Honey-Vanilla Healthy Morning Coffee

Give your morning coffee a feel-good boost by mixing in healthy and delicious supplements. Vanilla collagen powder replenishes collagen to support tendons and ligaments, revitalize skin, hair and nails and fight the effects of aging. Laird Superfood’s original creamer is a delicious, plant-based alternative to dairy creamers with coconut MCT’s, calcium from marine algae and organic coconut sugar for just a hint of sweetness. Made with a variety of organic mushrooms, ashwaganda, cinnamon and more, Four Sigmatic’s Balance powder adds just a bit of cinnamon spice flavor along with calming and destressing benefits, while the Beekeepers Naturals Superfood Honey supports energy and immunity with antioxidants in its blend of raw, enzymatic honey, royal jelly, raw bee pollen and bee propolis extract. All these ingredients together make a tasty, lightly sweet and spicy, delicious cup of morning coffee.

1 scoop YouTheory vanilla collagen powder

1/2 scoop Laird Superfood original creamer

1 small scoop Four Sigmatic Adaptogen Blend Mix – Balance version

1 tsp. Beekeepers Naturals B. Powered Superfood Honey

Spring Chicken a la Renoir

I came across this recipe in a book about French artists. Apparently famed artist Renoir’s wife Aline, pictured below at left in his painting Luncheon of the Boating Party, used to make this tasty chicken dish for Saturday open houses at their home in Montmartre. If you happen to visit Paris, be sure to stop by the Musee de Montmartre and Jardins Renoir to see the artist’s atelier and gardens. In the meantime, this tasty chicken dish will tide you over.

French Chicken a la Renoir


A whole chicken, cut into pieces, or 2 lb. chicken breast or thighs

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. butter

2 tomatoes, peeled and diced

2 small to medium yellow onions, diced

Fresh parsley

Fresh thyme

2-3 cloves garlic

1/4 cup hot water

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup mushrooms

1/4 cup olives

3 tbsp. Cognac


Brown the chicken pieces in a hot pan with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. I used a cast iron skillet. Once browned, remove the chicken from the pan and discard the oil. Return the chicken to the pan with butter. Add diced tomatoes, diced onions, bouquet of parsley and thyme and one whole clove garlic. Add hot water and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir gently to stop the sauce from sticking. Cook on low heat about 30 minutes to cook the chicken through. Add mushrooms, olives and cognac and let bubble up. Add chopped parsley and garlic before serving.

This dish is perfect to throw on the stove for a family get-together. As long as you watch the chicken during the initial cooking process, it can simmer for a while with the remaining ingredients while you enjoy visiting with your guests.

I also prepared a favorite side dish in the spring/summer: Garlic Parmesan Squash and Zucchini. This is so easy to make. Just preheat the oven to 425 degrees, mandolin slice one yellow squash and one zucchini into a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then toss with three cloves diced garlic and 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional five minutes to let the cheese crisp up. This was delicious alongside the chicken!

Roadtrip Southland – Atlanta to New Orleans

On Day Two of our epic southern road trip, we packed the fam in the SUV and drove from Atlanta to New Orleans, with a stop for lunch and some sightseeing in Montgomery, Alabama.

After grabbing a bite to eat, we tracked down the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald House. Unfortunately, the museum was closed for tours, so we moved on to Oakwood Cemetery, the final resting place of Hank Williams, Sr., where we met a very interesting and very knowledgeable man who keeps the grave clean and maintained. He told us stories of growing up around Hank’s family and shared some anecdotes about the man himself.

We watched the sun set over the bayou as we made our way into New Orleans across Lake Pontchartrain. Once we got into our Air BnB, we ordered some pizza for the kids and a New Orleans classic for the grownups, lagniappe pasta. This over the top, creamy pasta was filled with shrimp and crawfish and had a spicy kick.

After an evening stroll over to the French Quarter, we got back and got some shuteye before exploring the city the next day. More to come…

Roadtrip Southland – Atlanta

Back near the beginning of 2021, when it seemed we were making our way out of the pandemic, we decided to take a family vacation. We hadn’t gone anywhere beyond a few days at the beach since summer of 2019, and the announcement that Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas would once again be hosting the American Grand Prix in October was the driver (no pun intended) behind our big Southern roadtrip.

9 days. Over 3,000 miles round trip. WiFi in the car so I could stay connected to work and the kids could keep up with their schoolwork.

Stop One was an overnight in Atlanta. We stayed in Buckhead and drove into the city for dinner at The Varsity, opened in 1928. Billed as “the world’s largest drive-in” and “the FUN place to eat,” The Varsity serves up delicious burgers, fries, onion rings and shakes from a handful of locations, including the one we visited in downtown Atlanta.

After dinner, we headed over to SkyView Atlanta for a nighttime ride. This 20-story tall sky wheel has views for miles and is the perfect way to see the city from the air.

The next morning, we got up, ready to drive to our next stop. Before heading out of town, we visited the World of Coca-Cola, where we learned about the history of this delicious drink, before sampling varieties of soda from around the world and, of course, exiting through the gift shop.

On to Stop Two!

“Life starts over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fall has always been my favorite season. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that it contains both my birthday and my favorite holiday, Halloween. More than at any other time of year, the transition from summer to fall brings the back-to-school season, a perfect time for a fresh start, then soon ebbs towards October, prime time for apple and pumpkin picking, before Halloween and the ancient pagan new year, Samhain.

It’s my favorite time of year to head out and experience the outdoors and food and drink events, and Virginia has plenty of both!

Last weekend, I visited Scotchtown‘s 300th Anniversary celebration in Hanover County. This colonial-era estate, home to Patrick Henry from 1771-1778, along with Preservation Virginia, hosted the event, which brought together James Beard award-winning author and historian Michael Twitty, who spoke on Afro-Atlantic culinary history and demonstrated culinary techniques from the period, with brews from Ashland’s Center of the Universe Brewing Company, Revolutionary War re-enactors and a range of local history organizations. There was also a petting zoo – the highlight for my son!

Virginia has so much to do to celebrate the change of seasons:

  • Fall Festival at Bryants Cider Farm, Roseland – live music, pumpkin patch, food trucks and family friendly activities (Friday, October 15 through Sunday, October 17, 2-6 PM daily)
  • 25th Annual Apple Butter Festival at Wade’s Mill, Raphine – homemade apple butter made the old-fashioned way over an open fire, food trucks and desserts, live music (Saturday, Oct. 16, 10 AM-4 PM)
  • Graves Mountain Apple Harvest Festival, Syria – hayride, hay maze, live music, apples and pumpkins for sale, delicious food, desserts, jams, jellies and apple butter (Saturday, Oct. 16 and Sunday, Oct. 17, 10 AM-4:30 PM)
  • Historic Jamestowne‘s All Hallows Eve program – Tales of “The Devill, the Witches, & the Enchanters…”: A Haunted Evening at Historic Jamestowne (Saturday, Oct. 16, 6:45 and 8 PM)
  • Fall Harvest Festival at George Washington’s Mount Vernon – historical activities and demonstrations, beer tastings (Saturday, October 23 and Sunday, October 24, 9 AM-5 PM)
  • Urbanna Oyster Festival – parade, live music, oyster shucking competition and delicious food (Friday, Nov. 5 and Saturday, Nov. 6, all day)

This is just a tiny sample of the fun fall activities going on in Virginia. Visit Virginia.org for more and enjoy the gorgeous fall days and crisp nights!

To my conservative friends and family members…

As our nation attempts to heal from the violent and atrocious attack on our Capitol which resulted in a horrific murder of and devastating injuries to law enforcement that were incited by the sitting President and various of his accomplices in the Republican party, we are now seeing a call from many of you to “put aside our differences” and “know your hearts.”

I will respond from the other side of the aisle. We don’t trust you. We don’t believe you. We saw your incitement towards what happened last Wednesday – the shared memes, the pride with which you voted again for a man who has engineered policies that have hurt and continue to hurt many who you claim to care about – the LGBTQ community, immigrants, refugees, the poor, people of color, the disabled. We saw every “like” and laugh emoji on social media. We saw every yard sign and bumper sticker and hat and t-shirt emblazoned with MAGA and Trump. We saw and continue to see you pushing a completely false narrative surrounding the 2020 election and the attempted coup and sharing misinformation and propaganda that has again and again been proven false and lacking any credible evidence.

We knew, the day after the 2016 election, where this country might be heading. But we didn’t want to believe it. See, back then, we took you all at your word – that we just had differences of opinions, no big deal. We saw the misinformation spread, the derogatory memes and proud “MAGA” shouts, and for the most part we “let it go” because we didn’t want to get into an argument. What we all witnessed last Wednesday was the culmination of our “letting it go” – an armed group of brainwashed, misinformed zealots attempted to overturn the results of a democratic election by any means they could, including violence. Information is coming out nearly hourly about what their plans were – to destroy electoral votes, to take members of Congress hostage, to murder those in the line of succession. Were it not for the quick thinking of various members of law enforcement and staff on site that day, the outcome may have been quite different. The sitting President and his family and supporters incited that crowd, then watched gleefully as the violence played out, refusing to order the National Guard to stop it, after having refused, through the President’s acting appointees, to place the DC National Guard on site in the first place. More information will come out, and when it does, the division among Americans will remain, because we all know that there are many who wish the coup had been successful, that Trump had become an American dictator so he could start purging “libtards” and “demoncraps” from all levels of government.

You now call for unity, but that call is several steps down the line. Before we get there, we, the majority of Americans who knew who Trump was and where our country was heading if he were able to remain in power, need and deserve acknowledgement and apologies. Just as every conservative cries for all Muslims to decry acts of Muslim terrorism and for all black Americans to answer for any black person who commits a crime, we call on our Republican and conservative friends to renounce their support of Donald Trump and his failed insurrection and to let us know that they vehemently oppose the actions that were taken on January 6, that they accept the results of the 2020 election and that they support the full and complete investigation of the events of January 6 and the ouster of any Republican who was involved in the coup plot. Anything short of this is not worthy of any of you ever being viewed as decent people again.

“But Democrat friend,” you may say, “it’s not fair for me to have to apologize when you bad-mouthed Trump for four years too.” My response, in hindsight after the events of last Wednesday: I should have bad-mouthed him more. I should have been more vocal about how misinformed all of you have been. We should have called out every single lie, every single shared and re-shared piece of propaganda, every offensive meme. “Letting it go” is what led to last Wednesday. “Being polite” is what poured fuel on the flames of cultish worship of a failed businessman and reality tv star. “Not wanting to start an argument” is what allowed the hatred of “libtards” and every Democratic politician to fester like a cancer until members of the President’s brainwashed cult violently and criminally attacked the seat of American government in an attempt to enforce their will over the wills of all the Americans who voted to remove this fascist from power.

My hope now is that we do not continue to make the same mistakes. “Alternate facts” are not facts, they are lies. Niche conservative media outlets and talking heads are not news sources, they are brainwashers and propaganda machines, and now many of them are insurrectionists and criminals. Any person, member of government and law enforcement who participated in or incited the events of last Wednesday must be weeded out, fired and prosecuted for any crimes they have committed. This is the line in the sand. Decent Americans are, with obvious reason, terrified by how close we came to seeing our nation destroyed and turned into a dictatorship. And we are just as terrified knowing by our friend’s and family member’s reactions on social media and elsewhere that many of them would have seen nothing wrong with the insurrection having been successful, even if that had meant the murder of sitting members of Congress or the Vice President.

We have all experienced trauma. We are all, understandably, feeling hurt and angry and guarded and untrusting. If our conservative friends and family mean what they say, that they think we need to “come together,” then the place to start is by letting your friends and family members know that you renounce Donald Trump and the failed coup, that you know that Joe Biden is the democratically-elected President of the United States, and that even though you may disagree with democrats and progressives politically, you do not condone or support any of the violence Trump and his supporters incited. If that is a bridge too far for you, then do not be surprised to find relationships with friends and family members deteriorating. Do not be shocked if your friends or family members who are in the LGBTQ community or who are people of color stop reaching out to you. We who have been directly affected by Donald Trump’s and his supporters’ inflammatory rhetoric are prioritizing our family members’ and loved ones’ safety, mental well being and healing over coddling people we thought we could trust but have learned over the past four years that we could not. If you are seeking trust and understanding from us, the ball is in your court.

This Woman’s Work

I came home from a long day spent doing “this woman’s work,” shuffling kids to doctor’s appointments in between my full-time marketing telework and full-time virtual school assistant jobs to find a package of deliciously-scented candles from Freres Branchiaux, a small candle business created in suburban Washington, DC by three brothers – aged 14, 12 and 9 – who started this business because they had “maxed out their toy allowance” and wanted to earn some money. These three young black boys took a candle-making workshop, then went to work developing a wide range of soy-based candles in great-smelling scents, like Cherry Blossom, Lime Cotton and Green Lavender, as well as others based on cultural icons, like Wakanda Forever – “Reminiscent of soft florals, bergamot, and thyme.  Smells like love. :)” and Wakanda Forever – “Ginger, saffron, and mixed fruits make this candle heavenly—Wakanda style!  And it is our FIRST colored candle—Vibranium Blue.”

While I was finishing up a Microsoft Teams meeting, the news of the indictment of one of the officers responsible for Breonna Taylor’s death in Louisville, Kentucky broke. I didn’t have time to read more until I was sitting in the waiting room while my niece had her appointment. I was horrified to read that the only indictment to come down was for a police officer who had shot into nearby homes – the charge was endangering others in the neighborhood. The sheetrock of these neighbors’ homes received more justice than award-winning EMT Breonna Taylor and her family. I thought of Breonna’s mother. A few weeks ago, I had read a magazine article in which her mother described the night of her daughter’s death and the following day. The police wouldn’t tell her what had happened – they went so far as to outright lie to her, telling her that her daughter had been taken to the hospital while she was laying dead in her home, and to ask her if she knew of anyone who would have wanted to hurt Breonna, all the while knowing their own officers had killed her.

I got home from all my driving around and opened my long-awaited box of candles. See, Freres Branchiaux received so many orders around Juneteenth that it had taken them quite a while to fill them all – a wonderful problem to have, of course. The two candles I’d picked both smell amazing: Whiskey Sweet has a hint of cedar layered with citrus, whiskey and musk. When I saw that there was a candle named after a Kate Bush song, later covered by Maxwell, you know I had to grab that one too! This Woman’s Work is sweet and fruity, with apple, grapefruit, vanilla, jasmine and sandalwood. I hadn’t heard the song in a while, so I listened to both versions. And as I listened, I cried for Breonna Taylor’s mother and for all the mothers who haven’t received justice. I cried for Tamir Rice’s mother, and for Trayvon Martin’s mother and for Michael Brown’s mother and for George Floyd’s mother. I cried because I feel so angry at the system that continues to fail non-white Americans, and I cried because I feel helpless to do anything to change it.

And when I stopped crying, I quietly set about resuming “this woman’s work.” It may not seem to be much, but I am being what my favorite musician, Tori Amos, would call a “Mother Revolution.” I’m raising three beautiful children to see the wrongs in the world and seek to right them, to be kind to everyone, no matter their situation, and to speak up for those who don’t have a voice. I’m raising three kids who can talk politics at the dinner table and who know that black lives matter and that everyone is welcome. I’m raising kids who will speak their mind and who won’t say they “don’t see color,” but will understand that we live in a racist system and have to fight it every chance we get. Most days, I feel like I’m not doing it well enough, but then one of my kids says or does something amazing and it reminds me that “this woman’s work” is mostly languorous and silent and done in the background while lives are being lived until something happens that brings our values into sharp focus.

Unboxing Fall’s FabFitFun Box

As soon as I felt the first early morning chill in the air, I got excited knowing my fall FabFitFun box would be coming soon. It arrived this week and I was so pleased with the items I received in my box.

In my box this time around were the following products:

The FabFitFun quarterly box curates a unique and interesting selection of trending products, some of which you get to select yourself. Each box is packed with value – for your $49.99 purchase price each season, you typically get more than $200 worth of products. My fall box is actually packed with more than $300 worth!

Beauty Bakerie “Proof is in the Puddin” eyeshadow palette

My favorite picks from this box are the Beauty Bakerie palette, the Botkier tote and the Dr. Dennis Gross serum. Beauty Bakerie is a black woman-owned and founded makeup brand that creates lipstick, eyeshadow, concealer, foundation, powder and more in a wide range of shades and colors to suit every complexion. This palette has the perfect mix of matte and shimmer shades, including lighter and darker options for daytime and evening wear.

The Botkier New York Bond Tote is roomy enough to carry a laptop, phone, chargers and other tech equipment, as well as all my other daily essentials. It has several internal compartments for organization and stylish tassels on the top zipper, as well as side zips with tassels (just for show)!

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve added a serum to my skincare routine, and this one looks promising. With farnesol, adipic acid and agarikon mushroom, it’s meant to flush away skin impurities and deliver smaller-looking pores without shine. I’m looking forward to trying this under my moisturizer and foundation.

I have to say – this may very well be my favorite FabFitFun box I’ve received. If you’re interested in scoring a free box, drop a comment below with your email address (feel free to format as name at provider dot com to keep spambots from scraping it). I will gladly send you an invite for a free starter box!

Mail Order Pattern 2961

This stylish pattern is for a misses’ sleeveless vest, with or without collar, with two different necklines. The pattern isn’t dated, but it looks to be from the 1950’s. I love the versions in the plaid fabric, and the nipped-in 1950’s waist. I also love view B in a dark shade with a contrasting top underneath and a cute scarf.


If you’re interested in sewing vintage patterns, you should check out SewRena’s channel! She sews a wide variety of vintage patterns, and also has videos on styling her vintage looks. One of my favorite videos of hers is her Behind the Seams video on Simplicity pattern 8363 – a gorgeous dress and bolero jacket with decorative buttons.

Amplifying Melanated Voices

Like many bloggers over the past few weeks, I have put my blog on mute since June 2, #blackouttuesday, in order to step back, listen to black voices and educate myself more on racism and racially-motivated police brutality in America. As a white suburban southern mom who has long known that #blacklivesmatter, and who has been pretty vocal about it, it’s wonderful to see so many other white people finally waking up to the experiences of black Americans and the many changes that are needed to truly become a nation where all are treated equally and have equal access to opportunities and to the pursuit of happiness.

I’ve given a lot of thought to how to move forward with my blog. Since diving into the world of sewing again and exploring my newfound hobby of vintage pattern collecting, I’ve been so excited to share some of the beautiful patterns I bought in a gigantic mystery box, but I want to balance my excitement with some social responsibility. I want to use my platform to #amplifymelanatedvoices.

Moving forward, I will continue to post about sewing, cooking, travel, cocktails, genealogy and more, but each post will also amplify a black voice – whether it be a restaurant, a sewist, a designer, a shop, a place to visit, a writer, etc. In addition, I will be adding petitions and donation opportunities to forthcoming posts.

For those readers who are already a part of the struggle for freedom and justice for black Americans, indeed for ALL Americans who have historically been left out of the American dream, thank you for all you have done. Keep it moving and help out anywhere and in any way you can: donate funds to organizations doing important work, patronize black-owned businesses, speak up when a friend or family member or co-worker says something you know to be wrong, use your voice and your platform in situations and institutions where change is needed.

For those of you who watched a black man be murdered in front of your eyes on your cell phone or computer screen and felt that pit deep inside you of knowing how wrong it was, and felt spurred on to do something, anything to try to put the wrong things right, welcome. There is far to go, but we are all in this work together. Educate yourself on the history of the concept of race, and the history of race in America. Listen to your friends, neighbors and co-workers of color when they share their experiences with you, and amplify their voices anywhere you can.

As a start, I have donated to a project in my home city of Richmond, Virginia, that will provide funding to Ms. Impson, a city public school teacher who is writing a curriculum to use the movie “Freedom Writers” to teach tools exploring the themes of bias, racism and how to build a sense of community in the inner city. If you would like to donate to this cause, please visit https://www.donorschoose.org/project/race-and-reconciliation-using-freedom-wr/4971141/.