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First Landing State Park

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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!






The Basics: 5 Tips to getting Slim and Trim!

June 5, 2016

Barre Fitness

Hey there,

I’m guessing that your life is just as busy and full of organized chaos as mine is. We spend the majority of our days juggling children, spending hours in the kitchen, attempting to keep the home tidy, running around town on errands that “must” be done, and maybe you also have a 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. job that you’re juggling on top of everything else. We keep our days scheduled perfectly, carefully balancing all the things that MUST be accomplished. Our neatly daily “to-do” lists get checked off, only to have several more added to the list each time. Often, all this busyness ends up leaving out one VERY important element of life: TAKING CARE YOURSELF. I bet in the back of your mind, you wished that fitness was a priority in your daily life. What about that book of excuses on why you aren’t working out, have you used it up? I definitely have. Let me ask you this; How’s your energy throughout the day? What do you consume to keep your body moving? How well do you sleep at night?  What about that little bit of extra “padding” (as my mother calls it) on that mom bod of yours? Don’t worry, I know you wouldn’t change a thing about being a mother and the extra weight that comes with it, I wouldn’t either. But, what if you found a FUN way to get yourself “trim and slim”, something that you actually enjoyed and could commit yourself to go to? A form of exercise that didn’t take much thought and that fit nicely into daily life without messing up your schedule.. What if you could workout with friends? And REAL results that make you feel good? Even better!

So, I’ve been on the path of daily exercise for almost two months now, and I’ve actually started noticing a few little things: I’m sleeping better, I have more energy throughout the day (without chugging multiple cups of coffee!), I’m feeling stronger, and a few inches have disappeared from my waist (!!!!). To say I’m shocked at the beginning results is an understatement.

WHY NOT make a life change to improve the way YOU feel.

Here’s how I started:Cabanas - 2 WEEKS

Calendar 2 weeks1. Start with TWO WEEKS

THIS is where it all starts. Make it your goal to do some form of exercise that makes you sweat EVERY DAY for 14 days straight. Research has shown that it actually takes a bit more than 21 days to form a habit, about 66 days in fact. So start slow – with an attainable goal. Once you’ve completed the 2 weeks, try to finish out that month. Then finish the next month. Keep pushing yourself. Be consistent. I will warn you, by day #4 you’re most likely going to be exhausted… but by day #6 you’ll have gotten over the hump and will be good to go!

Sneaker friends
Dumbell family illustration2. Find your FITNESS COMMUNITY

These are the folks who will help you accomplish your goals. The people that you will see every day. They will become YOUR people, your friends that you see every day. They will motivate, encourage, support, push you to your limits and will help you succeed. I will admit, starting something new out of your comfort zone can be a little daunting. But the fitness community is there to help. Don’t like running? Don’t run. Find something that you DO LIKE. Local gyms often offer two free weeks to try them out (I’ve found the push I needed at Virginia Beach’s HIT & Run). Talk to your fit friends and ask to join in on their workouts. I promise, it’s always fun to suffer alongside someone you like! Also remember, it’s best to do a bit of everything, mix it up!

Kettlebell family at HIT & Run


Pull out that planner of yours (or your icalendar), and schedule exactly when you’re going to workout. How much time will you need to get it done each day. Once you’ve written it down, it’s set. DO hold yourself accountable. DO follow through. If you say you’re going to do it, DO IT.

Quote to self
Hydroflask4. Drink WATER

This my friend, is very important. Especially since you’re working out every day. Make it a point to drink more water. Buy a fun water bottle, and keep it next to you at all times. Continue drinking it, and refilling it throughout the day. I have had my Hydroflask for almost two months, and my water intact has increased greatly. S’well Bottles are all the rage too, and come in fun designs.
No Bad Days

Stick figure family

5. Include your FAMILY

There are plenty of outdoor activities where your family can participate. Ride bikes on the boardwalk, or hike along the trails in First Landing State Park. There are even groups of parents who meet up for all different types of hikes all over, check them out to find your location at Hike It Baby! Have little ones who get tired after the first mile? Not a problem. Put them into a bike trailer or stroller. Hike with them on your back. Why not add a few extra pounds to YOUR workout! First Landing State Park hikeBike ride with kids

What have you got to lose? I challenge you to give it a whirl.

Just asking...

A Word With: Gina Foresta

May 19, 2016

Gina Foresta harvesting at Esoteric's garden

The first time I met Gina Foresta, she was interviewing me to assist her at a restaurant garden she was managing. To be honest, I was hesitant about working in a garden, as the only experience I had was growing up with my Master Gardener parents and working for them. After about 5 minutes into the interview, I was struck with how calm, cool, and collected Gina was. As she showed me her drawing and plans for the garden over the Summer and Fall seasons, I was really impressed with her knowledge of vegetable gardening and those feelings of hesitation I had went quickly away. I wanted to work for her, I wanted to listen to her talk, and I wanted to be around her, as cheesy as that may sound! Flash forward to present day, I consider Gina to be a good friend, and still a mentor in not only gardening but in being a parent as well. Recently, a mutual friend said that she considered Gina to be a “filler friend”, which basically means she always fills you up with good vibes whenever you spend time with her, and I couldn’t agree more!

I guess it depends on your definition of occupation. I feel like I have at least four main areas that occupy most of my time. First and foremost I am a mother and wife.

A few years ago I started a gardening and environmental program at my kids’ school which I am still running today. The students are amazing and the garden and program have evolved into something we’re really proud of. I’ve written a pretty thorough curriculum for the program to keep it going after my kids have moved one, and to help other schools get started. We have been very fortunate to have the support of so many local organizations and people, like the Junior Virginia Beach Garden Club and the Cavalier Garden Club. School gardens and local garden clubs or Master Gardener Groups are perfect partnerships to cultivate. School gardens need help since maintenance and funding are the biggest challenges, and many garden clubs and groups need volunteer hour fulfillment and altruistic focus.

I am also serving as a co-chair of the Education Committee for Buy Fresh Buy Local and our committee is working hard to connect kids and families with their food and bring farms and schools together.

Today I also manage the garden for Esoteric Restaurant, so gardening has become a big occupation for me. And finally I write for a couple of online magazines and some other platforms, and would love to expand that area of my work.

I love reading books and blogs. I also cook a ton and enjoy sewing and knitting when I have time. It is so gratifying to make something with your hands, and homemade gifts are the best. I also love family movie nights.

Are YOU a VB “local”?
No, I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. But my husband is a Virginia Beach local!

Favorite family activity to do in Virginia Beach
We love to take bike rides on the boardwalk or hikes in the state park. We also still get pretty excited to go to Busch Gardens.

Top 5 “must have” items for going to the beach
I always have a big hat and sunglasses. I like a comfy chair and umbrella. Something to read is a must. I sound like no fun on the beach! But we really enjoy getting out there on beautiful days.

A perfect date with your significant other
A concert that starts before my bed time. My husband and I love music but I just can’t hang anymore with the late shows. Second choice would be a bike ride to a restaurant for a nice dinner, maybe sitting at the bar instead of a table. Our best conversations have always happened when we’re eating at the bar.

Favorite restaurant(s)
My fave restaurants are different depending on whether it’s adult time or family time. Family restaurants we love are Commune, Gringos, and Pacifica. When my husband and I are going out we love Coastal Grill, Terrapin, Eurasia and of course Esoteric!

Go-to drink(s) at the moment
I love hot tea, and Vintage brand orange seltzer in cans. Red wine is my favorite grown-up drink.

Something you CAN’T live without
Yoga. I have enjoyed it for over twenty years now and am trained as a teacher. It started out more as exercise but now it’s my sanity.

What’s on your bucket list?
I would love to travel Europe with my family for a couple of months, taking our time and living like a local. My husband and I were married in St. John in the Virgin Islands and we can’t wait to take our kids there too. Writing a book would probably be on my list too.

Local Tip
Get outdoors! There is so much to do outside in our area, even besides going to the beach. First Landing State Park has great hiking and bike trails. There are lots of great coves and bays for kayaking. Visiting the botanical gardens is always fun and beautiful. And we like to visit the farms out in Pungo in the spring and summer months. If I can get the kids to help pick berries, we’ll stop at Pungo Pizza for ice cream on the way home.

Any events in Hampton Roads that you’re looking forward to?
Blueberry picking, Saturday farmers’ markets and the Buy Fresh Buy Local Farm to Fork event in late summer. My family also really enjoys viewing all the amazing sandcastles in the Neptune Festival.

What is your motto?
One I definitely live by is “Be with those who help your being.” by Rumi

And one I am working hard at is “The day you stop racing is the day you win the race.” by Bob Marley. Sometimes the “race” is made up of really great things, commitments with purpose and fulfillment. But they have to exist within a balance of health and presence with your life and loved ones, not in overwhelm. It’s a delicate recipe that is always being tweaked.

Harvesting Radishes at Esoteric

Radish harvest at Esoteric

Boots and raised garden beds at Esoteric

Gina Foresta checking out her crops

Local Spots

The Uninterrupted Mother’s Day Wish List

May 5, 2016

Orchard Cove Photography Mother's Day

Photo courtesy of Amanda, Orchard Cove Photography

Mother’s Day has become more significant for me ever since I became a mother. Having three boys has been a dream come true, as cheesy as it may sound. My days and nights may often seem long and weary, but the months and years are zooming by right in front of my eyes. In the past five years, I have sang the same three bedtime songs more times than I can count. I can give you quite a soothing rendition of “On Top of Spaghetti” if you like! I have wiped tears, cleaned “boo boos” armed with superhero bandaids while sneaking Neosporin onto it, and have comforted those upset and tired bodies tucked neatly into my arms. I have taught myself to draw trains, Power Rangers, Paw Patrol pups, and Ninja’s (thank you art classes in college). I have spent A LOT of time in the kitchen preparing healthy meals, some of which get eaten. And to my surprise, I’ve turned into somewhat of a decent cook and actually enjoy cooking! There is nothing better than hearing my children tell me “mom this is a good dinner!”, or “wow mom, good drawing!”, or the best yet “I love you mom”. Having these little humans look up with wide eyes full of love makes me so proud and happy that they are mine. My favorite part of being a mother is watching them grow, learn, and experience the world around them, especially those big milestones like walking, talking, reading, writing, riding a bike or swimming! My three sweet blond boys complete me.

Mother's Day hands

I had about a whole 5 minutes of uninterrupted time to hash out what I’d like for Mother’s Day, beside that gigantic steaming cup of coffee (cream & sugar please!).

On Sunday, in no particular order I’d like:

  1.  Someone else to wash ALL the day’s dishes. I’m not kidding, I don’t want to pick up that sponge once.
  2.  Stacking rings from Lisa Leonard. (I’ve been oogling over these for years)
  3.  An uninterrupted night of sleep, preferably in a hotel/inn or even at my in-law’s house down the street. By myself.
  4.  Good food all day, that doesn’t involve me preparing it. Esoteric, Tautog’s, Commune, Zeke’s, Three Ships Coffee, Gringo’s, Java Surf, The Green CatCroc’s to name a few nearby.
  5.  Stuff picked up off the floor and put away, NOT by me. Guessing the baby gets out of this one…
  6.  BEER. Preferably “heady” IPA’s. I’ll take anything chilled, while sitting on my porch or at the beach. (Local brews are preferred; O’Connor’s, Back Bay, Smartmouth, Commonwealth, YVBC)
  7.  A month of membership to local fitness boutique: HIT & Run so I can continue to get FIT and STRONG! (I will need this especially from drinking all that heady beer)
  8.  Handmade cards and artwork from the kiddos – my favorite is when they draw our stick figure family.
  9.  The bathroom cleaned, but not by me. Spotless please!
  10.  Relaxing family time. Can be at the beach, at home, in the park, in the garden, preferably accompanied by beautiful weather and sunshine.

Not too much to ask, right?! RIGHT.

I also polled my local mom friends to see what was something that they wanted for Mother’s Day. The responses were honest and to the point! Some practical (some a little pricy). But all wonderful ideas on how to celebrate the mothers in your life.

“A Bloody Mary and a babysitter.” – G

“Uninterrupted sleep for 12 hours.” – A

“A chocolate donut from Crispy Cream.” – L

“A day without an agenda or expectations.” – D

“A night stay at a hotel so I can sleep as much as I want, order room service and read all the magazines I’ve been collecting that I never have the chance to read. Accompanied by a bottle of champagne!” – M

“Coming home to an empty dishwasher and a clean kitchen.” – T

“Work in my garden and have someone else cook dinner for me.” – M

“I want my husband to clean the damn toilet!”- H

Need more ideas? Check out these ideas from my Virginia Beach mom friends.

A plant to put in the garden to enjoy all year round, especially one that blooms around Mother’s Day (iris or lilac)
A Wind Chime from Wild Birds Unlimited
An Orchid (Orchid Station or Whole Foods)
A Flower Arrangement or succulent plants from Roost Flowers
New gardening tools
Gift card to a nursery to pick a few plants to dig in the dirt together on Mother’s Day

Gold disc necklace with kids initials monogrammed on it
A charm with son’s thumbprint on it
23451 keychain or earrings from 
The Lemon Cabana
Anything from The Beach Nut
Addison Weeks “Bendall” Cuff Bracelets
Be Brave Necklace

From/with the kiddos
Handmade cards from kids
Tea with mommy
Professional Photographs done of Mother & Kids
Mother’s Day Brunch with the husband and kids
A picnic basket for a lunch (and a hike) on the beach at First Landing State Park
Paint your own pottery – Mug with foot and hand prints

Mani, Pedi, Hair, Massage at Massage Luxe, with Misty Smith
10 pack classes to your favorite fitness/yoga studio (Wareing’s Gym, Hot House Yoga, HIT & Run, Fushion Fitness)
Spa Day at Dupre’s
Lunch at Eurasia, with wine!
Brunch at Bay Local

An afternoon alone to wander around Prince Books with a cup of coffee
A whole day of shopping at MacArthur Center
New athletic gear (Anything from Lululemon, LA BL & Athletica)
Any household goods from West Elm

Let’s end with a video that will probably make you (good) cry.

What's Up

Earth Day

April 10, 2015

Purple spiky flower

Earth Day falls on Wednesday, April 22nd this year, but you can celebrate early this weekend!

Earth Day Celebration
Mount Trashmore Park
11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

“Refresh your approach to making our world a healthier place with various exhibits, displays and activities that will give you a chance to discover and explore effective and convenient ways to green your lifestyle.”

Old Beach Farmer’s Market
620 19th Street
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Celebrate Spring by shopping goods from local Farmers, Bakers, Crafters, and Chefs!

Take a hike!
Get outside and explore First Landing State Park’s beautiful trails
Virginia Beach





October 7, 2014

Fall in the park

Bikes on VB Boardwalk


I must admit, Fall happens to be my favorite time of year to be active outside. What’s not to love? Cool temperatures, and mosquito free evenings. It’s truly the perfect time to take advantage of the low temperatures when you don’t feel like your entire body is about to melt into the pavement or sand.

Don’t forget to dress warmly. Layers under your coat, gloves, warm socks, hat, etc. Better to be prepared, than cold!

  • Take a hike out of the wind in First Landing State Park. Maybe it’s the Vermonter in me, but one of my favorite places to visit during Autumn is the Park. It’s almost as if I’m back in the Green Mountains with the beautiful changing foliage.
  • Cruise down the 3 miles and 27 feet of Virginia Beach’s Boardwalk on your beach cruiser. I bet you’ll run into at least one of your friends doing the exact same thing! Often, I like to go even further down past the Cavalier and zip onto Ocean Front Avenue. If you bike slowly, you can check out the beautiful houses that hug the sand.
  • Stroll down the miles of beach along the shoreline. There is a lot of beach to cover if you start in the 40s and head towards Fort Story! Breathe in the ocean breeze, watch the surfers and paddleboarders ride the waves and brave the cold. Dog owners, your beloved four-legged friends are allowed on the beach un-leashed until Spring.

What are your favorite out-of-doors activities to do in the Fall?