©Jessica Hoffman

A Much Needed Break

So, recently I told you that my World Book Day post had to be backdated because of other things I’d tell you about later. Wow, that sounded ominous, didn’t it? It wasn’t anything bad; quite the opposite, really.

Kris and I celebrated our fifth anniversary this year, and thanks to all the time and money we’ve been pouring into the house, we weren’t able to do anything huge. But we decided not to swap gifts and instead take a whirlwind, twenty-four-hour trip to a city we haven’t been to in at least a decade, and never together: Savannah, Georgia. If you’ve never been to Savannah, start making plans now. Well, after you read my post. And maybe also share it. I don’t know. Let’s not talk about all the time I spent completely panicking because I thought we weren’t going to be able to find any available rooms and have to stay home for our first milestone anniversary.

I crawled the city’s CVB site looking for cute places to stay and found this utterly adorable B&B in Savannah’s historic Old Town called Zeigler House Inn. The owner is a positively delightful woman named Jackie, who greeted us with a map of the city and proceeded to plot out dinner recommendations, sightseeing points, and weekend activities.

©Jessica Hoffman

Zeigler House Inn

She explained that we could use the house’s parlor, porches, and library at our leisure, and we should help ourselves to the cream sherry and fresh-baked cookies, fudge, and cupcakes in the dining room. There were movies to borrow and books to read, umbrellas in case it rained, and a single-cup coffee maker. In our room a closet had been converted to a small kitchen complete with mini-fridge and a full set of silverware and china. Jackie had baked giant muffins (they were to die for), strawberry turnovers, and ham-and-cheese turnovers for breakfast. The bathroom was amazing, the bed was ultra squishy, and the whole room was just so relaxing and plush and perfect.

©Jessica Hoffman

Our cute room!

We tossed our bags down and headed to a restaurant really close by called Crystal Beer Parlor. We got nachos topped with pulled pork and jalapenos and sampled some of their beers. Kris had a bison burger that he loved, with sweet potato fries, while I stuck to local shrimp (they were enormous!) and tried-and-true hand-cut french fries. We didn’t do anything else that night; we’d driven there after working all day, so it was pretty late once we left the restaurant.

©Jessica Hoffman

Delicious dinner!

 

Friday morning — our 5th anniversary, yay! — we got up late, lounged around and chit-chatted with Jackie before paying for the room (an excellently affordable price, all things considered) and heading out to face the day. We had talked about doing a trolley tour, but we ended up finding a parking garage and spending literally the entire day walking around and getting lost. It was amazing.

We found art galleries by the dozens, with pieces by local artists that were stunning. There were so many adorable and amazing places, and we soon ended up in touristville, a.k.a. River Street. We watched an employee at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen make saltwater taffy on a 100-year-old taffy puller; bought pralines at another shop; and ate a delicious lunch at Fiddler’s Crab House overlooking the water. We also found Savannah Bee Company, where I nearly had a heart attack because one of their employees sounded exactly like one of my college best friends, whom I haven’t seen in several months. I spent far too much money there. Honey is delicious.

©Jessica Hoffman

Making saltwater taffy

Also on River Street was a craft fair, which was pleasantly empty thanks to unusually cold and wet weather. We met a wonderful couple of musicians named Glen and Joyce who create jewelry from used guitar strings. Proceeds go toward their nonprofit they founded to help mental illness survivors and their families. We turned out to have a lot in common, and we talked for a long time about oddly personal things. It was a beautiful and healing experience that I think I’ll hold on to for a long time. I got their card and bought a beautiful ring Joyce had made moments before I walked in their tent.

©Jessica Hoffman

River Street

We walked around more, and found hilarious little stores, quirky — and occasionally creepy — bars and live music venues, ran into a St. Patrick’s Day themed 5k, and found the most fantastic interior design store called 24e. Kris wanted to go in but I didn’t; their window display alone was intimidating. But Kris is fascinated by art and design and I have a serious love for interior design, so in we went. Yes, it was pricey. But almost everything in the store is one-off, and a lot of it is reclaimed or created by local artisans. They even had a table made from a bowling alley lane, so of course Kris wanted one. We’d have to take out a small loan to pay for it, but hey, who knows; our next house may very well have one. I’d love to make that happen for him — he does so much for me. ❤

©Jessica Hoffman

It actually made a beautiful table, surprisingly

We got a grand tour of the store by one of the designers and took his card home. Even if we don’t get that insane(ly awesome) table, we’ll certainly be picking up a few things from them.

We wandered a while longer, not quite sure where to stop and not really wanting to anyway. But we were starting to get hungry so we made our way back to food, stopping to take pictures of an historic African-American church and a beautiful monument to African-American soldiers in the Revolutionary War.

©Jessica Hoffman

The story of the drummer boy was my favorite.

After that, we finally found our way to Jazz’d, an underground tapas and jazz bar, I guess? There’s a delicious tapas restaurant in our home turf so we were looking forward to it, but this was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. We ordered their Tapas for Two, which got us two appetizers, two tapas each, and two desserts. It was a ton. of. food. And every bite of it was amazing. She-crab soup, orange-glazed pulled pork with red cabbage, seared tuna tacos, barbecue shrimp-and-grits, lamb lollipops, creme brulee and a chocolate torte so good we just had to bring home the leftovers. Service was so fast we could hardly keep up, and the atmosphere was a comfortable mix of after-work and nightlife crowds; not too dressy, not too casual.

We went straight home after dinner and ate that torte for breakfast.

All in all, I have to admit – it was probably one of my favorite vacations so far, and I can’t wait for our next anniversary. It’s really great being married to your best friend.

©Jessica Hoffman

But first, lemme take a selfie

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Paper lanterns

Vegas, Solo Flights, and Trying New Things with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Paper lanterns

Paper lanterns. Art by me!

I like trying new things.

Well, not all new things. I’m not going bungee jumping, and no I won’t taste that mayonnaise, and seriously you cannot convince me to watch The Purge.

But I like tasting (most) new foods and visiting new places and learning new things. I actually enjoy flying and I don’t mind driving, so visiting new places is especially fun. However.

I also have an anxiety disorder. I tell myself it’s not that bad, but it’s cost me a lot of things in life. A Master’s degree, I know that much. Probably a few friendships here and there. Definitely some new experiences.

Something changed with the New Year, though. I decided not to set some BS resolution I was never going to keep and instead decided on something more practical. I decided to allow myself to make decisions based on what I really want. Not what I think other people want me to do or what I think will keep my nerves in tact. So when my jewelry team started talking about going to convention in Vegas, I decided to go. And not just go, but to leave Kris at home.

I know.

It wasn’t bad at first. He couldn’t get off work to drop me at the airport, so my grandparents took me and we said our goodbyes and I sat in the terminal, watching ESPN and listening to soldiers fresh off the local base comparing station orders and I tried not to throw up. I’d never flown solo and I was no longer excited about it.

The first flight wasn’t bad. It was a short trip, just under an hour and I’d be in Charlotte. I scored a few Mii friends on my 3DS and played some games and it was no big deal. The flight from Charlotte to Vegas, though, was terrible. I had nice neighbors who were just chatty enough but once they fell asleep I got sick. I stayed sick through the entire flight.

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I’d never been to Vegas either. Guys, it is beautiful. It didn’t hurt that we stayed at Bally’s, right on the Strip with a view of the Bellagio fountains.

Bellagio's fountains

They’re awesome.

The room was nice, the company was nice, but there’s something else I didn’t mention. I’ve never been a big sorority person. I was in one in college and still have some great friends and memories of it, but it just wasn’t my thing. So a weekend surrounded by women I didn’t know half as well as I knew my old college girlfriends was, to me, not the idea of a vacation. My nerves started fraying  just thinking about it. And don’t get me wrong, they are great ladies, all of them. But to my frazzled, air sick, and jet lagged self, the weekend was stretching out before me like a long highway through Awkward Town, population: Me.

Things got better and I kept trying to put myself out there but I am super awkward in real life. Seriously. It’s not that I’m shy or introverted, I guess I just don’t like small talk or feigning interest in things I don’t like, and so people tend to think I’m stuck up or something. Who knows. If you find out, let me know?

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Convention was pretty fun once I let myself enjoy it. My nerves got the best of me one night and I spent the majority of it texting my sister and a few friends who completely understand life with severe anxiety. It’s not just being uncomfortable in a new place. It’s being utterly convinced that you’re a sham who shouldn’t be here and everyone around you knows it and why are you even still here, because no one in this room likes you.

I wish I had made myself enjoy it more.

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One of the women took me shopping and it was crazy fun. I got along with her like a house on fire, and I think that was the turning point for me. But Sunday was the big test. I was going to have the hotel room and the whole day to myself, and I could do anything I wanted. Part of me, the anxious part I’m sure, wanted to sit in the room all day and watch movies. You can’t walk around the streets alone, people are crazy, you’re not from around here. Cabs are too expensive and cabbies are weird. Didn’t you see that episode of SVU? Nope, no cabs. No walking, either, or someone will just snatch you up off the sidewalk and you’ll never be seen again. Better stay inside and watch Disney Channel.

But then I reminded myself this was the Year of Me, not the year of my nerves getting the best of me or the year of letting opportunities pass me by. I called Kris, tossed some stuff in a handbag and got dressed.

“How far is the Venetian? Can I walk there?”
“Sure. Cabs are too pricey and it’s a pretty cool area. If it’s a nice day, you should walk.”
“……..But is it safe?”
“Jess, yes, it’s the middle of the morning out there, you’ll be fine.”

Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how it went, but close enough. I grabbed my 3DS and headed out.

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It really was a beautiful day. I walked to the Venetian, back to Caesars, to the Miracle Mile and then the shoe store in Paris. I didn’t buy much; just a wispy maxi dress from BCBG and some shoes to match from the Paris shoe store. I took tons of pics, texted my friends while I was out, and kept my earbuds in just so people wouldn’t talk to me. I don’t think anyone even noticed me and it was awesome.

Back at the hotel that night, I had dinner with the only other woman from my group still in town and got ready for my flight the next morning.

The flight home was much better, despite being a total idiot and missing my flight out of Charlotte. I got home okay, just late and pretty pissed (mostly at myself, but don’t tell anyone) and actually found myself wanting to go back.

“Kris I was right,” I said. “Vegas totally looks like a Carnival cruise ship.”

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Vegas Strip

14th floor view of the Strip

Paris LV sign

Happy New Year!

Mer-horse?

I want this fountain.

Chinese New Year display

Chinese New Year is a big deal here.

Caesar's Palace

“Did Caesar actually live here?”

Caesar's Palace fountain

I also want this fountain.

Wheels Up and Cash Out

Oh man, it’s been a whole week since I posted last! For shame.

I have a habit of starting things and never finishing them. I may have told you that. (I also have a habit of telling everyone the same story and forgetting who I’ve told.) I had hoped this blog would help me stay on the wagon and write more regularly. So far it’s working, although I should probably shoot for more than once a week…

So far though it has helped. It’s helped me score a chance to write my first book review, which is exciting. Be on the lookout for that in the next few days, as the deadline is fast approaching! Hopefully I’ll start landing more of those, since it’s pretty high on my list of favorite activities. I may even get a wild hair (as we say in the lovely South) and post reviews here of whatever I’m reading at the moment. Which, in case you’re interested, is the excellent Dead Iron by Devon Monk. I’ve read it before, but I recently picked up the next two installments in the series and decided to give myself a refresher before diving into those tasty treats. Normally I only post my reviews on Goodreads, but I think this page can be a nice new home for them.

I’m sure you’re all waiting with bated breath to figure out what my post title is supposed to be about. I’m actually heading to Vegas tomorrow! Direct sales is a big thing here in the South (mostly Avon) and I’m the latest to jump on the bandwagon. I’m in jewelry, and I LOVE it. (If for nothing other than expanding my own personal collection, because I need jewelry to match each pair of shoes I have. Stop judging me.)

Anyway, one of the company’s national conventions is in Vegas this weekend and I decided why not just go? So I’ll be leaving behind the pups and the hubs and heading to LV in the morning. Well, afternoon. I’m excited, and no, I’ve never been. Expect tons of picspam (probably not good pictures; I use my phone after all) and completely rambling tales when I come back. I’ll be back on Tuesday and, while I’d love to take my Mac and bore you with endless photos of things you’ve all seen a million times before Tuesday, I had to decide between suitcase real estate for my laptop or for shoes and jewelry. And you can probably guess which won out.

Practicing the Art of Shameless Self-Promotion

I may have mentioned before that I’m a writer. And like any good writer, I occasionally have to fall victim to shameless self-promotion. I may have also mentioned that anxiety is a problem for me, so self-promotion isn’t a thing that comes easily to me. However! Nothing is easier to share than good news, and today brought a little of that with it. (Despite my inability to find that one red sweater this morning or my favorite fluffy winter socks, leaving for work when I should have been arriving at work, or having to wait in the freezing wind for a train to pass before I could cross the road to my car after work.)

I am a travel writer. (Slash editor.) It’s certainly an interesting job, though I can guess your first question and the answer is no, I don’t get to travel a lot. But that’s okay, too; having to write on topics like the coolest speakeasies in the country or some new cultural center without actually visiting these places does help flex my research and creative muscles.

Sometimes it’s frustrating, like any job. But sometimes, when I come in to work and see that the top two stories on our homepage have my byline on them, it’s worth it.

The Midnight Carnival: One Night Only

I got published last year!

Additionally, last October I had the interesting experience of being published in an anthology, a collaborative work among eight people spread across the U.S. The collection of shorts features two collabs featuring me and one solo work, all original for the project. It’s called The Midnight Carnival, and I really hope you’ll check it out. I’m pretty proud of it, and I let all the fame go to my head and now frequently compare myself to Suzanne Collins and Percival Everett.

Ok, that last part was a joke and no, it wasn’t very funny, but hey. People gotta have dreams.