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Tag: Georgia

‘Tis the Season to Surprise

In the blink of an eye, 2014 has flown by and the holidays are here. Time is such a weird wibbly wobbly, timey wimey thing. Our time in Hawaii flew by. Then we got back home and bought our plane tickets to Georgia for Thanksgiving as a surprise (no one thought we were coming) and September/October/November dragged on so slowly. I barely could contain myself. Surprises always make me crazy. I love doing them, but Lord have mercy, keeping them secret almost kills me.

BUT this time, we pulled it off. I didn’t tell a soul that we’d be flying the red-eye to Georgia for Thanksgiving day. We landed Thursday morning, freshened up in the airport, grabbed the rental car, and headed up I-95 to Dad’s. I was a ball of antsy excitement. Running on fumes after a night of half-sleep on the plane + jittery from a strong latte in the airport. Ready. To. Get. There.

Dad and Kathy host Thanksgiving every year and the whole step-family comes to celebrate it together — about 30 people. I knew that by the time we arrived around noon, they’d be in the final stages of prep and Thanksgiving lunch would be served soon. I also knew that Dad would likely be standing outside talking. We live on a private road in the woods, just outside my hometown in the county (in other words, it’s the boonies, y’all). Knowing my Dad well, I knew that he’d be on high alert if a strange vehicle came driving down the road (private property!). He’d be wondering who it was.

I also knew that if said vehicle came down the road blaring their horn, he’d be ticked. So you can guess what I did…

We came down the road, in a bright red rental car, blaring our horn as loud as possible. As we turned the final corner, I could see him standing at the end of the driveway, glaring down the road. I was on the edge of my seat, shaking with excitement / wildly over-caffeinated.

As we pulled up to the driveway, I was waving like a fool through the window. His angry expression slowly faded away to puzzlement. I leapt out of the car and ran over to him. “SURPRISE!!!” I think it took a good ten minutes for him to realize what was happening and smile. 🙂

After that, it was a blur of hugs and visiting with family. We spent most of the day around our fire pit since it was cold, cold, cold in south Georgia. By the end of the day, I smelled like woodsmoke, had probably eaten 10+ cookies amidst all the other delicious food items, and was collapsing into bed way too late.

The rest of the weekend was spent surprising the rest of my family — Aunt Kim, Uncle Brian, Matthew; my Grandma; and my Mom and her very best friends. Aunt Kim’s reaction was priceless. We threw open the door of their house and she screamed, “NO!!!!” Grandma was so sweet and happy to see us. Mom and her friends landed in the airport on Saturday after a trip to NYC and were in a daze of disbelief when we popped out in front of them at the airport. All around good fun!

Now we’re back in San Francisco and there’s 21 days till Christmas. It’s raining here properly for this first time in ages. And yesterday, I bought chestnuts at Trader Joe’s — to roast I guess. Where’s my open fire? Don’t ask me, I always go overboard during the holidays at TJ’s.

Must be the holidays, right? 😉 Hope all of you U.S. folks had a great Thanksgiving. I’m incredibly thankful for all of our friends and family around the world. We wouldn’t be who we are without you.

My love and I in Napa last month, celebrating our dear friends Mike and Natalie’s engagement party. Happy and thankful!


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The Dillard House

I surprised my Mama with a weekend trip to Dillard, Georgia for her birthday when I was home in May. It’s a tradition – our love for the Dillard House – so we went up Friday to the mountains for a little sightseeing and an overnight stay. I drove Mom’s car up 441 to north Georgia — me, her, and Jesse piled in the car. Talking, laughing, debating, arguing. The standard ridiculous family time spent in a vehicle.

Our first stop was Tallulah Gorge – it’s right on the road to Dillard and we hadn’t been there in years. We stopped for an hour or so to explore the State Park, walk across the suspension bridge, imagine Karl Wallenda walking across it on a tight-rope at age 65 (!!!), and stare down into the depths of the gorge. I’d forgotten how it felt to be in Georgia in the summer. The trees and underbrush are so lush and thick, you can’t see depth or definition — just green, green, green.

We headed out when the rain clouds came and threatened us with a few raindrops. It was an exciting day – our first trip back to Dillard since 2011 and my college graduation, so we didn’t mind leaving the Gorge early. We zipped up the highway to Dillard and turned off onto the familiar road, pointing at the big sign, “Welcome to the Dillard House.” We were back!

A bit of Dillard House history: the Dillard family got the land back in 1794. Fast forward to 1917, Carrie and Arthur Dillard established “The Dillard House,” a restaurant and eventual mountain resort that would attract visitors from all over the country. The main reason to visit, though, is the restaurant itself. Have you ever dreamed of a real down-home, southern meal? You have? Don’t think twice. Go to Dillard.

We checked into our spacious, comfortable room (so affordable too!), then headed out to do some exploring. We wandered the pastures, said hello the horses, and visited the barnyard. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was baby goat season; there were at least 18 kids in the yard! We watched them for an hour – skipping, jumping, climbing, and playing. Not one of them was older than a week or two. They were precious and we didn’t mind passing the time watching them.

Finally (FINALLY) it was supper time at the resort, so we headed straightaway to the restaurant and got a window seat with a view for dinner.

Here’s the magic of the Dillard House:

  1. First and foremost, it’s a home-cooked southern meal. As my Dad says, “Ya can’t beat it.”
  2. It’s FAMILY-STYLE. That means big portions of everything. All you can eat.
  3. The menu, every night, looks something like this plus or minus a few things: Fried chicken, fried catfish, BBQ chicken, country ham, BBQ ribs, fried shrimp, scalloped potatoes, green beans, acorn squash souffle, fried okra, cabbage casserole, baked apples, waldorf salad, cornbread, biscuits, and a cobbler + ice cream for dessert. ARE YOU KIDDING ME. It’s amazing.
  4. Their sweet tea is made with molasses and it is my favorite sweet tea anywhere!

I mean, it really can’t get any better. We got a table immediately. They delivered the plates without asking what we wanted (no need!). We dug in. When they came around and asked if we’d like anything else or more of something, we settled for just one more pile of fried shrimp, please and thank you! We finished dinner with strawberry pie, vanilla ice cream, and coffee. It wasn’t even 7:30pm yet.

We ended the night with hot coffee in mugs on the porch of our room, rocking in their quintessential rocking chairs, listening to the cicadas and nighttime sounds of the mountains. It was everything we all wanted, I think. Worth it. Especially for my Mama’s birthday.

My Mama in the mountains!
It was a little fishy, but we couldn’t resist the photo-op. 😉
Jesse and Mom over Tallulah Gorge!
Suspension bridge action!
The view from our room’s porch at the Dillard House.
Mom and our section of the resort!
Tried to get a good photo of the wooden fence and then this happened…
“Foot Traffic Only.”
Horses in front of Georgia mountains – gorgeous!
BABY GOATS! Everywhere!
Excited faces waiting for our food to arrive.
Dinner for three or ten? Mmm mmm!
Results of the conquerors.
My people after a happy weekend!
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Home in Athens

I had one more week left in Georgia, so like usual, I sped up I-95 to I-16 to Highway 17 to Athens. I needed to see my mama and spend time with her and Jesse for a while before heading back to San Francisco. (Note: there are no such things as restful vacations when I’m visiting my family–too many people to see and places to go!)

It was her birthday that weekend, so I had a few surprises for her. Otherwise, we were planning to spend a week together at home, get some things done, and enjoy the Classic City.

Couple a’ things we had to do: go to Jittery Joe’s for a latte; eat Schlotzsky’s (original sandwich for me!); eat Barberito’s; get a Chick-fil-A milkshake; walk around UGA’s campus; and play with my sweet pup, Gatsby. Yes, I realize that that list was mostly food.

It was nice to be home. Walking around UGA’s campus always makes me smile and remember those four wonderful/ridiculous/educational years I spent there. I learned there, I made mistakes there, and I grew up in Athens, Georgia. I danced through the UGA Arch once or twice, just because I can, as a graduate. I’ll always be a Dawg and bleed that sweet red and black.

The week went by way too fast, but it wasn’t over yet. It was still Lia-Gras (my Mom’s birthday week(s)!) and I had one trick left — a trip to one of our favorite places in north Georgia: The Dillard House.

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It was the hashtag that was never meant to be, but that doesn’t stop me from saying it over and over, eh Allison and David? 😉 #JoinedHandsInMarriage

After a bachelorette weekend and two weeks at home, we finally arrived at the main event — wedding weekend for my sister! A year+ of preparations and here we were, finally at the big day. There were so many things to be done in a matter of two days: a bridal luncheon, a rehearsal, a rehearsal dinner, and then the wedding!

I could go into all the details, but I won’t – that would take too long! What I will say won’t be enough… I can’t possibly capture the magic of a wedding in words. But it was beautiful.

Brad walked Allison down the aisle on a warm Saturday in May. After a whirlwind morning of getting ready and forgetting things and slipping into our plum-colored dresses and watching our girl put on her wedding dress, she walked down the aisle with her baby brother after we’d all walked before her. We all stood looking down the church rows and watched her. Her friends, her family, and her David. In the small church of her grandparents, Allison married the man of her dreams, and they walked out Hand-in-Hand. (I can’t help it!!!)

It was beautiful. I am so grateful that we were all there to watch it. And to dance afterwards to ridiculous songs. To eat cake. And to send them off into the warm night with sparklers and a Mustang tied with empty beer cans. Married!

Love you both.

Allison and her bridesmaids at the bridal luncheon! (Left to right: Ansley, me, Allison, Katie, Jessica, and Hillary)
Laughing at a silent joke. 😉
My love and I — at the rehearsal dinner!
This family is growing, and I have to say… I like it!
Congratulations and best wishes, Allison and David! We all love you!
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