Say Could That Lass Be I?

Edinburgh Castle

Ready for Part Two of my Scottish adventure with my lifelong friend, Telisa?

If you missed part one – simply click HERE.

Tuesday Morning:

I got a full night’s sleep, which is always a blessing on the first real night in a bed. I slept the sleep of the dead starting around 8 pm and woke up somewhere around 7 am on Tuesday morning. Telisa and I slowly got moving and started making a plan. We decided to wait an hour or so and just enjoy a leisurely breakfast as we waited for her luggage to arrive. We knew it was going to be in the upper 30s and it was paramount that we got her coat and a change of clothes, so she wouldn’t have to brave the elements and over pay for something that was about to arrive.

Eh hem.

So… we made it down the three flights of stairs to the formal dining room of the Bed & Breakfast we were staying at.

A breakfast feast at The Scott House in Edinburgh

There was quite a feast set up for the guests. At this point, the only people staying there was us and a young couple originally from Russia, now living in London. We spent most of the morning enjoying conversation about the cultural differences we made note of the night before. Everything from the use of the “f-word” to how kind everyone seemed to be. Our host, Jemima, shared her story of how she once lived in the Caribbean and the states and how she met her husband in the Philippines.

Her husband also happens to be a chef and was cooking up a delicious breakfast for us.

Scottish Breakfast

Since I am still trying to eat a little better, I opted for the scrambled egg and none of the fatty sausages or country ham. What was added to it was baked beans (a staple for the British breakfast,) a potato scone, hashbrown and the eggs. I grabbed some homemade yogurt from the bar and added granola and nibbled on a piece of cheese and fruit. We filled up, shared stories with the other guests and host, and waited. And waited…

And the luggage did not arrive. Telisa asked Jemima to please give her a ring if her luggage made an appearance, then we called an uber and headed to Holyrood Palace.

Holyrood Palace

Apparently, the Queen was not receiving guests today. Or tomorrow. 😉 That’s right, the palace is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesday and we missed our appointment the day before, as we were stuck in line for Telisa’s baggage claim. Boo on Air France and Boo on the palace for not being open. Regardless, we snapped a few pics and decided to actually walk the Royal Mile (which is actually NOT a mile, more so a few kilometers) to Edinburgh Castle.

As we started up the hill Telisa was freezing – and rightfully so! All she had was a shawl and since we had already had two little disappointments (her luggage not showing up and the palace being closed,) I thought we might need to find a place just to get our bearings. As we were walking, I spotted a tea room and thought – PERFECT! A little British culture and a place to relax out of the elements and get it together.

Clarinda’s Tea Room on the Royal Mile

We found Clarinda’s Tea Room on the Royal Mile, very close to Holyrood Palace. This adorable space was the quintessential tea room with rose chintz wallpaper, tea cups hanging on the wall, and quiet classical music playing in the background.

Clarinda’s Tea Room

The first thing I noticed was a scrumptious array of sweets on the sideboard. I ordered a piece of apple bread, flat white coffee, and the strawberry & kiwi herbal iced tea.

Flat White
Strawberry Kiwi Herbal Iced Tea
Clarina’s Tea Room

We relaxed a little and Telisa warmed up quite a bit. After a few laughs and tasty treats we started our nine hour shopping, sipping, oohing and ahhing of Edinburgh.

Kirkyard on the Royal Mile

Along the Royal Mile you will find a Close, which happens to be an alley-way that leads you to private gardens, churches, and a whole slew of other places and things. We happened upon a beautiful Kirkyard (Churchyard) that had a really old cemetery. We wandered around this peaceful little nook tucked off the street.

Kirkyard – Cemetery

Many of the graves had fascinating stories. I love walking through, judging the age differences between the husband and wives, checking out what they did, or whatever little insight I could find into the lives of these people who walked these streets hundreds of years ago.

Down the Royal Mile

We stopped in multiple stores and bought random souvenirs and trinkets for our friends and family. The architecture was just perfection. Absolute perfection. I could totally see where the inspiration for Harry Potter came from and why they chose to film so much of it here.

At this point, things are still looking up (as far as luggage goes,) and we decided to stop in a pub to allow Telisa to warm up a little more (remember, she doesn’t have a coat yet,) and try to get the vibe from the locals.

The World’s End Pub

We happened upon The World’s End Pub. I had remembered reading a little about this space and so we decided to mosey on up to the bar – I ordered a water, while she ordered a mulled wine. This pub is a 16th Century listed building in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town. The gates to the city used to be situated outside the pub, and the brass cobbles in the road represent their exact location. The building has had a few incarnations over the years, from bakers to wine merchants, and finally as a traditional old-style pub.

Our bartender, Graham, did a fantastic job of entertaining us! At some point, I think it was when Telisa ordered a second drink, a traditional hot toddy, that she asked where she could find a Glasgow Rangers shirt in the area. Oh boy did the entire pubs ears perk up. ANYTHING that has to do with the Rangers or the Celtic, are a big no-no in Edinburgh. Suddenly, everyone was piping in – and it was good fun, and we ended up laughing with the entire bar. Our bartender put it lightly, “If the Ranger’s were playing child molesters, the entire city would cheer on the child molesters.” Yep. They take football (soccer,) that seriously!

After some good laughs and good advice, we headed back out to do a little more shopping. Telisa finally decided to cough up some cash and bought this gorgeous sky blue cashmere sweater to help keep her warm.

St. Giles Square

As we were wandering, I am pretty sure Telisa spent a good amount of time trying to call Delta and the Edinburgh airport and Air France just trying to sort things out. She was getting a little more aggravated and there really wasn’t anything I could do to help the situation. I just tried to keep moving, keep the conversation light and well… what do we do in the South? We eat our feelings. So I found a little cafe down a close and we stopped for some munchies.

Thistle Stop Cafe

We found The Thistle Stop Cafe. A darling little place with a handful of tables. There were probably three other couples in there, so we just sat down and ordered our lunch.

I ordered a cheese & ham toastie (grilled cheese sandwhich) and a jacketed potato. (loaded baked potato.)

The mood was not the best, as Telisa was on the phone with Air France. She was really letting them have it – since her luggage had STILL not shown up. As she was chatting with the folks on the phone, she got a little louder and a little angrier, and I noticed the ladies behind the counter started giggling, as well as the couple across from us. I sort of smiled and laughed along, but knowing that this was no laughing matter. I got up, went to the counter, paid for our lunch and explained what had happened to her. The ladies were so sympathetic to her plight and understood why Telisa was so heated.

We were both basically finished eating, so I asked was she ready to go. I think I picked the wrong moment, because she was not ready and sort of barked something to that point. I knew she was just frustrated and decided to go ahead and let her finish up either a phone call or her food and just get some air. It was hot as hades in the place and I was really enjoying the fresh air. Luckily, there was this adorable courtyard.

We finally left the area and made our way over to St. Giles. There was this girl in the middle singing opera and it was just so magical – the sun was setting and the backdrop of this gothic cathedral was everything. Telisa sort of took off on her own through the church and I followed up behind. I wanted to give her some space. Once we rounded the corner, I did a temperature check and she seemed to have relaxed a little. Beautiful spaces do that for you. I asked to come sit with me on the chairs in the sanctuary and I basically said a little prayer out loud for things to work out for her. We left in better spirits and headed even further up hill toward the castle.

St Giles

St Giles Cathedral was founded by King David I in 1124. Yeah… it is that old. Click on the link above and learn more about this amazing space. I feel blessed just to have experienced it!

As we were trudging uphill, I suddenly realized we were just steps from Edinburgh Castle! Yes, we had made it up that mountainous hill to the very steps of the castle.

And yes, it was everything.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is alive with exciting tales of its time as a military fortress, royal residence and prison of war. When you climb Castle Hill, you walk in the footsteps of soldiers, kings and queens – and even the odd pirate or two. It is one of the oldest fortified places in Europe. With a long rich history as a royal residence, military garrison, prison and fortress. As I mentioned above, it was home to kings and queens for many centuries. Queen Margaret (who was later made a saint) died here in 1093. The chapel built in her honor by her son, King David I, is Edinburgh’s oldest building.

As we approached the area, I moved over to the right to just take a seat on the stone wall and just take it all in. Telisa had moved to the other side and was not really talking very much. I felt kind of helpless in the moment, knowing that anything I said was not going to help matters and I figured the best thing was to let her process what was happening to her. But I wanted to share my amazement with someone – so I called my husband. I literally had tears in my eyes – not tears of sadness or anger, but amazement at what I was seeing. That castle was absolutely beautiful at night.

After I hung up and sort of took a deep breath, I turned around to find Telisa and see if she was feeling better. Lo and behold, she came over and sort of laughed and shared that she had a zen moment and sort of let it all go. I smiled, honestly thrilled for her, because at the end of the day, there was nothing any of us could do. We were at the mercy of the airlines. She told me she and her sister had this saying, “But did you die?” and it sort of put everything in perspective. No one died. We were in one of the most historical and beautiful cities in the world and we were able to laugh and move on.

Once we got back to the B&B, we freshened up and headed around the block to Barony Bar for dinner.

Barony Bar, Edinburgh

We had small feast of sorts: Scotch egg, Cheese platter, Chicken, Chips, fried prawns and so many other little things.

We ended the evening on a high note- bellies full and a promise from Air France and the Edinburgh Baggage folks that by 10:30 on Wednesday morning, Telisa would indeed have her luggage.

We packed our bags up because the next morning we had another adventure: Driving to Stirling and Inverness! Stay Tuned for that HILARIOUS leg of the trip!

Somewhere in Edinburgh

Sing Me A Song Of A Lass That Is Gone..

Atlanta Airport

I’ve been missing for about nine days or so – off to the land of Haggis, Sheep, Tartans, and Highlanders: Scotland.

On Sunday, November 21st, my dear friend and one of my oldest confidantes, Telisa, met up at her home to be transported to the Atlanta Airport. Luckily, she had this awesome connection with MGA LUX, a private transportation service that escorts you to the front door of the airport! We gathered our things and headed out to greener, well, snowier pastures!

Telisa & I on MGA LUX

When I travel internationally, I always dress super comfortable. I opted for a thin, butter soft gray T-shirt that read Radiate Positivity in rose gold and black yoga pants. I made sure to pack two more outfits on my carry-on bag, as well as all of my chargers, hiking boots, and makeup, just in case my luggage gets lost.

We were giddy as two teenagers! You see, Telisa and I have been talking about traveling to Europe together for years. Sure, we’ve both done some traveling, she more so than I, but we had never done this together. Actually, our friendship started over the Let’s Go Europe 1991 (I think that was the year,) book! At the time we couldn’t imagine where we would ever come up with $800 to backpack Europe, and here we are now, in our late 40s, sitting on go with less worries and definitely more financial stability. (I can’t imagine spending $800 to backpack a continent now! I think I blew that much on souvenirs alone.)

I was a little nervous about getting through security due to my name. I never officially changed my last name on my passport or social security card after I got married, however, I did change my last name on my driver’s license. At work, on my insurance, and my vaccination card, it reads: Kirksey. On everything else, it reads: Thurston. We put the airline ticket in Thurston and I just grabbed my passport and hoped for the best. Like all things we worry about, they didn’t even bat an eye at my vaccination card in the Kirksey name. One hurdle done.

Got through TSA with no problems, I believe Telisa’s bag got pulled, but all went well and we headed to our gate for an overnight flight to Paris, France.

Ah Paris, you know how I love you. If you haven’t read about that trip, click HERE.

Unfortunately, Telisa and I did not get to sit together on the eight hour flight. We got upgraded to Comfort plus, so the seats were not together. She sat next to a guy from Croatia and I sat next to a guy from Colombia. Best part about Delta’s Comfort Plus:

Delta’s Comfort Plus

All of that leg room.

The flight was smooth as silk and we landed in Paris around 9 am or so. We had a little over an hour to get through security to catch our connection to Edinburgh. The Paris TSA were a pain in the ass – barking orders: Grab an extra container. No, not that one. Is this your water? Keep moving.

Blah, Blah, Blah.

And guess what? Both our bags got pulled for a security check. Plus, they used their wand to scan my hands for bomb residue.

Ha.

FINALLY we get to our plane, a very small plane, might I add, and settle in for the 1.5 hours flight.

On the Plane From Paris to Edinburgh

I am pretty sure I fell asleep on this flight, since the last one, I simply watched movies and read my book over the eight hours we were over the ocean.

We finally land in Edinburgh and we breeze through customs and head out to get our scheduled Covid tests. I have to admit, that is a little intimidating. I did worry – what IF I was positive? I would have to stay in a hotel for ten days and not leave the area. That would totally ruin the entire trip. Luckily, we got in and out and everything was negative.

Uh oh… I forgot an important detail. My luggage made it, Telisa’s did not. So our day was a little behind, because she had to file her claim with the baggage area and everything got pushed back a little. We missed our appointment to visit Holyrood Palace and… well… just wait, there is more!

We hailed a cab and had an awesome time chatting it up with our driver. He was a talkative bloke, originally from England, and he enjoyed pointing out the attractions and telling us about the neighborhoods. He did ask us, (which I was surprised it came up,) what we thought of Trump. We both, in unison, replied, “Not a fan.” He then went on to tell us why he just adored him. He explained he loved his brashness and no-holds-bar approach to dealing with people. We were quite surprised. I had always heard that the international community were not a fan. Goes to show what I know. (But wait… there is more on this issue later.)

We got dropped off at the address Telisa googled for the Bed & Breakfast – The Scott House. We got out, crossed a busy street and discovered that we were indeed at The Scott House, just the wrong Scott House. At this point, Telisa is started to get frustrated and for good reason. She was cold and still aggravated about the airline losing her luggage. We sort of took a deep breath, got on the AirBnB website and figured out where to go next. We hailed another cab and took off, this time for the new place. While this is happening, she realizes that she cannot find her glasses. The last time she had them, we were in Paris. I wouldn’t think much of it, but apparently, she is blind without them. Add that to the list of things that could go wrong.

By the time we got to the RIGHT Scott House, I was thrilled to see a bench out front. It was too early to check in and we couldn’t get the owner on the phone. So I just grabbed a spot and chilled out. Finally, a woman who speaks very little English answers the door and lets us in. She ends up handing us the phone, and the owner, Jemima, is on the line. She tells us our rooms are almost ready, in the meantime, just relax. So we did. It was nice to sit someplace warm and cozy.

Outside of the Scott House

The Scott House is a beautifully restored Georgian (about 200-year-old) townhouse in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town, laying just off the trendy Broughton Street area. All rooms had large en-suites with both bath and shower. The space was absolutely perfect for our first taste of Scotland. To see our room, click HERE. We stayed in the Robert Burns room, which happens to be both haunted AND up three flights of stairs.

Oh wait.. I forgot to tell you. I had to pay $100 extra dollars for my suitcase which weighed 56 pounds. It was six pounds over. I was dreading the idea of pulling my big suitcase up the stairs, when divine intervention presented itself. Telisa could not see, yet I could. She asked me to handle the baggage issue on the phone, and in turn, she would carry my bag upstairs! Let’s just say, she made me an offer I could not refuse.

Once we got upstairs, it was getting close to 2 pm, and I was in need of sustenance and Telisa needed glasses. We got cleaned up (well, I did anyway, she really didn’t have anything to change into,) and we walked out the door, around the corner to see if we could find a pharmacy or bookstore or really anyplace that might have reading glasses. Telisa finally found a pair and the mood began to lighten just a bit more. At least she could see now, however, the coat situation was not looking good. The confirmation we had from the airline was that her luggage would be delivered on Tuesday morning and that all would be well. We decided to scope out the street, feeling a little more hopeful and ready to tackle the day!

Right behind where we were stay was the Cask & Barrel Pub.

Cask & Barrel

Luckily, we met the nicest Scottish bartender who poured Telisa a pint and made a flat white coffee for me.

Just order a flat white when in doubt

I asked if they were still serving lunch and unfortunately, the kitchen was closed. I think he took pity on my story about the comedy of errors we were experiencing and went in the back and heated up some potato and leek soup for me!

Potato & Leek Soup

Suddenly, everything seemed to feel right. We got the biggest kick out of the older gentlemen sitting to the right of us. They were discussing a soccer match and every other word was eff this and eff that. Well-dressed, nice men at that. Apparently the F-word is just another word in this part of the world. Telisa and I giggled at the lack of pretension and just sat back and relaxed.

Me at the Cask & Barrel Pub

After we sort of got our bearings we decided to uber over to the Edinburgh Christmas Market on Prince Street. Talk about magical!!!! THIS was what the doctor ordered.

It was close to 4pm and in Scotland, specifically this area, the sun begins to set at this time. This means we got the full force of the evening cold, the twinkly lights and the magic on an older city like Edinburgh can provide.

A Hotdog at the festival

Telisa joked over and over how she was “there for all the food.” I was still trying to behave myself and stay “not sick,” so I just lived vicariously through her. The next few pics are some of the items she ate:

This was actually just where salmon was being smoked
Mulled Cider with Scottish Whisky
Piri Piri Style Spiral Chips
Smoking of fish
Mac & Cheese with Parm – My option
Candy Stall

After we shopped and nibbled our way through the market, I realized that I needed dinner. So we stopped by the Milnes Bar on Rose Street.

Telisa ordered the fried haggis fritters,

Fried Haggis Fritters

While I opted for the veggie sliders and chips.

Veggie Sliders

I actually tried some of the haggis and honestly, it was not bad! It tasted very much like beef. We enjoyed sipping and nibbling and just chatting it up. Finally, we decided it was time to head back, take showers and get ready for the big first full day in Edinburgh.

Little did we know…. the comedy of errors had only begun!

Stay tuned for Part Two!

Sleigh Bells Ring, Are You Ready To Listen?

Caught this jolly fella in Santa Land in Downtown Americus

I am coming off a 14-hour work day. One of my favorites of the year – Christmas Open House in Downtown Americus. It took a couple of years to adjust to the fact that 1. Christmas Open House takes place the Thursday BEFORE Thanksgiving and 2. The City allow us to say Christmas instead of Holidays. Five years in and it seems perfectly normal. So normal that when someone asks me, “Why?”, I look at them strangely!

My work family

A lot goes into prepping a city for the holidays. Thousands of dollars, as well as hundreds of man hours. You mix that in with creativity and early holiday burn-out, it is amazing when you see the finished product. Another hazard of the job is that everyone has an opinion on what you should have done. This many years in, I realize it just comes with the territory.

Aside from an awesome event last night, we kicked the day off with a ribbon cutting. Yes, it is straight out of an episode of Parks & Rec.

A great turn-out

Earlier in the year, the American Street Trolley bit the dust. It was way past time for a new one, and boy oh boy, did we get an upgrade. This one has heating & air, AND is accessible for wheelchairs. What a game changer!

It is the little things that make a community special, you know?

Today is a super busy day for me – getting all of my loose ends at work tied up before I go on vacation next week. I started the morning with depositing my travel funds into my fun-money account and now I am getting ready to pick up my prescriptions for the trip.

Tim called a little while ago and asked could we have family over tonight to roast hotdogs and marshmallows by the fire. *Sigh*

I don’t mind, I just have to go buy veggie dogs for me! (And no marshmallows.) Life gets a little complicated when you are trying to live healthier. For example, I was soooo hungry when I woke up, so I ordered a 20 oz. smoothie from Smoothie King. As a HiTone Fitness member, we get a perk at the establishment. It is just a little discount, but sure does help when you add those enhancers. I ordered a favorite of mine – The Chocolate Peanut Power Smoothie. It has 690 calories, which is way more than I typically allow myself at a meal – but I went in on a mission. I wanted to fill up and really hit my macros. Particularly my carbs, protein and fiber. I added the fiber enhancer, immune booster (both to help my system before I travel,) and electrolytes, because I recognize that I am a little dehydated today.

I did another something I have been dreading – I gave myself an at-home Covid test. I wanted to be absolutely certain that I would not have any surprises when we got to Edinburgh. We have to take a test upon arrival and yes… I did come into contact with someone on Saturday that did, indeed, test positive. Though everyone in this person’s life tested negative, I waiting until the very end to give it a go. All is well!! No covid.

Folks – here is another reason to get vaccinated! I spent a considerable amount of time with this person, they were coughing up a storm. I was told they had been to the doctor and it was pneumonia, but not covid. But turns out…

I have the 2 full Pfizer and the booster just 2 weeks ago. I am negative. Vaccines, do indeed, work.

Speaking of trips – AHHHHHHHHH! I am beyond thrilled! I plan to blog about my experience in a three part series – Edinburgh, Stirling/Inverness, and Isle of Skye. Stay tuned for that!

When I get back to town, I will hit the ground running with a lot of work-related activities. So much to do, so little time to do it in!

Update on knees: I feel like a new woman. I almost cried waking up this morning and stepping onto the floor and not having to suck in breath from the pain. AMAZING!!

Alright, I have things to do… LOTS of things. I know you guys are busy too. I hope to tackle some topics in the coming days. You guys were always good at letting me know what you wanted me to write about. Feel free to message me with some ideas.

Until next time….

Pass the Cranberries and Haggis

Almost five years now, I have dealt with some fairly tough knee pain. Got a second opinion today and here is what we know:

  1. Lose the weight. (Yep, working on it.)
  2. Osteoarthritis
  3. Bone spurs
  4. Torn MCL

Soooo…. I got TWO cortisone shots today, one in each knee. First timer here, folks, and man oh man – I am soooooo glad I did. It has been about an hour and the pain is subsiding.

I say – BRING ON THE HIGHLANDS!

Okay, let me back up.

I’m going to Scotland this Sunday. Super excited about this trip because it is with one of my best friends in the whole world – Telisa. We have been talking about traveling to Europe together for almost 30 years now and FINALLY we are taking our trip.

As we were crowd-sourcing information about touring Edinburgh and the Highlands, many of our friends informed up that Scotland is super hilly and of course – there are the mountains. All I could think was, “How in the world was I going to navigate those hills with my knees.”

I decided to take my healing into my own hands, called my friend that is a Physical Therapist, and began 8 sessions of PT. Still… there was a little pain, so I got a second opinion. Dr. Fennessy gave me two shots, one in each knee.

Now I can scream from the top of my lungs – “BRING ON THE HIGHLANDS!”

Now that is fixed, time to transform into an elf for the Christmas Open House that is about to happen. Yes, a 14 hour work-day.

Ho! Ho! Ho! and pass the cranberry sauce and haggis.

Is This Thing On?

Welp…

That was a bit of a break, wasn’t it?

Just checking to see if any of you are still out there and if so – Hi ya! How ya been?

It’s been nine months since I last shared any thoughts with the public. I even thought about deleting the whole blog. But then I remembered how much I used to love writing.

I’m not sure what happened, but anyway…

Here I am. I’m back and well, a LOT has changed. Again.

For one,

Me in the hospital

About six weeks ago, I ended up in the hospital for nine days. I had acute pancreatitis caused by 56 gall stones, and an enlarged liver.

Eek!

Let’s just say – KETO WAS NOT MY FRIEND.

That’s okay, moving on. Had the gall bladder removed and began making some serious lifestyle changes very quickly and in six weeks, I am down 20 pounds. Why all of the extreme changes? NAFLD. What is that? Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which excess fat is stored in your liver. This buildup of fat is not caused by heavy alcohol use. When heavy alcohol use causes fat to build up in the liver, this condition is called alcohol-associated liver disease. I just had a good-old fashioned fatty liver. Ugh.

What causes it? Poor lifestyle choices, which includes high fat and processed food.

Thank GOD I decided back in March or so to start working with a nutritionist by the name of Sue. We were slowly working on making some lifestyle changes. Slow as in I would give myself a B- in doing what is good and right.

Now that this has happened, I would give myself an A-.

So what have I done?

  • Cut out all soda or any carbonated drink
  • No beef
  • No pork
  • No fried food
  • Decrease in processed food
  • Whole foods

Not too shabby. I am pretty sure that my body will thank me for this years from now. 😉

Now that my attempt to write is back, I am sure you will hear a lot about how this is going.

What else is going on? Well…..

I got a new boss. All of the kids are in college and out of the house. Knock on wood – Tim and I are COVID free and both vaccinated and have our boosters. #TeamPfizer

I did, indeed, make some friends – FINALLY. I am serving on different boards and doing different things. Again, all of these things will be discussed in the coming months.

I’m back in the gym. I still haven’t found a church, but I am honestly not looking very hard since COVID.

I went on some pretty spectacular trips this year. All of which I will share later. And I guess the biggest news of all:

I’M GOING TO SCOTLAND IN 4 DAYS!!!

That will be a story all unto its self!

So stand by, strap in, and let’s try Destination Unknown – 3.0.

And by the way, Dorian says Hi!

Isn’t he gorgeous?

The Valley

Hi! It has been a minute, hasn’t it?

Happy New Year…. four months in. Boy, am I a little late to the party with sharing what all has been happening. I guess you could say I was down in the valley, trying to figure some things out.

And I did.

There is a lot of good for me to share, and a whole lot of loss. But just know, I am okay and life is okay.

Let’s get the big moments out of the way first. My dad turned 75! Yes, he made it to 75. Heart attack & cancer survivor and now officially in his mid-seventies. I could not be more thrilled.

AND my mom turned 70! Both had monumental birthdays! (For whatever reason, I can’t seem to find her picture with her sash and tiara.) Regardless, all is well and both are healthy. That’s all I could ask for.

Something pretty sad happened.

My fat-head boy died. Yes, on Feb. 13th around 4:30 pm, right after begging for food, he followed Tim into the utility room to be fed and collapses from a heart attack. I tried everything I could to bring him back (prayer, cpr, bargaining with God,) However, nothing worked.

I’m still hurting from this loss and honestly, if I allow it, this loss will consume my thoughts.

Dorian turned one! That was a bright spot, just four days later. He is a healthy baby boy and is maturing more and more each day.

And since we are talking birthdays, I made it to number 48. Yep. Officially in my late 40s.

My birthday was fairly low-key. My husband and niece, Micah, took the time to throw me a family party at the farm. They gave me a mountain of donuts and it was divine!

Valentine’s Day was pretty special. Tim arrange a picnic out at the cabin, and followed that up with a romantic dinner of KFC (ha!) and a puzzle. We had a great time.

**Notice the lawn chairs. We were patiently waiting for our new living room suit to be delivered.

Speaking of new things – I got a new car!

I am the proud owner of a Toyota C-HR. I love it!

As far as the kids go – Karen-Ann took a tour of South Georgia Technical College and has decided to enter their cosmetology program.

She was accepted and will start her program this Summer!

Alex is doing well! She transferred to Kennesaw State University from Georgia Southwestern University and is studying Computer Gaming (at the moment.)

At the end of the day, we are all doing well. Just going to work and living life. I have a lot to share over the coming months, but for right now, just celebrating the highlights will have to do. Stay tuned!

Salutations from 2021

Good afternoon, friends! It has been a while since I last wrote. Early November to be exact.

To say I have been busy would be an understatement. My husband and I took a week off and headed to New Orleans, then we stumbled through a few weeks at work, prepping for the holidays, and preparing to send the middle kid off to college, to my taking two weeks off to host family for Christmas. And let me not forget to mention, I’m working on a new project!

Let’s play catch up, shall we?

As far as reading goes, I’ve been a busy girl! I recently finished Washington’s Lady by Nancy Moser and Opium & Absinthe by Lydia Kang. I’m currently reading: Sold On Monday by Kristina McMorris. I promise to work on some book reviews in the coming weeks and post accordingly. I HIGHLY recommend each one of these fantastic novels. I don’t want to give too much away, as it will spoil what I will share later.

One of my New Year resolutions was to try to read the Bible cover-to-cover until I actually finish it. However, like many other times, trudging through the Old Testament is enough to make you cringe, so I have decided to take a different approach. I am reading as much as I can from the Old Testament, then stopping and reading as much of the New Testament – per day. Needless to say, I don’t get very far, but I am going through it slowly and making notes and committing those old stories back into my memory. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What else has been happening?

We did actually have a Christmas Open House at the Americus Visitor Center. Small crowds, but it was well-received. We took all precautions in order to stay safe, and yes, I made all of us get festive.

I also tried to make sure we were festive when the SAM Shortline Excursion Train came by! The theme I had in the center was “The Grinch.” I figured with such a crap-tastic year, why not?

The next big thing we did was take off for New Orleans. I actually got a Christmas bonus (and it was a nice one,) so we decided to use that money and actually go somewhere – just the two of us. Since Tim had never been to New Orleans (as an adult,) I thought it was about time. We got up and left for The Big Easy around 8 am. Here I am being silly in front of the Georgia/Florida sign!

We stopped off at one of my favorite places to lunch – McGuire’s Pub in Pensacola. If you have been following me since the former blog, you remember this place!

My first taste of carbs since Memorial day!!!! We split the Fish n Chips and Beer & Blue Burger.

We made our way to the historic The Roosevelt, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel right on the corner of the CBD and French Quarter. We freshened up and headed down to the hotel’s bar – the famous, Sazerac!

Named after what many consider to be the world’s first mixed drink, The Sazerac carries as much history as its potable namesake. Just gazing at the famous Paul Ninas murals flanking the African walnut bar takes you back to the grandeur of old New Orleans – a time when Huey P. Long would stroll in, order a Ramos Gin Fizz, and spend the next couple of hours talking to his constituents.

Restored to reflect the spirit of the original establishment, elegant bar stools and plush banquettes invite locals and visitors alike to enjoy hand-crafted cocktails and free-flowing conversations. We were feeling all types of hip at this New Orleans institution recently named the #1 Hotel Bar in the U.S. by thousands of voters in the 2019 and 2020 USA Today 10Best poll – also name CNN Travel’s #1 Hotel Bar in the Americas.

After our cocktails, we headed down Bourbon Street and made our way to Antoine’s on Saint Louis Street. We had a 7 pm reservation, and this was supposed to be the highlight of the trip! (And it was!!!)

Antoine’s was established in 1840 and is the oldest family-owned restaurant in the United States. It is also home to the Oysters Rockefeller!

We started off with a little appetizer – the Creole Andouille Au Gratin, which is seared local Manda Andouille sausage, Antoine’s creole sauce, broiled 3-cheese topping.

I opted for the Chicken Rochambeau, which is herb-roasted chicken breast with drumette, shaved smoked ham nest, savory onion rice, twin sauces of sweet Rochambeau and tangy bearnaise, pineapple confit. Tim ordered the Pompano Pontchartrain, which is grilled delicate pompano filet, butter poached jumbo lump crabmeat, white wine sauce, onion rice, and seasonal vegetables.

After dinner we indulged in one of my bucket-list dessert items: The Baked Alaska.

If you aren’t sure what that is – it is the house specialty buttery pound cake shell, vanilla ice cream core, delicate meringue crust, and hot chocolate fudge sauce. It says it serves two, more like eight!

We left Antoine’s and headed to the Hotel Monteleone and visited the famous Carousel Bar! The famous Carousel Bar & Lounge in Hotel Monteleone is a long-time favorite New Orleans hotspot. The classic New Orleans hotel bar is the city’s only revolving bar. For decades, it has lured guests in to take a spin on the 25-seat, bright, circus-clad Merry-Go-Round. Recently, Vogue Living named the bar one of the Top 20 Bars in the World, due in equal parts to the whimsical revolving carousel and comprehensive list of cocktails.

The next day we got up and enjoyed a nice stroll down Bourbon over to The Court of the Two Sisters.

Since at least 1726, the property where the Court of Two Sisters restaurant is now located has been a significant cultural presence in New Orleans. During that year, Sieur Etienne de Perier, the second French royal governor of colonial Louisiana, became the original resident of 613 Rue Royale. Originally known as “Governor’s Row”, the 600 block of Royal Street was home to five governors, two State Supreme Court Justices and one future Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (Edward Douglas White). Zachary Taylor, who later became the twelfth president of the U.S., also resided for a time at 621 Royal. It has also been rumored that the outrageous Marquis de Vaudreil, another early French governor and the one responsible for transforming New Orleans from a marshland village into a petit Paris, was once a resident of 613 Royal. He was so aristocratic and theatrical that he was known as the “Grand Marquis.” The second floor dining room at the Court of Two Sisters is now called the Grand Marquis Room in his honor.

The property changed hands twice before 1886 when Emile Angaud purchased the building and the street level store at 613 Royal. This is when Bertha, who was married to Emile’s son Baldomero Angaud, and Emma Camors set up their “rabais” or notions shop they called “The Shop of the Two Sisters.” The two sisters, born in 1858 and 1860 respectively, belonged to a proud and aristocratic Creole family. It was for these sisters that “The Court” was named. Their shop outfitted many of the city’s finest women with Mardi Gras costumes, formal gowns of the “Gay Nineties”, lace and perfumes imported from Paris. It’s said that occasionally the sisters would serve tea and cakes to their favorite customers in the large courtyard beginning the tradition continued today.

In 1963, the late Mr. Joe Fein, Jr., an established local restaurateur, acquired the restaurant and immediately began steps to preserve the building’s historical integrity. Mr. Fein’s sons, Joe III and the late Jerry Fein, continued with their father’s dedication to The Court of Two Sisters and now their children, the third generation, are directing the day-to-day operations and maintaining the legacy of the property’s history and reputation. With the Fein family’s expertise, The Court of Two Sisters has become known worldwide for its live Jazz Brunch, romantic Creole dinners, friendly service and beautiful, open-air courtyard. In 2013, the Fein Family celebrated 50 years at The Court of Two Sisters and according to their website, are looking forward to many more years. It truly is magical and very romantic.

I ordered the Glazed Ham Steak with scrambled eggs and buttermilk biscuit.

While Tim ordered the Shrimp and Grits: domestic shrimp poached in creole meuniere reduction; served over andouille grits.

Later that night, after a dog of shopping and coffee, we had dinner at The Napoléon House, which happens to be a 200 year old landmark that’s as casual and unique as its French Quarter surroundings.

The building’s first occupant, Nicholas Girod, was mayor of New Orleans from 1812 to 1815. He offered his residence to Napoleon in 1821 as a refuge during his exile.

Napoleon never made it, but the name stuck, and since then, the Napoleon House has become one of the most famous bars in America, a haunt for artists and writers throughout most of the 20th century.

Owned and operated by the Impastato family since 1914 and Ralph Brennan since May of 2015, it’s a place that suspends you in time, where you can hear Beethoven’s Eroiqua, which he composed for Napoleon, and the music of other classical masters, while sipping a Pimm’s Cup, and basking in an ambiance that could only be New Orleans.

I ordered the Roast Beef Po Boy with a side of red beans and rice, which Tim ordered the Italian Muffuletta with a side of seafood gumbo & jambalaya.

Afterwards, we took an awesome ghost tour with the group: Haunted History Tours.

As many of you already know, I’ve taken a tour with this company, just about every time I have been to New Orleans. I have taken the Vampire Tour 3 times and the Voodoo Tour… but this was my first time taking the 5-in-1 tour, and I hate to say it, but it was my least favorite. Not because of the guide – he was awesome. It was the trying to cram a lot of different things into one. I wouldn’t recommend that one.

For the rest of the trip we did a lot of shopping and a little bit of drinking and a whole lot of eating. One of my favorite spots was Del Fuego on Magazine Street near the Garden District.

We took the St. Charles Street Car down and walked about 6 blocks to Del Fuego.

When I tell you the food was phenomenal… I mean… the food was PHENOMENAL.

We started out with the the Salsas Trio: the fresca, the verde, and the salsa negra. And these homemade tortillas that were to die for. We also ordered the queso. (Because, like… when have I ever turned down queso?)

Tim had the Egg Roll – a monster size egg roll fried like a chimichanga. Stuffed w/ shrimp & carnitas fried rice & seasoned cabbage. Drizzled w/ habanero duck sauce & hot mustard crema. It was HUGE.

I ordered the New Mexico Style Stacked Enchiladas: Chicken tinga, mezcal poblano cream, cheese, crema, side of refried beans & mexican rice.

We rolled ourselves back to the hotel.

There were other yummy surprises and delicious drinks:

But at the end of the day – the most important piece, we relaxed together and had an awesometime!

Our hotel was absolutely gorgeous and decked out for the holidays!

And sure, we spent a small fortune, but it was well worth the trip.

I’ll end right there and pick up next time and share with you all about our Thanksgiving (which we got back home the night before Thanksgiving.)

Until next time…

A Spooktacular October!

I am back, witches! WOW – where did October go? It came in swiftly and left just as quickly. Made it another month into the pandemic and so far, so good!

I had a great week with my niece, Autumn! If you will remember, she came down for a week (during her Fall break,) and we got the opportunity to chill out and chat. I learned so much more about her and what she is dealing with and I feel like we were able to bond more. I am so happy she got the chance to be here. That took an entire week of my time and energy, so that sort of kicked off my absence from writing.

One of the activities we did together was cook! We made the Keto Chocolate donuts that I wrote about last time, plus I taught her how to make red wine braised beef short ribs. I promise to share that recipe later!

Needless to say, they were absolutely amazing!

I also broke out the boxes of Halloween decorations and we started the process of making our home super spooky. I ended up planning a little family Halloween party, which I will share with you a little later. It is hard to believe these decorations have stood the test of time!

I did attend a ribbon cutting for a new tasting room that has made its way to Downtown Americus! The Wolf Creek Plantation winery now has a spot in downtown. How convenient is that?

I also shared my creativity (or lack there of) with the Mattie Stepanik foundation.

They are creating a community mosaic, so we had to paint or color some times. My contribution is above. DON’T LAUGH.

Typical me Coffee down my clothes.

I got lazy with my home pumpkin. But I think she turned out nicely!

To be honest… I’ve gotten pretty lazy in general. So have the animals….

My friends from Chicago came down for a visit and stayed at the Plains Historic Inn! I had such a great time meeting all of their friends and having some excellent girl talk and time!

I also was busy raising awareness about the risk factors and detection of breast cancer. I decorated the Americus Visitor Center and even created an honor wall.

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness month and Halloween, it was a little tricky trying to celebrate both in one space.

We ended up doing a really cool pumpkin display with our partners. AND….

We won first place for the city!!!

Shopping for this magical holiday is always so much fun! Haley, Qaijuan and I did the best we could! Want to see our costumes for the week?

Here I am as the proprieter of the Sanderson Sister’s B&B. Yes, that is the blake flame candle I am holding.

Mickey & Minnie enjoyed seeing each other!

I was the bad girl tourist here.

We had a Disney themed day.

Guess who?

Pumpkin Queen!

As you can tell, we had a lot of fun. But it was also a LOT of work.

Speaking of work.. I designed some new items, ordered them and now they are for sell. Again- BUSY!

Somehow through all of this, I have maintained my KETO/Low Carb way of living.

Finally, we wrapped the month up with a Halloween party for the immediate family. We called it a NIGHT TO DISMEMBER.

How did your October shape up?

Keto Chocolate Glazed Donuts & A Little Rebellious Whiskey

Let’s Talk about these Whiskey Rebels! In particular, the book by David Liss.

What a spectacular biographical historical fiction novel! This is my first book by Liss and I definitely plan to read more. This book was set post American Revolution and featured two different story lines that eventually combine. (I love when a writer does that.) You have Joan Maycott – an aspiring novelist married to a war vet. They find themselves with useless war bonds and are swindled into trading those for property “out west” (aka Pittsburg area,) for bountiful land. As you can imagine, they run into what they call “savages,” and thick woods and rough necks with nothing to lose. Then there is Ethan Saunders, a former Captain in the army that worked as a spy but was falsely accused of being a traitor and British sympathizer. He is in love with a Mrs. Pearson and spends his days trying to right his name and win her love. I won’t go into too much detail, because that would totally give the story away. However, there is a lot of historical accuracy in this book, as well as some delicious fiction.

Despite the title, the story actually does not go into the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. It does however deal with the proceeding years, when a Whiskey tax was placed on distilleries. Obviously, the rebels were very upset with the taxes and went right after Hamilton and the American Banking System. The book introduces us to some real characters in the world during that time and you travel from the woods of Pennsylvania to New York.

READ IT. I loved it. Seriously.

Okay… now for those donuts… the REAL reason you clicked on this page!

Low Carb – Keto Chocolate Glazed Donuts

Donut Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. coconut flour
  • 1/2 c. Swerve, confectioners sugar
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk (I used Lactaid – Whole milk)
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. heavy cream
  • 1/3 c. Swerve, confectioners sugar
  • 2 ounces unsweetened baker’s chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Grease Donut pan.

Preheat over to 350 F.

Donuts: Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl. Then add the wet ingredients to that bowl. Mix with a hand mixer until smooth.

Pipe into the donut wells to 2/3rds full. Bake 20 minutes, then cool on a rack.

While cooling, make the glaze:

Add cream, Swerve, and chocolate to a double boiler and simmer.

Turn heat to low and add the vanilla and stir until the chocolate melts.

Dip the donuts in the glaze and let cool. (I placed in the frig for an hour or so.)

That’s it! Have a great day!!

Welcome October!

I am so excited that it is October! This HAS to be one of my favorite months of the year!

But first… to catch you up on the things I am not going to write about:

I’ve had a bit of a delay in writing because last week was super busy! We are preparing for Halloween at my office and that includes a few activities (that will mainly be virtual!) I ordered that adorable pumpkin above from Amazon. As many of you know, I am a HUGE fan of anything that is themed out or involves a costume, so obviously, that makes Halloween on of my absolute favorite holidays!

In Americus, the Downtown Main Street group asked all of the businesses to decorate their windows for the Great Pumpkin Wars. I took the task to heart and called all of the departments in the city, as well as all of the tourist attractions, to donate a decorated pumpkin that represents their brand. I’m looking forward to seeing what we end up with. On Monday, the 26th, the displays will be uploaded to FB for the People’s Choice Award. That means, I will provide a link here and you can go online and “like” your favorite display. Then on that Wednesday, judges will come by and pick the best. I most certainly hope we win!

Plus, I’m having my staff dress in costumes each day. This will also be uploaded to FB for a “Who wore it best?” Halloween costume contest that people can vote on!

Last week, I got a chance to wish my neighbor, former President Jimmy Carter, a very happy birthday!

All of the neighbors went onto the compound and did a drive-by parade to wish him happy birthday! It was really sweet. He spoke to everyone as we passed! The media were not invited in, so this was really, super special for the people of Plains.

Speaking of media, on Friday, we had a media day with SAM Shortline. television stations from Macon, Albany, and Columbus rode the train in the super private, luxury car known as the Dearing.

We had a little reception and basically spent the day chatting with journalists and doing interviews.

I ran into one of my old tv news anchors I used to work with, Suzanne Lawler. It was great to see an old friend!

I even took some time to eat at the Buffalo Cafe with my buddies Nichole from the newspaper and Qaijuan.

The weather was perfect and it was a great day! It almost felt normal again.

On Saturday, I kicked the morning off with my final photography class.

I am thrilled I got the opportunity to understand manual digital photography so much better. I am considering taking Photo II in the coming months, but for now, I want to master what I have learned.

After the class, I ran downtown to the Peace Day celebrating at Lenny’s Market in Americus.

My friend Jeni & Laura held a very successful event that attracted over 100 people. Everyone was socially distanced and wore face masks.

Dorian was such a good boy. I took him with me! Can you believe he is 7 months old now?

That night, Tim and I had a little beef stew and watched our first of many upcoming Halloween movies.

Later, we tried this new KETO dessert… but…. it was waaaay too sweet. I’d recommend.

The next day we got up and I wanted to try out my new photography skills. So we drove to Dawson, about 30 minutes south of us and headed to Mark’s Melon Patch.

As always, the farm stand was awesome! However, it was super crowded and very few people were wearing masks. We kept our distance and kept our masks on. I zipped in and took some pics and we headed out.

Here are some of the crops I took pics of:

There is a whole field of Zinnias.

You could get fresh peanuts, dried peanuts, fried peanuts or boiled peanuts. I’m more partial to the boiled peanuts, however, there was a huge line and too many people.

They have a corn maze. Folks can even come at night with flashlights and navigate the area.

Scoppernogs!

Beautiful sunflowers

Craft area for kids to paint pumpkins

And of course, an area to pick your pumpkins!

There are games, food , hay rides, and music. This really does click off many items on your Fall bucket list!

And finally, to wrap up my first week of October:

Need I say more?