Masters Hostess with the Mostest
It’s been said that it takes 10,000 hours to master a complicated task, and if anyone has mastered the art of getting a house ready for the tournament, it’s Laurie Easterlin. She’s rented her Skinner Miller Road home for 25 years and is so savvy at the task she published a book called: So You’re Renting Your House for the Tournament.
Last spring Easterlin had a sit-down with a number of Masters rental agents, hoping to ferret out some common mistakes Augusta hosts make. The news wasn’t good.
According to the agents, a number of hosts behave as if they’re doing their guests a favor instead of the other way around. “You don’t earn thousands of dollars in Masters rental money by swiping out the sink,” Easterlin says. “The Augusta community needs to show the world we understand Southern hospitality and that we’re thrilled to pieces to rent to guests. Our homes need to reflect that.”
The agents also complained about the huge variance in the level of hospitality in homes that rent for the same amount of money. One house might put out an enviable welcome spread of goodies for guests, another house will expect their renters to limp by on a half roll of toilet paper for the week.
It’s gotten to be such a problem that many Master agents are reluctant to risk taking on newbies. Hearing their complaints, Easterlin decided to lend her knowledge to potential Masters hosts and started a business called Staged to a Tee (www.staged2atee.com). She also does real estate staging, and her site includes a blog with dozens of helpful tips.
Easterlin recommends preparing your house like your best friends are coming to visit and their contentment is your primary goal. “Don’t make guests guess,” she says. She includes instructions for anything that might puzzle a guest like an oddly placed light switch or a complicated TV remote. She also prepares a welcome basket with champagne. Along with the basket, she writes a note saying how she wants her guest to get as much joy out of her home as she and her family do. The note’s sincere, but she’s also sending a subconscious message to visitors: You’re staying in a cherished place—treat it with respect.
The strategy’s worked for Easterlin. Over the years, she’s not had any major problems, but she does suggest that, if you have a regular housekeeper, book them for that week so they can be your ears and eyes while you’re absent.
“Whatever you do, don’t sneak in and clean your own house,” she says. “You need to host from afar so you won’t be tempted to nag guests for leaving on lights or failing to shut the garage door.”
Easterlin stresses the importance of preparing a pristine rental. Guests have been known to ask for a new house for something as minor as an overlooked snarl of dog hair. Also remove family photos as well as any furnishings or decor that screams, “We have kids.” And what about your beloved collection of signed baseballs or ceramic pink flamingos? “Unless they’re done extremely tastefully, put them in storage,” says Easterlin.
By the way, wine glasses break. Beers spill on Oriental rugs. Renters should be forgiving of guests’ minor mishaps. “If the damage is less $100, overlook it,” Easterlin says. “Sometimes people will nag the agents because renters moved a chair or left behind an olive on the floor.”
Easterlin acknowledges that it’s labor intensive to prepare your home for the Masters—for her family it’s a year-long project—but the rewards go beyond the monetary. “It’s glory time when Masters is over,” she says. “We return to a smashing house.”
February 9-10: Black Violin performs with Symphony Orchestra Augusta for the annual Discovery Children’s Concert series. School children grades K-12 will attend these concerts free of charge.
February 10 at 7:30 p.m.: Black Violin performs with Symphony Orchestra Augusta in a concert open to the public. Tickets range from $10-20. Bell Auditorium.
The Forgotten Coast
February is an “r” month, and that means oysters. One of the places to sample a few briny delights is Florida’s Forgotten Coast. The area’s so called because it’s one of the few corners of the Sunshine State that isn’t crowded with high-rise hotels and souvenir shops peddling cheap t-shirts and shot glasses. The Forgotten Coast is a 130-mile stretch in the Florida Panhandle which includes Apalachicola, Fla., a charming fishing village, considered to be the oyster capital of world. It also features a number of balmy bays, unspoiled beaches and barrier islands.
What to Do: Longing to bare those winter-white toes and scrunch them into the sand? The Forgotten Coast boasts three beaches ideal for bonfires, strolls with your favorite canine and knee-deep wades in water so clear you can see every twitch of a fish’s tail. Take in a spectacular sunset cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway (www.seahorsewatersafaris.com) or hop a horse and trot along to the sound of the surf. (www.therockinmranch.com). After you get your fill of the beach , set aside a day to explore Apalachicola, which bustles with boutiques, art galleries and quirky waterside restaurants.
What to Eat: Oyster eateries abound—it’s almost impossible to choose. Food writer John T. Edge says of the area’s oysters: “They’re among the best in the nation…fat, abundant, rich and lusty.” The Up The Creek Raw Bar in Apalachicola is the place to sample Southern Fellow oysters. (They’re served with collards and crispy bacon.) If you can’t decide, consider attending the Annual Forgotten Coast Chefs Sampler on Sunday, February 12, 2016, from 6-9 p.m. Chefs from all over the Forgotten Coast will prepare their most creative fare. Visit www.apalachicolabay.org for more info.
Where to Stay:The lack of commercial hotels is part of the Forgotten Coast’s lure but there are rentals to be had at www.forgottencoastrental.com. If you opt to stay in Apalachicola, consider the Gibson Inn, a hotel built in 1907 with wrap-around porches, a widow’s walk and cupola, which reflects its steamboat past. Rooms start at $120. Visit www.gibsoninn.com.
Distance from Augusta to Apalachicola is 366 mile or 6 1/2 hours.
Book Feature: Fire is Your Water
What happens when a faith healer loses her faith? That’s the question posed in the novel Fire is Your Water (Ohio University Press, $18.87) by Augusta University creative writing assistant professor, Jim Minick. Ada Franklin can remove warts, stanch bleeding and draw the fire from burns, but when her family’s barn goes up in flames, she loses her healing abilities and begins to doubt God. After the blaze, she meets an agnostic named Will Burk and his pet raven, Cicero, and the novel turns into a unlikely love story. Minick, an acclaimed memoirist, delves into magical realism and the Appalachian culture in this debut novel, which Lee Smith calls, “utterly original.”
Greystone Preserve Is the CSRA’s Best-Kept Secret
Not far from Martintown Road’s frenzy of fast food restaurants, big-box stores, and exhaust smoke is place of refuge. Greystone Preserve, a 262-acre piece of land, is abundant with wild flowers, deep valleys and gurgling creeks. Never heard of it? That’s because it’s not yet open to public but that should change by the end of the year. Hazel Cook, the Executive Director of Central Savannah River Land Trust, which manages the preserve said, “We’re going to expand our trails, feature gardening classes and install interpretative signage so people can hike the area without a guide.”
Other planned activities include orienteering classes, a wild game cook-off, and a biathlon, which combines running and archery. If you can’t wait until the end of 2017 to explore this paradise, consider attending the Trillium Trek on March 25, which is guided hike of Greystone in search of the endangered Relict Trillium, a perennial flowering plant. Visit https://csrlt.org/events/trek for details and also find more about this hidden treasure.
Augusta’s Groovy Art Party
It’s the Age of Aquarius for the annual Wet Paint Party on February 18 at the Sacred Heart Cultural Center. Hang with the hipsters while Coco Rubio spins ‘60s tunes, sip your booze of choice, nosh on appetizers and peruse the offerings of more than 60 local artists.
Tickets start at $35 and include a membership to the Arts Council. The groovy times starts at 7 p.m. www.augustaarts.com
Heart Ball Beats With a Purpose
Dust off your cummerbund or shimmy into your ball gown and help fight the high incidence of cardiac disease by attending the 2017 CSRA Heart Ball. The festivities take place on February 11 at the downtown Marriott. While you dine, dance and bid on auction items you’ll also be supporting an excellent cause.
For tickets and sponsorship info, visit www.ahacolumbiasc.ejoinme.org
Speaking the Language of Music
by Mark Hodges
Kate Harski isn’t your typical local singer/songwriter, as evidenced by the reason she wound up in Augusta in the first place almost 10 years ago. The Portland, Oregon native found herself here as an Arabic linguist for the Navy, a fact that sometimes surprises people who only know her from her performing or from her day job at the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce. It just goes to show that she’s full of surprises.
Harski started seriously pursuing music at the age of 16, when she discovered that she had a great singing voice. She started out playing along on the piano, but soon discovered that an acoustic guitar was much more portable and easier to pick out tunes, and it soon became her go-to instrument. And, as time passed, she fell in love with playing live in front of an audience.
Fast forward to the present where Harski has become a regular performer at Stillwater Taproom on Tuesday “Pint Nights”. She performs her own songs, along with an eclectic mix of covers that ranges from current pop songs to scaled-down versions of 90’s grunge, and her style is self-described as “acoustic indie folk.” Occasionally she will play with a full group, but she tends to prefer the intimate setting of playing solo with her lone guitar.
While other artists typically have ambitions of going on tours or venturing outside the city limits in search of notoriety and fame, Harski is more than content to build upon her audience of regular fans here in Augusta. She likes the familiar faces and the one-on-one atmosphere of the Augusta music scene. That’s not to say that she doesn’t have an audience outside of Augusta, as her YouTube video channel has more than 5000 subscribers, and she gets song requests from all over the world.
At present, she is busy writing songs and compiling up tracks for a possible future album release. In the meantime, you can catch her at Stillwater and other local venues as she continues to build connections with her audience.
This article appears in the February/March 2017 issue of Augusta Magazine.