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!

Ask & You Shall Receive

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I have to admit – 2018 has been pretty remarkable! I realize I have been a little quiet as of late, but as with all new transitions (which I seem to be on an endless stream of them,) I needed to let the dust settle. We got into the house and settled into the life in Plains so very easily.

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We started off with my 45th Birthday party in our new home. About 30 people from Americus, Plains, & Macon came to celebrate my little stay on Earth. We had great drinks and lots of laughs. It was nice to be surrounded by my new connections with my  things. I haven’t seen these things in years (all stored up nicely in Macon,) so it was good to set them free, so to speak!

Once the birthday celebration ended, it was time to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. Tim & I headed to the beach house and relaxed with some sunshine & Vitamin Sea. There were so many surprises in store for me: An one & a half hour therapeutic massage, fancy dinner in Panama City, a shopping spree in Apalachicola, and a little Chanel. Needless to say, I was a very happy girl.

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Oyster City Brewing Company, Apalachicola, FL
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Fire Fly Restaurant, Panama City, FL

By Mid March I was on my way to Chattanooga with the theater staff of The Historic Rylander Theatre. We participated in a Creative Placemaking Conference with other arts organizations, municipalities, and tourism entities. Lucky for me, Heather & Will are not only co workers, but dear friends.

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Enjoying the view at Rock City on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee

Back at home, things were going great! Spending time at my neighbor’s home on Saturday night with the rest of our neighbors. Eh hem… which include a certain former President. Yep, most Saturday nights (if he is in town,) he comes for dinner. This tribe of people are fascinating and have turned my non-existent social life into a very interesting experience. Every weekend there is an array of interesting people sitting around her table. From critically acclaimed authors, to journalists from places like the NY Times to the AJC. Never a dull moment.

Then another group in Plains reached out and I ended up a part of a Bunco group that meets the 4th Tuesday of each month! We have so much fun – playing the game, chatting it up, and gobbling delicious treats. (And wine.. I mentioned wine, right?)

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Bunco Group at Honey Hush Boutique

Two really awesome things happened recently. One – Macon Magazine approached me to be featured as one of the Fiery Women in Business for their Spring Issue! I was thrilled to share my story and share what I do with my friends and family back home.

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Not soon after that happened, I completed the renovation on the Americus Welcome Center. The Center is a place where visitors can stop in, learn more about the area, pick up souvenirs and get their questions answered.

With the duties of running the center, I have to attend the Regional Visitor Information Center Conference each year for the State of Georgia. This year it was in Statesboro. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express! The location was fantastic and I was pleasantly surprised with how cool Statesboro was. Outside of attending classes, I got to explore a little.

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Eagle Creek Brewery

We got to have a private party Eagle Creek Brewery, complete with a band performing and free craft beer samples, as well as some food. Lots of the beers served here have fruit infusions, I went for the Strawberry Wheat.


I gave my shot at Tactical Paint Ball! Another first for me! It was a solitary game, one where you gear up, grab your paint ball gun, then enter this dark maze where Human Zombies make their way for you. You aim, you shoot, and if it hits them, they dramatically fall to the ground. The first time I pulled the trigger I snapped a guy right in the groin. I apologized and kept moving!

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I tried something else for the first time – I jumped on a trampoline. My mom never let me get on one of these because she was afraid we would break our necks! But at 45 – I did it. Want to see proof? Check out my instagram feed and watch the video.

Now let’s take a moment and analyze what is happening here. Do you notice a change?

Yep. I’m living. I’ve transitioned. I’m going to be okay.

I’m going to be more than okay… because I have some amazing news: I’m off of my Alpha Beta Blockers & Cholesterol medicine! That’s right!!!!!! I’ve come a long way baby, and I feel phenomenal. Now I am focusing on getting my metabolism back to normal and kicking some PCOS butt!

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I also enjoyed a Birds of Prey & Reptile show at Georgia Southern University’s Wildlife Center. I got to see owls, eagles, and hawks soar & swoop right over my head! In this photo you see some of my fellow tourism colleagues hold this big guy.

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I shot a gun for the very first time at the Shooting Range on the University campus! I got a lot of my  questions answered and I have to admit, I am interested in learning more!

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I got some much needed bonding time with people with similar interests and personalities. Here you see Wesleigh from Marietta and Sloane from Jackson.

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We decided to give archery a try while in town! This was another first for me!!! I’m telling you, I was living my life to the fullest and loving every minute of it.

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Not too shabby, right? I picked #13, because 13 has always been a lucky number for me (Think TV days – 13WMAZ.)

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We even got to have a fantastic party at Splash in the Boro – this phenomenal water park owned by the county in Stateboro. Unlimited margaritas and tons of great Caribbean food mixed with karaoke & dancing!

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Something else happened while I was there. 😉

31073255_10156241228969929_4072781022800904192_nI received the State of Georgia’s Commissioner’s Award for Outstanding Leadership in Promoting Tourism.

Yep. It’s a big deal.

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I was so surprised! My coworkers, Tim, and Alex all showed up to surprise me. Truly an amazing experience.

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April was full of so many good things. I got to go home and visit my family.

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I got to visit my old museum, the Cannonball House and enjoy the event I started 4 years ago: Beards, Bourbon, & BBQ.

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It was pretty cool to see the bourbon tasting was being conducted by none other than Americus’s 13th Colony Distilleries. My worlds had collided.

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I even got to spend the entire day sipping craft beer, wine, and cocktails for free at the Americus Hot Glass Craft Beer Fest!

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Then there was the big weekend-long media tour with journalists out of Atlanta. One of the first stops was Wolf Creek Winery in Americus. I went for the Wine Slushy shots… of course.

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Got to treat the visiting journalists to a spectacular dinner at Rosemary & Thyme in the Historic Windsor Hotel. Super fancy. 😉

 

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And just two Saturdays ago I spent the day with my oldest and dearest friend at the Spring Wine Festival at Wolf Creek. We slurped wine slushies, ate some hibatchi, and shopped the vendors.

Then one day later… something happened.

I felt an uncomfortable feeling on my bottom. (Yep.) Sunday, I found it was hard to sit and honestly, though this may be TMI, I thought maybe it was a hemorrhoid or something to that effect. Monday, I had to attend this event at GA Representative Mike Cheokas’s home and realized it was difficult to sit down. Finally, I thought I needed to take a closer look.

Yep. There was a HUGE knot on the left side of my bottom, on the seat portion. Not the other place.

The next day I made an appointment to see my gynecologist and she diagnosed me with an abscess. She gave me some antibiotics and scheduled an appointment for me to see a surgeon the following Monday. That (would have been 6 days later.) By Wednesday morning, I was running a low-grade fever and in some serious pain. Thursday – add vomiting. On Friday, I had to be at the Grand Re-Opening of the Americus Welcome Center (in extreme pain and sweating profusely, because little did I know, my body was fighting off a dangerous infection.) I left work a little early and talked Tim into taking me to the emergency room.

Thank God I did. I was close to sepsis.

Basically, I got admitted as soon as they discovered that the abscess had tunneled and was 5cm. I had emergency surgery the next morning (Saturday morning,) and was released that night. I’ve been home ever since and will not return to work until NEXT Thursday. I’m in excruciating pain (still,) and on some super heavy drugs. Antibiotics, pain killers… and horror upon horrors, my poor, sweet husband has to not only change the dressing on my wound, but has to repack it. My dignity is gone. I feel run down. I’m bored out of my mind.

Yep. What a year!

With that being said – a small tribe of friends are forming. My sweet friend, Rachel, brought me some produce and a fantastic llama coloring book & crayons. We sat for a while and caught up. My neighbor, Jill (who throws the awesome parties,) brought my family plates of food the night we got back from the hospital. My other friend that lives here, that owns a local restaurant, baked me a chocolate “Butt” cake as she called it. (Ha – Bundt – Butt. Get it?)

And tonight, the ladies worship group from the local Methodist church all got together and cooked some casseroles for us and froze them and are bringing them to our home. How incredibly thoughtful is that? We don’t even attend their church?

 

This is what living in a small, rural community is all about.

Though the ending of this little catch-up story was tough, the truth is, so much good is surrounding me. I feel the love. I see the true friendships forming, and I’m looking forward to a beautiful Summer!

 

PS – Pardon any typos… I’m under the influence of pain meds. 😉

Woodstock – A City Unexpected

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This past Spring, I got the opportunity to spend a week in Woodstock, Georgia. It is a small city, just north of metro Atlanta. I went there for a business trip, specifically for the Regional Visitor Information Center conference, but ended up experiencing a very cool bleisure trip! (Just what is bleisure? It’s business mixed with leisure!)

The tagline for Woodstock is – A City Unexpected, and unexpected it was!

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According to Money Magazine, Woodstock was named one of America’s 50 Best Cities. It has a world-class trail system, excellent shopping & dining options, and apparently one of the best breweries in America!

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When I first checked into the conference, I looked at two other attendees standing there and asked where they were going for lunch. We decided to pop across the street to Canyon Burger Company. DELISH! Not only did I indulge in an incredible burger, I also made two new friends from Lake Lanier Islands & Dahlonega.

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The trip wasn’t all fun – there was a LOT to learn as far as Welcome Centers go. We were in classes for several days going over everything from brochures to branding, merchandising to events, and so much more!

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Backing up a little, the first night I was there, I had dinner alone at a little Mexican restaurant near my hotel. Hands down some of the BEST beef tacos I have ever tasted!

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Some of the highlights of Woodstock, that I got to see, included:

  • The Greenprints Trail System, a city-wide trail network. (Just a brilliant idea that I need to implement in Sumter County!)
  • The Elm Street Cultural Arts Village (where our conference was held.) Basically, they refurbished an old church and turned it into the perfect conference space.
  • The Downtown Woodstock Shopping & Dining District (which features over 20 restaurants and 35 stores.) Apparently, this community was pretty much nonexistent, and like the phoenix rising from the ashes, so did their downtown.
  • The Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta, the closest outlet mall to the city of Atlanta with nearly 100 shops

The City of Woodstock folks put us all on a bus and drove us around to see these sights and get a feel of what their city had to offer and the layout of the land. It gave me tons of ideas!

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On one of the afternoons, we stopped by the Historic Dixie Speedway, which is ranked one of the best dirt tracks in America. It seems to be a family owned business, and we were told all of the great NASCAR drivers, at some point early in their careers, got to race here. It was also featured in a movie. It has a 3/8 mile clay oval track, and hosts stock car racing every Saturday night, May through October.

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One of my favorite nights in Woodstock was at a private party hosted by and at Reformation Brewery. I just loved their mission – “is a values-based company that seeks to reform beer culture and liberate beer from societal extremes.” How cool is that?

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The brewery was established in October of 2013 and is located within the renowned Etowah watershed of Woodstock. They offer tours, tastings, and take home beer options. We pretty much had an open bar and were given these fantastic custom designed craft beer glasses. (It’s a hard life.. I know.)

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We had a BBQ catered meal complete with homemade banana pudding. The folks from all over the state of Georgia that run Welcome/Visitor Centers were in attendance.

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One of the coolest things that they did was have an artist on hand to draw each of us! Boy… am I sassy!

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One of the other private parties was at Madlife Stage & Studios. We had a specially catered meal and open bar and got to watch a really awesome band perform.

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After the dinner and drinks, we headed to the VIP room of Stars & Strikes in Woodstock.

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Again – open bar, tons of catered food, and a private bowling alley, unlimited game card, bumper cars, and laser tag!

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I was like a kid in a candy store! I love places like this. All that was missing was Mini Golf!

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Overall, the trip was very informative, I met a ton of awesome people who do exactly what I do, won a bottle of Habersham wine in a silent auction, and explored a city I probably would have never visited otherwise.

If you get a chance, or are passing through Atlanta, give it a try!