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On Vacation

August 5th, 2010 by Teresa Jacobson

Azalea Inn and Gardens reporting INN from the road

Where do Innkeepers vacation? In Savannah Georgia, most of the innkeepers I know typically visit family and friends and we have been no different, alternating between San Diego where our sons and their families live or Massachusetts where I grew up. This summer we are leaving Azalea Inn and Gardens behind, and combining an obligation of love with a respite from the pace of our daily lives and reconnecting with “lost” family. We have come to the Canadian Island of Newfoundland to bring my mother’s ashes to rest with her parents, to reconnect with a multitude of cousins, and to share with Jake the simplistic, stunning beauty of my mother’s homeland. Mom would not be happy to hear me call her home a Canadian island – she left “The Rock” as a young bride of an American GI before the Republic of Newfoundland joined the provinces of Canada.

We landed in Deer Lake along the Western Shores of Newfoundland, spending two days with my cousin, Derek, and his wife, Deb. Derek and I hadn’t seen each other in nearly 40 years though our mothers, Sheila and Colleen, (who are sisters) saw each other as often as time and circumstances allowed. Their home is in the sweet little town of Steady Brook, and while Jake and Derek golfed at the nearby Humber Valley Resort, Deb and I learned about each other, and then because it was an unusually hot day in Newfoundland, we slipped down to the brook for a swim. Deb slipped easily into the icy waters, but I was barely brave enough to get wet to my knees, but it was enough to recall summers spent with my Newfie cousins and ice-cold mountain water to swim in and the imperviousness of the young to heat or cold! They were idyllic summers, each of us farmed out to mom’s many brothers and sisters as no one of them had room enough for all 10 of us and their own large families as well. It was magical to be an honored guest at my Aunt Mad’s house and run about town with my cousin (actually my second cousin)Peggy, dining
on Toutans (fried bread dough with butter and maple syrup) or a strange way to eat French fries – with either vinegar or gravy. No younger siblings to tend to, I was free of my usual duties. I want to slip into that time just a bit. Deb and Derek took care of us just like the old days.

Deb and I met Derek and Jake at the club for lunch and gazed out across the mountain and river below. Jake pulled the camera out of his pocket to
share with me pictures of the greens, the views, and a very friendly fox. Apparently Jake overshot the 4th
green as did Derek. They couldn’t seem to find Jake’s ball where they believed it landed, but did notice a fox having a grand time “frolicking” on the green. About 40 feet away they were surprised to find Jake’s ball and Derek shared that this fox had been known to mess with golfers by moving the ball around a bit! It had been a grand day for golf, and Jake felt it was by far the best course he had ever played on!

Last evening we took time to visit Derek’s mom, my Aunt Sheila on an Alzheimer’s unit. Aunt Sheila didn’t recognize me, but chatted nicely enough with me. She looked so much like my mom that it was difficult not to cry, but just as joyful to pretend for a moment that mom was sitting there, and I could hold her frail hand, and kiss her soft fragrant cheeks. I told her she was beautiful, and she turned to Deb and commented, “She must be a bit soft in the head, eh?” We all laughed and Aunt Sheila was as sweet as I had everseen her. When time came to leave, we each gave her a kiss, but knowing I would probably never see her again, I turned back for one more. Her face lit up and after she said, “Anyone else?” Jake stepped up for a big kiss as well. She was smiling back at me with my mother’s soft eyes and a smile that said “I love you.” as we waved goodbye.

Tomorrow we drive to Gros Morne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for two days of trails and hiking, sightseeing and relaxation, and a chance to sit on the other side of the table, so to speak, as guests as the Anchor Down B&B in Rocky Harbour.

Azalea Inn and Gardens dives head first into Gelato!

July 7th, 2010 by Teresa Jacobson

Have you ever wondered how the innkeeper at Azalea Inn and Gardens finds the time to explore the city, find new adventures, seek out great restaurants, and still manage to do all the other things that makes your stay memorable? Spur of the moment is the answer. There will be that little window of opportunity that you must squeeze into and make the most of. Yesterday presented just such an opportunity. Finishing up a photo shoot in the heat of a Savannah summer I knew this was the moment to sample two new ice cream shops in the historic district of Savannah. Capturing a parking spot on Liberty Street, just steps away from our first target, Mr. Koolz Gelato and Water Ice, we quickly fed the meter and nearly danced up to the engaging purple awning. Oh… Dear. The door was locked, lights on, no on home. Hmmm.

Well, it was only a short walk around the corner onto Bull Street and our next stop, Ice Cream, Etc, located in a former tobacco shop directly across the street from the Red telephone booth outside Six Pence Pub made famous in that Julia Robert’s movie, “Something To Talk About”. The store still smells faintly of tobacco, but surprisingly, is not off-putting. There is a pleasant young girl behind the counter serving a family of five everything from Cotton Candy ice cream to simple Vanilla. I have to chuckle to myself when the mom deftly begins licking the youngest child’s blue ice cream claiming “I’m just trying to keep it from dripping on you!” to the child’s protests. Is there a mom alive who hasn’t perhaps used those same words in the earnest fight to stop the drip? We learned the ice cream was not homemade, but enjoyed a scoop of coffee ice cream anyway, and decided to head home – after all, it was approaching 1:30 pm and we had guests to welcome.

As we passed the pretty purple awning of Mr. Koolz Gelato and Water Ice, we noted someone seated inside – did we dare take the time? Absolutely! Inside we found a pleasant smiling woman finishing off the last bit of her lunch. We mentioned that we had stopped earlier to which she quickly replied – it had been so quiet I thought I would grab some lunch! She hurried around the counter and offered us samples of anything, and everything! What to choose? Milk-based flavors of Lavender, Pistachio, Toasted Almond, and Coconut. Fruit-based flavors of Pear, Blood Orange, Mango and Sour Cherry.

I fluttered, I sampled, I re-sampled, finally settling on a double scoop with Coconut and Toasted Almond. I sank into a comfy chair near the front of the store to savor each delicious and decadent spoonful – overjoyed to know that there were fewer calories in this ode to summer than in ice cream! Ah, nirvana.

Between bites, I converse with the owner, Janet, ever curious about the story behind every face in Savannah. Janet moved to the area several years ago from New Jersey, but her story is sprinkled with enchanting details, mystery (which may have something to do with her other joy – reading Tarot cards, but that’s another story) and a passion for gelato. Though a typical day will see a sampling of 24 varieties, she estimates she had made upwards of 200 varieties and enjoys experimenting to get the full flavor just so.

I suddenly realize the time and jump up to leave. I can assure you, Mr. Koolz Gelato and Water Ice is a big YES on our recommendations to visitors to our city.

Kami-Kazi de Squirrel takes a bite out of Georgia Power

May 29th, 2010 by Teresa Jacobson

At 7:15 this morning at 217 E. Huntingdon Street, Savannah, Georgia, the booming sound of a cannon being fired followed immediately by power loss, interrupted the breakfast preparation at Azalea Inn and Gardens for the next 90 minutes. Innkeeper Teresa Jacobson uttered an expletive of a gentle Southern nature then quickly set about getting one last pot of coffee a drippin’ – she knew that contraption would have enough super-hot water to push one more precious pot through. Three pots of coffee, 20 guests…. could mean trouble.

Jake (her husband and occasional “Juice Boy”) strode through the back door to announce that a member of the de Squirrel family had taken out the transformer… again. Quickly assessing the situation, Teresa ordered Jake to “Fire up the grill” and looked up in time to see Kolin letting himself through the front door. Kolin was assigned to finishing the herbed potatoes on the gas stovetop and to prep the fruit. Teresa scooped two of three Chicken-Broccoli Quiches out of the oven and fairly ran down the hall to the backyard grill. The temperature had only reached 350, so leaving Jake in charge of fine-tuning the temp and guarding the quiches, she turned quickly and trotted back to the kitchen. Jake had already brought up from the basement the only non-electric powered coffee maker in the house – a glass drip contraption that takes easily 20 minutes to make a pot with tortuous administration of dollops of water – but there were 20 coffee drinkers in the house and surely mayhem would ensue if not provided with the morning sustenance!

In the meantime, potatoes progressed, quiches puffed nicely, coffee laboriously brewed, and watermelon and kiwi were prepared for the plates – though we did change the plan a bit. The white-chocolate cranberry scones would not be ready for the first seating – oh well – I simply erased it off the menu! The breakfast table was full of merriment as a fire alarm kept ringing off and on in a first floor room – the shower was creating too much steam and with no exhaust, the poor wife kept opening the room door and fanning it back and forth until the alarm stopped only to start up again when she shut the door. We told the story of the unfortunate critter each time a guest came down for coffee and chuckled at the obvious observations of possibilities – squirrel stew, squirrel fricassee, etc. The third quiche made it to the grill shortly before the first breakfast guests arrived, and after setting breakfast on the table Teresa zipped out to the grill with the first batch of scones and managed to deliver a plate full to the table shortly before the second seating arrived. They were heavenly and just what we all needed – a sweet pick-me-up!

During the second seating we again recounted the story, and continued to point the way to the corpse of the culprit – how very odd that everyone wanted to see the scoundrel. One gentleman, a funny fellow, stated his heart felt heavy with sadness over the squirrel’s untimely demise. What could l do? Grief counseling? Well, tonight from 5 to 6 pm we will have a poolside memorial for young Kami during which wine and hors d’ouevres will be served.  Amen.

Inn Love with Life – Career Change After 50

May 18th, 2010 by Teresa Jacobson

Azalea Inn and Gardens - Savannah GA bed and breakfast

Jake, Teresa, Ben and Kacy returning from a Savannah Stroll

I first met Savannah in May of 2001 at the age of 49 when my boyfriend and I stopped to visit my son, who was attending the Savannah College of Art and Design, on our way to Charleston. We spent the night at theAzalea Inn, bed and breakfast, and at the suggestion of the owner, took a 90-minute trolley tour of this surprisingly beautiful, charming Southern city. Charleston paled in comparison, and Jake and I knew we would return one day to truly savor this “lady with the dirty face” once used to describe this historic port town.

Less than a year later, on March 17, 2002, we married and flew to Savannah for a seven-day honeymoon, having just missed the infamous St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, but in time for the Savannah Music Festival.  We gave Savannah a week, wondering whether we had committed too much time and left knowing that we had not seen nearly enough.

By the end of 2002 we had relocated from San Diego to Jacksonville, Florida and began our quarterly visits to the city that had stolen our hearts, oh, and to see my son.  Graduation came in 2004 and Savannah still held us in fascination.  We celebrated my 52nd birthday in Savannah, at Azalea Inn, which had become our Savannah home, and in a chance conversation with the owners we learned she was for sale. 

The Talk The entire drive home that weekend was consumed with possibilities: could we, dare we leave our jobs and embark on a new adventure at this stage of our lives?  We were both successful in our lines of work as sales people and had owned our own businesses.  With the right real estate transactions could we own the slightly worn Azalea Inn? We loved to entertain, and I love to cook, and to talk–Lord I love to engage in animated conversations and delight in the appreciation of folks satiated with my culinary excursions. After long discussions with our CPA, we determined we could move into a new life chapter. 

 Months of agony followed with delay after delay as the owners tried to reconcile years of back taxes, we worked to find a bank specializing in Bed and Breakfast financing, and we sold our other real estate.  Finally, all the pieces were in place.  We closed the deal on August 11, 2005 and Azalea Inn was ours!  The night before the closing the previous owners informed me they were leaving town that night and therefore, breakfast was my responsibility!  My first day as an innkeeper was going to start before I officially owned the inn. 

Making it Our Own:  That set the pace for the following five years – we rebranded the inn as Azalea Inn and Gardens, we gave her a much needed facelift, ramped up the menu, pushed her to eco-friendly status with indigenous plants and drip irrigation throughout the property and recycling a full two years before our city began curbside recycling, and now we are initiating a plan to expand our gardens to include a vegetable and herb garden on the property next door.  Fresh, local, seasonal – a mantra of our kitchen.

Our five year plan to retire has expanded to ten -there is so much more to do, so much joy to be had in sharing this city and our home with the thousands of visitors we host each year.  Our zest for this life has been rewarded with several prestigious awards from the bed and breakfast community and we are humbled by the praise our guests have shared with us.  With children now grown and grandchildren arriving, we believe our passion for this life will keep us invigorated long after our great-grandchildren arrive.

Remembrance of Rainy Days Past

October 15th, 2009 by Teresa Jacobson

It rained relentlessly yesterday, sometimes sputtering droplets on annoyed heads, and at times so heavy it washed the color completely out of the landscape.  This kind of weather usually means a power outage, and it put me in mind of a day last summer and a funny innkeeping story.

pat-and-robin-newlyweds-500-300x2251It was a wild week at the inn in mid-July, 2008. It began on Monday at about 7 a.m. with a bang – literally – as the transformer behind our carriage house (where Jake and I lived) blew out. Jake quickly donned his pants and keys and unlocked the gate to the back lane to investigate. The culprit didn’t even try to escape. At the bottom of the pole lay a Kamikaze squirrel who single-handily took out several blocks of electricity.

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New Garden at Azalea Inn and Gardens

May 12th, 2009 by Teresa Jacobson

Jake and I finally moved into the apartment in the house next door in early March.  The entire back yard was a neglected child with tangled hair and dirty features -  that is, overgrown bushes, patchy grass and dirt, and too-many-to-count small oak tree sprouts.   Jake’s eye had that gleam again, the one I hadn’t seen since we finished the gardens surrounding the inn.  My sons have jokingly stated that whenever Jake finishes a garden he starts to look around for a new home.  Apparently that’s pretty close to the truth.

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