March 31, 2011

Early Anniversary Trip - Part 1

I am a contractor for the government. I had recently moved to another position within my company when a few months after starting I learned that my company had lost the contract. Thankfully, nobody lost their job and most transitioned to the new company back in July 2010. I am one of the few still waiting to transition (money complicates things) and I was originally supposed to transition at the end of March. Therefore, Mr. M and I had planned to celebrate our anniversary a little early so I could use some leave time, if need be.

We have made it a tradition to stay at a bed and breakfast each year for our anniversary. Last year, we stayed in St. Michael's, MD and went to a fabulous restaurant for dinner, The Bartlett Pear Inn in Easton, MD. This year, we wanted to go back to the same restaurant, but decided to stay at a different B&B, even for just one night. And we are so happy we did! Because we had such enjoyable experiences at both the restaurant and B&B, this will be a two-part series so I can dedicate an equal amount of attention to both.

The weekend of our trip happened to be the last weekend of Talbot Restaurant Week, so I was overjoyed at having the opportunity to try a 3-course meal at a discounted price. The Bartlett Pear Inn is a gorgeous 220-year-old home that was converted into a bed and breakfast and fine-scale restaurant just about a year and a half ago.

Walking into the inn, it was nice to see a mix of contemporary art and furnishings with the period architecture and trim. The atmosphere of the restaurant is so serene with its bluish-grayish-purplish walls and is very intimate with only about 10 or so tables.

All of the staff were extremely friendly and happy to help with absolutely anything. Upon arriving, I asked the hostess if they would mind if I took a few photos. She told me she would check with the manager/head chef and get back to me, but she did not see a problem if I was not disturbing any of the other guests. It turns out that the manager/head chef was so delighted that I asked, that he wanted me to come back tot the kitchen so he could meet me and thank me for my thoughtfulness. So, after Mr. M and I ordered our food, I went back to say hi.

Chef Jordan and his wife Alice were a pleasure to meet and so genuinely nice! Chef Jordan gave me a tour of their very tiny kitchen that worked like a well-oiled machine.

That's Chef Jordan on the left.
I was particularly impressed with their simulated white tablecloth on which they sat all food to be served to make sure the presentation was perfect.

I am such a goofball and totally forgot to take a picture of Jordan and Alice! What can I say? I was just a tad overwhelmed with the fact that I got to meet the head chef, who had worked for three four-star chefs and two five-star, five-diamond restaurants before opening his own place!

And the food? Let's just say that Mr. M and I have decided that we will be making it a tradition to come to the Bartlett Pear Inn every year for our anniversary. It is that good! And they also gave us a sweet little anniversary card with everybody's signature on it in addition to a complimentary champagne toast.

Now, on to the food! Here was Mr. M's 3-course meal.

1st: Inn Made French Fries, Classic Bernaise, and Malt Vinegar Ketchup
2nd: "Creekstone Farms" 16oz Cote de Beouf, Grilled and Sliced w/Peppercorn Demi Glace and Lamb's Lettuce
3rd: Chocolate Tart w/Marcona Almonds and Chocolate Ice Cream
And my 3-course meal.

1st: "Garbure" Refined Gascony Stew - Puree of Country Vegetable Soup, "Cottingham Farms" Glazed Carrots, Duck Jus
2nd: Potato Crusted Wild King Salmon, Brussel Sprout Leaves, Boulangere Sauce
3rd: Baked Pear Tart, Malted Vanilla Ice Cream, Almond Cream
And how easy is it to take food photos when the food is that gorgeous??

And upon Mr. M's request, here is a special shout-out to our server, Valerie. She was one of the best servers we have ever had! So knowledgeable and poised, but not stuffy. And fun, too! And thanks for taking our photo before the best desserts ever!

If you ever happen to be on Maryland's Eastern Shore, make sure you drive to Easton to visit the Bartlett Pear Inn. You will not regret it!

This post happened in perfect timing with Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop, and falls under the 'Memorable Dinner' topic.

March 25, 2011

Yay! New Photo Challenge!

My friend Jess, over at Life on Delgany Street, is officially starting her own photo challenge. I am so excited! It looks like it will be a SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) challenge, considering she's calling it {SOOC}. I had heard about a photo challenge from Jess earlier that the wonderful blog Sailor & Company had hosted, but before I had a chance to participate she decided not to do it anymore. So, I am super happy that Jess is starting one so I can finally participate in such a challenge.

It starts next Thursday! More information will be posted then. I feel like it's Christmas in March!

Sorry, I'm just a little excited.

New Item In My Etsy Shop!

And it's about time! I have had this piece framed for a month or two now, but have been too lazy to take a photo and list it on Etsy. Well, the time has finally come for it to make its debut! And it is just in time for spring!

I love it. It is so simple and can be used almost anywhere. I am thinking I may try other colors for the flower part, too, so there are more options than just pink. Although, I must say, I think the pink is very nice. If you love it as much as I do, you can buy it here.

I should have a trio of pieces coming soon. I just need to find the right frames. Stay tuned!

March 24, 2011

Have You Tried CSN Stores?

I have! And can I say how awe-inspiring the size of the CSN Stores website is? They have 200+ online stores, so I do believe they have just about everything you need for your home and more! Despite the vast size of their website, it is incredibly easy to find exactly what you are looking for by searching for a specific category or brand. I had already heard about CSN Stores and how they carry all kinds of great furniture, home decor, and kitchen items. But, I did not know that they also carry construction equipment (perfect for Mr. M!), school and office supplies, baby items, and health and fitness items. And, they sell camera equipment, too! And that was exactly what I was looking for.

I have been on the hunt for a decent compact camera tripod for quite some time. I knew if I had one, it would make my Etsy photos so much more crisp, especially for those close-ups of my stitches. And, then I could get away with taking more photos of Mr. M and myself together farther away than arm's length. 

So, I was looking for a camera tripod that was a good price and came with good reviews. And customers can submit reviews at CSN Stores, too. Score! I wound up purchasing the Carson - TP 100 - The Rock Junior

As I am, I believe, a savvy internet shopper, I decided to try to find another website that could beat the price on the CSN site. I did my usual manual searches through Google and hunting for coupons, but with no luck. When I returned to the CSN site, I noticed they had a link next to the price that said 'Seen it for less?'. It turns out, they want your business that bad that they want you to tell them if you found it cheaper elsewhere. I did not use that service, but I am sure it works something like the price matching programs you find when shopping for home appliances and such.

As for shipping, it was a lot faster than I had expected, and the item was packaged very nicely. They were also great about sending me notifications for everything via e-mail. 

Overall, my limited experience with CSN Stores was great, and I will definitely be back to do more shopping in the future. Just be forewarned, you could get sucked in and lose several hours of your life while perusing all of their goodies!

Oh, and as if CSN Stores isn't enough, they have just recently launched their own private sale website called Joss & Main. It offers exclusive sales on top brands and designers for the home at up to 70% off retail. The sales only last for 72 hours, but new ones are launched on a daily basis. If you are interested, check it out through the logo below.

Joss & Main

March 17, 2011

Where Does the Time Go?

Lately, I feel like my days and weeks have been flying by at the speed of light. And I feel like I haven't accomplished much of anything. Today is a great example. Normally, I would follow MamaKat's writing prompts and have a random post for today. I did not even realize it was Thursday until I saw her post from her own writing prompts. Doink.

Then there is my Project 365, or lack of it, lately. I have not taken a photo for at least a full week now. I don't know if it is because I am too much of a perfectionist and feel like my last few photos were sub-par so now I am discouraged, or if I am just plain tired. It takes a lot of time to not only take the photos, but then upload them, maybe edit them, then actually post them, too.

Regardless, I feel like I have not had much time to do anything other than the normal daily stuff lately. And then when I do have some free time, I feel way too exhausted to get my butt moving to do anything. Sometimes, I want to find a hole to crawl into and not come out for a while, just so I can rest.

I do not want this post to sound like I am whining. I really am not. I think I am writing this more for my own benefit, so that I have an opportunity to wake myself up and maybe figure out why I am feeling the way I am. Maybe it is not enough time in the day. Maybe I am just unmotivated and lazy. Maybe I am just exhausted. Or maybe it is something more. Regardless, I hope I snap out of it soon.

More photos will be coming soon. Well, the ones I have taken and have not yet posted. I am hoping to get back into the swing of things again soon, so please be patient with me.

March 15, 2011

Simplicity Photography Challenge - Beverage

Abstract 1

My usual beverage of choice is water. That is a photo of it above. Well, an abstract photo looking through my beverage. I hope to create more abstract photos in the future, but it is rather difficult at times. You really have to think outside of the box. And I am not one to normally do that.

March 10, 2011

Sentimental Sing-A-Long

I really enjoy Mama Kat's weekly writing prompts. I am not one to think outside of the box or, rather, outside of my own comfort zone. So, she definitely keeps me on my toes. One of this week's writing prompts involved a song of significance. And, considering that it is getting close to Mr. M's and my 3-year wedding anniversary, what better song to choose than our first dance song?

When I was in the midst of wedding planning and fraying each and every nerve I had, I would continually obsess over what would be our first dance song. It had to have some serious significance. The one I really wanted was not a good dance song, so I went with another one with just as equal significance.

Bless the Broken Road - I like the one by Selah

I set out on a narrow way, many years ago
Hoping I would find true love, along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you

Every long lost dream lead me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
And led me straight to you

I think about the years I spent just passing through
I'd like to take the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You were there, you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true

Because I could not use my first choice of song as our first dance song, I managed to incorporate it into my processional music for our wedding ceremony. It was a bit non-conventional in a conventional church, but I think it worked out great.

Everything - by Lifehouse

Find me here,
And speak to me.
I want to feel you,
I need to hear you.
You are the light,
That's leading me,
To the place,
Where I find peace again.

You are the strength,
That keeps me walking.
You are the hope,
That keeps me trusting.
You are the light
To my soul.
You are my purpose,
You're everything.

How can I stand here with you,
And not be moved by you?
Would you tell me,
How could it be,
Any better than this?

And so on and so forth. There is a lot more to the song, but that is as much as I used in our procession, with that last stanza timed to where I was already standing with Mr. M when it started. It makes me fell all mushy and gushy every time I think about it!

You know, it's those little personal things that you add to your wedding that are the things you will never forget and make it feel so much more special. So many people get sucked into the trap of trying to please everybody else that they forget that it is THEIR wedding. Mr. M and I made our wedding our own, and maybe we are biased, but we believe ours was one of the best weddings we have been to.

March 9, 2011

A Must Read!

Oh, my!

I am speechless...

But this post puts it all into words so eloquently.

Whether you are a believer or not, I think her words could speak to anybody.

March 5, 2011

Project 365 - Week 9

I missed a day! And I did not even realize it until I started importing my photos for this week. I must say, though, that I am rather impressed with myself for not having missed more than just one day. I hope I can keep up the good track record for the whole year!

 Jewelry show display. Once I get my jewelry that I ordered, I will be creating a post about the whole show. Keep an eye out!

I used the 'focal black and white' option in Picnik, but I think there is an even better way to do it with a different option...

 Fun clouds rolling in. Being a weather nerd, I was hoping for more!

 Sunrise at my office. Now you know how much of an early bird I am!

 My fun shoes. They don't feel so fun on my feet.

Evening sun shining in. I love the natural light we get in our home!

House-warming gift I made for a dear friend. This is the finished product from one of my earlier Project 365 photos.

March 4, 2011

Simplicity Photography Challenge - Everyday Life

Okay, so there will be more toes showing in the coming warmer months, but this has been pretty much part of my everyday life during the winter.

Now that I am looking at this photo again, it does look a bit dark. Mental note for next time.

March 3, 2011

Spring Must Haves!

A pretty umbrella for those spring showers.

Source: via Cathie on Pinterest
A big smile.

Winter is Over
Plenty of Bible time to help you appreciate those beautiful spring days so much more.

Home improvements done by Mr. M if you live in Maryland. (Shameless plug. Sorry!)
A bright pair of flats. They go with anything!
A cute jacket to keep you warm on those chilly spring evenings.

Pretty vases to display pretty flowers.

Eco-friendly cleaning products if you do spring cleaning.

Open windows.
A blanket for impromptu picnics.

March 1, 2011

To Market, To Market

Mr. M has come to a crossroads with his business. He is facing two options, one that is a bit more 'safe' and the other that is more of a 'risk'. He has the option of becoming a subcontractor for a big-box home improvement store. That is the 'safe' option, but there is the potential that he may not be able to push his business while on jobs for the home improvement store, thus not giving him the opportunity to grow his business and his business name.

The more risky option is to market his business. He has come up with several great promotional ideas for existing customers, but that is small in comparison to other marketing options available. He just recently met with a representative from Valpak and is highly considering giving it a shot. It may cost a bit up front, but if he gets even just one job, it would break even for him. And the opportunity to get his business name exposed to up to 60,000 homes is just astounding and mind-boggling all at once. Because we both believe that this business is for God and from God, Mr. M needs to come to Him for any decisions with his business. The interesting part will be if he feels God wants him to do something that may seem scary to us at first. But, I think as long as he stays focused on what this business is for, then everything should be just fine.

Updates to his website are forthcoming, and we are also hoping to start an e-mail newsletter. The newsletter part is foreign to both of us, so if anybody has some great pointers, they will be hugely appreciated!

We keep telling ourselves that Rome wasn't built in a day. We have seen slow but steady growth over the past two years, so we are excited to find out what will happen next.
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