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Hosting in the Hostess City

Savannah has a lot of nicknames, in fact, i use several in my blogs such as “Slowvannah”! These nicknames are all fairly accurate depending on the day, the situation, the time of year, or the mood of the person using the nicknames. i like them all, but the one i am most proud of is “The Hostess City of The South”. To me this implies that Savannah is “female”, strong, confident and resilient, able to understand and accept change and do it with a drink in one hand and a smile on her face. Lets be honest, Savannah has been hosting since before Oglethorpe arrived in 1733! She welcomed Native Americans 10,000 years ago and her biggest enemy, Sherman, in 1864! Today Savannah greets millions of visitors each year from all parts of this planet who are looking to explore all of her charms both real and imaginary. Folks come to my fair city today to eat, drink, stroll, soak in history, explore where over 100 movies have been filmed! People can shop local, see huge container ships come up the river to our port, run into a movie star or two and go to the beach all in one day! Heaven!!!

i consider myself a “mini” hostess of the hostess city…i’m just in training, learning the ropes, practicing for the big event. i’ve always loved entertaining but when i moved here i made it my mission to be as good as it gets when it comes to welcoming strangers and friends into my home, my city, my crazy new world named Savannah. It started just a few weeks after we landed here when my darling husband, bless his heart, printed out and beautifully bound up for me the official city tour guide training manual. At first it looked like 100 plus pages of minutia until my OCD kicked in and i realized this was my calling (even though i love dressing in black and white i could not imagine a nunnery accepting ME!). i studied that damn book everywhere, we bonded, it became my new best friend…i fell in love with every single word on every single page. Savannah and her history was being born in front of my eyes, recreating herself in my soul…i needed to, and still need to, know every single little thing i could about her, all of her stories, all of her secrets and all of her sins. Long story short, i studied for a year, took the test, passed on my first try and got the best job ever with a company named Savannah Taste Experience.

i am old, i have worked every kind of job known to man kind, i have been salaried with benefits and poor, working for tips but getting this job with this wee company was like winning lotto 3 times in a row! What could go wrong? Me and my skinny little no ass wandering around my beautiful city with people from everywhere… they eat great food and i talk about Savannah!!!! Most unbelievable part, they PAID me to do it!!! i pinched myself so hard so many times i looked like the most bruised peach in the fruit aisle… i “hosted” with this job for 3.5 years, watched hundreds of people experience Savannah through its incredible food and even more tantalizing history, and continued to learn more and more about this fascinating city every single day! This great job that i loved so much gave me the confidence to jump off on my own and start hostessing in a different way… as an AirBnb right here in the “hostess city of the south”, Savannah.

As i write all this i know i have to blog about being an AirBnB host AND about being a food tour guide, there are so many stories to tell, so many secrets to share but it will have to wait for another day! i have beds to make, bathrooms to clean, and people to meet and greet… i am a hostess after all! Enjoy!

Re-Birthing a House in Savannah

In a few short weeks we will have live in this old house in this old city of Savannah for five years and oh my goodness what a ride it has been….i look back on how far we have come and i am truly amazed and somewhat proud of our fortitude! Who AM i kidding??? we are just plain crazy!!! i have survived plaster dust inhalation, insane and greedy general contractors, numerous trips and falls over half full paint cans, labor and delivery type back pains from painting floors, this list is endless and on going. Currently i am deep breathing through exterior house painting and a master bath being plumbed in, neither of which are going as according to plan…and i am surprised? no, this is “Slowvannah” after all.

i’ll start on the outside and work my way in… house painting is not for the faint of heart or the thin skinned. One must be ready to encounter any obstacle put in the way and apparently do it with a smile on your face. When the power washing begins have at hand a mop, a bucket and a sense of humor, old houses leak. While letting the dogs out to do their business know exactly where the scaffolding is or wear a helmut, preferably bright orange. When changing in the morning be aware of who may be on said scaffolding because i am sure the sight of my near naked body would send even the crustiest painter flying off the afore mentioned scaffolding, resulting in me calling 911 and then meeting the first responders partially clothed and well, you get the picture. It’s been over a month now experiencing the above and i really see barely a dent in this project. The husband reminds me a million times a day that it will get done, i try to smile in response when my brain is screaming “WHEN????”. Or better yet, will i be alive to see the day!

The bathroom has been slightly less painful, more like birthing a single baby while on an epidural instead of twins in a pool in my living room… In 5 short years i forgot just how messy plumbers are (it figures considering the job i suppose) but sweet Mother of God how can an empty clean room go to a frat house after the party look in just a few short hours? I need to mention the waiting, something i have struggled with since childhood. I have lost so many hours waiting for people to show up, for same people to return and finally for people to leave! i can wait for Santa, the Easter Bunny, hell even my birthday but waiting for people that i am giving money to just tweaks my last you know what… the bathroom is now rough plumbed meaning there are pipes protruding from the walls of my old house, silently staring at me and saying “please attach me to a toilet, a sink, a tub… anything! our new pipes are so naked and exposed!”. i am losing it, i am starting to identify with pipes…

On a positive and shining note the re-glazing of my tub went down as smooth as black truffle butter on a lobster roll! Mr. Amazin’ Glazin’ (yes, that is his name) arrived on time, completed the work in 4.5 hours, charged barely a nickel and drumroll please, cleaned up after himself… my faith humanity restored and can face another day! Enjoy!

When we moved down here, i didn’t think i would miss anything about New England. Not. One. Thing.! i have to admit it, i find myself missing something… fish markets. There, i said it, out loud. i miss New England’s fish markets. i guess i assumed that all fish markets were alike. Big, bright, clean…smelling a bit like fish and cleaning fluid. All those pretty little choices lined up neatly on a fresh bed of ice without their beady little eyes staring at me from their still attached heads with employees who pretend to know how to cook up each and every choice. Here it is just a wee bit different and yes, i know, it is a cultural thing. Fish markets here are shady, just plain shady and i am never really sure when i walk in exactly what to expect. Will it be crowded with church ladies in hats humming and hawing over which piece looks best while their men folk wait outside in the ultra polished cars??? Will there be SCAD students with their multiple tattoos, body piercings and purple hair working behind the counter???? how will the shop smell? should i have brought a flashlight so that i can actually see what i might purchase and the most important question….when was the last time the health inspector was here?

Once i get over my initial gut wrenching feeling i am then faced with a multitude of fish, still whole and still flaunting their heads staring at me and muttering in their own little fishy way…”buy me and fry me up whole, a little hot sauce and you won’t notice a thing”! OH SWEET LORD, I WILL!!!! i want a nice tiny filet, boneless, eyeless, no fins, tails or scales. Something i can saute with a little lemon butter and some capers, rice pilaf, candlelight…you get my drift…

i can dream, i haven’t found this yet. If i win lotto i may just open my own (and i will hire someone to take those damn heads off). i do venture into these shady little spots and sometimes i even purchase something but i still leave feeling slightly embarrassed that i have meekly asked to have the heads removed. i am even more disturbed by the fact that i am regarded as a bit deranged that i leave with an uncooked fish and not one steaming hot as it has just emerged from the deep fryer located way in the back of the shop.

For now, i often buy my seafood from my Kroger, it’s fine though the selection is limited but there are no heads and i haven’t heard one of those fish solicit me yet!!!

Toilet flappers, well that is just another blog….enjoy!

the perfect food guide

The perfect food guide??? really??? is there such a thing??? I am just not quite sure, I mean think about it, when was the last time a human being was perfect??? Food however, can most definitely be perfect, especially when an imperfect human is starving. Here in sexy, sultry Savannah, the act of “fooding” is right up there with pirates, ghosts, architecture and church time. (Never, EVER go to Kroger for that gallon of milk after 12 noon on Sunday when church gets out, it will take you hours to get through the check out line.) A true Savannahian knows to line up pre-dawn for Mrs.Wilkes lunch, come with a check or cash, and always talk to the tourists in the most friendliest of ways! Don’t expect to be asked what you would like to drink with your meal, it just arrives…Sweet Tea, of course. The best of Mrs. Wilkes is at the very end, when you quietly take your licked clean plate to the kitchen staff and humbly (almost on your knees) say “Thank You”. Only here in my fair city is it sort of fun to see all those people fanning themselves on the sidewalk with their trusty tourist maps whilst waiting for their name to be called for Paula Deen’s oral indulgence of Southern food! If I had a nickle for all the photos I have taken outside her restaurant for complete strangers to post on Face Book, well…I might just have enough money to take myself out for a good meal!
Just walking down Broughton St makes my taste buds go all bouncy and bubbly inside my head. My head by the way, is spinning left to right, while the voices inside it are screaming out in a gastronomic frenzy “Cheesburgers! Ice Cream! Asian! Middle Eastern! Chocolate! Tapas! Tea!” OMG…there really is a heaven, a salt shop!!! When I think about it, I have never really lived in a place where I wondered if I could live long enough to try all the restaurants and just forget about the new ones popping up all the time. Eating in Savannah is the southern version of Pongal! (go on, I know you want to Google that word) Some people say “So many books, so little time”. My mantra is “Such a list of choices, such a small stomach”. Those who know me well know that I eat like a bird, I think it may even offend some people but they all know that I love food… shopping for it, smelling it, preparing it, touching it, tasting it…most importantly, sharing it! Sharing a meal, offering food as a token of friendship is a ritual that goes as far back as well, the cavemen! After losing so many rituals and traditions decade after decade, it is nice to know that one lives on (like cockroaches)! Let’s have a meal together, break bread, hash it out (no pun intended) over a cup of tea and a scone, a romantic dinner with a good bottle of wine, picnic on the beach, fried chicken and fireworks, Thanksgiving turkey, New Years Buffet… the list goes on and on and by the way, it goes on and on all over the WORLD!
My idea of perfect is a table full of my favorite foods… caviar, oysters, mac and cheese, brie, steak, bluefish, pate of any kind, haggis, conch fritters, my British mother-in-law’s Sunday roast, black pudding, coffee from Paris, lobsters dripping in butter, pork cracklin’, beignets, my mom’s ham, boiled peanuts, finnan haddie, olives, peppermint ice cream…and of course, friends to share it with. Eating alone may at times be a necessity but eating with people is pure bliss. I may not be perfect, but food always is.

Here i go again…

Bet you all thought i had given up the ghost, thrown in the towel, stood by silently as my creativity dried up… if you did you are partially right, but not completely. Life just got in my way and i admit it, i allowed it to happen. i got busy with this old house, this old city and this old body of mine. Started feeling a stiffness in my fingers after painting for hours, discovered teeth do not last forever, and sleep can still be elusive. Parent pick up lines, school meetings, a mentally ill daughter, and a special needs/gifted little boy. A big boy in the UK who comes home for X-mas and to St. Patty’s day to eat red meat and drink copious amounts of alcohol. An ex husband that pops in occasionally, dear old friends that delight me with visits and new friends that learn to navigate around in my orbit. Huge bugs, an itchy dog and another dog who has made my pantry his panic room. Daily thunderstorms and the sound of the tornado sirens that still make my butt pucker. A backyard pool for wrestling, trips to the beach and the 5 am train whistle. Studying for the city tour guide exam, negotiating a loan, and sleep walking through Home Depot. Yup, i have been busy but i have really missed writing. So, here i go again…

i am one of those really silly people who love change, not just embrace it but actually seek it out! i look for it in almost everything i do and hope that the unexpected will happen to me on a daily basis. i take different routes to Callum’s school, i switch up my grocery stores just to revel in the newness of the adventure, i try new foods, new spices, new recipes. This year in honor of our move i will be cooking a Cajun spiced turkey along with all the southern sides that would make even Paula Deen weep, yup i am even making a Crawfish tail gravy…. to pour all over my grits!
i think this is one of the reasons i so desperately wanted to move to a city, to a changing, magical place like Savannah. Since she is a city so overloaded and high on history and tourism there is always something new to do, to see. It is the feeling of vibrancy that us change junkies need to survive. It is that feeling of “what’s next, who’s that, why not” that i seek. This i know, makes me seem as though i am a rootless, wandering sort of creature. A person who refuses to settle, denies stability and runs screaming into the night away from the thought of commitment. How untrue!
We have been in this house for nearly a month and though i have still have my moments of waking up and wondering about what part of the world i am currently in, i am enjoying the routine of being here. The dogs have their favorite spots in the house to sleep and peek out the windows at the world going by. My little man still wakes up the same way and wants to climb into bed and have a cuddle. My husband thunders his way through my daytime/nighttime doors every evening after work. My handy man Nate still refers to me as “Miss Irene” even after being in my house daily for several months. The beauty of my life right now is that even with the routine, the unexpected and the changes are still happening. Every stroke of paint, every layer stripped off to reveal the original wood, every moment of re-arranging a room to make it work, is change!
My wish for others would be that doing different, being different is the way to really get the most bang for your buck. Routine is good, safe, expected. Change is exciting! It makes your heart beat a little faster, opens your eyes a little wider and allows your soul to feel a little more of the world around you. For me, change and the unexpected makes me more human, more grounded, more connected to the moment not the expectation of what should be.

i had the AC on for the last two days and this morning i had to crank up the heat… this psychotic weather is okay with me, i have my masters degree in Social Work, i can handle it. Enjoy!

Losing my Breath in Savannah

i haven’t blogged in over a month and i really have missed it. Each day i wake up and think “i need to blog, yesterday was fascinating!” and then come dinner time i am mumbling to myself, “damn, another day and no blog!”. Yesterday i spent most of the day in a battle with plaster dust all the while doing the Freudian thing on why i am not blogging (yes, this is the pitfall of having a higher education in Social Work). After a glass of wine and some more personal reflection i came to several conclusions as to the absence of blogging.

1. My fingers hurt
2. i am really tired of unpacking boxes
3. i have a mentally ill daughter

Door number three wins! No, i will not make this blog into some kind of rant, nor will i ruminate on the heartache i feel each and every day. What i will say is that having a mentally ill child literally sucks the life out of you and if you are not ever so careful, it consumes your every fiber. i have allowed myself to be consumed for the last 6 weeks and it needs to stop. i am grouchy, achy and more tired than i need to be. i am contemplating long walks with my snorty pug and yet i have not left the boxes to unpack themselves (surely the boxes know where they go by now!) in order to leash her and go! i have watched several glorious beach day slip by from INSIDE my house and i have ordered take out too many times…. STOP

Mental illness affects everyone in the family, this we know. When it is a child it seems worse. Team meetings, IEP meetings, family therapy, school and hospital phone calls, the dreaded calls from the unit… “there has been another incident”, calls from staff arranging another meeting, the list is endless. The sad part is that my child just doesn’t give a shit. Is this her illness or just her? Her immediate world is running around like a bunch of ferrets looking for a sock to hide in and she just goes about her day, eating, sleeping and occasionally beating the crap out of someone. Yet when i am asked why because of my personal safety fear she can’t come home i look like the one that should be medicated!

Last night i lost it with my Darling husband over a TV, i slept like crap and this morning i decided it stops. i don’t care if Darwin went 10$ and 5″ over budget and size on a replacement tv for the one which was thieved from my house! i don’t care if my boxes don’t empty themselves, and i don’t even mind the damn plaster dust laughing behind my back! i DO mind not being able to breath, hate waiting for the phone calls, hate allowing some other person’s issues to control me and i hate feeling the way i do… i have worked too hard to change….
i will focus on breaths from deep inside my belly today, i will watch the way the light comes through the windows i have scrubbed and i will paint like i am Monet. i will reclaim me and i will breath! enjoy!

The Southern most Point

For all of you out there that have been fortunate (or crazy) enough to have ventured all the way down to Key West you know that this is just not a truth, but a sign at the very bottom of the island where all sorts of odd people push and shove their way to just to take that photo shot. Just a sign. Sort of like revving up those lazy ass island engines to get yourself to Mallory Square for the sunset with thousands of other crispy red, slightly wasted folks who probably rarely take time to witness the sun going down in their own home town. Just the thing to do when in Key West…
i am just barely back from a long weekend spent with 7 women that i had the honor of going to prep school with so many years ago when we were 14, 15 years old. It was a celebration of our collective 50th birthdays, when totaled it equals somewhere around 400 years worth of life…sheeeet, that’s a lot of living! Shut the front door! We rented 4 small, really small, cabins centered around a small courtyard of ferns and palms and an extra large patio table. The cabins were squashed between an incredible cafe and a brothel, i know, tough decisions first thing in the morning…. do i want crepes or should i focus on a fetish?
For me it was wonderful to put down the paint scraper and hop on a plane without a worry to spend a weekend eating, drinking, laughing and having fun. i can’t say what it was for the others, i don’t live in their heads or hearts, but i am pretty sure a good time was had by all. i promised on several occasions to not name names in my blog and i am a woman of my word. i do think that one of the most monumental moments was when the librarian and the tough ass party girl decided to share the darkest cabin…. we got on like a house on fire! And yes the librarian did write down in her little “Blues Clues” notebook the address of the library in Key West… just in case we wanted to take a field trip! We had a Yogi in our group who managed to find one of those sweat-while-you-bend-like-a-pretzel classes that she did twice, 3 that when snorkeling with the jelly fish and a bunch of rude fat Frenchmen, a teacher from Texas who was reading “Aeneid” in Latin, a personal finance consultant that became the cruise entertainment director, a therapist, a photographer who brought no camera and a latecomer who spent the night at Newark because of a canceled flight (bless her cotton socks). Quite a group!
i learned a lot this weekend, not only about friends i hadn’t seen in years, but about me. i was reminded that it is okay to open my heart and remember the past because it wasn’t all that bad, it created the me i am today. i realized that i like me, my foibles, my way of speaking, my body, my soul. It brought tears to my eyes to see us as grown ups, real women, survivors, friends still, that can giggle and bicker all in 60 seconds. i am proud of us and who we have become. We aren’t those scared little teenagers holding tight to each others hands and the rope in the woods, but strong, powerful women who strutted our stuff up and down Duval st. as though we lived there. We have arrived ladies, and you all should be pleased with who you are because i am pleased to be your friend. The southern most point is no sign, no island but a place so deep in my heart in can only be touched by those of you who live there. The memories, the stories, the sharing…. that is just the icing on the cake. It is the unconditional love, the “i know you” look across the table, the finishing of each others sentences, the absence of envy, the quiet acceptance of each other. That is the southern most point, that is true friendship.

Sleepless in Savannah

It is 4:o5 am and i am awake, not fully functioning but awake. i am clinically something. Racing thoughts, pervasive thoughts of mayhem and unanswered questions. Break out the DSM and give me a diagnosis. So many unknowns would drive a sane man crazy. On the bright side, since my sanity has always been in question, i fear not the madness of others… no not me, i embrace it! Yesterday however, there sure wasn’t a whole lot of feeling the love in my big old house and certainly no hugging going on. Essentially we are being held hostage by the house and the incomplete HVAC system. i have my fingers crossed that the plumbers will come today and finish up the little piddly things they have left to do, hook up the ice/water maker in fridge, install shower trim kit and place kitchen faucet in my shiny new granite, but i have little faith in that. i face the day with uncertainty. i have learned so much from this experience and a lot of it is stuff i really didn’t need to add to my resume. Trust, faith in the goodness of others, common decency and oh let us not forget that simple concept of honesty…all of these qualities have been put to the big test! Yet i am still not living in my house. i will be able to move my belongings in this weekend because God forbid i should pay for the 6th month of storage fees when i own outright nearly 4000 sf of usable but unlivable space. i cannot get the Certificate of Occupancy with the HVAC unfinished. i am tired of playing the game, fed up with feeling conned and sick of being spoken to like i am a child. Decisions need to be made and since every one including the dogs are asleep at the moment i have to wait on that too.
Humans are extra-ordinary creatures, we are all so different in the way we operate, behave and react to certain situations. Each one of us though, wakes up every morning and faces the same dilemma, “how will i treat others today, and how will my behavior impact the world around me?” i am just guessing here, but i think most folks don’t actually think this on a daily basis. i do. How i am each day is critically important to every human i come in contact with throughout the day. i am not hugely important, i don’t have some high powered job and i don’t carry a big stick, but i do matter and my behavior is of grave importance to others. Today i am going to take extra care in my behavior because i know i am feeling like a caged animal. i wonder if a man i have only known for a couple of months and seen maybe a dozen times, is finding pleasure in his behavior, if he even has the slightest inkling of how many people are impacted by his greed and sense of self need. Not that this matters in the end, the only important thing in question is my behavior and how others are treated by me. Today i will tread lightly, i will watch my words, i will smile at strangers a little more than usual and i will be happy. As Dr. Seuss said, “why try to fit in when you were born to stand out?” Enjoy!

Never waste a good Worry

i have friends and family in my world that could be professional worriers, everything is a worry, and if it shouldn’t be… they make it one. My goodness, how do they get through a day? Worry about this and worry about that, seems like an awful lot of fretting going on about things that are out of their control. It just gives me a big old migraine. These days i don’t have time for all the little worries, especially now as we could be just days away from moving into my big old house. i mean days, and if you all could see the state on un-cleaness of the house you would not just worry, you would faint. Putting the plaster dust issue off to the side for the moment, let’s consider the various scrap pieces of cut sheet rock lining hallways and skulking in the corners of unfinished rooms, buckets upon buckets of construction trash hovering near doors and of course, multiple ladders and staging equipment in the middle of rooms that look like the pink elephant in everyone’s nightmare. Empty cardboard boxes that once held shiny new toilets and vanities, brooms of all shapes and sizes, chips of paint that are falling like snowflakes and my darling husband’s tools scattered about. It is a war zone into which i will be moving my worldly possessions next weekend and what makes this so beautiful is that after months of looking at an overloaded dumpster that the contractor refused to empty, suddenly it is gone and nothing is put back to replace it. Where o where do i put the trash?
My kitchen is 90% in and today my new fridge, dishwasher and oven are being delivered. We got these from Lowe’s as we had a 10% off coupon and my husband can work magic at getting even more money off at these box stores. Really, if you ever need a discounted price on anything, call me and i will loan you Darren. i marched right on by all those fancy ass appliances and started at the least expensive… my only goal was to get them to match in color and have the basic functions that i needed. i did want a self cleaning oven, ice maker and water dispenser. (the water from the tap here tastes good it just comes out a few degrees short of boiling!) You would be amazed at how inexpensive you can go, get all the things you need and not feel as though you have been raped and pillaged in the appliance aisle! The house i left on Cape Cod had all the high tech gizmos that spoke to me in 9 different languages and basically prepared a meal without me and i am not going to miss it. Those appliances gave me OCD. i want something i can use without guilt, put a ding in and not become suicidal, caress and feel as though i paid the right price. i even switched from gas burners to flat top electric, one less bill to open up each month…one less worry. The power to the house is now connected to the pole on the street…we have lights! the toilets are in and flush! the vanities are looking so clean and new i just want to brush my teeth in my newly running water! the tile man will be finishing up my custom shower this weekend ( found a beautiful, heavy clear glass door with gaskets and hinges for 50$ at Habitat for Humanity for the shower)! The granite will be installed Monday, plumber to finish Monday afternoon and HVAC will be wrapping up be Tuesday. We should have our final inspections by Wednesday and our CO by Thursday. i have but one thing to say… who needs a contractor?
My house is far from finished and my goal of having the major things like mudding and sanding finished before i move in will not be accomplished. i can live with this. The contractor has not played fairly in the sandbox and now that he is calling me names and referring to my northern roots we have a few small issues that will be worked out in the principals office AFTER i move in. It will all work out, Karma is a bitch and when that circle closes it does so with the force of a meteor. Never waste a good worry. Enjoy!