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!

 

 

 

 

 

This is 46

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Satchel Paige said it best, “Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” That Satchel knew what he was talking about. Unlike past birthdays, my sentimental recap of a year did not happen. I was not reminiscing about where I have been and what I was supposed to be. I think at 46, it is what is it and it will be what it will be.

We are half way finished with February and at least 3 people my age, who were very significant in my life at one time or another, have passed away. One from cancer, one from a drug overdose, and one from a heart attack. We were all around the same age.

You see…. it is what it is.

And it will be what it will be.

It took 46 years to accept that. I believe somewhere deep inside I used to think that if I worried enough about something and spent all of my energy & time trying to manipulate a situation, that of course, I somehow had control over it. I laugh thinking about that now.

It is what it is. It will be what it will be.

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This is 46.

I’m not sure what I expected, say, 20 years ago. 46 seemed so old. I look at that pic and I don’t see old, yet I don’t see young either. I see a woman, with a smile, and that is good enough for me.

That smile is genuine. That confidence is real. That woman is me.

This is 46.

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February has been super busy for the Kirkseys. We spent the first weekend traveling two hours South to Valdosta, Georgia – home of Valdosta State University. Our middle daughter, Alex, is 17 and a junior in high school and is exploring her options for the future.

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VSU was actually my second choice for a university. However, I ended up being accepted to my first choice. We had a very vivacious welcome from the recruiters: A stadium full of hopefuls, lots of cheering, lights flashing on and off, and motivational stories. There was a huge push with their athletics program and then we were off to explore the majors. The whole day was supposed to be from 10 am until 3pm, we left by noon. Alex had experienced enough. It was overwhelming and not a good fit for a studious-academic oriented kid. We didn’t care that they were national football champs in their division. We didn’t particularly like the main professor of biology telling us that if you are interested in Marine Biology that all you will ever do is teach at a university.

Eh.

So we went for Mexican food. And Valdosta got one thing right – El Toreo had the best salsa I think I have ever consumed.

So there is that.

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The next weekend we headed down to my alma mater – Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Georgia. Another 2 hours away, but this time, Northeast.

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Not saying my college is the right choice for Alex (eh hemm…) but it definitely portrayed a completely different vibe. Both schools had their pluses and both have their minuses. What GC&SU makes up for perks & academics, VSU makes up for in diversity and school spirit.

In walked kids  hailing from Buckhead, Roswell, Cumming, Savannah, Augusta, Macon, etc. Mostly private school kids. Valdosta had a different feel altogether. Most of the kids were from North Florida and had more of a relaxed feel.

Vibes and first impressions aside, one thing is for certain, academics were the main focus at Georgia College. According to US News & World Report, GC&SU ranked 28 in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges & Regional Universities in the South. They were also voted #10 in Best Public Universities. #5 in Best Undergraduate Teaching Programs worldwide, and it is the top nursing school in the state… among so many other distinctions.

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We toured the campus, the dorm rooms, and even checked out the downtown area. Alex seemed very pleased with the experience. It was more intimate, and luckily, I was there to affirm what the tour guide was sharing.

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There was no pressure to pick a major, but to actually explore her options (which is what a liberal arts education is all about.)

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As of now, GC is at the top of her list. *proud squeeee*

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The following week happened to be Valentine’s Day. And we knew we had the kids that night, so we opted for an early celebration – simple yummy food at The Fish House in downtown Americus. We sat outside (because it is Georgia and February – so we are warm. 😉 ) and enjoyed some shrimp and chicken tenders. Our hearts were heavy dealing with my dad’s prognosis. Tomorrow is his pre-op and we are sending prayers his way. We tried to celebrate and just enjoy being together. It was calm and it felt right.

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The Kirkseys helped me celebrate my birthday the best way they knew how later that week: With tacos and cake. (You can’t go wrong!) It was a great night with family – lots of presents and laughter. (Exactly what I needed.)

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Cotton was a huge help. 😉 She insisted on helping me lick the icing off of my cake, as well as open all of my presents for me. lol Welcome to 3!

We also spent a lovely night at Plains United Methodist Church for their Sweet Heart Banquet, which is a fundraiser for the WOW women’s group (Women of Worship.) Steak & potatoes, a live auction, and lots of laughs.

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My actual birthday was such a treat! We left Plains around 6 pm on Friday and drove 2 hours and 45 minutes to Oxford, Georgia (South Atlanta area.) I went to spend it with one of my oldest friends (25 years now,) Mary Therese and her husband, Retired AF Colonel, Bob Griffin. MT and I worked in television news together.

She and her husband live in an amazing home with all of the bells & whistles and made sure I felt like a princess. As soon as we got there, we were given libations (me a glass of wine, Tim some bourbon,) and headed down to their movie theater to watch a hilarious comedy.

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Yes, we said theater. Their basement if off-the-charts amazing. It would be rude to snap photos, but just trust me, this is just one of the many amenities they have.

We snuggled in for a relaxing night, woke up to an amazing breakfast and headed out to CANDYTOPIA. It’s a thing, look it up.

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This was such a fun way to celebrate 46! I embraced the 6-year-old in me! Like Willy Wonka? Like bright colors and everything girly? Yaaasssss, Queen. It was amazing.

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We went through psychedelic hallways and entered a land of bubblegum and pixie sticks!

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All of the art was made completely out of candy. Every single piece. Plus there were vats of free candy everywhere. I took full advantage of the sugary goodness and kept shoving handfuls into Tim’s jacket pockets. lol

Some of the art was really fantastic!

My favorite part was…

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When the pigs farted confetti all over me and it smelled like cotton candy.

I seriously cannot make this up!

All we needed was glitter and I would have been in girly/candy heaven.

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What a fun way to celebrate!

We left Candytopia (not without me purchasing a hot pink trucker hat, rock candy, cotton candy pop rocks, and Tabasco Dark Chocolate,) and headed over to Phipps Plaza for a few libations and snacks at the Tavern.

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Here we shared stories and laughed and took a little stroll down memory lane.

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After lunch, we headed to downtown Covington. Or was it?

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Are you a big Vampire Diaries fan? Well I am. So much so that I named my big orange cat, Salvatore, after the lead vampire brothers: Damon & Stephan Salvatore.

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I decided to be a good tourism director and stop by the Covington Visitor Center. Met some of the nicest people in there and discovered so much about this area. If you love shows like: My Cousin Vinny, Vampire Diaries, Dukes of Hazard, In the Heat of the Night, Footloose… and I could go on and on…. then you have to stop here. So much has been filmed in this area.

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I loved how all of my favorite characters were highlighted with a little stone in the pavement along the town square.

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It was such a treat! A little Southern Hollywood, if you will!

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I absolutely loved the town square. Everything that was significant for my little Vampire Diaries obsession was there! I love being a tourist in my little state!

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We stopped for coffee, chatted some more, and decided that this crew needed a nap. We headed back to Castle de Griffin and took a load off. After everyone was well rested we headed back downtown to have dinner at the Mystic Grill. This restaurant is the main “haunt” in the Vampire Diaries.

Well.. we thought we were going to eat there.

There was an 1 hour and 45 minute wait.

I mean… I am a fan girl.. but…

We ended up heading to the one restaurant everyone recommended:

The City Pharmacy.

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And it did not disappoint. I opted for the Kobe Beef Burgers and felt divine!

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After a lovely dinner, we headed back to the house to indulge ourselves in their jacuzzi tub outside (again… gotta love Georgia weather,) followed by a delicious night of sleep.

We left yesterday morning and headed out to the Dekalb Farmer’s Market.

OMG.

Just go. It is a spice, meat, cheese, veggie heaven. I don’t want to spoil it. Just GO and trust me.

So here I am, back at home, 46, tired… because, well.. I guess I am 46 and have been running nonstop, and it is time to get back to work.

Lots to do.. and still more adventures ahead this weekend.

It is what it is. It will be what it will be.

Interested in checking out the cool places we visited?

Here are the links:

Valdosta State University

El Toreo

Georgia College

Plains United Methodist Church

The Fish House

Downtown Covington

Mystic Grill

Bread & Butter Coffee

The City Pharmacy

The Tavern

Phipps Plaza

Candytopia

Dekalb Farmers Market