The Expert Next Door: Area Bloggers Cover Local & Universal Topics

Andrea Witt blogs from her home in Old Trail. Witt’s blog includes how-to videos for crafts. (Photo: Theresa Curry)

Those neighbors you wave to as they head east to the airport? They may have an international audience for their ideas on personal growth or political ethics or wildlife photography or garden design. The recipe that’s become a family favorite may have been created less than a mile from your home. Those breathtaking images of sunrise on the Blue Ridge that you’ve admired may have been snapped by the guy next door before he sets out his trash.

Thanks to the reach of the Internet, those with unfolding stories find more ways than ever before to present them to the world, even if they create them from their kitchen in their flip flops. Blogs (web logs) use video, art work, links and audio elements to illustrate and provide footnotes in ways that wouldn’t have been possible in the kitchen ten years ago.

Our area has a diverse and talented crew of bloggers, full of practical advice, appreciation for nature and inspiration for living.

Diane LaSauce: “home, garden, life”

Diane LaSauce

Diane LaSauce uses her skills in photography and design (she formerly owned a successful interior design business in northern Virginia) to produce “home, garden, life,” a chronicle of her adventures in gardening, cooking and supporting the birds and butterflies of Free Union. When she bought her first home in Albemarle County in 2000, she discovered that home ownership is like riding an ornery pony: “In order to stay on top, one must be quick, adept, and ready for a wild ride.”

LaSauce has been documenting her life for as long as she can remember. While a schoolgirl in Albemarle County, she won a Thomas Jefferson essay contest. Her blog is distinguished by gorgeous photography and a skillful literary approach to both the trials and delights of life in the country. People respond in a variety of ways, she said, either because they’re on the same path or because they live vicariously through her stories and photos: “One apartment dweller in Spain cheers me on, as she merely gardens in balcony pots.”

Andrea Witt: “Vermilion Lane”

During one of the coldest winters ever recorded in Indiana, Drea Witt began her blog as a creative outlet for herself and named it after her favorite color, a vivid pink-orange mix. Luckily, the fictitious place was portable, and Witt now blogs from her new neighborhood in Crozet. In it, she documents her experience creating a home for her family, which includes three teenagers attending local schools and an eccentric pug that has trouble staying awake.

Witt formerly worked in special education in Fairfax County. After her move back to Virginia, she expanded the “Vermilion Lane” brand to include website design and custom wreaths. Witt makes good use of all the bloggers’ tools––how-to videos, guest posts, sponsored posts, links and cross-referencing––to keep the blog lively and organized. She said she finds design inspiration, even cooking ideas from the Blue Ridge views that surround her. Many of her posts are inspired by questions people ask her as she does errands in the community, and in response to requests, she plans to add fashion to her blog. She said she appreciates the moral support: “People in Crozet want their friends and neighbors to do well.”

Terry Newell: The Huffington Post

Terry Newell

Terry Newell is an author and the director of Leadership for a Responsible Society, focusing on values-based leadership, ethics, and decision-making. (There’s more: see his full bio on The Huffington Post.) His blogging reflects his long-held conviction that people should be encouraged to look at all sides of the issue, rather than assembling facts that support the ideas they already have.

Newell also hopes to motivate people to write and respond in a way that’s reasonable and respectful. After a blog post some years ago asking Washington politicians to respect each other and the democratic process––titled “Civil Wars”––he got a response he’ll always remember: “One person replied that she though the last Civil War we had (the one from 1861-1865!) was a good thing and that another one might not be so bad!”

Despite Newell’s assessment of the current state of political discourse, he remains hopeful. His biography states that he’s a believer in the power of a positive vision: “As Bloody Mary said in South Pacific, ‘You gotta have a dream if you wanna have a dream come true.’”

Phil Gregoria: Blue Ridge Mountain Trails exiting I-64 VA

Phil Gregoria

Phil Gregoria uses Facebook to tell his story, a story that progresses mostly in gorgeous photos of the mountains, woodlands and water surrounding us. The Gregorias moved back to the area when their first grandchild was born seven years ago.

Gregoria chose this path partly because his former job as an actor and narrator convinced him of the importance of storytelling. As a cast member at Disney World, he was a professional teller of tales. “When we moved here,” he said, “I would send our friends at Disney pictures of the incredible scenery that surrounds us, and I would share some of the stories of the wonderful people who live here.”

It wasn’t long before his friends began to clamor for an illustrated version of Gregoria’s new life, and the Facebook photo page was born. Gregoria also posts videos showing a day at the orchard or the winery or of a storm coming in over the mountains. He plans to continue posting scenes from one of the most beautiful places on earth, and he also wants to feature more of the area’s people.

John Jackson: Three Jewels Coaching LLC

John Jackson

John Jackson is a life coach, a believer in thoughtful leadership and a teacher of meditation and other mindfulness techniques. He was formerly on the faculty at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, where he served as coach and mentor to young students and faculty members for more than 20 years, then expanded in recent years to reach professionals around the world.

Jackson’s blog shares his ideas about coaching and meditation, reaching a broader audience than he can with his in-person sessions. Many of his posts take the form of dialogues with people he’s met through his work or leaders he admires or summaries of some of the best ideas he’s found for self-development. Regular readers of his blog find the schedule of his classes, including some held nearby, as well as useful written and video lessons for overcoming fear and tapping into the wisdom of the ages for ideas to advance both personally and professionally. Underlying many of Jackson’s ideas for dealing with daily life is his belief in the healing power of nature.

Marshall Faintich

Marshall Faintich

Accomplished wildlife photographer Marshall Faintich posts photography, essays, audios and information about the conditions present during his photographs through carefully organized links on his website.

Blogging, he says, fills all his requirements for the perfect hobby: search, discovery, learning, and sharing. It started from his habit of emailing his photos to a few friends. “I got positive feedback, and a lot of other people have asked to see my photos and read about my adventures.” Writing a near-daily record has also forced him to more closely observe and record the details of the shot, so he can share the weather, exact location and trail conditions, a record that is useful to him as well as any Old Trail neighbors wanting to see for themselves.

Faintich is a man of many interests, some of them regularly featured on his site. He’s an astronomer by training, a cartographer by trade, and a student of ornithology, numismatics, archaeology, and history.

It’s a pleasant surprise, he says, when he runs into birders far from home who have visited his blog, read his books or seen his photos, and so recognize his name.


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