Sushi: Breaking the Monday Monotony

March 11th, 2014 | by Leslie Saunderlin

Sushi–The sweet sticky rice, the iridescent seaweed paper, the salty dribbles of soy on your fingertips.
A nugget of perfection, topped with soapy slices of raw ginger and a pea sized smear of wasabe.
Worst first date food ever, best delicious and healthy treat anytime of day.

I was introduced to sushi by my parents in an authentic Asian restaurant in Arlington, VA.
I was thirteen and I remember being horrified. Most troubling was the neon orange fish eggs glopped atop each roll, like confetti that had lost its way. The only thing I ate raw those days was Pillsbury cookie dough from the tube, and I liked it that way. With twenty minutes of well intended harassment by my step-dad and the bribe of a new pair of guess jeans, I tried a California roll. Surprisingly, I didn’t hate it. Fast forward fifteen years and “Houston, we have a problem.” I’m talking about a I could buy a sedan with what I am spending per month on sushi sized habit. The artistically designed Chirashi plate, the sweet drizzled eel dragon rolls, the melt in your mouth tuna. It seems so foolish now with a bit of seasoned perspective. I wish I had that sushi sedan reflected in my IRA, but I was young and didn’t think past the approaching weekend activities. I wasn’t working for the weekend, I was working for sushi.

We still partake in sushi now and again, mostly when we visit Steve’s folks in MD or they visit us in town. It is our family tradition, one that I hope we always have and one that we always look forward to. A few weeks back Steve and I made a run to Tan-A Market to satiate an at home sushi craving. It was a Monday night, there was no reason except the desire to eat chewy, salty fresh tid–bits while having fun and spending time together. It was messy and tasty, but a great way to spend a typically uneventful night of the week.

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The vegetarian fixins

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Steam. Chop. Roll.

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Get in my face goodness. It wasn’t pretty, but it was tasty.

When we do splurge for sushi, our favorite spot is Hana Sushi in Shockoe Bottom. The owner and chef Michael is top notch, a true artist. We get a free appetizer and dessert every time we visit and over the years he has let us sample new menu items and bizarre shots (do not recommend the one with a quail egg in it). We are very loyal to his business, kindness..and his sushi.

Pillow Talk: Space, The Final Frontier

February 19th, 2014 | by Leslie Saunderlin


We’ve all been there… the tossing and turning, a racing mind, a taxing day that leaves us over tired—either way, sleep is not happening. When this happens to me, I turn over in bed and ask Steve with a hopeful inflection “Will you tell mee a stooorry?” His usual reply is a groggy twitch accompanied by a bit of slurred speech: “A story? I don’t know any stories.” 50% of the time, I turn over miffed and resume staring at the ceiling fan. 50% of the time he tells me a childhood story that is funny, but expeditious, leaving me once again, staring at the ceiling fan.

Last night I changed my approach and got subject specific, knowing he wouldn’t be able to resist the bait. The topic: Space, a subject he is extraordinarily well versed. There is not a question he can’t answer, not a lull in facts to be had. A “I don’t know any stories ” quickly became, “Well…what do you want to know?” Jackpot…I found my human ambien.

Although it was meant as a means of distraction, the assumption I had of lulling to sleep over boring space statistics didn’t materialize. My one question led to five more that needed hasty answering, causing me to face a fact about myself: I am a closet space lover. A star gazing, full moon frolicker. A stand in the street at 1am to watch a rocket on it’s way to space kind of lady.
As I think back, it starts to make sense. The styrofoam solar system in grade school that I obsessively shaded and glittered to perfection. My second grade short story assignment about humans roller skating on the luminous rings of Saturn. Even in my twenties I found myself on the Science Museum lawn, hoping for a glimpse of space through a bunch of amateur stargazers homemade telescopes. I should of pieced the puzzle together completely last month when I suggested to Steve we take a star gazing vacation to Sedona.

To me, space is mysterious and complicated. Too large to grasp while simultaneously making me feel too small to matter. If I think about the vapid open black for too long, I start to get anxious and little bit twitchy, needing to ground myself with mossy covered thoughts of earth, reveling in the luxury of oxygen.

If there is one way to explore space, it is through her supernatural visuals of gassy combustive starts and stops. Our conversation topics flipped and flopped between talks of physics and creationism, ideas I felt best suited to represent  through lovely visuals. And what glorious visuals they are.



We started off talking about Voyager I &II. They were both launched into space in 1977 and are both still transmitting information back to earth. They are traveling in the neighborhood of 36,000mph. Steve quantified this by saying that he could get from our front door to his work near Phyllip Morris, in one second.



The formation and death of a star. I am still amazed that the stars we see are very, very old, possibly burned out by the time their light reaches our sight. They begin as small particles of dust and gas, eventually gaining energy and mass over millions of years to become what we see today. They are burning hot, and although their are several types (white dwarf, black dwarf, red giant,) they eventually burn themselves out or explode (supernova). Our sun is a star and we have approximately 4.5 billion years until she expands into a red giant, engulfing the earth.



Any space talk undoubtedly leads to talk about the beginning of the Universe. The Big Bang Theory as we call It. The idea that before this occurrence, 14 million years ago, we have no data to explain time before, a thought I find a bit unsettling. Which leads to our next photo:



Jesus… God.. Divine Universe…and the ideas of Creationism. Being that Steve and I are both rooted in science, we got off some good chuckles on this topic which led to much more interesting conversation about Dinosaurs, Era’s of man and a scoch of Theology.



The Hubble telescope, what a magnificent machine. From comets, to galaxies and planets beyond our solar system, she has produced some amazing images.



Orion Nebula, M42, NGC 1976


Saturn! Roller skating anyone?


Sombrerro Galaxy, M104, NGC 4594


Comet ISON


Horsehead Nebula, Barnard 33

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Front Yard Findings: The Ancient Cedrus Deodara

January 31st, 2014 | by Leslie Saunderlin

Most who visit our home at some point ask about or admire a certain large and sweeping tree in the front yard. I often joke that this Cedar was one of the main reasons I fell in love with, and purchased, our home. Until a recent article in, we knew very little about her, never imagining she had an exotic, spiritual connection to the Himalayan forest.

My personal love affair with her is complex, and began with the admiration of her sighing branchlets, like giant Mr. Snufalufagus eyelashes swaying. Her tree trunk is divided into three arms, each sturdy and solid, reminding me of sister water spouts  woven statically into the horizon. Her deep green is continuous, a dazzling backdrop for the fluttering cardinals, and a protective camouflage for the  cawing crows. In winter she drops the most glorious sap lined, barrel–shaped cones; heavy, layered, complex and crunchy underfoot. When she speaks…she creaks and aches like a tethered ship. I long to understand her story.

Luckily, an article by Scott Turner has allowed me to do just that. He seamlessly weaves the story of the Dooley’s (Family Responsible for Maymont) and this glorious Cedar tree together, explaining how this genus was hand selected to line their knoll, an “Exotic emissary” from Pakistan right here in our commonwealth.

This article also made me love our home even more. My connection with this Cedar has deepened and after reading the article to Steve, I fully expect to find him meditating under her like a Shiva devoted sage. I will work on giving her a sassy name, update to follow.

For a glimpse into RVA’s horticulture history and what magic may reside in your yard, a link to Scott’s article is below, Enjoy!


Large Lovely Lady. With the age of our house, we guess she is at least 90 years old.

Large Lovely Lady. With our house’s age, we guess she is at least 90 years old.


Crunchy, Layered Cones

Crunchy, Layered Cones

Elephant trunk limps that wind and weave. Great climbing trees for kids.

Elephant trunk limps that wind and weave. Great climbing trees for kids.

Texturedbark with gnarled knots and imperfections. I call that character.

Textured bark with gnarled knots and imperfections. I call that character.

We planted green puffs of moss and stone last spring to add to the magic. We secretly hope it turns into a fairy village.

We planted green puffs of moss and stone last spring to add to the magic. We secretly hope it turns into a fairy village overnight.

This could be a fairy City. So magical.

This could be a fairy City. I would live here, so magical.







Office Reno_Molding & Tiffany Blue

January 22nd, 2014 | by Leslie Saunderlin

The renovation is slow, but each weekend we are making progress when we can afford the time and energy. The best thing that happened last week..the crown molding went up! I was convinced I would be stepping over it for the next three months in the upstairs hallway. Enter Bill Pate— Steve’s best friend from Maryland; with his expertise, nail gun and time, it was knocked out in a few hours. Hooray!

Next, we converted an outdated bookcase my parents generously donated towards my first apartment after college. If I do the math, that was a whopping 14 years ago… is that right? Can that be right? The wood was solid, but the unsightly oak finish had to go. A bucket of clean white paint, and it’s new to me. The best part was filling up the shelves with a few loved trinkets; pantone swatches, a print making piece from college and of course, books.

Not sure where the next project will take us, but that’s kind of the best part.


Crown Molding is Up! Hooray!

Crown Molding is Up! Hooray!

Steve hard at work. We had to thaw out the paint before use.

Steve hard at work. We had to thaw out the paint before use.

Lola's contribution to the work day. Queen of the stump.

Lola’s contribution to the work day. Queen of the stump.

My favorite color, Robins Egg Blue, is painted in as a back accent.

My favorite color, Robins Egg Blue, is painted in as a back accent.

Glitter Desk is still making me very happy

Glitter Desk is still making me very happy


Best air plant ever, Thanks Brooke.

college printing making piece and Rosie, of course.

college print making piece and Rosie, of course.

Prisma Market Heaven

Prisma Marker Heaven



Those that recognize these, know who you are.


Intelligent. Wise. Crow.

Books for reference

Lunch time Reading




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Happy New Year: Getting Lucky

January 3rd, 2014 | by Leslie Saunderlin

Happy New Year to you and yours. Hopefully your New Year celebrations were filled with bubbly libations and lots of fluttering gold confetti. For Steve and I it involved the removal of the red plague cross from our door, granting a peek into 2014 from fresh lenses; hopeful with health, happiness and exciting beginnings. According to numerology, 2014 is a “Lucky 7” year ( 2 + 0 + 1 + 4 adds up to 7), Meaning it will be a year of deeper focus, introspection and realizations. Seven is the “most sacred and spiritual number,” calling us to go within instead of looking for things in the outside world to make us happy.

This may partly explain the spontaneous reconstruction this past weekend of our guest room into my new home office. I suddenly found myself in Lowes (seven times) for paint, crown molding, spray paint and an assortment of cleaning supplies. After painting, spraying, scrapping, and gluing… a transformation has occurred and today marked my first day working in the new space. I only have three pieces of furniture, but I have a new view, literally and figuratively. My last office space (now the guest room/meditation zone/craft corner) started to became the catch all for crap in the house and I quickly found the clutter going to my brain. I started to shrink.
This new to me space has given my business validation and breath in the new year. I have claimed this corner of my house (former Lola dog bed) for professional growth. In the past I would of been anxious to quickly fill and render the room similar to a CB2 catalog. This time I am going to function in it, see what is needed…refurbish and create my own authentic surroundings (see glitter table top pic below). I am going to enjoy the process, realizing it will be a winding road of weekend projects.

A giant shout out and thank you go to my friend and neighbor Danene; aka weekend warrior, DIY queen, alley scavenger and yard sale diva. She recognized that the last few months of 2013 kicked my butt and she pushed me to make a fresh new start. She got me out of my head (an epic task for a Virgo), and prodded me to “Just start, make progress!” She also gave up her Friday night to help  me paint, a bottle of red wine in hand…now that is love.

So with a year of personal introspection upon us, how are you going to focus and go within?

Stay tuned for new pics and updates of my new dollilop designs space, Happy New Year!


































































































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Saunderlin Halls: Getting Decked

December 19th, 2013 | by Leslie Saunderlin


Wishing you and yours a sparkly holiday season.













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feastRVA: democratic and delicious

December 10th, 2013 | by Leslie Saunderlin

While trolling local networking sites and upcoming holiday gigs, I came across a site called feastRVA.

Unfortunately I had just missed their last community happy hour held December 6th at Lamplighters Roasting Lab, offering the chance to meet local thinkers, doers and creators in the RVA community. Although this was my first knowledge of the non-profit, their inception sprouted back in 2011 with the the simple initiative of starting a platform
for creatives to find funding for their community driven projects.
A local Kickstarter of sorts, the idea originated out of Brooklyn where a collective of friends wanted a more localized and sustainable model for art funding that wasn’t based on the exclusive support of private capital. Brooklyn’s inspiration came from a Sunday soup program in Chicago, showcasing the limitless links of inspiration and giving across state lines.

How it Works:
Attend and donate $25 towards a delicious dinner and drinks held at a local venue. Listen to brief presentations by local creatives while engaging and chatting with other attendees. By evenings end, vote for your favorite idea, sending home a talented artist with enough lute to start building their dream.

Who Can Do it?
Anyone, assuming your idea is well thought out, original, local and feasible.
Check out their past winners & their ideas at
You will also need to be able to present your idea if chosen, so start practicing your pitch now on friends and family.

Unlike larger crowd funding platforms out there (Indiegogo, RocketHub, Somolend, AngelList) I was thrilled to see this type of platform on a local level, cultivating and placing resources & talent right back into our community. You aren’t just clicking a donate button on a glossy computer screen, but rather sharing, engaging face-to-face and supporting local artists within a charged creative atmosphere.

Submissions are now open for FEAST 2014,
Even if you won’t be presenting, donate and spread the word about this incredible event happening right here in RVA.
Stay hungry, Cheers!








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Cyber Monday: Call Your Mom.

December 2nd, 2013 | by Leslie Saunderlin

Being sick this entire Thanksgiving holiday, the blog post this week became an afterthought to basic human functions like breathing and swallowing. Having recently joined the blogosphere, I didn’t want to drop the ball on my second post, so this entry will be short, and most likely not make a little bit of sense depending on how much cough medicine I have consumed.

Lying in bed this morning, huddled underneath my covers, I start going through my inbox to attack the 5 days worth of unread emails. Most of it is junk, including endless Cyber Monday deals, discounts, steals, sales, promotions and other assorted offers. I have to admit that purchasing from my blanketed perch is rather enticing— A slick keyed, guiltless pleasure that allows me the satisfaction of crossing a name off my list, while never even having to wrap or ship a box! Genius.

As wonderful and or removed as that may sound, I was grounded away from temptation by a Facebook post this morning by LimeRed Studio, a community-building design firm out of the Chicago area. I leave you with their words of wisdom.

Don’t spend your money on useless garbage. Just because it is on sale, doesn’t mean you need it. Save your time and cash for things that really matter. Call your mom.

Getting on the Good Get

November 25th, 2013 | by Leslie Saunderlin

For a week I have been endlessly researching the “proper” way to make a blogging debut. Eventually I end up shutting my laptop, soggy with information, and realize that I just need to start writing. With time my mission will become clear, my titles will be super optimized and my content will hopefully leave readers wanting more. For now, my reasons for starting a blog are simple enough. I seek to engage others professionally and personally. I find the thought of inspiring others, and being inspired, quite meaningful and fulfilling. My hope is to share personal perspective injections relating to my design business and my wander lust— while also leaving a bit of breathing room for fortuitous tidbits.

My second motivation is to improve my writing, a passion that began early on in short stories. It was later sustained by countless adolescent journal entries, poems and sketch book doodles. Unfortunately as is with most things left unpracticed, a thick dust settled atop my sentence structure, grammar and vocabulary.

So now it is time to “get on the good get” as my college roommate Liz used to say. Stop stalling and put fingertips to keys.
So here we go, hope to see you along the way.

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