Day: March 1, 2015

From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, National Harbor

PEEP-tastic Easter Offerings Await Guests at Gaylord National Resort

Guests with a sweet tooth will delight in this year’s Easter offerings at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. The resort has partnered with the iconic PEEPS® and Company to create a one-of-a-kind, overnight family package experience for the Easter holiday season on Saturdays, March 21 and April 4. The PEEPS Easter Package includes: One night room accommodations for up to four people Easter-themed kids craft activity*. Easter Egg Hunt for kids 12 and younger with the opportunity to win PEEPS prizes** $50 resort credit*** $10 gift card to the PEEPS and Company Store in National Harbor One welcome Easter Candy treat bag (limit to one bag per room) The package starts at $239.00 for a family of four. Visitors to the hotel also can experience a free PEEPS Pursuit scavenger hunt during their stay. Participants are encouraged to search high and low for plush versions of PEEPS chicks, which will be hidden throughout the hotel’s 1.5-acre atrium and main lobby area. All participants who complete the Pursuit will win a free treat from the PEEPS and Company store if redeemed from March 14 through April 5. They also can enter-to-win a large plush Peep or Bunny. On Saturdays and Sundays, March 21-22 and April 4-5, spa-goers can delight in a special treat for little ones. Children ages 5 to 10 that experience a Princess Manicure or Princess Pedicure at Relache Spa can choose from an assortment of PEEPS sparkling, candy-scented nail polish. At the end of the service, each child also will receive a PEEPS nail polish kit for pampering at home. The Princess Manicure costs $35.00 and the Princess Pedicure costs $45.00. Visitors to the resort over the Easter holiday weekend can choose from two Easter brunches on Sunday, April 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. New…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, National Harbor

Bring on Spring!

Good Lord – the February weather is about to send me over the edge! Hopefully by the time daylight savings kicks back in on the 8th we will be able to enjoy some decent weather instead of trapesing over packed snow and ice for an extra hour!I know that March is supposed to “come in like a lion and go out like a lamb” so let’s just hope it leans more toward the lamb part! There isn’t a lot going on here at the Harbor as far as events are concerned during the month of March. The big excitement so far is that they will be showing all of the March Madness basketball on the Jumbotron (I really don’t think that is the official name for it, but you get the idea) down on the plaza. It will be fun to watch if you don’t have to dress like Nanook of the North. The better option, however, is to head to Public House Restaurant on Fleet Street and watch all the round ball you want in a climate controlled facility where you can get a cold beer, some hot wings and everything else you sports nuts like. They have large screen HD TV’s all over the place and the mondo screen for the important games! More details are in their ad in this section. We can’t forget that we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on the 17th! I have to confess that this day ranks right up there with Fat Tuesday for me. Even though I have never been to Mardi Gras, I party like I’m there! Same with St. Patrick’s Day. I know that bartenders all cringe thinking about all of the “amateurs” that come out of the woodwork on that day and drink green beer like fools but I…

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Business Profile

Fleurir Hand Grown Chocolates

While many of you readers are familiar with Artfully Chocolate and Kingsbury Chocolates that are based in Alexandria, I bet there are many of you who didn’t realize that Old Town has its very own chocolatiers. Fleurir (pronounced “flurryier”-this is as close to the Hooked on Phonics pronunciation I could come up with) Hand Grown Chocolates is located at 724 Jefferson Street, just a half block off of South Washington Street. I was unable to personally interview the owners, Robert Ludlow and wife Ashley, since they were on a long overdue vacation; I did, however, have the pleasure of visiting with Michelle Whittaker (referred to as the master-knitter) while she was manning the store and getting ready for the upcoming Easter rush. I did garner from talking with her and from this fun establishments website/blog that they have a great sense of humor and really love what they do. According to the site, “Robert is the mad genius behind Fleurir – not mad as in angry, but mad as in wildly creative and remarkably disorganized….”. I like that in a person. They obviously operate with a very capable team. A bit of history….their original store was located in Georgetown for several years before they decided to move to Old Town where they could have an onsite kitchen. All of their products are made in-house right on Jefferson Street. This includes not only retail but online and custom orders as well. I am amazed at what they put out of that relatively small space! It would be fun to watch them when they are in full truffle making mode! They produce over 18 different kinds of truffles as well as 7 chocolate bars, 3 kinds of handmade marshmallows and three different flavors of hot chocolate mix. All of their candies have…

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Social Media Message

Top 5 Recent Social Media Stats

In keeping with the current social media advice theme of the past few months, I want to share some recent statistics from the gurus over at HubSpot. After all, it is only through performance statistics that we can discover if our campaigns are truly working. 1) 92% of marketers agreed that social media is important for their businesses. The same percentage of marketers also agreed that social media has generated more exposure for their clients. 2) 72% of marketers are using social media to develop loyal fans. 3) More than half of marketers who’ve been using social media for at least three years report it has helped them improve sales. 4) 74% of marketers who spend 40+ hours using social media per week earn new business through their efforts. 5) 95% of marketers who use social media at least 6 hours per week indicated their social media efforts increased exposure for their businesses. Well there you have it; the proof is in the pudding. Social media efforts must be consistent, long-term marketing campaigns that are designed to help businesses reach new, loyal consumers. Written by: Laura P. Parker Laura P. Parker is a full-time freelance writer and marketing guru. For more marketing tips or consultation advice please contact her at Note: Thanks to HubSpot for publishing their latest findings. Check out for more social media marketing statistics.

Notes from the Publisher

Publisher’s Notes March 2015

All hopes of a continued mild winter were quickly dashed with the arrival of February. Sub freezing temps were the norm and the snow gods got their revenge. Hopefully the daily temps will begin to rise throughout March setting us up for a great spring. With spring on our minds we decided to put some flowers on the cover this month…just to brighten things up. We had snow on both the January and February covers, so maybe this one will bring spring weather. Doug Coleman takes us to Petersburg in his installment of the Civil War 150 years ago. Prior to WWI, this was the beginning of the horrors of trench warfare. The Union has tightened its grip on the south and the Battle of Appomattox Court House is only a month away. Will the war be over, or just the fighting? Let’s see where Doug takes us in the future. With spring in our hearts our Road Trip this month is to Sperryville and Little Washington, Virginia. Red buds may soon be blooming to welcome spring, which arrives March 20th. Our Personality Profile features artisan and furniture maker, Peter Kramer of Little Washington, and he has a lot of personality to share. If you have a sweet tooth, check out this month’s Business Profile…fleurir Chocolates – “probably the most delicious box of chocolates you have ever eaten.” With March comes St. Patrick’s Day (and my birthday). The festivities kick off with the 32nd annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Town on March 7th and there are things to do until March 17th.…St. Patrick’s Day. Be sure to get your Irish on at O’Connell’s, Murphy’s, and Fiona’s. Don’t forget to turn your clocks ahead an hour on March 8th for daylight savings time. See…..spring isn’t far away. Written by:…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Fiona’s Irish Pub-Catch the Spirit!

With St. Patrick’s Day happening his month, we decided it was a good time to visit Fiona’s Irish Pub in Kingstown. Although only open for about a year, owner Martin White is no stranger to the restaurant business. White came to the States from his hometown of Dublin, Ireland in 1986. He got his start in the business when he went to work for the Hamburger Hamlet restaurant group and eventually bought four King Street Blues franchises. But his dream has always been to open a decent, proper Irish Pub. I think that he has realized his dream. White transformed the King Street Blues restaurant in Kingstowne to a dark wood, first class Irish Pub. The bar (a staple of any Irish Pub) dominates the back of the room that also has many high-top tables for dining as well. If you want to get away from the chatter and quality music piped in, you can dine on the other side of the full glass partition that divides the entire room and subdues much of the noise. As with most Irish Pubs, to me, the best spot is at the bar. That is where the action is and bartenders, unless they are slammed, are a great source of information. The bar area was about 1/3 filled and as one would expect around here, we ran into a few friends. Dave, our bartender was delightful and helpful and as we had hoped, he had that great Irish accent. After a perfectly poured pint of Guinness, (when in Rome do as the Romans do) I ordered the Guinness and onion soup. Now I am a big fan of onion soup, especially the French version (first time I ever had it was in Montreal in 1971 and I was hooked). This hearty onion soup…

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Personality Profile

Personality Profile – Peter Kramer

Even though this would be more of a Business Profile, we decided to call it a Personality Profile because I think that a little bit of Kramer’s personality is in every piece of furniture that he creates. Peter Kramer’s name has resonated with me for the past ten years every time I ventured into Rappahannock County. This past month I had the chance to meet the renowned furniture designer and maker. At 76 years old, this man has the enthusiasm and humor of someone much younger. Meeting Kramer was like seeing someone you had known your whole life. Kramer’s life began, well, 76 years ago in a small New Jersey town about 30 miles outside of New York City. As a child, Kramer began working with his father’s hand tools, and then one day his Sunday school teacher invited him to join him at his wood working shop. This is where his first real taste of making something with wood began. “We bought four feet of lumber and worked at making 3 foot-stools.   They weren’t great, but it was the first thing I ever made and I got great pleasure out of it!” he tells me. “We had a ready market for our foot-stools, and immediately sold them to our mothers.” Years later Kramer would visit his brother-in-laws hardware store and work in his shop. Here Peter’s skills began to develop. He began to design and make his own furniture. As he developed his skills Kramer also entered Rutgers University. Even though he was entered in an academic program at the University, Kramer began to realize that his heart was in designing and building furniture. He set up an appointment to discuss his future with his guidance professor. The advice was that ”wood working is a great hobby, but no…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Rappahannock County’s Gems – Sperryville and Little Washington

Although the first part of this winter was pretty mild compared to past winters, we were finally hit with bone-chilling temps as well as assaults by snow and the infamous Canadian Clipper in mid-late February. As I write this, the daytime temperature is 46 degrees…the only time it has been above freezing the past week and the forecast for the next 7 days only call for two days above freezing, but no higher than 40 degrees. March is a transition month, it can be nasty or it can be mild, but remember that the first day of spring is March 20th and the Washington Nationals opening day is at home on April 6th against the New York Mets. Spring must surely be in the air and that is why we have flowers on our cover and our road trip is to the foothills of the Blue Ridge. I have written about Sperryville and Little Washington in Rappahannock County before but there is a lot going on there these days. Although the town of Sperryville is short on size, it certainly makes up for it with the energy and creative nature of the locals. My friends Sherri Fickel and Kevin Kraditor, owners of Hopkins Ordinary, along with their partner David Litaker, have recently opened the Ale Works at the Bed and Breakfast. Kevin has taken his five-year-old-hobby of brewing his own beer and he and wife Sherri decided to take it commercially. Teaming up with David, who grows hops, a growing trend in Virginia, the trio began to produce a limited amount of small batch beer for public sale. Using their one-barrel brew house, they are making a variety of beers over the course of the year, including their three standards: Innkeeper’s India Pale Ale, Hazel River Brown, and Little Devil…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

Is it spring yet?

It’s very hard to wax enthusiastic about outdoor events when spring seems like it’ll never get here. Just a short trip outside is a slap in the face from the surly arctic wind buffeting you over slick ice patches onto snow pockmarked with more hard, slippery ice. If you can find a sheltered spot, perhaps you might notice the sun is higher in the sky and stronger. The days are definitely lengthening, but unlike in milder winters past, there’s nary a sign of crocus or forsythia. I pray the tips of the emerging daffodils didn’t get so frostbitten they won’t bloom — maybe their snow cover is providing insulation. Yes, spring cannot get here soon enough to suit me. Although big winter storms aren’t unheard of in March, I remind myself that the snow doesn’t hang around the way it does in January or February. Gardeners are itching to get their hands dirty although we know better—we scratch the itch by starting seeds indoors and pruning things that need it ‘til the danger of frost passes. This can be a tricky month to plan ahead for outdoor activities, so if there is any question about the venue due to weather, check the website or call ahead. Most don’t require much if any advance planning. And we’re all hoping there’ll be plenty of blooming daffodils, forsythia and maybe even some early blooming redbuds at the end of the month on the drive out. Starting Saturday, March 7 the point to point season gets underway (weather permitting) in Berryville with the Blue Ridge Hunt point to point at Woodley Farm. For information, call (540) 550-7015 or (703) 509-4499; Racing comes to Fauquier County March 14 at Airlie near Warrenton, with the Warrenton Hunt race meet. General admission tickets need not be…

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Master's of Cuisine, Wining & Dining

Chef’s Special – Chef Samir Labriny

Chef Samir Labriny Bistro du Soleil 1504 King Street Alexandria, VA. 22314 (571) 312-2754 When did you first become interested in cooking? Why did you decide to pursue a culinary career? I grew up in a very large family in Casablanca, Morocco. I was the eldest of seven children. I was intrigued by my mother’s skills in the kitchen, so I asked for her permission to cook for the family. She would never have let me in the kitchen unless I asked for permission. I enjoyed it and so did my family and they were a tough crowd for their big brother. Cooking and making people happy is addictive to me. My parents wanted me to be a doctor. I wanted to be a chef.  Nothing is more satisfying to me than preparing food with love for people who enjoy it. Who have been the biggest inspirations for your career? As I said, my mother taught me to cook. She was a phenomenal talent. She went to the market every day to buy fresh ingredients for our meals and she prepared them not only with love, but with a flair for making even the most simple food taste amazing. She knew exactly which vegetables to pick. She taught me techniques and instincts that I never learned in culinary school, and never could! When I was starting out, I had the privilege to work in the kitchens of many great chefs in local restaurants and hotels. I have admired many talented chefs, but my true teacher and inspiration was my mom. She taught me how to combine flavors. I call it the 3D experience in my restaurant, “Sounds, Smells, and Great food”, so all your senses are entertained. What dish on your menu are you most curious to see how…

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