Best of Hunt Country Weddings 2022

Hunt Country had no shortage of gorgeous weddings in 2022. From a traditional Hindu ceremony at Goodstone Inn to a classic Hunt Country celebration at Stoke Farm, here are some of our favorites that are easy to love.

Nikita & James

Goodstone Inn & Restaurant, Middleburg, VA
6.2.22 – 6.4.22

Nikita and James celebrated their nuptials across two days with both a traditional Hindu ceremony followed by a Cinderella-inspired celebration complete with a baby blue dress. The couple shares, “Our two-day fusion wedding was a dream come true in every way possible! We hosted a traditional Hindu ceremony on the first day that allowed James and I to fully embrace my Indian background, while sharing all the cultural significance with our loved ones. … We couldn’t have imagined a more magical time with our friends and family!”

Venue & Catering: Goodstone Inn & Restaurant 
Planning and Design: Cherry Blossom Weddings and Events
Photographer: Jordan Maunder Photography
Florist: Wild Fleurette Floral
Hair: Shannon Kappel and Maria Arsha
Makeup: Sara Mabrou
Officiant: Rakesh Pathak and Wedding Ceremonies by Jeff
Horse: Harmon’s Carriages
Cake: Market Salamander
Henna Artist: Maria Arshad
Indian Attire: Custom Shyamal & Bhumika

Morgan & Joseph

Red Fox Inn & Tavern, Middleburg, VA

Morgan and Joseph exchanged vows and hosted guests in the heart of Middleburg. Their ceremony was held at Emmanuel Episcopal Church and followed by a reception at the Red Fox Inn & Tavern. Morgan and Joseph share, “Our wedding perfectly married who we are as a couple and our love for Middleburg, the place where we grew most as a couple. So much credit is owed to our incredible planner, Kim Newton. We explained to Kim that we wanted the details to accentuate our incredibly beautiful venue, Red Fox, which to us is the epitome of Middleburg charm.”

Venue: Red Fox Inn & Tavern
Planner: Kim Newton Weddings
Photographer: Vicki Grafton Photography
Florist: Floral & Bloom
Cake: Market Salamander’s Jason Reeves
Rentals: Party Rental Ltd., White Glove Rentals, BBJ La Tavola
Tent: Sugarplum Tents
Band: Good Shot Judy

Emily & Micah

Rust Manor, Leesburg, VA

Emily and Micah’s late summer celebration could best be described as “marvelous,” with touches from the Marvel universe like the Infinity Gauntlet and Captain America socks, a glow stick send-off, and an abundance of love which is apparent just from the photos. Pops of dark green and pale gold added extra elegance to this stylish wedding weekend.

Venue: Rust Manor House
Wedding Coordinator: Meghan Farra
Photographer: Karis Marie Photography
Florist: Wander & Whimsy Floral
Hair & Makeup: Beauty by Aubrey
Cake: Honey Bee Pastries
DJ: Ian Lade

Kelly & Andrew

Stoke Farm, Middleburg, VA

Andrew and Kelly’s Stoke Farm wedding is classic Middleburg with Hunt Country touches around every corner. When asked about his wedding day, Andrew says, “Two moments stand out to me when I think back to our wedding in the fall. The first was seeing Kelly walk through a pergola of wisteria down to the garden where our ceremony took place while a string trio played our favorite song. It was the exact scene that we had dreamed about for over seven years since we first came to Stoke Farm together. 

And the second was when we were finishing up our dinner at the sweetheart table and looked out across the tables of guests. Not one person wasn’t engaged in conversation with someone else, a lot of them [just] meeting for the first time, and it filled us with so much joy seeing everyone else laughing and smiling with each other.”

Venue: Stoke Farm
Catering: Bluewater Kitchen
Planner: Joy Suits
Photographer: Danielle Towle
Florist: Mini Rose Farm

Ryann & Kevin

Mortgage Hall Estate and The Middleburg Barn, Middleburg, VA

Ryann and Kevin describe their wedding best, saying, “It was really important to us that our wedding was a true representation of the people that we are. We are proud to have showcased that in all of the details that we included on our big day. From our epic entrance, dancing on a cloud, a horse at cocktail hour, our late night speciality cocktail, a getaway car, and cold sparks, our wedding was a dream and we feel lucky that we were able to celebrate our special day at two of the best Middleburg venues, the Mortgage Hall Estate and The Middleburg Barn.”

Venue: Mortgage Hall Estate and The Middleburg Barn
Catering: Main Event
Planner: Alyssa Carl from B.Mingled
Photographer: Kir Tuben
Florist: Lisa from Rosy Posy
Desserts: Simply Dessert 
DJ & Special Effects: John Howard from A2Z Music Factory
Hair: Nam Nguyen
Makeup: Kaytee Spanoghe
Tap Truck: Bubbles & Brews
Videographer: Michael Lemley
Stationary: Designs by Allison Rene

Jessica & Brandon

Great Marsh Estate, Bealeton, VA

For Jessica and Brandon, the color orange took center stage at their Great Marsh Estate wedding. The groom’s suit, groomsmen’s ties, pops of orange in the table settings, and the venue’s fall foliage all added up to a very autumnal feel. The duo exchanged vows in front of friends and family on the sprawling lawn with the statuesque Manor House as the perfect backdrop to their big day.

Venue: Great Marsh Estate
Catering: Serendipity Catering & Design
Planner: Vida Events
Photographer: Jennifer Gray Calcagno Photography (Second Shot under Victoria Heer Photography)
Florist: Sarena Floral Designs 
Hair & Makeup: Evergreen Beauty Makeup & Hair Design 
Desserts: Signature Sweets by Amanda
DJ: Repeatable DJ

Rubano’s: Culinary Ambition in Aldie

Written by Bill Kent | Photos by Michael Butcher.

All restaurants are no more than a dream before they open, when nothing is certain and big plans materialize as effortlessly as steam from a coffee cup.

But Carlos Miranda, owner of future Hunt Country restaurant Rubano’s, isn’t dreaming. “I know, right now, this restaurant [will be] a success,” he says with a right place, right time mentality. “I can feel it. I am completely certain.”

In the last six months, Miranda acquired the Aldie Country Store and a 20-acre farm on Sally Mill Road where Chef Brad Rubano is currently living. The farm will supply many of the fruits, vegetables, and spices for Rubano’s farm-to-table menu.

Miranda describes the video he plans to post online about the new Aldie restaurant in the months before he and Rubano open in May. “It will begin with a drone shot … with the Seaspice octopus logo on the outside of what was once a white building, now painted a bold matte black,” he says. “Then we go through the front door,” he continues. The footage would then rise up over the dark, rustic reclaimed wood tables, meander toward the bar, drift over the 10-seat tasting table, offer a glance through the pass-through into the persimmon-colored kitchen walls, then linger on a matte black, white-and-persimmon painting of horses that Miranda and his wife Maryam bought in the Dominican Republic. “That ties it all together, don’t you think?”

Miranda, a Florida native, has a design degree from Marymount University. It was there that he met Maryam, who was studying business. They went on to open restaurants in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and to design restaurant and hotel interiors for Starwood and Mandarin Oriental. 

Since last summer, Carlos Miranda has been between Florida and Middleburg, having set up shop with his family at a Snickersville home the couple purchased two years ago when the family decided to send their daughters to Foxcroft School. “Of course we fell in love with Middleburg,” Maryam Miranda adds. “Who wouldn’t? It is one of the world’s most beautiful places.”

Of the new restaurant project, Maryam Miranda shares her aspirations. “When we open, we’re going to be the French Laundry, only [in] Middleburg,” she says.

With Carlos Miranda adding, “We’re going to be better. We’re going to be like the Inn at Little Washington. We’re going to bring in people from Washington, D.C. — everywhere.” 

The Rubano’s team is even considering the use of a helicopter to transport celebrities from D.C. and even further, who, he is sure, will come to his new Hunt Country restaurant after having dined at Seaspice Brasserie, his south Florida seafood restaurant on the Miami River.

Given the high level of Italian cuisine already represented in Washington, D.C., and Hunt Country, this could be a daunting task. Rubano, however, has no qualms about having his name on the restaurant.

“If this had happened to me twenty years ago, I’d be a little bit scared,” Rubano admits. “But I’m 45 now. I’m ready for this. This is [exciting].”

Born on Long Island, New York, Rubano is of Sicilian descent. “I have a dozen aunts and uncles and cousins from Taormina,” he shares. “Everybody cooks. As a baby I smelled the sauce on my grandmother’s braciola. She’d start it on Saturday so it would be perfect on Sunday.” After getting an associate degree from the New York Restaurant School, Rubano and his father Tony opened a fast-casual restaurant in Merrick, Long Island, called The Pit Stop. 

Experience Rubano gained at his father’s fine dining restaurant — the now-closed Wild Fish Raw Bar in Freeport, Long Island — set him on a path to the kitchen at a new restaurant called Seasalt and Pepper, carved out of a warehouse in a Miami River neighborhood better known for its auto body shops than its cuisine. Eventually rebranded as Seaspice, the 250-seat restaurant became a surprise hit. 

“Before they opened, everybody told them the location was wrong, that nobody would come,” Rubano remembers. “Carlos and Maryam [have] been in the business long enough to have an instinct for these things. So, last July, when I was in my office at Seaspice and Carlos came in and said, ‘I’ve found our next place,’ I didn’t have to ask where. I found out a half an hour later when a voucher for a plane ticket to Washington appeared on my phone. A few months later, I [saw] snow for the first time in ten years.”

Since then, “It’s been non-stop because there is so much going on, in terms of what is grown, and the variety of what is grown [in Virginia],” Rubano notes regarding his ingredient list. “I’m just amazed by the range of what’s here. I just had some incredible venison and wild berries. It’s like I’m discovering a new world.”

Part of that world will include local wines, spirits, and beer with Italian vintages and brews — some of which he expects to sample at the end of this month. To solidify their menu, Rubano and the Mirandas are traveling to Italy where they will sample both traditional and trendsetting Italian cuisine. 

So confident is Carlos Miranda of his restaurant’s success that he has already made plans to open a branch of Rubano’s in part of a Miami nightclub and hotel complex in 2024. In 2025, he plans to open a Rubano’s in Washington, D.C. For now, until the whirling rotors of helicopters can be heard overhead, every table is filled, and there is something Sicilian to savor from the kitchen, the lofty ambitions in mind for Rubano’s are just that. However, the restaurant is certainly worth keeping an eye on. ML

This article first appeared in the January 2023 issue.

Winter Skin Care Q&A with Middleburg Aestheticians

Written by Lia Hobel | Photos by Michael Butcher.

Unfortunately, winter air is not always kind to our skin. The cool, dry weather causes it to become dehydrated and cracked, provoking discomfort.

We spoke with two local skin care experts to find out their best skin-saving advice for cold weather. Kristin May is the owner of May Aesthetics Boutique, and Brittany Grabski owns Middleburg Skin Care. The two share a boutique space at 10 South Liberty Street in Middleburg. 

Continue reading to discover how you can survive the winter skin slump.

ML: How did you come to open your business? 

Grabski: I graduated from James Madison University with a B.S. in Health Sciences and then went on to get my basic and master esthetics licenses and laser certification, and then I started working in plastic surgery. I took over Middleburg Skin Care in 2019. I do completely customized facials depending on one’s personalized skin care needs. I also do lash [and] brow tinting, lip [and] brow waxing, electrolysis, and thermoclear (vessel removal, sunspot removal, skin tag removal, etc.).

May: I’m a nurse anesthetist. I got my doctorate in nurse anesthesia in 2015 and I’ve been in healthcare since 2006. I started getting Botox injections and I thought, “I love this more than anesthesia.” I trained for several months and started out on my friends and family, and then with the onset of COVID-19, I thought, “You know, I really love doing aesthetics. Why don’t I just go ahead and open a brick-and-mortar store?”

ML: What are your most important skin care tips during the winter months? 

Grabski: Top tips for taking care of your skin in the winter include sleeping with a humidifier in your room to help keep your skin from drying out too badly. Use a heavier moisturizer or layer a hydrating serum under your current moisturizer. Also, don’t take super hot showers or use really hot water when washing your face morning and night.

May: Switch up your cleanser to a more calm, gentle cleanser that’s not going to leave your skin feeling tight when you wash. Secondly, I would suggest a hyaluronic acid serum. Also add a good day cream. Switch from a regular cream [to a] more hydrating one because you know when you’re outside and even when you’re indoors a lot during the winter your skin can dry out, so all of those are really going to help. 

ML: Any specific products or services you would recommend?

Grabski: It all depends on the person’s skin. Facials should be a part of everyone’s skincare regime spaced four to six weeks apart.

May: I also suggest a monthly facial. Everybody can benefit from a deep exfoliation. The second step is an aesthetic ultrasound. We can customize serum and [create] more hydrating ones for the winter that goes very deep into your dermis, and then the third part is a LED light that we can customize to a customer’s needs. In the winter, there’s an anti-aging collagen stimulant light. That’s a really good idea as well. I think the biggest tip that I have is don’t skimp on the moisturizer for sure and you can even switch a regular body cream for a more nourishing body cream as well.

ML: Why is it important to see a professional? 

Grabski: It’s important to see a professional because everyone’s skin is so different and each person’s skin needs a personalized approach.

May: I think in this area the average consumer, or my average client or patient, does know a lot about taking care of themselves, but it’s important to get someone who has a medical background [and] has had extensive training. I have clients come in that think they really want this one treatment and [I say], “Well that might not be the best for you because the treatment might damage your skin.”

ML: How important is it to build a skin care regimen? 

May: I say it’s like you’re working out your skin. You need that foundation, and I tell everybody we can do every injectable in here. We can do any laser treatment. But if you’re not taking care of your skin on a regular basis, you’re not going to get those optimal results.

ML: What’s something that people may or may not realize about skin care?

Grabski: You need to wear sunscreen every day, whether you’re outside or just hanging around the house.

May: Even though it’s winter and we’re not thinking about the sun’s rays, the sun is the most damaging, so definitely do not neglect a good sunscreen.

ML: Any final thoughts for our readers? 

Grabski: The top three things everyone needs in their skin care regime is a form of vitamin C during the day, a form of vitamin A [retinol] at nighttime, and sunscreen!

May: We’re pretty much a one-stop shop. We always do a complimentary consultation. We set aside time and we really dive in deep to whatever the concern is, and we come up with a whole treatment plan based on a patient’s goals. We want to build relationships with people and make them feel valued. ML

May Aesthetics Boutique 

Middleburg Skin Care

10 South Liberty Street

Middleburg, VA 20117

This article first appeared in the January 2023 issue.

Meet Your Neighbor: Romey Curtis

Written by Laticia Headings | Photos Courtesy of Romey Curtis

Romey Curtis. Photo by Laticia Headings.

When Romey Curtis first visited Middleburg, Virginia, it brought back memories of Hampshire, the quaint village where she grew up in England. The pastoral countryside and sprawling fields and farms were familiar echoes of her childhood and serve as one of the many reasons why she loves living here today. “I do love it here, it’s a very pleasant lifestyle,” she says.  

The youngest of three children, Curtis was raised near a port where her father served as a Royal Navy officer. Prior to the escalation of World War II, the family moved west to the countryside for several years to escape the risk of potential bombing. “Of course, the grown-ups were always talking about the war,” Curtis remembers. “We moved to the deepest, darkest part of Somerset where nothing ever happens — to a safe place.” 

Throughout her early childhood, the young Curtis and her siblings lived simply and attended a village school. She was later enrolled at a primitive boarding school without heat where the inkwells would freeze during the winter, an experience she understandably disliked. 

During the war, she remembers the family’s diet being very limited and, like the rest of the country, having government-issued ration coupons for food and clothing. “There was a little shop that had biscuit boxes that should have been filled but, of course, they were empty. I used to look longingly at them,” Curtis recalls. “I had no idea what an orange or a banana was like because we didn’t get any imported during the war.” 

In 1950, Curtis’ father was sent to Washington, D.C., for a two-year assignment. With her sister training to become a doctor and her brother an architect in England, Curtis moved with her parents. She finished her last two years of high school at National Cathedral School.

Like her two siblings, Curtis was career-focused. She knew from an early age that her path would involve the arts and went on to become an accomplished actress, playwright, and author.

Curtis had a natural flare for writing and theater as a young girl. Through the years, she took dance classes and wrote poetry, but didn’t formalize her acting skills until after high school because no acting programs were available. “I don’t remember how I got the acting bug, but I got it,” she explains.

Upon returning to England after high school, Curtis was accepted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London and completed the two-year curriculum. “I give great credit to my parents who allowed me to apply to RADA,” Curtis says. “A lot of parents would have thrown their hands up in horror and said, ‘Do something sensible, child!’” 

After RADA, Curtis went on to become a repertory actor and performed in various plays. “Theater is a love of mine and it’s a joy to be part of,” Curtis shares. “Being on stage — it’s a huge responsibility and you’re very exposed. For me, it’s not so much about the performance as much as it is the journey.”

Though she never made an appearance on London’s West End, she did land several television roles. 

In 1959, 23-year-old Curtis married her race car-driving sweetheart of three years, Timothy Curtis. Her husband transitioned from cars to boats after they were married, both racing and selling them. The couple had three children: Lucinda, Matthew, and Catherine.

Curtis paused her acting career for a number of years to raise her children. Timothy got a job with Zodiac, the iconic inflatable boat brand founded in France in 1896. Shortly after, Curtis once again found herself in America when Timothy’s job brought them to Annapolis, Maryland. 

“Timothy was good with languages and spoke French,” Curtis says. Zodiac was expanding into the American market and with Timothy’s experience and linguistic abilities, he was an ideal representative for the company.

While in Annapolis, Curtis joined the Colonial Players, a local community theater company. She also got involved with Maryland Hall Story Theater, an outreach program committed to bringing the cultural enrichment of theater to the children of Anne Arundel County. “It was a very special time,” Curtis says. 

The couple eventually found their way to Costa Rica in the mid-1980s. Now empty nesters, they spent 13 years living the “Pura Vida” lifestyle. Curtis worked at an English language newspaper and expanded her love of the written word. 

Their next adventure landed them in Hawaii. What started as a visit to an expecting daughter and son-in-law turned into a 15-year stay on the island of Kauai. During that time, Curtis got involved with a women’s theater group and founded Kauai Shorts, an annual festival featuring 10-minute plays. Once again, she found herself acting, directing, and penning short stories.

A natural writer, Curtis decided her next artistic progression would be to write a book. Being a lover of murder mysteries, she wrote her own entitled, “His Death of Cold. “The more you read, the more inspired you are,” she explains. “One naturally comes with the other for me.” The dedication in the front of the book is to her husband, Timothy, who supported all of her creative endeavors over the years. 

Curtis admits the publishing process was difficult but worth the effort, mentioning that “His Death of Cold” can be found on Amazon. “I think it’s a truism that everyone has one book in them,” she says. 

The many chapters of Curtis’ life led her to the Middleburg area in 2018, where her eldest daughter, Lucinda, lives. “I love the size of Middleburg and the feeling of a village; it reminds me of home,” she says. 

Curtis still finds ways to stay involved with the arts. For the past two years, she has volunteered for the Middleburg Film Festival. “It’s fun and gives you a sense of belonging and contributing, both of which you need if you come to a place where you plan to settle,” she says.

Though her writing days are over, the grandmother of four and great-grandmother of two is still an avid reader and doesn’t rule out performing again should the opportunity arise. “Nothing is more exciting. It’s not just the performance, it’s the rehearsal…There’s a lot of exploring that happens and you learn a lot about yourself,” she says.

Curtis is grateful that theater was a guiding force for her throughout the decades. Without doubt, her lifelong passion for writing and performance has allowed her various talents to shine and make an impression on many. ML

This article first appeared in the January 2023 issue.

Wallet Wellness: Make the Most of Your Money

Written by Diane Helentjaris

“Planning really moves the needle,” Amanda Merrill says when discussing how to build financial stability.

Merrill, a wealth advisor for Buckingham Strategic Wealth, is a certified financial planner with a law degree from Case Western Reserve University. Though everyone’s economic situation is unique, she offers some general tips to consider. 

Putting together an emergency fund is first on her list. Life has unexpected surprises ahead for everyone. However, with at least six months of income set aside, disruptions lose a bit of their sting. Merrill notes, “An emergency fund assures a person can avoid portfolio liquidation at depressed rates. Volatility is upsetting. It’s always prudent to prevent [unnecessary] selling when investments are down.” Having money tucked away and ready for the unexpected moments in life can prevent one from accruing avoidable debt and neglecting other needs.

Additionally, Merrill encourages people to take the time to know where their money is and how it has been allocated. This allows one to adjust and customize their holdings. Being cognizant of interest rates for savings accounts and comparing them to other possible investments helps investors make strong decisions. 

The best mix of stocks, bonds, and alternative investments varies with a person’s appetite for risk, their stage of life, and even their anticipated longevity. Life expectancy is projected to continue rising — according to a 2020 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average life expectancy for Americans will grow by six years and rise to an average of over 85 by 2060. Merrill confirms that increased longevity and family history of longevity are important considerations in financial planning for retirement. 

On average, everyone can expect to experience at least one recession during their lifetime. Economic slumps can create opportunities to “capture a tax loss.” Painful and counterintuitive as it might be, selling investments at a loss may be a good idea in some cases — later, when the market improves, these losses could offset gains.

A free and straightforward task for individuals looking to build their financial stability is to access their personal credit reports from the three major credit reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. These companies are required by law to give a free report to consumers annually which they provide on their websites. The three reports differ slightly, so checking each one is important. Doing so allows one to correct any errors and to track changes in credit worthiness. 

Another potentially profitable and very simple action to take is to check for unclaimed money. Virginia’s Unclaimed Property Program returns “money, stocks, bonds, dividends, utility deposits, insurance proceeds, tangible property and more” to residents who may have moved, lost a check, or forgotten about a bank account. is the place to start. The federal government has additional information on finding unclaimed money at their site. A few years ago, Merrill’s mother checked for unclaimed property belonging to her and discovered a small retirement fund from a long-ago teaching job.

An annual review of insurance coverage can also save consumers money. Supply and labor costs have increased in recent years due to inflation and old insurance levels might not be adequate. For Hunt Country residents who own historic homes and lands, the need for special skills or materials to restore damaged properties may justify increasing insurance levels. 

Merrill notes that umbrella insurance — policies which provide extra insurance beyond standard home, auto, and boat insurance — is “tremendously affordable.” Umbrella insurance can kick in and provide coverage when homeowner, auto, or boat insurance has tapped out. It also may cover claims excluded by other insurance policies. Individuals who serve on boards, own horses, employ staff, or have a high public profile might consider buying umbrella insurance, Merrill advises.

Finally, Merrill recommends people have an estate plan (at minimum, a will) and review it for completeness. This may include arranging appropriate guardians for children who are minors and other dependents. The Commonwealth of Virginia has laws covering those who die without a will. Property in that case is dispersed among relatives using a formula set by the state. For instance, in an example of special interest to equine owners, horses whose owner has died could end up the property of a relative who may not have the resources or interest to properly care for them. Merrill notes that a trust may include horses, with specific language to assure their wellbeing.

When it comes to financial planning, Merrill makes it clear that simple actions and attention can reap rewards in the future. ML

Buckingham Strategic Wealth

112 West Washington Street, Suite 204

Middleburg, Virginia 20117

Telephone: (540) 931-9051

This article first appeared in the January 2023 issue.

Terrific Toys at the PLAYroom

Written by Sarah Hickner
Photos by Callie Broaddus

On West Washington Street, just a few doors down from Middleburg Common Grounds, is an unusually PLAYful store. Even for an adult, a step inside feels like walking into a magical place.

A wall lined with books beckons young readers to take a seat on the bench and dive into a new tale. Wooden cars beg for little ones to zoom them around. A rideable toy horse stands proudly, greeting customers. Whimsical pendulum clocks ping back and forth on the wall behind the checkout counter. And, for the holiday season, adorable fabric animal ornaments adorn lit Christmas trees and colorful stockings hang in every corner of the shop. 

Chris, Michelle, and Maverick.

Keep going, and customers will find a mini theater set, ready for whatever productions a kid can dream up, a book tree, a busyboard fire truck, a magna-tile build area, and a huge Lite-Brite!

“We want to have things you can’t get at the big box stores.”

– McNaughton

More than just the quantity of toys, it’s their quality that adds to the appeal. Years ago Michelle McNaughton, owner of the PLAYroom, read an article explaining that when toys are aesthetically pleasing, adults are more likely to get involved with playtime. The retro wood kitchen and toy rotary phone sitting next to a display of eccentric fabric dolls proves that the article’s argument rings true. 

One of McNaughton’s favorite things about her business is watching the families she serves grow. “We’ve only been here a year and a half,” she shares. “But even in that time, we had ladies come in who were expecting, and now their kids are a year old!” 

Vilac Vintage Car.

In owning a toy store, McNaughton has become a toy expert. One thing she has learned is that kids don’t need a large collection. Instead, a handful of good toys is plenty because it encourages children to exercise their imagination more. Often people will hold up a toy and say, “What does this do?” She responds with a big smile and a twinkle in her eye: “Whatever you want it to!” 

Most items in the store are made from wood, fabric, or paper. McNaughton works hard to provide products made of sustainable and natural materials. “When we do carry plastics we try to make sure they’re healthy plastics, so mostly food grade,” she says. McNaughton also loves to support small vendors and stock plenty of American-made toy options. “We want to have things you can’t get at the big box stores,” she says.

When asked about her favorite toys in the store, McNaughton made a beeline for a set of car tracks called “Way To Play Roads.” They are simple pieces of black silicone that can be pieced together to make a track for toy cars. Her face lights up as she talks about her son playing with them every day. “We play with them in the snow. We’ve made monster mud pits, and I just hosed them off when we were done. We brought them to the beach and played in the sand!” 

Hanging ornaments.

McNaughton is undeniably passionate about play. She dreams of her store being a place for people in the community to read, play, and imagine. “Our goal is really to be a part of the community. We’ll have folks come in on a Wednesday and read and play for thirty minutes. We want to be a resource for those families to come in and think of new things they haven’t seen before…and think about play a little differently than just ‘how do I entertain my kid?’”

“The key to buying a gift for someone is your own excitement about it”

– McNaughton

With the holidays around the corner, McNaughton shares her advice for gift buying. 

“The key to buying a gift for someone is your own excitement about it,” McNaughton explains. “If you’re not excited about it, I say just put it back. Then get the item that excites you.” If you are still on the fence, give the staff the chance to do what makes them come alive — helping you choose the perfect gifts for the kids in your life. You won’t be disappointed and neither will your child. ML

The PLAYroom is located at 108 West Washington Street in Middleburg, Virginia. Hours are Monday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

This article first appeared in the December 2022 issue.

Chloe’s New Pet Line: Lily and Olivers

Written by Lia Hobel 
Photos by Callie Broaddus

Chloe’s of Middleburg has always been a popular boutique for women, offering both fashion-forward and classic apparel, accessories, and unique gifts. Now, fans of the shop have a new reason to visit with the arrival of a curated pet line called Lily and Oliver’s. After all, pets are an extension of the family – and as such, deserve the best gifts! 

At Chloe’s, you won’t find the ordinary pet toys that you would see in a big-box store. Lily and Oliver’s pet line is carefully researched and selected by Chloe Osborn, the shop’s namesake, and daughter of owner, Wendy. “Every single product in our store, and with Lily and Oliver’s, is something we ourselves would use,” says Osborn, who knows “quality is paramount.”

Endowed with her mom’s entrepreneurial spirit and love of animals, Osborn decided to launch the pet accessory line this year because she felt more options were needed in Middleburg — especially for cats. As a feline owner, she understands the market well. The brand’s two namesakes are Lily, the family cat, and Oliver, a kitten that Osborn  rescued while studying  at Vassar College last year. “I instantly fell in love with him,” Osborn recalls. 

Osborn’s cats have been loving the new line, which has been popular in the boutique. Osborn explains it’s not simply aesthetics that she looks for when considering inventory. She inspects everything for durability and animal safety standards. “I love our cat toys because a lot of them are made from boiled wool which is really good for cleaning [cats’] teeth,” Osborn says. The fibers of the wool help remove plaque. A popular cat toy is a four-inch, catnip-filled shrimp for $12. It’s made from natural wool and dyes and is a fair trade product that is manufactured by craftswomen in Nepal. Working with vendors who use fair trade business practices is something Osborn looks for when selecting products to carry with the brand. Other similar cat toys include adorable sushi rolls filled with catnip. Each piece of sushi is $10. 

For dog owners who love designer swag and bubbly, the “Woof Clicquot” champagne bottle is a must-buy. Made by Haute Diggity Dog, the soft, plush toys with a squeaker inside will have every pup going wild to pop the bottle. They come in multiple sizes, ranging from $15 to $25 in price. Another swanky dog toy to gift this season is a 100% cotton “pom pom tree” squeaker toy. It’s made with all-natural dyes and is also a fair trade product. For a fashionista pet, the “Wagentino Sandal” dog toy ($18) is another top choice, which is a clever take on one of today’s most popular shoe designers, Valentino. 

And if your dog has a taste for macarons, Lily and Oliver’s has you covered. The Bonne et Filou dog macarons box ($24) includes six macarons which come in cheese, peanut butter, or pumpkin flavors. All macarons are handmade with natural ingredients. For December, dog owners will also want to pick up an advent calendar ($70) filled with Bonne et Filou dog treats including yogurt-covered dog bones, truffles, and macarons.  

Tuco enjoys a squeaky pom pom tree toy.

In addition to treats and trendy toys, pets can be fashionably dressed with the line’s dog clothing items. Chloe’s offers a selection of  pet sweaters from a company called Little Beast. “They offer the most adorable pet sweaters,” Osborn says. “The quality is amazing but they’re also super fun.” One of the sweaters, known as the “love sweater” is pink with red hearts on it and “gives kind of that fun, whimsical feel,” Osborn says. 

Since Osborn is finishing her senior year at college, her mom, Wendy, also knows the ins and outs of Lily and Oliver’s. “She’s instilled a lot in me,” says Osborn about their mother-daughter work relationship. They often collaborate on what items to consider for the shop.  

Osborn says Lily and Oliver’s will continue to roll out new products and she encourages shoppers to visit often to see what’s new. Pet coats and stylish pet beds are among the many products that have been added in time for the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. For those looking to make their pet’s gift extra special, Chloe’s offers custom dog beds and monogrammed collars.  If you cannot make it in person, you can shop Lily and Oliver’s online at The brand also has its own Instagram account @lilyandolivers. ML

This article originally appeared in the December 2022 issue.

Meet Your Neighbor: Eloise Repeczky

Story by Kaitlin Hill 

Eloise Repeczky

On November 1, Eloise Repeczky took on the role of executive director of the Windy Hill Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing affordable housing to low-income individuals, families, and seniors, and also those with disabilities in Loudoun and Fauquier Counties. A month in, Repeczky reflects on what brought her to Middleburg, her plans for the foundation, and her hopes for the future in an exclusive Q&A with Middleburg Life. 

ML: What brought you to Middleburg? 

ER: My husband, Will Nisbet, was offered a position to work in the development department at The Hill School. We moved out here in June of 2017. It was such a great opportunity and we already enjoyed visiting the region on weekends, but I kept my position in DC and was commuting in [while] I decided what to do with my career. 

ML: What is your professional background?

ER: After graduating college, I initially wanted to work for a non-profit. Unfortunately, I also had student loans, and paying for student loans with a small salary was not sustainable in DC. So, I applied for an international trade and arbitration legal assistant position. I did that for two years and decided I liked working with attorneys, I liked type A [personalities], having the opportunity to learn different subject matter, and working on different projects. Then, I moved into a business development and marketing role and did that for eight years at different law firms in DC. In one of those roles, I managed a 280-attorney nationwide real estate and land use practice.

ML: What led you to apply for the Windy Hill position? 

ER: During the pandemic, I was working remotely, and, like many people, I reprioritized and thought about what I wanted to do. With my husband’s encouragement, we decided it would be nice for me to take some time off and really think about my next career step. In July of 2021…I went on a three-plus month road trip across the US with our dog, Soufflé. When I came back, I really focused on what I initially wanted to do, which was work with a non-profit. 

I was thrilled when Windy Hill became an opportunity because it’s in town, it’s local community members, and I get to know the residents and their needs. I felt like I could have a deeper impact here than elsewhere. 

ML: Was the foundation new to you or had you been previously aware of its work? 

ER: Years ago, we were introduced to Windy Hill through Beth Ann Mascatello, a former Windy Hill board member who was involved with the fashion show, gala, and many other endeavors throughout the years. We had been invited as her guests to the Windy Hill gala.

ML: Just a few weeks in, how are you settling in at your new post? 

ER: It has been wonderful! As with any new job, any new industry, [I] certainly have a lot of information to understand, a lot to learn in a very short amount of time, and [I am] trying to get up to speed on projects that are already three-quarters of the way finished, or just beginning. But it has been fantastic! The Board is incredibly motivated. They have been really helpful in providing a lot of historical information. 

And, I’ve also been meeting with residents to better understand their needs, and with our volunteers to get a full picture of what we are doing now and what we can do going forward. 

ML: Speaking of moving forward, what plans do you have for the future of the organization? 

ER: It has been a phenomenal organization with an incredible mission for over 40 years. 2023 will be the 40th year. I am at the stage of understanding what we’ve done and the incredible story. 

Also, I think there are a lot of people who would be eager to get involved with Windy Hill, and who may not know how they can participate. Reaching out to the community to see what services we can provide our residents and what they need is going to be really exciting. 

ML: Are there any particular programs you are looking to revamp or expand? 

ER: We have a great community of children. We have been leaning on the local churches and schools for programs, so continuing to partner with them and make sure that our children are taken care of is a priority. 

We’re also looking at introducing group therapy or vocational training and other educational opportunities to support our residents. 

ML: Since taking the role, have you felt embraced by the community? 

ER: I definitely feel that way. Again, the board has been really helpful throughout my whole [on-boarding] process and very open with communications, as have our numerous partner organizations. Also, there are a lot of community members who knew me through my husband, and who have known I wanted to be locally based. It’s been really thrilling that so many people are excited. 

ML: Any final thoughts you would like to share with our readers?  

ER: There are a lot of different needs that people have. So, whether it is working with Windy Hill or the organizations we partner with, it is really important to support our community. I would encourage folks to find something [they are] passionate about and then use the skills [they] have to help [a] neighbor who might need assistance. ML

This article first appeared in the December 2022 issue.

Slow Fashion at Shepherds Corner Farm in Purcellville

Story by Kaitlin Hill

Rebecca Brouwer in her Christmas cabin.

“It’s a whole world of possibilities. And you are only limited by your imagination,” shares Rebecca Brouwer of her many crafty endeavors at Shepherds Corner Farm in Purcellville, Virginia. Visitors to her studio and Christmas cabin can witness Brouwer’s seemingly limitless imagination on display in all shapes and forms from wool wraps to eco-printed silk scarves, and a little bit of everything in between. 

Brouwer’s passion for fiber arts started early. “When I was young, I started sewing. I’d see something in the store and say, ‘I can make that,’” Brouwer laughs. Even more, she always wanted to get her materials straight from the source. “I always wanted to have sheep.” 

But the opportunity to pursue and combine both interests wouldn’t present itself until later in life when she and her husband made the decision to settle down on an acreage near Purcellville. Originally mid-westerners, the couple would spend much of their marriage moving from suburb to suburb. With a husband in the Navy, Brouwer explains, “We had lived in San Diego, Florida, Texas, and Ohio. For the first 17 years we were married, we moved 11 times.” She adds that moving to Purcellville was “the first time we ever moved somewhere because that is where we wanted to live.” 

In 1999, the Brouwers and their children moved into a 1500-square-foot cabin dating back to the 1790s while they built their forever home on the property. “It was the five of us. And the dog and a cat,” Brouwer reminisces. In 2000, construction was completed on their house, and over subsequent years Brouwer would begin to put in place the facilities required and expand on the skills necessary to make the products she now sells. “About eight years after we moved here, we built the barn for the horses…And then in 2016, I started to get the urge again to own sheep.” She found and purchased Gotland sheep prized for their lustrous, curly gray locks. 

As for equipment and training, she says, “I knew I wanted sheep because years and years ago I won a spinning wheel. So, I started dabbling in spinning. Then, I started to take workshops and go to weaving classes. I now have a loom.” She continues, “Then I started with felting. I had taken wet felting classes, and needle felting with a machine. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with all the wool my sheep were producing.”

The answer? Something Brouwer calls “slow fashion,” or the art of transforming something from raw material to finished product no matter the time frame. “Being on the farm I have all these things available to me. I have my sheep and I have my wool. It can be a two-year process by the time a product is finished…People ask me, ‘How long does it take for you to make a scarf?’ And I say, ‘Well, if you start with the lamb…’” she ends with a chuckle and adds, “It’s important to me that my process is sustainable, from beginning to end. Raising sheep helps to maintain good soil, and making natural fiber products that are locally sourced helps the rural economy as well as the environment.”

A more recent endeavor of hers, eco-printing, also called botanical printing, is perhaps the epitome of her slow fashion philosophy. The art of eco-printing is achieved by arranging leaves on damp fabric made of natural fibers, like a silk scarf, rolling it tightly, and heating it so that the leaves will imprint a design onto the fabric once removed. After the recent purchase of a Gingko tree, she explains, “It is not uncommon for artists using live plant material to plan for future designs by enhancing our landscapes and gardens to achieve the desired results in our product designs. What is so beautiful about this process is that you take what nature gives you.” She even makes her own indigo dye to give silk scarves a deep blue hue. 

Part of the excitement of eco-printing is not knowing how it will turn out. Depending on the leaf, prints can show up lighter, darker, or a surprising color. In a sense, each scarf is a little gamble that pays off in volumes of joy for Brouwer. She says, “It’s not just about the process of making something. It is about the process of doing something I love.” 

The products of her labor of love can be found in many forms scattered all around her barn studio and Christmas cabin display room. Embroidered decorative pouches of lavender, tea towels, silk scarves with felted wool backing, hats, stockings, shawls, and even felt flowers exploding with color are just a few of the items she makes for sale or just for fun.

Eco-printing on a silk scarf.

She sells her wares on the farm tour, artist studio tour, the local market scene, and on her website At the recent Purcellville Artisan Studio Tour, held November 5 and 6 at her farm, she sold freshly processed botanical print scarves as quickly as they came out of the steamer. Her eco-printing demonstrations also drummed up interest in the craft. This winter, she’ll open her Christmas cabin to the public on December 3, 4, 17, and 18 from 11 a.m – 4 p.m. And, in the spring, when plant material is more abundant, she plans to offer interested parties the chance to make their own scarves at her studio. 

In addition to live demonstrations, Brouwer says she is interested in doing more work on commission. “I like when I make things and I know who I am making them for,” she says. She is also planning to expand her product lines and experimenting with new techniques. “Wool has a lot of potential. I’ve thought about a product line, doing more tableware, combining more techniques. Quilting, I am doing a bit of that too.” She adds, “I’d like to come up with a line or kind of an ensemble of things. And doing it in a more deliberate way.” 

As for the future of her many crafts, Brouwer says, “The sky is the limit…I have been doing this a while, but I feel like I am just getting started.” It’s safe to say with her creative spirit and slow fashion philosophy, Brouwer will continue to create, with new projects coming sooner…or later. ML

This article originally appeared in the December 2022 issue.

The People Behind The Parade

A few hours before the 11 a.m. Hunt Review, the traditional start of the Christmas in Middleburg Parade, Tara Wegdam helped her employees move crockery-laden tables to expand the aisles of Crème de la Crème, the Washington Street gift and tableware shop she owns with her husband Ben. “The parade brings thousands of people to town,” Wegdam explains. “We get so many people coming in dressed in big winter coats, we don’t want them bumping into each other or anything else.” When she heard the parade had begun, she went outside to watch the Middleburg Hunt, resplendent in their crimson and black coats, trotting down Washington Street under a crisp, blue winter sky.

In front of the riders came the hounds. One broke away from the pack and turned toward Wegdam. She felt a woosh of chilly December air, and by the time she saw the brown and white tail disappear through her open front door, the other 35 hounds had also rushed through on either side of her. She reached the shop’s front door and saw the interior had literally gone to the dogs. “They went everywhere, around every table, up and down every aisle. Then they came out and were back on Washington Street before I could say a word. They didn’t break a thing,” she recalls. Then she saw a pastoral painting that had been propped up against one table. It had slid to the floor in the commotion and in the center of the picture was one big, dark pawprint. “[It] sold almost immediately because the person who bought it couldn’t believe what had just happened and thought it was hilarious — what better souvenir for the day,” Wegdam remembers.

For Wegdam, the entire experience was magical. “There are other Christmas parades in other places, but nothing like this. Ours is really, really special.” Current co-organizer Michelle Myers offers another word to describe the parade: Unlimited!

“Last year we had to limit everything because of COVID-19. This year everyone is contributing,
everyone is part of it,” Myers says. This year, the parade will include — for the first time ever — a marching reunion of at least 10 members of Middleburg’s undefeated 1971 Little League team, most of whom haven’t seen each other in 50 years.

From dawn to dusk on Saturday, December 3, Route 50 and Washington Street will be closed to automobiles to make room for as many as 20,000 spectators. Parking for participants and spectators will be confined to intercept lots along the outskirts of town (see ChristmasinMiddleburg. org for more details). Most restaurants in town will be open during the parade’s midday pause to serve lunch. They will be supplemented by food trucks.

Jim Herbert, a commercial realtor who has helped organize the parade as far back as 1979, calls it “a genuine celebration of love and the Christmas message. It is also the best time of the year to show people what the Middleburg community is all about.”

He ticks off the statistics: A mile and a half long, beginning with the Middleburg Hunt (and their hounds!) and ending with Santa Claus on a horse-drawn carriage, lasting over an hour and a half (with a break in the middle for lunch) with spectators lining Washington Street “in every kind of weather,” including the blizzard of 2009.

“We all met at 6 a.m. when we heard that snow was expected. There was talk of canceling the parade, and if we had known what we were getting into, we probably would have,” Herbert says. But they didn’t.

Photo by Nancy Kleck.

The snow came down just as the hounds hit Washington Street, and photographers snapped what Herbert calls the “iconic” shots of the parade: the hounds leaping before 140 riders in bright red and black jackets peppered with big flakes that would soon fill the region in nearly nine inches of snow.

Penny Denegre, joint-master of the Middleburg Hunt, also has fond memories of the blizzard. “We have concerns when the weather gets very cold, but that time, and every other time the weather seems to be against us in Middleburg, it was magical.”

The Middleburg Christmas Parade is one of the hunt’s most important yearly activities, one that emphasizes the town’s unique relationship with Hunt Country and the traditions that go all the way back to Virginia’s colonial history. It is one of the only times when people who don’t hunt can watch the hounds and riders that do. And the horses know it. “We don’t have spectators normally. On the parade morning, the horses are always a little concerned when there is something out of the ordinary,” Denegre shares.

But when they round the corner at the top of the hill and the hounds take off, “it becomes this lovely outpouring of warmth.” When the parade resumes at 2 p.m., few groups are as highly anticipated as the thirty Middleburg Charros who demonstrate Mexican rope wrangling and rodeo skills that, according
to Charro rider Juliana Ortiz, have been passed down through her extended family for generations. “What we do is rarely seen in the east,” says Ortiz, who, when not teaching horses how to dance, is an accountant. “The decoration, the dances, the roping, and the salutes are all part of our heritage, so it is important for us to be in the parade and show everyone how exciting and magical it can be.”

New for this year will be even more of Ortiz’s cousins standing on horseback, jumping through ropes. “It started last year with one or two [of us] having some fun. Now everybody wants to do it!” she says.

The more than 100 corgis that follow are always a huge hit with children “because they are incredibly cute!” says Holly Hudimac, who will be joined by her dogs Abby and Panda. “This is hysterical and a lot of fun and the children love the dogs because they’re small and adorable. Where else are you going to see so many corgis in one place?”

Competing in cuteness will be the 70 children, ages 4 to 8, from The Hill School, dressed as elves and gift-wrapped presents. Having decorated the front windows of the Washington Street Safeway Supermarket during the previous week, some ride on The Hill School’s float. First grader Adelaide Hottel enjoys the float “because I get to ride with my friends, and we see a lot of people.”

“When I first saw the parade ten years ago, it was pretty spectacular. Of all the nice things you can do in Middleburg, it’s just wonderful to watch the town literally celebrate itself in the warmest, funniest, kindest way. To be part of this, even if it’s just to keep track of the kids and wave at the people, it’s pure joy,” shares Kelly Johnson, the school’s enrollment director.

The pure, distinctively snorting growl of thirty motorcycles decorated with antlers and flashing holiday lights, all ridden by members of the Winchester Harley Owners Group, is music to the ears of club president and Winchester motorcycle dealer Barbara Grove. “I prefer to watch from the sidelines and let the others get the glory,” says Grove, who is hoping to snag a table at the Red Horse Tavern, where, on any other weekend, bikers hailing from every point on the compass tend to congregate. “We love that ride to Middleburg so much that around fifteen years ago, we decided to help out,” Groves explains. For the past two months, members of the biker group have brought food on their rides from Winchester and given it to Seven Loaves food pantry. This year alone, the Harley Group has donated well over 1,000 pounds of food. “Canned goods, turkeys, whatever might be appreciated,” Grove adds. “We may not live here, but Middleburg makes us feel at home.”

Weaving in and out of the parade you are likely to spy Suzanne Obetz, the executive director of the Middleburg Museum, in her “emergency Mrs. Claus” suit. In addition to presiding over the town’s tree lighting ceremony (at 5 p.m. on the Friday before the parade) and handling any and all letters to Santa children may leave at the museum, Obetz is one of more than 100 volunteers who will “basically do whatever is needed to be done.” She adds, “You’d be surprised how often a child’s happiness, or the fate of the entire parade itself, can depend on a needle and thread, scissors, or, heaven forbid, a Band-Aid.”

The parade typically ends with Santa who bears an astonishing resemblance to Lost Barrel Brewery’s tap room manager, Bobby Martz. “It gives me an opportunity to see the magic on everyone’s face,” he says. “The holiday is all about magic, bringing back those nice childhood memories when everything happened to make you warm, and happy to be with family and friends. What better place to celebrate than Middleburg!” Mr. Claus likes Middleburg so much that he promises to visit Lost Barrel on Saturday afternoons following the parade, where, in addition to being available for photos, he will serve a range of non-alcoholic drinks and snacks for kids. When asked how he intends to slip up and down Middleburg’s numerous chimneys on Christmas, he simply responds: “It’s magic!”

This story first appeared in the December 2022 issue.