So much has happened in a short 10 months. . .

. . .wow, where to begin. Very shortly after my last post our lives took one of those paths that can only be understood by experiencing it. Regretfully, I have plenty of company, on all fronts.

First, my sweetheart had a heart attack in January, which wasn’t really addressed until early March. It was hunting season for God’s sake!!!. . . .Anyone who knows him, knows this makes PERFECT sense.  Ugh, just writing that sentence makes my gut twinge a bit. I may have said those words, but it’s the first time writing them. The good news is, weathering it and soldiering on through seemingly every complication imaginable, he is back and not too worse for the wear. . .in the woods as we speak. Big smile here.

Second,  March 18th marks the date of unimaginable flooding in our area. Never have I seen such destruction and upheaval. Katrina comes to mind. Just on a much, much smaller scale.  There are still people who are not even close to being in their homes. We were far from recovered when the floods hit Baton Rouge.  We have had a hell of a year, our poor state of Louisiana. . . the understatement of all time.. . .So many people lost their businesses and homes. Miraculously, not one of us here at the spa or store lost either.  Thank you God.

So, here we are, December 8th, 2016 and all is pretty good. . .understandably, licking of wounds is still the order of the day for some.  But, we are pretty tough and we know there are better days ahead. . . and for me, the holidays always have a healing effect, even if it is superficial and doesn’t linger past January 2nd. . . .Happy Birthday Jimmy xoxo

I have a new focus. . .THE BEES. . . .here is the BBBUUUUZZZZZZZZ

Propolis or bee glue is a resinous mixture that honey bees produce by mixing saliva and beeswax with exudate gathered from tree buds, sap flows, or other botanical sources. It is used as a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the hive. Propolis is used for small gaps (approximately 6 millimeters (0.24 in) or less), while larger spaces are usually filled with beeswax. Its color varies depending on its botanical source, the most common being dark brown. Propolis is sticky at and above room temperature, 20 °C (68 °F). At lower temperatures, it becomes hard and very brittle

For centuries, beekeepers assumed that bees sealed the beehive with propolis to protect the colony from the elements, such as rain and cold winter drafts.[1] However, 20th-century research has revealed that bees not only survive, but also thrive, with increased ventilation during the winter months throughout most temperate regions of the world.

Propolis is now believed to:[2]

  1. reinforce the structural stability of the hive;
  2. reduce vibration;
  3. make the hive more defensible by sealing alternative entrances;
  4. prevent diseases and parasites from entering the hive, and to inhibit fungal and bacterial growth;[3]
  5. prevent putrefaction within the hive. Bees usually carry waste out of and away from the hive. However, if a small lizard or mouse, for example, finds its way into the hive and dies there, bees may be unable to carry it out through the hive entrance. In that case, they would attempt instead to seal the carcass in propolis, essentially mummifying it and making it odorless and harmless.

What it doesn’t say, is PROPOLIS is amazing for many things in OUR lives!

Thanks to Amy Weeks, our local master beekeeper, who was generous enough to turn me on to such a wonderous thing as propolis, and then supply me with a sample that I played with and  for the last 6 months or so, have developed a small line of natural products made with  propolis as the star performer.

I have made some pretty good headway in developing products that help people mostly with skin issues, such as eczema, psoriasis, dandruff and most recently, poison ivy. I knew the propolis was an amazing product; however, I had no idea it would be so effective and helpful so quickly. Below, is a before and after which took place in about a month. This is a 12 year old boy who has been plagued with eczema for about 10 years.

I am now carrying propolis shampoo bar, soap, spray and body butter. All seem to be working really well. I’m so happy to be able to make something that is helpful, natural and from the bees. How I love them so.  I hope you all have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR!









“lulupegs”. . .we are two lucky girls!

About six months ago I was reunited with a friend, Jerri Lynn Lietchty, who I met when I first moved here to Louisiana.  She had won a gift basket from “little bella”.

We made plans for lunch where I learned that she was going through the dementia odyssey with her mother.  Our mothers stories were so similar. Mine had already passed from the complications of this most heartless disease, and I sensed then why, perhaps our paths had crossed once more.
About two weeks later, I was inundated with orders for a product that required sewing and after going through all my contacts, I sent out a panicked 6:00am text to Jerri Lynn, asking if she could sew a straight line.
Unbeknownst to me, she was an accomplished quilter!
We met that day, and we have been working together ever since.
About a week or so in, I told her about an idea that had been in the back of my mind ever since opening “little bella”. I wanted to develop a doll that could be warmed to help comfort babies as they slept.
We ran with it.  They got cuter and cuter and they started to sell. We decided to make it a joint venture and call it “lulupegs” after both of our moms.
About two weeks before Christmas, Michelle, our aesthetician at Spa Bella, was treating a client whose husband has dementia and brings him regularly for massage. She trusted us to keep him safe while she took a well-deserved moment to relax and let go. “guarding” her husband was and continues to be an honor for us. On this occasion, the client told Michelle she was no longer going to be able to bring him, as he was becoming easily agitated and couldn’t be relaxed, whereas historically, he would get on the table and immediately go to sleep. For some unknown, intuitive reason Michelle warmed a lulupeg in the microwave and presented it to him as he sat, agitated, in a chair. She instructed him to “hold it until it’s not warm anymore” He immediately hugged it, becoming calm and relaxed. Later, when he got distracted, as most dementia patients do, he was quickly brought back to focus as the lulupeg would get his attention by moving when he moved. . He held it to himself again and was comforted all over again. He sat for an hour serene and relaxed.
When Michelle relayed this news to us, we were going crazy with the holidays and it didn’t hit us until about two days before Christmas. The moment we realized, we were standing in the back where we have a big, long work table. Somehow the subject came up again and we stood in stunned silence, looking at each other as it sunk in. There has been a tear shed once or twice.
Since then the heavens have opened wide with encouragement, help, direction, ideas, research and tremendous kindness from all who have crossed our path in this endeavor.
Opportunity seems to fall in our laps and it’s as if when concerns or stepping stones are required on our part in furthering this quest to get the word out, the answers and expertise are right there. People and opportunities just waiting to be realized and are offered without reservation. We have been told there are many uses for our lulupegs, but we are keeping our focus on dementia for now. Research has begun in Houston in regard to “sun downers”
This has been an already mind numbing, humbling adventure for me, and we have just begun. I am encouraged and buoyed daily by my sweet husband who is good at calming me and keeping a meaningful perspective. Trish and Shawn, my sister and her husband have been right there in advertising and getting the website ready for business. They have worked hard through the years to create and run the websites for Spa Bella and “little bella” as well. . absolutely would not be what they are today without their help.
And Mona Hayden  . . The great motivator and believer in our babies. She is our true champion and herald. We are so looking forward to having her with us every step of the way.
And some say there is no God. . It’s all just coincidence. . .
As far as dementia is concerned, our story is a bittersweet one. . . To truly appreciate the usefulness and comfort that lulupegs can bring, there has to be a mother, father, sister, brother or friend who is suffering from what I believe is one of the cruelest diseases there is. We are just happy to be on the sweet side of things.
 So, our research shows that instead of having to witness our loved ones being confused, scared or upset by a thought or idea that plays over and over in their heads, we get to watch them being comforted and soothed over and over instead. These are happy moments.

That was then, this is now. . .

Not long after we decided to close the “etsy” store, a friend told me she thought we needed to sell things that had to do with the spa.  .  .which of course, makes all the sense in the world. . . it just wasn’t my idea. I was a bit battered from the previous year. I’m really not afraid to fail, it’s happened plenty of times before.  I just don’t like it much and I was still licking my wounds.

Making the natural product line never stopped.  Our base line included bar soap, hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, body butter,  and lip balm. We started with three scents. Rosemary Lemon, Sweet Orange Lavender and Lavender. Spring brought on a new set of eyes. The product was actually standing on its own. We developed more scents and products. Keeping the new scents “seasonal” opened us up to becoming more adventuresome and we could really tailor specific scents to specific clients. For example, a client really liked the smell of a popular body lotion and brought us the container. We made it from our natural lotion base and essential oils and the result was a bit different, but the client loved it and so did we. We made it a permanent scent on our shelves. It’s called “Ginger Citrus” and it is amazing. Another we decided to keep for the fall and winter is frankincense and lavender. It’s luxurious and so fitting for the holidays. Of course, EVERY holiday season we offer peppermint and it flies off the shelves.

Slowly, we started to add new product. “No Mess” bath bombs.  Michelle told us the only time she used a bath bomb is when she is out of town. They make a huge mess.  Amanda and I decided to encase the ingredients in cheesecloth and you can let it bob around the tub, or use to exfoliate. The results are the same. .smooth soft skin, fragrance that is heavenly and absolutely NO MESS!!!  YAY!  They are beautiful too. . .great gifts! Additions of loofah sponges filled with soap, (big seller) bath salts, oatmeal body scrubs, linen spritz and our newest offering, bee’s wax candles have all been added slowly in the last two years.  .  . we have been  busy.

Special requests started to come in slowly. .  pain cream, something for restless leg, remedies for insomnia, etc.  Thanks to a few of our persistent and patient clients, we began to put our heads together and we were happy to be working on projects that proved to be a bit more challenging and exciting than making soaps and lotions. Don’t get me wrong, we love making the core products. . .But, you can only do so much of the fluff before it becomes predictable and a little mundane.

Special orders. . requests and suggestions. We love a challenge. If I don’t get back to expand on one of our favorite subjects. . .

Merry Christmas and  a Happy New Year!!!!!






Once upon a time, we opened a store

There is NOTHING like starting and continuing an adventure with people that have been through the trenches with you, the ups and downs, the heartaches and happiness. . . and the best part??  we are still there, still friends and I love to start a conversation with, “Oh my God, do you remember. . .?

When we opened “little bella” our vision was to have a hands on etsy store. We are all pretty creative, at least WE think so. Amanda makes great vintage jewelry from old, broken, wonderful finds that she searches for and local antique shop owners put aside just for her. Leigh is a gifted artist who’s work has amazed and captured my heart more than once. Lou Webb made beautiful exotic jewelry with stones and artifacts she gathered from all over the world. I’m so sorry to say she is no longer with us after a valiant fight with cancer. Heather Miles is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met, exceptional in all areas of art. She sewed, set up label makers and programs in the computer, designed and made pillows and much, much more. I’m so happy she decided to go to school and get a most deserved art degree.    And I had the idea to start an all natural product line that Amanda and I developed from scratch. . . thanks to her extensive research and knowledge and her ability to help me challenge myself in an area I really had no clue about. This was our core. In all, we had 13 contributors through the year.

Michelle approached me one day soon after she started working at Spa Bella with a request to look at her mama’s things. She makes quilts, bags and aprons. This was the beginning of a wonderful and different concept than we had planned and we all had fun watching it come together. Not only did Lummie (Michelle’s mama) do her thing, but she had friends that did theirs too!! Mildred, Doris and Nola all made beautiful quilts, little girls dresses, totes, aprons and more. These were a group of women well into their years that made wonderful, handcrafted things that are basically a lost art in our off the rack, made in China, plastic throw away world. Some of my best memories are of the “girls” bringing in new things they had JUST made and were so excited to see it displayed in all their glory.

We stayed “etsy”for about a year. . .As much fun as we had and gratification we experienced, it was clear we were going to have to move on. . .change our focus and basically start over. I would not say our experiment was a failure. How could it be?  It brought so much joy to us all. We did have sales and followers. But just not enough to really be able to call ourselves a store. So, we called it a day, cleared out the space and started anew. . .

Ahhh, perspective is everything.



“What do you think about massage therapy?”

. . .said my sweet husband, Bob Lee (which is how I like to address him).. Yes, his name is Robert Lee and I am a dyed in the wool Yankee. For some reason, I’m happy his middle name doesn’t start with an “E” . But, it can still bring about a lively conversation.

The idea of massage therapy was suggested after a rather eye opening afternoon. As I stated before, I had been in the restaurant business for 27 years. The last 15 or so, I was cooking. About 2 weeks after moving here to Louisiana we were invited to a small gathering featuring “pot luck”.  I had  decided to make an oriental coleslaw (of which I sold pounds a day at my former deli). I was sure I was going to sweep them ALL off their feet, make them wonder where I had been all of their culinarily deprived lives!! I was going to be an instant HIT!!!!

Much to my utter disappointment and jaw dropping disbelief, one of the guests, whom I love dearly to this day and know he would be absolutely mortified if he knew I had seen him serve himself a heaping spoonful, take a big bite, spit it back on his plate and head directly to the trash to scrape all evidence it had ever been there.

It was clear to me at that moment I had A LOT to learn about cooking Southern food. And it soon became even clearer that I had no desire to start. It’s an art all of it’s own, so I decided to sit back and enjoy all the pleasures the South had in store for me, and set aside my desire to cook to impress.

. . . hence, the suggestion of massage therapy.  And thank God he did, Much like the restaurant business, massage has thoroughly integrated itself into my bloodstream and I love it just as much. Which, is a mouthful for anyone who has been in the restaurant business and claims to love it.

Thank you Bob Lee,


Something I swore I would never do. . . .

RETAIL!!!!  But, we are almost actually ready for the holidays. . yes, the holidays. Please don’t hate me for using those words. . .But, they must be spoken if your life has anything to do with . . .ahem. . .retail.

We are also preparing for 2 shows this October. One is our most favorite, The Annual Herbal Fest. Everything sold must be handmade.  So, It’s sweet and old fashioned and so much fun to go to.

In addition to all of our all natural products that we make here, shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotions, body butter, linen/room spritz, we have added accessories to make baskets with and sell separately. Beautiful sea sponges, body dry brushes, an array of essential oil diffusers, and of course our very own “bella bags”.  They are handmade, filled with flax and come in all shapes and sizes. I have finally made a friend of my sewing machine, and my long time friend, Jerri Lynn has joined us to make the bags and some other wonderful thing to unveil at a later date!!


How could I have left her out?

Patricia Anne Knope Kelley. . .Oh my. . . She is the genius behind BOTH websites. and  Its all her.

All her hard work, design and beautiful way makes them both so very special. It was her idea from the beginning to start a website and they have turned out to be  critical to our success.

Thank you Trisha. . .I love you. xoxo

I’ve really never been very good at having a boss. .  moving from about as far north as I could live, to moving as far south as I could go, and changing careers didn’t change that fact one bit. . .  From the crazy restaurant life of 27 years to deciding massage therapy would be a wonderful path to explore. . .

Spa Bella was born in 2007. It’s really, really hard to believe. It can just about make me cry. From a little 2 room, all by myself, starter building, to what we get to work in and enjoy now. . .4700 square feet of massage, infrared sauna, skin and full body treatments, yoga, and lots more. . . .and if that wasn’t enough. . . We have “little bella” too! An all-natural product line that we make here, on site, and love EVERY minute of it. Our passions are many and we are lucky to get to do what we love with the best bunch of girls I’ve ever known. . .Amanda, Michelle, Jessica, Jenny and Jerri Lynn. Andi Hernandez may not be working here anymore, but her expertise in creating our brochure will always be remembered. As will Leigh Buffington, for all of her hard work through the years designing 3 Spa Bellas. I couldn’t have done it without her.

Well, that’s all for now. . .I am just learning this process. It’s gonna be interesting. Learning something completely foreign is a bit scary. This is going to be fun.


The first “Spa Bella”. . .my, how she has grown.