Tag Archives: Athens

Wildcard Wednesday: Sushi Go!

sushi go cardsLast year when I took my kids to Athens, Georgia to visit my best friend, we spent a rainy afternoon at the always delightful Rook & Pawn. Not only did we have some super tasty food (I highly suggest the grilled cheese–Rook & Pawn style), but we also played about half a dozen board and card games.

I LOVE board and card games. For as long as I can remember, I have adored gathering around a table with friends and family to play just about any kind of board, card or charade-like game out there. I like ones that require me to come up with complex strategies and be completely cut throat. I like ones that allow me to play cooperative to achieve a common goal. I like those that allow me to make a complete fool of myself with my terrible pantomime or drawing skills. I even loves those games like solitaire that I can play all by myself. Board and card games are my jam.

While we were at the Rook & Pawn, we discovered an adorable new card game called Sushi Go! None of us had ever played it before, but since it is one of the few games that was nearly age appropriate for my daughter (who was 7 at the time) and still looked like something the rest of us wanted to play, we grabbed the deck, laid out the rules and shuffled the cards.

The game is pretty easy to actually play. Depending on the number of players, each player gets dealt a certain number of cards (in the three player game we played tonight, we each got 9). Everyone looks at their hand, picks one card they want to use and sets it down, face down. Once everyone has their card placed face down, everyone reveals this card and then passes their hand clockwise.

Sounds simple enough, right?

There is strategy involved though as different card combinations earn players different points. For example, the sashimi cards pay off big: 10 points–but only if you get three of them. And, when you keep rotating hands, there is a very real chance you won’t be able to collect three. Especially if other players are also trying to collect them.

As a parent, I think this is a great game because it is simple and goes quickly, which gives kids little time to get bored. There are multiple rounds, so even if my kids don’t win the first (or second) round, since their points add up, they hold out hope to win in the end. I also love the cards themselves. And so does my daughter. The adorable anthropomorphic pieces of sushi are not only cute to look at, but they actually make my daughter care less about her score. She doesn’t quite get all the strategy to the game (it is for ages 8+ and she just turned 8 last month), but she thinks the sushi pieces are “so cute,” that she doesn’t even mind losing. And believe me, any game that doesn’t make one of my kids want to toss the board/cards (they might get that competitive streak very honestly from me–I’ve never actually tossed a board though), is pure gold.

Although we love the game and have played it on each subsequent visit to Rook & Pawn, we don’t actually own it. It wasn’t until Monday, while I was desperately looking for a gift to bring home for my kids after a trip to NYC that I saw the game in a cute mall-like kiosk and had to have it. My daughter chortled with absolute glee when she saw it on the dining room table this morning. And sure enough, as soon as we got home from school, she asked if we could play it. I made them wait until after dinner, but then we gathered together, dealt out the cards and had a lot of un.

 

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Chocolate Monday: Sweetie Pie’s croissants

Sweetie Pie breakfast.jpgWhenever I am in Athens, Georgia visiting my best friend, stopping by Sweetie Pie’s is an absolute must. And not just once during our visit! Luckily, it is located directly across the street from the entrance to my best friend’s neighborhood.

Since my kids are fairly early risers, well, my daughter is, I am usually up before my BFF and her husband, so a couple of times during our visit, I get up, head over to Sweetie Pie’s and grab breakfast for everyone.

Sweetie Pie’s is fairly small. There is no place to eat inside the bakery and they have a limited number of pastry choices, but I have never been disappointed with anything I’ve tried there. Every day they have a variety of muffins, scones and sweet breads. Some days they have gigantic cinnamon rolls (I never get these b/c they have nuts in them and neither my BFF nor I like nuts in our cinnamon rolls) and some days they have croissants. To be more specific, every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday they have croissants. Yeah, I love them so much that despite living 10 hours away from the place, I know they days they have croissants on the menu.

My son is a big fan of their savory ham and cheese croissant. Before she became a vegetarian, my daughter also really loved this one. Although it is never my go to croissant, it is tasty. The croissant is flaky and buttery, just like it should be. The cheese is not overpowering, but the slight gooeyness of it pairs perfectly with the melt in your mouth croissant. And Savie doesn’t skimp on the ham either. She doesn’t just dump a few ham cubes in there. She adds some thick, tasty ham slices to it. It’s a great dose of protein and pastry!

Savie also offers some super tasty almond croissants as well as some croissants with her famous Asian-infused flavors like thai coconut, red bean and green tea. However, my absolute favorite offering on her entire menu are her chocolate croissants.

SP close up croissantI LOVE these little pillows of heaven. I’ve had a fair amount of chocolate croissants in my life. While I’ve yet to have an actual croissant in France, I have had them at Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in the France section of Epcot, in various cities in the UK, in places like Starbucks and Panera and even at a few local places, but these are my favorite ones.

 

How do I love them? Let me count the ways:

  1. The croissant itself is buttery
  2. The croissant is flakey
  3. The croissant is ever so crumbly (but in a super good way)
  4. The chocolate inside is slightly liquidy and gooey (unlike so many other places where the chocolate is pretty much solid like a bit of candy bar)
  5. The chocolate is a tad bitter, so it’s not too sweet

In short, it is perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Overall:

Taste: 10/10
Appearance: 9/10 (mine looked a little overcooked this time, even though it was super tasty)
Value: 10/10

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Free Reading Friday: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon and the Homo Sapiens AgendaSimon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by  Becky Albertalli is yet another book on the this year’s Rosie list, so I had to read it. Before I picked it up, I had no idea what the book was about. The title was intriguing though and even though I’ve read comments that the cover is keep no of boring, I like the faceless body and the title as a quote bubble.

It only took me about 20 pages to get into Simon’s story. My favorite chapters were definitely the emails between Simon and Blue. I love how cute and genuine their emails feel. I love how vulnerable they are with each other. And even though there was a part of me who wanted Blue to cave and reveal who he was to Simon much sooner, I understand why Albertalli had him wait. Blue’s reluctance to truly reveal himself to Simon (and the world) reflects just how scary first relationships can be. They are terrifying when you are straight and conform to all the expectations of society, so I can only imagine how immensely more terrifying they are for LGBT+ teens. Especially in Georgia…or any area that is intensely conservative.

Since my best friend lives in Athens, Georgia, it was doubly fun for me to read this book which is set outside of Atlanta. It was especially great to see Albertalli mention the Junkman’s Daughter since I’ve been to the original store in Athens. I love when I find places I’ve visited in real life in books as well.

Even though I was not thrilled with the idea of going back to school after the break, I was excited about sharing this book with my students. My school has a growing LGBT+ population and I knew I would have a bunch of students who really wanted to read it. I think it is super important for them to find books which portray romantic relationships they can relate to and see themselves reflected in. Sure enough, the second I book talked it, multiple hands reached out for it.

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Throwback Thursday: Georgia with kids part 2

Rook and PawnOne of my top priorities when traveling with my kids is to get them to spend as much time as they can outside. Even though my kids always pack their backpacks and often a separate toy bag to the brim with some of their favorite ways to pass the time, when vacationing anywhere they will be forced to spend waking hours in either a hotel room or at a friend/family member’s house, inevitably they run out of ways to make those same toys fun to play with day after day after day.

It’s already hard enough for kids to be out of their usual environments for extended periods of time. But I’ve found that unless our vacations have the thrill factor of an amusement park vacation, my kids need a lot to do or boredom quickly sets in. At home, they are fine. They will play by themselves, or sometimes even together, for hours on end. However, even on our two yearly vacations to the beach, where there are cousins to play with and to Georgia, where my best friend always surprises them with fun crafting supplies, the sheer number of hours the adults would like to just hang out at the house and chat is too many for them.

Because I don’t want my kids to have to sit around a house that is not theirs for several hours every day of vacation, I always try look for lots of fun things to do outside. However, sometimes the weather just does not cooperate.

This year, during our bi-annual trip to Athens, Georgia, we had three days of rain. While only one day was a bit of a deluge, the other two were still fairly steady in their ickyness. After being trapped in doors the entirety of the first day, my kids needed out of the house.

Since my best friend was not on fall break and still had to teach classes, we decided our first activity that would get us out of her house, but also keep us out of the rain, was a trip to The Rook & Pawn. On our last three visits, we’ve had at least one rainy day and since my best friend and I both love board games, she has suggested we take the kids. It is a wonderful place to pass several hours with kids. Not only is the food pretty dang tasty (I highly recommend the grilled cheese with brie, tomato and spinach and the seasonal salad), but they have a wall of board games that stretches from floor to ceiling. Anyone who cannot find a game they want to play is just being a crab! Our trouble is not finding a board game we all want to play, but in limiting it to just a few so that we don’t spend the entire day there. For anyone who might need to take the edge off of another day spent indoors with whining kiddos, they also have a lovely drink menu. Since it was only day 2 and I had to drive back to the house, I just had a Diet Coke.

My best friend met us at the Rook & Pawn after her classes were done for the day and we spent several hours trying new games. Sushi Go! was my personal favorite this trip. My son really liked some Star Wars spaceship Wookie game he and his sister played while my BFF and I chatted. Last time we went we tried Settlers of Catan Junior, which was not only fun (my BFF and I are HUGE Catan fans), but was a great gateway to teach my son how to play the grown up version.

nature centerWhen it continued raining on Tuesday, I was more than a little disheartened. However, on our very first trip to Athens, we encountered similar rain storms and my best friend introduced us to the Sandy Creek Nature Center. Since I knew she was a bit burned out on it having just recently gone with another friend and her two young children, while she conducted classes, I packed up my munchkins and we headed over to the nature center.

The nature center is not a place you can spend hours at, at least not if it is raining and you are just exploring the educational center. With younger children you could probably kill two hours there without much trouble. However, since my kids are 7 and 10, an hour was pushing it for us. I kept having to redirect them to small pieces of the exhibits they hadn’t really looked at. I tried to get them involved in the scavenger hunt, but since they’d done it on our last visit, they weren’t having it. The educational center does have two classrooms and sometimes if they are open the staff will let kids go in and play in them, which provides even more entertainment. However, there were school groups at the center when we went, so we had to stick to the main exhibit room.

My hope is that one of these days it’ll be nice enough that we’ll actually get to go on the trail and look at the gardens as well.

Even though the rain had cleared on Wednesday, since it was my BFF’s last day of teaching for the week and she was going to be home by 2, I took the kids for a morning at the local Chuck E. Cheese. Even though they’ve been to our Chuck E. Cheese quite a few times, they actually managed to spend more time at this one, in part because there were so many different games and they had to really think about which ones they most wanted to play. My son managed to win the “jackpot” on some balloon game and walked away with enough tickets to buy an actual prize. He was thrilled!

We also found several really awesome programs at the library for the kids to attend. My son got to play chess while my BFF and my daughter found a nook to read books in. My son thought it was pretty great because even though he lost more games than he won, he was the youngest player (by 2 years) and actually beat a player who was 16. We also saw a magic show one morning at the library and both of my kids got to assist with different tricks.

Athens is a great town to visit with kids…even when the rain threatens to ruin the vacation.

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Throwback Thursday: Vacationing with kids

Athens playgroundFrom the moment my best friend delivered the devastating news that she’d gotten her dream job–10 hours away from me–I started planning my first visit to see her. It just so happened that her move at the end of July coincided with my school’s very first year on the balanced calendar. In between trips to our favorite coffee shop and last minute movie watching, she was packing up boxes to move three states away and I was putting the finishing touches on my lesson plans.

Although juggling the heartache of her leaving with the extreme stress that comes with the start of each new school year was really weighing me down, I just kept reminding myself that in a little over two months I’d be taking my first trip to see her. I attempted to delude myself into believing that I’d be so caught up in the new semester that it would be easy to forget she was no longer right down the street. Sadly, I’ve never been a great liar…not even to myself.

The time did pass and at the end of the grading period, we loaded the family up and headed to Georgia. Of course, we only stayed with her one night before continuing on to Disney World. After five days that I can only describe as the best family vacation we’ve ever been on, we turned around and headed back to see my best friend.

This time my husband only spent one night before he had to head back home to work, leaving me and the kids behind to spend an amazing week with my best friend and her husband. Although we had no car of our own, it really wasn’t a problem. When my best friend had to teach we either hung around her house doing crafts and taking walks or we went to campus with her and played in the fun park-like area near her building or she lent us her car and we went to local parks. Then, when she was off, she introduced us to a plethora of really fun places for the kids to play while we got to talk.

Since this initial trip, we’ve found some favorite places in Athens that we go back to every single visit.

park bulldogOne of the best parts about visiting Georgia in October is that the weather is usually pretty nice. Unlike Indiana, where the temperatures sometimes sink down into the 40’s, in Georgia the weather rarely dips below 75, which means plenty of outdoor time with the kids. And since my kids LOVE to be outdoors, if it’s not raining, we plan outdoor activities.

This year we got to check out the new World of Wonder park, which is actually part of Southeast Clarke Park. We’d actually visited the park on one of our previous trips and while the playground was pretty cool and the kids had a blast, it was not nearly as epic as the updates are. The playground was actually moved to the other side of the park and now has two separate park areas, one for kids under 5 and one for bigger kids. The bigger kid playground features 10 different slides, a really cool webbed climbing merry-go-round thingamabob, a three-story tree house looking structure for kids to climb, wobbly bridges, tons of swings, lots of room for families to sit and even these really cool porch swings (of sorts) that are in shaded areas. The picture at the top of this blog is from the WOW park. My kids had a blast on it. My son particularly liked the “mushrooms” which were these stepping areas that reminded him of the mushrooms in Mario Bros. He loved the way they sprung beneath his feet as he jumped from one to the next.

My BFF and I loved that we could sit on a lovely shaded bench and talk while my kids ran amuck on the playground. Since we could see just about every area of the playground from our seats, we never lost eye contact with the kids for more than a few seconds. And, since the playground is surrounded mostly be a wide open grassy area (and is completely fenced in), it’s not like they could really wander off anywhere.

Bear Hollow signOn our last full day in Athens we also got to visit one of our favorite places: Memorial Park/The Bear Hollow Zoo. My BFF is not normally a fan of zoos. Like many people, she hates the fact that animals are taken from their natural habitats, forced into cramped spaces (at least compared to how they’d live in the wild) and put on display for our amusement. However, she is a huge supporter of The Bear Hollow Zoo. The reason is simple: The Bear Hollow Zoo only has animals that are native to Georgia and only has animals that have been injured and are in need of rehabilitation and protection. All of the animals in the zoo have been injured and cannot survive on their own. They are brought to the zoo by people who rescue them. Some times the animals can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild, but often times their injuries are so severe that they would not be able to survive in the wild, so instead they get to live out their lives at Bear Hollow. The zoo is fairly small with only less than two dozen animals in it, but it’s pretty cool.

The zoo has a few birds, including two owls, an alligator, three bears, an opposum, a tortoise, an otter, a bobcat, an eagle, deer, turkeys and some reptiles. Every time we’ve gone we’ve been able to see all of the animals, which is pretty cool. Since it is part of the public park system, it’s not fancy, but it’s a great way to spend half an hour with kids.

Bears at Bear HollowAs part of her service learning class, my BFF has her students do volunteer work for the zoo, so she always has some great information to share with me and the kids. One year she even got us a “backstage” tour. We got to feed almost all of the animals (we skipped the alligator and the snakes) and even got to go into some of the enclosures. My daughter still goes on and on about how she fed the bears blueberries. Yes, that’s right, my kids actually fed the bears in this picture yogurt covered blueberries. It was initially pretty terrifying for me to watch, as I was sure they’d lose at least a finger if not an entire hand, but they loved doing it.

Once we finished up at Bear Hollow, we walked down a short wooded path to get to Memorial Park. Although much smaller than the WOW park, it has a fun little playground, which is geared more toward younger children. My son, who is 10, still finds ways to have fun on it, but everything is sized a bit more for my daughter, who is 7. In addition to the playground equipment, Memorial Park also has a large man made lake full of ducks, geese and turtles. There are hundreds of turtles in that lake. And, there are little machines with food in them scattered all around the lake, so once we finished on the playground, I handed my kids a few quarters and we killed another 20 minutes walking around the lake and feeding animals. The turtles were not too quick on the uptake. Most of their food was snatched by very quick little fish. My kids thought that was hysterical.

One great thing about the parks in Athens is that they also feature the famous UGA bulldog. My kids LOVE driving around Athens and looking for bulldogs, which are all over the city. At the parks not only do they get to look, but they get to climb on them as well. My kids have memorized where some of their favorite bulldogs are and they make a game of trying to be the first to spot them. Whenever we find a new one, they get very, very excited.

Not only is Athens the home of my best friend, but it’s also a wonderful place to find great food and some great outdoor family fun.

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Chocolate Monday: Sweetie Pie

SP cookies

Cookies featured in photo: (top row): chocolate malt, peanut butter shallot, maple pecan
(middle row): oatmeal raisin and sweet and savory
(bottom row): pumpkin, chocolate chip and ginger turmeric

One of the best parts about visiting my best friend in Athens, Georgia is that it is a town full of amazing food. And I do love food.

Since I visit her for at least two weeks out of every year, I’ve had a chance to discover some favorite places that are must eats every trip. Despite having some tried and true favorites, she always manages to introduce me to some amazing new places.

On my very first trip to Athens four years ago, as I prepared to turn into her neighborhood for the very first time, I noticed that directly across from the entrance was a tiny shack-like building that appeared to be a restaurant. It was a smokehouse called Rooters. Since I love barbecue, I asked my BFF about it, but she said they hadn’t tried it since they didn’t have a single vegetarian option (a rarity in Athens). Her husband later told me that it was decent, but that their hours were so strange that he pretty much gave up trying to eat there.

About two years ago, right as I was preparing for our bi-annual trip to see her, I got an excited text from my BFF telling me that the BBQ joint was no more. In it’s place was an amazing little bakery she could not wait for me to try out.

And try it out I did.

Like its predecessor, Sweetie Pie has some annoying hours. It is closed on Sundays and Mondays and only open from 7:30-3:30 Tues-Sat. I also learned on that first trip if you are not one of the early birds, you completely miss out on one of their absolutely best treats: chocolate croissants. Now, I am a pretty huge fan of the chocolate croissant, no matter who makes it, but I have to say Sweetie Pie takes it to a whole other level. Wow…just wow!

But like I said, you have to get up pretty early in the morning to get them. The owner, Savie, only makes a limited amount and when they are gone, they are gone. Luckily she makes several other flavors of croissants that while not as good in this chocoholic’s opinion, are still completely worth it if you want to sleep in a little.

Much to my severe annoyance, my kids are pretty early risers. My daughter feels that 6 am is the perfect time to wake up, even on vacation. Now that she’s 7, I have made it very clear that unless the clock says 7:00 am, she is not allowed to get out of bed. And, if it doesn’t say at least 8:00, she is not allowed to wake me up. My son does like to sleep in a bit longer, but when he has to share a room with her on vacation, he tends to rise when she rises. The only time I have every been thankful for their insistence on rising before the sun even has the decency to start shining is when I get those chocolate croissants from Sweetie Pie.

Although my heart clearly belongs to those chocolate croissants, on this trip I decided to try something a bit different. This time I took a look at all the different cookies Savie had available in her case. Despite faithfully stopping in at least twice every visit, I’d only ever had croissants, scones, breads or cinnamon rolls before. I’d never actually tried any of her cookies and I thought this was the perfect chance to remedy this.

SP logoWhile Sweetie Pie features typical baked goods you’ll find in a lot of cafes like blueberry scones or pumpkin bread or almond croissants, Savie utilizes a lot of flavor combinations found in Asian desserts. She has taro root muffins, red bean croissants, Thai tea scones and green tea cupcakes. Although I have not tried them all,  the Thai tea scones and green tea cupcakes are excellent.

When I gazed at her cookie offerings, I found several rows of cookies both of the the very traditional variety: chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, pecan and the more exotic: sweet and salty, ginger turmeric and peanut butter and shallot. Yeah, you read that last one correctly, she offers a peanut butter and shallot cookie. And yes, I tried it.

I decided to order one of each cookie. While I knew there was no way I would be able to eat them all, since there were 5 of us in the house, I knew they wouldn’t go to waste. I also knew that I wouldn’t feel too guilty about trying just a couple of bites from each cookie. At least not over the course of a day or two.

And so later that afternoon, I embarked on an epic cookie tasting adventure. Eight cookies to try and eight cookies to write about.

I’ll start with the more traditional flavors. The chocolate chip cookie, which I worried might be a bit hard as it seemed a little on the thin side, was amazingly soft, buttery and just the perfect amount of chewiness. It was actually fairly light on the chocolate chips, which despite my love of chocolate, is what I prefer. It was very good, but might not be the best choice for someone with a true hankering for chocolate. My best friend, who loves her chocolate chip cookies filled to the brim with chocolate chips, thought it could use more.

The oatmeal raisin was exactly what I expected out of an oatmeal raisin cookie. It was sweet and buttery, with the perfect amount of raisins adding that burst of fruit with each bite. Oatmeal raisin cookies are always a favorite of mine and this one was great. I ended up eating most of this cookie during our epic Settlers of Catan battle the next night.

The pecan cookie, which was pretty big, was soft and chewy and very pecany. If you like nuts, this would be a great cookie for you. I’m actually not a huge fan of nuts in cookies, so while it was good, it would not be one I’d get again.

The pumpkin cookie, which actually had more to its official title which I could not remember once I got back to my BFF’s house (I think there might have been caramel in it too), was delightful. I know pumpkin spice gets a really bad rap, especially in the fall where it is pretty much in everything. Hell, I get annoyed by it myself. I think pumpkin spice Cheerios and Twinkies are pushing the envelope (and not in a good way). And don’t even get me started on the pumpkin spice dog breath freshener chewy things we saw at the pet store. However, as pumpkin pie is also an absolute favorite of mine, this cookie was nearly perfect.

SP choc malt cookieNow, onto some of the more unique flavors. My favorite of the all Sweetie Pie’s cookie offerings were ones I’d never tried in any other bakery before. My absolute favorite was probably the chocolate malt cookie. I’ve never actually  had a chocolate malt before. The closest I’ve come is like Whoppers malted milk balls–that’s similar, right? But this cookie was incredible. Once again, I was initially concerned about this one since it was so thin. I was positive it was going to be the type of cookie my BFF complains about Jittery Joe’s having. However, it was amazingly soft and chewy. It was also very, very chocolatey. I loved the light sprinkling of powdered sugar on the top of it (which amazingly did NOT come off all over my hands). It was light and buttery and reminded me a bit of chocolate fudge. However, it didn’t have that cloyingly sweet taste fudge often gets.

My second favorite cookie was the ginger turmeric. This cookie was the epitome of Fall to me. If I had to assign one taste to the season, it would not be pumpkin spice. It would be this cookie. It was chewy and had just the right amount of spicy ginger. It reminded me a bit of a molasses cookie, but it wasn’t as heavy or syrupy. If only the weather in Georgia would have dipped below 85 degrees, eating this cookie would have made me feel like Fall had finally arrived.

The sweet and savory cookie was not as savory as I worried it would be. The little tag with the cookie mentioned teriyaki as part of the flavor combination, so I was worried it would be too salty. However, it was mostly just very oatmealy. It actually reminded me way more of butterscotch than teriyaki. It probably didn’t hurt that it has the same slightly orange tint oatmeal scotchies have. It was a good cookie, but I liked the raisin version better.

Finally, I attempted the most intriguing, and admittedly potentially upsetting cookie: peanut butter and shallot. It definitely smelled like onions. It was an odd combo to say the least. The cookie itself didn’t taste like onions. It had an oniony after taste, but even that was fairly subtle. The peanut butter was also not overly pronounced. It was definitely a sweet cookie with slightly oniony hints. While I would probably never buy it again as it didn’t wow me, it actually wasn’t bad. Neither of my children were brave enough to try it (my daughter hates onions and she knows shallots are really just fancy onions), but my BFF and her husband did and they agreed it was not what they expected.

I am very depressed that my next visit to Athens will not be for another 5 months. Not just because I miss my BFF so terribly, but also because I won’t get any of Sweetie Pie’s amazing baked goods for a long time.

Overall:

Taste: 9/10
Appearance: 9/10
Value: 9/10

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Throwback Thursday: Best friend time

Buldog side viewI write about my friends a lot. I can’t help it. They are the most amazing people in the world. They are my family and I cannot imagine my world without them. Unfortunately, the years have scattered us across the country. Of our core group of 5, only one of them still lives near me. One spends a great deal of his time hiking in Colorado, one is trying to uncover the seedy underbelly of cyber security in DC and one is teaching Victorian sci-fi and horror in Georgia.

This summer my best friend and I got to spend four days bumming around DC with our reporter friend. It was amazing since it was the first time I’ve gotten to visit him in his new hometown (and it’s been his hometown for over a decade…yeah, I know, bad friend).

Last month, we all got together for another for another glorious four days in Isle of Palms, South Carolina. We rented a beach house, stayed up late, went on ghost tours and generally had a blast.

Then, just last week I got to spend part of my fall break visiting with my best friend in Georgia. Sure, she still had classes to teach, but in between those classes, we got to hang out at the coffee shop, go shopping, take my kids on adventures, eat a lot of super tasty food AND, most importantly, watch our favorite girly movies and talk, talk, talk.

One of our very first stops was Jittery Joe’s, a local coffee chain that has 16 locations: Nine are in Athens, four are in other towns in Georgia, one is in Tennessee and very unpredictably, one is in Japan. Athens actually has a surprising number of local, sort of chain restaurants, which I think is cool.

Jittery Joe'sWhen my best friend used to live around the corner from me, we spent countless hours at our favorite local coffee shop. Although neither of us are huge coffee fans, if we tried to count up all the spiced chais we drank over long talks about every aspect of our life, we could probably fill a swimming pool..and I’m not talking about a dinky backyard pool either. Because my best friend lived right around the corner and our local coffee shop was just right around another corner, my kids practically grew up there. In fact, they are friends with the owners’ kids, so they always loved going to the coffee shop with us. They’d bring books or electronic devices, share a cookie and let us talk for hours.

At Jittery Joe’s, we all fell right back into our old habits. Well, almost. The barista accidentally made a pumpkin spice latte and offered it to me for free, which replaced my usual chai. I also had to change out my usual cookie for a chocolate croissant. JJ’s has cookies, but they are flat and sort of hard. On my very first trip to Athens, my BFF warned me not to be fooled by the cookies because I would be horribly disappointed. As we share nearly identical sweet teeth, I trusted her. Thankfully JJ’s does have some good brownies, muffins and some passable croissants. The kids were happy playing their devices and I was thrilled to get some major best friend time in.

When my BFF was not teaching and we were not hanging out with my kids, we got more quality time in watching (and partially talking through) some of our favorite shows and movies. After my kids go to bed, we have a habit of putting a show we both love and have seen 100 times like Friends on in the background. We usually start off watching the show, but then start talking. Before we know it, three or four episodes have gone by with us only catching about half of what is going on, but not even remotely caring. We also like to hang out, browse the internet and read fun bits of information to each other. On our last visit together (when she came to see me before DC), we spent several hours reading hilarious book summaries and reviews to each other on Amazon. Yeah, I know, we are total geeks, but we both teach literature for a living, so this is big fun for us.

We also continued our tradition of watching movies our husbands don’t really enjoy. We re-watched Bride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time. We broke out into songs in several places and debated the hotness of William Darcy (played by Martin Henderson) and Balraj (played by Naveen Andrews). It was a hard call, but in most scenes we went for Andrews. Of course, that could be because of our undying love for his character Sayid from Lost. While the movie was playing I found myself looking up the actors to see what else they’d been in. When we found out Henderson had played Brittany Spears boyfriend in her “Toxic” video, we had to watch that as well.

My Cousin Rachel was also on our to view list. Neither of us had seen it before, but she’d read the Daphne du Maurier novel it is based on and really liked it. We both really liked the movie and it lead to a great debate about our thoughts on Rachel’s guilt. One thing I desperately miss about my BFF living 10 hours away is our discussions about movies, books and TV shows.

On my last night in Athens, we also kept up a long standing tradition of watching a Mystery Science Theater production. Every Friday her husband makes popcorn and they watch either a Rifftrax or an MST3K. This time it was The Final Sacrifice. Like all movies featured on MST3K, it was horrific, but the jokes of Mike Nelson and his robot pals made it a wonderful, laugh out loud night. I love watching one of these movies the night before I leave because it makes the leaving just a tiny bit easier. Or at least it distracts me from it.

Junkman'sThis trip we did not get to do nearly as much shopping as I’d like. We weren’t able to get a babysitter and since dragging my kids clothing shopping is worse than a root canal (or so I’m told, I’ve never had one, but my BFF assures me, having done both, that this is true), we only got to pop into one store. Usually we get a few hours to shop all our favorite places in downtown Athens and I go home with an outfit (or two) more than I arrived with. My BFF is the best person in the world to go shopping with. She gives me an honest opinion every time and encourages me to indulge, which is something I rarely do. I, on the other hand, keep her desire to spend too recklessly in check. We perfectly balance each other out. Plus, we have a lot of similar taste in clothes. Since there was no way we’d be able to enjoy clothing shopping together, the only store we got to go in is the Junkman’s Daughter’s Brother, a really strange and eclectic Athens institution. My kids love going in there because they have lots of unique items (and TOYS!). I love it for the same reason. The owner seemed really keen on showing us all the anti-Trump merchandise that had come in. I cackled a bit when he said the only good thing about Trump being elected was all the anti-Trump merch he was able to sell. I told him I was glad Trump was making someone happy.

As usual, the visit was over way too soon. It seemed like before I could blink it was time to load my car back up and head back home. My kids and I left at 7:30 in the morning and there were tears all around. My kids were crying because they were going to miss my BFF (and her amazing dog) so much. My BFF and I were sobbing because it will be five more months until we see each other again.

We’d gotten a bit spoiled seeing each other three times in the as many months and this stretch is going to be hard. Even though I know I will see her again on spring break and we will have an amazing time, it was just as hard to leave her on Saturday as it was the first time I pulled away from her house four years ago. She is my family and without her, home just doesn’t seem quite like home.

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