Monthly Archives: February 2024

The Paris Housekeeper by Renee Ryan

Literary Loop

The Paris Housekeeper by Renee RyanFrom the author of The Secret Society of Salzburg comes a powerful and moving story of bravery and resilience in World War II Paris.

As German tanks rumble through the streets of Paris in 1940, frightened citizens are forced to flee. But not everyone has the luxury to leave. Camille Lacroix, a chambermaid at the world-famous Hôtel Ritz, must stay to support her family back home in Brittany.

Desperate to earn money, Camille also acts as a lady’s maid for longtime guest Vivian Miller, a glamorous American widow who she suspects is a Nazi sympathizer.

Despite her distrust of the woman, Camille turns to Vivian when a friend and fellow hotel maid, Rachel Berman, needs help getting out of Paris. It’s then that Camille discovers that Vivian is not what she seems — the American has been using her wealth and connections to secretly obtain travel papers for Jewish refugees.

While they’re hiding Rachel in an underground bunker under a Nazi’s nose, a daring escape plan is hatched. But as the net grows tighter and the Germans more ruthless, Camille’s courage will be tested to the extreme.

Sweet Spot

Dahlonega Chocolate Crawl

Photos courtesy of Discover Dahlonega

Take a tasty adventure in the North Georgia mountains at a weeklong Chocolate Crawl.

The only thing better than chocolate is complimentary chocolate. At the fourth annual Dahlonega Chocolate Crawl, cocoa lovers can indulge in free samples of homemade fudge, cookies, candies, pies, ice cream, specialty drinks and more.

This year 11 confectionary shops, restaurants and specialty retailers in downtown Dahlonega are taking part in the weeklong event in March, and each of them is offering a chocolate giveaway.

Dahlonega Chocolate Crawl“All of the participating businesses are withing walking distance of our historic square in Dahlonega,” says Sam McDuffie, the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Visitors Bureau executive director.

Participants include Paul Thomas Chocolates, The Dahlonega Fudge Factory, Picnic Café and Dessertery, Bourbon Street Grille, Shenanigans Irish Pub, Nighthawk Tavern, Connie’s Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop, Tea Rabbit’s Teas & Magickal Makings, The Spice & Tea Exchange, Blue 42 Market and Crown & Bear.

Dahlonega Chocolate Crawl‘Something for All Palates’

The number of participating businesses and attendees for the Chocolate Crawl has grown every year. Last year about 2,600 people came to the event, nearly doubling in attendance from 2022. Organizers are hoping for a similar turnout this year.

“It’s a pretty mixed batch of locals and tourists,” says McDuffie. “The goal is to bring people to us in our shoulder season from January until mid-March and to help businesses start off the spring season.”

Some of the specialty giveaways include beignets at Bourbon Street Grille, chocolate chip cookies at Blue 42 Market, the ice cream flavor of choice sandwiched between two cookies at Connie’s Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop, gold bars at Paul Thomas Chocolates, a slice of peanut butter pie at Shenanigans and eight versions of tea, ranging from traditional to spicy, at Tea Rabbit’s. The businesses will offer specialty items for purchase as well.

“It’s a mixed batch of what you can get,” McDuffie says. “There’s something for all palates.”

Passport and Prizes

To taste the various chocolates, people can pick up a passport at the Visitors Center, which is open daily from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. The center will remain open until 7 p.m. on the peak days of the Chocolate Crawl – Thursday, March 7; Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9.

The passport includes a map and space for stamps. Once people have visited nine businesses, they can get an entry for raffle prizes that the city gives away at the end of the week.

If visitors make a purchase at two of the Chocolate Crawl locations, they get a second entry for the raffle. If they buy something at two more shops, they’ll earn a third entry into the raffle.

The giveaways include a Sweet Tooth Basket filled with gifts from the participating businesses and tickets to the Shawn Mullins concert at the Historic Holly Theatre in May. The grand prize is an overnight stay in Dahlonega. Winners do not have to be present to claim their prizes.

More Than Chocolate

Visitors can do more than sample confections when they’re in town for the Chocolate Crawl. They can catch live music Friday and Saturday nights at Canopy + The Roots, which features North Georgia’s only speakeasy-styled listening room, or check out local wineries and tasting rooms. The surrounding mountains also offer plenty of activities for outdoor adventurers.

Some of the retailers will highlight the town’s heritage as well. For instance, Paul Thomas Chocolates is giving away chocolate gold bars in honor of Dahlonega’s history as the site of the nation’s first Gold Rush in 1829.

“When gold was discovered in California 20 years later, it was actually a person from Dahlonega who said, ‘Yes, that’s gold,’” McDuffie says.

He also hopes that visitors will make a weekend out of the event.

“We want our visitors to learn about Dahlonega and some of our businesses,” says McDuffie. “For a small town, there’s a lot for people to do here. We always say, ‘It’s like Mayberry but with color.’”

If You Go:
What: Dahlonega Chocolate Crawl
When: Monday, March 4 – Sunday, March 10
Where: Downtown Dahlonega
How Much: Free
More Info:

By Morgan Davis

Face Time

Yard art Blythe Fairy

Photos courtesy of Michelle Scarborough Johnson

From fairies to potheads (literally), this yard art is an expression of personality and playfulness.

There’s no rest for makers like Michelle Scarborough Johnson, who has been creating yard art and garden sculptures for the past 10 years.

Her creative juices never stop flowing – even in her sleep.

“I’ll wake up in the morning with an idea and think, ‘I could do this,’” Michelle says.

The retired critical care nurse makes her pieces out of hypertufa, which is a lightweight, porous, manmade rock consisting of Portland cement and aggregates such as vermiculite, perlite, peat moss or sand. She mixes up the cement-based substance, which is a substitute for a porous type of limestone called tufa, herself using a recipe she found online.

“I honestly don’t remember where I saw it, but I taught myself,” Michelle says.

Recycled and Refurbished

Yard art is just the latest creative endeavor for this self-taught artist.

“I sew a lot. I paint. I quilt,” Michelle says. “I always wanted to make pottery, but you need a kiln. I love gardening.”

When Michelle was 10 years old, her grandmother taught her how to sew. Otherwise, however, she taught herself the other crafts.

“It’s very fulfilling for me to be making something all the time,” says Michelle, a mother of six who earned her nursing degree at age 42.

She makes hats out of refurbished materials, and for every hat she sells, she donates one to someone in need.

She also incorporates discarded and recyclable materials such as wine bottles, plastics, metal hardware, balloons, ice cream containers, milk jugs and strips of fabric into her hypertufa projects.

“I wrap the bottles in old clothes that can’t be donated,” says Michelle. “I dip the fabric in cement. As it dries, I build it on top of the mixture.”

Her tools include old screwdrivers, picks, a drill and paintbrushes. “I just make do with what I have,” she says.

pot head blythe yard artFairies and Potheads

Michelle hand-molds her pieces, and she works in her outdoor studio on her 2-acre property in Blythe. Some of her favorite things to make are fairies and “potheads,” which are head-shaped planters.

“I talk to them while I’m making them,” Michelle says. “Some of them are kind of flirtatious. They have smoochy lips. The snarky ones have sly smiles. They develop a personality as I’m making them. I feel like people want to buy them when they see something in them. I don’t make their personality. I just let it evolve.”

Although each fairy and pothead has its own personality, they have a lot of similarities in their faces because of the way Michelle molds them. In addition, they generally have one characteristic in common. Most of them have their eyes closed.

“They look peaceful to me,” Michelle says. “I’ve done them with their eyes open, but they don’t look as happy.”

She rarely names her creations, either. “I let everybody choose what they want to call their pothead,” she says.

One of her fairies, which has rosy cheeks and wings, a blue dress and hair made of bed springs, has been selected for inclusion in the Greater Augusta Arts Council’s WetPaint Party & Art Sale on Friday, March 8.

To make fairy wings, she casts elephant ears or various leaves that she finds in her garden. “I use old jewelry on the fairies,” Michelle says. “I used to make jewelry, so I have a lot of jewelry supplies.”

To make a pothead, she starts with a balloon that she wraps in strips of cement-dipped fabric. Once it dries, she turns it upside down to drill a hole in the bottom.

While Michelle can shape a piece in an hour or two, it can take a few days to finish the yard art because the work has to be done in stages. However, she says she can spend a month making a garden fairy.

Texture and Color

Michelle also paints her hypertufa pieces with acrylics, and after drying and curing them, she seals them with concrete so they can withstand the elements.

“I love texture and color,” she says. “They’re just so natural and pretty.”

She likes secondary colors such as purple, teal and orange, and she highlights textures with off-white paint. However, she tries to make her pieces look natural in their outdoor setting.

“I want them to look like they belong there, but I also want them to stand out,” Michelle says.

She paints the elephant ears, which she also uses to make yard art such as birdbaths, a different color from the grass to make them stand out. In addition, she makes totem poles by putting a piece of rebar in the ground and stacking it with hypertufa pieces that she makes one at a time.

Six years ago, she spent the entire summer building a pathway with pavers she made out of cement to connect the greenhouses in her garden.

Although she doesn’t use her nursing skills in her craft, she has found that it takes a combination of art and science to create a piece.

She needs to use the correct proportions of aggregates when she mixes the hypertufa so it doesn’t crumble. Anatomy also comes into play when she makes fairies and potheads because “the ears need to be equal with the eyes.”

In addition, she says, “My pieces are not anatomically correct, but that’s part of the fun of it.”

Creativity and Connection

Michelle started a Facebook page called Hypertufa Heffas, which is named after the heifers that graze in a field behind her property. She sells most of her work on various Facebook sites or by word-of-mouth.

“It’s fun when somebody really loves a face and they connect with it somehow,” Michelle says. “Sometimes the personality speaks to them. I love that somebody loves a piece.”

She teaches group and private classes and hosts parties at her outdoor studio when the weather is warm. She also loves the creative process and the ability to bring joy to others with her work.

“Being able to create something frees up your mind. You can get lost in it. When you’re gone, you have something to leave behind. Something you make by hand is more important than a piece of furniture,” says Michelle. “It’s good for my spirit to be creative. I think artists just have this need to always be making something.”

By Leigh Howard

Isn’t That Sweet — Big Sleep

Listen To This

Big Sleep AlbumAs the fickle remnants of winter thaw, we march into a hibernation-free season of anticipation. The madness of shaking off chilly brrrs spurs all the right vibes for a soundtrack of warm, lush, good-mood food for the soul. The perfect pub-a-licious feast for the ears comes from the Dublin-based four-leafed fantastical band, Big Sleep.

Big Sleep’s latest album, Isn’t That Sweet, is a sugary symphony of blarney bliss that chases the indie rock rainbow for a pot of sonic gold. Bursting with infectious flavors, melodies, heartfelt lyrics and irresistible hooks, it brews a unique and contagious charm for an instant buzz of tabletop taps and soul claps.

From the start, it’s crystal clear that Big Sleep is banging and mashing on all cylinders with its buttery rhythm and frothy riffs that make you want to lock arms and raise a glass.

With the waltzy wonder of the album’s opener “Easy,” the tone flows into an ever-green river of sweet glides and punchy strides. Songs like the jazzy swing jam “Fingerlickin’ Goodness,” the brawny stomp of “Maccy Ds” and the dreamy-gaze of “All the Pretty Things” make for a magically delicious bowl of tunes.

With leprechauns, parades and Irish celebrations on tap, Big Sleep is a grand marshal that delivers an Irish spring of awesome. Isn’t that sweet?

– Chris Rucker

Food Truck Fridays


Evans Food TruckIt’s time for warmer days, longer nights and smells of delicious food wafting through the parks.

Bring your taste buds, chairs, blankets and appetite for fun — Columbia County’s Food Truck Friday series is back. The popular event kicks off March 8 and will be held one to two times a month through September.

The series will alternate between three locations: Gateway Park in Grovetown, Evans Towne Center Park and the Columbia County Amphitheater behind the main library.

Evans Food TruckOptions range from sweet treats and snacks to full meals and beverages. The vendor lineup changes regularly, featuring returning favorites and introducing new ones. Admission is free, and events run from 6-9 p.m. Live music begins at 7 p.m.

Food Truck Friday 2024 Schedule

March 8 – Gateway Park
March 22 – Evans Towne Center Park
April 26 – Evans Towne Center Park
June 14 – Gateway Park
June 28 – Evans Towne Center Park
July 12 – Columbia County Amphitheater 
September 13 – Gateway Park
September 27 – Evans Towne Center Park

Going Coastal

In The Home
Coastal living in Evans

Photography by Chloe Giancola

The seaside colors and decor of this Evans home make it the picture of serenity.

Life is busy for Evans residents Chloe and Nate Giancola and their three young children. So, when they built their home in Stonegate in the spring of 2023, they wanted it to be as restful and relaxing as a day at the beach.

Outside of their own home, there are few places this family would rather be than Hilton Head Island, South Carolina or the beach towns off of Scenic Highway 30A in Florida. Accordingly, they turned to these seaside communities for design inspiration.

“The overall theme for our house is definitely coastal, but we didn’t want to lean too hard into one theme,” says Chloe.

Simplicity and Durability

These DIYers also did some of the work themselves. Nate and a former neighbor designed the floor plan for the one-story house with a basement. “We’ve never seen a floor plan that was this wide open,” says Nate.

The couple, who met in high school in Watkinsville, Georgia and got married in 2012, have lived in several different houses, so they had a good idea of the type of floor plan they wanted.

Nate and his father, a retired furniture maker, also constructed the playroom as well as the built-ins in the house.

In addition, many of the walls feature photos that Chloe, a professional photographer, has taken through the years on their various trips around the world.

“It brings me a lot of joy to take photos wherever we are because we don’t know when we’ll go to those places again,” she says.

Other features that can be found throughout the house include five-panel doors, simple craftsman crown molding and LVP flooring.

“We love the color and durability of the LVP flooring. It handles scratches and water well,” Chloe says. “And we wanted to keep the crown molding simple since we have paneled doors.”

Open and Inviting

Their favorite spot in the house is the living room. “It’s a nice, central spot where we can connect with each other,” says Nate.

The space features white walls, white furnishings that provide lots of seating and red oak open shelving. However, the focal point of the room is the electric fireplace on sea blue shiplap in a chevron pattern.

“I love the color,” says Chloe. “We didn’t want too much blue, but we wanted to make a statement with it.”

Nate’s father also built the oak fireplace mantel from a tree that fell on his property while the house was under construction. “I love the grain on the side of the fireplace mantel,” says Chloe.

They added the corbels to the mantel to make it stand out from the shelves, where Chloe displays more photos, driftwood, candlesticks and a ceramic pineapple – a symbol of Southern hospitality.

“I love pineapples,” she says. “I can never have enough pineapple home décor.”

The living room opens into the kitchen, where the island is the same shade of blue as the shiplap.

“I didn’t want it to look too matchy-matchy, but I wanted it to look like a cohesive space,” says Chloe.

The kitchen also features quartz countertops, quartz backsplash and glass-front cabinets beneath the crown molding. The oversized gold hardware in the kitchen matches the gold lanterns above the island.

“We wanted a classic white kitchen,” Chloe says. “I also love the oversized look of the hardware.”

A doorless recessed pantry is located in the hallway around the corner from the kitchen.

“I chose to not put a door on the pantry. With it being in a hallway, I felt like that made sense,” says Chloe. “No one can see it from the kitchen, and it’s also an incentive to keep it organized.”

The nearby drop zone includes board and batten walls and a greenish-blue shade that was inspired by a signature color of Spartina 449, one of her favorite Hilton Head-based stores.

A starburst light fixture hangs in the laundry room.

“I like a fun, unexpected light,” says Chloe. “It brightens up the room and makes it more fun.”

Nature and Wildlife

They also hung a chandelier in a fireworks design in the dining area, which features a coffee bar with quartz countertops. The tabletop, which rests on white metal legs that were custom-made to support the weight of the stone, is made of quartz as well.

“I love how it looks like water is running through it,” Chloe says of the tabletop.

She made the painted oyster shells, which are decorated with blue and white paper napkin prints, in the leaf-shaped wooden bowl in the center of the table.

Three spotlights on the wall highlight coastal-themed photos that Chloe took on family vacations to Hilton Head and 30A along the Florida panhandle.

Succulent plants are arranged on a trio of open shelves in a corner of the dining area, and the space includes lots of cabinets and drawers in the coffee bar to store cookbooks and appliances.

They also like the view of the backyard where they see deer, turtles and an owl.

“Even though we don’t live in the country, we still see a lot of wildlife,” says Chloe.

Work and Play

The home features an office for Chloe and Nate and a playroom for their children as well. The two rooms, which are across the hall from each other, share some of the same characteristics including built-ins, lots of drawer space and a herringbone wood countertop.

To make the office feel more formal, they selected decorative hardware for the drawers. The canvases on the wall are photos that Chloe took in Italy and Greece when they went on a babymoon before their first child was born.

Nate also built a shelf above her computer to display Chloe’s camera equipment.

The playroom features drawers for the children’s toys, and each child has an individual drawer. There also is plenty of floor space in the room to play.

“The playroom will grow with our children,” says Chloe. “Right now we make a lot of crafts there, but they can do their homework in the playroom when they get older.”

In the center of the built-ins, nine frames feature sea creature sticker puzzles from a book they got in Hilton Head and put together as a family.

The coastal theme continues in the master bedroom, where lamps with a gold seahorse base sit on each of the light blue bedside tables. A trey ceiling, a gold canopy bed and a full-length wood cheval mirror accent the room as well.

“We don’t have curtains on the windows, so the sun shines through in the morning,” says Chloe.

Calming and Peaceful

A hallway, which features a walk-in closet on either side, connects the master bedroom with the master bath.

In the master bath, a photo that Chloe took in Savannah features Spanish moss hanging on trees. The room also includes quartz countertops, a ghost chair at the vanity, oversized gold hardware and a soaking tub with black fixtures on the wall.

Vertical white tile in the walk-in shower is accompanied by a strip of greenish-blue tile in a chevron pattern. This tile, along with the tile in the shower niches, matches the color in the drop zone. The shower also has a tile floor, a built-in quartz bench, rainfall showerhead and black hardware.

“I wanted the space to feel like the entire house – calming and peaceful,” says Chloe. “This is where we start the day to go to work or school. But we can also come in and rest and get re-energized to go back out in the world.”

The family also likes to recharge on the back porch, which includes a fire pit, vertical aluminum rails, a vinyl cathedral ceiling that mirrors the shape of the house, two ceiling fans and Trex composite material on the floor.

“We wanted maintenance-free flooring so it wouldn’t rot or swell,” says Nate. “We don’t have to treat it.”

The porch also features several lighting choices including natural light, recessed lights and string lights.

“We found the perfect lot,” Nate says. “It’s close to everything, but it’s still quiet and secluded.”

White brick on the exterior gives the house a textured historical look, and they built a mailbox post with leftover brick.

“We loved the white brick, but we didn’t want it to be perfectly white,” says Chloe. “We wanted it to look like it had been here for a while.”

They plan to remain in the house for a while as well.

“Our plan is to be here until the kids grow up,” Chloe says.

By Betsy Gilliland

Maple-Citrus Glazed Ham

  • Maple citrus ham for EASTER1 precooked, boneless ham, room temperature
  • Whole cloves
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice


  • 2 cups applesauce
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon orange peel, grated
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Score a diamond pattern across top of ham and place a clove at each intersection. Place ham in roasting pan on a rack and add 1 cup water to bottom of pan. Cover with foil and bake 45-60 minutes, depending on size of ham, until heated through. In a medium saucepan, combine glaze ingredients and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes, stirring often. Remove pan from oven and add orange juice and pineapple juice to bottom of pan. Brush some glaze over entire ham and bake an additional 20 minutes, uncovered, basting with remaining glaze frequently to form a thick glaze.

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Augusta Christian Schools

Education Options

The mission of Augusta Christian Schools is to prepare students to serve Jesus Christ as Lord, partnering with family and church, instilling high standards spiritually, academically, socially and physically.

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

313 Baston Road, Martinez, GA 30907
Phone: (706) 863-2905, Admissions Ext 206






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Christian School Augusta Georgia

Dolphin Academy

Education Options

Dolphin Academy Swim School specializes in offering year-round small group swim instruction in a fun, challenging and creative environment. Our specialized curriculum enables swimmers to learn the skills that are essential for water safety, recreation and competitive swimming.

4216 Washington Road Evans, GA 30809

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Soar Academy

Education Options

• Autism, ADHD and Dyslexia Learning • Musical Therapy • Weekly Field Trips • Accepts Homeschool Students

Soar Academy is a non-traditional private school serving 1st-12th grade. We service EVERY type of learning style. We guide our students toward academic success through project-based learning, custom curriculum and proper mental and emotional support. We accept IEP and 504 plans. #NotYourTypicalSchool.

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