A Visit To Cassia Fresh Farm

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Annette Codding and I are standing in her goat barn.

It was a chilly afternoon, but the sun hitting the farm kept her ten acres warm. We had just stepped out from her garden, in which she was growing onions, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, and more. The most interesting feature was the set of tomato vines hanging off of a frame at the back of the garden. 

“I didn’t even start growing these,” Annette tells me as we approach the vines. “A friend gave them to me and I’ve just been growing them since.” She plucks a tiny orange tomato off a vine and hands it to me. She informs me it’ll be the “best thing I’ve ever tasted”. She was right. I don’t think I had ever tasted a fresh plant of any kind, literally fresh from the vine. This tomato was small, but burst sharply, igniting a vibrant flavor in my mouth. 

After we left the garden, we stepped into her barn where her goats lived. Inside, several female goats stared out from their pens, their unique eyes watching us as we stepped back and forth, Annette telling me about how she became the lady who makes goat milk soap. She’s purchased another property across the street, four times larger than her current property. She’s not intending to add more animals to her farm. In fact, she balked at the idea. “No, I’ve purchased pine tree seeds.” These seeds will take up the rest of her farm, along with her goats, chickens, dogs, steer, her lone horse and maybe a pig or two.

For the extent of Annette’s two hour tour of the farm, we talked nonstop, veering off topic every few minutes or so, and having to maneuver our way back. “Have you heard of this story,” she suddenly starts, “of this guy who lived in California in the late 70s?” She shares a parable, of sorts, about a man forty years ago who was diagnosed with cancer. His doctors gave him six to nine months to live. To live out the rest of his life, he and his wife traveled to his home country of Greece. Specifically, to Ikaria, a small island in the north of the Aegean sea. His mother was there and the man intended to live out his days there. After a while, however, he started feeling strong enough to go work on the fields. He did so every day. After a little while longer, he started feeling strong enough to go play games with his friends in the pub at night. 

The man lived for another forty years, or so the parable goes. And so, late in his life, he returned to America to seek out the doctors who diagnosed him, only to discover all the doctors were dead. Annette is thrilled by this story, and is also thrilled to tell me that the man doesn’t know how old he actually was because, on the man’s island, “no one wears watches.”

Annette looks at her goats, the jar of whey next to us, the barn cat waddling around, the two dogs sitting at our feet, and she seems to feel a kinship with this man. It’s clear to see why.

Annette moved to this property from Apopka ten years ago. When she originally purchased this land, there was no intention for it to lead toward her business with goat milk. The first goat didn’t arrive until a few years after the purchase, and the goat wasn’t even her purchase. Her mother bought the first goat, a female named Coco. Coco had a baby but, due to unfortunate circumstances, lost it. Coco had just became a mother, which meant she needed to be milked. Annette took over these duties herself, adopting the goat. Soon, her property was home to more and more of the friendly farm animal.

The rest, for Cassia Fresh Farms, is history. 

Annette and her goats preempted a boom in the goat industry by just a few months. The past decade has seen a major growth in goat farming, with some counties in Florida tripling their goat population in just a few years. This is largely due in part to the influx of citizens from countries where goat is one of, if not the most consumed type of meat. Australia sits at the top for goat exporting, and America is their biggest customer by a massive margin. The second largest customer to Australia is Taiwan, who spent close to 25 million on goat in 2017. The United States spent close to 180 million in 2017, making up 66% of all goat meat exports from Australia that year.

Fifteen years ago, Florida was in the top 25 for goat milk production. Now, we’re not only in the top ten for goat meat production, but in the top five in the Southeast.

The goat industry is starting to be a big deal around here.

These numbers start to sound harrowing when you’re speaking on a grand scale, but at Cassia Fresh Farms, it’s just part of Annette’s routine. Last September, her milk goats gave birth. She’s been milking these goats every day, once at dawn and once at dusk. She will milk them up until the next mother goats give birth in March. She’ll milk them with the same routine until, likely, September again. 

From the barn, the milk can go to several different places. In one case, Annette and her mother separate the curds (more solid parts, used for cheese) and whey (the watery part) for different purposes. The whey is kept in a large pickle jar in the barn that Annette dumps into a bag of feed and delivers to her pig, Black Friday, who howled and bounced whenever we approached. The curds are used for cheese and cheese spread. Annette put a bowl of this spread in front of me, along with a stack of crackers and a glass of goat milk, and I nearly cleaned the thing out. There really is something about freshly made food that can’t be put into words.

While I ate my snack, Annette demonstrated how she makes her other main goat product: soap. Using olive oil, coconut oil, lye, shea butter and, of course, goat milk, Annette mixes colors and fragrances to create her dozens of unique soaps and scents. She cooks in her own kitchen, clearing the entire space to avoid contamination. Each component is weighed precisely, down to the very gram. She uses a homemade wooden box that she keeps at the perfect length using a stick that one of her sons found in her yard. It takes approximately two hours to make a block, then four to six weeks for the mixture to go through saponification, the chemical reaction that creates soap. 

Her soaps are beautiful and many come with stories. Big Timber is a smooth, musky soap, with black and brown swirls mixed in. It’s named for a town she visited with her family in which she encountered the scent that inspired the soap. Her Lemongrass soap was created as a means to create clean-smelling soap for the kitchen. She creates soap to fit trends, like her charcoal soap or her lavender soap. One soap that is about to be released for the first time has a very raw, floral smell, with decorations that looked like flower petals along the top. When I asked if those were actual dried plants, Annette chuckled. “It’s leftover soap shavings that I colored and placed on top.”

This was all part of a trend that you can see all across Annette’s farm. The whey from the goats help feed the pig. The pig and the chickens feed the family. The eggs from the chickens are sold with the soap. The dogs on the farm watch the larger animals. One such dog, named Maple, has a singular duty, and that is to watch the two male goats, who are kept in a separate pen. Everything at Cassia Fresh Farm is part of a cycle, or a process, or a system. 

Even Annette’s farm shop, which is open on her property every Wednesday and Saturday morning, serves several purposes. Tables along the walls are lined with her soap, and a set of metal trays in a tower in the corner hold soaps still being set. A chalkboard at the back wall lists prices for eggs, soap, milk, cheese and more. Outside of functioning as the shop, this room serves as a schoolroom for certain homeschool teachers in the area. Desks sit in the center of the room, and a diagram of a goat was sketched on the chalkboard when I entered. Annette had taught a lesson in agricultural science to the students that day. One had left his binder behind and Annette tucked it away, knowing he’d return for it tomorrow.

As more time passed at Cassia Fresh Farm, it became clearer and clearer why the story of the olive farmer who forgot to die resonated with Annette. The man had made a life for himself, living off of his own work, working peacefully and supporting his community. Annette and her family are doing exactly that. Lake County, where Cassia is nestled, continues to struggle with the relationship between rural farms and continued suburban development. Despite this, Annette is confident in her new forty acres and the place it will hold for the rest of her life. She’s planning on naming her new property “Ikaria”, after the island that the Greek man returned to over forty years ago. She plans on continuing his legacy. She hopes to keep expanding her soap business, maybe even selling her products on Etsy. 

Regardless, Annette will keep on caring for her animals, and doing her very best to live well.

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To visit Cassia Fresh Farm Store, click here: https://cassiafreshfarm.com/. The store is open on Wednesday and Saturday from 10AM to Noon. Feel free to call ahead to see if there are eggs, cheese, or chicken available.


Nick D’Alessandro is a native Orlandoan and proud of it. He is passionate about Florida's history and culture, and loves researching stories around the state. Along with his work with Townie Tourist, Nick is the creator and host of Wait Five Minutes: The Floridian Podcast, which publishes every Friday. He can be found around Orlando desperately searching for the perfect blueberry muffin.

Welcome to SIDNEY BRUCE

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Anna Marie Christmas and I finally met in person at Florida Blog Con a couple years ago. We had already been following each other on social media for months. And when we connected it was like we’d been friends for years. I can’t get enough of her inspired style and professional drive. Read on to get to know more about Anna, her process, and her latest venture, SIDNEY BRUCE.

“I am a business owner, artist and advocate of women to build authentic and intentional relationships. After growing up in the panhandle of Florida, in a beautifully intense and loving family, I worked in the fashion industry for over sixteen years in New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Miami and London. My first passion is creating beauty in various mediums, such as fashion design, the fine arts and creative direction for special events. I now own and operate a creative agency that focuses on content production, wardrobe styling, branding and social media marketing. I am currently expanding my company to the UK and Europe and launching Sidney Bruce, an online shopping platform featuring emerging designers, selective brands and artists from around the world.

My second passion is women connecting, leading and loving each other well. I have worked for years to create events in which women from different walks of life can have a moment to meet each other where they are and to be encouraged to keep growing towards vulnerability, truth and hope.

In addition, I enjoy adventures around the world, painting, yoga and hosting fabulous parties for my close friends and family.
My hope for every woman is to be unashamedly themselves and to live in a fierce strength out of grace and love.”

"You are loved. You are free. You are ready now.” - Anna Marie Christmas

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What time of day do you like to start work? 7am

Do you want to be liked or respected? Respected

What does your support team or network look like? 
I have strategically surrounded myself with like minded, ambitious, creative, kind, smart, authentic and driven people. Everything is a choice especially when it comes to relationships. People are the most important part of life and business. I currently am blessed to have a massive support team in more locations than one that embodies the above mentioned characteristics and values. In the next five years, my goal is to build a team of talent that would work out of an Orlando and London office. 

Do you do yoga the morning? Have wine with lunch? Socialize with your team after work? How do you connect and also unplug to do your best work? 
I love hot yoga and spin classes. I need to cry a lot so I go there to do that, sweat my stress out and to simply feel like a Wonder Woman-Beyonce-Warrior whenever possible. Getting into nature is a must for me. I need green, mountains, oceans and sky. It is imperative for me to reenergize in these places. Being at my family’s cabin in North Carolina or my Grandparent’s farm resets my perspective. It makes me appreciate the littlest of things and makes me stop. We are wonderfully and beautifully made and when I see the plants and birds I am reminded of how much I am loved and how my value and identity does not lie in how much I accomplish or fail at. I also adore hosting people in my home. I enjoy giving back to that powerful network that surrounds me by cooking and throwing fabulous garden parties under the stars. 

What would your key management advice be? 
Managing people is like parenting. It is the hardest yet the most rewarding work out yet. Your identity and value has nothing to do with the people you manage. Always do what is right, with no attachment to the fruit. If you make mistakes at managing others, you learn. If you successful at managing others, you learn. That is all. It isn’t about you… so get over yourself so you can lead well. If you do this, then you will not lead out of a place of fear which is the most destructive thing you could do as a manager. 

What do you find the most difficult part of your job? 
Learning to work out of a place of peace but still have drive, focus and ambition. It is a balancing act that I frankly have no idea how to do well. I also struggle with tedious and mundane tasks. #nopatience 

How has rejection in the space you’re passionate about fueled it? 
The minute someone tells me no… I get fire in my soul. I have been told before that I wasn’t a creative director, good enough, educated enough, fast enough, tough enough, dumb enough, pretty enough, small enough, rich enough, poor enough… the list goes on. I haven’t been taken seriously by family members, friends and bosses because of my ambitious goals, dreams and age. With this very project I have had people talk down to me on conference calls because the potential vendor was unprepared and they said no. I have been told no and have had to change plans, visions, goals and focus last minute. Being told no is imperative for growth, creativity and character building. Be thankful for the “no”.

What does ‘style' mean to you? 
Style means one being unashamedly one’s self and that translating into their choice in appearance and presence.

Have you ever made a mistake you wish you could take back? 
100%. I have lost my temper and lost a friend because of it. Nothing is ever worth proving. 

If you could fix one thing about your company today, what would it be? 
MONEY.  I have an ongoing list of the incredible people who are way better at running certain parts of this company than I am. I am looking forward to the day that Sidney Bruce can employ and house these people to do what they do best. 

Describe yourself using only emojis. 🔥🥂👑🌺🐅🗡

What are your favorite art galleries and/or museums in the world? 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art for their fashion exhibits their location by Central Park and Park Ave. 

What do you miss most about home when you travel?
My cats, Sheriff Kitty and Pip Squeak. 

Where do you go online to get inspired? 
Pinterest, Spotify ( I LOVE MUSIC) and podcasts.

Predicting trends is tough, how much does research play into what you do? 
Research doesn’t play into it. If you have to research it… it’s too late and the trend is upon us or already happened. Predicting trends is more about intuition and a little history more than anything. 

Three books, blogs, podcasts, or Instagrams you think we need to read, listen to, or see?
Podcast: How I Built This (all episodes) - It will comfort, inspire and grow you in business.  
Book: Art of War by SUN TZU - It will teach you how to do business.
Show: Game of Thrones - It will make you want to go after, stand up and fight for something. Also the costumes are bad ass.
All three of these bring you back to your humanness. It is important to understand the reality of who and where you are so you have the chance to be and go where you want to. Live in reality, fight for a dream.


 

SIDNEY BRUCE is an online shopping platform featuring a curated collection of emerging designers, selective brands and artists. SIDNEY BRUCE is all about shopping local without being local. Guests are able to shop a world of makers, creatives and artists. They can have special one-of-a-kind garments, accessories, and art delivered to their doorstep. 

Instagram: @anna.marie.christmas @shop.sidney.bruce
Website: www.sidneybruce.com

Meet the Maker: Val Rodriguez

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Val Rodriguez is co-founder of benni. She’s got an incredible take on health and wellness. She and benni co-founder Bryant Joseph both had experienced “toxic relationships with work, food, people and, to an extent, even our sense of self.” They started to explore wellness but realized that “none of the current brands spoke to us because we weren’t typical aspirational wellness customers. We don’t think that feeling good has to feel like punishment and that wellness should be accessible. benni was started as a product for people who see past internet fads and look within themselves for a wellness lifestyle that works for them.”

1. What time of day do you like to start working?

I used to think starting to work early in the mornings would induct me into “The Most Productive Members of Society Club”, but it felt incredibly forced and unproductive. I begin feeling like I enjoy my work more and am the most productive around 10 and 11 in the morning. My mornings belong to me. These days they’re spent practicing meditations, making deliciously messy smoothies, and spending time with my dog.  

2. Do you want to be liked or respected?

Ugh. I struggle with this as I imagine any typical Enneagram Type 3 would. Must they be mutually exclusive? I want it all, Jenny. If I had to choose, I’d pick respected because maybe I’d be able to get more accomplished. I don’t necessarily think I need people to love me, I’d settle for folks believing that my intentions are good and that my mind and heart are in the right place.

3. What does your support system look like?

My partner, Marissa, knows first hand how mentally consumed by work I can become. Her support looks like standing up to me when I’m being unrealistic with myself about the amount of pressure my projects require. My business partner, Bryant, is one of the most anti-bullshit business oriented people that I have ever met. We’re an unlikely match and I think we compliment each other quite well in so many ways. It brings me so much comfort to know I can call him with anything and know he will pull through. My parents, who come from humble roots in Puerto Rico and embody work-ethic and resilience, have unwavering belief in me which is just the best soul fuel I can get. I also have an incredible group of close friends and mentors that I look up to that keep me grounded and dreaming. 

4. What would your key entrepreneur advice be?

I’m still getting used to identifying as an “entrepreneur”, but what I’ve learned thus far is:

  • Invest in understanding who your customer is and what they care about. This takes time and never-ending curiosity.

  • Not everyone’s going to like what you’re doing and that’s okay because not everyone is your customer. 

  • Keep your head down and do the work. I learned the hard way what it meant for me to get consumed by the fear of failure because of what people expected from me and the ways that stress manifests through your mental and physical health. It’s actually what led me to start benni.

5. What do you find the most difficult part of your work?

I  didn’t study business, marketing, nutrition, or food science in college, so it’s all been difficult but I enjoy problem solving and having Bryant to figure it all out with has been invaluable. I wouldn’t say there is a particularly difficult aspect to working on benni, but as an “entrepreneur” I do struggle with the anxiety of not having financial security amongst many other “uncertainties”. There is no better time than the present to risk it all. Seriously, what do you have to lose when you’re already a broke millennial?

6. Have you ever made a mistake you wish you could take back?

I contemplated telling you about my previous startup, but I think all my failures with that were capacity building. I am a better entrepreneur because of that endeavor and my inner voice and gut instincts are stronger than ever.

7. If you could fix one thing about your business today, what would it be?

Rather than “fixing”, I think grasping a better understanding of our customers needs and what product innovations would surprise and delight them is something we’re continuously working towards. 

8. What does ‘wellness’ mean in Central Florida/Jacksonville?

Florida is going through an exciting evolution as people develop a more advanced understanding and appreciation for wellness and self-care practices that conveniently fit into their lifestyle. Making wellness as an industry a more accessible lifestyle to adopt is what we are passionate about and I believe that resonates well with communities everywhere.

9. Describe your typical Florida uniform. What do you wear when you want to feel like yourself?

You’ll find me in a snapback hat, a target t-shirt, and skinny jeans most days regardless of the weather and if I’m headed to kickboxing later in the evenings, I’ll rep leggings. #fashun ?

10. How does your city inspire you?

I’m fairly new to Jacksonville and am awe-inspired by the amount of people here willing to connect and excited to collaborate. I’ve never been surrounded by so many talented, genuine, and intentional people and I’m absolutely spoiled because of it.  

11. What do you miss most about home when you travel?

Besides my dog, I miss the comfort of my space. Usually when I travel I’m constantly surrounded by people and that can be rowdy and noisy and although I’m a true extrovert, I’ve really embraced my “me” time and find myself looking forward to it every day.  

12. Describe your ideal food day in Jax.

I’m still exploring new spots in Jax, but if I were to describe my eating out foodie dreams on a Saturday, I would say I’d start the day by grabbing a honey-vanilla latte with an extra shot of espresso at Bold Bean Riverside (if you ever want to meet up, you can find me there on any day). 

For brunch I’d swing by Community Loaves and get the pancakes. Listen people. These are not your average pancakes. They’re sweet with crispy edges and honestly my mouth is watering as I type. They only have the pancakes on the weekends, so I can’t get my hopes up as it’s only Tuesday. 

Dinner would be spent elbows deep in wine and the cheese plate at the hidden restaurant in Riverside Liquors #wellness

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benni is a single-serving plant-based wellness blend that's mixed into your favorite drink for daily sustained energy, sleep, and relaxation.

benni products are crafted around different functional uses such as "Stamina, Sleep, or Relaxation." All benni products are natural, Non-GMO, Vegan, Gluten Free, and Cruelty Free. 

benni is derived from the Latin "bene" (meaning "wellness") and exemplifies the fact that benni blends contain various "benni-fits." benni's herbal blends can be added to any drink such as water, tea, smoothies, and sparkling water.

One of benni's core values is wellness accessibility. We believe that wellness is for everyone not just individuals that meet the traditional wellness industry aesthetic.

Stamina will be the first herbal product benni launches. 

Look for it soon! Sign up on the website for launch updates.

Schlumberger Jewels Bedazzle

I gave myself an early Christmas present of seeing the Jean Schlumberger show at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Florida. I got to experience one of the Gulf Coast’s best museums, was able to stand inches away from Guerrilla Girls, Monet, and Kara Walker and a wander through a divine little sculpture garden after tucking into yummy butter toast and a cup of hearty tomato basil bisque. There’s so much more to this museum than I ever imagined.

Here’s why you need to go to the St. Pete Museum of Fine Arts before March 31, 2019.

The Cafe. Do NOT skip going to the cafe. It’s probably one of the best kept brunch secrets in the entire city. A lovely menu with seasonal favorites and generous portions. Excellent coffee. Fantastic view of the water. Sit on the veranda if it’s nice. If not, the seats by the windows are fantastic people watching.

Super cool that you can buy a ticket online and have a year to use it. Buy one for friends. Grab a couple for visiting parents. I love that low pressure purchase.

GUERRILLA GIRLS

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Dreamy lounge area in case it all just gets to be too much. I imagine slinking into this lounge wearing a silk dress and furs and needing someone to provide smelling salts. It’s stepping into the feeling of Tiffany & Company in New York City. It’s like sitting in a velvet lined box. People were silent or whispering. The jewels demanded it. The Schlumberger show is only on until March 31, 2019.

It may seem like you have a bit of time to check it out, but we both know you’ll put it off. Don’t. You’ll regret it.

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Bunny Mellon must have had one heck of a jewelry vault. The woman knew how to inspire. Her friendship with Jean “Johnny” Schlumberger produced jewelry that is so much more than jewelry, it’s the story of the natural world told through precious stones and metal. Her all time favorite piece was the Pisces brooch with red enamel. Look at those little golden fish lips!

I’ve always been fascinated by haute couture of the 50s and 60s. The fashion houses that were inspired by brilliant muses like Slim Keith and defined or destroyed by Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland. They, along with other women like philanthropist Bunny Mellon had style. The kind of unique style that would stop conversations when they entered a room. Not narcissistic, but incredibly vain. And they all wore Schlumberger jewelry. Jackie Kennedy is famous for wearing his enamel bangle bracelets. Slim Keith had a cross made of gold and amethysts.

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Inches away from DV’s favorite piece. Dianna Vreeland, former editor-in-chief of Vogue, had a piece commissioned by Schlumberger in 1941 and it stayed on her bedside table until she died. The ‘Trophée de Vaillance’ brooch is out of the Tiffany archives and on display. And it is magnificent. It seems to glow from within. Like a military trophy, the platinum and gold breast plate and tunic is set with diamonds.  Behind that is an oval shield encrusted with faceted amethysts and rubies, with a blue and gold enamel border. Blue and grey enamel longbow, arrows, spear, pike and axe project from behind the shield, while a ruby-set star pommel projects from within the armor.

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KARA WALKER

Oh how I love her. The use of shadow and light and images of past placed on past. Brilliant.

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Then head outside and walk along the water, or grab an ice cream cone and stroll along the avenue. Looking for a posh place to stay after being inspired by those Mellon jewels? Visit the Vinoy Renaissance Resort just a block or two away. It’s pink! And pure luxury.

Museum of Fine Arts St. Pete

C255 Beach Dr NE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 896-2667

MUSEUM HOURS

Monday–Saturday: 10:00 am–5:00 pm
Thursday: 10:00 am–8:00 pm
Sunday: 12:00 pm–5:00 pm

CAFE HOURS

Tuesday–Sunday: 11:00 am–3:00 pm

Email: info@mfastpete.org
Tickets: HERE

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Meet the Maker: Hillary LaMountain

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Hillary LaMountain is an illustrator based in Orlando. “My work is bright, colorful, filled with sass, and a little morbid, but in like, a cute way. Growing up, I was always obsessed with horror and all things strange, so I love incorporating those themes into my brand. More recently, I’ve been working toward opening an online shop and I’ve been having so much fun creating products for it. I’m so grateful to be able to create every day, because it’s something that I genuinely enjoy and love doing.”

What time of day do you like to start working on your art/design?

I’m one of those crazy morning people. I wake up between 5-6am so that I can have time to think about my day ahead. Maybe drink a coffee, scroll through various social media accounts, taking in the memes. And then I like to get started right away while I have the energy. 

Do you want to be liked or respected?

I mean if someone doesn’t like me, then they don’t like me — I couldn’t possibly please everyone. But yeah I’d like to be respected; and I just think that comes from being a genuine, reliable non-asshole human.

What does your support system look like?

My support system looks like my mom, my 2 cats, the Great British Baking Show and bubble baths. 

What would your key entrepreneur/artist advice be?

Self-care, and I can’t stress that enough. As someone who has burnt themselves out from working many times, taking time to invest in yourself is not only important, but necessary. So, devote some time in your day to doing something you like, even if it’s small! And sometimes, you can even use it as an incentive to get work done. Somehow, knowing you’ve got a Netflix-binge or a bubble bath (or both if you’re really living your best life) waiting for when you finish work makes it a little more enjoyable.

What do you find the most difficult part of your work/art?

I’m actually just getting out of an art block right now so this question is kinda perfect; my biggest struggle with my art is myself. I’m an over-thinker and I’m constantly questioning everything that I’m doing — so much so, that every so often, I begin to hate everything I make. So, I go back to the drawing board (pun always intended) and sketch until I like what I see. And sometimes that takes a few days, and sometimes it takes a few months. 

Have you ever made a mistake you wish you could take back?

Gahhh so many.

If you could fix one thing about your solopreneurship today, what would it be?

Time management. I’m a master-procrastinator so I wish that I would’ve just taught myself better habits early on so that they weren’t so hard to stick with nowadays. 

Describe your ideal food day in Orlando.

Okay so prepare yourself for an extremely thought-out answer; and I’m going to start by waking up and going straight to White Wolf for breakfast. Then since it’s early, I’m gonna to run to P is for Pie to get some handheld pecan pies for dessert when I get home later. Then for lunch, I always love a classic burger and fries with a twist — so for that, I’m going to Toasted. And for dinner, I’m sooo going to Sushi Lola’s because Lava Dips are what dreams are truly made of. Throw in stopping by Skyebird for a lavender lemonade and I could die happy (and full).   

How does Orlando inspire your work?

Orlando is such a weird and fun place to live and the one thing that I love the most, is how time and time again, I’ve seen this community come together and do amazing things. Orlando inspires me to work hard and create meaningful work, so that maybe I too can make Orlando a lil more awesome. 

What do you miss most about home when you travel?

My bed!

Timucua Arts is an Orlando Gem

Timucua Arts Foundation is a home. A real home where people live. It’s also an event space for musicians and music performances that is unlike any other. A three story space that has every instrument imaginable and which has featured international musicians, Grammy award winners, and countless others. This tour of the space with founder Benoit Glazer is something you have to see to believe. Watch it below.

The mission says it all:

This, we believe:

Art and music belong to everyone.

Art and music are the highest manifestation of our humanity.

Art and music should be enjoyed in the most intimate venue: the living room.

Every community is better when art and music are performed and nurtured within it.

The mission of the Timucua Arts Foundation is to present and inspire great music and art in Central Florida through performance and education.

This FAQ page will answer all your questions.

Timucua White House

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Event Space Address:
2000 South Summerlin
Orlando, FL
32806

Visiting The Orlando Cat Cafe

Visiting The Orlando Cat Cafe

We took a walk through the cat room and got to hang out in the kitten tent. I had a couple favorites, but all of the cats and kittens are unique personalities. Grab a coffee and treat and buy your ticket at the Axom coffee counter, then go hangout with these adoptable friends.

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Meet the Maker: Reina Castellanos

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My name is Reina and I am a Venezuelan illustrator living in Orlando. My work is influenced by my culture and experiences as an immigrant—seeking balance between absurdity and moments of quiet contemplation within the organized chaos of layered color and pattern. Currently I am exploring different applications of my illustrations on small, personal wares like coin pouches and embroideries. 

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1. What did you want to be when you were a child and why?

Performer. Artist. Philosopher. Homemaker. Comedian. Architect. Writer. Hacker. Singer. Astronaut. Poet. I am convinced to have grown into an amalgamation of all those things. Little Reina would be proud!

2. What is your favorite thing about your workspace?

My studio window faces the next door neighbor’s backyard and sometimes I am able to hear their band practice. In a weird way it has become very comforting listening to them while drawing or designing. When I notice they are rehearsing, I turn off any kind of distraction I may have around me and continue working alongside them into the evening.

3. What is a scent that defines your childhood and why?

The scent I remember most vividly from my childhood is jasmine. We had a huge shrub at the entrance of our house and, when it was blooming, you could smell it all around the neighborhood. 

4. Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night?

Prematurely telling myself why and how something will fail before taking a risk. No matter how hard I’ve worked to trust my intuition and respect my process, I still catch myself doing it regularly. I think it is the creative professional equivalent of the falling teeth nightmare.

5. What is your personal or professional motto?

DO. THE. THING.

6. What is something you tell yourself to build yourself up when you face adversity or criticism?

Tough love tends to get through me better than being kind to myself (I know, yikes!), so I imagine Kara Thrace from Battlestar Galactica sizing me up and saying, “Girl, you’ve been through worse!” It usually works and the negativity can roll off my back pretty easily with such a badass—albeit, fictional—person on my side.

7. Current fave junk food, restaurant, or treat?

I see an iced tea latte, I drink an iced tea latte. No exceptions.

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Contact Reina Castellanos

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Meet the Maker behind Lou Jewels

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I've always been an art kid. For as long as I can remember I've been in an art class of some kind. As a kid, math was kind of my refuge from art class. While I loved art class, it was so subjective, SO opinion based, sometimes that was draining and tiring. Math class was the place where you were right, or wrong, end of story. In my late teens I met a mathematician who told me that there are places you can get to in the mathematical field where that was no longer the case, and my brain just exploded with wonder and curiosity. I've been inspired by math ever since. I love taking a concept or idea, or maybe a theory that fascinates me, and creating a visual representation of that idea. 

Once I've got a concept I like, I sit down at my bench to create it, all the while staying open to other ideas. I will play around with materials. Sometimes things turn out exactly how I imagined them, and sometimes what I end up with is far from where I started, but I love it even more.

 
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1. What did you want to be when you were a child and why?

When  I was little I wanted to be a screen play writer. I loved Home Alone so much, and I wanted to make people feel the way that movie made me feel...all warm and fuzzy. 

2. What is your favorite thing about your workspace?

The thing I love most about my workspace is my jewelers bench. When I decided to really go for it with jewelry, I went out and splurged on a professional bench. Its set up exactly how I want it. Every jeweler I've apprenticed under has their bench set up differently. Now, this is a space that gets to be 100% tailored to me and how I like to work. Hanging up around my workspace I have lots of unique pieces I've gotten from other makers I've met over the years. Its a nice to be reminded I'm a part of a wonderful community of creators.

3. What is a scent that defines your childhood and why?

Hmmm....Well I grew up in NYC, so the smell of the subway makes me think of my childhood. A more pleasant answer is honeysuckle. We used to spend our summers at my grandmother’s house in Mississippi, and my mom would point out the different wildflowers. Honeysuckle was my fave because you could pull out the little blossom and it would taste like honey. I remember thinking that was so cool.  

4. Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night.

I always feel behind schedule in some way.  I'm in a perpetual state of catching up. Rarely does a day end and I feel like I did enough work for that day. I take it as a feeling that comes with any start up or new business. What I've learned from other more established business owners is that that feeling never really goes away, its more about managing it. My fear is that I will never learn to manage it. That I will always feel stressed and overwhelmed.

5. What is your personal or professional motto?

Be kind! Treat others how you want to be treated, and be respectful of others. You'd be surprised how far that will get you. 

6. What is something you tell yourself to build yourself up when you face criticism?

Whenever I am feeling down, I remind myself- All is well, all will be well. Everything in my life, mistakes included, have lead me to where I am now, pursuing something I truly love. Who am I to decide if something is bad or good? Its all about perspective. Something that seems bad now may turn out to be a major turning point in your favor. 

7. Current fave junk food, restaurant, or treat?

I am currently OBSESSED with frozen bananas covered in dark chocolate. I've been eating one almost everyday for weeks and I am waiting to get sick of them, but that just hasn't happened yet! Fave breakfast cereal is Reeses. I rarely buy it because I usually eat the whole box way too fast. 

Lou Jewels

 info@myloujewels.com

http://www.myloujewels.com/
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