Monthly Archives: February 2021

Open House

In The Home

Photography by Sally Kolar

Designed for equal parts of entertainment and R&R, this recently remodeled contemporary home in Martinez is a place where family and friends are always welcome.

When it comes to home renovations, one thing often leads to another. And another. And another. Just ask Amy and Bryan Tuschen of Martinez. They started renovating their home in Highview Acres in October 2018 and didn’t finish until March 30, 2020. The process began simply enough, however.

“This whole renovation started as ‘Let’s get rid of the wall-to-wall carpeting and popcorn ceiling,’ and then it went way beyond that,” says Amy.

‘Hospitality Bug’
The Tuschens completely changed the look of the house, where they have lived since 1998, from traditional to contemporary by following a carefully orchestrated plan.

“We established the color scheme with lots of grays and whites first,” Amy says.

They purchased new furnishings for the house before they started the renovations, giving away most of their previous furniture to family members.

Decorative elements such as wallpaper and tile are repeated in different places in the house. In addition, Amy says, “All of the hardware and all of the cabinets are the same throughout the house. It simplifies everything.”

Instead of draperies they opted for darkening, pull-down shades to cover the windows. And, even though the Tuschens – parents to three grown children, Maygen, Morgan and Matthew – are empty nesters, the house still needed to accommodate a crowd.

“We entertain regularly, so it’s nice to be able to share the house with friends and family,” says Amy. “We have that hospitality bug.”

Their home has been the site of retirement, graduation and murder mystery parties – some of which Amy has written herself. In December, they had a rehearsal dinner and wedding reception for Morgan and her new husband, Tim, and drop-ins on three different days so the get-togethers could be properly social distanced.

Their affiliation with Fort Gordon keeps them busy as well. Amy, who served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany from 1990 to 1998, is the Fort Gordon Historical Society director. Bryan, a financial advisor and self-described South Dakota “farm boy” who loves singing and karaoke, volunteers as the national director for the Signal Corps Regimental Association.

“We host a lot of events because of the Signal Corps,” he says.

To accommodate their guests, the Tuschens have two different driveways on their three-acre property that overlooks a lake. The rear driveway is for their personal use, and a ramp leads to the lower level of the house.

The long drive in front of the house serves notice that people are arriving someplace special. American flags are mounted on a wooden privacy fence alongside the driveway, and another American flag is raised on a pole by the house.

The exterior of the home features a double cupola, and pre-fabricated rock separates the brick of the original house from the brick of their new addition.

“We wanted to bring the house forward and tie in the rec room,” says Amy.

Travel-Inspired Décor
Statement-making features continue in the entryway where wallpaper from China, which has stacked triangle shapes, covers a wall that extends to the lower level of the house. (The same wallpaper is used on accent walls in the prayer room and the rec room.) Three pulleys with an Edison lightbulb hang in front of the wall.

The bedrooms are upstairs, which is the street level of the house, and they open onto a covered deck. The Tuschens converted the former master bedroom into an office for Bryan, and before the renovation, the two walk-in closets with built-in drawers in the now master bedroom were two of their children’s bedrooms.

The master bedroom is furnished with a suite of distressed white furniture and a Singer sewing machine – exhibiting another one of Amy’s talents.

As part of the addition, the master bath also includes a spa area. The bath features ceramic tile flooring, a tile walk-in shower with two rain showerheads and two rectangular vessel sinks.

“We travel to Cancun and Mexico a lot, so this room was inspired by our travels,” says Amy. “We bring our vacations to our home.”

Seems only natural. In addition to their “hospitality bug,” the Tuschens, who have been married for 30 years, also have a “travel bug.” After all, they met in college on a spring break trip to South Padre Island, Texas in March 1989.

Amy and Bryan, who attended different Midwestern schools, were among a busload of students that got stranded in Dallas because of snow – yes, snow – and mechanical problems on one of the buses.

“We were stuck at a Denny’s Restaurant for 18 hours, so we had a lot of time to talk,” says Bryan. “Our ninth time together, we got engaged. Our 13th time together, we got married.”

To commemorate their various excursions, they have a Tuschen Family Travels map, where small round-headed pushpins mark the places they have been, in their new garage. The garage, also part of the addition, features an epoxy floor that allows them to expand their entertainment space, and it adjoins the rec room.

The house originally had a detached garage, which they never used as a garage, and the Tuschens converted it to a rec room in 2001.

“We knew we still wanted the play space. We just had to attach it,” Amy says. “It’s been a great hangout for kids and adults.”

Some of the artwork in the room features two girls and a boy, representing the Tuschens’ children. One of their teachers painted a picture of the three children that hangs on one wall. Another painting, which they found in Asheville, North Carolina, shows two girls and a boy from behind walking on a beach. “They literally could have been our kids,” says Bryan.

The rec room also includes a pool table, ceiling fan, tile flooring and a sitting area with a TV and an electric insert fireplace.

Functional & Fun
However, the rec room isn’t the only entertainment area in the house. Open stairs lead from the main entryway to the living and entertainment space downstairs.

“This was the last open staircase built in Columbia County,” Bryan says. “They don’t allow them anymore, but it was pre-approved.”

To take advantage of every bit of available real estate, a built-in wine rack and a small wine fridge are tucked behind the stairs.

The open living room, dining area and kitchen offer plenty of room for guests – even in this day and age of social distancing. Before opening up the spaces in the renovation, walls divided them into separate rooms.

The living room previously featured a stone wall with a gas fireplace. However, instead of ripping out the stone, they covered it with a blue accent wall where the wood is placed on the diagonal. They installed an electric fireplace, which features a marble tile surround, on the wall. Depending on the occasion and the mood, the Tuschens can change the colors of the flames and the rocks in the fireplace.

A grandfather clock that the couple got when they were married fits perfectly into a wall nook, and a cuckoo clock from Germany hangs on a wall in the living room.

Other décor includes Leyk Lighthouses, handmade ceramic houses that are fashioned after the famous German Fachwerkhaus, or half-timbered house. They are referred to as “Lighthouses” because they hold tealight candles.

The dining area separates the living room and kitchen. “We can seat up to 12 people at the table,” says Bryan. “We just turn it longways.”

The kitchen features a large island with a built-in microwave and a sink with filtered water, a warming drawer, a stainless steel farmhouse sink and a confection stovetop. Cabinet doors to the refrigerator blend into the wall, and horizontally stacked subway tiles make up the backsplash. While the island countertop is quartz, the perimeter countertops are ceramic tile.

Doubling as a catering area for parties, the walk-in pantry features a fresh coffee maker where Bryan grinds his beans every morning, a second refrigerator and an ice machine. For variety, the subway tile in the pantry is arranged in a staggered, or running bond, pattern.

Two sets of double doors, which provide plenty of ventilation when they’re open, replaced sliding doors in the living space. The doors lead to the outdoor kitchen and sitting area of the covered patio.

Constructed with individual stones, the outdoor kitchen includes a Kamado Joe grill, gas grill, compact outdoor refrigerator and ceramic tile countertops.

The sitting area, where the Tuschens watch football games in the fall, features wicker furniture and an antique chest. A double-decker, raised-hearth, stacked-stone, wood-burning fireplace extends from the lower to the upper level, which are connected by a spiral staircase with wide wooden steps.

Quiet Time
As much as Amy and Bryan enjoy company, they relish their quiet time as well. And their house is full of spots to take in a little R&R.

A prayer room includes two comfortable chairs, a small refrigerator, cabinets and a window that overlooks their gardens.

“I like to sit there with a cup of tea,” says Amy. “It’s a nice way to start my day with the quiet.”

Her late mother made the angel quilt that hangs on one wall. She also cross stitched an angel for each of her four daughters, and Amy’s framed angel hangs on another wall in the prayer room. Porcelain angels in the family room, artwork and vases also belonged to Amy’s mother.

A sliding barn door leads to the spa area, which includes a sauna, steam bath, exercise room and massage table. “We have massage therapists that come to the house,” says Bryan. “When we work out, we can head to the steam room afterward.”

They also relax outside in their backyard gardens or by the pool. Amy enjoys working in the raised beds that include a berry, an herb and a vegetable garden. She grows blueberries and blackberries as well as mint, parsley and rosemary.

The Tuschens renovated the outdoor area for their 25th wedding anniversary, adding the outdoor kitchen and redoing the swimming pool, which is 4 1/2 feet deep from end to end. They also added a raised deck and built a hot tub, which is illuminated by a pair of solar-powered lights.

A statue of two girls and a boy, which they found in New Orleans, sits beneath a pine tree near the pool. Several potted plumerias, tropical trees whose flowers are used to make Hawaiian leis, are placed around the pool. A tea olive tree grows by the deck.

They added a waterfall feature to the koi pond and replaced a wooden bridge between the two with a metal bridge. A deck by the lake, where they keep their kayaks, includes a gazebo and benches.

“We’re so close to everything. But when we’re in the back, we feel like we’re all alone,” says Amy. “Even with just the two of us here, there’s not a lot of unused space.”

By Betsy Gilliland

A Love Story to Remember


(From left) Abigail Johnson, Abigail Jessee and Georgia Martinez share the bonds of friendship and the appreciation of a good love story. Through their businesses, they held a contest, which was open to all CSRA residents, to highlight the love stories of four local couples. The winners received a complimentary photo shoot from the business owners and the opportunity to tell their stories in Columbia County Magazine.

As the brainchild of Abigail Jessee of Abigail Marie Creative, “A Love Story to Remember” tells the love stories of four local couples. She started her business to share people’s lives, and particularly their love stories, through photography.

“I love a good wedding photo, but I started thinking, ‘Where are all of the other love stories?’” she says.

Enlisting the aid of her friends, Abigail Johnson of Rosilie’s Rentals and Georgia Martinez of Georgia Miller Photography, they launched the project with a contest to showcase the love stories of local residents. The winners received a complimentary photo shoot and the opportunity to share their stories in Columbia County Magazine.

Abigail Jessee and Georgia shared photography duties; Abigail Johnson provided vintage props for the photo shoots.

“The best part about this process was reading all of the submissions,” says Abigail Jessee. “I was so encouraged that every story was unique its own way.”

With her camera, Georgia loves to peek behind the scenes. “Taking part in this project was an enriching, beautiful experience for me. Although I am often photographing what is visible to the eye, I truly believe it is the story behind a photograph that gives it meaning and life,” she says. “Our love stories are timeless, unique, and they connect us all.”

Abigail Johnson is fascinated by every detail of people’s lives. Her interest in their histories grew out of the mementoes and memories that her grandfather saved of her late grandmother, Barbara Roselie, whom she never met.

“I’m so thankful my PaPa kept their love story alive through her things, photos and his memories. It made me realize how captivating history and memories can be,” she says. “It was through my grandparents and their epic love story that my love for all things sentimental, unique and antique really began.”

The contest was open to all CSRA residents. Couples could nominate themselves or be nominated by someone else.

The featured couples include an engaged pair that is getting married in May – pandemic or not, a husband and wife that finally admitted their true feelings for each other and eloped after a 12-year friendship, fun-loving empty nesters who make the most of every moment they spend together and mentor other young couples, and great-grandparents (and great dancers) who have been married for 51 years. Enjoy.

Coming Up Roses


When you know, you know. Suzanne and Pete Adams of Appling will celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary on February 20, and it all started when she spotted him on the dance floor one night in the fall of 1969.

“He was so good looking. He could dance,” says Suzanne. “I love to dance, and he’s still one of the best dancers I’ve ever seen.”

She told her friends she was going to marry that guy. “They just laughed and said, ‘You don’t even know his name,’” recalls Suzanne.

Undeterred, she told a male friend to tell Pete to ask her to dance, and he did. Suzanne invited Pete to go to breakfast with her and a group of friends the next day, but he declined. She later found out he didn’t have the money.

Pete also had just come out of a relationship, so he was reluctant to become involved with someone else so soon.

As fate would have it, though, both of them worked in retail stores in downtown Macon, so they still saw each other daily. Pete finally called Suzanne at work one day and asked her out. They went dancing again at a different place.

“She was just the one for me,” he says. “She was a little more aggressive than I was at first. I’m glad she was because I fell in love with her.”

During their courtship, Pete picked a rose and took it to Suzanne every day. “I shouldn’t have done that because they came from the garden at the town hall,” he says.

Less than six months after they met, the couple got married in Lakeland, Florida by the justice of the peace. The ceremony cost $10, but first they went to an Army-Navy surplus store and bought two rings for $1 apiece.

They got proper wedding rings later. However, Pete says, “That doesn’t make for a lasting marriage.” They agree that commitment and a Christ-centered relationship are the keys to a long-lasting marriage.

“You have to give and take,” Suzanne says. “You have to be committed and love one another. It isn’t always easy roads. You have a lot of rocky roads.”

Suzanne and Pete have six children, 17 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. And every time he looks at her, Pete is reminded of one of the things that made him fall in love with her.

“She had the prettiest blue eyes,” he says. “She still does.”

Creamy Lobster Bisque

  • 5 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 lobster tails
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced and divided
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • Extra dash salt, pepper and cayenne, to taste

For the lobster stock, fill a large pot with 5 cups of water. Stir in 1 teaspoon sea salt and bring to a boil. Add lobster tails, cover with lid and boil 5 minutes or until bright red. Remove lobster tails, reserving liquid stock. Once lobsters have cooled enough to handle, remove meat from shells; set aside. Return lobster shells to pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes. While stock is simmering, chop meat into bite-size pieces and refrigerate.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, thyme and tarragon and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add bouillon, salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir in 4 cloves of the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Mix in tomato paste and cook about a minute to coat vegetables. Sprinkle with flour and cook another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in wine, simmer and let reduce to half. Stir in 4 cups of the lobster stock, reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid has thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool about 10 minutes. Place in a blender or purée with an immersion blender until smooth. Return to medium low heat and stir in heavy cream.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté remaining minced garlic for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add chopped lobster meat and season with an extra dash salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Lightly sauté for 1 minute, stirring occasionally, until lobster meat is just warmed through. Mix lobster meat into bisque and serve. Makes 4 servings.



Near Misses


Augusta residents Brynn Allen and Nick Woo don’t plan to let covid-19 or anything else stop them from getting married on May 8, especially after a lifetime of near misses.

Both of them attended elementary school at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. Even though each grade had only two classes, they never were in the same one. Growing up, they knew lots of the same people, but not each other. “When we got older, we continued to just barely miss each other,” says Brynn. “Nick and I had so many mutual friends and were at so many of the same events together, it is almost laughable how we just kept missing each other.”

Those circumstances finally changed after a day at Clarks Hill Lake with friends the summer before their senior year in high school — Nick at Greenbrier High School and Brynn at Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School. “I think we might have been the only two that didn’t know each other,” Brynn says.

For their first date—which ended up being spread over two days—they sat on the dock at Savannah Rapids Pavilion and talked for hours. They had planned to get takeout food from Toki, but it didn’t work out. When they went back to the dock the next day to “finish” their date, they had Toki to-go boxes in hand.

Once they finally started dating, they also had to overcome the challenges of a long-distance relationship. Brynn went to Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, while Nick recently graduated from Augusta University. The separation wasn’t easy, they agree, but it allowed them space to grow as individuals.

Nick and Brynn have been together six years, but after a few months, she knew he was the man she wanted to marry. He proposed to her in July by recreating their first date with another Toki picnic on the Savannah Rapids dock. “To pop the question, there couldn’t have been better spot to do it,” he says.

They call communication the foundation of their relationship.

“You need to be vulnerable with that person you care about, open up and have the hard conversations,” Nick says.

“She pushes me to be the best I can be, and she supports me  in any endeavor.”

In addition, they simply have fun together and enjoy each other’s company.

“Every single year we have been together has been like a new year and a new adventure,” Brynn says.

Ahead in the Count


The first date for Evans residents Andria and Dave Duff was a favor for friends. His roommate wanted to ask out her friend, but he didn’t have a car. Luckily Dave had a car, so the two of them tagged along.

The guys and girls first met one night in Jackson, Mississippi. Andria, an accountant for a CPA firm, and her friends were out celebrating the end of tax season. Dave was playing minor league baseball for the Jackson Mets, but his game had been rained out.

Both from Virginia, Andria and Dave discovered they had mutual friends.

“He had a lot of character. He was thoughtful and serious about his future,” Andria says. “He had all of the qualities that I knew were going to be important in a long-term relationship. He also was super cute. He looked really good in his uniform.”

Dave proposed after nine months of dating, but he knew after six months that he wanted to marry Andria.

“She was cute and sweet and smart and funny,” he says. “She has a great sense of humor, and she always wants to have fun. She’s a great person with priorities and values.”

The Duffs have three grown sons, and they led a middle school Bible study when their boys were growing up. Now, they mentor some of those same children as young married couples at Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church.

“We feel like people have passed on good skills to us,” Andria says, “and we want to make a difference for other young couples.”

Dave agrees. “We feel a real calling to help young people with marriage,” he says. “The institution of marriage is so important to our society.”

The empty nesters also value their time together.

“I love that I get a part of Dave that nobody else ever sees,” says Andria. “I love that he’s so loyal and trustworthy – and that’s with everybody, not just me.”

They love to travel, and dinner is their favorite time of day.

“We’ve always had a date night no matter how busy we were raising kids or building careers,” Dave says. “Our relationship has always been the priority. It’s the most important one. We always try to put something on the calendar to look forward to.”

As for the Duffs’ friends from that first double date, their relationship lasted about two weeks.

Thirty-seven years later, though, the “tagalong” couple is still in extra innings.


At Last


All it took for Kayla and Jake Sasser to elope to Edisto Beach, South Carolina in December 2018 was a dozen years as best friends and a “what if?” or two along the way.

They met in 2006 when Kayla moved from her native West Virginia to Statesboro to pursue her master’s degree. She later moved to Millen to supplement her income with a job at BB&T after a bank employee – who is now her mother-in-law – told her about an opening there.

Kayla, who also taught gymnastics, and Jake met at a community talent show where she went to watch one of her students and he went to see his brother play in a band. Afterward, they ran into each other at a gas station.

“We ended up riding around together that night,” says Kayla. “What a small town thing to do.”

They remained friends, even after she moved back to West Virginia and then to North Carolina. Whether they talked every day for a week or went for a month without talking, they always picked up where they had left off.

“At some point in our friendship, I realized that if we ever dated and got serious, that would be it. And that’s why we never dated,” says Jake. “I didn’t want to commit to anything — I had to grow up.”

In February 2017, while living in North Carolina, Kayla emailed Jake and told him how she felt about him. Once she hit “send,” she knew they would be together or their friendship would end.

When he received her email, Jake says, “My first thought was, ‘I don’t know how to deal with this right now.’ I knew if I responded, that was going to be that. I wasn’t ready for that.”

“That,” of course, was a lifelong commitment.

After he didn’t respond, Kayla thought she had her answer. She eventually heard from Jake, and he said, “You’re my best friend, but I’m not good at relationships.”

Kayla started dating someone else that summer, and they got engaged. She kept wondering “what if,” though, and two months before the wedding she called Jake to tell him she was having doubts.

“She caught me off guard with a phone call one afternoon. And that was that,” says Jake. “You can avoid the inevitable for two years before it really starts to nip at your heels.”

Taken aback or not, this time he was ready. He told her, “You aren’t supposed to marry him because you’re supposed to marry m