A (Long) Look Back at 2013

As 2014 rapidly approaches I am happily reflecting on the wonderful year that I had in 2013.  Most importantly, I married my best friend and the love of my life (and had a blast doing so!).  I also started running again after a six year hiatus, I spent time with Bailey, and I cooked lots of yummy foods.  All in all a good year.  Here’s my official recap!

Matt and I got married!

On June 8th Matt and I got married at Sweetwater Farm in Glen Mills, PA.  The celebration started Friday night with a laid back barbecue ‘rehearsal dinner’ during Tropical Storm Andrea (luckily we were under a covered patio!).  Then the sun came out on Saturday and we got married outside at the edge of the woods before partying the night away with our guests in a renovated 18th century red bank barn that doubles as a winery.  After our wedding Matt and I honeymooned in beautiful St. Lucia.

I ran! (a lot)

When Matt and I returned from our honeymoon I decided it was time to get back in shape.  I started streaking on July 1st and we bought a treadmill on July 18th.  Spurred on by a goal that I set for myself (100 miles in 42 days), I started walking, jogging, and then running like crazy.  I hit 100 miles in 21 days, 200 in 37 days, and 300 in 54 days.  Then I nervously entered and triumphantly finished the Run-A-Muck, my first 5K race since freshman year in high school.

After Run-A-Muck I was completely hooked on running.  So much so that I overdid my training and injured my foot to the point where I could hardly walk.  I didn’t want to break my streak, so I switched my training over to the elliptical trainer in our garage.  With time my peroneal tendonitis healed and I was ready for more 5Ks.  Matt and I ran three races on consecutive weekends in late October/early November (Fueled Up, Oy Vey, and Trinity) and then enjoyed a crowded Turkey Trot on a chilly 29° Thanksgiving morning.  Matt hurt his back so he cheered me on from the sidelines at the Athlete’s Closet 5K in mid-December, then I finished off the year with a new personal best (25:13) at the New Year’s Eve 5K at the Upper Main Line YMCA.

iFit Stats as of 12/31/13

I started tracking my mileage on July 18th and I’m finishing off 2013 with exactly 812 miles.  That’s an average of 4.86 miles a day since mid-July, whew!  My best month was August with 180.2 miles, followed by a strong December with 161 miles.  My longest run was an 8 mile jaunt in Wallingford, PA on December 22nd (I didn’t mean for it to be that long… I got lost!).  I’ve been streaking for 184 consecutive days and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon!

Bailey played!

I can’t write a year end recap without mentioning our cuddly, energetic, “petite” German Shorthair, Bailey.  Bailey turned 6 in May, competed at the DockDogs Regional Championships in June, had a GSP house guest in July, wallowed in the mud in August, and frolicked in the snow in December.  When she wasn’t outside patrolling the yard for squirrels, Bailey snuggled with us on the couch (she’s only allowed on the furniture if we invite her up) and snoozed in her doggie den bed.  She also started K9 Nosework classes in January and she’s working on hunting for birch scent now.  (That reminds me that I really need to do a post about NW one of these days… maybe next year!)  🙂

Hiding behind the tulips

We cooked!

When we weren’t busy planning a wedding or running, Matt and I spent time in the kitchen making lots of yummy meals.  Here are a few of our favorites from 2013:

Smoky Beef ChiliBanh Mi Steak SandwichesZacatecas Skirt Steak Tacos

Chicken Lo MeinWhite Pizza with Sausage, Spinach and RicottaPork Carnitas Tostadas

Pozole RojoCoconut Cream PieCaramel Corn

Rotisserie Chicken BurritosStuffed Poblano PeppersMexican Pizza

I blogged!

And, finally… in 2013 I blogged!  WordPress sent me a stats summary for the year so I thought I’d share a few quick factoids.  My blog had over 58,000 views in 2013 and my visitors came from 150 different countries!  Thank you very much for visiting, everyone!!!

My most popular post by far was this recipe for Candied Yams (it had over 1300 hits on Thanksgiving day alone!).  Other popular posts were my DIY Tutorial on making your own “vintage” blue ball jars and my Rotisserie Chicken Burritos.  I’ve really enjoyed blogging in 2013 and I can’t wait to continue next year!


OK, I’m off to get ready for a New Year’s Eve party.  Have a wonderful last few hours of 2013 and happy new year!!!

Wedding Flowers!

It’s time for another wedding-related post and this week I’d like to share some photos of the gorgeous flower arrangements that our florist, Toni Ogborn, put together for our wedding a few months ago.  Aren’t the pinks, oranges, greens and succulents beautiful together?

Wedding Bouquet - bright pink dahlias, pale garden roses and peach roses with a blue ribbon

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember that back in April I posted about painting my own blue mason jars for our wedding.  That’s one of my jars in the photo above… it looks pretty real, right?  🙂  If you take a look at that older post you’ll also see my wedding flower inspiration photo.  I knew that I wanted my wedding flowers to look just like the bouquet in that photo so I gave a copy of the photo to Toni and asked her to make something similar.  I think she did a perfect job!!

I loved my bouquet!

I liked my bouquet so much that I brought it home the day after the wedding and used it as the centerpiece on our kitchen table until we left for our honeymoon.  Here’s a closer look at the flowers and colors in my bouquet:

Wedding Bouquet Flowers_2

My bridesmaids each had bouquets that were wrapped in blue ribbon to match their dresses.  I love how bright and bold the flowers were!

Wedding Bouquets - pinks, peaches, succulents with aqua dresses

Our reception was in a barn so we opted for long tables with burlap runners and lots of small floral arrangements in blue mason jars and quilted jelly jars.  These arrangements were simpler, more rustic versions of our bouquets and featured soft garden roses, crazy snap dragons, peach-colored roses and hot pink dahlias.

Wedding Flower Centerpiece - Colorful Flowers in Blue Mason JarWedding Flower Arrangements in Mason Jars on Long Tables

If you’re getting married in the western Philadelphia suburbs and you are interested in talking to Toni Ogborn about doing your wedding flowers please feel free to send me an e-mail at anne.elizabeth.mcmanus (at) gmail.com and I will be happy to put you in touch with her.  I loved the flowers that Toni put together for my wedding and I highly recommend her work!  🙂


Please note:  All photos in the post with the exception of the “closer look” at my bouquet were taken by Melissa Hassey of Melissa Hassey Photography.  The closer look photo was taken by me with my iPhone the morning after the wedding.

Related Posts:
Wedding Photo of the Week #2 – the Perks of a Winery Wedding
Wedding Photo of the Week #1
We’re Married!

The Perks of a Winery Wedding (Wedding Photo of the Week)

One of my favorite moments of our wedding day was when Matt and I slipped away from our reception and spent a little time together in Grace Winery’s vineyard at sunset.  Our photographer, Melissa Hassey, captured the moment through the grape vines:

Matt and Annie in the Vineyard

Getting married at a winery had some awesome perks.  We attended wine tastings, our friends relaxed in the vineyard sipping wine before our wedding started, and, of course, everyone enjoyed drinking the locally made wines at the reception!

Matt and I shared bottles of Grace Winery’s 2012 Pinot Gris (pictured above left) with our bridal party before the ceremony.  This freshly bottled Pinot Gris was light, refreshing and perfect for a warm June afternoon.  We also served Grace Winery’s oaky 2010 Reserve Chardonnay (my personal favorite) and a sweet and slightly smoky 2012 red that was so new it didn’t yet have an official name!

Grace Winery is about 3 miles from our house and they have tastings every weekend so we look forward to trying new vintages in the future!  We’ll definitely have to get a bottle or two for our first anniversary next June.  🙂

Annie and Matt in the Vineyard

If you ever find yourself in Philadelphia’s western suburbs yearning for a glass of wine make sure to check out Grace Winery!  Their tasting room is open nearly every weekend and the barn, vineyard, and surrounding farmlands are beautiful.  Grace Winery at Sweetwater Farm, 50 Sweetwater Road, Glen Mills, PA 19342; 610-459-4711.

Related Posts:
Wedding Photo of the Week #1
We’re Married!

All photographs in this post were taken by Melissa Hassey Photography.

Wedding Photo of the Week!

Matt and I got our wedding photos back from our fantastic wedding photographer, Melissa Hassey, and I thought it would be fun to share one each week.  Here’s one of my favorites:

Wedding Photo Wednesday!  Matt, Annie and Bailey (Photo by Melissa Hassey Photography - www.melissahassey.com)

I love how Matt and Bailey are making eye contact in this shot!  Bailey wasn’t being the best behaved wedding dog at this point in time so Matt was having a little talk with her about sitting still for the camera.  🙂

On another note, thank you to everyone that has voted for Bailey in the Yakima Photo Contest!  Bailey is one of 10 finalists in the contest and you can vote once a day.  Please consider voting now for Bailey… she’s neck and neck with another photo for the lead spot right now and I appreciate any and all votes!!

Please click to vote for Bailey!

To vote for Bailey, please click here and hit “VOTE”.   You don’t need to have facebook or share any personal information in order to vote.  Thank you!!

Our St. Lucia Honeymoon

Matt and I enjoyed a fantastic 10 days on the beautiful island of St. Lucia for our honeymoon.  We spent the first week at Crystals, a boutique bed and breakfast on top of a mountain in the rain forest.  Our cottage, “Papaya,” featured a shaded porch, a private pool, a bright red sundeck and oh yeah… drop dead gorgeous views of St. Lucia’s iconic Piton mountains!!

233 The view from our private sundeck at Crystals

Here’s a shot turned around 180° looking back at the Papaya cottage.  Can you see Matt relaxing in the shade?

046 Our cottage at Crystals

While were at Crystals we used our 4×4 rental car to brave the windy roads (Lucians drive on the left!) to do some sightseeing in the Soufriere area of the island.  We visited the botanical gardens, drove into the drive-in volcano, smelled the sulphur springs, relaxed on sugar beach (Anse des Pitons), hiked the Tet Paul nature trail in a rainstorm, and spent a day on a 42 foot yacht sailing along the coast.  Perfect!

We passed a scenic overlook every day on our way into Soufriere but it was rainy and/or overcast for most of the first week so we didn’t bother stopping to take photos.  Lucky for us, on our last day at Crystals the sky cleared and the sun came out so we finally stopped and got our photo opp.  This photo shows Soufriere, nestled in a volcanic valley in the shadow of Gros Piton and Petit Piton. Beautiful, isn’t it?

250 Soufriere, St Lucia

After our time at Crystals we left Soufriere and drove 40 minutes north to Anse Cochon for our last three days.  We stayed at Ti Kaye, a cliffside resort with amazing views of the Caribbean Sea everywhere we looked.  Ti Kaye had a restaurant on site so we returned our rental car and settled in for a very relaxing finale to our honeymoon.

337 Anse Cochon, St. Lucia

We had our own private cottage at Ti Kaye with an outdoor shower and a large sun porch with — you guessed it! — beautiful views.  We spent a lot of time lounging at the pool and beach, ate wonderful meals at the Kai Manje restaurant, indulged in a luxurious “honeymooners” couples massage at the Kai Koko spa, and – during what was possibly my favorite 3 1/2 hours of the trip – enjoyed an epic 13-bottle wine tasting session with Cleus the Sommelier in the Ti Kave wine cellar.

After our 10 days were over we headed back to reality.  It was sad to leave St. Lucia but also nice to come home to Bailey and officially start our married lives together!  🙂

If you’re interested, you can view a Flickr album of my favorite photos from St. Lucia here: Annie’s Honeymoon Picks.  If you’re really interested in seeing lots and lots of photos, you can view our complete honeymoon photo album here: The Entire Honeymoon Album.  Thanks for stopping by!

180 Matt and Annie in front of Gros Piton

We’re Married!

Just a quick update to say WE DID IT!!  Matt and I got married on Saturday afternoon surrounded by our family and friends.  The sun was shining, the wine was flowing, and fun was had by all.  Here’s a sneak peek from our lovely wedding photographer, Melissa Hassey:

Wedding Photo Sneak Peek - Annie and Matt

Now it’s time for our honeymoon in St. Lucia… woohoo!  🙂

Grilled Shrimp Salad with Mediterranean Lemon Dressing

Matt and I are getting married in 2 days! All of our wedding prep is pretty much done and now we’re just relaxing and waiting for the weekend to get here. (Oh, and also checking the weather about a million times a day… Tropical Storm Andrea better hurry up and get out of here in time for our outdoor ceremony on Saturday afternoon!) 🙂

We’ve been going out to eat a lot lately but we did make one planned meal this week using a new cookbook that my mom got us as a wedding present. The book is entitled Salad for Dinner so, as you might guess, our meal was a nice and hearty entree salad! This was a fresh, summery meal that was perfect for the warm weather we had earlier this week. Doesn’t it look yummy?

Grilled Shrimp Salad with Lemon Mediterranean Dressing

Grilled Shrimp Salad with Mediterranean Lemon Dressing (from Salad for Dinner)

For the Mediterranean Lemon Dressing…
1 tablespoon Tahini (ground sesame seed paste)
2 cloves Garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For the salad…
1 lb. large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1-2 cloves Garlic, pressed through a garlic press
8 oz. Mini Bell Peppers
8 cups Baby Spinach
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half
2-3 Persian Cucumbers, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
1/4 – 1/2 Red Onion, very thinly sliced
Feta Cheese, crumbled
Fresh Oregano Leaves
Lemon Wedges
Pita Bread Crisps*

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a jar. Close the lid and shake vigorously to combine. (You could also use a bowl and whisk the ingredients together if you don’t feel like shaking.) Refrigerate the dressing until you are ready to use it.

Mix together the shrimp, garlic and olive oil in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. After the shrimp has marinaded, remove from the fridge and stir in the mini bell peppers. Grill the shrimp and bell peppers over medium-high heat. When the shrimp turn pink (3-5 minutes), remove them from the grill and set aside. Continue cooking the bell peppers until they are soft and blackened in spots.

In a large salad bowl, combine the spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers and onion. Dress with the Mediterranean Dressing and mix well. (I used about half of what the recipe made.) Toss in the warm shrimp and bell peppers. Serve the salad in shallow bowls with pita crisps and garnish with feta, oregano, and lemon.

Grilled Shrimp Salad

Grilled Shrimp and Bell Pepper Salad Close Up

*To make pita bread crisps, slice pita bread into 1 – 1 1/2″ strips. Place on a cookie sheet, brush lightly with olive oil and season with salt. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for approx. 10 minutes, turning once, until golden brown.

DIY “Vintage” Blue Mason Jars

Wedding Bouquet - bring pinks and peaches with blue ribbonI don’t think of myself as a very crafty person but I’ve decided to take on some DIY projects for our wedding. I’m really happy with how my first project is turning out so I thought I would post a little how-to tutorial on my blog!

Update:  Interested to see how my DIY blue mason jars and flowers turned out at my wedding?
Visit my 
Wedding Flowers post to see them!

That’s one of my bridesmaids’ bouquets in a
“vintage” painted blue jar on the right!  —>

Turn clear mason jars into vintage blue ball jars

Perfect Wedding FlowersSeveral months ago I found a beautiful photo on Ella Bella Floral’s web site. I immediately knew that it was exactly what I wanted my wedding flowers to look like, right down to the aqua ribbon and vintage blue Ball mason jar. I started researching jars and was shocked to see that these special blue jars cost $10-15 each! There was no way I could justify spending $15 for a jar so I decided to take a do-it-yourself approach instead.

After a quick google search, I discovered that luckily I am not the first person to want to make my own vintage blue jars. I consulted several blogs but by far found this post from My Greenbrae Cottage to be the most helpful. From that post I learned what type of paint to use and also that wiping the paint onto the jars with a cloth works far better than a paintbrush.

After painting 25+ jars (with 18 or so more to go…) I tweaked the process a little and ended up with the following process:

How to make your own ‘Vintage’ blue Ball jars

You will need…
Rubbing Alcohol
Pebeo Vitrea 160 Turquoise Glass Paint
Pebeo Vitrea 160 Thinner / Dilutant
Small bowl to mix the paint in
Soft cloth to apply the paint (I used a 6″ x 6″ piece of cut up T-shirt)
Several Mason Jars, thoroughly cleaned and all label residue removed
Foil-lined baking sheet
Nitrile or other type of Gloves (optional)

To prepare for painting, line a counter top with a towel and/or foil to protect from any spills. Remove the lids from your mason jars and set aside. Don your gloves (if using), and use a paper towel to wipe down the outside of each jar with rubbing alcohol.  This will remove any residue or dust and help the paint stick better.

Mix together 1 part of the glass paint with 5 parts thinner in a small bowl. Dip a corner of the cloth in the paint mixture and start painting the outside of your first jar, beginning at the top around the threads. Move the cloth in the direction of the threads until they are evenly coated.

Painting Mason Jars to create 'Vintage' blue Ball Jars

Next, paint the sides of the jar with a liberal amount of paint, moving the cloth only in up and down motions (from the top of the jar to the bottom; never side-to-side). Coat the jar sides and bottom completely, then reposition your cloth so that a side that doesn’t have much paint on it is facing the jar. Quickly rub the cloth up and down over the sides of the jar to remove the excess paint, leaving just a thin film of blue paint. Don’t stress too much about getting this part perfect (it’s never going to be streak-free!) because luckily the baking step will reduce some of the streaks for you. Place the jar upside down on the baking sheet.

Paint your other jars, then carefully insert the baking sheet into a preheated 350° oven and bake for 45 minutes. Allow the jars to cool completely before handling.

Clear and Blue Mason Jars

Some Helpful Tips:

  • Try practicing on some empty sauce jars first before painting your “real” jars. This will help you get a feel for the painting technique.
  • If you mess up while painting a jar, immediately run it under hot water. The paint will rub off and then you can dry the jar and try again!
  • If you are reusing jars, make sure to clean the outside of the jar very well. If the jar has any residue on it the paint will get gummy. I update this post on 4/30/13 to add in the first step where you wipe the jars with rubbing alcohol.  I’ve been doing this with my latest batches of brand new jars and I think it helps.
  • I’ve read other blogs that say it is critical to allow the painted jars to cure for 24 hours before baking.  I am impatient and I always immediately bake the jars when I’m done painting.  I haven’t noticed any issues so I’ll continue to bake immediately!
  • As I mentioned above, don’t stress about making the jars look perfect. It’s just not going to happen and you can drive yourself crazy. Once you bake the jar and fill it with water and pretty flowers no one is going to notice that streak or smudge!

Daffodils in Blue Mason Jar 2

Megan and Nick’s Wedding!

Last weekend Matt and I got to be a part of the wonderful marriage of Matt’s sister, Megan, and her husband Nick.  Congratulations Megan and Nick!!  🙂

The official wedding festivities began with an amazingly delicious rehearsal dinner at Le Virtu in South Philadelphia and ended with a fantastic wedding celebration at the historic Powel House in old Philadelphia.  Megan and Nick had a professional photographer documenting the official wedding but I had fun taking some photos during the rehearsal dinner and the “getting ready” portion of their wedding day.  Here are a few of my favorite shots!

Nick and Megan at their rehearsal dinner on Friday night.

We had an amazing 4 1/2 hour meal at Le Virtu in South Philadelphia. Click on the photo to zoom in and read the menu! My favorite course was the Palott cac’ e ove Braised egg and cheese croquettes in tomato sauce.

Megan and Matt’s cousin Denise has the cutest daughter ever! This is 13 month old Frankie.

Megan’s beautiful wedding dress!

Megan gave each of her bridesmaids a pair of these lovely custom-made earrings along with a cute robe to wear while getting ready. Thanks, Megan!

Welcome to Philadelphia!

Megan walked down the aisle in these snazzy pink peep-toe pumps.

Matt and I made a DIY photobooth for Megan and Nick. Here we are hamming it up for the camera. 🙂

Megan and Nick’s wedding bands in a custom bowl.  The inscription reads:
“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart) September 8, 2012”

Best of luck to Megan and Nick and hope you’re having a blast on your honeymoon in Hawaii!!