Reclaiming #Charlottesville with MATTER Prints

Great things to do in Charlottesville with MATTER Prints
This post was generously sponsored by MATTER Prints. 

Note: I wrote the bulk of this post before the terrorizing events of August 11-12 took place. Perhaps it's a blessing in disguise that the folks at MATTER and I discussed this post months ago. I couldn't have foreseen how important it is to reclaim Charlottesville spaces and celebrate what it has to offer. Talking about the good things will never negate the violence and loss of life, but maybe it can unify us and remind us of the world we want to build. Thank you to everyone who prayed with me, checked up on me on social media, and wrote your own posts about Charlottesville. I can feel your love. Solidarity forever! 

Charlottesville is really a vacation town and I'm just one of those awkward townies who calls it home. 

This community at one point boasted more restaurants per capita than New York City; local wineries and breweries abound; Thomas Jefferson's mountaintop estate is available for tours every day of the week; and you could spend a week visiting all the antique, thrift, and secondhand shops.

While it sounds great - and it is - it's impossible to live like a tourist every day (unless you're lucky enough to be retired). So I like to scheme up little adventures that we can take once or twice a month to keep things interesting without exhausting our bank accounts.

I partnered with MATTER for this post specifically because their motto is "Pants to see the world in." 

I like a good adventure as much as the next millennial, but I especially love when I can get away without boarding an air plane or renting an overpriced room at a questionable hotel. It's a nice reminder that, sometimes, the good things are close to home, and that anyplace can feel like an escape if you take the time to tap its resources. Plus, if you're cash strapped like I am, you have an excuse to splurge just a little bit on a good meal or an extra glass of wine without suffering an existential crisis when you get home and look at your bank account.

This is minimalism at its finest: enjoying the good things in life without living beyond your means. 

Great things to do in Charlottesville with MATTER Prints

So settle in, because my weekend in Charlottesville is jam packed...

Friday Night

Beers at Michael's Bistro

A UVa grad student hangout, Michael's is located in a warmly lit upstairs space on The Corner, the cobblestone strip of shops and restaurants across from the University. Lots of local beers on tap, seasonal egg rolls if you're hungry, and board games to play if you're up for it.

Dinner at Peter Chang's

My all time favorite restaurant, Peter Chang's was founded by the former chef of the Chinese ambassador. There are a few locations throughout Virginia and DC (and no, it's not related to PF Chang). Peter Chang's specializes in authentic Szechuan style dishes presented family style, and it's great for large gatherings.


Early lunch at Bodo's Bagels

Ask any Charlottesvillian for food recommendations and they're sure to mention Bodo's. Fresh, delicious bagels and bagel sandwiches that are amazingly cheap. I like their feta spread.

Great things to do in Charlottesville with MATTER Prints

Hike at Humpback Rocks + Driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway

Charlottesville is only about 35-40 minutes away from Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive, but you can get similar overlook views free of charge on the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you're up for some exercise, bring your sturdy shoes and hike up to Humpback Rocks (just make sure to bring plenty of water and your camera).

Bold Rock Cidery Charlottesville, Virginia - Charlottesville Vacation Guide

-or- Ciders at Bold Rock + Wine at Veritas

If Humpback Rocks doesn't interest you, head over to the local cideries and wineries. Amazing mountain views and award winning alcoholic beverages: the perfect combination.

Dinner at Miso Sweet or Now and Zen

Head downtown for dinner and enjoy some ramen and a brown butter donut at Miso Sweet or a sushi feast at Now and Zen. If the weather's nice, you can eat al fresco at Miso Sweet.

Great things to do in Charlottesville with MATTER Prints
Squinting on the Downtown Mall wearing MATTER's Sideswept Dhoti

Drinks at South Street Brewery

My favorite local brewery, South Street is conveniently located on the other side of Charlottesville pedestrian mall - the Downtown Mall - from Miso Sweet and Now and Zen, so you can walk over after dinner. I recommend Satan's Pony, an easy-drinking amber ale.


Brunch at Cafe Caturra

Back to The Corner for brunch at Cafe Caturra. Make sure to ask about mimosa pitchers. I recommend the Crispy Cheese Panini with the Arugala Goat Cheese salad.

Great things to do in Charlottesville with MATTER Prints

Shopping at Darling, Low Vintage,  ReThreads, and Circa

Drive over to the Downtown Mall for some secondhand shopping at Darling Boutique and Low Vintage (if you want to check out some fair trade goods, make sure to stop in at Ten Thousand Villages and say hi to Sallie), then head to McIntire Plaza to check out ReThreads and furniture and home goods emporium, Circa.

Great things to do in Charlottesville with MATTER Prints

Afternoon coffee at Java Java

End your visit with an organic, fair trade latte and Java Java's famous honey bunches (buttery, sweet muffins with coconut).

There are hundreds of other great ways to spend time in this region, including eating gelato at Splendora's, visiting Monticello, walking the Saunders-Monticello Trail, hiking part of the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park, and driving over to historic Staunton and visiting fair trade shop, Latitudes. If you're driving through Virginia, you should also consider stopping in Richmond, about an hour away from Charlottesville.

This town can feel claustrophobic and cluttered with tourists at times, but I love living here. It's full of natural beauty and all the good food and drinks you could want. Making this list reminded me how lucky I am.

So the next time you're looking to see the world, consider starting right where you are. 

Great things to do in Charlottesville with MATTER Prints
Memorial for Heather Heyer, killed on this site by a neo-Nazi

I wrote about my experience in Charlottesville this weekend for Christianity Today.


About MATTER Prints
MATTER uses traditional textile printing and weaving techniques to create thoughtful clothing for women and men with fair wages and an eye toward both versatility and innovation. Read my review of their Organic Cotton Dhoti Pants here.


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shop local: Latitudes in Staunton, VA

Latitudes Fair Trade Staunton

Finally, a fair trade boutique that carries a variety of fair trade brands and products within driving distance of Charlottesville! 

Don't get me wrong, the local Ten Thousand Villages is amazing and the staff is kind and knowledgeable, but Ten Thousand Villages' products tend to be seasonal or gift items - it's not a one stop shop for ethically produced goods.

fair trade jewelry Thistle Farms display

Daniel and I decided to spend the afternoon in nearby Staunton last Saturday, because it has a charming, historic downtown and I swore I saw a shop that carried fair trade goods last time we were there. Funnily enough, Latitudes just opened, so I wasn't thinking about this particular store (there are a couple other shops that carry Made in USA and fair trade stuff, so I was probably thinking of one of them).

It was clearly fate.

There was a Mata Traders dress on the mannequin in the front window and a huge Thistle Farms selection on display as soon as I walked in the door. I felt like a kid in a candy shop, gushing and pointing at all the familiar labels.

Manos Zapotecasstriped socks fair tradeLatitudes Fair Trade Shop

Latitudes carries Greenola Style, Matr Boomie, Manos Zapotecas, Serrv, Mata Traders, Maggie's Organics, Thistle Farms, Level Ground, Equal Exchange, and lots of other reputable fair trade brands.

They've got clothing, home goods, accessories, jewelry, food, cards, and gift items, plus lots of free literature on the fair trade movement. 

I bought a pound of Level Ground coffee and a Thistle Farms candle, which I am happily burning as I write this post.


If you're in the Charlottesville/Staunton area, make sure to check out Latitudes at 16 East Beverly Street. You can shop some of their selection online, too. 

Learn about other local shops:
Ten Thousand Villages
Betsey Boutique
Low Vintage

tallahassee dreamin'

Daniel and I spent last weekend in Tallahassee, FL, home of our alma mater, FSU. Daniel attended an academic conference while I basked in college nostalgia, eating at my favorite restaurants (Pitaria! Far East Cuisine! Jimmy John's!) and walking around Lake Ella with longtime friends. My sister and I also managed to endure Daniel's conference session (he was the best!).

We hadn't been back to Tallahassee since moving to Charlottesville the summer of 2012. I wasn't hit in the gut with memories the way I thought I would be - in fact, I somehow managed to erase my mental map of the town - but I still enjoyed the comfort of being surrounded by people who know me well. Spending a bit of time on Florida State's campus also made me realize that I'm at peace with my life right now. It took a long time to adjust to life after college, but I did it and I'm really happy in a way I couldn't have imagined in the months after I graduated.

I'm not very happy to be back in Charlottesville, surrounded by snow with more in the forecast.

Photos, from top to bottom: Eating at Lake Ella, Andrea, Mary swinging from a tree, a Muscovy duck getting a bit too close for comfort, my sister chilling on FSU's campus, Mary and I selfie-ing

life moves pretty fast

foggy cityscape charlotte, nc

Two weeks ago, I was just shuffling along, driving my old car, working a regular shift at the coffee shop, and updating my blog according to schedule. But then my car broke down. Then I got an unexpected phone call offering me a job I applied for two years ago. Then I got on a plane and flew to south Florida. Then I took an impromptu road trip through the south (I love the south), hopping from town to town visiting family and old churches, staying on my sister's couch, eating soul food in South Carolina and takeout in Charlotte, North Carolina while watching a documentary about grocery stores.

chocolate pecan praline, st augustine El Galeon St. Augustine,

I don't know if it's unusual, but every time I spend a few days far removed from my daily life, I start to feel like a disembodied spirit, like everything's a dream. It's like I'm floating involuntarily from place to place. Rather than feeling grounded, I'm supremely confused. But eventually, after getting "home" (defining home gets more difficult as family and friends move away and apart), I start to ease back into things, albeit with a wider outlook and a better understanding of who I am without the imminent influence of a particular community's value system.

cat portrait

My daily schedule is about to change (I accepted the job offer). My responsibilities will increase. But I hope that this new position will fill my need to take initiative and minister to my community. I'm glad that things happened by means of this winding path. I'm glad that I had a chance to remember who I am and remember how much I love my community before transitioning to new things.
Photos: fog over Charlotte, NC; Chocolate Pecan Praline in St. Augustine, FL; Boats and ships in St. Augustine, FL; my sister's cat, Wolfgang

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