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Celebrity Chef Cook-Off: You Be The Judge

by: ellis j. still (@ellis_still)

What do you get when you have the opportunity to judge two well known chef’s and culinary students who are rivaling against each other?

An amazing fund raiser that benefits the Boys and Girls Club of Trenton, NJ, a national community organization that provides  young people with  safe havens, academic enrichment, and recreational activities through after-school, weekend, and summer programs.

Join us as Chef Barbie Marshall and Chef Justin Antiorio, finalists in Fox television show Hell’s Kitchen, along with four of Mercer County Community College’s most talented student Sous Chefs prepare delicious hors d’oeuvres, and you will be the judge!

My wife, Tina (@Tina_Still), and I are huge proponents of giving back to communities whenever we can. Since Hell’s Kitchen is one of the shows that we watch/Tivo on a regular basis, having the opportunity to see these great Chefs battle it out for a worthy cause is a great way to spend a Wednesday evening.

On November 7th, 2012, every person should be the difference by attending this culinary event. Here are ten reasons why:

  1. You get to meet two of Hell’s Kitchen’s finest cooks, Chef Barbie Marshall (@BarbieMarshall), and Chef Justin Antiorio (@ChefJustinHk).
  2. This makes for a great date night for you and your spouse (or significant other)
  3. You get to sample a variety of appetizers.
  4. You get to take the night off from cooking or ordering fast food.
  5. You get to network and meet new people at a new venue (at least new to me – I have never been to The Stone Terrace before).
  6. The weather is still relatively warm… a great opportunity to find someone to create/complete your #Golf foursome before cold weather finally sets in.
  7. If you ask, maybe you can find out more about Chef Barbie’s new initiative, “5 Star Chefs
  8. Like me, you were sitting in the dark for days as a result of not having power due to Hurricane Sandy, and you desperately need a change of pace.
  9. You need some new culinary ideas. For example, I subscribe to the notion that bacon makes anything taste better. To my wife’s (and my personal trainer’s) disdain, I add bacon (bits) to everything in an effort to make it better.
  10. Proceeds of the event benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Trenton and Mercer County, NJ

For more information on the event and its venue, click here. To buy tickets ($25.00), click here.

Question: What is your favorite appetizer?

© 2012, Ellis J. Still. All rights reserved

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

__________________________________________

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like what you read and you are not yet a Subscriber to my blog, why not subscribe now? All posts are original, there is no fixed schedule, so you would not have to check my blog regularly, and you will be receiving an authentic review of books, organizations and life experiences as a husband and entrepreneur. If you change your mind, it is easy to unsubscribe. Once you sign up, visit your email inbox to verify your email address. Check your spam folder if you don’t receive any verification

Travel:  Sandals Resort, Bahamas – The place where God lives

by: ellis j. still

February 1st, 2011 marks two and a half years that Tina and I have been married.  When I think back on the past 2.5 years, I can truly say that I have been having the most fun I have had my entire life.  Tina and I are not just husband and wife, but we are also best friends… partners in crime so to speak.  Sure – we both have friends that we have known for many years, but there is nothing like the friendship that my wife and I share.

But I digress… this post is about reflection on our honeymoon.  Sandals, a couples only resort, is a great brand, and is known for its exceptional customer service.  They certainly lived up to their expectations when we went to visit. Upon arriving at the Bahamas Airport, a Sandals representative picked us up in a Rolls Royce town car.  That pretty much set the tone for the entire ten days that we were there.

Everyone that was there had a pleasant demeanor, and the butler that was assigned to us managed to anticipate our needs before we even knew what they were.  Knowing that securing dining reservations were a challenge, she made dinner reservations for us at all of the fine dining restaurants for our stay.  She assisted with any questions or needs that we had, both on the resort and for off resort excursions.  She would also scope out a shaded spot on the beach for us in the morning and reserve it for us. 

We had all an all inclusive package, so every night we would order burgers at 2am (the burgers were ridiculously good by the way) and they would bring it to us (no charge and no tipping allowed).  The dining was 5 star quality both in taste and in presentation, and included dinners on the beach and on the marina.  All of the meals in general were excellent which surprised us (I have had my share of bad resort food).  There was a mixture of passive and active activities, and the resort has a separate private island that you have to charter a boat to get to.  The grounds were impeccably maintained and kept clean, with winding paths that takes you on a journey of discovery through the colorful flowering of vegetation

It was incredible how openly Christian the Bahamas Island was. The bus driver played Shekinah Glory Ministry, Fred Hammond, Kim Burrell, Karen Clark Sheard, Israel Houghton and the like on the bus loudspeaker system, with many people nodding and worshiping along with the songs being played.  

Wow.

The atmosphere was incredible… on a city bus, no less.

Likewise, we were curiously surfing radio stations in our resort suite when we noticed that there were many many public FM gospel radio stations for our listening pleasure, as opposed to one per regional market (if any) in the United States.

It seems like the entire Bahamas Island attends church on Sundays.  We inquired to our butler as to how do we get to Mount Tabor Baptist Church, whose pastor, Bishop Neil Ellis, had preached at our church in New Jersey not long before.  Our butler was surprised at our request.  She explained that going to church is commonplace for people who live in the Bahamas, but tourists seldom have such requests.  It was easy to get a ride to the church, with one of the ministers finding someone who lived near the resort who gave us a ride back.  

So in conclusion, it seems like our great experiences at sandals Bahamas was noteworthy because of the customer service at sandals Resorts. Yet also, the Spirit of the island as a whole (in which the resort was also covered) also played a significant role in our honeymoon experience as well.  However, I am not naïve to think that seediness does not exist in any given place, and I am sure that the Bahamas is no exception, but it is refreshing and reassuring to know that there are places where Christians are not only free to worship out in public, but where people are not afraid or embarrassed to openly pray and worship in public out of their desire for more of Him and without care of others.  Dr. Myles Munroe who pastors Bahamas Faith Ministries International also came to visit in New Jersey once said “I am From Nassau, Bahamas, the place where God lives”.

Maybe those of us in the United States should take field trips to the Bahamas in order to witness a demonstration that faith does not end and begin with Sundays.

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” Romans 1:16

Question: Where are you going on your honeymoon or next vacation? Are you taking Christ with you?

© 2011, Ellis J. Still. All rights reserved 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

__________________________________________

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like what you read and you are not yet a Subscriber to my blog, why not subscribe now? All posts are original, there is no fixed schedule, so you would not have to check my blog regularly, and you will be receiving an authentic review of books, organizations and life experiences as a husband and entrepreneur. If you change your mind, it is easy to unsubscribe. Once you sign up, visit your email inbox to verify your email address. Check your spam folder if you don’t receive any verification.

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2011: The Year of Disillusion

By: ellis & tina still

Welcome to 2011!!! This will be the year of great expectations for TBB. We have some exciting events and new resources planned for the year, so keep your eyes open as we venture into new areas of service. We have thousands of new titles to browse, and beginning in February, we will have catalogs that you can download with all of the new and upcoming releases. We have partnered with Neilsen BookScan, so all of your purchases count towards national best seller lists, allowing you to support your favorite author. TBB has grown immensely in the short time that we have been open and we have you, our customers, to thank for that.

So, I guess you are wondering about the title of the blog: “2011: The Year of Disillusion”.  You are asking yourself what is that about?  We are supposed to start the year off positive, and speak life into the months to come, to have optimism that every area of our lives will be better than the last. That our business will grow; that we will advance at work; that our personal relationships will grow and be more fruitful, and that stress will no longer be a burden in our lives.  Every year we resolve to do something differently than the year before.  Every New Year we say that “this year will be our year”, but by the end of the year, we find ourselves in the same exact place… disillusioned.

This is a cycle that is easily repeated if you do not pay attention. You find yourself making the same or similar resolutions or declarations every year without noticing it.  After a while you stop making them all together, disappointed by hope.  Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, self, what you are DOING differently from last year?  What changes have you made in your thinking?  In your actions?  Are you working harder and smarter? What are you doing to get yourself out of your comfort zone? What barriers are you removing from your life?  What are you loosing?  What are you binding up?  What changes have you made in the people you have around you, especially those who revel in your failures? How much quiet time have you dedicated to spend in prayer?

Faith without doing is not faith.  It’s just a word that has no weight to it. Your faith is fostered in your doing.  At some point you have to give your words some substance so that you can grow beyond anything you have ever imagined.  

In Habakkuk 2:2-3 is reads “Write what you see (Vision).  Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run,  The vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming.  It aches for the coming-it can hardly wait!  And doesn’t lie.  If it seems slow in coming, wait.  It’s on its way.  It will come right on time” (MSG).  What is your vision?  More importantly what is your plan?  What are your goals for this year?  In five years? In ten?  What are you doing to get better? Not in acquiring “things” but how are you growing?  How are you praying?  How are you developing yourself to be able to handle what God has in store for you?  How are you leading?  What have you cut out of your life, or out of your business?  What are you planning to do differently this year?  What changes are you making in the people you keep around you?  How will you grow together in marriage?  How will you grow in your singleness?  These are just some of the questions to ask yourself in your quiet time.  

Every year brings a new set of challenges. You got over the stumbling blocks of 2010. Rest assured there will be new ones in 2011. 

Question: How can you break the cycle?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
____________________________________________________________________
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like what you read and you are not yet a Subscriber to my blog, why not subscribe now? All posts are original, there is no fixed schedule, so you would not have to check my blog regularly, and you will be receiving an authentic review of books, organizations and life experiences as a husband and entrepreneur. If you change your mind, it is easy to unsubscribe. Once you sign up, visit your email inbox to verify your email address. Check your spam folder if you don’t receive any verification emails. Thanks!!!
ellis
Travel: Doing Business at the Baltimore Harbor 
By: ellis j. still
 

 

Baltimore harbor has a history of being a destination place for vacationers from near and far. When I think about the harbor, I think about the back in the day spur of the moment road trips from Philadelphia, PA to the harbor, the nearby African American Wax Museum, countless all you can eat seafood bus rides, Phillips Restaurant, and the Fudgery experience inside the waterfront mall. But now I also know the Baltimore harbor as an efficient corporate center with a comforting atmosphere in which to meet with clients and do business.

Recently I hung out with my wife, Tina, for a few days at the Baltimore Harbor in Baltimore, MD. She attended a conference, and I had the opportunity to tag along, taking my office with me. We had been talking about taking a road trip to the waterfront for some time, and this provided us with an opportunity.

We stayed at the Marriott Hotel, which is within a series of newer corporate hotel developments that overlooks the water. The rooms were average, but the common spaces were exquisite. The combination of brown tones and marble surfaces provided for a rich feeling… almost like royalty. You can tell that the hotel decided to focus on the experiences outside of the guest rooms – since it is a conference center hotel, most of the guests’ time would be spent in the common/conference areas. However, the view from our room was astonishing, and I spent my days in my room working and conducting business while overlooking the Baltimore Harbor.

A leading positive aspect of the harbor is that it is very walkable, and on the harbor, there are many restaurants to choose from. Most are fine dining which was great, but if you just wanted a quick burger or sandwich, you would be hard pressed to find one. We went out to eat with Tina’s company’s vice president and director of customer service one evening, and the service, presentation and food was first-rate. There are normally attractions to choose from on the harbor, but due to it being a work day, many were closed at the time that we were in town.

The retail mall on the Harbor seems to be suffering as a result of the surrounding and growing new development. The first thing that we did when we got into town was eat at Phillips restaurant, and while we were there, we noticed that the Fudgery, a long time staple in the harbor mall, was active as well. But I also noticed many vacancies in the mall, including more than half of the food court.

I think that it is good that the new development has brought in an infusion of fine dining and corporate experiences. Yet also, I think that more has to be done to foster an inviting atmosphere towards non-corporate patrons. Care has to be taken that the area has a mixed clientele in order to thrive for the long haul. Homogeneous urban planning can kill a place, but well balanced and thoughtful planning will allow it to thrive for everyone. Here are five reasons to spend some time at Baltimore Harbor:

  1. You can impress your clients
  2. The food is great
  3. You can go on a boat ride on your lunch break
  4. A great serene atmosphere in an urban environment (no… the two are not antonyms)
  5. You really need to get out of the office

Question: What are you doing to improve the mental health of your business? If you are an author, what are you doing to recharge your writing?

© 2010, Ellis J. Still. All rights reserved 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

__________________________________________

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like what you read and you are not yet a Subscriber to my blog, why not subscribe now? All posts are original, there is no fixed schedule, so you would not have to check my blog regularly, and you will be receiving an authentic review of books, organizations and life experiences as a husband and entrepreneur. If you change your mind, it is easy to unsubscribe. Once you sign up, visit your email inbox to verify your email address. Check your spam folder if you don’t receive any verification emails. Thanks!!!
ellis

Reflections of Faith & Fiction 2010: Catch me!!!

By:  ellis j. still

This post talks about both my experience at the Faith & Fiction retreat and my first experiences in Atlanta, GA in general. Usually I try to keep posts between 500 – 750 words, but we’ll see how this one goes :- )

Last week I attended the annual Faith and Fiction retreat, this year held at the Omni CNN center in Atlanta, GA. While I have met many of the authors through online social networking, this was to be the first time I would meet them in person. The goal for me in attending the retreat was to bring exposure to the bookstore, but it became much more than that…

Atlanta, GA

This was my first time visiting Atlanta, and I was really impressed from the start. The airport has a connecting commuter train system that took me to the Omni Hotel, which is where the retreat was being held. I could have taken a cab, but having grown up in Philadelphia, PA, I will forever be a city-boy, and the words “public transportation” isn’t a cuss word to me unlike many people nowadays. You would be surprised at how many metropolitan cities do not have efficient public transportation and me having to pay $60.00 for a cab to my destination… I have a strong appreciation for cities with thought out and appropriate transportation planning.

The Omni Hotel at CNN Center

The Omni (http://www.omnihotels.com/FindAHotel/AtlantaCNNCenter.aspx ) was great!!! Being in retail, I am a stickler when it comes to customer service. Everyone at the Omni – even when I registered the room via telephone so many months ago – was courteous, friendly, and anticipated my needs.

I had to secure two separate reservations because I was in town a day earlier and the first day was not included in the discounted block of rooms. When I approached the front desk to check in, my mind was preoccupied with an armory of questions and talking points, because as a vendor I knew I would not have the time to deal with reservation items the next day. Nicole at the front desk noticed the two separate reservations and anticipated my needs by ensuring that there would be no disruption in my having access to my room. I felt relieved, yet kind of cheated at the same time… I had all this verbiage inside me that I was prepared to unleash because I expected the worst-case scenario, but it was all for naught. Nicole was personable, knowledgeable, and frequently asked how my stay was going as I passed through the lobby. Service like this is unheard of to me from a hotel. I don’t know if this is a function of Omni hotels, or Atlanta and/or the south in general, but this definitely left a lasting impression.

Faith & Fiction (http://www.faithandfictionretreat.com/ )

The Faith & Fiction retreat celebrates fictional writing by largely African American Christian authors who’s creativity centers on themes that reflect characters and situations within the African American community. Stories evolve from the combination of an author’s imagination and things experienced in real life. This area of writing tends to be fun, thought provoking, and entertaining, yet also exposes difficult subject areas that often tend to swept under the rug. To paraphrase, an overall goal of this fictional writing is to tell stories that promote healing, create dialog, and expose people who may not know Christ to His awesomeness in even our seemingly impossible circumstances. A good fictional book is not “preachy”, but speaks to the reader where they are.

The retreat  featured lively panel discussions geared towards up-and-coming writers, readers, book clubs, and anyone interested in this genre of writing.  Panelists were established authors… heavy-hitters in their own right, with a wealth of experience, knowledge, success stories, and not so successful stories to pass on to others. Informal networking and book signing sessions created plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with your favorite author, and there were also a series of book discussions, hosted by the book’s respective author.

I attended my first ever book discussion on the last evening of the retreat. Despite not having read the book, I could kind of follow along with the conversation, which actually touched on an area of life and writing that I have had concerns about how to handle if I needed to. And they had cake at the discussion, which kind of coaxed me into having a seat in the first place :- )

With everything being considered, from the chosen hotel, to working with the retreat staff as it relates to my vending area, to the atmosphere and camaraderie of the entire weekend, the entire retreat was done in excellence. Kym Fisher is the best!!! I don’t know what she gets paid, but she deserves a huge raise  :- )

There as a closing banquet in the Omni’s atrium that featured good food, good fellowship, and live gospel music. However an unexpected and powerful moment came when during the photo-op session of the author panelists, the up-and-coming authors were honored via a photo-op as well as a way of touching and agreeing that these authors are the Faith & Fiction panelists of the future. This gesture was symbolic of the Christ-like support system that permeated the atmosphere of the entire weekend. Business people (authors are in fact entrepreneurs) tend to play their cards close to their vests in trying to be a step ahead of their competition… even among some Christian circles. It was inspiring to see the acknowledgement of the fact that there is room for everyone’s gift in the world.

Faith & Fiction: Keynote

The highlight of the weekend was author Sherri L. Lewis’ keynote speech. In summation, she spoke about her life’s challenges and obedience to everything else except her dreams. Dreams never go away. Sheri’s dreams kept trying to punch and gnaw their way to the surface to the point where the she had no choice but to cry out in all confidence:

“God, I’m going to Jump, and I want you to catch me”.

Sherri’s eloquent address touched the very core of our (my) being… of my purpose. We all (should) have had moments of conversations with God about what we want out of life… about our dreams and purpose, but faith without works is dead. Me speaking for myself, I no longer want to wonder what it is like to life out my dreams. Catch me…

There were many discussion items during the retreat and it is impossible to revisit them all. You will just have to make sure you make it to the retreat next year.  :- ) All panelist authors and their body of writing will be featured on the The Burning Bush Christian Bookstore website (http://TBBbookstore.com/ ) in July. We will also highlight the 2010 up-and-coming Faith & Fiction authors as well, and if you are reading this and we were not able to connect in ATL, shoot me an email so we can talk.

When God exposes me to new things (Faith & Fiction) I try to take advantage of it the best way I can… it is my belief that it is God’s way of opening a door to new possibilities. It was a privilege to meet all of the authors, readers, and supporters at the Faith & Fiction retreat in Atlanta this weekend, and I look forward to 2011!!!

1,268 words… not too bad  :- )

 

“Write the story of your heart. If your story is connected to Him, it will always be the right story”.

Rhonda McKnight, Author

 

Question: If you missed this year’s retreat, what are doing to ensure that you make it next year? Have you bookmarked http://www.faithandfictionretreat.com/ ?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

____________________________________________________

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you like what you read and you are not yet a Subscriber to my blog, why not subscribe now? All posts are original, there is no fixed schedule, so you would not have to check my blog regularly, and you will be receiving an authentic review of books, organizations and life experiences as a husband and entrepreneur. If you change your mind, it is easy to unsubscribe. Once you sign up, visit your email inbox to verify your email address. Check your spam folder if you don’t receive any verification emails. Thanks!!!
ellis

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