Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Didn't See This One Coming

I spend a lot of time in thrift stores. They are an excellent source for materials to be refinished and up-cycled at prices that allow me to make a bit of money, but not have to charge my customers an arm and a leg. Now while thrift shops may be exciting to me, especially when I find a true diamond in the rough, they generally do not max out my tolerance for mayhem.

Enter last Thursday and Friday.

Last Thursday I was D-O-N-E with everything. With artists, with my life, with the barn sale -mostly the barn sale- so I decided, "That's it! I am outta here today" and I left for Maryland. Isn't that where everyone goes when they are sick of being in charge of their barn sale?

source for flag pic

My particular reasons for this state being my choice involved it being the location of a particularly intriguing thrift shop, whose ads I had been watching on Craigslist all summer as I searched for pieces for my dining room. One of their most recent postings showed a short wooden filing cabinet, just perfect for my office desk redo.

That's right! I am making myself an office! It sounds so official, doesn't it? The office of CM Shaw, Artist and Director of Branches: the Barn Sale Without a Barn. Woot. My parents even "invested" in my company and sent me money for a new computer!

Here is what I am currently working with. Don't you love the phone books added to level the different heights of the filing cabinets?And the dent that makes it hard to open the rickety filing cabinet? And the floppy disk era computer that I am currently using?:

Hence the need for a new filing cabinet. And a new computer.

Still, I digress. The need for the filing cabinet was my excuse, These guys always have great deals on furniture, the good stuff, antiques, mid-century pieces, you name it. So I went up to check it out.  I walk in the door and the first thing I see is this:

(Obviously, I had to retake these photos. I had big plans to use the Craigslist photos taken in the shop, but due to technical difficulties, you'll have just pretend these first few are in a thrift shop)
Pretty isn't it? Solid wood, obviously well made, gorgeous lines, classic style that will never be outdated. This table is the reason that I go to thrift shops. There are just gorgeous, well made things there, things I could never afford otherwise, waiting to be discovered and taken home. There was only one problem here. I have a dining table. Now granted, it's not the one I want it to be, but the Amish have that one right now. At least until I can cough up the $2700 it will cost to have them make it for me. And the one I do have was a freebie hand-me-down from a friend who felt bad for me when we moved into my house and didn't have any furniture (or money to buy any furniture) in my dining room. And it works fine, even if doesn't match any of the new stuff I have added this summer.

So, I did something unusual for me. I used my "pause" button. You know, the thing you develop after years of getting unhappy looks by your husband for doing all kinds of insane things that no reasonable person would ever be tempted by? Like bringing home 6 bags of used and antique books and 6 lamp shades because you suddenly decided that you wanted to build book lamps? You know what I am talking about, right? So after years of my husband giving me his "Really?" expression as I walk in the door with totally unreasonable amounts of stuff, I have developed a "pause" button. I stop and think, " this purchase going to get me the 'Really?' look? And if so, is it worth it?" This usually pulls me far enough out of my fervor, that I can make a more rational decision about the whole thing.

In the case of the table, I thought of a hundred reasons why I shouldn't do it, bought a pretty federal style mirror to chalk paint and my filing cabinet (for $7! after a buy-one-get-one-half-price deal), and quickly left, before I weakened.

Aren't you proud of me? I was SO proud of myself. I even called my husband when I got home and bragged about my "pause" button induced self control. And then I started to crack.....

I told my friends about the table. What it looked like, how much it cost, what I could do with it...

And then I pulled up the listing on Craigslist. It was even better than I remembered.....So I sent the listing to my sister and my best friend, both of whom live in other states, (but neither in MD), just so they could see what I'd left behind. And I went to bed.


My first thought when I woke up was "I have to have that table!" I checked my email and saw that both my sister and my friend had said, "Ummmm....You need that table. GO GET IT!" So I gingerly walked up the stairs and asked my guy what he would do if he happened to come home to a new dining room set.

He looks at me with this very patient expression and, thinking out loud says, "Now you know that you are going to be talking to all your friends about this table. And then you'll want to tell me all about the table again, and then, if it sells, you'll be all sad about someone else getting 'your' table and this will all go on for weeks.....So it seems that I will suffer far less if I just tell you to go get the table. Frankly, I really don't have an opinion one way or the other. Happy table shopping Honey." My sister's comment on this conversation was "He has obviously lived with you for a very long time."

So I immediately called the thrift shop in MD and asked them to put it on hold, which they agreed to do, for 1 hour. Well, it takes almost an hour to get there if traffic is even marginally slow. And DC traffic is always at least marginally slow. So my business partner, Sharon and I took the seats out of the van at lighting speed and blazed up there as fast as our little tires would take us.

As we walk in the door-and I am not making this up- one of the store employees is eating their lunch on MY table. She is sitting about 18 inches from the shop's glass front door, eating something out of a bag and some Tupperware. She doesn't even budge as I start climbing under that table to look for cracks and damage. And two little ladies were sitting in MY chairs, sorting scarves at the other side of the table. Keep in mind, the store manager knows we are coming. Right on cue and to his credit, he walks up and says, "Um...someone has this on hold until 12:30." I smiled brightly and said, "That's me. Thanks for protecting my table" and continued climbing around, turning over leaves and sitting in chairs, just to be sure this table was worth the fervor it was putting me through. "Lunch lady" still keeps eating as if no one else was in the room.

The manager finally had to tell her to move when I asked to see how the leaves fit and to see how smooth the table mechanisms worked. Oh baby! They were like butter. And worked off a gear and teeth made of steel. Love it! Obviously, this was the table for me. And then I looked at what was written on the wood below the gear, "Ethan Allen." Score! Beautiful, functional, well made and originally expensive!

So we close everything back up and the little ladies look up and go, "Are you going to buy the chairs?" I said, "Yes, I think they are included in the price of the table." And the ladies went back to sorting scarves. I wandered around the store for a few minutes, as it was "buy one get one half price," to see what my half price item would be. When I walked back by the table again, the ladies asked me again if I was going to buy the chairs. "Um....yes, they go with the table" I replied, for the second time. I smiled politely and went to find Sharon and to keep looking at stuff. I thought long and hard about this gorgeous Wedgwood dish set and an empire dresser. But there was damage to the veneer on the dresser and I have no idea how hard dishware is to resell, so they stayed at the shop for some other lucky girl. The only thing I could find that I could justify getting was a $4 turned wood candlestick. What a waste of a good buy one get one deal, but it couldn't be helped. As I am walking up to pay for my candlestick and table, one of the little ladies walks up to me and says (and I am totally not making this up), "So will you be taking the chairs?" At this point, wondering if I am being punked, I smile at the lady, assure her that yes, I would be taking the chairs momentarily, and quickly sprint to the register to pay and tell Sharon that I am loading up the stuff.

The table weighs a ton, so they had to call the a guy from the back room to help bring it out to my car. As I pull the 20 ft or so to the loading area, I hear this odd grinding noise and notice a slight tilt to my car. I get out and go around to the side where I heard the sound, and my rear tire is completely flat. I'm talking "down to the rim" flat. This what not what I had expected would happen.

The manager quickly pointed out that right next to us was an Advanced Auto Parts store and talked about "fix a flat" in a can. I had never heard of this product, but was game for anything that would get us back on the road, so I bought a can to try out. Sharon and I took turns holding the knob down for the 10 minutes it took the stuff to empty into my tire. Then we started talking about our options. This whole time, Table Guy is trying to impress Sharon with his private DC high school education and his dedication to the Redskins, rather than helping us with the flat. Ultimately, we decided that while, this spray stuff would be good for short distances on local roads, we had to go 60 miles on high speed, high traffic freeways, and would be better off using my full size spare.

Just as we found a lug nut we couldn't seem to get off, up walked a friend of Table Guy's who happened to know his way around a car. He popped that last lug nut off in 2 seconds and put the spare on for us. We thanked him profusely as he helped Table Guy load the huge table into the car. He disappeared before we could tip him, like magic, when we went in to get the chairs. 
 Once everything was all loaded up (and thankfully, it all fit!), we headed for a gas station to give the spare just a little more air. The road we took was a different one than we had come on, and while we did find a gas station with an air pump, we also managed to get lost while trying to find the freeway. Lucky for us the neighborhood we were in was full of all these grand old houses. So we enjoyed the view while looking for the freeway. Just as we found the road we needed and headed into the turn lane for the freeway on ramp, Sharon at me and said, "Where are the leaves for the table?" We quickly got out of the turn lane, and headed back to the store. Thank goodness we were still only about 5 minutes away.
As we walk into the shop, the manager, who is in his cubicle on the phone yells, "Thank you so much for coming back!" Obviously he has been stuck with other people's leaves before. The little old ladies had found themselves some other chairs and were sorting again. They looked up and said, "Oh, we were going to remind you to take those." I wonder if that was their subtle vengeance for me taking away their chairs?
By this time, Sharon and I were bursting out in maniacal laughter intermittently. It was 1:30pm and way past our lunch time, so we stopped at a local kabob place and chowed down. During our meal, between uncontrollable fits of laughter, we decided that this was the most mayhem we could have at one time and still think was funny while it was happening.
You'll be happy to know that the drive home was completely uneventful.
And the table looks amazing in my dining room.

Friday, September 14, 2012

29 Hour Vacation - Part 2: What to do in Kilmarnock VA

OK, we got through reasons 1-3 to go to Irvington and Kilmarnock. the other day. (See the post here.)  Just to recap, for the people in the back, all three reasons had to do with the Hope and Glory Inn.

Now moving on...The rest of the reason all have to do with cool things to do and eat in Kilmarnock/ Irvington.

BTW, I don't think I was very clear in the first post about the difference between Kilmarnock and Irvington. Just to be clear, they are both small towns on Virginia's Northern Neck. If you are coming from DC, and driving down Route 3, you get to Kilmarnock first. In Kilmarnock you take Route 200 south and then in about 5 minutes, you are in Irvington. So for this girl of the 'burbs, they are close enough together to count as one location, though they really are two separate cities. Irvington is the more upscale of the two. That's where the Hope and Glory Inn is located.

Now back to our "regularly scheduled' vacation:


4. Windmill Point-
This is the "beach" in town. But it is actually the Chesapeake Bay, not the ocean.
You'd never know from the views:

The hotels say that sections of the beach are "Private".
The laws and the locals say the whole thing is public.
I say "It is easier to get forgiveness, than permission," and went wherever I wanted.

Amazingly, we had the whole beach all to ourselves.

It was a fantastic place to watch the sunset.

So we did just that.

Enough said.
5. Thai Pot Restaurant

Thai Pot is one of the most delicious Thai restaurants I have ever eaten at. Here is a Yelp! review if you don't believe me. It is located along Main Street in Kilmarnock. (36 N Main, to be exact). The owner is this cute, little, high energy Thai lady. She waits tables with the staff and walks the floor to make sure everyone is happy. We instantly became her favorite customers when she took our order and we said we wanted "medium heat." I guess the local palate prefers things a little less "colorful."

I ordered the fried fish dish with tamarind sauce. I had to keep myself from licking the plate. I really did have to tell myself, "Self, you are in public. You cannot lick this plate just to make sure you ingest every last drop of this sauce." Fortunately for the other diners, I listened to myself this time.

You really do want to eat there. It's beautifully decorated with original Thai art, like this golden finial in front of the kitchen. The kitchen is open to the dining room, so you can watch them make all your little goodies. I love that.
6. The Crown Donuts Truck
We stumbled upon this one by accident. After a futile attempt to go shopping before the stores actually opened, we looked across the street and saw all these people lined up in front of a truck. Now I don't know about you, but if I'm on vacation and there is a line up to a brightly painted truck parked in a gas station, I'm going to go check it out.
That's one of the delights of not having anything better to do.
This particular truck was full of donuts. Well maybe not full of donuts, but they had this cool little machine that was cranking them out as fast as people could by them.
So we bought some. A bucket full to be exact. For the kids....of course.
7. Christ Church
This is a cool original brick Anglican church built in 1735. I am always amazed that anything can survive that long. Especially in Virginia's humidity and rain. Here is the website of the Christ Church Historical Society. They can tell you a lot more about it than I can, because the visitor center was closed when we got there. So we did what all intrepid travelers who have to leave so the babysitter doesn't abandon their kids. We parked in front and tried to peek in the windows.
Sadly the windows were way too high. So we walked around the grounds and read the gravestones.
There is a guy buried there that was a doctor in the Revolutionary War.
And a few soldiers from the War of 1812.
I don't know about you, but there is always this sense of "I wonder if all that really happened?" that gets shattered when you see something from that era that has made it across time until now. I never realized that I didn't "believe in" the War of 1812, until I saw the gravestones of people who had actually fought in it. Funny how things work.
So while all of this "history really happened" stuff was super cool, I still really wanted to see the inside of that church. So I started looking for options. And then I found one.
I did it. I totally looked through the keyhole, just to see what I could see.
And my guy thought it was so funny, he took a picture to show the kids.
I promise, I totally did not stage that photo.
The best part was, I actually could see the inside of the church through the keyhole! And through the miracle of technology (and my guy's Blackberry camera,) so can you! Ahh the things a man will do for his woman's blog....
Everyone loves a nice pair of antique carved wood ten commandments, right? I suppose, someday I should go back and actually take the tour. If you all ever do, let me know what I missed, OK?
8. The Drive Along Route 3
I was so ready to be away from Northern Virginia and the DC Metro Area, that even the drive was total bliss. (Execpt for the two hours it took us to go 30 miles as we were leaving said metro area. Not so much bliss there. Thank goodness for the bumpin' mix CD my guy made for the trip!)
You get to Tappahanak, which is a very cool name for a town, and then cross a bridge to the penisula that makes up the Northern Neck. The road that takes you all the way down to the tip is Route 3. It's a charming and calming drive. Little towns, no traffic, beaucolic farms everywhere. I kept wanting to stop and take pictures, but I only had one card with me and it could only hold 70 pics, so I held off. There were a million little places I wanted to stop and check out, but my guy was impatient to get to our destination after being stuck so long in traffic, so I just relaxed and enjoyed the view. It looks nothing like where I live, so it was perfect.
Here is the coolest old broken down farmhouse. I made him stop on the way home to take pics.
Totally worth stopping for, right?
So I walked around the front to get in a little closer and quickly realized that I was not the first person to have this idea.
So I didn't go any farther than the ominous "No Tresspassing" sign,
but I couldn't resist taking this last shot.
I plan on titling it "But Honey....Think of the Potential".
So that's how I spent a very pleasant 29 hours. The only vacation I had this summer. And we made it back just before the babysitter had to abandon the children.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

29 Hour Vacation

You have a babysitter for 29 hours. It's your 18th anniversary. Your husband has been home a total of 10 days this month, and your "vacation" is sitting in your laundry room in the form of a new washer and dryer, due to the last one dying suddenly and taking the existing peel-n- stick floor tiles with it.
Where do you go, as go somewhere you must?
Why to Kilmarnock, Virginia of course!

Never heard of it? That's exactly what I said when my friend Tammy told me I should go there. But the more I poked around, the more I realized she was absolutely right.

1. The Hope and Glory Inn. (click to go straight to their site)
This darling B&B was rated one of "the Top 10 Coastal Inns in the Country" by Coastal Living Magazine. It is a well deserved honor. The main inn building is a re-purposed Victorian style school house. They have cleverly turned all the classrooms into beautifully decorated suites.
 This is what greets you as you walk through the door:


This is the view to the right, a nice checkered game table and comfy sofas in front of a fireplace:

This the the view around the staircase to the left, another darling game table.
And if you keep going to the left you'll find....

 Detention. Which is an excellent name for a bar in a school, if you ask me.
Check out what's written on the board:

And you gotta love a deer with a tie. An impersonation of the Vice Principle perhaps?

 When you go up the stairs, there is a spa waiting at the top of the first landing. They have a masseuse on staff so all you have to do is schedule your massage and show up.
 It smelled divine inside this room. And the door walks out to a large balcony. The massage room is right around the corner to the left.
Here was my darling room in the attic. I was on a budget, so I literally got the cheapest room in the house. It comes with a claw foot tub in the room. Love!

Sorry, my pics of the bed didn't turn out so well. You will just have to imagine a big, plush, over pillowed bed with a picket fence headboard and a bunch more white framed vintage mirrors around the whole thing. The mirrors were so cool. They gave the whole room this really understated sparkle.
 Behind the main building are cottages, the former teacher residences and a few newer buildings, also for rent and lavishly decorated.
Cottages, one of which has an upstairs and downstairs. There are more cottages to the right of the path in the picture. They were very charming, actually. But I was just there more for an escape than a blog shoot, and my photo card was getting full. So you'll just have to go there to see them for yourself.

There is another campus to the hotel, a simple bike ride away, in a nearby vineyard.This section is comprised of cabins, referred to as "tents", which surround the hotel's swimming pool.
Here is my favorite of the "tents":
Overall, it was luxurious, accommodating, beautiful and comfortable. If you need to escape, this is a great place to do it. Starting at $240 a night on summer weekends, their rates are on the very top end of what I would spend, but it really was a gorgeous place and I would definitely stay again, given the opportunity. Also, they prefer a two night booking on the weekend, but if you only have time or budget for one night, call. They are super pleasant people. Most likely they would be happy to make an exception for you. They did for me.
Here is the link to their site. They have way better pics of their rooms than I do. Plus their site has relaxing music in the background. Norah Jones will make your worries melt away.

BTW, The Hope and Glory Inn knows that I am blogging about them, but they do not know what I am writing, nor have they compensated me in any way for this post. They did, however, generously allow me free reign to take pictures anywhere I wanted, as long as I didn't desturb the other guests.

All opinions here are truly my own.
2. The Bikes at the Hope and Glory Inn.
We never actually had time to use these, but I loved that they were "comfort"bikes. I totally want one. The town of Irvington, (where the Hope and Glory is located, just 3 mintues down the road from Kilmarnock), is very charming and would be a lovely canvas for an afternoon bike ride. Ooooo...especially in the fall when the weather was cool and the leaves had started to change. Hmmm. Might just have to come back for that.

Here is where the bikes can take you: And yes, that is a 40 ft corkscrew.

This gorgeous locale is the Hope and Glory Vineyard. They have tastings, and events here. And the pool for the hotel is on the vineyard grounds as well.

3. The Outdoor Tub and Shower at the Hope and Glory Inn

I know you are all gasping and going "Me? Naked? Outside?" Well worry no more! You too can partake in this decadent ritual without the fear of prying eyes.

This is what you see outside the tub surround:

 Can you see through that fence? Well, neither could I. And I have to admit, I checked very carefully, albeit from the path, to see what was inside. I really wanted to use that tub. And it was in almost constant use from the time we got there until the next morning after breakfast.
We ate and busted down the path to see if we could get our chance .....
and were greeted with an open gate (The sign that the tub is available) and this view:
You are completely surrounded by a stockade fence, so no one can see you. Well I suppose if somebody wanted to put their face right up to the wood and look through a crack, they might be able to see you, but it's a risk worth taking because it is AMAZING to bathe outside!

This is the view from the tub. Don't you just wish you were there right now? It is super relaxing. And if you look up, all you see is the sky and leafy trees. It's heaven. And just a little bit naughty.....

And they even went to the trouble to add a mirror, so you can be beautiful in the outdoor tub where no one can see you. Or maybe that's just for when you go back to the Real World. Hmmm...

 Allen and I are already talking about where and how to build one of these at our place.

*Note to the reader*
 I had originally planned on doing one big post (which is why it has taken me so long to post), but things have become rather unweildy. So think of this as the "where to stay" portion of the post. Later this week, I'll add part 2: "What to do in Kilmarnock." So until then, you'll just have to wonder what we did.....and with me, that really could mean anything.