.

Like carbs! It’s a common joy, only reviled by people on the outside. Deep down, no one really wants the side salad. It’s sweater weather and perfect for hiding our little food babies we nurse thoughout the holidays. Because if you can’t indulge now, then when can you? Everyone loves potatoes and everyone loves pancakes. Put the two together and you have latkes! We tried this comfort food, and we like. The possibilities for toppings are endless too. Mazel!

Just because you’re not squeezing yourself into a seqined cocktail dress, doesn’t mean your drinks have to suffer. Drink your red wine out of decadent stemware – it will give your sweatsuit more polish. Even better, shake up a new festive cocktail. We are faced with a lot of sameness these days, and a fizzy drink with a sprig of rosemary on top will give you a hint at the holiday glamour that lies ahead. Ahead as in next year. Don’t pout, I doubt your feet miss those stilettos.

marshmallow hot cocoa with lucky charms mashmallows

While we’re making cocktails more meaningful, why not take hot cocoa next level? Hot cocoa bombs are making the rounds and I’m here for it. In fact, I’m going to learn how to make them. In the meantime, there are so many ways to enjoy hot cocoa, beyond tearing open the packet and pouring it into hot water. Lucky Charms marshmallows, candy cane stirrers and a myriad of different spices and essential oils can complement the chocolate in exciting ways.

Count your blessings. If you’re reading this, you weren’t one of the 1.71 million people who have succumbed to COVID-19. You’ll be around to see Kamala next month. Working from home may not be ideal, but you get to spend more time with your pets, your kids and the home you’re spending so much on. You experience less gas stations, packed freeways, cubicles, flouorescent lighting and soul-extinguishing coffee.

Christmas will be different, but differen’t doesn’t mean bad. Happy holidays and may your new year be 2021!

Witchy women

Witchy women

I have a girlfriend with an affinity for “witchy” friends. She and the girls in her circle are a touch hippie. They tie dye clothes in their backyards, have a penchant for handmade soaps and scented candles and hell if they don’t have crystals on their windowsills.

Witches Altar tarot readings

As we are over nine months into a global pandemic, most of us have had to deal with a COVID birthday. My girlfriend is not one to let a birthday go by uncelebrated. There are two things she loves to do on this occasion: Eat at a hot new restaurant and meet with psychics. Or get her palm read. Something witchy. When COVID hit, a chic restaurant was out of the question, as girlfrinds who are semi-isolated would have to gather indoors, sans masks.

Laura Lee's RVA
Comfort food

However, she didn’t see why COVID should have to deprive her of a witchy good time. We gathered in her backyard, Adirondack chairs spaced six feet apart around a roaring fire. We ordered take-out from Laura Lee’s and tucked into a decadent chocolate cake.

I brought marshmallows for the fire and goodie bags to keep things festive. And a book about Salem to stay on theme. But the highlight of the night was the tarot card reading with Maria Badillo of The Witches Altar. She could not have been more acommodating to our safety practices. She wore a mask, and gave a tarot reading on the far side of a large table, for social distancing. To accommodate all anxiety levels at this time, The Witches Altar also does tarot readings via Zoom. We’re glad Maria came in person. She pulled candles out of her bag along with the cards, and took time to explain the spread to each of us.

tarot reading

As we sat around the fire sipping peanut butter whiskey and pretending not to eavesdrop on our friends’ readings, I marveled at how strange it all felt. The faces were familiar, but socializing in peron felt new. The rythm of life has changed quite a bit thanks to COVID, but it also helps you to better appreciate things, like witchy little gatherings under the stars. Nights when you and your friends carry on almost as if there weren’t a global pandemic. It’s the best way to be reminded that our circumstances are only temporary, and that better days are ahead.