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Winner of

NW GEORGIA

5 MAGS

GAMMA AWARDS

Complimentary Spring 2021 Volume 12, Issue 2

Inspiring, Informing, Enriching

Splash into Spring The Sanctuary of Home SOS! A Call for Organization Backyard Bliss Four Home Transformations for Under $500 Elevation Bistro: Upscale Mountain Simple

Enter our Home Sweet Home Giveaway! See page 7


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NW GEORGIA

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20 24 10 36 28

CONTENTS

32

FEATURES

SOS! A Call for Organization 10 A Victory Garden for the 21st Century 16 Elevation Bistro: Upscale Mountain Simple 20 Four Home Transformations for under $500 24 The Sanctuary of Home 28 Explore Amazing African Flavors 32 Finding the Bliss in Your Backyard 36 2

DEPARTMENTS Letter from the Editor Dog Eared Dollars & Sense Fish Out of Water Robert’s World

4 6 8 14 38

Splash! Photography courtesy: Life Song Photography www.lifesongphotography.net

www.nwgeorgialiving.com


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Letter From the Editor

NW GEORGIA

Make the Right Move

M

ost people don’t know I have a secret talent. I became a chess prodigy at an early age, learning from my school’s custodian. Obsessed with the game, I’d envision the chessboard on my bedroom ceiling, making moves with great precision. Then, I became an overnight sensation on Netflix! I wish my life were that interesting, but I am referring to one of the 2020 must-see TV shows called Queen’s Gambit. Along with 62 million households, Jerry and I binged watched a show about chess and loved it. It was one of the distractions that made staring at the four walls of our home plausible. As a result of watching the series, we became intrigued, and I gave J a beautiful chess set and board for his birthday this year. “In life, we are all kings or pawns” is a famous quote by Napoleon Bonaparte. To make the best of our situation during the beginning of “Lock Down,” J and I decided to be kings of our castle. We made a list of DIY home improvements, and we accomplished a lot. Our first project was to paint the main floor a calming blue-grey shade. One of us paints quickly but is a bit messy, and the other is slower and steadier. I’d cut in, and Jerry would paint the walls, so we made a good team. By the time we finished, I’d thrown in the “towel” or paintbrush. He continued to paint the other two floors alone while I began a new project covering six-foot wooden cornice boards with fabric. Tackling each with my handy staple gun, I hammered out my frustrations. Bam! Bam! Bam! It sounded like a shoot-out at the OK Corral. In the end, I won, and we had a beautiful sunroom. In chess, the queen is the most powerful piece. You would think the king would be, but as in life, we know who rules. The king moves at a leisurely pace, and the queen tears all over the board. Just like all of us ladies who run households or companies, if we counted the many tasks we juggle daily, it’s impressive. Nevertheless, a queen needs her king, and sometimes they surprise us. Today, my husband made the bed, cooked breakfast, went to the grocery store, then whipped up a new recipe for pizza cupcakes. If he’s trying to score some Brownie points, I’ll gladly give them to him. Last spring, he ordered an air fryer. It was his latest new gadget that I purposely have never learned how to use. Why spoil his fun and mine, too? “Great job on the wings, Honey!” “You killed it on the french fries, Sweetie.” Showing some appreciation goes a long way and makes for a happier household. Have we played chess yet? At this point, we have not. I am studying the game and learning it by reading Chess for Dummies. I told you I am no savant, but I am the queen, and I love my king. Checkmate!

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Spring 2021   Volume 12   Issue 2 Publisher and Founder Editor-In-Chief Laura Wood Erickson Creative Director Andi Counts Designers Andi Counts Mackenzie Kuhn Senior Editor Calendar for Living Editor Ciara N. Mealer crookedpage@gmail.com Editor Gene Murphy Elin Woods Sales Laura Wood Erickson wood.laura@yahoo.com Contributing Writers Jennifer Almand Sarah Brooks Tami Ford Ande Frazier Ciara N. Mealer Reesa Milton Kathy Patrick Betty Schaaf Robert Smyth Dana Thompson Rachel Turner Photography Sharon Fuentes Life Song Photography Web Developer Ken Caruthers Contact us at: (706)346-9858 wood.laura@yahoo.com NW Georgia Living P.O. Box 72546 Marietta, Ga 30007 NW Georgia Living is published bi-monthly by L. Wood LLC No portion of this issue may be copied, scanned, or reproduced in any manner without prior written consent from the publisher. www.nwgeorgialiving.com


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DOG EARED

By Ciara N. Mealer

Fresh Reads

for Spring

S

pring brings new growth, fresh produce, abundant flowers, and this year a whole crop of debut novels you’ve got to check out. I love diving into a new author’s work. A great debut novel often sets the tone for an author’s future catalog, and it’s nice to get that first look when it is still fresh and at its most relevant. I hope you will join me in checking out what I think will be some of the brightest new voices in literature and perhaps find a new favorite along the way

Strong Women •T  he Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner •H  ow the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones •W  hat Comes After by Joanne Tompkins • The Push by Ashley Audrain • The Portrait by Ilaria Bernardini Memoirs • As You Were by David Tromblay • Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu • Low Country by J. Nicole Jones • Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller • The Nigh Lake by Liz Tichenor 6

Short Stories and Essays  and of Big •L Numbers by Te-Ping Chen •B  ig Time by Jen Spyra • Women and Other Monsters by Jess Zimmerman • Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz • Night Awaits by Jim Pond Family Dynamics • The Recent East by Thomas Grattan • Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmondson • Abundance by Jacob Guanzon

• Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer by Jamie Figueroa • Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

Ciara N. Mealer is Senior

Editor at NW Georgia Living Magazine, a writer, and owns East of the Moon Tarot where she offers a range of intuitive services. When she isn’t reading or creating weird art for charity, you can find her on the trails of the North Georgia Mountains. Contact her at CrookedPage@gmail.com www.nwgeorgialiving.com


Win NW Georgia Living's Home Sweet Home Giveaway Total Prize Giveaway Valued at $500! To enter, find the hidden black house silhouettes in three separate ads in this issue. Then, go online to www.nwgeorgialiving.com and enter by listing the three correct ads. We’ll randomly draw the winner on Monday, April 5th.

Win a $500 gift certificate from Unique Interiors of Rome, NW Georgia’s premier furniture and home décor store. Their new expansive showroom has over 9,000 square feet of wall to wall home décor and furniture. There are many groupings completely staged to inspire you. Unique Interiors of Rome specializes in rustic, farmhouse, industrial design, quality leather furniture, plus cowhide rugs, wall hangings, lamps, and tons of accessories to give your home that wow factor! Visit the new store today at 2770 Mount Berry Square Mall, Rome, Georgia, and make your home even sweeter.

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DOLLARS

&SENSE

By Ande Frazier

Home Sweet Home

I

n recent months, we have experienced a lot of changes. One of those is that our home should be a place we enjoy spending time. With so many forgoing vacations and traveling, many are thinking of ways to make their home even better. This comes with some caveats, such as the cost to make these improvements. Here are some common questions I get from clients when they are thinking about saving money while creating that home sweet home: Are home improvements tax deductible? The Tax Cut and Jobs Act that was passed in 2017 changed some of the ways certain items were deducted. Luckily, these changes extend through 2025. Under this law, you can deduct interest on home equity loans or credit lines used to purchase, build, or substantially renovate your home. However, under this law, you will need to make sure these improvements add value, prolong the useful life, or adapt the house to new use to qualify. Cosmetic upgrades or repairs do not necessarily meet this definition. To make sure you qualify for this deduction, your improvements should include adding to your home, making the house more livable or accessible, or overhauling key structural elements. If you make these improvements, you should keep all receipts and documentation related to the work (materials and labor), as it may help increase your home’s value if you choose to sell. What is the best way to finance home improvements? When it comes to using cash, keep in mind that you are either paying interest or losing interest. With interest rates currently at extremely low rates, you may consider keeping your money invested and financing any improvements. Look for personal loans or home equity loans that have a low rate. Avoid using credit cards to make home improvements, as many credit cards can charge interest in the double digits. What about making energy upgrades to your home? There is an energy credit available for a limited time called the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. It might be useful for installing solar water heaters or panels, geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines, or fuel cell properties that use renewable fuel. This credit is only available through 2021, so if

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you are thinking of making any of these changes to your home, you will need to do so this year. What tax deductions can I take for working at home? You can claim a deduction for a home office regardless of whether or not you are a homeowner. However, you will have to meet conditions, such as proving that this space is used exclusively for conducting business. Using a spare bedroom or a section of your kitchen will not work. It also must be your principal place of business. In other words, if you have an office somewhere else that you do the majority of your work, a home office is not eligible since it would not be the primary place of business. There are some exceptions to all these rules; therefore, always consult with a tax professional as they can guide you about your specific situation. Ande Frazier CFP®, CLU, ChFC, RICP, BFA™, ChSNC, CDFA® (www.andefrazier.com) is the ForbesBook author of Fin(anci)ally Free: 11 Conversations To Have With Yourself About Life, Money, and Worth and an expert in behavioral finance. She is not only a recognized thought leader, author and speaker, but also serves as a Partner at Clocktower Wealth Management, LLC. www.nwgeorgialiving.com


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DIY`

SOS: A Call for Organization

By Sarah Brooks and Tami Ford

M

ost of us have been spending an abundance of time in our homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, that has meant finally having the time to tackle home projects and making progress on the never-ending to-do list. However, for many, it has meant growing frustrations and inability to focus on the clutter accumulating in our homes. Join us as we share some ways in which a clean and organized space makes room for inspiration. We have found this time of year motivational as things begin to turn green again, flowers are blooming, and temperatures are rising. Spring cleaning means not only giving everything a good wipe-down but decluttering your space to welcome the warmer seasons ahead. Let’s tackle four of the most cluttered areas in the home this spring with these quick, easy organizational ideas.

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Before you dig into spring cleaning, make sure that all of your cleaning supplies are in one place so you can locate them quickly. Find a home for everything. Get creative with organization systems. A cleaning supply organizer that hangs over a hall closet door is a great way to stay organized by using vertical space on the back of a door. A portable caddy makes it a breeze to move from one room to another as you conquer your cleaning checklist. Place brooms, mops, dusters, and dustpans on hooks, and store bottles of cleaning supplies on shelving. TIME TO GET STARTED! Convert chaos into calm. We recommend the one-in-one-out rule to help keep the closet from overflowing with clothes. If you buy one item, you need to get rid of one thing to make room. This forces you to think about how badly you need or want an item. It’s common to get stuck along the way, don’t worry. Here are some questions to

ask yourself along the way: • How long has this item gone unused? • Does having this item create stress? • Would my life be simpler without it? • Am I holding onto something just because I feel like I should? • Could someone else benefit from this item more than me? Change your garage from glum to glam. Although the garage is meant for vehicles, many homes across the U.S. use the garage as a catch-all for items that can’t fit or don’t belong inside the house. It’s essential to take advantage of vertical space. Find an organization system for the wall and attach hooks to help store items like sports equipment, tools, and seasonal decorations off the garage floor. Banish bathroom clutter. Since a bathroom is usually a shared space, it can quickly become messy. Keep items such as hair dryers, curling www.nwgeorgialiving.com


irons, and flat irons in one convenient place. We recommend using the back of the cabinet door to store such items. Drawer organizers placed in drawers keep everything neat and prevent crowding counter space. Clear out the kitchen. One of the kitchen spaces that become very cluttered is underneath the sink because it’s challenging to crouch down and dig through under-the-sink cabinets for items. Use an under-the-sink organizer to maximize space. Another area that many people struggle with is corner cabinets. Utilizing a lazy Susan allows objects to be easily accessible without taking everything out to get the items in the back. We always recommend cleaning out the pantry and refrigerator as well. Check the expiration dates, wipe all the shelves down. Throw away food that is expired. Donate food you will not use. The advantages of being organized are having more time for you and allowing you to live a more intentional life. It’s about clearing space for what matters most. www.nwgeorgialiving.com

5 Life-Changing Advantages of Being Organized • Reduce Stress There’s no getting around it, the more cluttered your home is, the more stress you feel. • Increase Productivity When you’re in a chaotic environment, your brain gets distracted by everything it’s taking in. This lack of focus increases the time it takes to accomplish the most basic tasks. Creating family calendars, systems, and routines make our day to day lives so much easier to manage. In turn, we’re able to accomplish more of what matters most. • Stick to Goals The biggest reason people don’t succeed in their goals is that they fail to plan. When you set goals, some level of organization is necessary to stick with them. Accomplishing your goals is about creating systems and sticking to them. • Improve Your Diet Do you realize that you’re twice as likely to choose healthy options when your home is organized? Having an organized home means more time and energy to prepare nourishing foods.

Did You Know? • 25% of people with a two-car garage can’t park in it because they use it for storage. • The average woman will spend more than eight years shopping. • On average, we spend one year of our lives looking for lost items. • 80% of the items we keep are never used. • Paying to store unused objects contributes to a $154 billion industry.

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• Save More Money The simple truth is that organization keeps you from buying items you already have, but you’ve forgotten about or lost somewhere in the recesses of your house. Besides, taking the time to get organized means wasting less food and wasting less money on groceries you don’t eat. By being organized, you won’t find past due bills or library books you forgot. Instead, you’ll know exactly where everything is and be able to use that extra money on the things you enjoy. Overwhelmed? Find your method. Get the family involved. Most families are too busy, don’t know how to begin the process, or would rather do anything but clean out the hall closet. Whether it’s starting small by organizing the ‘junk drawer’ or decluttering an entire basement, there is no perfect solution that works for everyone. Here are a few strategies that could help bring order and harmony to your home. • Room by room is a simple strategy that provides immediate gratification. When using this strategy, complete one

room before moving on. It’s a great way to gain confidence and motivation as you see a room coming together. • The KonMari Method is a way of life and a state of mind that supports cherishing the things that spark joy in people’s lives. As such, people are encouraged to part with anything that doesn’t spark joy. It is recommended to go through belongings by category (for example, all clothing, all books, etc.) Belongings are acknowledged for their service and thanked before being let go of if they no longer spark joy. • Minimalism is based on the notion that happiness doesn’t come from stuff but rather from relationships and experiences. When you get rid of the excess stuff surrounding you, you can better identify those important things and what brings you pleasure in your life. We recommend having several designated boxes, bins, or areas to sort as you go with any of the strategies mentioned above. Determine if items will be Keep, Donate, Trash, or Recycle. We recommend sorting those items and tackling the different piles one at a time. For

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example, if you find a book that belongs in a separate room, don’t move it right away, or you might get sidetracked, instead leave it in the keep/put away pile. After you have completed a room or category, you will then tackle other piles you have created.

Tami Ford

Sarah Brooks

Known as the dynamic organizing duo, Sarah Brooks and Tami Ford, are co-owners of Simply Organized Solutions, LLC. Nothing brings these women more satisfaction than helping clients become organized in their homes. SOS’s mission is to leave clients feeling empowered and knowing they can succeed in maintaining the organizational systems put in place. Find them on social media @SOSProfessionalOrganizers or visit sosprofessionalorganizers.com.

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FISH OUT OF WATER

By Rachel Turner

Family Night In

I

often refer to the parenting phase I am in as the sweet spot. I’ve heard other people use this term to describe the years after all the hovering you do when they are young and a danger to themselves. There aren’t as many of those terrifying moments as when they were toddlers. I say “as many” because I did find myself having to remove a plastic cookie cutter from my youngest’s thigh the other night with chicken sheers. The “how” and the “why” of it are questions we will never have answers to, but that tiny lapse in judgment aside, my kids don’t require my eyes on them at all times, and it’s a relief to relax a little. I’ve spent so many years standing at the end of my driveway yelling, “car!” It’s nice to pull up a chair or have the older watch the younger

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while I finish dinner. It’s more than just being able to take your eyes off of them because they are becoming their own people; our family is bonding in ways that we hadn’t been able to before as well. We play more games now, watch more movies together, have more interesting conversations, and vacations are much more fun now that everyone can buckle their own seat belts. It’s not that babies are not fun. Okay, maybe babies are a little not fun. They are adorable, and there are days I strain to remember tiny fingers and toes and sweet-smelling baby heads, but there is something to be said of conversation and building family culture with inside jokes. Hearing your boys talk about their days and following their interests and passions makes the pill of growing children not so bitter. My husband works in the restaurant industry, which means he’s gone five nights a week. Because of this, we’ve always tried to make the most of the two nights he’s home for dinner. One night, I decided we would try one of those subscription boxes that lead you through some activity. There are craft boxes, cooking boxes, date night boxes, and even solvea-murder boxes. Since I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, I decided to make my own Family Night In a Box that would lead us through the entire evening. I put together recipe cards with simple dishes for dinner, conversation cards, a build your own ice cream sundae station, and

movie night, complete with popcorn as the finale. I have to be honest. My family has never in the history of ever made dinner together before. I feel like this is a failure on my part. I’ve had little hands help with particular culinary tasks, but as far as having four cooks in the kitchen, not on my watch. The exercise of making dinner together was as much about me giving up control as it was about empowering and teaching our kids that dinner doesn’t grow on a tree. All in all, I think these lessons were ones we needed to learn. I don’t want to raise helpless children. The adult hands chopped, the younger hands gathered and mixed ingredients, and we all made dinner together. I want to mention something in case it hits home. Sometimes I get caught up in my kids’ reactions to things to gauge the activity’s success or teaching moment. Just because they complain a little doesn’t mean that there is no value in what you are doing. When I began insisting that my oldest son start keeping a budget with the money he was earning, he was not happy about sitting down and documenting every penny earned. He loved the independence of having his own money, though. I am learning that kids have to understand that things they want often come with work they don’t like, but it’s worth it. Further, as a parent, I have to balance the exciting, easy parts of being a kid with teaching them that in life, you have to put in some effort, but it makes the result that much sweeter. All that to say, my 13-year-old is www.nwgeorgialiving.com


not going to be a chef, but he was proud to eat the food he had helped prepare. Which is on-brand for him because he doesn’t love the work that goes into school, but I notice he’s incredibly proud to come home and tell me about his grades and academic successes. He doesn’t always like going to football practice, but he sure loves putting on that jersey on Friday mornings and wearing it to school. Our job isn’t to portray an easy life; it’s to model the balance you have to strike to maximize fulfillment. It was a tad too many people in the kitchen for my liking with dinner made, but with less work and more laughs, we sat down to eat and go through our conversation cards. This was fun because it opened the door for conversations that were new to us. With only two family dinners a week, we tend to stay on some of the same topics. It also gave our youngest the chance to voice more thoughts, though his main concern is getting laughs. I have no idea where he gets that. Your conversation cards can be as simple as a few questions about www.nwgeorgialiving.com

current events, history, dreams, or goals. I recommend anything that is not typical for your particular family. This isn’t the time to recap the good, the bad, and the ugly for the week; this is just a time to share thoughts on different things. It’s nice to get each person to write their own conversation topic or question, and you tackle each over dinner. Silly or serious, the topics can be whatever gets your people to open up. I would go into great detail about building ice cream sundaes and watching a movie, but those went off exactly how you would expect them to. I love doing fun and creative things for my family, but I find that the weeks can drag me down big time. As parents, we have so many spinning plates to keep rotating that we prioritize the fun right off our lists, or we try to do fun things for our kids and forget to have fun with them. Don’t work your way out of their fun memories. Yes, as they get older and show more independence, they will do fun things without us. Remember to stake your claim on their time and make sure to have family date nights without

the outside world’s intrusion. The time you spend pouring into them will lead them back to you as they get older. Rachel Turner is a

freelance writer and humor blogger. Her humor ebook, Cut Film Cover to Vent: I’m not Superwoman but I’m Decent Enough is available to purchase on Amazon. Georgia born and raised she lives in Woodstock with her husband and two sons. Drop by her blog, rachelwriteshere.com or email her at justpeachy1123@gmail.com. 15


Gardening

A Victory Garden

for the 21st Century By Dana Lynn Thompson

W

When the global pandemic hit the U.S. in March 2020, our lives were changed in the blink of an eye. Within two days, my husband Scott, a full-time working musician, saw his livelihood disappear in a flurry of social distancing protocols and canceled events. He became a stayat-home dog dad overnight. As someone who sees the positive in every challenge and not one to sit around and sulk, Scott needed a passion project to keep his mind occupied. As an avid chef (I feel justified in using the word “chef” to describe my husband as he is not your average cook), he had always wanted a kitchen herb and vegetable garden. Now, with ample time on his hands, he set to work building a raised bed in the backyard and enriching the soil with the manure we cultivate here at our farm. Well, our horses make manure, constantly. We just help it along. There are so many benefits to nurturing a small garden. Using fresh herbs snipped straight off the plant can transform a dish from bland and flavorless to vibrant and delectable. Besides, we often found that buying herbs from the grocery store was expensive, and we wasted most of the plant because we only needed a sprig or two. A small garden with various fresh herbs meant saving money and having a profusion of flavor right outside our back door. Starting Your Own Kitchen Garden With a little research and some planning, we found that cultivating a small herb garden was easy, even for a beginner gardener. It takes little effort to get it going and is easy to grow. Keep these tips in mind to be successful with

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your herb garden this spring. The same process can be used for both backyard plots and container gardens. Choose a few herbs to get started. The best herbs are the ones you’ll use the most. Are there herbs you frequently buy at the store that you could grow at home? Some mainstays that home chefs regularly reach for include basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, chives, parsley, and cilantro. Mint can be a favorite for adult beverages like mint juleps and mojitos and is refreshing on a summer dessert. We started with some young plants and some seeds purchased at the local hardware store. Seeds are best to start indoors as the seeds will germinate faster. Place your seeds in the soil in small flowerpots on a windowsill that gets a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight per day. Turn your pots around every other day to ensure all sides receive the same amount of direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist but not oversaturated, or the roots will rot. Transfer your plants to the garden. When you are positive the last frost is over, move your plants out to the garden. In the South, summers can be scorching, with temperatures over 90 degrees. Planting in a spot that gets morning sun and afternoon shade, or in a location that receives filtered light, such as under a tree that lets some light through, is the best option. Just make sure the plants are getting at least four hours of sunlight per day. Space your plants approximately 12 inches apart to give them room to grow and spread. www.nwgeorgialiving.com


Water, water, and water some more. Most herbs like to be watered when the soil a few inches below the ground is dry to the touch. Since heat, humidity, and rain can cause different drying times, you must often check the soil. We liked to check ours in the morning and water if needed before the heat of the day. It’s essential to water the base of the plant and try to keep water off the leaves. Hot sun intensified through water droplets can burn the leaves. Droplets on leaves during cooler hours can attract bugs looking for a drink. Watering the plant’s base means the water goes straight to the roots where it’s needed most.

www.nwgeorgialiving.com

Keep an eye out for pests. While a bug infestation is rare in herb gardens, it happens. Some of the tips above will help keep unwanted pests out of your garden. Give your plants lots of room to breathe. Plants spaced too close together offer a haven for insects looking for food, shelter from the heat, and protection from predators. Watering in the morning provides two advantages. Your plants will be well watered for the heat of the day, and their leaves will be less apt to wilt, making them less attractive to bugs that target stressed plants. If you still have bugs, essential oils can

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and stunt its growth. Or snip off a leaf where it connects to the stock with a clean cut. If you rip them off, it will leave the stalk vulnerable to disease. Enjoy your bounty! This past summer, one of our greatest joys was heading out to the backyard, our black lab in tow, to check on the plants. Maybe they needed a little water, some pruning, or a stray weed pulled. It was satisfying to walk out the back door to cut a sprig of basil or parsley to add to a dish. Cultivating this modest garden brought us both joy and a sense of purpose during a difficult time. That was a victory in itself. Dana Lynn Thompson

breathe, plentiful sunlight, and prevents overcrowding. Basil leaves can get quite large and start to lose flavor, so be sure to clip them before they get too big. If you find you aren’t using all your herbs, gift some to a neighbor or dry them for future use. The best time to harvest herbs is early in the morning on a sunny day. Take off no more than 1/3 of a stem when you are ready to use it for cooking. Snipping off more can shock the plant

be a great natural deterrent. Cedar oil has a strong scent that can discourage slugs, aphids, snails, and thrips. Lemon, citronella, peppermint, garlic, tea tree, and orange can also help deter pests. Pruning and harvesting your herbs. Your plants will be healthier with frequent pruning. If you use a lot of herbs in your cooking, you won’t have to worry. Pruning gives the leaves room to

is a writer, dog mom, and founder of Surviving Everyday Stress, a blog for people suffering with IBS and anxiety. She hopes to make a difference in the lives of people struggling with everyday stress. Dana lives on a small farm with her rock star husband, three rescue dogs, and two horses. She can be reached at DanaLynnThompson.com.

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19


Restaurant Review

Elevation Bistro:

Upscale Mountain Simple By Kathy Patrick

K

evin Dunlap says he’s not crazy, yet he admits opening a restaurant in a tiny town during a global pandemic is a bit zany! Elevation Bistro in Mentone, AL, opened in June 2020, with COVID raging and a crazy economy. Fortunately, Kevin’s extensive restaurant background, along with support from the Mentone community, have made a tasty success of his leap of faith. Kevin’s road to becoming the executive chef and principal owner of Elevation Bistro is interesting as well as diverse, both culinarily and geographically. A Georgia native, Kevin grew up in the metro Atlanta area working in cafes and sandwich shops, then moved to Colorado to be an outdoorsy type by day and an Italian restaurant employee by night. He moved back to Georgia and enrolled in the Atlanta Institute for the Arts culinary program, then helped Chef Henry open the iconic Henry’s Louisiana Grill in Acworth. The start of a family led Kevin to the security of corporate life, so he managed chain restaurants in NW Georgia for many years. His next stop was Chattanooga’s Big River Grill 20

Photography courtesy of Life Song Photography

and then on to Sugar’s Ribs barbeque, and back to Georgia at Canyon Grill. He did a few more stints at corporate stores before the town mothers and fathers of Mentone enticed him to the city-owned building currently housing Elevation Bistro. The town of Mentone has been welcoming and supportive of Kevin’s newest venture, playing a big part in the early success. The restaurant’s slogan “upscale mountain simple” is an accurate one: Elevation Bistro is a warm and cozy location without frills but loaded with local art. The down-to-earth menu changes weekly and offers upscale, nicely proportioned choices. Delicious proteins are complemented with vegetables, and side dishes are creatively prepared and artfully presented. Their menu changes a lot partly with seasons and availability, but more because the menu is small. Kevin explained, “I enjoy eating and cooking different dishes constantly. I do feature dishes sometimes repeatedly if ingredients are available and guests really enjoy something. Still, I love playing and exploring food, and feel this has been well received and celebrated by our guests.”

Care to share the Creme Brulee?

The regional farming community is a crucial supplier to the bistro. Delicious, fresh organic proteins and vegetables grown in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky supply this eatery located on beautiful Lookout Mountain. Kevin estimates upwards of 85% of the dishes utilize local foods, and he features the names of farms and businesses that supply the bistro on the menu. Elevation’s selections include appetizers like marinated mozzarella, PEI mussels, baba ghanoush, garden and Caesar salads, and a daily soup. Entrees of bone-in pork chops, grilled New York strip and ribeye, grilled airline chicken www.nwgeorgialiving.com


Kevin is preparing red snapper which was still swimming the day before.

breast, black grouper, flounder, Alabama white shrimp, and vegetarian eggplant puttanesca, pasta marinara, and pasta a la Genovese offer something for any palate. Kevin added, “How lucky am I that I get to create a space for fellowship, celebrating, and nourishment! Being able to create the space, put my love into food, then witness people sharing amazing experiences is a gift and reward that drives me every day.” My husband and I had a delicious dinner when we visited; not being meat consumers, our choices included marinated mozzarella, arugula salad with white wine vinaigrette, eggplant puttanesca, and black grouper. The eggplant dish was piquant and savory, and the grouper was an honest-to-goodness piece of delectable fish accompanied by charred lemon, olive butter, roasted kale, and Napa cabbage. Kevin says his seafood broker can have Wednesday’s catch in his restaurant by Thursday, and I believe him after tasting the grouper! My chocoholic spouse opted for the bittersweet brownie sundae with salted caramel sauce for a sinful, but completely worth it, ending to the meal. The wine and beer lists offer an excellent selection of reasonably priced drinks. Open for lunch Saturday and Sunday, and dinner Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, this eatery is a favorite of both locals and patrons from afar. One online reviewer stated he would travel two www.nwgeorgialiving.com

Red Snapper Livornese with Sautéed Spinach: Wild caught Florida gulf American Red Snapper poached in San Marzano tomatoes, white wine, sweet onion, capers, and kalamata olives.

All of the artwork at Elevation Bistro is from local artists.

states for last summer’s hit dessert, peach bread pudding, baked with fresh peaches from a local Alabama farm. For you, Georgia readers, remember Mentone is in the Central Time Zone when planning your visit. Elevation Bistro has indoor and outdoor seating. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, seating is limited, so reservations are recommended. Kevin is proud of his staff’s efforts to keep guests safe, but for those who prefer not to dine on-premises, take-out and curbside pick-up options are available. The recently opened Mentone Arts Center, right next door to the restaurant, is an excellent place to visit before dinner.

So the next time you want a unique and delicious treat, head to Elevation Bistro for some “upscale mountain simple.” The heights of Mentone are calling! Kathy Patrick is a personal chef and barre instructor in Rome, GA. She loves cooking, travel, waterskiing, stand up paddling, and bicycling with her husband, Berry professor Martin Cipollini. Kathy is president of the Georgia chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation, a volunteer organization whose goal is restoring the iconic trees. 21


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23


DIY`

Four Home Transformations

for under $500

By Jen Almand

L

et’s face it, the reality for many people right now is tighter budgets and more time on our hands. So, let’s get inspired and creative. Bring some fresh joy into your life and your home. I know many of you feel you aren’t experienced enough to handle home renovations, but the only way you get experience is to attempt something. Doing home improvement projects on your own can also give you a great sense of accomplishment. I cannot tell you how many times friends have told me they want to update their home, but they just can’t afford it. I have figured out over the years that people think simple updates are a lot more expensive than they really are. They inspired me to write about some simple projects you can do to update your home on a tight budget, as long as the labor is free. Painting Ugly Floor Tile Did you know you can paint tile? It’s an easy way to up-date some tile that is not quite your favorite. The steps are pretty straightforward, and the finish is durable, as long as you follow the necessary steps. Start by thoroughly cleaning the floor with Heavy Duty Tile Cleaner/Stripper, found on the tile aisle. You want to do it old-school, on your knees with a scrub brush. Next, sand the tile with an electric sander, starting with 120 grit, then 220 grit. This creates a microscopic texture for the primer to adhere to. Wipe any dust from sanding. Tape up anything you don’t want to paint, baseboards, doorways, etc. Next, Primer. This step is crucial! You’ll need a highbonding primer such as Zinsser BIN. This primer is very smelly and dries fast, so apply quickly with a disposable 24

foam roller. Completely cover the tile and grout. Use a disposable brush for the edges and corners. Allow the primer to dry overnight. The paint you need to use is Porch and Patio Paint. You can have it tinted any color you want, and it is specifically designed to be walked upon. Paint on several coats and allow to dry completely. At this point, you may want to add a design with a stencil for some extra flare. You can find these floor stencils on Amazon for around $20. Next, for added durability, you want to topcoat with WaterBased Polyurethane. Allow all the coats to dry 48 hours before walking on them, and only walk on it with bare or sock feet for at least three weeks as it fully cures. Accent Trim Have you admired those homes that have that extra trim-work that takes it to a whole next level? It’s not as hard as you think, and totally a DIY project! My favorite place for extra trim is a foyer or hallway. It really dresses up a boring place. Start by deciding on a pattern, of course. My personal favorite is 5 ft. tall “board and batten” with a top ledge. Measure next. Draw your measurement out on paper, along with the pattern, because it can be confusing until you visualize it. Some math is involved, of course, so dig out your calculator. You will be using 1x4 pre-primed trim, 1x6 for the baseboard, and 1x2 for the top cap. The tools you will need are a Miter Saw, a Nail Gun, a small Compressor, and a Level. Start by removing all the baseboards, then, using a pencil, transfer your pattern drawing directly to www.nwgeorgialiving.com


© Joe Hendrickson / Shutterstock.com

the wall. Make sure to measure carefully, and you may need to adjust measurements. It’s just a giant puzzle once you get your layout completed. Next, install the new baseboard and the horizontal trim around the top at the height you desire. Make sure to use a level for this part. Once that’s completed, start cutting and nailing your vertical pieces until the puzzle is finished. To finish up, fill all your nail holes with putty, and you want to apply caulk wherever the wood meets the wall. Let that dry and paint it all with semi-gloss trim paint. Painting Brick Fireplaces Does your brick on the fireplace ever feel like it’s just the big elephant in the room? Let’s lighten it up and make it a little less bulky. This is a pretty easy one; all you need is Kilz 2 Primer, a thick disposable paintbrush, and your painting clothes. First, you need to tape off the walls, mantle, and floor, vacuum the dust off the brick, and make sure to remove any black soot with a masonry cleaner. Next, start priming with Kilz 2. Brick is very porous and will suck the first layer in like crazy. Make sure to coat the grout lines too. Brick is tedious to paint because of all the nooks and crannies, and it will ruin a good paintbrush, so use a cheap one! The second coat of primer will go on a lot easier. If you like a matte white finish, you will be done at this point; if not, let the primer dry thoroughly for 24 hrs, and move on to the paint color of your choice. Once you finish painting, you may want to update your mantle. It’s easy to build a wooden box that slips right over the top of your existing mantle, a finishing touch that will really update your fireplace! To construct the slip-cover mantle, you just need pine that’s wider than your existing mantle, both height and width-wise. Build it to easily slip over the existing mantle, stain, and polyurethane the box, then glue/screw it in place. www.nwgeorgialiving.com

Cedar Shutters Warm Wood tones will do wonders for the exterior of your home and make it feel a lot more customized. The easiest way to add warmth is to replace your vinyl shutters with cedar! Cedar is a wood that is naturally resistant to moisture and temperatures and has a beautiful grain. One side of the cedar board is smooth, and the other is rough, so decide which side you like more and get started. Start by measuring your existing shutters, and write that down because not all your home windows are the same size. Next, determine how many boards you will need. Cedar boards are ¾" thick and come in 4" widths, which is the easiest to work with. You will most likely need four panels for the shutter’s width and two smaller cut pieces to run the opposite direction at the top and bottom to hold the vertical boards together. Cut four boards to desired shutter length, lay them out sideby-side, and flush with each other on a table. Measure the four panels’ width and cut two pieces, each of which will lay across the four boards 5" from the top and 5" from the bottom of them. Use exterior wood screws to attach the smaller boards to the larger ones. Once you have everything attached securely in place, your shutter is finished! If you choose, you can stain the shutters any color or just leave them natural, but be aware that cedar naturally turns gray over time. Attach the shutters to your house with longer exterior screws, one in each corner. You may need masonry screws if your home is brick or plaster. Home improvement doesn’t sound so daunting when someone walks you through the steps. You just need a little courage, a little money, and a lot of energy, and someone who might have a little more experience with tools to help along the way. So, get up off that couch and get to work! 2021 is going to be awesome! Jennifer Almand is owner of Almand Specialty Painting & Design. She and her husband Rick live with four dogs in scenic Kingston, GA. Jennifer is a decorative painter specializes in kitchen cabinets, painted furniture, murals, custom art, and faux finishes. She also does decorative tile work, organization, and consults on colors, fabrics, finishes, and fixtures. Find her on Facebook or call (706)346-1590. 25


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27


Decorating

The Sanctuary of Home By Reesa Milton

R

aise your hand if you have spent more time at home in the last year than you ever dreamed you would! I know I certainly have. During this unprecedented time, our homes have become more important to us than any other time in my memory. I have always had a great affinity for home. I come from a long line of house-proud women. My grandmother showed her love and affection for her family by creating a warm and inviting home with her orderly housekeeping skills and good old comfort food. My mother was all about “playing in her house,” as she called it. She was never without a decorating project, a trait I have inherited. In her final months, the most fervent wish was to go back home, a desire I was happily able to grant. 28

I have always had a great affection for my homes, wherever they may have been. From my first apartment, immediately next to the Rome City Clocktower, which I loved, to my house now, that I drew the plans for, had built, and decorated. Never has home held the meaning for me than it has in this past year. I don’t think I am the only one. As we all nestled in and stayed home, our houses became our sanctuaries. As the world outside became scary, we needed, more than ever, the grace our homes could offer. I found myself creating moments of that grace in my own home. As I spend time perusing design magazines, Instagram, and decorating blogs, it seems I am in good company. The word that comes up most often is comfort. Gone are the days of decorating

for that magazine-ready look. Now our homes need to welcome us and make us feel safe from the outside world. So, what does comfort look like? Think soft sink-in upholstery with squishy pillows and cozy throws. A layering of the things you love, be it books or puppies. Candles burning, music playing, anything that brings you comfort and a sense of wellbeing. I also created a place of solace in my home during quarantine by bringing the outside in. Never blessed with a green thumb, I made an effort to add just a few house plants. Nothing tropical, mind you, only a scattering of small potted ferns and succulents. It made such a difference in the feel of my rooms. I love a touch of something organic and fresh, plus I enjoy the ritual of watering and tending my tiny garden. Maybe because of the time we are www.nwgeorgialiving.com


all spending indoors, there seems to be a shift occurring to a more traditional design style. There is even a term for younger folks finding their way to a more classic decorating style, “grand millennial.” In design, there is a move back to brown furniture. Tradition is making a comeback after years of no color, and in some cases, no character. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a neutral color palette as much as anyone, but I think it needs to be warmed up with lots of texture and patina. Color also seems to be having a resurgence after years of creams and grays. Don’t be surprised to see more and more color in fabrics, wallpaper, and furniture in the coming months. I appreciate a monochromatic palette and modern aesthetic in lighting, accessories, and accent furniture, but there will always be a place for the wellworn and well-loved. I learned two new words in the past couple of years, hygge and wabi-sabi. Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a Scandinavian word meaning to nurture coziness and comfort to bring about a feeling of wellness and contentment.

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept of appreciating the beauty of imperfection and impermanence. I keep returning to these two words over and over again. At this time in our lives, we could use a little of both. Hygge is precisely what I talked about previously. Nurturing a feeling of wellbeing inside one’s home, whatever that means to you. Maybe it’s through design and decor, but more importantly, a sense of home as a place to replenish and revive your spirit. Hygge is more about attitude than an actual place. I feel that is something we’ve all needed in these past challenging months. Creating a home of welcome and solace can play an essential role in our mental health and wellbeing. This is when the little things make a difference, a time to give thought to what creates comfort for you. Now more than ever, we can all appreciate the idea of wabi-sabi in our less than perfect lives. Let’s face it, home with our families for weeks at a time. We had to learn to embrace imperfection. Were our houses always clean and orderly? No. Did the background of our


them. It seems not to be all about how your friends and family view your home, but how you and your family live in it. Sure, you want your rooms to look pretty and polished, but it’s more about how that makes you feel. Hopefully, soon, the world will open up again, and we can begin to get back to a regular routine. I know we are all looking forward to that happy day. Let’s not forget that our homes nurtured us during the last year of many dark days, and it will be our homes that will welcome and comfort us in the days ahead. Let’s continue to give those homes the love and attention they deserve. After all, they serve us well. Reesa Milton is an

Zoom calls leave a lot to be desired? Yes. At the end of the day, or the end of our self-imposed exile, does it matter? Absolutely not! As an interior designer, I have been

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intuitive artist and interior designer with many years experience creating inviting and inspiring homes for her clients. After 20 years of retail experience with her retail shop, Perfect Home, she now owns Reesa Milton Art and Interiors, a design and art studio open by appointment. @reesamiltonartandinteriors or reesa. perfecthome@gmail.com

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31


Get Cookin’

Explore Amazing

African Flavors

By Kathy Patrick

AFRICAN PEANUT STEW WITH SWEET POTATOES Serves 6 Add a green salad with a tart vinaigrette and toasted pita bread. 1 tsp. peanut oil 1 onion, diced 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 inch piece fresh ginger, minced, or ½ tsp. ground ginger 1½ lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces 4 cups vegetable broth ½ (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained ½ cup peanut butter (preferably chunky) 1 Tbsp. tomato paste ¼ tsp. cayenne, more if desired 2 cups kale or collard greens, cut into strips ½ tsp. salt 3-4 cups cooked white rice ¾ cup toasted peanuts

Heat peanut oil in a 4-quart soup pot. Add onion, garlic, ginger, and diced sweet potatoes. Sauté over medium heat until soft, 5-7 min. Add broth, tomatoes with juice, peanut butter, tomato paste, and cayenne. Stir to combine; bring to a simmer, cover, and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Using a potato masher, roughly mash soup, leaving some chunks. Add greens and simmer uncovered for 5 min. Taste and adjust salt. Serve over white rice, topped with toasted peanuts.

Kathy Patrick is a personal chef and barre instructor in Rome, GA. She loves cooking, travel, waterskiing, stand up paddling, and bicycling with her husband, Berry professor Martin Cipollini. Kathy is president of the Georgia chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation, a volunteer organization whose goal is restoring the iconic trees. 32

Ready to change up your dinner repertoire? Take a culinary visit to a different continent with these tasty and healthy renditions of familiar foods!

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GREEN SHAKSHUKA Serves 4

NORTH AFRICAN SHRIMP WITH VEGETABLE COUSCOUS Serves 4

This North African dish traditionally uses a mixture of tomatoes and bell peppers; here, it features a “power greens” profile. Add a white bean or chickpea salad or hummus with veggies for a tasty meal.

This low-calorie dish is excellent served warm or chilled.

¼ cup olive oil plus more for serving 8 oz. brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced Kosher salt ½ large red onion, chopped finely 3 garlic cloves, minced 1 large bunch kale (8-oz.), stemmed, chopped 2 cups baby spinach (2.5-oz.) ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes 1 tsp. ground coriander ¾ tsp. cumin ½ lemon 4 large eggs 1 green onion, trimmed, green and white parts chopped Fresh parsley Crumbled feta red jalapenos or peppadew peppers

In a 10-inch skillet with a lid (cast iron works well), heat olive oil over mediumhigh heat until shimmering. Add brussels sprouts; sprinkle with kosher salt. Cook 5–6 minutes, occasionally tossing until softened and charred. Add onions and garlic, cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, tossing regularly, until softened. Add kale in stages and tossing until it wilts, 5 minutes. Add spinach; stir to combine. Season with kosher salt. Add spices and ½ cup water. Turn heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 8–10 minutes until kale completely wilts. Stir in lemon juice. Using a spoon, make four wells in greens. Crack an egg into each well and season with salt. Cover pan, cook another 4 minutes until yokes are set but still soft/runny. Remove from heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil if desired. Garnish with fresh green onions, parsley, crumbled feta and peppers. Serve immediately with bread or warm pita.

Couscous: 1 pint cherry tomatoes 1 medium zucchini, trimmed, sliced into half-moons 1 medium yellow squash, trimmed, sliced into half-moons ½ red onion, chopped Olive oil Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper 2 cloves peeled garlic, minced 2½ cups vegetable broth 1¾ cups dry, uncooked Israeli couscous Handful chopped fresh parsley, plus more to serve

Shrimp: 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger root 2 tsp. ground coriander 1½ tsp. Aleppo pepper 1 tsp. ground cumin ½ tsp. Kosher salt ¼ tsp. ground turmeric 2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for cooking 1 lb. shelled and deveined shrimp (16-20), thawed Juice of ½ lemon

Place tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, and onion on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat and roast in 400° oven 18-20 minutes. Once roasted, put veggies and their juices in a large bowl. In a large bowl, stir together ginger, coriander, Aleppo pepper, cumin, salt, turmeric, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add shrimp, toss, and marinate for 15 minutes. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic; cook for 1-2 minutes. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Stir in couscous, cover, and reduce heat to simmer, stirring occasionally. Follow package directions for time (8-10 minutes). Not all broth will be absorbed, and it should appear sauce-like. Once couscous is cooked, add to bowl with veggies and add ¼ cup chopped parsley. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet on medium-high heat. Once hot, add shrimp in batches, adjusting temperature as needed. Cook 2-3 minutes, until crust forms on each side. Remove to plate and repeat with remaining shrimp. When shrimp is cooked, reduce heat to low, add remaining oil to the pan, squeeze in a little lemon juice to scrape up brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Transfer shrimp into the pan to heat through. Place 3-4 spoons of roasted vegetable couscous in four serving bowls and top each with shrimp and minced parsley.

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33


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COUNT YOUR BOTTLES, YOUR UNDERAGE CHILDREN ARE.

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Advice

Backyard Bliss By Betty Schaaf

W

Listen to the pulse of life in your backyard, the birds and bugs, all battling for survival. 36

We have only to look out our window to find our growing ground, our backyards full of delight and pleasure, a place of happiness and a state of blessedness or bliss, as defined in Oxford’s American Dictionary. Surrounding ourselves among the living, moving things is where we should find ourselves daily to strengthen our bodies and souls, to create lasting joy. Whether you cultivate the soil in your garden or bring the dirt inside, you can have a unique spot to encourage and develop gratitude and experience renewal. We can learn how to create a backyard full of bliss, no matter the size, condition, or location. We can find beauty in the unexpected and turn it into happiness. Even a tiny patch of dirt or a bale of hay can bring us much

enjoyment as we nurture the plants and, more importantly, our spirits. What is your definition of bliss? Take a moment to think about what produces happiness in you. If it has something to do with living things, finding enjoyment in a garden or backyard might be the best spot to find it. Dictionary.com explains “bliss” as supreme happiness, utter joy, or contentment. It also has a theological meaning which implies heaven or paradise. It is hard to imagine that something extraordinary and joyful can come from the ground used for growing. To walk in any garden full of life and sit quietly with a journal is bliss. Sitting in silence and solitude brings about comforting thoughts that should be urgently recorded in those pages. Have you realized that “listen” and “silent” are words made of the same six letters? When my mind starts to wander onto worldly things, I quickly tell myself to stop and listen. Listen to the pulse of life in your backyard, the birds and bugs, all battling for survival. It makes for a beautiful symphony. Soon your spirit will soar in the delights of your www.nwgeorgialiving.com


Building a raised garden makes it easier for the while family to access and harvest their backyard bliss. (Photos by Kristeen Cole)

discoveries. You will experience beauty and gratitude for the gift of life in your colorful abode. Do not let daily living tasks and our propensity to want more choke out the energy in our souls, just as weeds do in a garden. Be present for every moment in your growing sanctuary; being present means an absence of thoughts of the past and future. Go back every other week or so, and read your entries, focus your thoughts on your peaceful place. Marvel at all you experienced in those quiet moments etched into your memory. Sometimes it may not be peace or bliss that you find in your backyard but a new experience in the form of an unexpected visitor, which also leads to joy. One day as I approached my backyard pond to feed my prized goldfish, I had a terrifying encounter with a long-necked bird with beady yellow eyes. Upon approach, he stuck his long neck up straight, looked into my eyes, and we startled each other. His five feet or more wingspan launched him into a clumsy but graceful flight as Great Blue Herons cannot fly upwards directly. With loud flapping and swishing sounds, he was off, and my golden beauties were safe, but not for long. I later nicknamed him Mr. Beady Eyes as he continued to visit my pond, which is now devoid of all my golden beauties. I recall a time when I had run through the rain in my pajamas, www.nwgeorgialiving.com

slipping in the mud, wildly waving my arms in another attempt to save my slimy friends in the pond. Several months later, a giant turtle emerged to remind me and thank me for sharing those delicacies with him as well. After spending too much money and creating a war zone in my pond, I finally gave in to mother nature and now am grateful for my feathery friend’s visits. I have learned much from my greenthumbed neighbor, Kristeen Cole. She had never grown a thing until moving to this area and surprised herself with her newfound abilities. She has shown me how peaceful and joyful a garden can be, blessing me with her growing wisdom, to see the bliss that all gardens contain. Kristeen says that “creating, cultivating, and connecting” are necessary skills for gardening and navigating our lives. Why not turn to our backyards for these lessons? Check her blog at flipsandflowersfoodie.weebly.com to see the fantastic photos of her garden, watch a lavender field grow, find gardening “how-tos” on a budget, and several articles are written just for the readers of this article. For families that do not have a patch of dirt adjoining their home, bring the soil inside and watch a pot of wildflowers grow from seeds as you place them in a sunny window. Try your hand at a succulent garden, purchasing these

tiny treasures at any grocery store. Save seeds from your old pumpkins to start a patch of your own in borrowed soil, with intentions to share. Pumpkins are easy to grow and love sunshine and plenty of water. Those who do not want to get their hands dirty can visit an established garden in your community with your journal and binoculars. For a botanical excursion back in time, visit the Chieftains Museum, Major Ridge’s Plantation site in Rome, Georgia, where you can observe the Three Sisters Garden. It consists of corn, a significant plant spiritually for the indigenous Indians of the Cherokee Nation, believing that the corn was given to them by the Gods; Tushaw squash, the seeds gently embedded beneath the hay’s surface, its leaves choke out the weeds; beans planted in a large bale of wheat straw that grow as they climb the stalks of corn and help to deter deer and rodents. For those who genuinely bloom in gardens, you can become a Master Gardener, where the community is your living canvas. This forty-hour program is offered online statewide through the University of Georgia. Classes will begin in late March of 2021. Free workshops will also be provided to the public later in 2021. Readers can obtain articles on just about every gardening topic at http://extension.uga.edu, or you can call the office at 706-295- 6210. One can access growing information from the Bartow, Floyd, and Gordon County 4-H programs for the younger set. Creating, connecting, and cultivating our backyards and gardens grows our souls and provides us with much-needed solitude and joy. Even the smallest of movements and unusual sights will lead you in a spirit of discovery and bliss. Don’t forget your journal and binoculars! Betty Schaaf is grateful to be living out God’s purpose for her life as a freelance writer and professional volunteer, helping the homeless and disabled in her community of Rome, Georgia. She is a stay-at-home-mom; a lover of foods, and a sojourner in becoming the-very-best-version-of-herself possible. bettyannschaaf@gmail.com 37


ROBERT’S

WORLD

By Robert Smyth

Just Checking in with My Knees

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e have all heard the old sayings, “You’re only as old as you feel” and “Age is just a number.” I’m here to debate those untruths and a few more. Things have been happening to my body (and, according to my wife, my attitude) with each passing year. Let’s start with when the alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. Usually, my body wakes me before the alarm. Specifically, I have been arguing with my bladder because it needed to get up 30 minutes ago. When the call of nature finally wins out, and it’s either get up or change the sheets, my body has to do a roll call. Remember when you could jump out of bed and be ready to take on anything? Well, now my brain sends out letters, apparently by pony express, to the other parts of my body for a check-in to see if everyone is on board to stand up. Knees check, feet check, equilibrium….equilibrium? I finally rise like the mummy from his sarcophagus and head to the bathroom.

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I turn to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and gasp and wonder how my dad got into the bathroom. After realizing it’s me, I start looking for numbers for plastic surgeons. Once I have showered and dressed, I already feel like I’ve worked a full day. Then comes the joy of trying to bend in the middle to get my shoes on. My wife has come to check on me just from the sounds I make, trying to bend over and get to my feet. It’s incredible how much more middle has shown up over the years and how hard it is to get rid of. I thought about the diet and exercise thing, but that sounds exhausting, and then they want you to maintain. I’m sorry, but once you lose the weight, it should just stay off, like a prize you get for eating salad. I wish my shop vac had a fat sucking attachment. There is the desire for my body to do the same things it did when it was twenty and the reality that it could mean significant damage or a trip to the emergency room. Do you remember when you were a kid, and you would swing as high as you could then jump out, landing like a superhero or rolling and jumping right back up? Well, my kids were doing it, and fun old dad was going to show them how it was done.

Everything was going great until the landing. Gravity and 260 plus pounds are not friends. I landed, my knees gave up, and I fell backward into the playset, ripping my shirt. After my wife and her sister were done laughing, they ran over to help. Nothing broke (except my pride), but I walked with a hitch in my giddy-up for three days. Back in the day, I could get four hours of sleep and be good for what the day had to throw at me. Now, I’m tired when I get up and lucky to make it to 9:00 p.m. without falling asleep in my recliner. Recently, my wife and I were in Vegas. At my age, I can’t fathom how it would be fun to stay up all night. I was looking for a taxi back to the condo at 10:00 p.m. and two Tylenol for my lower back. I know what question just popped into your mind, and the answer is no, I did not win it big. Unless you’re talking about the amount of food I consumed, then yes, I won real big. I guess I should look at getting older as a badge of honor. Pioneers were lucky to see 40, and they had it way harder than I did. Not once was I almost eaten by a bear while mowing the lawn, and apparently, that happened to them a lot. Now, I couldn’t even outrun the bear. I just have to hope he dies of heart disease and high cholesterol after he eats me. Maybe I will try that diet and exercise thing after all. I need to start the checkin now to make sure my body is on board. Spoiler alert, it’s not. www.nwgeorgialiving.com


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