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2017: The year of PRACTICE

January 12, 2017

DSC_7575If my word for 2016 was “change”, then 2017 will be the year of: PRACTICE.

1. The actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use.
2. Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.


1. Perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.
2. Carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.

My list of things I hope to practice this year:
Organize the chaos (daily and household clutter)
Be kind to myself and everyone!
Running a small business.
Being Mom.
Staying connected
Marriage – date my husband?
Daily Activity for myself
Weekly digital detoxes

Since January 1st, I’ve done a bunch of things on this list – making the steps toward being a better parent, successful and more organized as a business owner, attending yoga classes, being active in some way (almost) every day. I’m excited to share every few weeks how my practices are going.

What about you? Have you set a few New Years intentions/resolutions? What about personal goals? How do you keep yourself motivated to stay on track?




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Search, Find, & Explore

November 7, 2016

With a love of the outdoors from my childhood spent on Shelburne Farms, Vermont, I am always on the lookout for ways for my children to enjoy exploring as much as I do. As they’ve gotten older, I put my Art Degree to good use and began sketching quick illustrations of things we would find in the woods, or at the beach, even in our own neighborhood block. It was an instant hit, and quickly became something we looked forward to doing weekly as a family or with friends. As time went on, the need grew to have all the essential tools at our fingertips when we were exploring. Thus, my “Search & Find: Adventure Kit” was born, complete with a sturdy pair of binoculars, a magnifying glass, a small marker, and a trusty Search & Find Adventure Card.

One of our favorite things to do is hike in the woods, especially in First Landing State Park. As parents of three small boys (five years old and under), my husband and I have experienced the highs and lows of hiking with children all over the country, and we like to think that “we’ve got this!”

Enjoy these photographs from Jess Hill Photography of our most recent hike, and I’ve written a few tips at the bottom of the photos on how to have a great hike with your kids.












Type of Adventure
Hiking while teaching your children an appreciation for nature, a fun family activity, and exercising

Any woods big or small

Things to take into consideration while packing

  • Plan for “the sagging wagon”: Might need a kid carrying item: We love our backpack!
  • Snacks? Trail Magic (nuts & dried berries), sandwiches, apples or carrots
  • Water? Yes. Plenty.
  • Activity? Woods: Search & Find Adventure Kit
  • Protection? Be aware of the season when you’re hiking and what you’d need: sunscreen, or bug & tick protection

While on the Adventure

  • Be prepared to stop as many times as they need to
  • It’s Progressive. Don’t expect them to hike for over an hour!
  • Go in intervals – take your time! Snack between intervals, throw stones, collect nature items


  • Collect leaves, sticks, stones, or nuts. (our rule: anything not living)
  • Bring your child’s friend – might get you another 30 min – 1 hour of “hiking”
  • Skip stones into water

And most importantly, have fun!





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How Does Your Garden Grow: Week 2

October 11, 2016


With bad weather (Hurricane Matthew) in the horizon, I knew I had a few days to get things into the ground. I laid out the plants from Brad of Veg Out Gardens, in a general location of where they needed to go. The Elementary children studied the root balls of kale and lettuces, and smelled the assorted herbs plants. I pointed the different shapes of the plant leaves, and we talked about what things help a plant grow (especially those worms we had plopped into the dirt the previous week). The children carefully measured the advised spacing directions, and with small beach shovels substituting as a garden trowel, they each dug a hole, placed the plant into it, and moved dirt around on top of it. I was surprised no one bulked at the idea of getting their hands dirty.

~ Brad’s tip of the month ~

The first frost is around Thanksgiving (November 22nd with a 50% of probability), so be sure to have your transplants in your garden soon. They need at least one month of growth and root development.




“Straight” rows of kale & lettuce!


Happy herbs.


Excited Kindergarteners were up next to plant the carrot seeds in the smallest of the raised beds. Carrots are usually planted in the spring, but I wanted to give it a try in the Fall, and I had a row cover (of a soft fabric like material) that I wanted to test out as well.

This group of children had participated in the worms, so they were curious as to where the worms were and if they could find them. I had organized the number of carrot rows we would have, and had marked them with chopsticks and garden markers beforehand. The children pulled a string from one side to another, to make a straight line, and then used a trowel to make a small trench. Seeds were carefully pinched into the trench trying to give everyone enough space as to not over lap each other. Afterwards, eager hands covered each row with soil and patted them down. We talked about coming back each week to check on their progress.



This sums up the end of week 2 in our school garden. I checked on the gardens today (3 days after the rain and winds of Hurricane Matthew struck us), and most of the plants survived. There are even carrot seedlings poking up from beneath the soil. So good so far!

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How Does Your Garden Grow: Just Start digging

September 26, 2016


The fondest memories of my childhood were spent on the ten acres of gardens on Shelburne Farms. From an array of garden and farm adventures, my favorites included being in the woods, attending summer camp every year, and swimming in Lake Champlain. My least favorite activities were stacking firewood (but I’m quite good at it), lugging buckets of water to the chickens during wintertime, and that one turkey who didn’t like people. I also went in waves of liking/disliking gardening (just ask my parents), and still have dreams of that “tomato tar” that is a struggle to get off your fingertips. So as you can only assume, my “green thumb” is a work in progress.

My most favorite part of gardening NOW, is getting to share it with my three boys, as well as the children at a local pre-school. The best part about having them participate in the process of preparing the soil, adding the seeds, examining pests and eventually (and hopefully!), and tasting the end results is that you get to see a garden through their eyes. I’ve also learned that gardening is about trial and errors, sometimes the plants do exactly as you had thought they’d do, and other times it’s not the case.

It’s not too late to get started on your own garden, here’s how.

STEP 1: PLAN (Anywhere from the end of August – present day September)img_5940Making a plan is very important. Figure out what you how much sun you have, and what exactly you’d like to plant (take care of), and when you want it by (growing span). Don’t forget, you can veer off this plan at any point, but it’s a good idea to go into it with a general idea of what you want to do. Write it down.

Since I’m in that experimental stage of my garden career, I’m lucky to have a friend locally to guide me along. My friend Brad Wynne of Veg Out Gardens is my go-to resource of all things vegetable gardening. A Virginia Beach native, Brad followed his passion of gardening, and has created something quite unique. From custom built raised bed gardens, good soil, plants from his greenhouse grown from seed, and most importantly his vast knowledge in the subject of vegetable gardens. Brad makes the whole process simple and enjoyable, which is exactly as it should be.

After meeting to discuss the space I have to work with, a line-up of plants was created as to what we . We settled on kale, a few herbs, and we set a tentative date for the delivery of the plants. There wasn’t a huge rush, the school garden’s summer plants were still happy and producing, however there was the goal of harvesting by Thanksgiving that I had to keep in mind.

STEP 2: JUST START DIGGING (Beginning of September)img_8422I made a list as to how much organic compost/soil I needed to add to the three gardens (donated by a local Virginia Beach business. Ordered worms (Brad’s suggestion), ordered seeds (or so I thought!), and cleaned up the three raised beds of weeds. We have about 1/2 of bed of strawberries which I left since they’re a perennial plant.

~ Brad’s tip of the month ~

Favorite Soil
I break from the norm a bit in that I prefer bagged soil.  Even if you have never sprayed your lawn with pesticide, herbicide or fungicide, has your neighbor? Are you certain?  Do you know the run off and drainage of the water from your neighbors?  Plus, it is mosquito season.  Most companies use a synthetic pesticide called pyrenthoid to kill the mosquitos.  The problem is that this pesticide is a kill all, even the good bugs, and has a long residue on the plants.  I prefer being in full control of the soil and knowing exactly what is in it, which is what you get from bagged soil.  The major downside for me, obviously, is that you have a ton of plastic left over.
Without a doubt, it is the Happy Frog from Fox Farm.  I am addicted to all of their products.  They really take the time to know that there is a ton of great bacteria in the soil and this can really help the plants thrive.  However, at the higher price point of about $14 per 2 cubic feet (and some stores sell it for a much higher price,) it can add up quickly.  After all, a 4’ x 8’ x 18” bed is 48 cu. ft.  This means it would cost $672 + taxes to fill up the bed.
A great company that offers a great brand of soil and a good price is Harvest Organic Soil.  It is aMUCH lower cost at $5.50 per 1.5 cubic feet.  This same raised bed would cost $264 + taxes using this soil.  Certainly a big difference.  You can find this soil at Lowe’s.
My suggestion is to have the base soil as the Harvest Organic and then add a bag or two of Happy Frog Organic Potting Soil to the top.

STEP 3: PLANT (Mid September or if you’re me: Late September)

garden-handsBecause of various factors, the garden is getting it’s plants and seeds this week. The soil in the beds are ready to go, as are the happy worms that were plopped into the soil by approximately 60 children, several of which replied “no thank you” when asked to stick their hand into a bucket of dirt and wiggly worms…

With the guidance and healthy plants from Brad, I fully expect for it to be a successful season and am looking forward to the children being a part of the process.

Please stay tuned on following along with the process! And, in case you’d like to buy beautiful vegetable plants, Veg Out Gardens sells his plants at various local nurseries; London Bridge Greenhouse and NurseryJack Frost Landscapes & Garden Center, and Taylor’s Do It Center on Independence Blvd. Just look for the biodegradable pot! You can also find Brad at the Old Beach Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. baby-lettuces



Blog post in collaboration with Veg Out Gardens

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The Basics: Gina’s Favorite Gardening Tools

May 24, 2016

Gina's favorite gardening tools handdrawn

I asked Gina Foresta to share with us her favorite gardening tools and essentials she uses a daily basis. I also couldn’t pass up an opportunity to sketch!

Enjoy! And go out and start working in your garden!


I like to have one pair of leather gloves, like these, for hard work, and one pair of light gloves with waterproof palms for basic gardening. But most of the time I bare hand it. My nails look like I’ve been doing mechanic work for most of the summer.

I use a serrated knife for weeding and any harvesting I have to cut for. It is my all-purpose go-to tool. This is a nice one from Villagers in Asheville. This store is like a candy shop for gardeners and homesteaders.

I also have a gardening fork, like this one, on hand when I need to turn compost into a bed or aerate compacted soil.

When weeds are small and popping up everywhere a stirrup hoe, like this one, is a must. Not only is it easy on your back but it makes weeding small plants very easy, and even fun.

I also like a simple trowel for planting seedlings.

I like to stick to small companies for ordering seeds. I like Southern Exposure and High Mowing for their unusual and heirloom seeds.

Since I garden sustainably, empty spray bottles are very helpful for mixing up natural concoctions to fend off unwanted pests. Most recipes call for a few drops of dish soap so the remedy will stick to the plant leaves. I always use Seventh Generation brand.

I keep a tree lopper on hand for cutting thick branches. While I rarely work with trees, some herb plants, like African Blue Basil, or some pepper plants need a stronger tool than pruners to cut back. By the way, African Blue Basil is a cool plant to have in  your garden. The leaves don’t get bitter even when the plant flowers and the bees love it.

After reading rave reviews I just ordered a compost tea kit from Boogie Brew. The kit has an aerator and all you need to make super nutrient rich compost tea for your garden. This company also sells a hose water filter which is great if you’re using city water. They chlorine and chloramine in the city water isn’t great for the bacteria colony in your soil.

While gardening books abound, Food Grown Right in Your Backyard is by far my favorite. The authors’ company is based in Seattle, but we live in a similar zone here in Virginia Beach, and at least are able to grow very similar plants as the Seattle area. This book is the most thorough and relatable gardening book I have ever had the privilege to read.


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The handwritten note

November 18, 2014

Letter to Grandma

When I open my mailbox and see a handwritten address on an envelope sticking out from the bills, flyers & coupons, it makes me smile. Don’t you just love getting notes too?

My mother was a thank-you-note “stickler.” We wrote thank-you’s for every occasion. Looking back now, I’m thankful that she kept on us, and helped us to create a good habit of expressing our gratitude to our loved ones. However, as I moved out on my own, I wasn’t as organized with keeping up with my notes. I do apologize to Ms. Emily Post, who is probably rolling over in her grave thinking of those forgotten thank-you’s that haven’t been written.

Recently I’ve made more of a conscious effort to send notes on a regular basis. It could be a short note to my grandmother, sharing with her what my kids are up to at the moment. Or scribbling a few lines to my best friend, just because.

I take joy in picking the perfect pen and digging through my collection of stationery to find the ideal card. Writing the note is the fun part, without hesitation, diving in and writing whatever. Keeping it simple and matter-of-fact is the easiest, talking about what you’ve recently done, or something you’re looking forward to doing. I always slip in a few sentences inquiring on how they are doing or what’s new in their life. Addressing the envelope is my next favorite part. Often it takes a few minutes to find their address in my tattered and worn address book. And I always have a few “forever” stamps tucked in my wallet. Placing it in the mailbox and moving the flag to the upright position gives me a sense of accomplishment and leaves me feeling great about re-connecting with that person to whom the note is addressed.

That said, I’m now reminded that it’s time to write Grandma Betty her weekly letter.

What you’ll need to write a note:
• One “Forever” stamp
• An up-to-date book with your important addresses
A piece of paper (plain paper, notecard, sticky note, paper napkin, ANYTHING!)
A writing tool (pen, pencil, marker, crayon)
5 minutes
A mailbox

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Hands On: DIY succulents in a half pint mason jar

November 1, 2014

Jar o succulent

Ever since my brother-in-law’s succulent filled wedding in Big Sur, I have admired these fantastic little plants. Each time I visit the West Coast, I find myself returning with succulents wrapped in tin foil and wet paper towels in my carry on. I am pleased to report that several years later, these plants are happy (and alive) in my house.

When I started planning my friend’s shower, I knew she would appreciate a green and earthy vibe. I immediately set out to create a shower favor that was attractive, fun, easy & quick to do, easy to maintain, and inexpensive. I like the simple look of the half pint ball jars, and combining that with a succulents varying in shape and height produces a delightful mini-arragement.

You’ll need:

A variety of succulents/cacti/small plants
• Cactus/succulent soil: 2 bags
• Small pebbles: 2 bags
• Spanish moss (or living moss): 1 bag
• Jars/containers/vases: 12 half pint mason jars
• A spoon
Gardening clippers to trim succulents
Scissors to cut moss
• 2 hours (give and take)
Supplies for mini succulent favors

The plan of attack

  1. Assemble supplies in your workspace
  2. Separate plants (especially the clumps of succulents) and clean up the roots
  3. Layer the pebbles into jar
  4. Add soil – pack down (but not too tightly)
  5. Add plants – three succulents/plants per jar
  6. Moss at the top
  7. Spritz with water
  8. Admire your work

Tips for keeping plants happy & ALIVE: Water the soil a little but they don’t like their roots to be drowning, and spray the leaves of the succulents every couple of days. Bright indirect light is preferred, don’t let them get too cold (not near a window during winter).

Local/Community Resources & Online Inspiration
• London Bridge Greenhouses & Nursery (soil & moss)
• Glass Gardens by John (Instagram)
• My DIY Succulent Pinterest Board

Succulent favors

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Welcome to VB Basics

October 1, 2014

VB Basics is an open invitation to rediscover and reconnect. Rediscover the heritage of our beautiful city of Virginia Beach, notice the old that typically escapes us in our day to day movements around the neighborhood, and celebrate new sprouts of life and culture on our streets and our shores. Reconnect with ourselves, nature, and each other. Take back time, regain our senses, step back and observe. There is so much to enjoy and so many relationships to treasure around here.

“Do the best that you can in the place you are at, and be kind”

– Scott Nearing

About Tessa

As an import from a vegetable farm in Vermont who married a VB native, I have immersed myself in the culture and lifestyle of Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads area for many years. I share both a local and outside perspective on what this vibrant and diverse community has to offer from entertainment, to food, to outdoor activities and the beach, in an effort to maximize your experience whether you’re a seasoned local or a curious tourist. I encourage you to join me on this journey and to follow along as I take a soulful quest to reconnect with the basics and explore Virginia Beach.