RVA Fashion Week – Glam that Gives Back

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As the city lights twinkled below us, we were on top of the world for RVA Fashion Week. City Hall’s Observation Deck was packed with Richmond’s fashion luminaries, models and chic vendors. Before the show we sipped Belle Isle Moonshine cocktails and perused the tables, laden with handmade jewelry, men’s ties repurposed from vintage clothing and more.

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KIKA MUFFS – upscale muffs. IG: @kikamuffs

The show itself was modern, with street style and high-end sportswear (which people have dubbed the “new street style”). It was also modern in its diversity, with models of all shapes, sizes and color, taking style from the esoteric to the accessible. India Laposh was a standout, as was Destiny Howard.

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RVA Fashion Week joined forces with Neighborhood Housing Services of Richmond, Inc., whom have launched the initiative “Create a Home for Our Heroes.” This initiative provides temporary housing for homeless and disabled veterans as they transition back to civilian life. NSHR also rehabilitates blighted buildings for veterans, which beautifies the city and improves neighborhoods, doubling down on the positive effects.

Liberatus Jewelry (pictured above) features versatile, one-of-a-kind pieces by Ginny Crane. John Crutchfield, the psychedelic rockabilly artist was holding court with his brass and fiberglass pieces, inspired by pop culture and art deco. His creations can be found at Artemis GalleryMarla Rene was on site, allowing guests to sample her luxurious skin care line.

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Happy Haven provided gorgeous hand-beaded pieces, leather cuffs and statement accessories. Miranda Classic Ties brought preppy chic to the event, with ties and accessories meant for the modern Southern gentleman, and accessories for the ladies too. Always ahead of the curve, they repurposed vintage textiles and clothes for these stand-out pieces. Nina Zabal (pictured below) featured avant garde geometric pieces reminiscent of Catherine O’Hara in Beetlejuice.

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In all, it was a night that inspired. I was inspired to take fashion risks, dig deeper into some of the arts and culture I was exposed to, and it inspired me to give back to this wonderful city, just like RVA Fashion Week did.

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John teal Crutchfield

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How Fashion is Saving Lives…Literally

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No, this isn’t an article about how this season’s white boots can elevate your office ensemble. I’m being literal.

The world of beauty and fashion are joining forces to tackle one of the most prevalent problems in the world; mental illness. Modern society is just waking up to the previously taboo subject, and sweeping it under the rug has produced devastating effects. The suicide rate in the US is growing, and sharply.

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Runway 2 Life is tackling this issue head on. At the iconic Main Street Station, models will take to the runway wearing this season’s hottest looks, and the proceeds will go to Runway 2 Life. This innovative charity focuses on grassroots therapy, training unofficial therapists, such as hair stylists and bartenders, to listen for signs that someone’s in trouble. Runway 2 Life provides resources and training to those with boots on the ground, so they know how to respond, guide the conversation and get these people help. After all, the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are still fresh wounds, and a wake-up call to everyone.

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Founder and Director Alicia Amsler

“Our mission is to start conversations, provide resources and educate our community about mental illness,” says Founder and Director Alicia Amsler. “We want people to start asking one important question, ‘Tell me more.'”

Expect a dazzling show, where you can even purchase the clothing worn by the models, Moda Operandi style! There will be refreshments, a silent auction, music, a kickin’ after party, even a chance to win a pool!   All proceeds will benefit Runway 2 Life.

RVA, don’t miss your chance to give back, and glamorously. The event is Friday October 12th at 7p.  Buy your tickets today!

PS) To be fair though, this season’s white boots can elevate your style.

 

Ladies Who Launch

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I know in the past “ladies who lunch” was positioned as the ideal for women. Imagine Jackie O. and her sister Lee lunching at La Cote Basque in Manhattan, or Babe Paley at The Colony.

But as more women attended college and career opportunities were forged, some women now refrain from careers out of choice, rather than obligation. Even Jackie O. became a passionate book editor. Tom Ford famously quoted “A gentleman today has to work. People who do not work are so boring and are usually bored. You have to be passionate, you have to be engaged and you have to be contributing to the world.”  Though it resonates, I should mention that some women who don’t join the workforce work even harder as stay-at-home mothers.

Now the ideal encompasses both, where “ladies who lunch” are easily juxtaposed with “ladies who launch.” From studio CEOs to jewelry designers, they’re lunching too. They just need to be back in an hour.

I’m excited to be surrounded by ladies who launch, at the FabWomen conference Come Find Your Fab. Friday, September 28th from 8:30a-4p. “It’s not a networking event but a community,” says founder Shanna Kabatznick. You can expect a variety of speakers and workshops, a cross-generational panel, lunch, and even a one woman show, called Generational Confusion. If you noticed a theme this year, it’s because there is, and it’s an important one.

Ever written off millennial as entitled and lazy? It’s a platitude, and platitudes are the worst. You’ve heard them. “The French are snobs,” say those who have never been to France. “LA is so shallow,” says someone who hasn’t lived there to meet the creatives, the dreamers, the survivors. Millennials fall prey to some of the worst platitudes, with many not acknowledging their major contributions, both technologically (social media, smartphones) and cultural. They’ve greatly contributed to the movement for equal pay, women’s rights, the LGBTQ community and more. To be clear, I’m not a Millennial. That’s just how much I hate platitudes.

The conference will explore these topics, and reinforce the fact that women should be embracing their differences and learning from one another. Not judging and bashing, based on the size of their pores. I hope to see you there!

 

Top 10 Things to Do in Berlin

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Me, an unabashed tourist

 

Berlin is not your Busch Gardens Germany. Forget Oktoberfest with its lederhosen and buxom beer maids. Punk rock meets Eastern Bloc: that’s Berlin.

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What wasn’t bombed is beautiful

#1 Bomb accommodations – pun intended

Half of Berlin features centuries-old architecture, and the other half, blown up in 1945 by heavy bombing in World War II, had been replaced by solemn communist buildings reminiscent of East Germany. Try to stay in a place with some history. We stayed in a restored palace, with grand doors the height of the ceiling and frescoes adorning the walls.

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#2 Nazi History

As much as Berlin’s art and fashion scene has taken center stage in recent years, there is no denying that it was the epicenter of Nazi Germany, where the movement started. It’s a great place to see infamous history in 3D, such as visiting Hitler’s bunker.

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Checkpoint Charlie and a piece of the Berlin Wall

3. The Berlin Wall

Even after Germany was defeated in World War II, it was split between East and West, with the Berlin Wall going up to divide the country. Tales of intrigue have surrounded us for decades, regarding the Stasi and German spies. In the 80s we watched in delight as the Berlin Wall fell, to unite a country. Make a point to visit the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie.

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#4 A must-dine destination

Dine where Beethoven and Napoleon dined, sit on wood-carved thrones and most importantly, enjoy delicious food. Zur Letzen Istanz serves a cuisine that’s hearty and traditional, yet somehow cutting edge. Everything was delectable.

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#5 Brandenburg Gate

Take in the views at Brandenburg Gate. Built in the 1700s, it’s an architectural marvel and the site endless history. Built on orders from the Prussian King Frederick, it used to be the entrance to Berlin when it was a small, walled city. Both Napoleon and the Nazis stormed the gates, among many others.

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#6 Alexanderplasse

Don’t miss Alexanderplasse, the large, open-air gathering place that goes beyond the local stores. There are outdoor beer gardens serving a wide variety of ales and booth vendors offering exquisite samples of homemade cheese and sausages. There are rides for adults and children alike, and are sturdier and more beautifully lit than the pack-and-go carnival variety. The strong immigrant population is a boon to the area, and highly evident at their booths, where they sell their native wares, from spice mixes to handmade leather shoes.

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#7 Modern Berlin

Though I must admit not having much time to do this, be sure to check out the galleries and boutiques of Berlin’s burgeoning art and fashion scene. This article will help steer you in the right direction.

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#8 SPEED!

I’d say this no matter WHAT city in Germany you’re in, but my advice would be to GET OUT. Rent a car and drive on the Autobahn to live out your childhood fantasy.

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Rochsburg Castle

#9 Castles, because Germany

And while we’re on the subject of leaving Berlin, I must mention that Saxony is nearby. Take a day trip to the countryside, and better yet, castles! What’s a trip to Germany without taking in a good castle? We went to Rochsburg, and it did not disappoint.

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#10 Exploring the outskirts

And don’t underestimate the amazing countryside outside Berlin where you can visit tiny country hamlets. The ancient buildings, the curious neighbors that all know one another, and the wonderful regional dishes they offer. And I’m not above a clown-shaped bologna!

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How could we not? It was delicious.

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Don’t take for grated the variety of beer

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Shout out to Gerd & Gabriela – our German friends & partners in crime!

An Autumn-Themed Baby Shower

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I heard that being pregnant in the summer is like wearing a wool sweater in hell. When we were finally graced with cool air, I threw my friend Carla an autumn-themed baby shower.

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Like many parents of second children, she didn’t want her party to be a big to-do. I kept it simple. Like any good shower, I made it short, served ample food and kept the booze flowing!

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I used harvest classics for decor, such as scarecrows, pumpkins and gourds. An earthy sari was used as a tablecloth, with brown and orange paisley.

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As mentioned in a previous post, people love to play with their food, so we had a waffle station. The waffle flavor? Pumpkin spice, of course! I also made truffle-roasted acorn squash, to keep it seasonal. I still added classics, such as fresh fruit, French press coffee, and in a fun twist, I made cheesy Eggs Florentine cups using muffin tins. My husband Robert, an avid curer and smoker of meats, passed around samples of his homemade bacon, accented with a hint of Chinese Five Spice.

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Whenever throwing a party where kids can tag along, it’s best to keep them engaged and independent from their parents. Adults deserve to kick back a bit. I laid out picnic blankets in the yard for them to dine on, along with a plethora of outdoor activities, such as a ball pit, tents and a slide. Those with pets must be sure to scoop up any droppings first!

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People seem to be split into two camps regarding games, but I shamelessly love them. I did a music trivia game, with all songs having the word “baby” or “girl” in the title. Ice Ice Baby and Baby Got Back were crowd-pleasers, especially with the children. Their ears perked up when they heard, “I like big butts and I cannot lie,” and we didn’t hear the end of it. Trivia winners scored limited-edition OPI nail polish and could choose their favorite colors. We also had a Hey Girl Hey photo booth.

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Instead of cake, I made a pyramid of Rice Krispies Balls, dipped into melted white chocolate that was dyed pink. Guests even took home wrapped packages of these as a party favor.

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Carla deserved to kick back and cool off, and this party did just that.
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Richmond Tastemaker Spices Up Church Hill (the puns stay)

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The grand opening of the Green Kitchen felt not like a promotional event, with food samples and stiff greetings. This was a full-blown housewarming party, with a delicious spread and guests were welcome to roam the halls.

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Chef Tammy Brawley made the space feel like home. While the hi-tech kitchen is industrial, the overall feeling is warm. A luscious living wall greets you as you walk in, like a shot of oxygen. A fully set dinner table sits by large windows. Fresh flowers are everywhere. An old stone fireplace sits in the front room, oversized and very Brothers Grimm. To my delight, it’s fully functional.

img_8682.jpgI can speak first hand on Brawley’s mastery in the kitchen, and am happy to report she isn’t solely limited to catering. She’ll be throwing cooking instruction parties, working as a personal chef and, perhaps the most exciting to me, meal prep.IMG_8676Richmond is booming, and busy professionals and families don’t want to sacrifice health for convenience. In fact, many trends point to the fact that fast food is dying. Fading are the days that Mom piled everyone into the station wagon for Roy Rogers. Brawley is creating healthy, gourmet meals for Richmonders to enjoy at home. And unlike mail-order meals, there’s no prep or messy clean-up in the kitchen.IMG_8680Adding cache to the already-chic Church Hill, The Green Kitchen will be a bright spot for the 25th Street corridor and a beacon of taste in Richmond. IMG_8690img_8687.jpgIMG_8678IMG_8681IMG_8691

 

White Hot in RVA: Diner en Blanc 2018

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Some parties are fun, some are even wild. But it’s a rare party that can pull off magical.

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Diner en Blanc in RVA this year was preternaturally beautiful, right down to the breeze that swept the humidity out of the city. Richmond was graced with cool air for the first time in weeks. With the haze gone and stars twinkling above, we carried on the tradition that  began in Paris in 1988. François Pasquier had invited some friends to an elegant outdoor dinner at Bois de Boulogne, and asked them to dress in white so they could find one another. Diner en Blanc is now being hosted in 70 cities around the world, including Richmond.

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The event is held in a top secret location, which isn’t revealed until the day of. I was invited by hosts Christine Wansleben, star chef and owner of Mise En Place and Top 40 Under 40 media maven Enjoli Moon. Ayana Obika was also a host, and has plenty of experience throwing large-scale bashes as owner of Gratitude Rising Events. That night, 1,200 revelers marched in, carrying gorgeous displays for their own dinner set-up. There were strung LED lights, Eiffel towers and billowing bunches of white flowers. Upon entering, guests were greeted by dancer/aerial artists from SOUL Aerial and Performing Arts.

Chloe Wines sponsored the event, and their sparkling Prosecco poured all night. There was even an ice luge sculpture, for those who wanted their bubbles extra chilled. The media lounge featured a delicious spread by Croaker’s Spot and Elegant Cuizines, serving classic summer picnic foods. There was crab salad served in crab shells, fried chicken, cornbread, potato salad, kale salad and bread pudding laced with Maraschino cherries.

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The chic lounge area was decorated by Quirk Hotel, with romantic floral arrangements and glassware. Handmade Eiffel Tower cookies graced the tables, made by Melissa’s Simply Sweet. They were almost too beautiful to eat, but they tasted even better than they looked!

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There was a tres French accordion musician playing Le Mer and other Gallic classics as people assembled their stations. One the set-up was complete, diners waved their napkins in the air so they could commence their meal en masse. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts made a noteworthy appearance with their very own Napoleon. True to form, when he announced it was time to eat, he shouted commands in French. But there was one phrase everyone understood: Bon Appetit!

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Dinner was followed by a live band, and a glow-in-the-dark ensemble of performers, including hula hoopers, jugglers and electric fairies. One highlight was when everyone was asked to light their sparklers. Within seconds the entire place was aglow, a sea of smiling, well-fed faces. New relationships were forged, recipes shared. The event hosts certainly took this event to the next level. Francois Pasquier would have been proud.

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With Quiana Davis, Diner en Blanc volunteer

 

The Portable Pool Party

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Rule number one: A portable pool party cannot be a success if the actual pool is portable. That would be one sad party.

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My friend Flor, a scientist / party girl from Argentina, was having a daughter. But she didn’t want a frilly, pink celebration over it.  She said she wanted to get out of town, just for a day. She loves to swim and tan under the sun, so I threw a portable pool party.

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Luckily our friend had a time share just an hour outside town, with a luxury pool, (indoor and outdoor), lazy river and hot tubs.

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When doing a day trip, always stop for brunch along the way. It’s a fortifying luxury and will allow your party to snack on lighter dishes from the cooler all day.

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Then, bring all the accoutrements that any girl would enjoy by the pool. I brought magazines, nail kits, a deck of cards. I made sure to stock up on sunscreen and bug spray for the girls.

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Under the hot sun, it’s refreshing to eat light food, such as cold cucumber slices dusted with chile y limon. There was heirloom cantaloupe, sliced cheese, truffle potato chips, and guajillo chile porch chop and arugula sandwiches. For dessert there were coconut biscuits and Belgian chocolates. I snuck in spiked strawberry lemonade for the girls, and a Tom Collins for Flor.

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Even with SPF 50, we all started the season with a deep base tan and plenty of Vitamin D. We sipped cocktails in the shallow end, dozed off in the lazy river, and laughed all day. It was a baby shower that didn’t just pamper the mom-to-be, but felt like a reward to everyone who came.

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Postcard from Dollywood

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Dolly Parton is a national treasure. Dollywood has been on my bucket list for years, and I hoped it would be a down-home, campy place. Dolly even she knows she’s camp; everything about her looks personifies the need for exclamation points. To quote her, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”

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There were some down-home aspects, but it was anything but camp. In fact, it’s gone Disney. Not full-Disney, with obnoxious vendors selling LED-lit swords and princess paraphernalia. But Dollywood is a well-oiled megaplex. Vast parking lots, tram system, and roller coasters.

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But Dolly never forgot her roots. They do a beautiful job embracing the scrappy, Smokey Mountain lifestyle. You can watch up close, as a gristmill breaks up grain. The warm smell of cinnamon wafts through the air as ladies make cinnamon rolls from scratch, right from the flour ground on-site.

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Wooden aqueducts wove overhead, showing visitors how water was transported. There’s killer fried chicken and biscuits. As sparks flew around the room, blacksmiths hammered out homemade signs and mercantile goods for folks to take home.

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A steam engine train pulled guests past weeping willows and magnolias. The landscaping was impeccable, surrounding wood cabin structures throughout the park. Fiddlers sat on rocking chairs on small stages that resembled covered porches,  delighting us with the sounds of Appalachia.

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It was thematic and beautiful. My only wish is that I saw a little more Dolly.

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extravagant mother’s day brunch takes the crepe

Mother’s Day is a holiday that touches everyone. Whether you have a mother or lost one, you are a mother or admire one, it’s thoughtful to set aside time to nurture a nurturer.

That’s what stylist Kristy Kostyniuk did when she and her friends Jennifer Miller and Rose Steed hosted a Mother’s Day Brunch that included not just their mothers, but a curated catch-all. Friends who were far from their mothers, lost a mother, and friends who happen to be moms happily accepted invitations.

crepes, waiting to fulfill their destiny

The ladies spent hours pouring batches of buttery, paper thin crepes. The elaborate spread featured sweet and savory options. There were small-batch jams from local farms, sliced fruit, Nutella, dark chocolate and homemade whipped cream.

Before brunch began, there was a very European spread of croissants, rugalas and scones, all displayed on vintage trays and eye-catching textiles.  Baby pink peonies and fuchsia daisies were everywhere.

On the savory side there were eggs, cheeses, bacon, cured meats, potatoes and more. We lounged and sipped mimosas, swapped stories and repeatedly excused ourselves with a, “Just one more crepe.”

When we couldn’t fit in another bite, the overlapping conversations made their way to the backyard. We sunned ourselves and watched the children dart around  chasing butterflies. Their faces were stained and hands sticky from popsicles. It was an afternoon of leisure and guilty pleasures. As if being a mom weren’t a gift enough.

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The gracious host, Kristy Kostyniuk and her mother

#becausebacon

sweet as pie