It’s Spring (Ah-choo!)

Ahh, spring in Atlanta. Or more appropriately, ah-choo! Though the dogwoods and daffodils are beautiful, the pollen can be a pain in the nose. According to the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. But you don’t have to be one of them—there are ways to manage your allergies. We spoke with Jignesh R. Dholaria, M.D., with WellStar Medical Group, Family Medicine, to get some tips.

How can I tell if it’s a cold or seasonal allergies?
A cold usually begins with symptoms of nasal discharge, nasal obstruction, a dry or scratchy throat and, later, a cough. You might also experience sneezing, fatigue, headaches and pressure/discomfort in your ears and face. Symptoms of a cold usually start about 24 to 72 hours after exposure and can persist for three to 10 days. With seasonal allergies, you can have attacks of violent sneezing, thin nasal mucous, nasal obstruction, itching/tearing/burning of the eyes, postnasal drip, cough, irritability and fatigue. The symptoms can start suddenly and last anywhere from a few days to several weeks or longer.

Every spring I suffer with sneezing, congestion, a runny nose and itchy eyes. How can I minimize these symptoms?
If these symptoms occur around the same time every year, you could benefit from starting medications a week or two before then to minimize the symptoms.

Do over-the-counter medications work? Are they safe? What are the best ones?
There are multiple treatment options depending on the symptoms you are experiencing. Over- the-counter (OTC) nasal decongestants can help reduce swelling in the nose. OTC steroid nasal sprays, which usually take a week to start working, are effective in treating congestion and post-nasal drip. Oral antihistamines will help stop itching, sneezing and runny nose symptoms, while oral nasal decongestants help reduce stuffy nose symptoms. No specific brands are superior. Of course, all medications have risks and side effects; specific treatment depends on your symptoms and should be discussed with your doctor.

Do sinus rinses work?
Salt water nasal rinses do help clean the inside of nose and rid it of pollen. They can be helpful; there are many effective devices to help rinse the nose.

Should I stay inside when pollen counts are high? How can I reduce my exposure?
Limit your outdoor exposure if possible and be sure to avoid opening your car and home windows. If you must be outside, and you have allergy symptoms, wear a dust mask.

Are allergy injections effective? How do I know if I need them?
Allergy shots are usually given by an allergy doctor who determines if they are the right treatment for you, based on specific criteria. Given every week or monthly, the injections usually contain tiny amounts of allergens. People find that this treatment reduces symptoms, but can take months to work.

How do I know if I should see a doctor?
It’s an individual choice, but your physician is a good resource for information about the most appropriate medications to use for your symptoms. You should certainly see your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms that you have not had before or if you have symptoms that are not resolving. ❍

Dr. Dholaria practices family medicine at WellStar Medical Group Family Medicine, 260  Rucker Road, Suite 400, Alpharetta, 30004. 470-956-4540.

Renovation, Renovation! Why dost thou drive me crazy?

Photo above: “It ain’t a barn door, but it’s close enough.”

By Di Chapman

Heaven help me. I’m in the middle of household renovations. Again. Somebody, please, put me out of my misery. We’re all in love with renovations right now. Fess up. You’re glued to the fixer-upper shows just as much as I am. I dream of having the “big, open concept.” We lust for the barn door, even if we can’t think of one dang place to put it. We’re hanging antler chandeliers. We’re putting real wood on kitchen walls and fake wood on the floors.

But unlike on the ubiquitous reno shows, renovations are like Pandora’s box. What will you find when you start them? Rotted wood? Unknown leaks? Cockroach communities? Ant farms? Termites? Ahem. Ad nauseam. Sure, they show the demise of these in the superfast format the shows use to make us all want what they have. But, where is the true reaction to this news between two homeowners? Where is the “Bleep, bleep, bleep, and bleep!” conversation out of earshot? Where is the “Seriously? More money? Seriously?”

I know my angst about my current reno is because I thought I had mentally prepared myself for the layer upon layer of dust, on every surface, of four rooms. For the ear-splitting noise of sledge hammers, power tools, and hammers pounding the walls. For the renovation team’s paint cans, cast-off ceramic flooring pieces, and drop cloths everywhere underfoot. For the slip and slide on the drop cloths, every time I need to go from one room to another.

For trying to avoid falling, headfirst, into the power tools and open, paint buckets, when I trip over the broom and dustpan. For my clumsiness, as I accidentally kick everything of importance to the workmen, and jump around on one foot, trying to maintain composure when a toe has been whacked into said stationary objects. For trying to keep my compulsions under control, like a need to take out the garbage when I see a bulging bag. Trash bags, with 50 pounds of sledge-hammered tile, call to me. It would be a long haul dragging that bag of garbage down to the can. I let it be.

For schlepping gobs of stuff from one room to another, and back again, as work progresses. How did we collect all of this junk anyway? For telling the guys to feel free to pile all of my office furniture on top of my desk. It stood in the middle of the room, looking like bonfire material, covered with a clear tarp. “It’s not a problem,” I said. “There’s nothing on the desk I need to see right now.” One hour later, I needed something on my desk. I crawled through the plastic tarp and onto furniture and papers. Uffda!

And, finally, for the inevitable, “We’re gonna need more time.” Why doesn’t the crew say WAY more time? It’s a hair-pulling, head-banging experience, and this girl is great at foot-stomping. They’ve met their match.

The fact is, this is not my show. It belongs to the contractor, the painters, the tilers, and the floor guys. I’m trying to feign a sense of humor, but that’s a cover for losing my mind. “Why am I doing this to myself?” I wail. “Did this room really need it?” I must admit that it did and does. The late 1990s and early 2000s are just that, only without the vintage vibe. They have to go the way of avocado carpet and yellow refrigerators. I’ll bet, like me, you were happy to see them go. How do dumb trends like that get started anyway? (If you are someone who loved them, oops, my bad.)

Mental preparation for renovations anywhere is a fleeting joke, laughing at us, and certainly, not with us. I recall the master bath overhaul a few summers ago. I wanted to plunge a knife into my chest. I flailed. I threw tantrums. The shower, tile floor, and bathtub were demolished. “Di, do you need this old bathtub?” the plumber asked. Really? Why in the heck would I use that old bathtub? Perhaps for a campy piece of furniture in the living room? “Ladies and gentlemen, here we have the latest piece of furniture art! This is a lovely, neutral beige. A few pillows will give it some vibrant color. It’s perfect for leisurely reading.”

He had a special power tool and revved it up. I gave the tub last rites. With a few swipes, it was in pieces and hauled away. (P.S. Ladies, if you’re into men with big tools, I highly recommend doing a reno. To each of us our own, girls!)

The list of my renovations goes on and on. I try to space them out over time, a reno here, a reno there.

Cleaning up for a friend’s visit the day after the completion of the bedrooms and guest bathroom, I had the munchies something fierce. I did what any red-blooded, American woman does while she’s vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning floors after a bomb blast. I prowled for corn chips and found some fresh out of the bag. That would do. I chomped and chomped on chips, digging in the bag and popping the crunchy critters in my mouth. Who knew that chips could taste so good when you’re cleaning floors? From the stair landing, into the master and guest bedrooms, I swiffered and mopped the floors and dusted furniture into the night.

Morning light shimmered into the bedroom, and I arose earlier than usual to delight in my newly renovated rooms. Then I saw them. Chip crumb after chip crumb had made a trail across the floor. Like Hansel and Gretel’s trail of breadcrumbs, the straight-line of a corn chip highway took me down the road into the bedroom.

I had to laugh. In all of the madness, I might just be crazier than renovations. 

Di Chapman is an inspirational author and speaker, and a branding consultant. Di’s latest book is Rekindle Your Purpose: Break through your disappointments, discouragements, and detours to resurrect your purpose and live it! Contact Di at

Indispensable Azaleas for North Metro Landscapes

Azaleas practically grow themselves in Georgia’s acidic soil.

Durable shrubs, their vivid colors in spring (and sometimes summer and fall) make azaleas one of the most popular choices for Atlanta landscapes. The fact that we have soils that test acidic (blue litmus paper; blue hydrangeas), a requirement for ericaceous plants like blueberries, mountain laurel, rhododendrons, and azaleas, make these the natural choice for landscapes. Azaleas do so well that our local chapter of the American Rhododendron Society is known as the “Azalea Chapter.” It meets at the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell the third Sunday of most months at 2:30 p.m. The Society has scheduled events and field trips during summer so the next meeting at CNC is September 16.


All azaleas are rhododendrons, although in common usage “rhododendron” mostly refers to plants with large, leathery, evergreen foliage, while azaleas have smaller, thinner leaves. Both need the same conditions to do well.

Asian azaleas are the typical evergreen shrubs available everywhere for as little as $1 and come in shades of hot pink through lavender and white. Kurume hybrids are the familiar solid sheets of color, while Southern Indian hybrids have larger flowers and leaves.
Reblooming azaleas like Encore and other brands have an advantage for the landscape because they bloom 2 – 3 times each year, particularly when planted in some sunshine and fertilized with compost after each bloom cycle.

Native azaleas are both fragrant and deciduous! These are a bit harder to find at the nurseries and come in yellow, orange, and red, along with pink and white. About a dozen species of azaleas are native to Georgia and the Southeast. Although they are often recommended for shady conditions, they bloom more profusely with plenty of sunshine. Did you know? The Callaway Gardens’ logo is a native red, Plumleaf azalea.

Hybrid native azaleas with selected forms and crosses have produced the big-flowered hybrids that have stolen my heart away. I have about five-dozen native azalea hybrids in our home landscape, and we throw parties at the beginning of April just because they are so beautiful! Look for Aromi, Dodd, Transplant Nursery, or Galle hybrid crosses that have outstanding, large, colorful, ruffled, fragrant blooms and can withstand our hot weather.


As you might expect, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has great information on azaleas and can answer lots of questions. Visit their publications site, particularly Selecting and Growing Azaleas. Please note:

  • Azaleas can be planted any time. Fall planting is easier due to falling temperatures, but spring planting allows you to choose the colors you want while they are flowering.
  • Azaleas thrive and will have more flowers in more sun than usually advised (although not total, baking sun). When planted in shade, they have to compete with trees for water.
  • Azaleas will die in wet, poorly-drained, or heavy clay soil, so don’t try it.


A great (and local) website is the Azalea Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society. You can check it out at They give detailed info on exactly how to plant an azalea slightly above ground, including a diagram involving a shallow, hula hoop-sized hole filled with ground pine bark.

  • Examine the roots before you buy an azalea; they should be fibrous and creamy, filling the pot, but not black, not root bound.
  • Make four cuts into the root ball and plant with the bottom flared out in your planting hole so the roots will grow outward.
  • The planting hole should be wide and shallow because azalea roots grow near the surface.
  • After planting, mulch with organic mulch like pine bark, pine straw, compost, or shredded leaves on the surface but a couple of inches away from the trunk of the shrub.
  • Azaleas must be watered-in immediately and then twice a week for 3 – 4 months while establishing.

Don’t miss the Chattahoochee Nature Center Spring Native Plant Sale in Roswell, April 5– 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. In Decatur, the Azalea Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society’s Annual Plant Sale is scheduled April 12, 4:30 – 8 p.m.  and April 13, 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Do you have photos of azaleas from your home landscape? Let me hear from you by posting on our Facebook page at or email me at

Fool Me Once… Retirement Myths

By Robert Fezza and Steve Siders

Planning for retirement can be confusing, especially when so much conflicting information abounds about life in retirement. Here are some myths that commonly masquerade as facts.

My kids will be off the payroll… Illness, job loss, and divorce are just a few issues that can derail your child’s financial independence. No matter how old your children are, you’ll want to do everything you can to protect them. Even if they are financially independent, you may want to contribute to big ticket items, such as a down payment on a house, or an annual gift so you can see them enjoying their inheritance now, rather than after you’re gone. If grandchildren are in the picture, nothing will keep you from spoiling them, monetarily or otherwise. We suggest building these intentions into your retirement plan—even if only as a contingency.

I will not worry about money… When you’re working, you don’t have time to fixate on economic and political issues that gyrate the financial markets. You are busy and have a regular paycheck; plus, you know that your investments have time to rebound after a market lull. But once you retire, those issues may be more top of mind; after all, your regular paycheck is coming from your investments. Determining when, which accounts, and how much you withdraw can be worrisome. To overcome these worries, we suggest building up at least two years of living expenses in cash savings prior to retirement. When you experience down markets, you can draw from the cash buffer, rather than your investments.

I can drop my life insurance… Viewing life insurance solely as an expense in retirement could be a mistake. When one spouse passes away, the widow’s Social Security and pension income could decrease, but their expenses may stay the same. Life insurance proceeds can help the surviving spouse pay off a mortgage, medical expenses, or provide for living expense in retirement.

I must convert to Roths… Many worry that the required minimum distributions at age 70½ from retirement accounts will push them into a higher tax bracket, so they think that converting the entire traditional IRA into a Roth will reduce their taxes. In contrast, most who convert their entire account end up paying more in taxes, as the first-year RMD (required minimum distribution) is approximately 3.7% of an IRA at age 70½ and only increases to 5% by age 80. This means that most retirees don’t experience the jump in taxes as feared.

I shouldn’t take money from my retirement accounts before age 701⁄2… Rather than leaving your retirement account to grow into a large balance by age 70½, it may make sense to draw some money out prior to the RMD to balance your income sources for tax planning purposes. You’ve worked hard for the money, you should enjoy it when you want.

There is a lot of misinformation out there. We enjoy having meaningful conversations about money to help you steer clear of misconceptions that could derail a prosperous retirement. Life is a journey. Navigate it wisely. ❍

Robert Fezza, CFP® and Steve Siders, CFP® own Odyssey Personal Financial Advisors, 500 Sun Valley Drive, Suite A-6, Roswell, GA. Their firm specializes in working with people who are serious about making progress towards their financial goals. Odyssey manages portfolios greater than $250,000. 770-992-4444, Securities offered through Cetera Financial Specialists LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Cetera Investment Advisers LLC. Cetera entities are under separate ownership from any other named entity. The views expressed are for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security which may be referenced herein. This information is not a substitute for professional guidance in financial, tax, estate planning or legal matters.

Spring Festival Time Has Arrived!

By Tara Gary

Break out your short sleeve shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. Spring is finally here! One of the best things about springtime in our area is the abundance of festivals and events that entice us to leave our dreary winter blues behind. Atlanta is full of events celebrating the vibrant blooms of the many dogwoods and azaleas that line our streets, parks, and yards. It’s nearly impossible to stay indoors when there is such a huge variety of outdoor activities and events to attend.

One of my personal favorite outdoor activities is enjoying a nice cold craft brew while listening to live music and soaking up the sun. The Brookhaven Beer Festival Saturday, April 6 from 2:00 - 6:00 p.m. entails all of those things. With over 150 beers, wine, tasty food from local food trucks, and live music, it sounds like the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Georgia Breast Cancer Coalition Fund, which means you’ll be giving back while indulging your senses.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly event, a short drive to the Festival on Ponce Saturday, April 6-Sunday, April 7 may just be your answer. The festival will be held at Olmsted Linear Park. Designed by one of America’s most celebrated landscape architects, Frederick Olmsted Sr., enjoy strolling through this beautiful area and visit the arts and crafts market with 125 participating artists, Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. You know you won’t leave empty-handed, and with a children’s park, food, and live entertainment, everyone in the family will be happy.

Chequered Blue performs at the Dogwood Festival on Sunday, 1:00 p.m.

Now for this one, you’ll want to wear your most comfortable shoes. Plan on spending the day, or entire weekend, to walk through one of the largest festivals in the ATL. In its 83rd year, the Atlanta Dogwood Festival Friday, April 12 – Sunday, April 14 is not to be missed. This thing is huge! Thankfully, it’s three days long, so you’ll have plenty of time to take it all in. Hundreds of artists from around the country line the walkways of Piedmont Park. There is a kid’s village with huge inflatables, face painting, a 24-foot rock climbing wall, and midway rides. It makes me want to be a kid again. As if that’s not enough, the festival has two stages for your entertainment. The Main Stage music entertainers include The Jake Bartley Band and Jacob Bryant on Friday night. Saturday’s lineup includes Wren & The ­­­­­­Ravens, Blood on the Harp, BJ Wilbanks, The Wesley Pruitt Band, Jessica Meuse, and Stone Senate. For Sunday, Community Music Center of Atlanta Showcase, Chequered Blue, and PreacherVan (The Georgia Flood) play, with Clay Shelburn wrapping it up that evening. The International Stage, located on the Lake Clara Meer dock, brings hundreds of performers both professional and amateur to the stage representing countries throughout the world. Dancers, singers, martial artists, and many more acts will delight the crowd while representing the many international communities that live in Atlanta. Of course, there will be plenty of food, and you know the beverages will be flowing. I highly suggest taking Marta, Lyft, or Uber. Parking is not an easy task on a typical day around Piedmont Park.

If you are looking for a no-kids, no-pets, 21 and up festival on the same weekend as the Dogwood Festival, head down to Historic Fourth Ward Park. The Atlanta Spring Wine Festival Saturday, April 13 from 1:00-5:00 p.m. will have 50+ wines and also beer and ciders available for you to quench your thirst. There will be live music and a DJ. The park itself encompasses 17 acres of greenspace and a world class skate park. Spend the remainder of the day checking out how the area has redefined itself in recent years to become a hip community with incredible dining, bars, and nightlife.

Now if you still don’t think there is enough to keep you busy, I’ll offer up a cheesy option, the Atlanta Grilled Cheese Festival Saturday, April 13 in Atlantic Station. I mean seriously?! How can you go wrong? There is even going to be a Bloody Mary garden, and you can order a Bloody Mary flight. Frosty, seasonal craft beers and cocktails will also be available to tempt your taste buds. If you don’t like grilled cheese sandwiches (we probably couldn’t be friends), a variety of food trucks will be there as well. Did I mention they will have an adult game zone? I’m in and assuming it’s probably located next to the Bloody Mary garden. Also, no festival is truly a festival without music. The lineup consists of DJ OneNate, Alchemy, Citizen Gold, and All the Locals. There are two sessions to this event: 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and 2:30­-5:30­p.m.

If you’re looking for a festival that is OTP and on that same weekend, you can join the over 70,000 people expected to attend the Big Shanty Festival Saturday, April 13 – Sunday, April 14 in downtown Kennesaw. This event will have more than 200 arts and crafts booths, food, and entertainment on two different stages. I am amazed, and somewhat intrigued, at how many arts and crafts vendors could actually exist. There are so many festivals on the same weekend, and they all have a large number of vendors. Anyway, this festival kicks off with a parade Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m., that starts at Adams Park and ends in downtown Kennesaw, and closes Saturday at 6:00 p.m. Sunday it’s open from 12:00-5:00p.m.

“Robin Hood, a merry queen, something, something, juggling, men in tights who like to fight with sharp things in their hands.”

There is another huge festival opening this month that will run every weekend, 10:30a.m. – 6:00p.m. through June. It’s that festival with the jingle that I just can’t get out of my head, “Robin Hood, a merry queen, something, something, juggling, men in tights who like to fight with sharp things in their hands.” Yes, it’s time for the 34th season of the Georgia Renaissance Festival Saturdays and Sundays, April 13-June 2, as well as Memorial Day in Fairburn. Giant roasted turkey legs, a 32-acre 16th century English Village, 150 artisan craft shoppes, carnival games, 10 stages of entertainment, and yes, men in tights.

I’m sure there are even more festivals around us on the 13th, but I feel like I’ve given you plenty to choose from, and there are still more April festivals to cover. For instance, the following weekend, Art on the Chattahoochee Saturday, April 20 will be held from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Food trucks, live entertainment, an artist market, art demonstrations, a kid’s chalk art contest, and photos with the Easter Bunny will fill the Jones Bridge Park in Peachtree Corners on the Chattahoochee. Keep in mind, the 20th is also Free National Park Day, and a great time to visit the Chattahoochee River National Recreation area.

For a two-day event that same weekend, check out Sandy Springs Artsapalooza Saturday, April 20 –­ Sunday, April 21. This festival brings art to the streets of the city with over 150 artists participating and local musicians entertaining the crowds. A children’s play area will be available to keep the little ones busy, and there will even be interactive art stations for the artist within.

Lemonade days festival coaster
The coaster at Lemonade Days in Dunwoody (2018) .

Now the last weekend of April packs more festivals in than you may be able to attend, unless you just feel like running a marathon of festivals! Lemonade Days Wednesday, April 24-Sunday, April 28 at Brook Run Park in Dunwoody runs for four days! This festival is a biggie. It features more than 30 full-scale carnival rides, over 20 food and beverage vendors, a 5K run, three days of center stage performances, and the ever-popular Dunwoody Idol contest. During the week the festival is open from 4:00 – 10:00  p.m., Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., and Sunday, 12:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Widely regarded as Atlanta’s most spirited and eclectic neighborhood festival, and in its 48th year, is the Inman Park Festival & Tour of Homes Saturday, April 27-Sunday, April 28. (Tour of Homes begins Friday, April 26). What’s interesting about this festival is the Arts & Crafts Market consists of a jury selected group of more than 150 artists. The Street Market houses more than 250 booths of vendors selling antiques, handcrafted items, clothing, and a unique and large variety of other items. Every year artwork is selected to represent the festival. This year’s chosen artist is Sara Lehtman, a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), who now calls Inman Park home. She created the piece to represent her love for Inman Park and the neighborhood mascot, the butterfly. The Festival is free; you’ll need to purchase tickets for Tour of Homes.

The Tour of Homes is self-conducted and features some of the beautiful homes and buildings in Inman Park. See inside some of the glorious old Victorian homes and check out the beautiful remodeling jobs neighbors have completed on their houses. The home preview starts on Friday, April 26, 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. and continues through Saturday and Sunday, 12:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Also on the last weekend of April is a festival for artists by artists, the Duluth Arts Festival Saturday, April 27-Sunday, April 28. Located in the culturally diverse, fun, and vibrant community of Duluth, it allows the artists to have a voice in the creation and operations of the festival. This event will feature about 86 painters, photographers, sculptors, metalworkers, and more. Music, food trucks, and performances will fill the town center Saturday, 10:00 a.m. –  5:00 p.m. and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Yes, there are even more festivals! The Smyrna Spring Jonquil Festival Saturday, April 27-Sunday, April 28 is also a great choice. Located in downtown Smyrna, with over 175 arts and crafts booths, children’s activities, an entertainment stage, and 15 food vendors, the event will run Saturday, 10:00a.m. –  6:00 p.m. and Sunday, 12:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Our current choice is beer.

Personally, when I drink water, I prefer it to be filtered through a brewery first. The Fifth Annual No Water, No Beer Festival Saturday, April 27 will be held from 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. at The Garage at Monday Night Brewing, 933 Lee Street SW, Atlanta. Proceeds from this event will help to provide clean water to people in developing countries as well as helping efforts to keep our water supply clean right here in Georgia. Great food, music, and of course some of the best beer, make this an event to look forward to attending.

John Howell Park in Virginia Highland hosts the Great Southern Beer Fest Saturday, April 27 with two available sessions: the early session 11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and afternoon session 3:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. This event is a huge contender for my Saturday entertainment, with over 75 regional craft beer tastings, live music with DJ OneNate and Moontower, food from Nana G’s Chicken & Waffles and The Deep South Biscuit Co., and backyard games—including cornhole, giant Jenga (one of my personal favorites), and life-sized Connect Four.

Just up the road from Virginia Highland, let’s not forget about the Kennesaw Beer & Wine Festival Saturday, April 27 being held this year at the Historic Kennesaw Church parking lot, while Depot Park is being renovated. This festival will feature more than 100 beers and over 25 wines, a bunch of ciders, and small samples from Lazy Guy Distillery. There will be live music on the main stage by Atlanta’s party rock heroes, The Geeks, a pop, rap, rock group. This event is from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m., meaning you’ll have to choose which event to attend. So many choices!

All of these amazing events in one month and guess what… I haven’t even mentioned the 5th Annual Roswell Azalea Festival Monday, April 1 – Tuesday, April 30. Yes, this festival spans the entire month of April! Events take place at numerous locations and on a variety of dates throughout the city. Included are a lantern parade on the river to celebrate the beauty of our local ecosystem, native plant sale at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, craft beer, musical performances, Roswell Farmers & Artisans Market, The Vintage Computer Festival Southeast 7.0, Invitational Art Exhibition Reception, and so much more. One of my favorite events is the returning of Alive in Roswell Thursday, April 18. This free, family-friendly festival is held the third Thursday of every month April – October from 5:00-9:00 p.m. Town Square, Canton Street, East Alley, and City Hall Lawn are filled with live music, food trucks, vendors, family-fun activities, and craft beer. I counted over 45 events on the Roswell Azalea Festival website. So many fun activities to participate in and celebrate the beauty of spring in Historic Roswell. For details visit

As I have said before, there is no excuse to sit idly at home when you live in and around the ATL. Every community seems to have more than its share of events to keep us entertained, bring us together, and provide opportunities for us to give back to those in need. Enjoy the sunshine and gorgeous blooms, and just try to avoid the yellow snow (pollen). Good luck with that! ❍

Shamrockin’ Around

Above: Drum Corporal Will Ingraham, Drum Sergeant Anthony Green, and Alpharetta’s own, Ashley Frost, of North Georgia Pipes & Drums. Photo: Raftermen Photography

By Tara Gary

I view it as an excuse to wear green, drink beer, and pinch people who forgot to wear green. Wherever did I get the notion to do these things on the 17th of March each year? I’m sure if I took a random poll of St. Patrick’s Day patrons, the majority of individuals wouldn’t know why they are gallivanting through Irish pubs wearing t-shirts that say “Kiss Me I’m Irish.” I decided to do a little research to figure out how it all began and here’s what I found, while shamrockin’ around.

  • St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish, it is believed he was born circa 386 in Roman Britain, an area that included England and Wales.
  • Saint Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century. The day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.
  • Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day as a secular holiday was an American tradition before it spread to Ireland.
  • Historically, Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day. (You may want to check with your parish priest:))
  • 13 million—the number of estimated pints of Guinness to be consumed on St. Patrick’s Day.
  • 45 pounds of environmentally-friendly powder are used to turn the Chicago River green. Savannah tried it too, back in 1961, but the tide dissipated it too quickly to be worthwhile. Now they dye the water in their famous fountains instead.

So, how should you spend your time on St. Patrick’s Day if you’re not planning to travel to celebrate near any green rivers or fountains? How about Shamrockin’ around ATL to some of the many local celebrations!

Luck of Avalon brings out the Irish in everyone. Photo: Raftermen Photography

It’s never too early to start celebrating St. Patrick’s Day especially since the day of green falls on a Sunday this year. Start the weekend Friday, March 15 at the 5th Annual Luck of Avalon celebration. The King O’Sullivan School of Irish Dance kicks off the festivities at 5:30 p.m., followed by a proper bagpipe and drum introduction performed by the North Georgia Pipes and Drums, who will continue to parade through the streets of Avalon while the plaza transforms into a dance floor. Enjoy the live music, dancing, Irish flair, and green beer during this family-friendly event.

If you’re planning on heading downtown for the festivities, start with the Green Mile Block Party in Midtown. I suggest taking Marta since it starts at 7:00 p.m., and 2,000 party-goers are expected to attend. That’s a ton of green! There are 20+ establishments involved so there will be plenty of food and beverages for everyone to overindulge in and kick-off the holiday weekend.

The Seed & Feed Marching Abominable has been wowing spectators in parades, concerts, and festivals since 1974. The band supports events and fundraisers of all kinds.
Photo: Alan Sandercock/Creative Commons

Wake up Saturday morning and run or walk those calories off at The Junior League of Atlanta Shamrock ‘N Roll Road Race in Atlantic Station. The 5K and 10K are AJC Peachtree Road Race qualifiers. You can bring the kids, strollers are welcome, and furry friends can participate as well. After the run, cross over the 17th Street Bridge to see one of the South’s biggest and oldest celebrations of its kind, the Atlanta St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Midtown. The family-friendly parade features more than 2,000 Irish dancers, musicians, balloons, floats, local and Irish dignitaries, the Clydesdales, and the world’s largest Irish walking flag. What’s not to love about the world’s largest flag?!

The Irish Lights Party is just down the road at Park Tavern in Piedmont Park. It’s an all-day festival featuring the band Lost Kings with several different areas of entertainment. It’s an adults only party so leave the little leprechauns with a sitter.

Not done yet? Take a breath, refuel, and head on over to paint The Battery green at Live! at the Battery Atlanta. The St. Patrick’s Day Live! Takeover features live bands all afternoon, Irish cocktails, green beer, and plenty of games. If you’re looking to stay further north of town, head over to the Suwanee American Craft Beer Fest from 1:00 p.m. –  5:00 p.m. happening in Town Center Park. Unlimited tastings of over 350 beers! There’s even a home brew contest for those of you brew enthusiasts.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I will be attending Mac McGee’s MacFestivus March 16 in the heart of Historic Roswell. When this section of Canton Street shuts down you can let your inner leprechaun shine. Proceeds benefit Roswell’s The Cottage School, which is a great reason, as if you need one, to have a convivial experience while giving back to the community. This is another family-friendly event with live music beginning at 1:00 p.m., Irish dancers, balloon artists, and all the fun you can macmuster.

Early risers, if you’re up or rather down for a Pub Crawl Brunch Party, head to Virginia Highland for Kegs and Eggs March 17. If you don’t know by now you will… Virginia Highland has some of best brunch spots in Atlanta. Participating bars and restaurants are Limerick Junction, Diesel, Bar-Bacoa, Tiki Iniki, George’s, Moe’s & Joe’s, Fontaine’s, Dark Horse Tavern, Neighbor’s Pub, and The Warren City Club.

There is no excuse for being unable to find something to do the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day. It would be impossible to list the endless number of events surrounding the Metro area. I did a quick search for “Irish pubs near me” that resulted in a flood of options including: Mac McGee Irish Pub, Harp Irish Pub, Olde Blind Dog Irish Pub, Keegan’s Public House, Royal Oak Pub, Meehan’s Public House, Johnnie MacCracken’s, Tilted Kilt, Fado Irish Pub, and Ri Ra Irish Pub which are all located in various areas within reach. You know each of these establishments will have numerous festivities. I know Keegan’s will be hosting live music Friday and Saturday night and all-day Sunday.

So, for a Leapin’ Leprechaun, Shamrockin’ good time this St. Patrick’s Day, you need not search for the end of the rainbow when you live around ATL. The pot of gold is right at your feet. ❍

When not writing, Roswell resident Tara Gary is busy making industrial furniture, charcuterie boards, and local art. Most nights she can be found with her friends at local breweries and pubs drinking craft beer.

North Georgia Pipes & Drums

Above: Pipers Kari Olsen of Milton and Mark Lamont. Photo: Raftermen Photography

Both exciting and mournful, there is nothing quite like the sound of the bagpipes to stir emotions. That’s why North Georgia Pipes and Drums is hired for events ranging from parades and parties to funerals. They’ll perform at Luck of Avalon this year on March 15.

When asked about performing for St. Patrick’s day with Scottish bagpipes, Tom Crawford, Pipe Major, replied, ”The bagpipes are indeed Scottish. The full name is the Great Highland Bagpipes. However, Scotland and Ireland are very close neighbors and cross migration was common. So the Scottish pipes are used in Ireland as well. It’s all Celtic, so we celebrate that.”

For a dozen years, North Georgia Pipes and Drums have held true to their philosophy: Good Music, Good Will, Good Fun! Members hail from all corners of the North Atlanta/North Georgia region, including Alpharetta, Athens, Buford, Covington, Dahlonega, Gainesville, Johns Creek, Woodstock and beyond. “We have ten pipers, seven drummers, and one drum major, said Crawford. “We’re always looking for new members, too.”

The band was founded in 2007 as North Atlanta Pipes & Drums, by four seasoned musicians: pipers Brad Beaton, Mark Blihovde, Robbie Rogers, and drummer JJ Hayden. Their vision was, and remains, to bring together a core of accomplished pipers and drummers who love to play, who are ready to compete, and who will welcome and nurture developing players. In 2016 they changed the name of the band to North Georgia Pipes and Drums to better reflect its burgeoning and wide-ranging membership. The band uses competition as a motivation tool to improve their playing, and has taken many first place wins. They perform for the public at reasonable rates in order to subsidize the costs involved in maintaining their organization, a charitable 501(c)3 organization.

They practice weekly at Johns Creek Presbyterian Church and they welcome visitors to come and observe at a rehearsal. Contact them at the website to be sure that the rehearsal is on the calendar. Look for them at Luck of Avalon and visit North Georgia Pipes and Drums, to learn more or call 678-718-KILT (5458). ❍

Yard of the Month in 3 Easy Steps

I was surprised and more tickled than I ever thought I’d be to come home one day last November and find the “Yard of the Month” sign in my front yard. So I got to thinking about how to share the wealth and came up with three steps to make your landscape noteworthy.

Neatness Counts

• Staying ahead of yard chores is one key to keeping the landscape neat. A schedule helps with efficiency and keeps autumn leaves or summer weeds under control.

• Edges are another important key to any landscaped space. They delineate boundaries between different areas such as sun and shade, woods and lawn, lawn and driveway. Humans navigate by edges, so crisp, well-maintained edges promote a feeling of well-being and safety.

• Mulch suppresses weeds while it unifies the landscape. Choose an organic mulch like ground pine bark, pine straw, or compost that will help replenish the soil and repeat the same mulch throughout your yard for continuity. This will help the eye move around your landscape.

Feature a Focal Point

• A welcoming front door and entryway is perhaps the most logical spot to emphasize. Improve the walkway from street or drive and keep it level and clear for curb appeal.

• Elevate the architecture on your home with detailing to open it up.

• Make the point of entry pop and add personality with paint and accessories to invite people in.

• Light the way with low voltage landscape lighting for beauty and safety.

Feature a Focal Point

• A welcoming front door and entryway is perhaps the most logical spot to emphasize. Improve the walkway from street or drive and keep it level and clear for curb appeal.

• Elevate the architecture on your home with detailing to open it up.

• Make the point of entry pop and add personality with paint and accessories to invite people in.

• Light the way with low voltage landscape lighting for beauty and safety.

Color is Appealing
On morning walks with my coonhound, Lily, we often pass a neighbor that has planted colorful flowering ornamentals for every month of the year. Daffodils beginning in early spring, followed by several clumps of iris, through Atlanta’s azalea season, roses and daylilies midsummer, hydrangeas and chrysanthemums in fall, and finishing up with holly berries and hellebores over winter. Each of these are permanent and do not need too much attention. There is something going on each and every month, and it is fascinating to see what’s next.

Have you been chosen the ‘Yard of the Month’ for your neighborhood? What have you done differently? Let me know by commenting beloew or email me.

Geri Laufer lives in Atlanta, where she, graphic designer husband David, and English Coonhound Lily are working on designing and installing a never-finished landscape. You can reach her at Geri Laufer

Luck of the Irish

Above: Tap & Six co-owner Holli Hutson with her dad, Ernest Hutson, at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah.

By Ethan Craig

Growing up here in Roswell, St. Patrick’s Day was never much of a big deal for me. Sure, we had fun wearing green for a day and making leprechaun jokes, but the celebration moved on pretty quickly. For Holli, my business partner at Tap & Six, St. Paddy’s Day is quite a different story. She was born and raised in Savannah where there is a higher level of appreciation for celebrating the Irish and their patron saint.

Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day revelry rivals New York City and is one of only two places in the United States that celebrates March 17 as a legal holiday, Suffolk County, Massachusetts being the other. Hundreds of thousands of people gather and celebrate the annual parade. Holli’s dad, family, and friends gather on the evening before the parade and strategically position themselves along the parade route waiting until the police give the okay. With that signal, there is a mad rush to claim a space on one of Savannah’s many squares as they stake-out their territory for a party that will include hundreds of people coming and going throughout the day. The celebration includes a massive spread of food, Bloody Marys, green Krispy Kreme donuts, and a wide selection of beer.

St. Patrick’s Day is a reminder of the many Irish-style craft beers that are available this time of year. For those of us who are looking to celebrate closer to home, I’ve got a few suggestions that will allow you to support your local brewer as well as enjoy the luck of the Irish.

Irish Red I Jedeye from Cherry Street Brewing is a dark, ruby red Irish red ale with a light body and slight malty, crisp finish.

Nitro Dry Irish Stout from Breckenridge Brewery is jet black and true to style. The malt and an English ale yeast bring complexity to an otherwise simple, yet traditional beer.

Drafty Kilt from Monday Night Brewing is a roasty Scotch ale (not Irish, but pretty close) with a hint of smoke. Here’s what Monday Night has to say about it… “Full-bodied, but not overpowering. Smokey, but not in a creepy bar kind of way. Sweet, but not obnoxiously so. Sound like your ideal mother-in-law? Fair enough, but it also is a pretty dead-on description of our Scotch Ale.”

And of course, there’s always a Guinness Stout to be had.

Wherever you are on the 17th:

May the luck of the Irish 
lead to happiest heights 
and the highway you travel 
be lined with green lights.

We’ll toast to that! ❍

Ethan Craig is Craft Beer Curator at Tap & Six Craft Beer House, a craft beer market and bar in Historic Roswell at 23 Oak Street. Tap & Six.

Duke’s Bar & Grill in Milton

By Joe Duffy

I was a faithful groupie of one-time Atlanta Chef Richard Blais previous to his ascension as a celebrity via Top Chef. My grubbing Golden Rule is, if I claim I don’t like something, you know I’ve tried it. Blais’s inventiveness and cutting-edge creations, such as the famed foie gras milkshake, paired perfectly with my adventurous wheelhouse.

However, there is ample space in my heart and stomach for familiar, well-executed, timeless dishes. Enter veteran Chef Todd Hogan. The James Beard recurring guest chef, DiRona award winner and Johnson & Wales-trained master chef isn’t endeavoring to reinvent the wheel. He’s too occupied with perfecting it. I’ve delighted in at least six of Hogan’s current and former restaurants.

Even including his brief stint at the incompetently-managed, squandered potential of Slate, all of his enterprises have demonstrated that Hogan cooks both comfortable, American casual and fine dining as well as anyone. Going from one extreme to the other, Hogan transformed high-end, special-occasion restaurant Indigo (the second incarnation) into his most casual concept—Duke’s Bar & Grill.

“I overdid it with design,” Hogan said, in confirming the high-end Indigo redux limited patrons in family-oriented Crabapple to being only a special occasion place. “If I can only see you on your birthday or anniversary, that’s not what I want.”

Pat & Gracie’s in Columbus, Ohio tops a short list of restaurants rivaling Hogan’s tater tots as the best I’ve ever had. Duke’s version incorporates cheddar cheese, trotting them atop the tot lot. Yes, I’ve supped ITP’s Fox Brothers, Roswell’s Lucky’s, and Alpharetta’s The Nest Cafe. All are credentialed nominees, but Duke’s is peerless this side of the Buckeye State.

Also quintessential are his humongous onion rings, drizzled with spicy honey and topped with white cheddar. But the topmost appetizer may be his lightly fried lobster poppers.

Frying a delicacy is a risky proposition. Deep frying is always the first option for masking lower-quality fish like catfish and tilapia. Mind you, I love fried catfish (you can keep the tilapia) but there is the inherent peril of the unintended consequence of concealing the greatness of lobster. Then again, the fried lobster tail at McKendrick’s ranks among the greatest foodstuff I’ve ever had. Clearly when well-executed, high-quality fried lobster has a high payoff.

Oh hell, Hogan has already proven at sister restaurant Branch & Barrel at Avalon that he knows exactly what he’s doing with the corn fried lobster sandwich. He successfully administers the embodiment of fried marine life with the mentioned small bite at Duke’s.

Wife’s monthly gossip… err I mean book club members report, Duke’s fried pickled green beans should be on my bucket list. My wife is obsessed with fried pickles, giving two thumbs up on the closest plate at Duke’s to said infatuation.

Todd’s record shows he formulates first course items skillfully. At his sister restaurants, Branchwater in Cumming and the aforesaid Branch & Barrel, Hogan has the loftiest beer pretzel OTP. Oh gosh, procure that horseradish sour cream dip if you are keyed up by life-changing eats. At his three currently open restaurants, Hogan parades many contenders for the best American staple dishes I’ve ever had. In saying Duke’s fried chicken is a slight notch below Table & Main’s as my bride’s and my favorite is hardly damning with faint praise. It’s merely an homage to another of the area’s restaurant giants. Hogan’s fried yard bird is better than 95 percent you’ll find. That’s serious acclaim in these parts.

Nothing says American like a mushroom Swiss burger and mac and cheese.

Duke’s pecan-crusted grouper is luscious. This Milton/Crabapple eating house also outperforms most with family-friendly comfort food such as meatloaf, rosemary roasted chicken, burgers, and salads.

Yes, sous vide, nitrogen food, nouvelle cuisine and whatever future cooking techniques evolve, all have appeal to me. But unlike many of my fellow food snobs, I don’t want to be all chic, all the time. There’s no need to outsmart the room. Some dishes are timeless. Hogan made it clear that he prefers time-proven techniques such as braising and roasting over “dummy proof” sous-vide.

God willing, I have at least 35 years of gluttony ahead of me. Yes, my life is complete if I never consume rice pilaf again. But whichever blockhead determined beef stroganoff, Swedish meatballs, and chicken Kiev are no longer worthy of appearing on menus can kiss my grits. Thankfully, Hogan excels in dishes that were great in decades past and likely will be for posterity. There is no better “old school” chef. ❍

When he’s not eating, which is rare, the author is CEO of Sports Handicapping website Offshore Insiders. His bride’s gift site, Duffy Gifts is the place to go for gifts for all occasions from My Thirty One Gifts.