Another Must See: The Chihuly Exhibit at The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Girls’ Day

     Some of the posse finally met at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to tour the Chihuly exhibit that continues until February 10, 2013.  Ever since our Fine Arts and Flowers visit when we spied Chihuly’s stunning blue and gold chandelier hanging at the main window of the Museum, Ellegram and I have been anticipating our return.

Chihuly hallway chandelier

I have recurring visions of this divine glass confection, which weighs about 3,000 pounds, consists of about 2,000 pieces and took a small army of workers and volunteers four days to install.

     The exhibition exceeded expectations.  In addition to the chandelier (which the Museum’s board would be crazy not to acquire and leave right here facing the Boulevard forever) and the outdoor red reeds in the water garden adjoining the Best Cafe, Dale Chihuly’s works are spread throughout seven display rooms that each contain completely unique and jaw-dropping glass works.

Chihuly Finland

Ikebana Float

When you get downstairs to the exhibit rooms, you have got to purchase the audio tour.  Don’t be a cheapskate:  for $5 you will hear Mr. Chihuly describe the inspiration for and execution of these larger than life creations.  The background information enhances the whole breathtaking experience.

Chihuly water garden

After having our minds blown open by this colorful art form and filled with wonder as to its actual installation, our Girls’ Day included a stop in the wonderful VMFA gift shop and concluded with lunch up on the Third Floor at Amuse, the members-only restaurant that creates its own locally-sourced and constantly changing culinary masterpieces.


The Chihuly at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Exhibit Book

Family Holiday Adventure

     I am only including a few iPhone snapshots to pique your interest and because my photos cannot convey the beauty of this exhibition, which you do not have to limit to touring only with your girlfriends.  This presentation is so accessible that the whole family will enjoy it.  With only seven rooms to visit, the tour itself goes very fast.

I wish this were my Christmas tree, don't you? Maybe next year.

I wish this were my Christmas tree, don’t you?  Maybe next year.

The kids will not be bored, and in this season of light and wonder, a visit to Chihuly should prove the perfect complement to your family’s festivities.


National Designers Dish at Richmond Fundraisers

Annie Selke Shares her Design Success for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

     Last Friday, I attended the inaugural Designed for a Cure held at The Country Club of Virginia.  Spearheaded by Avad Fan follower, Ellen Vance, and Sondra Washburn, the morning began with three workshops presented by the creative talents at Williams and Sherrill.  Guests could choose to learn about approaches to feng sui, “Making a Big Splash” or design trends.

Designed for a Cure

     Close to 200 people attended this unique fundraiser in support of Richmond’s active local chapter of the Cystic Fybrosis Foundation and were treated to a post-lunch presentation by the amazing Annie Selke, the inimitable creator of Pine Cone Hill, Dash & Albert Rug Company (named after two of her dogs) and her fabric collection, Annie Selke Home.  She described her varied career that brought her to product design and her ever growing business that she runs from the Berkshire hills of west Massachusetts.  Passionate about design, she has finally found the time to write a bright and beautiful book called Fresh American Spaces, in which she breaks down home design approaches into five subcategories.  Listening to her presentation, I immediately knew that my own design approach falls into her category, “Everyday Exuberance”, and that section of her book offers ideas for bringing bright design together to create a happy home.

Annie Selke chatting with attendees as she signs her book, Fresh American Spaces.

     Delightful and down-to-earth, Ms. Selke enchanted her audience throughout her presentation and the question and answer session, as well as during her book-signing.  Her spirit helped launch this Designed for a Cure event into a new annual happening.  As our table discussed at the lunch, most Richmonders are so tired of the auction-style fundraisers that have become the standard for non-profits around town, so we welcomed this refreshing format.   As word of its success spreads, next year’s Designed for a Cure should raise even more funds to be used to finally find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis.

Next Up:  Tobi Fairley Headlines the IFDA Day of Design at the Richmond Symphony Designer House

     I am so looking forward to hearing my favorite design star, Tobi Fairley, speak at the IFDA Day of Design at the Richmond Symphony Orchestra League 2012 Designer House on Thursday, September 27, 2012.  Tobi’s Blog arrives in my inbox every morning, and pictures of her creations are scattered throughout my Pinterest boards.  Like Ms. Selke, Ms. Fairley does not shy away from color, and I cannot wait to be inspired by her, as well as the Show House, Pinifer Park, which opened last week.

     At the last Designer Show House two years ago, Tobi designed the front entrance hall (above).  Featured in the April 2012 issue of Traditional Home magazine, pictures of that stunning space continue to pop up throughout the internet.  If Tobi speaks anything like she writes and creates, her Richmond audience is in for a treat.

     Even if you can’t get to the IFDA luncheon, you’ll want to visit the Designer House and Garden.  I hear the house is filled with great designs in small spaces.  Only open through October 8th, this show house provides a beautiful way to support the Richmond Symphony Orchestra.

Now Everyone Knows: Richmond is Outside’s Best River Town

     I’d like to think that this Avad Fan had something to do with Outside magazine’s current cover.

With the subtitle “How once polluted Richmond became the unlikeliest river-recreation mecca in the country”, Outside magazine was clearly surprised that Richmond was the winner of its Best River Town in America contest, but we’ve known the truth about Richmond on the James for quite a while now.  Though softer than many of the adventures that Outside magazine tends to feature, we love exploring this historical water both northwest and southeast of downtown Richmond’s whitewater and sharing it with family and friends and Avad Fan readers.

     Sadly power-boating season is quickly coming to a close, but keep your fingers crossed for some beautiful fall weather so that we can spend some final time on the water in the Best River Town in America.

Floraspirations, Week 3: Chinese New Year

With help from

     In honor of the Chinese New Year celebrated this past week, I thought you’d enjoy this creation made by members of the Richmond Children’s Hospital Junior Board for its annual Ball in 2004.

Welcome to the Year of the Water Dragon!

     This visual image is still as fresh to me today as it was seven years ago when I watched fellow board members create this masterpiece, and I really wanted to share it with you.  Unfortunately the only photo that I had of it was taken in the afternoon with a very glare-y background through the tent which looks much better at night.  My daughter was in it, too.

Original is definitely not a blog-worthy photo.

     As luck would have it, though, just this week Kate of Centsational Girl wrote a lengthy post about a new on-line photo editor that she has found to replace Picnik, which Google is retiring on April 19th.  I have used Picnik for a few editing jobs, but I really hadn’t taken the time to figure it all out.  It has been on my to-do list, along with at least a hundred other things, and fortunately I never bought the premium Picnik service, which I had seriously considered.

     On Kate’s recommendation, I clicked over to  Since then I have been spending my free time listening to all of the tutorials and playing with this original photo.  A Scandanavian man narrates the tutorials, which makes for an especially interesting exercise.

     I have finally figured out how some of my favorite bloggers, including Centsational Girl, create such great photos and graphics.  In the middle picture, I have blurred my daughter’s face, and in the photo above, the background is painted with the contrasting blue.  The background for the first photo was erased, and I added the text from the wide selection of fonts included with pixlr.  Though I have yet to reach the professional standards of many bloggers, I am now looking forward to bringing you more interesting content through photos.

     While is not perfect (a couple of my editing attempts just disappeared), it really is a fun on-line program for enhancing any photos.  You don’t need to be a blogger to try it.  The bonus:  it’s free!

Photos by Avad Fan.

Five Gifts of Christmas for Family & Friends: Part 2

     Next up in my quick Week before Christmas gift-giving guide is a new favorite for the oenophile in your life.  I love nothing more than discovering a unique red wine that trancends the ubiquitous merlots and cabs that no longer agree with me.  Small vineyards that make wine the old-fashion way appeal to both my palette and my soul.

     This is particularly true of Domaine Rouge-Bleu.  I have been reading about daily life at this small family-owned and -run vineyard/home for at least the last three years though Kristen Espinasse’s thrice-weekly blog/journal, French Word-A-Day.  When I stumbled upon the blog, I had grand illusions of learning French so that I will not sound so lame when I finally get the chance to return to Paris (maybe with my husband for our 25th, hint, hint).  Kristen, a self-described desert rat from Arizona, writes honest and often funny vignettes about her ex-pat life with her husband, son (who is about my own son’s age), daughter and two dogs, as well as her French faux pas.  She and her husband are both living their dreams in Provence:  hers, to be a published writer; his, to own and run a successful vineyard.

     Kristen’s stories of the harvest and wine-making are fascinating.  In fact, they have enticed many of her loyal readers to make a pilgrimage to their vineyard to help with the labor-intensive harvest and pressing.  Intrigued by her stories, I have searched locally for their wine when I have a lead on a local source.

     This fall I spotted a couple of bottles at J. Emerson on Grove Avenue.  I bought them up and waited for a special occasion to share the wine and their stories.  I finally had the chance over Thanksgiving with my family, and we could not have been more delighted.  The 2009 Mistral is dry like the mistral winds that blow through Provence with a firm, medium body that could work with a variety of main dishes.  The Domaine Rouge-Bleu website lists these accolades for this vintage: 

  • 90 points on the Wine Spectator : “Rich and smoky, with mouthfilling charcoal, roasted fig, tobacco and plum sauce notes all rolling through the broad finish. This has muscle, but stays accessible and balanced. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Roussanne. Drink now. 1,000 cases made. –JM”
  •  Gold Medal in Concours General Agricole of Paris
  •  Listed in Guide Hachette des Vins with two star


    Fortunately J. Emerson was able to procure for me one of the only 1,000 cases made, and some of my wine-lover family and friends will be the beneficiaries this Christmas.  I am so excited to be able to share such a fabulous find.  Cheers to Christmas almost being here!

P.S.  Kristen has just self-published her second book, Blossoming in Provence, based on a selection of her early blog posts.  She invited her readers to help with the book’s editing, among other things, and she managed to get it put together in a mere 44 days.  It has just become available here, and I am hoping to find a copy in my stocking come Christmas Day.


Five Gifts of Christmas for Family & Friends: Part 1

     My favorite part of Christmas is giving gifts to family and friends.  For me, there is nothing more wonderful than seeing someone’s face light up as she opens a present that truly tickles her fancy.  While my more industrious buddies get their houses decorated and throw fabulous parties, I spend a lot of my Advent season trying to figure out to whom we will be giving what.

     The kids are always tricky as I try to balance out costs and numbers and wants and needs.  The Hub is never easy because he inevitably will go shopping a month and a half before Christmas to get for himself whatever he may want, and he is a man of few needs.  Choosing for other family and friends, though, is much more fun as I try to match my own loves with their personalities.  I thought I’d share with you in this quick Week before Christmas Series some of my favorite gifts this year.

     First up, is a seasonal yet always appropriate orchid arrangement from The Greenhouse II.  Last summer I wrote here about this treasure in the heart of the Libbie/Grove/Patterson shopping district and how I try to emulate their looks in my home.

(my most recent recreation)

I just can’t get enough of their living designs, which will be well-received by even the most-finicky relative.

     These arrangements are generally most appropriate for locals as transporting orchids in chilly weather can be a little stressful.  Trust me, I did that last weekend for beloved out-of-state family.  I am now keeping my fingers crossed that the blossoms will still be on the plant come New Year’s Day.

     Fortunately there is still a bit of time left to have The Greenhouse II designers create something beautiful for your special someone (plus they will deliver).  The Hub’s secretary will be receiving this one.

After years of rather impersonal (though nice) picture frames, I felt it was time to step it up while still remaining professional.  A lovely woman who has been with the Hub for almost as long as I have, she truly deserves something fabulous.

     Sure hope she loves it as much as I do.

All photos by Avad Fan.