Monthly Archives: December 2019

Coffee Panna Cotta

Beverages
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 envelope (1/4 ounce) plain Knox gelatin
  • 4-5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup espresso (or strong coffee), hot
  • 1 1/2 cups of half-and-half
  • Cocoa powder for garnish
  • Chocolate covered espresso beans for garnish
  • Mint leaves for garnish

Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly with gelatin. The gelatin will begin to absorb the water and swell in size; let stand 5 minutes. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds to dissolve. In a separate medium bowl, mix together sugar and hot espresso until dissolved. Stir in gelatin mixture until combined. Stir in half-and-half. Pour into 4 small serving glasses and refrigerate at least 3 hours to set. Garnish with cocoa powder, chocolate covered espresso beans and mint leaves before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Hyperspace — Beck

Listen To This

Welcome to 2020. While the reality of highly anticipated dream-worlds of flying in cars and beaming ourselves from planet to planet are still on the distant horizon, at least we have new music that reflects the predicted signs of the time.

Way back in 1994, Beck Hansen exploded onto the scene with the pop-locking, laptop-folk release Mellow Gold, a mixtape of seemingly random tracks that explored the uncharted realms of creative riffing with alien beats and word-code. Little did we know, Beck was embarking on a mission 26 years in the making.

Through his career, he has continued to dazzle and confuse, all while preparing us for the future of modern music. With his latest release, appropriately titled Hyperspace, we find that Beck has seen the future and we are just now catching up. Hyperspace is a technicolor masterpiece that melds an analog VHS chillwave vibe with unexpected breaks and tempos that fit perfectly into a melancholy stratosphere of emotion and curiosity.

Beck’s vocal range has matured beyond his years, and Hyperspace is a refreshing soundtrack to begin the year, confirming that modern music has real depth. As far as our futuristic expectations go, at least we have great music and shoes that will tie themselves. Cheers to the new year!

 

– Chris Rucker

Ice, Ice, Baby

Sports

Forget the cold, and warm up to the idea of disc golf, chili and fighting hunger.

The 13th annual International Disc Golf Center Ice Bowl is coming up, and the fundraiser is open to professionals, amateurs and juniors. Some people, however, need not register for the festivities. Namely, no wimps and no whiners. Them’s the rules.

For those who can refrain from whining or complaining, the Professional Disc Golf Association-sanctioned singles tournament will be held Saturday, January 25 at Wildwood Park in Appling.

Check-in begins at 7 a.m., and the first round starts at 9 a.m. The second round begins at 1:45 p.m., and the awards ceremony is set for 6 p.m. Early player check-in also will be available 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday, January 24 in the IDGC lobby.

To help alleviate hunger in the area, the Ice Bowl will benefit Columbia County Cares and Golden Harvest Food Bank.

“This is a feel-good event where philanthropy is more important than competition,” says Zach Shafer, the IDGC manager. “In the past three years, we’ve raised enough to provide about 25,000 meals.”

In 2019, the tournament featured 167 participants who raised $2,900 and 676 pounds of food. Out of 197 Ice Bowls across the country, the Wildwood Park event finished 28th in cash raised and 12th in food raised.

Food donations can be brought to the IDGC any time from January 20 through January 25. For every two food items donated, participants will receive one raffle ticket for the opportunity to win prizes during a drawing at the awards ceremony. Raffle tickets also can be purchased in the IDGC Pro Shop during the event.

For lunch between rounds, the IDGC once again will partner with the Augusta Disc Golf Association to feature its annual chili cook-off. Disc golf competitors will vote for the winner, who will receive a trophy and all-important bragging rights for a year. Chili chefs should coordinate with the ADGA to enter the cook-off.

Supporters can provide crackers, cornbread, drinks or other goodies to accompany the meal as well.

The fundraiser also will include a silent auction for rare discs and other memorabilia. Bidding will close about 10 minutes before the start of the awards ceremony.

The event can accommodate 216 participants, and Shafer hopes to have 180 entrants. “Competitors will come from about six states, mostly in the Southeast,” he says.

The cost is $35 for professionals and amateurs and $30 for juniors 18 or younger. Registration closes at 8 p.m. Thursday, January 23. For more information, visit discgolfscene.com or call (706) 261-6342.

‘The Biggest, Baddest Wedding Dress’

People

An Evans bride kicks off the season premiere of TLC’s new series, “Say Yes to the Dress: America.”

When Evans residents Katie Kinson and Aaron Jeter got married last summer, they forged a bond for life. However, they also created a lasting connection with 51 other couples at the same time.

Katie and Aaron tied the knot as part of a “Say Yes to the Dress: America” wedding spectacular in which a couple from every state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico got married in a joint ceremony in New York City’s Central Park. With 10 shows this season, which premieres January 4 at 8 p.m., The TLC series will focus on a bride from a different state in each program. Katie is the featured bride in the premiere episode.

“I’m a Georgia peach. I’m so Southern, and I felt like I would be a good representative of Georgia and make my state proud,” says Katie. “And I wanted to be part of history. This was the largest wedding ceremony ever in Central Park.”

She says that being on the reality TV show was a childhood dream come true. She and her mom, Edie Kinson, used to pop popcorn and watch the program together every week. “After I met Aaron, I made him watch the show with me, too,” Katie says.

‘Out-of-Body Experience’

Katie applied to be part of “Say Yes” on the TLC website, submitting a video of Aaron and herself in February. The couple met at Fort Gordon, where Aaron serves in the U.S. Air Force and Katie works at the U.S. Army Cyber Command. She says Aaron was all in when she told him she had applied to be on the show.

“He didn’t think twice about it when I told him we were finalists and a crew was coming to the house,” says Katie. “He’s an adventurist like I am.”

During the first week in April, Katie received a casting call from the show asking if she was available to meet with the TLC camera crew as part of an audition. The crew came to her house the Monday of Masters Week, and while she was being interviewed, the doorbell rang. Unbeknownst to Katie, bridal designer and “Say Yes to the Dress” host Randy Fenoli was at the door to tell her that she had been selected for the show.

“My reaction was huge. I was screaming,” Katie says. “I had an out-of-body experience. When Randy rang the doorbell, my fiancé went to answer the door. I honestly did not think Randy would be there. I screamed, ‘Oh, my God!’ I jumped up and down.”

Randy spent the day with Katie and her family. He met her grandmother, Barbara Kearse, and her mother, and they took him on a tour of the area. Katie was coy about the places they visited, however.

“People will have to tune in to the show to see all the fun things we did with Randy,” she says. “We did have some of my mama’s sweet tea, though, and Randy loved it.”

At the end of May, Katie went to New York City with her mother; her best friend, Ashley Dodgen; and her cousin, Amanda Holsonback, to shop at Kleinfeld Bridal for her dress. Each bride received an all-expense paid trip to New York City to shop at the world-famous, Manhattan-based salon, which gave a wedding dress from a curated selection to all of the brides.

“I had the most amazing experience. I felt like the only bride in the world,” Katie says. “I had seen the magic of shopping at Kleinfeld on TV, and I really wanted the experience of finding my dream gown there.”

The Southern belle, who rides dirt bikes and drives a huge truck, knew exactly the type of wedding dress she wanted. “I wanted a big ball gown, and that’s what I got,” says Katie. In fact, she told the camera, “I am looking for the biggest, baddest wedding dress there is, and I want lots of bling.”

All Together Now

Katie returned to New York with Aaron for the July 10 group wedding by Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. She met the other brides for the first time the day before the wedding when they got their dresses altered a final time.

“The 10 girls tried on our dresses together, and we were so excited to see each other’s dresses,” Katie says. “We started a group chat on our phones, and we still keep in touch.”

At the wedding ceremony, which Randy officiated, all of the couples said, “I do,” in unison. However, they walked down the aisle individually. Randy introduced each bride by name and state before she descended the flight of stairs leading to Bethesda Fountain and met her husband-to-be at the bottom of the stairway.

The festivities also included a pre-wedding party and a reception. Bridal designer Hayley Paige helped plan the wedding and served as “America’s bridesmaid.”

“I loved it. Immediately when I met the other brides, we all connected and formed friendships. The grooms did as well,” Katie says. “The wedding was as magical as ever — I didn’t mind sharing my special day because it was such a unique way to get married, and I felt like I was part of history.”

After the wedding the couples lingered in Central Park, taking pictures and mingling with family members and friends who came to the wedding. Katie’s mother and father, Kirk Kinson; her brother, Joel, and his girlfriend, Alexis Senesac; and two friends attended the ceremony.

A reception with champagne and cake at Central Park’s Loeb Boathouse followed the nuptials. The cake, which was made by Buddy Valastro of TLC’s “Cake Boss,” had tiers of different flavors.

Nervous, but Excited

Katie and Aaron dated for three years before he proposed in 2018 at sundown on Independence Day, his favorite holiday. He asked her to marry him at her parents’ Appling home underneath a cherry blossom tree that Katie’s late grandfather, Clyde Head, planted. When Katie said “yes” to Aaron, her father and brother shot off fireworks in a nearby field.

The couple plans to have a local reception later this year. “I would love to wear my dress again to celebrate with friends and family, but I already had my dream wedding,” says Katie. “It’s hard to top walking down the grand staircase in Central Park.”

In addition, they will hold a small watch party at her parents’ house with close family members and friends to view the show. “I’m nervous to see myself on TV, but I’m excited,” Katie says.

Katie, who diagnosed with schleroderma at age 14, is grateful for the opportunity to share her story and to raise awareness about the rare autoimmune disease that causes hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues.

“I want to send a message to other women who have schleroderma that they’re not alone,” she says. “It’s such a rare disease, and it affects every part of your life physically, emotionally and mentally.”

She has had multiple surgeries, and she has scarring on her body and face. She also experiences joint pain and muscle fatigue. Nevertheless, she maintains an upbeat attitude.

Katie is looking forward to watching the entire season of “Say Yes to the Dress: America,” including the wedding episode that tentatively is scheduled to air 8 p.m. – 10 p.m. March 14.

“Everyone has a great story to tell,” she says. “I know that America is going to fall in love with all of these girls.”

By Sarah James

Dragonfly by Leila Meacham

Literary Loop

At the height of World War II, a handful of idealistic young Americans receive a mysterious letter from the government, asking if they are willing to fight for their country.

The men and women are from very different backgrounds — a Texan athlete with German roots, an upper-crust son of a French mother and wealthy businessman, a dirt-poor Midwestern fly fisherman, an orphaned fashion designer and a beautiful female fencer.

All answer the call of duty, but each do it for a secret reason of his or her own. They bond immediately in a group code-named Dragonfly.

A dramatic cat-and-mouse game begins as the group seeks to stay under the radar until a fatal misstep leads to the capture and firing-squad execution of one of their team. But is everything as it seems, or is this one more elaborate act of spycraft?

“Meacham ratchets the suspense ever tighter, while providing fascinating backstory on the intrepid five [American spies] as well as delivering a detail-rich portrait of Paris during the Occupation,” says Booklist.

“Meacham’s nail-biting tale will please fans looking for an intricate story of spycraft and deception,” says Publishers Weekly.

Best Buds

Garden Scene

Perk up your garden with some of our favorite new All-America Selections award winners for 2020.

Coleus ‘Main Street Beale Street’
Main Street Beale Street is the first coleus ever to be named an All-America Selections winner. An outstanding variety, its deep red foliage holds its color extremely well in the garden. The rich color doesn’t fade, bleach or get spotty as the season moves into late summer. The lush, bushy plant grows uniformly and as a huge bonus, does not flower until very late in the season – up to six weeks later than the comparisons. A unique feature of this coleus is that it can be successfully grown from full sun to full shade, making it an ideal foliage item for anywhere in the garden. Landscapers and homeowners will appreciate the beautiful color and uniform height of this coleus.

Echinacea ‘Sombrero Baja Burgundy’
With its vibrant, deep violet-red blossoms, this stunning coneflower will add a bold accent to sunny gardens. Birds and pollinators love to flock to this deer-resistant beauty, making it a dual-purpose plant. In addition to being a top specimen for color in a sunny border, Sombrero Baja Burgundy is one of the best echinacea for cut flowers. Gardeners will enjoy prolific blooms from mid-summer until first frost.

RudbeckiaAmerican Gold Rush’
With bright, golden-yellow flowers, black centers and delicately curved petals, this compact, upright black-eyed Susan is destined to be the new rudbeckia staple for gardens and landscapes. Incredibly easy to grow, it’s a gorgeous addition to any garden and pollinators love it. This cultivar has smaller foliage and shorter height compared to other rudbeckia varieties and will bloom from mid-summer to fall, with some color up until frost. American Gold Rush tolerates hot, humid summers — even drought once established — and loves to soak up full sun. Because it was bred for resistance to Septoria leaf spot, this hybrid shows no signs of the fungus even in wet, humid conditions. Deadhead spent flowers (if you can reach them) to encourage additional bloom.

Cucumber ‘Green Light’
This new veggie is a great-tasting mini cucumber. The yield is higher than the comparison varieties with more attractive fruit, earlier maturity and superior eating quality. Grow Green Light on stakes or poles for a productive, easy-to-harvest vertical garden that will yield 40 or more spineless fruits per plant. Pick the fruits when they’re small, between 3 to 4 inches long, and you’ll be rewarded with great tasting cucumbers, even without peeling. Succession plantings will ensure a summer-long harvest.

Tomato, ‘Apple Yellow’
If you’ve never tried an apple-shaped tomato, now is the time. This winner offers incredible garden performance, a uniquely dimpled apple-shaped fruit with a deliciously sweet citrusy taste and firm, meaty texture. Indeterminate 5-foot tall vines produce abundantly in clusters, resulting in up to 1,000 fruits per plant. The fruits are an eye-catching, bright, lemon yellow color reminiscent of the “Big Apple’s” taxi-cab colors. Judges were excited that a non-splitting, long-holding, uniformly shaped tomato had such good eating quality. With just the right balance of sugar and acid flesh in a firm exterior, Apple Yellow would be perfect stuffed with a savory cheese for a delicious appetizer.

Tomato ‘Early Resilience’
Early Resilience is a rounded Roma tomato with a deep red interior color, uniform maturity and good quality flesh for canning and cooking. Determinate, bushy plants can be staked, if you like, but it is not necessary. Judges noted that this variety was very resistant to Blossom End Rot, resulting in a high yield and less fruit loss. It is similar in taste as the comparisons, but a much healthier plant and fruits. Overall, this is an excellent variety that would be a home canner’s dream. This could very well replace some of the other Roma varieties as a new standard in the arena, or maybe “Colosseum” of Roma tomatoes.

 

Snow, Stomp and Sculpt

Travel

Creativity and imagination take shape at the Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships.

Breckenridge, Colorado is known for many things – mountain living and its historic mining past, ski resort, après-ski offerings and quirky festivals. Revelers at Ullr Fest in December, for instance, give praise to the Nordic God of Snow in hopes that he will bless the community with a snowy ski season.

Bringing an average of 300 inches of snow to Breckenridge annually, Ullr usually delivers. However, he never fails to drop plenty of white stuff on the town for the annual Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Championships, which will be held January 20-29. During this annual free event, 16 teams from around the world descend on the mountain community to hand-carve 20-ton blocks of snow into enormous, intricate, three-dimensional works of art.

To create their sculptures, artists can use only hand tools (sorry, no power tools), their creativity and their imagination. The teams spend countless hours (if you’re counting, sculpting time adds up to about 96 hours) across five days to create the masterpieces that results in a temporary outdoor art gallery in downtown Breckenridge.

This year’s teams include USA-Alaska, Argentina, USA-Breckenridge, China, Ecuador, France-Normandie, Germany, Great Britain, India, Mexico, USA-Minnesota, Mongolia, Switzerland, Turkey, USA-Wisconsin, USA-Vermont.

Snow Job

The activities unofficially get underway January 16-20 when huge earth movers start filling 10-foot-by-12-foot tall cubes with compacted snow. The enormous blocks of snow then are allowed to settle and compact under their own weight, allowing for a more consistent medium for the sculptors to use. Observers can get in on the act as well by serving as volunteer stompers to help compact the snow.

Sculpting Week runs from January 20 – 24, and the competition gets underway with a cannon shot at 11 a.m. Monday, January 20. Sculpting ends Friday, January 24 at 9 a.m. when judging begins and awards are announced. Sculpting and Viewing weeks are held in and around the Riverwalk Center in the heart of Breckenridge.

It’s fun to watch the sculptures evolve with each passing day, but here’s a hint: Thursday, January 23 will be one of the best days to visit. The atmosphere will be celebratory as artists prepare to pull an all-nighter to add the finishing touches and detail work to their sculptures.

On Wednesday, January 22, People’s Choice voting begins at noon, and voting continues until 2 p.m. Saturday, January 25. Festivalgoers can text the name of the country of their favorite sculpture to cast their ballot. Text numbers can be found at each sculpture.

The Grand Illumination will take place on Friday evening when the sculptures are lit up with an ever-changing lighting display. The display will include 10 minutes of white light on the hour and half-hour.

Viewing days will run 24/7 from Saturday, January 25 until 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 29 when the sculptures will be taken down. By day, the sculptures will pop against the Colorado sky. From dusk to dawn, they will glow under the lights.

Adventurous types also can download a “Let’s Roam” app anytime between January 25 and January 29 to explore the snow sculptures with a free, interactive scavenger hunt.

Throughout the week, festivalgoers can duck inside the Warming Hut to take a break from the snow and warm up. Located inside the Riverwalk Center, the Warming Hut will include an exhibit of the event’s more than 20-year history and a souvenir shop. Volunteers also will be on hand to answer any questions from inquiring minds.

Go to Town

Breckenridge has plenty to offer visitors with or without the ISSC, however. While the mountain has five peaks and 2,908 skiable acres to explore, the town, situated at the base of Breckenridge Ski Resort, has hundreds of restaurants, galleries, cafés, boutiques and more.

After all, long before ski bums started hitting the slopes, Breckenridge was a mining town that got its start in the 1800s. The community’s historic district, a defining element of its identity, is one of the largest in Colorado, and its colorful history is full of gold finds and mining, brothels and saloons, booms and busts.

Founded in 1859 by a small group of prospectors, the town’s gold rush attracted droves of settlers seeking their fortunes. Visitors can learn more about Breckenridge’s early days at one of the town’s museums or by taking a historic tour on foot, horse drawn carriage or sleigh.

The locals have worked hard to preserve the history and feel of this Victorian-themed town, and many of the buildings lining Main Street are originals from the old mining days.

Breckenridge also is known for its walkability. Most of its lodging properties are within walking distance of Main Street, which spans eight blocks. Free bus service serves most of the town, and a free trolley service on Main Street makes it easy to hop from one spot to the next.

From the ISSC to the community’s casual mountain charm, Breckenridge makes any visitor feel like a local. For more information, visit gobreck.com or skicountry.com.

Record Breaker

People

Martinez resident Greg Oldham, real estate agent with Meybohm, was named the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society 2019 Man of the Year in the Augusta area after generating a record-setting $228,755 for the local chapter.

“This race was truly one in which there were no losers,” Oldham says. “The campaign shows the power and impact that individuals can make. In the end, raising money was easy. Fighting cancer is hard.”

Oldham and fellow Man and Woman of the Year winners from across the nation were recognized in Forbes magazine by the society, which advocates for patients by funding targeted and immunotherapy research and by ensuring that blood cancer patients have access to life-saving treatments.

In addition, Oldham has been invited to attend the “2020 Vision: Transformative Advances in Blood Cancer” panel discussion in New York next year.

Once Upon a Dickens Christmas by Michelle Griep

Literary Loop

Pour yourself a cuppa and get lost in merriment with three Christmas tales from Michelle Griep. In 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, Clara is living in reduced circumstances after being left at the altar. Her fortune gone, an invitation to the manor’s Twelve Nights of Christmas celebration promises a way out of her financial difficulties. Benjamin, arrested on the way to his wedding, has been held without trial. Bitter and vengeful, he now has a chance to be restored to society and soon finds himself at the manor. Will there be room for forgiveness?

A Tale of Two Hearts tells the story of a charming but penniless rogue hoping to be his bachelor uncle’s heir. To secure the inheritance, William gives the impression he’s married — which works until he’s invited to bring his wife for a visit. Mina agrees to pretend to be his bride until the heir is named… then wishes she hadn’t. So does William. Can each survive such deception?

In The Old Lace Shop, recently widowed Bella is finally free from her abusive husband. After selling everything except his lace factory, she moves to Nottingham, not knowing her real love, Edmund, is managing the factory. When she enters into business with him, she begins to wonder: might marriage be worth a second chance?

With Victorian settings and nods to Charles Dickens, Griep’s trilogy helps kindle the spirit of the season.

Defying the Odds

Literary Loop

A new book, Against All Odds: The Donnie Hixon Story — Burt Reynolds’ Stunt Double in The Longest Yard, by local author resident Stan Byrdy of Martinez will be available in mid-December.

Against All Odds traces the hardships and ultimate redemption of “the other No. 22,” Donnie Hixon, as he journeys from a childhood of hard knocks in Augusta’s Harrisburg neighborhood to Hollywood.

With his unlikely role as stunt double for Burt Reynolds in 1974’s The Longest Yard, which was filmed at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville in 1973, Hixon, who now lives in Martinez, overcomes a series of life-altering setbacks as a youngster.

The heartbreaking and humorous tale of Hixon’s life includes an ample dose of Augusta history.

In addition to Reynolds and Green Bay Packer legend Ray Nitschke, “The Godfather of Soul” James Brown, the Augusta Riots of 1970, the Augusta Eagles football team and alleged cover-ups in a small-town police department play starring roles in the book.

“It’s like a modern-day Forrest Gump,” says Byrdy. ‘I’m happy that Donnie’s story is finally being told.”

The book will be available at Sacred Heart Cultural Center, on Amazon and at other area locations.

 

III — The Lumineers

Listen To This

The Lumineers are going full-blown cinematic with their third studio release, appropriately titled III. Since the 2013 critically acclaimed self-titled album, The Lumineers, the quintet from Denver, Colorado has been perfecting their craft on the byways of the world, gathering suitcases of experience and penning every moment.

III is a lush, sonic masterpiece broken into traditional storytelling acts: the setup, the confrontation and the resolution, with each act winding its way through the rungs of love, tribulations, recovery and impactful triumph. While the content may be deep, the layers of organic compositions, orchestral swirls and signature clog-thump capture the mood and carry a sweet vibe on the surface.

There is a reason why The Lumineers are intentional with their releases. The outpour of love, craftsmanship and careful attention to detail is hard to miss. Devout Lumineers’ fans will rejoice with a resounding “YES!” and welcome new fans to the tribe with “what took you so long?” III is best served on a loop with each pass richer than the one before. If the band is rolling anywhere around a town near you, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket for yourself and a friend.

– Chris Rucker