10 October

So the last newsletter I sent was titled “Just Got Back from Italy” and how I was looking forward to Loudoun’s food and wine festival Epicurience Virginia… I had every intention of sending more pics from Ischia along with a how-to video on eggplant parmesan the way my Zia Giovanna makes it… I was going to send pictures of all the fabulous vintage furniture I set up in the Epicurience VIP lounge and the video on how to carve a whole pig…

I’ve since helped style some of the most beautiful photo shoots and weddings yet!!


And at Villa Smith, we’ve given our little country bathroom a face lift.  More pics later.


We have gorgeous inventory at Bella Villa coming in daily! And new dealers with seriously awesome looks upstairs, whose stuff has already been selling!!

 I have great garden pictures with tasty and easy food suggestions. And there’s stuff you need to know about awesome local events! For instance, ALDIE HARVEST FESTIVAL is NEXT SATURDAY!! WHAT??

Somehow the days and weeks keep passing, and yesterday…. yesterday I turned 40.  FORTY.  Really???  WHERE has the time gone?


I spent the morning of my 40th birthday doing what I love most, decorating with one of my dear friends who helped me for hours until we finally took a quick break at 4pm for another love – bread, decadent cheese and wine! We didn’t even stop to take a selfie!

And then… for the first time ever, little Gianni, Siena, Rocco and Carlo came to visit!!! They’re here in Virginia!!!  They all poured out of the van and literally ran up to me and hugged me one by one and then all together hollering Happy Birthday!!! at the top of their lungs. Even little 2 1/2 yr old Carlo.  I just loved every single second of it!! PLUS my Mom and Dad are here too!  And my brother Giancarlo and his beautiful wife Tina (the kids’ parents), and my middle brother Paolo too!!!  Yesterday’s hugs were some of the best I ever had. Almost everyone in my immediate family is here in Virginia, for me, on my 40th birthday.

Am missing my little brother Marco and Paolo’s fiance Gina so we’ll have to do sushi on my next trip to Cali.  Sushi fixes everything.

So I’ve just been busy, and this is why I haven’t been sending newsletters.  I didn’t even take pictures yesterday (with my own camera anyway). I just wanted to live it.  I just wanted to answer every curious question, and teach them all, and show them all, everything about our life here in Virginia, and all at once which is how they ask questions!!

Forty gets here pretty fast.  And I didn’t want to miss any of it!!

Oh. One more thing. The shop will be closed tomorrow, Saturday, October 11th because we’re celebrating my being 40, and my precious nephew, Gianni who turns 10 tomorrow, and I don’t want to miss a single thing about that either.
Since the folks at Bella Villa are like family to me too, the shop will be closed.

See you next Saturday, October 18th at the Aldie Harvest Festival!!!




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Just got back from Italy…

28 August

Hi everyone!

Kevin and I just got back from a quick 12 day trip to visit our relatives in Ischia… Take a look at this magnificent place!  How am I so lucky to have been born to a Mom and Dad who are from this beautiful, wonderful island off the coast of Naples?!


I have so much to share about the trip, but for today, it’s all about food and wine to whet your appetites for an awesome culinary event happening this Saturday in Leesburg, and you’re all invited to come!!!  Check out the Epicurience Virginia website to see the schedule of events … We’ve gotta do something to help my nostalgia for the great meals in Ischia.  Between the abundance of artisanal food and wines, the sunshine, the gorgeous grounds of historic Morven Park, and let’s face it, the fact that I’ll be wearing my new wedges from Italy while hanging out with my Kevin, this Saturday is gonna be so fun!  Enter this coupon code to get $20 off tickets!  EpicVALoCo 

Kevin and I will most certainly be at the butcher demonstration, as well as the oysters and bubbly session… and we won’t miss the heirloom tomato Chef demo… maybe if I wear something cute, they’ll let me on stage so I can show ‘em what I know! ; )  This is my heirloom tomato salad with a side of prosciutto, thank you very much. It tasted as good as it looks!

Smith tomatoesOkay, so here come the pics from Italy!!  Check out all the demijohns in my Zio’s wine cellar.

Cantina Zio MicheleGetting to drink straight outa the cellar is such a treat!  My Mom has 2 brothers and they both make delicious wine!! I love that Kevin has to crouch down everywhere.  He’s 5’11″ but in Ischia, that’s pretty tall.

in the CantinaAnother day at “I Pirati” Ristorante on the beach, we shared this small “stuzzichini” lunch with my brother Paolo and his new fiance (more on that later!). We were pleasantly surprised to find that the chef is my Mom’s cousin, Michelino!!
To start, we had the ubiquitous bruschetta you see in the background with cherry tomatoes, EVOO, oregano, salt & pepper on garlic-rubbed charred bread, which is where the name “bruschetta” comes from. Bruscare means “to char”. This appetizer never gets old.
Then two trays of warm sauteed mussels with a squeeze of Italian lemons… and not pictured elsewhere because we finished it rather early in the meal, the litre of wine with fresh cut peaches washed everything down!


Next, cold seafood salad with octopus, clams, mussels, and a few celery leaves for color…  so fresh! so tasty!
Even if you don’t normally eat seafood, you would love this!  
Insalata di MareThen marinated fresh sardines which were surprisingly AWESOME! Followed by warm seaweed “zeppoline” or donuts.  And just to keep us balanced with the surf and turf, we enjoyed a nice mixed plate of grilled and roasted veggies including squash, zucchini, bell peppers, rapini and olives.  How’s this for a “small finger food lunch”?!

Just a few Stuzzichini

Another day, after spending the morning on their boat cruising around the island, we enjoyed some food loveliness at my Zia Teresa & Zio Michele’s house…

Zio's boat

where they quickly whipped together this little bit of magic!!

Zia Teresa's house food

Fresh figs from the family trees, just picked.

Prosciutto and fresh Mozzarella straight up.

A little fried up zucchini, onions and eggs, from their garden and chickens.

Beautiful tomato salad.

And a bowl of friariell’ peppers and tomatoes… this is an awesome dish which I really need to learn how to make because some years we get an abundance of peppers in the Smith garden and nothing that I make tastes as good as this supposedly easy dish.

Here is my Zia Teresa making zucchini flower fritters!  My Mom has 3 sisters and 2 brothers and every single one of them could be a gourmet chef with their own restaurant!  For reals!  They all have an incredible gift!!  Who makes zucchini flower fritters for a “quick meal after the beach”??!!

Zia Teresa Prepping Fior di Zucca

And here is her husband, my other Zio Michele, preparing the tray of prosciutto after having carefully peeled and positioned all the figs. If it were me, I’d have left the peels on for everyone to remove their own. Not them; they take so much care in everything. I love it! We’re so spoiled when we go there!!
Zio Michele prepping figs and prosciutto

So you see now why I have the nostalgia for Ischia and good food!??   Not good food, EXCELLENT fresh food.  I LOVE IT!!!!  I’m so hungry right now!!!  I already got my tickets for Saturday and if it’s not sold out already, you should get yours too! Here’s the link and here’s the coupon code:  EpicVALoCo.

Am going to pick tomatoes in the garden so we can have bruschetta for dinner!  



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Styled Photo Shoot: The Maples Farm

01 August

Bella Villa is being featured on Wedding Chicks today!!  Yay!  In conjunction with their Happy Hour Post, I’m delighted to be sharing more gorgeous pics from the styled shoot that twice featured our signature antique arched doors… Composed by a team of incredible colleagues that now make up the Middleburg Events Studio, we had the privilege of styling the gorgeous Maples Farm in Upperville, VA   Enjoy!

Jodi Miller Photography;  Holly Chapple Flowers; La Bella Luce Chandeliers; Party Rentals Chairs & Table; Rachel Merkle Designs Paper Goods; Bella Villa Antiques Shop & Vintage Rentals

signature BellaVilla-Vintage-Rentals-Logo

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Ischia and a FIAT Commercial

16 July

Hi Everyone!

Hope you’re having a great summer! My folks are in Ischia visiting family and enjoying delicious meals.

Castello e Procida

Kevin and I are hoping to join them sometime this summer.  Two of the things I miss most about Ischia. The Castello Aragonese (above), and real bruschetta where the bread is charred on the grill, rubbed with raw garlic and topped with juicy cherry tomatoes, olive oil, salt and basil.

Bruschetta at CartaromanaThis was taken at one of our favorite restaurants right on the beach. None of us have any pants on… just bathing suit bottoms, and it’s totally acceptable attire since we just walked 10 steps from our spot on the sand!

Did you notice the peaches in wine??

Here’s my Zio Michele with Spaghetti e Vongole… he thinks we’re nuts that we take pictures of food all the time. Click on his pic to see more photos from this lunch in my facebook album.

Spaghetti e vongole



Actually there are 3 things I miss most… the other being my wonderful relatives. Speaking of, check out this FIAT commercial my Mom made about being a Nonna who says Life Is Too Short to not eat Gluten. Am thinking FIAT must own stock some in Barilla and gluten freedom is not so good for Italy.

Anyway, my Mom cracks me up… so do “the Americani”.  Here’s the first FIAT commercial she did… Enjoy!!!

I’ll be at the shop on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday this week… stop in for a visit!

signature bella-villa-shop-avatars


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One Tree for Every Soldier

27 June

Hi All,

This Sunday there is a wonderful event near Aldie.  Unfortunately, I cannot attend as I will be “shop girl” so I need you all to go and then come visit me and tell me all about it.  Please?

You’re Invited to Attend a Ceremony to Dedicate

500 Trees to the American Civil War Fallen
@ Oatlands Historic House and Gardens, 2:30pm -4:30pm
20850 Oatlands Plantation Lane—Leesburg, Virginia

The Ceremony will feature “The Commandant’s Own” United States Marines Drum and Bugle Corps

The United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps

& The Official Color Guard of the Marine Corps

Having attended the dedication ceremony of the very first tree (of the 620,000),  I can assure you that this Sunday’s event will be worthy use of your time.

first tree

if you travel anywhere along the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, but particularly along Route 15 between Aldie and Leesburg, you’re a direct beneficiary of the natural beauty these 500 trees will provide.  So important is this event that they moved it from its original date to a Sunday so that families could come be a part of it.  If I didn’t have to be shop girl, I’d be there with all of you for sure. I can never do this project as much justice as this video. Watch and you’ll see.

It’s free to the public, and all ceremony guests are invited to tour Oatlands afterwards for free as well.

Don’t forget to come visit me at Bella Villa too!! : )


BellaVilla-Vintage-Rentals-Logo no background

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Wedding Sneak Peek

25 June

Hi there!

Just wanted to quickly share some pics from a wedding I styled last weekend! The grounds are beautiful at Zion Springs B & B in Hamilton!  And Rebecca Chase of Icing on the Cake Events did a nice job coordinating the day’s activities.

Zion SpringsThe couple chose our arched European farmhouse doors for their ceremony… J Morris Flowers did a beautiful job accessorizing them…

Doors 2…and filling our galvanized garden buckets with hydrangeas and greens.  I love these farm buckets… we use them to collect veggies in the garden and bring water to our chickens…

Ceremony Buckets DoorsZion Springs provides these black wrought iron chairs as part of their package.

Here’s a snippet of the bar we put together for them. 2 Barrels and a door make a great bar! More galvanized tubs for ice and bottled drinks!

Chalkboard, Bar, BarrelMy favorite of course is always the lounge… the lounge areas make me smile.  No flowers yet.  We set water-filled mason jars on the end tables  so the bridesmaids could rest their bouquets in them after the ceremony. It’s a great way to put the bouquets to work once their ceremony job is done.

lounge side view 2We put this lounge beneath the beautiful pergola… the bride allowed the addition of a chandelier on our last site visit.  Smart girl… it was a big hit that evening.   A chandy makes all the difference.

LoungeSince the bridesmaids wore navy dresses, we incorporated touches of blue throughout the decor… Below you can see the blue Victorian table chosen for the Welcome area… We also had a blue dresser vanity for the drink dispensers. Unfortunately, I didn’t snap a pic, so I can’t wait to see Aaron Riddle‘s pics.  Will share as soon as I receive.

Welcome TableI love the signs that the bride and groom made… Indeed, happily ever after started right there! : )

Happy Wednesday!! I’ll be at Bella Villa today, Friday and Sunday! Hope to see you!!


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Middleburg Events Studio: Grand Opening!

06 May

Am so excited to announce the Grand Opening of Bella Villa’s newest venture.

This long-envisioned goal of my friend, Matilda Reuter, who also happened to be Bella Villa’s very first Vintage Rentals Bride,  is coming to fruition this Thursday, May 8th, and you are all invited to come celebrate!!

Ribbon Cutting Invitation

It’s a design collective for those seeking unique events in and around Middleburg!  Matilda has brought together as Founders of this Studio some of the best wedding industry vendors, and we’re incredibly fortunate to be counted among them!  Also included are:



Very soon we will have videographers, hair & make-up, dessert specialists, dresses, venues and everything else you need to plan a wedding or special event, all within one collective studio in the charming village of Middleburg!

And while she may not be a Founder, I would like to give a special Huge Thank You to my dear friend, Aly Rohling, owner of La Bella Luce in Clifton, VA.

For without her gorgeous Italian antiques, and more importantly, her generosity, inspiration, talent and positive attitude, the Middleburg Events Studio space would not look nearly as fabulous!!

Join us this Thursday at 5pm with Middleburg Mayor Betsy Davis, and come see for yourself!!




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the Bella Villa family: Sharon

01 May

You may know that Bella Villa is home to 7 dealers besides me, all of whom have their own sources, skills, paint methods, and overall looks.  It’s not like an antiques mall with 10 by 10 booths cluttered and filled with rinky dink collectibles.

IMG_0001At Bella Villa, each space has its own classy look, and most folks don’t realize where one dealer starts and another begins because we all blend so well together.  

IMG_0008For those who visit often, you know that it’s like having 8 shops in one because  we all have our own sporadic schedules for refilling and refoofing our spaces, which means you can inevitably find new merchandise all the time! 


First in this series of posts about our Bella Villa family is Sharon Phillips. She always has at least one thing beach-related in her space.

IMG_0005Sporting  a seaside weathered look with a nod toward French,  Italian, or Industrial, her style is understated and always hip.

IMG_0012She never uses bright colors… always muted, always peaceful, always soothing, even when she uses black.


If you’re shopping for your beach house or if you wish your regular house reminded you of the beach, Sharon has you covered!


Her silver-haired RayBan wearing hubby, Jerry, will happily chat you up at the Eastern Market in DC where he sells her wares every sunny Sunday.  And you can friend Sharon on Facebook here - she usually posts pics of her Bella Villa bound stuff so you’ll get sneak peeks! 


Hope you enjoyed the tour of some of the great stuff Sharon just brought to her space this week!  


That super comfy pair of perfectly chippy Bar Harbor wicker chairs (with octopus pillows, no less!) will not last! Cheers!








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Making Limoncello

29 April

Last week my parents sent  a package from home. Most of you already know, I’m from San Pedro, California, where the weather is beautiful just about every day.. It wasn’t just any package… it was for Easter and it was filled with lemons, oranges and loquats from their yard!!  No money, no cookies, just fruit from the backyard – the best kind of package ever!

So I had just gone thru my recipe box looking for inspiration and came across my Nonna Nini’s Limoncello recipe, hand written by Mom.

limoncello ingredients

The recipe was in Italian measurements so I had to go online and calculate the conversion from liters and grams to liquid and dry cups.  Hopefully I did it correctly. We purchased the pure grain alcohol at the grocery store in Ischia 2 years ago for the very purpose of making limoncello.  Sometimes it takes us awhile to get our projects done.

Lemons Peeled

The key to making excellent limoncello is to carefully peel the rind without including the pith (the white part). I used our old peeler and only applied very gentle pressure.  It worked! The kitchen smelled amazing by the way!  I just dropped the rinds into a clean jar, added the appropriate amount of alcohol for this many lemons and placed it in a cool, dark place.

limoncello peels

Now, we have to wait for 11 days and then we’ll add simple syrup to the mix, wait several more days, then filter it and enjoy!  Talk about super simple! : )  Happy Spring Day to you!!! Here’s to getting projects done!



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Why a Squirrel?

25 April

So what was I thinking??? Placing a squirrel right in the middle of our logo? Why change the logo in the first place? Well, I’ll tell you. I still love our chocolate and aqua logo with the chandelier… I LOVE chandeliers! But over the course of the last 6+ years, I’ve discovered that I LOVE a lot of things. French and Italian chairs. Rusty old farm pieces. Ornate frames. Ghost mirrors. Doors. Florentine. Tarnished silver stuff and I’ve been taught to appreciate polished silver too. I love gold stuff. And surprise surprise, I love mixing it all too. The list goes on.

So many things enchant me – they’re all super special “nuts” to me. Sooo, if you’ve ever been around me on a busy day at the shop, you know that I’m all over the place with my thoughts, my ideas, my suggestions, my stuff… my hands! And on a bigger scale, I’m all over the place with the various things I’m involved with: Aldie Heritage Association, Visit Loudoun, Journey Thru Hallowed Ground, Chartreuse, the Vintage Rentals business which keeps expanding, now with satellite locations in Middleburg, VA as well as Middletown, MD (more on that next post). Oh!! And we FINALLY have a beautiful website! Check it out!! See, I’m such a squirrel! This post is supposed to be about the logo, and I totally want to get into all this other stuff!

So the squirrel represents me, and how I act when I’m super excited which I almost always am. It also just so happens that the vintage rentals business actually started because of my tendency to squirrel away my super favorite things over the last several years. Squirrels are resourceful, so I must’ve been thinkin’ ahead. ;) There you have it – the reasons for my squirrel, custom and hand-drawn I might add by my friend Sara Llanes (who also made my website, does calligraphy and is the founder of SuddenlyCEOS too!) Hope you love it as much as I do!


It’s gonna be a beautiful weekend! Come see me today at Bella Villa!  I’ll be there til 6pm. Tomorrow I’m providing vintage furniture for a baby shower at the Red Fox Inn in Middleburg (and bonus, I get to attend and enjoy them too!), and Sunday I’ll be having tea at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond with my hubby, celebrating 12 years since “the beginning of the rest of my life”… it wasn’t the first time we met, but it was the weekend that changed my life forever.


Happy Spring!


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