Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Americus - here we come! (Part 5)

(This is a continuing story about a recent trip I took with my dear friend, Peggy, to Georgia. You can start at the beginning of our adventure at this blog post, and continue to read one after another.) 

Tuesday, April 2nd: We woke to another gorgeous morning at the Plains Historic Inn, and took a couple extra hours resting before starting on the next adventure in Americus. That last morning at the Inn was a lovely one, and while we were sad to leave these beautiful accommodations, we knew we were moving on to equally as awesome places. 

Plains, you did our heart some good. 

And I thank you. 

We checked out of the Inn, and took the short car ride to Americus, where we met our dear friend Nicole at her office, and toured the Americus Visitor Center. Nicole is the  Director of Tourism for the City of Americus. (If you don't already know Nicole . . . YOU WANT TO!) She is so knowledgeable about the area and knows all the best places to go . . . truly, she was the best tour guide during our trip and we were so blessed to spend these days with her. The Americus Visitor Center is a great place to stop to get some pointers on "All the Things to Do" in Sumter County. Not only do they have lots of brochures covering just about everything in Georgia, but they also sell great little souvenirs from tons of  businesses, have information on and provide tours, coordinate lots of local special events, and have multiple selfie opportunities with the Carters (which, we HAD to take advantage of.) 

Have camera . . . will selfie! 

After a great exploration of the Americus Visitor Center, we decided it was time to get some good Southern Cuisine in our systems. Nicole took us for lunch to a place I am still drooling over . . . . GLADYS' KITCHEN.  Oh, friends . . . what can I possibly say about Gladys' Kitchen that would make you get up and go? Well, how about absolute delicious home cooking through and through, affordable prices, and the best butter rolls I have ever had in my life? Yes, that is what I can I say. What are butter rolls, you ask? I have absolutely no idea . . . but I didn't know what I was missing in my life until I had a butter roll from Gladys'. And now that I have had one, I only wish I lived closer so I could get one right now (but that drive from Chicago might be a little long for me this afternoon.) 

I had the smothered pork chops with rice, broccoli cheese casserole, and fried okra. SOOOOO GOOOOOOD!!!

Gladys' Kitchen Butter Rolls . . . I couldn't even take a picture before I dove in.
What is it? A bread pudding? A sweet roll in a pan? I have no idea. But dear Lord . . . it is heaven on earth!

Oh, Gladys. You shouldn't have. But if you had to . . . why couldn't you have closer to Chicago? 

Peggy and me, with our Butter Rolls . . . sigh.
Photo courtesy of Nicole Kirksey. 

With happy smiles on our faces, we left Gladys' Kitchen and decided to top off our delicious lunch with some equally delicious wine! (Yes, so far day 2 is all about pleasing the appetite! And I feel only slightly guilty about it.)  So off we went, to Wolf Creek Plantation Vineyards and Winery for a wine tasting with Marketing Director, Hannah Cannon! With a really lovely tasting room (elegant and comfortable), we indulged in a small sampling of a number of their wines . . . and I will tell you, they were delicious! 

I am pretty sure Number 9 White was my favorite. Or was it Number 9 Red? Wait . . . the Mapmaker Red was it, I am sure. I think . . . ;)  . . . . Whatever it was, I was (once again) thrilled that we drove to Georgia, because I brought a whole bunch of these bottles home to enjoy. And since I can't have a Gladys' Butter Roll right about now, I think I will pour myself a glass of Wolf Creek Plantation wine! Special thanks to Hannah, who explained the fine art of Wolf Creek wines and educated this non-wine connoisseur on the great offerings they have. She was delightful!

We plan on coming back to Georgia next spring with a group of friends, and will definitely be back for a tasting.  

Yes, the Mapmakers RED must have been my favorite - because I took a photo of it (AND came home with two bottles of this one!) Thanks to Hannah for helping us make some great selections of wines to bring home. 

When we finished at Wolf Creek, it was time to return to the history, so we went back to downtown Americus and stopped by the amazing RYLANDER THEATER

And my friends . . . this visit changed me. 

For the better. 

In so many ways. 

I am a theater nerd, born and raised. I did a lot of plays in my lifetime (I think upwards of 30). I deeply admire, enjoy and respect anyone who does anything in theater. And still feel it in my soul, even though it has been over 20 years since I did anything on stage. Walking into the Rylander . . . I felt like I was coming home . . . to a person long forgotten. 

Nicole introduced us to the wonderful Heather Stanley (Rylander Managing Director) and Will Dozier (Rylander Administrator) who were kind enough to take us on a little tour of the theater - telling us all about the history of the building, the renovations of the space, and talking a little about what brought us to Americus. Do you know that feeling when you just meet someone, but you swear you have known them your whole entire life? Or at least, for a good portion of it? That is how it felt with Heather and Will. I think I could have spent ALL DAY talking with them . . . they truly were my kind of people. And the theater . . . what an amazing gem of a place! Heather and Will . . . if you are reading this . . . I ADORE YOU!!! 😘

The 600 seat theater originated in 1921, and is chock-full of all the gorgeous charm you'd expect from a theater of that time. Although it was closed for more than 40 years, an extensive $4.8 millions dollar restoration process brought the theater back to it's original splendor, and it reopened in 1999. 

The lobby is full of the most gorgeous paintings done by artist Jeff Williams. His work is stunning and I found myself mesmerized by the style, texture and design of these 1920s women. I love this time period, and his work is just perfect for the Rylander. Here are just three of the paintings hanging in the lobby of the Rylander. I can't remember how many more are there, but there are quite a few. Each as awesome as the next: 

Once inside the theater, Heather and Will shared more great stories of the history and restoration, and Peggy and I soaked it up. The restoration, now completed 20 years ago, was really well done . . . beautiful murals were recovered, tile work, lighting, everything. So lovely.  



It took me all of two seconds to run up on stage when they asked, "Would you like to go on stage?"

I thought they'd never ask. 

"All the world's a stage, and all men and women merely players." Thanks, Shakespeare. 
And yes, that's me! 
Oh, my friends. The stage. Any stage. It still carries my soul.

Of course, when there is an audience, one must perform . . . 

Even an audience of one. (Thanks, Peggy.) 

I could have easily monopolized Heather and Will for hours longer, especially while standing on stage, so we bid farewell to the Rylander and our wonderful hosts, and went on our next location. 

But I will remember this place for a long time. Thank you, Rylander. For helping me find a bit of my old self. 

After the Rylander, we stopped in a couple shops in downtown Americus (LOVELY SHOPPING, FRIENDS!) and walked over to Cafe Campesino Coffeehouse for a coffee to go (Cafe Campesino . . . I will tell you more about this wonderful company and wonderful place tomorrow). 

Then we walked across the street and checked into our rooms at the Hotel Windsor.   Oh, my friends . . . the Hotel Windsor . . . . beautiful!!! 

After leaving our bags in our rooms, we leisurely found ourselves sitting out on the veranda of the hotel, enjoying our coffee beverages from Cafe Campasino. This being our first true moment of rest since we arrived, looking at the beautiful southern sky and feeling the cool breeze across the balcony, my mind paused long enough for thoughts of my sister to surface. 

And for a short time, some tears fell.  

Not because I was sad (well, maybe a little because I was sad.) But, the tears fell . . . because I felt her there. Sitting with us. Right where she should have been. 

She would have loved this trip. 

She would have loved just sitting on that veranda. 

She would have loved Nicole. 

She would have loved Georgia. 

She would have loved the sunshine, the breeze, the history. 

She would have loved all of it.  

So we sat. And talked. And cried. 

Just then, Vic Patel (General Manager of Hotel Windsor) walked up to us. What a kind, compassionate gentleman. I would think it is not very often when he walks up to visitors of his hotel and finds them crying . . . but his compassion will never be forgotten.  He asked if he could give me a hug when he learned this trip was in honor of my sister, who passed last December. And there, in that moment - I realized once again how amazingly good this trip was for my soul. And what good there is in the world. 

A hug. From a stranger. 

So thank you, Vic. Your few moments with us meant the world to me. And I appreciate it. 

We dried our tears, bid farewell to Vic, and Nicole took us for a little driving tour of Americus (oh, the gorgeous old homes - how I love it there!). We ended the evening at a local place it seems EVERYONE knows - for some good music and a whole bunch of fun.

Tuesday night is bluegrass music night at Pat's, and I have to tell you, it was a blast! We arrived early to make sure we had a great table (we had prime seating, my friends!) and we enjoyed some good food until the live music began. And when it did . . . oh, it was awesome!! 

We stayed long enough to get a great feel for the bluegrass of Pat's, and found ourselves with just enough energy to get back to the Hotel Windsor and get ourselves to sleep. What a great day in Americus, my friends! Absolutely awesome! 

And, we weren't done yet! Stay tuned . . . for the next day, we made latte art, blew some glass and did even MORE!  

Be back in a couple days with my final (I think) post about this incredible visit to Plains & Americus, Georgia! Thanks for being here, friends. I am so grateful to share this story with you. 

As always, peace. 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Half-way Monday! (Part 4)

(This is a continuing story about a recent trip I took with my dear friend, Peggy, to Georgia. You can start at the beginning of our adventure at this blog post, and continue to read one after another.) 

When I last left you, we had just finished our walk through THE haunted house in Plains, Georgia. Truth be told, we were absolutely fine during that quick look at the house, and how I would have just been GIDDY had a door closed on its own, or something strange took place while we were there - but I am happy to report that other than an eerie feeling, we did just fine. 

So, we moved on . . . and our next destination was The Boyhood Farm of President Carter. 

Carter Family Farm 

Can you believe that I took about 10 pictures of the dining room table (full of "fake" food), and the kitchen and bathroom . . . but failed to take a picture of the actual exterior of the house? I guess that is what happens when there is food around (fake or not!)! 

Actually - I think it was such a beautiful day, we loved taking a few minutes on the porch of his boyhood home . . . feeling the lovely breeze as we enjoyed the scenery. 


Peggy: "I reckon we should get a move on." 
Leanne: "Let's just sit here and rest a little minute more, Margaret." 

Here are some of the photos I did take of the house . . . restored beautifully to a simpler time (when President Carter was a young boy and lived here). 

There's all that darn food I was talking about. 

The Carter Store - located on their property - set up as it would have been back in the day. 
The Carter Boyhood Farm was really fun to see after learning so much about President Carter earlier in the day. I am so glad we were able to stop here along our travels. 

And we learned that Nicole IS a GIFTED Chicken Whisperer . . . who would have thought? 
Here, chickie chickie!
After we left the Carter Farm, we had a few extra minutes in our schedule - just long enough for Nicole to share a bit of her personal history with us. Nicole's husband and his family own a timber farm in nearby Preston, Georgia. When Nicole and Tim were in the process of building their home in Plains, they lived in their family cabin on the Timber farm property. We have seen photos of this cabin for years, and being able to visit in person was so wonderful. We are so grateful she showed us this special place in her life. 

The view from the cabin . . . just beautiful.  You take just about 10 steps down from the house on a little deck, and this is what you see . . . 

Quiet. Peaceful. Serene. I could get lost on this little pier. (And then, I would probably see something out in the water and get totally scared and run back inside . . . but I would have enjoyed it for a short while, first.) 

After the visit at the cabin . . . we ventured over to Richland Rum distillery, and had a great tour of how they make RUM (which included a tasting . . . yum!) I may or may not have bought a bottle, or two. I mean, I am not sure if I can buy Richland Rum up here in Chicago - so it's best to get it from the source, don't you think? Here are some great photos of our adventure at the distillery: 

They couldn't have been more hospitable at the distillery, and we couldn't have been more grateful (hiccup!).  Truly - it was a lovely end to a long day of adventures. 

Well . . . almost the end. 

After returning to Plains Inn, we freshened up a bit and had a lovely dinner with Nicole and her dear husband, Tim, at 1800 Mexican Restaurant in downtown Americus. This was our very first time meeting Tim . . . and it didn't take us long to completely adore him and think that he was just fantastic! 

Dinner was lovely - the conversation was fun and interesting, the food was delicious - and overall, it was a perfect way to end our first FULL DAY in Georgia. 

Oh, I can't wait to share our adventures from day 2!

Be back in a few days with that story. 



Thursday, April 25, 2019

Monday . . . there is absolutely NOTHING "Plain" about it! (Part 3)

(This is a continuing story about a recent trip I took with my dear friend, Peggy, to Georgia. You can start at the beginning of our adventure at this blog post, and continue to read one after another.) 

After a great night's sleep at Plains Historic Inn, we woke to a beautiful sun filled morning and could really take a closer look at the Inn. Nicole arrived bright and early at 9am on our first day, and we sat in the lovely kitchen area of the Inn feeling as comfortable as if we were in our very own homes. Before I start on the adventures of Monday, I have to talk a little bit more about Plains Historic Inn.

Housed on the second floor of 106 Main Street (right above the Antiques Mall), this charming inn far exceeded my expectations. The decor was darling, with each guest room furnished in a decade from the 1920s to the 1980s. It is decorated so beautifully - with such attention to every little detail. Inviting and comfortable, I felt welcomed the minute we walked in.

Upon our arrival, I was appointed the 1970s suite, which happens to be the Presidential Suite. I was informed that, yes, President and Mrs. Carter HAVE stayed in this very suite - and I immediately had a feeling of "I am so not worthy to be staying here." I joked with Nicole that on the very first evening at the Inn, I sat up straight as to not lean back and rest on the couch. I felt as if I needed to honor the room and not get too comfy in its space (although I will say -  I slept so comfortably once I went to bed!)

The Inns attention to detail is incredible. And as an admirer of history, I so appreciated every single charming item or furniture piece selected. It all felt as if everything was decided upon with such intention - and it was just wonderful being in that environment. Here are just a few photos I gathered while staying there:

Aside from the welcoming feeling a new tourist may get when coming there . . . the experience at the Inn was something even more for me. Something soulful and comforting during those days spent there. I actually could have spent a whole day sitting in the common rooms, reading a good book or sketching or writing. I felt protected and cared for - as if a peace came over me (one that I have longed for - one that I haven't been able to create at home since my sister passed). There were no phones ringing, no texts to answer, no classes to plan, no kids to pick up, no emails to read, nothing. It's like the Inn wrapped its arms around me and said, "It's ok . . . we've got you now, Leanne. You just breathe."

And, I did.

For a little while.
Peggy - my dear friend. 
But then . . . we had to move.

On the balcony of the Plains Historic Inn . . . I cherish this photo and this moment.
There were places to go and lots and lots of things (and people) to see.

So, we hit the road to find out what else Plains had to offer. It may be small (Plains is a tiny little town with about 700 people), but it's story is mighty. And since I just slept where the 39th President of the United States had slept, it was only natural that I venture out and learn a little bit more about the man.

Nicole pulled out all the stops and our itinerary was jam packed with southern hospitality and lots of fun! Our first stop was at Plains High School, which is part of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.

We watched a wonderful 20 minute film in the auditorium of the school that helped set the tone for the President Carter portion of the trip (learned about his upbringing and political life), and discovered so much about the people of Plains. I walked out of that short documentary feeling like I was someplace pretty special. The strong sense of community was starting to appear front in center in my Plains story, and I loved it. Everyone knows everyone . . . and with that, comes a strong ethic of taking care of each other that I have never witnessed before.

Yes, I have to drive back home with her now! 
There was a small art exhibit being shown during our time there - and the artist in me just soaked up the energy of the art hanging on the walls. The exhibit is to honor Miss Julia Coleman (a well respected teacher of the school who President Carter admired greatly.) I had to stop and take a few photos of the art made by 549 students from grades K-12 created for this exhibit. Art inspires me no matter where I am or what I am doing. And the work on display was no exception.

The theme of the exhibit, "We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles."  Beautiful.

I love the art. The themes, the passion, the colors, the styles, the heart. Just awesome.

We left Plains High School and headed to Billy Carters Service Station Museum, and the Campaign Headquarters for President Carter . . . all within walking distance (like, directly across the street) from the Inn. I had to laugh when Nicole said, "Go on and stand in front of Billy's and I will take a picture of you with downtown Plains behind you." Yep, that is downtown Plains. All of it. 😊

Peggy and Me, downtown Plains, GA.
Billy Carters Service Station Museum
Memorabilia in the Museum
Me and Peggy in front of Jimmy Carter's Campaign head quarters. 
The Campaign headquarters were so fun to see. In the film we watched earlier at the High School, we learned that the towns people decided to use this building (the old train depot) as then Candidate Jimmy Carters headquarters - because it was the only building downtown with an indoor toilet.

I love this next photo, taken at the old train depot/headquarters.

After our look at the campaign headquarters, we had a wonderful opportunity to meet Ruth Sanders, the Executive Director of Plains Better Hometown. Ruth was an absolute delight, and we couldn't wait to continue our conversations with her - so we decided on meeting for lunch just after we did a little antique shopping at the Inn.

Oh, the Antique Mall. It makes my heart happy! Lovely selection of awesome goods - with very reasonable prices. It was at this point that I was grateful Peggy and I drove to Plains, because I had plenty of car space to bring some goodies home.

Yes, I did find some wonderful things to purchase, and brought home an absolutely gorgeous bird house for my brother-in-law (made from recycled materials), as well as some really awesome old lyric and music sheets that will be perfect for mixed media art at our Creative Wings Art Shoppe. And . . . the prize of all prizes . . . I just HAD to bring home this awesome Egg Platter. 

Now, I must preface this by saying, I am not an Egg Platter aficionado. I actually have never owned an Egg Platter before (and yes, I capitalize this particular platter, because it is just so darn awesome!). There was something about this platter that just brought me JOY! So, I bought it. And I couldn't be happier! (seriously . . . you can only imagine . . .) 

We continued down Main Street and met Ruth at Buffalo Cafe, the little town restaurant right there on the strip. This darling little cafe, with delicious food, was the perfect resting spot for us, and allowed us plenty of time to visit with our new friend, Ruth. I had my very first "fried green bean" (oh, boy, I am craving them right about now), and our conversation was exciting and inspiring - where the strong feeling of community continued to play out. 

Note to self: be a little more mindful when Nicole is snapping those photos, so you can SMILE!!
I was clearly very "into" my green beans, and Ruth was
a kind southern and humoring me while looking at photos on my phone.  
Seriously . . . so good! 
As Ruth shared wonderful stories with us about the town and President Carter and different events they have had, she briefly mentioned an event held at the "haunted house". Ever curious (and a tad scaredy cat), this immediately caught our attention and we inquired about said haunted house, and Ruth said she had a little time and wouldn't mind showing it to us . . . if we wanted to see it.

Well . . . . YES!! (gulp)

So we finished our delicious lunch, and drove a short ways to the haunted house.

And it was . . . gorgeous.

But a bit scary.

Like, totally.

But still, gorgeous!

The home is owned by Plains Better Hometown, and is occassionally used for a few events here and there, but primarily stands empty on a beautiful wooded lot. Built in 1850 by a local doctor - it is said to have had paranormal experiences through the years. The Carter Family (President Carter, Mrs. Carter and their children) actually lived in the house for a few years in the late 50s, early 60s. The house, itself, is just stunning - with a wide hall way and huge rooms on the sides.

I felt just fine while walking into the house, but the further I ventured down this long hallway, the more uncomfortable I became. Nothing happened (thank goodness), just a . . . feeling. 

Especially in the back of the house . . .

But I loved the former study of the doctor. And the built in shelving . . . swoon! Oh, I just LOVE the shelves, don't you? What I wouldn't give to have a room like this to house my ever growing collection of books. I just wouldn't be able to have it in this particular house, because as we walked further into the back of the house . . . I was ready to leave. Truly . . . just a feeling. 

Yet, it was pretty incredible.

I couldn't help but imagine what it was like in its prime - or what it would be like if a couple like Chip and Joanna Gaines could get their hands on it. What amazing things they could do with this beautiful space.

But then again . . . there was that feeling. 


After that, we bid farewell to our dear friend, Ruth, and continued on our day. My friends, Nicole still had two more places for us to visit on this first day, and then dinner (with her dear husband) was planned for us in the evening, so I am going to pause our day right here, and bring you more of our adventures tomorrow.

I hope you have enjoyed this look into a big portion of our first day in Plains. I will be back tomorrow and pick up our story right here, friends.

Until then . . . thank you for sharing this fun trip with me.

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