Friday, May 28, 2010

Happy 2nd Birthday To My Blog!

May 20th marked the 2nd birthday of my blog! In its second year, "Because I Said So" had over 3,800 visits (23% increase) and 2,734 visitors (70% increase) from 50 countries and all but one of the United States (gonna have to work on that, Montana!). My Top 3 Countries: U.S., Canada and United Kingdom. Top 3 U.S. States: Florida, New York and Virginia (VA is new to the top 3, thanks Loudoun!).

Another new blogging development this year is the addition of a new blog, Our Island Culture, that I write along with my business partner, Kimberly, for the destination of Anna Maria Island & Longboat Key. Check it out if you get a chance, I write under the name of Island Girl.

Thanks to all who take the time to read about my antics, and a very special thanks to those who comment on the blog. I read your comments and I appreciate the love.

In honor of the Birthday Blog, here is a look back at my first post from 2 years ago: Charleston, SC.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lemon Pound Cake, Anyone?

Maybe back in the days of Newhart I might have fantasized about owning a bed & breakfast once or twice. I do recall thinking during those fleeting moments about having strangers in my house, having to clean it and doing lots of cooking. If you know me at all, you know that is not my forte. Add to that the knowledge I've gained in the resort industry of ADR's, occupancy, operating expenses, etc and I would have said not a chance. That is, until I met JoAnn and her lemon pound cake.

JoAnn and Kevin Hazard hailed from suburban Virginia, where they raised their family and lived normal lives with normal jobs. Until a few years ago, when they decided to pursue their dream of living in the place they loved to vacation, Middleburg. Middleburg is a quaint, historic and upscale village in rural Loudoun County, Northern Virginia. Loudoun is in DC's backyard, known for its Civil War history, rolling hills, and boutique wineries.

Our stay at the Middleburg Country Inn was prompted by a research trip I made last summer. The impression JoAnn made on me with her soft-spoken hospitality was enough to bring me back. I shared this visit with my husband (50th birthday), Mike and Christine (50th birthday), and Billy and Karen (20th anniversary). In fact, the arrival of my sister Karen and brother-in-law Billy from New Jersey was a surprise for Gene. The inn is at the entry of the village, situated on a large green lawn with multiple sun porches. From the third floor balcony I could see an old brick house to the right, a tiny red barn to the left, and an 18th century cemetery across the lane.

During our stay, we had chance to share a glass of wine on the patio one evening with our innkeepers. Kevin, who reminds me of a much taller Gene, is a great guy. He was a wrestler in school like my hubby and he commutes to DC working as a general contractor. All the while we chatted, JoAnn held her rooster shaped timer on her lap to keep a watchful eye on the never empty bowl of chocolate chip cookies that resided in the entry. I can't tell you how many times I had to turn a blind eye on that bowl during our stay! (I confess to ONE cookie on the last night. Don't think the remainder of the clan can say the same.)

In comparison to a B&B I stayed at in Charleston, SC, Middleburg Country Inn is much more a home than a hotel. The couple live at the inn, and you can tell. While JoAnn cooks the breakfast (I witnessed her early rise to cook the bacon), Kevin serves it. They know everyone in town, and a simple question will get you hooked up with reservations or coupons to a local wine tasting.

Curious George (I mean Mike) picked JoAnn's brain about the life of an innkeeper. And the fantasy crept back in. I did offer to inn-sit for them so they could vacay, like the girl in Nights of Rodanthe. JoAnn told me to be careful what I wish for. I'm secretly hoping that phone will ring anyday now.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Historic Waterford Village – A Step Back in Time

It was a drizzly day in mid April, the final full day of our DC/Virginia trip, when our friendly Middleburg Country Inn innkeeper, Kevin, handed my clan a walking tour of the Village of Waterford, Virginia. For some reason, the slight chill in the air provided a sort of timeless setting for poking around this surreal town.

The tour started at the Corner Store of the 1733 village, founded by Amos Janney, a Quaker from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and led us down Main Street past the Jail, the Post Office (still functioning), the Bank, the Sugar Shack and ending at the Mill. The dwellings in between ranged from row houses to stone cottages to Victorians to log cabins. As we read from our modern-day print out, we learned of each building’s history. The 19th century structures that used to house a general store, carriage painting business, shoemakers shop, watch making and jewelry store, a school, and a tannery now exist as residential homes. In fact, while passing by the Goodwin-Sappington House (former shoemakers shop) a young man holding a little girl exited the home. Since we were admiring the gardens to the left of the home, he informed us the house now belongs to his mother whom he was visiting. He was heading into Leesburg to get take out, since there are no dining establishments in the village.

Before the Civil War, Waterford had grown to the second largest town in Loudoun County. Today, it remains much the same size as it was then, with only 90 buildings. In 1970, the Secretary of the Interior determined that Waterford possessed such national significance that it was designated a National Historic Landmark. This is the highest designation of historic significance possible in the United States.

It occurred to us that living in a 250+ year-old village with little or no commercial amenities is a rare experience that could be very, very cool… or very, very challenging. We concluded that it really depends on where you are in your life and what you’re looking for. Regardless, the six of us middle agers (hubby Gene, sister Karen and Billy, and bff’s Christine and Mike) decided it was well worth our time to stroll the narrow streets and imagine living life in this quiet, quaint and amazing village.