Be Our Guest!

I love to host. Oh my goodness, do I love to host. Be it a party, a weekend guest, a foreign exchange student for a year – it doesn’t matter! I live for this stuff.

I recently had the honor of hosting two people who happen to mean the world to me…

Yet we had never met! Crazy, right?

Remember waaaaay back when, back when I used to write on the other Destination Unknown (on Blogger,) and had these Bloggy Besties that would always comment? Yep, two of those people actually made the trek from the suburbs of Chicago to little old South Georgia to spend a few days with me.

Guys – it was awesome! The best part? They are blogging about their trip over the next few weeks! I would love for you to read about it, it is a several part series, but start : HERE. Then, when you finish Leanne’s story, head on over to Peggy’s story HERE.

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Peggy on the left, me in the middle, Leanne on the right

To say we had a wonderful time would be an absolute understatement. Their visit was everything I had hoped it would be. Leanne is exactly the way Leanne writes: warm, thoughtful, funny, and just radiates love and light. Even when dealing with such tremendous loss. And then Peggy is exactly the way I imagined her: quiet, smart, kind, with a hint of snark which is exactly the way I like my friends to be! We had a really, really wonderful visit and I am so glad I got to show off Georgia’s Sumter County to two really awesome people.

I put them up for 2 nights at the Plains Historic Inn and 2 nights at the Bestwestern Windsor Hotel.

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On the 2nd floor of the Historic Windsor Hotel

We did just about everything you could imagine. We visited:

  • Jimmy Carter National Historic Site: Plains High School, Campaign Headquarters, & Boyhood Farm
  • Billy Carter Service Station
  • Our family cabin on the timber farm
  • Richland Rum
  • Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village & Discovery Center
  • Wolf Creek Plantation
  • Koinonia Farm
  • Americus Haunted History Tour
  • Had a latte art class at the Cafe Campesino Roastery
  • Had a glassblowing class at Mobile Glassblowing Studios
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Richland Rum Sampling Georgia Rum!
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Leanne cracked us up as she learned to blow glass. She went from making a cup to a bowl, because man she could blow hard!
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Peggy ended up being our pro in this arena!
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Latte art class with Barista Extrodinaire, Hannah Mercer!
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Leanne totally shined in this arena!

I took the ladies to a few fun places to eat locally:

  • Buffalo Cafe in Plains
  • 1800 Mexican Restaurant in Americus
  • Gladys’ in Americus
  • Koinonia Farm in Americus
  • Pat’s Place in Americus
  • Cafe Campesino in Americus/Sweet Georgia Baking Company
  • Rosemary & Thyme in the Windsor Hotel
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Tim & I at 1800 Mexican Restaurant

Not too soon after Leanne & Peggy returned home, we ended up having a grand time at the 3rd Annual Hot Glass Craft Beer Festival in Americus.

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Tim, his sister, and his oldest daughter & I at the Americus Hot Glass Craft Beer Festival.
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Tim & one of his close friends, Rob!
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Shawn, from the Americus Times Recorder serving up cocktails in the VIP Tent.

About a week or so later, I took off for the Golden Isles for the Regional Visitor Information Center Conference. If you can remember, I won that big award there last year! This year, I got the opportunity to present during one of the sessions.

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Me! Talking about how to create the visitor experience. Jekyll Island Club.

My administrative assistant, tourism assistant, our Main Street Director, and my hubby headed down on a Tuesday. I opted to rent an Airbnb to save a few dollars on our budget. Tim was simply going to chill on the beach and do whatever while the rest of us toiled away in a conference.

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I’m on a boat, bitch. WITH a disco ball. 😉

I look toiled don’t I?

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Tim repping with a little Wolf Creek Vino on the Dolphin Cruise

On the first night, Tim, Qaijuan, Carter and I met our other tourism friends at The Wharf on Jekyll Island for a Dolphin/Sunset Cruise.

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My tourism besties Steven & Becky! (From Macon & Statesboro.)
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Justin did a “calling of the dolphins.” it worked!
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I made friends with a shrimp boat captain!

Besides sitting in classes, drinking copious amounts of boat drinks, and networking all night – we got to choose FAM Tours. (Stands for familiarization tours.) I chose to go on an actual shrimp boat.

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Living my best life!

Yeah, baby! I held a shrimp!

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Lunch at the Jekyll Island Club Resort
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Dinner at The Wharf
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Lunch at the Marshside Grill.
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You simply have to know Nija and Justin to understand what is transpiring.

Folks – my life is good and full. I do have some really awesome friends – in Chicago, in Birmingham, in Statesboro, in Macon, in Atlanta, Bangkok, Milan, Iraq, Sao Paulo, and so many other places in between. It’s not like I don’t have a tribe. I do. They just live elsewhere.

This past weekend was super awesome. Again… I left town, but it was worth it. Tim’s best friend since the beginning of time is Tag. Tag decided to throw a Cinco de Mayo party on the fourth… so I guess it was a Quattro de Mayo party mixed in with a few Kentucky Derby hijinks.

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Tim & I in Columbus
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Needs no introduction

Three margaritas, 4 shots of tequila, and 6 hours later I can officially say that my laugh tank is full. It was so refreshing to be around people our age, people with our basic sense of humor, and people who are sort of… well.. been there done that.

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We all agree Maximum Security got robbed!

We watched the Kentucky Derby. You know, all 20 seconds of it and then sat through the controversy of whether a horse shoved another horse in the wrong direction.

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Tim, Tag, and Rob

We listened to good Classic Rock and 90s Grunge and I got to hum along as guys who actually know how to play guitars and can sing decided to belt a few familiar tunes out.

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Tag & Rob

And the laughter…. oh the laughter. All. Night. Long. It was refreshing and good. All of us have pretty much remarried and found happiness. We all were sharing war stories and next chapter stories. Every one had kids either out of high school or in and we were all rejoicing in how soon – FREEDOM is around the corner!

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My peeps at cocktail hour.

At the end of the day- 2019 is shaping up nicely. I’ve formed a new life and as I approach 3 years down here, I realize I probably would not change a single thing!

 

 

 

 

 

Times Keeps on Slipping

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Where did the past two months go?

And how did I allow myself to get roped into so many activities?

The truth is- I decided to live intentionally. I said No to the things I did not want to do and yes to things I did want to do.

Apparently I wanted to do a lot. 2019 has been better for it! I got so busy living life that I just quit worrying about keeping old friends up-to-date on my current goings-on and decided that if new friends wanted to know what was happening, they would need to make an effort. That’s right, dear readers. I, Nicole Kirksey, decided to stop being the one that tried to make relationships work. It took 46 years, but I am living my best life free of any entanglements that might not have my best interests at heart.

How ’bout dem apples?

For one, I have recommitted my life to seek spiritual matters on my terms. Yes, this means I have been attending a church. Not particularly my denomination, but it is nearby and I really, really like the congregation. I’ve missed a few Sundays recently due to travel, but for the most part, there is a definite improvement in this area. I like it. It feels right with my soul.

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District 2 Town Hall Meeting at Union Tabernacle Baptist Church

But I have also been very busy with work. In the past three weeks I have completed at least three speaking engagements. One: At the State of Georgia’s Regional Visitor Information Center Conference in Jekyll Island.

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Me! Talking about how to create the visitor experience. Jekyll Island Club.

I also got the chance to speak to the Presidential Pathways Travel Association about how to use strategic marketing to promote your destination or attraction. And just last night I spoke at the District 2 Town Hall meeting at a local church. Not too shabby for a kid who actually enjoys public speaking. (Though I have to admit, no matter how many times I do it, I get super nervous right before!)

At home, we have been busy landscaping our yard. We finally settled on gardenias, knock-out roses, and azaleas – all white flowers for the front yard. I’m looking forward to seeing the fruits of our labor.

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Karen-Ann, 16

I’m also proud to announce that Karen-Ann attended her very first prom! Isn’t her dress just beautiful?!

But wait… let me back up a minute. The last time we chatted I had just gotten back from my 46th birthday weekend in Atlanta. Well….. our 2nd Anniversary trip was the VERY. NEXT. WEEKEND. Yes, Tim and I have celebrated two years of marriage (with very few bruises.) And guess where we ended up? In my favorite town in Georgia – Savannah.

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First stop: The Paris Market!

We drove the 3 1/2 (maybe 4 hours) to Savannah, Georgia. We made a beeline for City Market and decided to wander down Broughton Street. It was sort of fitting that we kicked things off with a little Parisian Flair (since our Honeymoon was in Paris. Oh yes, it was! Want to read about that magical experience? Click HERE.) I sniffed and swooned over all of the beautiful items at the Paris Market. My main source of satisfaction came from a delicious assortment of macrons.

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Macrons. Delish!

If you will remember, I was in macron heaven in Paris… well technically Versaille, and I discovered the mothership- Ladurée. The one I am about to devour above was a rose flavored pastry. Sweet baby Jesus… it is worth the trip.

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Best. Lunch. Ever – Bernie’s Oyster House, Savannah, GA

We left Broughton Street and headed over to River Street to look for something a little more filling. It was about two in the afternoon and I could very easily eaten my arm. I went to my tried and true spot – Bernie’s Oyster House on River Street. Oh the stories I could tell, about 22 years of stories. But for now, I will tell you about the fantastic stuffed shrimp and great conversation with my awesome hubby.

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I may have snagged half of Tim’s peel n eat shrimp…

After lunch, we were in top spirits and Tim had one request – to visit Savannah Sweets. Well of course, I had to oblige him… and well…

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I may have bought the store. In turn, I have probably gained 10 pounds and 5 cavities.

I just noticed something on the ground. Look to the left of my purse. That, my friends, is a dangerous frozen concoction from Wet Willies.

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To say we were a little buzzed would be an understatement.

Okay, maybe my over spending in a candy shop had something to do with my lack of inhibitions…. or… anyway.

We left our little adventure and drove to meet two really wonderful friends of mine that happen to reside in Savannah: JJ & PC!

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We just love JJ & PC!

We enjoyed viewing their new home and catching up on the world. Around 7 that night we invited them to join us for our anniversary dinner. I mean, why not? It was PC’s birthday just the night before and honestly, isn’t celebrating so much more fun with friends? So we headed to Circa 1875.

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We found a French dining establishment in Savannah!

I opted for for the Steak Frites and a champagne cocktail. We dined like the bourgeoisie that we were pretending to be and had a marvelous time!

The next morning we went with JJ & PC to church then decided to find this little coffee shop I had heard so much about.

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This coffee shop stole my heart!

We found Bitty & Beaus.

It is so much more than just a place to grab a cup of coffee – it’s an experience. While the shop is run by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the customers really come in for the unique customer service experience. It made such an impression on me and I think it would for you also. Here is a little more about their mission:

Next time you find yourself in Savannah, do yourself a favor and check these guys out. #NotBroken

 

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GREAT Sunday buffet!

We were very lucky to have acquired a $50 gift certificate to the Pirate’s House. The Pirate’s House does history and good cooking right! Yes, it is a bit touristy, but YES it was worth it. Situated a block from the Savannah River, this former inn became a rendezvous for pirates and visiting sailors from the Seven Seas. The building remained intact through the centuries, but lost its spark & had fallen into disuse after World War II. Finally, it was saved and now it is one of Savannah’s most famous landmarks and restaurants.

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Churchill’s Pub

After lunch we checked into our hotel and took a nap, only to head back out to wander City Market and finally head for a cocktail. We stopped by Churchill’s Pub on Bay Street and proceeded to indulge our fancy at the rooftop bar!

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Rosé all day.

We had a wonderful time sipping wine and beer and chatting about life in general. This was exactly what my soul needed.  After our cocktails we headed to Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub .

KB’s is my FAVORITE place to visit in Savannah. It has authentic Irish music every single night! Here we were on a Sunday night, having cocktails and fun. Gosh I miss living in a larger, more metropolitan city.

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Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub

After drinks and dinner, we headed back to our hotel to rest before our drive home.

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In one of the many park in Savannah

To say we needed to relax and unwind and not worry about family and children would be an understatement. We needed this. We needed this so very badly. Because when we got back to town, the whole world flipped upside down.

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Dad & I at the Spring Festival at Wolf Creek Plantation

For one, my dad’s diagnosis ended up being a little more complicated than we expected AND on top of the cancer, he now needs open heart surgery. In. The. Same. Year. Talk about a lot for one human to handle. He basically needed to clear his head and came down to spend the week with us. I’m glad he did and I am glad I was able to be a safe haven when in need. Keep him in your prayers. He’s my dad, and I’ve only got one. Our parents age and we all will have to deal with this… but…

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Happy Easter from the Thurston’s

And we celebrated Easter together as a family.

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Autumn turned 13!

Which just happened to be Autumn’s 13th birthday. Geez, Louise. She is a sassy 13 year old. I mean SASSY. Blue hair, alternative lifestyle… like… who is this kid? Where did my little Autumn go?

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But you know what? I love her. And I am proud that she is attempting to live her best life ever. She is smart, she is funny, she is kind, and she is a good kid. What more could you ask for?

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My great-aunt Sarah! 90 years old!

Tim and I took some time to visit with my mom’s side of the family. My great-aunt Sarah turned 90 years old! It was great to see her and the rest of our family.

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Generations

It is so strange seeing everyone. I rarely get to see them in person, which in and of itself is weird to me. We were all, or at least in my child’s mind, we were all so close when my Granny (my great-grandmother) was alive. I saw them so much more often and felt a sense of community and family. Now, not so much. It is a shame. I have always tried to keep a relationship, to the best of my ability, with cousins and aunts and uncles on both sides of my family. Can’t say I’ve been the most successful at it, but I have tried. It’s all any of us can do.

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What I do when I am home – alone. Which is a lot.

Sooo… back to that whole friend & family thing. Yeah… I haven’t been as successful as I would have liked. My family lives farther away. That’s mainly my fault, I’m the one who happened to move. My in-laws include me, but it is sometimes hard to make new connections when there is someone else constantly standing in the place of where I technically should be. (The ex.) She’s not going anywhere. Blah.

The relationships are all pre-established and the kids are the link that keeps everyone together. I had hoped to move here and kind of have this ready made safety net of friends (my sis-in-law and her partner are close to my age,) and even my oldest step-daughter is at least an adult. Though they are kind to me, I am not really a person they call upon to go places or do things or anything like that. And you know what – that’s okay. I accept it and can create my own tribe. Though that has sort of failed miserably.

I have met a lot of really nice people. Honestly. I have been invited to group gatherings, and as much as I appreciate that, it is hard to create those personal relationships when surrounded by 50 other people that are already close. Again…. their dance cards are full.

I guess I am going to have to one day bump into another newbie in town. Perhaps that person can be my coffee & shopping & travel buddy. Yep.

Moving on…

I have a few more stories to tell, but honestly, I’ve run out of steam. This will give me more to share in the coming days as I TRY to get back to blogging. I haven’t really felt like it… since I spend more time alone or with Tim, I’ve learn to become a little more private (about the big stuff.) Or at the very least, more carefully curated. I decided enough was enough. Back to authenticity… because honestly, is anyone really noticing?

(See what I did there? I buried the lead. 😉 )

Love to all… more later!