Year of Jewelry 2015 Week 1: Talisman

Haouli Makahiki Hou!  (Happy New Year!)  If you follow me on Instagram (@simplyleilanijewelry), you already know I spent the holidays in Hawaii.  It was a great time, but it's also nice to be back in Virginia Beach... This year I decided to participate in a project called Year of Jewelry (YOJ).  Essentially, jewelry artists are encouraged to finish and post one piece of jewelry per week for 52 weeks.  There are themes for every week, but they're really suggestions to get you started if you're having trouble getting started.  Good thing, as I'm actually starting a week behind, jet lag is killing me and my youngest decided she wanted to have a play date today.  The little ones interrupted me about every 5 minutes.  I burned through my first bezel attempt and accidentally stamped a letter 90 degrees off on the first back plate, so I really made this piece 1.5 times.  :)

The featured stone is kyanite, which purportedly opens all chakras, enhances psychic abilities, encourages fair treatment of others and helps you to communicate clearly, among other things.  Personally, I don't believe that inanimate objects give you particular traits; however, I do think that jewelry can serve as a reminder to focus on the things you wish to work on, and that can bring about change.  As the theme for the week was talisman, I decided to hand stamp an inspirational quote on the back plate.  I chose a lyric from Van Morrison's song, "Into the Mystic."  I thought it complemented kyanite's symbolic meaning.  For those who are unfamiliar with the song, the lyric goes: 

Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly
Into the mystic

When I sat down to write this, I thought it was ironic that this is what I created today.  My self-appointed mantra for 2015 was supposed to be FOCUS.  Rather than keep spinning all the plates, I wanted to focus on one task at a time to wrap up a bunch of unfinished projects I just couldn't finish in 2014.  After having some time to reflect upon this piece, I realized that some of the changes ahead of us will happen no matter how I prepare for them and others don't really need to be achieved in the timeline I originally imagined.  In the long run, I will serve and be better served by focusing on meaningful relationships, not abstract concepts of achievement.  As a result, I will likely do fewer shows this year.

What are you working toward in 2015?

Thursday Travels: Nashvegas! (Nashville, TN)

Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting up with some girlfriends from across the country for a kidless weekend.  Some drove, some flew, but If you're a mom, you know what a big deal it is to up and leave your kid(s) and go to another state.  Now, being a beach lover and not a huge country music fan, Nashville is not really high on my list of places to travel... but it was a great weekend getaway.  The weather was fantastic and the people were super friendly.  We laughed so hard we cried, ate barbeque, drank beer (there are lots of decent microbrews in the area), did some shopping, and listened to a LOT of country music.  

Everyone in Nashville is a musician, even the hotel bartender.  So even though I am not a fan, I made it a point to take a tour of the Grand Old Opry.  It was pretty cool to see some of the places the show Nashville is being filmed, and I had no idea that Darius Rucker (of Hootie and the Blowfish fame) was a member of the Opry.  Being a closet fan of the show, I wish I'd had a chance to see the Ryman Center, but I guess I'll just have to save that until the next time. 

I did get to walk around the Gaylord Opryland resort.  What a beautiful, serene resort!  Indoor waterfalls, gardens, shopping, dining... you could definitely spend the weekend having fun just in the resort- which is a good thing, since it's close to Opry Mills (outlet shopping) but far from downtown.  My flight was the last, so once my friends left, I had a nice quiet coffee and enjoyed the view.  Had I really been on it, I would've called the spa and booked myself an appointment.  :)

So here's what you need to know if you're planning a girls' weekend in Nashville:

  • Airfare was expensive.  Use sites like and to get a better deal.
  • There is no mass transit.  Plan to rent a car or take taxis.  At the time of this post, the flat rate cab fare between the airport, Opryland, and Downtown is $25 plus $1 for each additional passenger.
  • If you're going to buy cowboy boots, go to the mall instead of downtown.  They're all imported from China, anyway.

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Thursday Travels: Sandbridge (Virginia Beach, VA)

For those who don't have time to make the drive to Outer Banks, there are still some really nice beaches in Virginia Beach.  Lots of people flock to the Oceanfront, which I guess is the rough equivalent to Waikiki- high rise hotels on the shore, with nightlife within walking distance.  My personal favorite is not the Oceanfront (although the boardwalk is really nice and there's a Dairy Queen at 27th Street), it's a little off the beaten path but not too far.  Sandbridge Beach is only a few miles south, and will give you a much better escape/experience, particularly if you are going with the family and like surfing and beach combing.  From the Oceanfront, head south on Pacific (which turns into General Booth), turn left on Princess Anne, and follow the signs.  It should take roughly half an hour.

On the southern side of Sandbridge, there's a park called "Little Island," which is maintained by the City (and therefore you have to pay for parking).  It's great for beach combing (you can even find intact cowrie shells), and you can access the backbay side (where it's a little more flat) for kayaking.  Oh, yeah... and the fishing pier.  :)  Something for everyone.

On the northern side of Sandbridge is Dam Neck, which belongs to the Navy.  I also happen to like this beach a lot.  One of my co-workers said when he was stationed there (some 30 years ago), there used to be deer stands ON THE BEACH.  How crazy is that?  Just hang out on the beach in a deer stand and wait for one to decide it wanted to go for a swim.  I have never seen deer here and hunting is no longer allowed, but there is a fishing area and always someone running on the sand.

There are lots of private beach homes available to rent in the area.  For more information on activities and other amenities in the Sandbridge area, click here.

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Thursday Travels: Kailua (Oahu)

It's no secret.  If you love the beach, there are tremendous beach communities in Hawaii.  Each has its own feel.  We were lucky to call Kailua "home" for a number of years.  There's a great mix of people there, and lots of small thriving businesses.  If you ever find yourself on Oahu, GET OUT OF WAIKIKI and drive over to the Windward side of the island!

Kailua Beach is the largest beach park in the area, lots of families, dogs, swimming, and wind/water sports.  Be sure to stop by Kalapawai Market!

If you have access to military bases, Bellows AFB (which is a few more minutes east), also has a large sandy beach with fewer people.

If you like body boarding, Kalama Beach is smaller but has great wave action.

Lanikai Beach is also pretty popular for picnics, although you have to park on residential streets.  Just make sure you find public access paths and stay off of private property.

In Kailua, you will want to try Lanikai Juice for a refreshing treat.  There are also some great shops with unique, upcycled, hand made jewelry, housewares, and clothes.  My favorites are Kailua Verde and Global Village.  Lanikai Bath and Body has some really great soaps and lotions.  (Beautiful scents, not overpowering... perfect gift for someone on the Mainland who loves Hawaii.)

People who've "known" me for a while will recognize this photo... or maybe just parts of this photo.  This photo is the background for my business cards, banner, and many of my online avatars.  (It was actually taken in Waimanalo, which is a few minutes down the road from Kailua.)  I am not a photoshop guru.  This is really the color of the sand, sea, and sky.  I love it.

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Thursday Travel Tips: Dubai

Now, I know the United Arab Emirates probably isn't the most common "bucket list" destination, but if you like large coastal cities, you should add Dubai to your list.  What?  Dubai is a very fun city.  Lots of high end shopping, dining, and everything is over the top.  If Disney designed a major city, it would be Dubai.  Transportation is reliable and affordable, the city is very clean and safe for a major city, and any imaginable luxury can be found.  Where else would you find a four story indoor water fountain, the world's largest single pane acrylic aquarium, and the world's tallest building- all within a 10 minute walk from each other?  Want to shop 'til you drop, hit an indoor ski slope,  lay on the beach, or enjoy high tea?  You can do that here!

Planning a visit to Dubai?  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

If you are a "go see things" type of tourist, it will take at least 3 full days to hit Ski Dubai & Mall of the Emirates, Burj Khalifa & Dubai Mall, and Burj Al Arab & Jumeirah Beach.  They are located far enough apart that it's very difficult to hit two areas in the same day.  

If you want time to relax and do nothing (or have a world class spa day), you should allocate 4-5 days at a minimum.

If you want to attend tea at Burj al Arab (the world's only 6 star resort- you know, the one shaped like a huge sail with the helipad on the roof), make reservations in advance.  

If you happen to be interested in a luxury fitness retreat in Dubai, then check out Mind Body Transformation.  One of the owners is a long time friend, and I am sure it would be a world class experience.

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Travel Thursday: Luray, VA

  Who doesn't enjoy a road trip every now and then?  I've lived in Maryland and Virginia for about 8 years and never made it further west than Richmond... so for Spring Break, we hit the road.  One of our stops- Luray, Virginia is a lovely little town near Shenandoah National Park, with breathtaking views and a spectacular cavern with underground lakes.  Luray Cavern is a family friendly "attraction" with a stroller-accessible path (although you would need to carry it up/down about 2 flights of stairs).  The guided tour of the cavern itself is approximately 1.4 miles, and absolutely amazing.  Not only is it beautiful to look at- the geological significance of the site is just amazing, especially if you love rocks!

Additionally, there are three small museums featuring antique toys, cars, and regional history (ie old school house, blacksmith, weapons, tools, etc.) as well as a 1 acre maze.  I have a teen and a kindergartener so finding activities that appeal to both can be a bit of a challenge.  Both really enjoyed our trip to Luray, albeit for different reasons.  

Although I am not a huge fan of fudge, we did get a few slices to bring home that were readily demolished, so don't miss that either.

The town itself is friendly and down to Earth, with lots of great eats up and down Main Street.  We had some awesome pizza at Gennaro's, although the poor waitress was an army of one, with no help whatsoever (not even a busser).  She did her best though, and the food was worth the wait.  We were also quite happy with the food at Uncle Buck's, and heard good things from fellow travelers about Gathering Grounds.

We stayed in the Luray Caverns Motel East.  It's a motel, what can I say?  The location is great, the view is terrific, the staff is helpful.  The furnishings are dated and our room smelled faintly of wet dog, but there was free wifi, so we were happy.  I think if we return, we'll try one of the B&B's or maybe the Mimslyn Inn... but I'd definitely like to head back this way again!


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