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A VB Basics Giveaway: Win a Spot to Dance on Stage at the Breast Cancer Awareness Zumbathon®

October 5, 2016


If you’re familiar with Zumba® Fitness in Hampton Roads, then I’ll bet that you’ve heard of a certain Zumba® Instructor by the name of Rita Cohen. Not only is she one of the most positive and friendliest people I know, but boy can she dance and her energy is extremely contagious! She is also the best of the best when it comes to Zumba® Instructors near and far.

Over the years, my friendship Rita and our shared love of Zumba® has developed into something BIG. Together, we’ve created a wonderful annual event that not only brings people together, but also gives back to our Hampton Roads community in the form of an amazing cause.

Rita is upfront and honest why she does what she does.

I do it because my friend Louise Cheo, whom I met when I was doing an all female composer benefit recital for the National Breast Cancer Foundation in 2007, introduced me to Zumba® in 2008 before she died on Christmas Day that year from breast cancer.  I love it so much and how it’s changed my life and in turn change others’ for the better. I want a cure found!

For the past 5 years, our event: the Breast Cancer Awareness Zumbathon® at Norfolk Academy has raised over $20,000!!! This Saturday’s event will be the second year in a row that 100% of the donations will be given to the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Hampton Roads chapter (after $500 is given to the our fantastic Norfolk Academy sponsors: The Cancervive Club).

So what exactly is a Zumbathon® you may ask. Picture a sea of 500+ people, all decked out in pink, dancing to music (for up to three hours!), all the while smiling, sweating, and having a great time. On a large stage at the back of the space, 50 of the 757’s finest Zumba® Instructors rotate on and off in groups, leading energetic routines that pump up the crowd and get everyone moving. Raffle prizes, tables of unique vendors lining the walls, and a silent auction break up the morning, giving attendees a chance to chug water and catch their breath.




Every year, when I stand at the back of the Norfolk Academy Pavilion and watch the morning unfold, I always get warm and fuzzy feelings and am SO proud to be part of this event. And honestly, I’m especially proud of Rita for what an amazing woman she is, and that she is primarily responsible for bringing us all together.

Breast Cancer Awareness Zumbathon®

Saturday, October 8, 2016
10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Norfolk Academy Athletic Pavilion
1585 Wesleyan Dr, Norfolk, VA 23502

Which brings us to the Giveaway!

One lucky Zumba lover will win a chance to dance ONSTAGE with Rita during the “Survivor Dance”! I mean, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love dancing on stage?

Simply leave a comment on this post if you’ll be dancing in honor of someone this Saturday, or why this event is special to you!

EXTRA ENTRIES (Leave a comment on the post telling me that you did so!)

Contest ends Saturday, October 8, 2016 at 8:30 a.m. Winner will be chosen at random, and announced at the Zumbathon that morning!

GOOD LUCK! And I can’t wait to see you at the fabulous event!

P.s. In case you want to purchase tickets, go to nazumbathon2016.eventbrite.com, suggested donation of $10 (or more) in advance/$15 at the door.

Photography by the talented Lavern Rushin

Back to Basics

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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A VB Basics Giveaway: Win 2 tickets to GoBe+ Women’s Event

September 20, 2016


I fully believe that certain people are put into your path for a reason, at the exact right moment.

This person for me is my friend Becky, of Rev Creative & part owner of GoBe+. If you run into Becky, you are immediately greeted by a contagious bright smile, and a wave of good energy. As a mother, and business owner herself, she fully understands the in’s and out’s of finding, following and accomplishing your dreams.

Our friendship began as we bonded over attending the same intense fitness classes, especially during “The Murph” workout challenge! It quickly developed into a shared love of strong coffee in the ViBe Creative District where we would meet for weekly pep-talks/brainstorming sessions. Now, she’s the type of friend who I don’t think twice in helping, even if it might mean braving the threat of snakes, hungry mosquitos & hot weather! And vice-versa (except for those snakes!).

GoBe+ partners Becky, Sami & Brent are “a community; a movement to inspire, reveal & transform your true self & greatest potential!”

In true GoBe+ fashion of helping women SHINE, one lucky VB Basics’s reader will win TWO tickets to the GoBe+ Radiant Women’s Social & Networking Event of the year.

THIS is the event that I have been looking forward to all summer. I’m really looking forward to meeting and networking with other local women who are following their dreams, and hearing the three speakers share and speaking from a place of encouragement and empowerment to the heart & mind of women.

RADIANT Women’s Event
Network, gather together and be inspired with like-minded Women
Shop LOCAL small businesses run by Women

THIS Saturday, September 24th
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Top Golf
Virginia Beach

YOU. Hampton Roads women!
Three powerful guest speakers:

18 Vendors!

Even though the holidays are approximately 90 some odd days away, walk through the eighteen tables of local women vendors, from all things under the sun! Young Living Essential Oils, LuLaRoe, Plexus, #tessadrawsthings (That’s me!!!!), Beauty Counter, Raising Arrow Art, Stella & Dot, Boudoir PhotographsSteeped Tea, Origami Owl, Auntie For Hire, Thrive, Usborne Books, Demarle At Home, GoBe+, Zoom Room, Crazy Confident Clothing, Center for Vein Restoration,

Simply leave a comment on this post of what your  +word+ ?
(Ex: +free+, +authentic, +strong+, +compassionate+….)

P.s. Mine is +balance+


Contest ends Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.. Winner will be chosen at random, and announced Friday, September 23, 2016.


P.s. In case you want to purchase tickets, maybe for a group of your friends? Go to Eventbrite!





Blog post & Giveaway in collaboration with GoBe+ 

Photographs by the talented Sami Montella Photography



Sneak Peak

September 20, 2016





Location: 89th Street, Virginia Beach

Photography: Jess Hill

Dress: Lilly Pulitzer worn by my Nana in the 1940’s

Weather: Quite windy, thanks to Tropical Storm Hermine


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A VB Basics Giveaway: Win a mini session with Jess Hill Photography {Closed}

September 7, 2016

Jess Hill Photography 05If you haven’t figured out by now, I love photographs. Usually, I’m the one behind the camera, documenting the heck out of my life and those around me. So when I need someone to capture photos with me actually IN them, I’m quite particular as to who I choose to work with. I want someone who is comfortable with lighting & location, flexible on scheduling, up for a challenge, and they must be good with children.

Jess Hill has all the qualities I want in a photographer. Having recently relocated with her family to Virginia Beach, she’s been settling into the easy going beach life that we all love so much here. When she’s not working as a Labor & Delivery Nurse, you can find Jess at the beach with her kids and husband, camera in hand. She’s always loved taking photos, especially of births, newborn babies, beloved pets, children & families. Jess Hill Photography 03With each photoshoot that she’s done for me and my family, her photographs have been exactly what I wanted, and they speak for themselves. She knows her stuff! She works quickly, efficiently, has great ideas, has a great sense of humor, and is a wiz at getting children to smile. She’s also great at dealing with the elements and being flexible: crazy summer heat index? No problem. The windy aftermath of Tropical Storm Hermine, bring it on says Jess! Maybe the best part was sneak peaks of the photographs popping up in my email just a few short hours after the shoot.

Take a peak at a few of her beautiful photos she’s taken over the years.Jess Hill Photography 02




Jess Hill Photography 2

Jess Hill Photography 01Ok, now on to the fun part. To properly introduce and welcome Jess to Virginia Beach, she will sponsoring a giveaway here on VB Basics. One lucky winner will receive a FREE Mini Session! PicMonkey Image


Simply leave a comment (on this post) of a LOCATION in Hampton Roads you’d like your mini session to take place!


Winner must be a local resident or be able to travel to the Hampton Roads Area. Mini session is to take place in September or October of 2016. Winner will also receive a CD with all full resolution edited photographs produced from your session. No cash value. Contest ends Monday, September 12, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.. Winner will be chosen at random, and announced September 13, 2016.



The Basics: Easy Pesto Recipe

August 22, 2016


Pesto and I are like two peas in a pod all summer long. I make a batch at least once week, no joke. It’s an easy and quick process, you can FREEZE it, and best of all, it’s delicious. Growing up, my mother would serve pesto noodles often, accompanied by large slices of my dad’s organic tomatoes. To this day, this dish is one of my top 5 favorite dishes to eat and make. I have struggled for years trying to duplicate my mom’s recipe, and I think I may have finally settled on my favorite.


You will need
2 cups of tightly packed basil leaves (Add a 3rd cup if you like it more “basily”)
1 cup of parmesan cheese (or Pecorino cheese)
2 cups of olive oil (or coconut oil)
Salt & pepper (I leave the amounts to your tastebuds)
1 cup of toasted pecans (or toasted walnuts, or toasted cashews, or toasted pine nuts, or NO nuts!)
3-4 cloves of peeled garlic (Or garlic scapes. But DON’T over do it with the garlic. Trust me.)
Food processor with sharp blade
Tiny spatula
3 small glass canning jars with lids (if you want to freeze it)

Prep time 10 minutes (picking, washing & taking the leaves off the basil stalks)
Process time 10 minutes (make sure you have all the ingredients and supplies ready to go)

Pack the basil, garlic & nuts into the food processor
Blend until it’s ground up (you might need to stop once and scrap the leaves off the edges)
Add salt & pepper to taste
Add cheese (I’ve seen recipes suggesting to add the cheese AFTER you unfreeze it, but I feel like it doesn’t matter)
Start to blend while drizzling the olive oil into the top of the food processor

Use immediately over pasta, zucchini or summer squash noodles or in a quesadilla, or pour carefully into jars to freeze for later!








Creative Union Dinner Part IV

August 20, 2016

Are you curious as to what exactly the #creativeuniondinner is? I’ll tell you.

It is a dinner 4x a year hosted in Virginia Beach by the extremely talented duo of Mary & Zoe. The summer Creative Union Dinner: Part IV was by far my favorite to date.

Think of a beautiful (yet extremely sweaty!) summer evening on New Earth Farm. Starting off with a cooking class on the art of homemade pasta, spiralized zucchini and summer squash and pesto sauce (does anyone remember the secret ingredient?). Then settling onto inviting picnic tables in the middle of greenhouses, beds of gorgeous zinnias, sunflowers & tall corn stalks. Covering the tables (arranged by the lovely Mary), was local decor and place settings from Anthropologie, Seabright, & hand lettered place cards by Amanda Krovic. With a plate full of the delicious food that you just helped to prepare, all the while surrounded by local small business owners who share the same creative vision that you do. Oh, and don’t forget the old tired cat and a farm rooster who kept a close eye on us! Desert may have been my favorite part, of mouthwatering macarons by Rose Macarons.

And the best part of all this? It was my drawing of the dinner that Mary & Zoe asked me to create. One of my first large commissioned pieces!

New Earth Farm


Food Lab w ball flowers

Shelves with jars


Stepping stones

Zucchini and Summer Squash noodles




Becky & Tessa


DinnerPhotographs above were taken by me, photographs below were shot by the talented Zoe Grant (to see more of her photos, check out the post on Bluebird’s blog)! creative union dinner-114-X3

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creative union dinner-91-X3

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creative union dinner-155-X3

Local Spots

Burlington, VT Brewery Tour

July 8, 2016

My friend Anna, knows good beer. As a resident of Burlington, her speciality is of course Vermont beer. So when she asked what I wanted for my upcoming birthday, I immediately responded with “Plan a brewery tour!” Anna quickly accepted the challenge, and whipped up a carefully crafted afternoon of walking through the city of Burlington, tasting delicious beer and enjoying the picturesque scenery.

Tessa's Birthday Brewery Tour

When the day of the tour arrived, the weather in Burlington couldn’t have been better. The sun was out in full force, and there was just the right amount of puffy clouds dotting the blue sky. As my three friends laced up our sneakers (crucial for the upcoming 5 mile walk), we discussed our route and generously applied sunscreen to our arms & face.
Citizen Cider Flight croppedCitizen's Cider

Citizen Cider was our first stop at around 12:30 p.m. We sat inside at a long wooden table with a cool checkerboard (where were the checkers?). Service was quick, lunch (what’s better than a corndogs!) and flights were ordered and we settled in to catch up on each other’s lives. The ciders were crisp and refreshing, and the corndog & poutine hit the spot!

Pine Street

From Citizen’s, we walked down Pine Street, passing cool shops, restaurants and office buildings. Finding a gift card to Lunaroma in my purse, we veered off course for about 15 minutes. As Zero Gravity came into sight, we were greeted by a friendly sea of colorful flowers and umbrellas. The sun was now out in full force, so we positioned ourselves under an umbrella on their deck. Flights and IPAs were in order, service was again quick and efficient (place your order at their bar inside). We watched as the deck began to fill up with people also enjoying the beautiful weather. *Zero Gravity also have a cooler full of their cans if you need a to-go order and we voted that their outside seating was the best ambiance of the tour.

Zero Gravity Brewery

Umbrellas at Zero Gravity Brewing

Lucky for us, Queen City Brewery is directly across the street. We had to wait a few minutes inside at the bar to order, and then headed back outside into the sunshine. The contrast of their outdoor seating area was on point. Between their orange chairs, black umbrellas and the purple flowers (which I think are lavender?), it was extremely inviting and comfortable. We googled the Burlington Bike to scope out where exactly we’d be jumping onto it.

Purple flowers at Queen City

Queen City Brewery Beer

After finishing up at Queen City, we followed Lakeside Ave down towards Lake Champlain and hopped onto the Burlington Bike Path. This is the part of the walk that we had all been looking forward to. You cannot ask for a more spectacular view of mountains, lake and the wonderful city of Burlington. Champ was a no-show, and talk of eating creemees quickly began. In the middle of our walk down the bike path, Anna’s parents scooted by on a tandem bike, which was a nice unexpected surprise!

Champ Lake Monster Sculpture

Friends trains on Burlington Bike PathFlower on bike pathPanorama of Lake Champlain on Burlington Bike Path Lake Champlain

We slipped off the Bike Path to slip into the recently opened Foam Brewers. Because of the nearby Wine & Food Festival, it was packed. Even so, we didn’t wait long and snagged a beer and an umbrella covered table out in the yard. After finishing our beer, we found ourselves at Burlington Bay, happily eating maple creemees with chocolate sprinkles (yes, “sprinkles” not “jimmies”).

Maple Creamee w chocolate sprinkles

From creemees, we detoured once again and sauntered down Church Market Place (people watching galore!) to swing into lululemon to spend another one of my gift cards. From there, it was to Vermont Pub & Brewery for our last beer and dinner. As always, their burgers were delicious, and the Grand Slam Baseball Beer was at the top of the list for best beer of the tour.

Saint Paul Street Building

Brewery tour re-cap:

The milage for the walk was about 3.4 miles. We took our time, so it took us about 6 hours, but if we had stayed on track without any detours, the hours could’ve been cut down to around 4. We also had originally wanted to walk down to Switchback Brewing Co., but decided that it was a bit out of the way and would tack on too much time.

You can buy a growler to-go at each Brewery, and most do offer flights. The general consensus was that flights were the way to go. You can easily sample ones you wouldn’t usually have, since you’re only having 3 – 5 ounces of it.  You don’t have to fully commit.  If you don’t like the beer, another will surely be better. As I mentioned earlier, my friends and I liked the deck at Zero Gravity the best, but sitting outside and people watching at Vermont Pub & Brewery took a close second.

Our favorite beers of the tour included: Lone Wolf, a pale ale at Zero Gravity, the Grand Slam Baseball Beer, an American pale ale, at Vermont Pub & Brewery. Most of the IPAs from each place were delicious as well. All in all, between the four of us we probably tasted about 20 different types of beers and ciders.

I personally couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon. It was nice to “unplug” from normal life, and reconnect with good friends who I don’t see often. The beautiful weather certainly made the afternoon even better.

Cheers to Burlington’s Breweries!

*And, I may have already asked Anna to start planning next summer’s Brewery Tour..