We all lead such busy lives that sometimes it’s hard to get away, and when we do, it’s often for obligatory family visits, or as we call them, “forced family fun.” Not that those aren’t enjoyable, but if you really want to shake the stress off, and laugh until your tummy hurts and tears roll down your cheeks, plan a weekend with some lifelong friends. I was recently invited to spend a weekend in Bryson City, North Carolina, with four lifelong friends. We ate, played games (there were prizes!), went sightseeing, shopped, looked for bears (none, dang it!) and simply enjoyed each other’s company. When I left, it was almost tearfully, and I felt more connected to these gals than ever. This weekend was precisely what the doctor ordered, and I think that goes for all of us. Did I mention that one of the gals’ 94-year-old dad made cookies and sent them along with her? Delicious!

It’s not a weekend away, but Habitat for Humanity of Glynn County is holding its fourth Hunt Ball on Oct. 10 at Frederica Golf Club, on St. Simons Island, and it’s surely an escape from everyday life. HFH has as its mission to replace substandard housing with safe, decent and affordable homes for low-income families who have no other path to home ownership. Its energetic board of directors and event chairs help present this fabulous event which pays homage to the tradition of the southern hunt, where the fashions, food and beverages are nearly as important as the bounty. We have all the details, with examples of some of the fabulous items that will be available for purchase, in our Coastal Illustrated feature.

Taking the hunt theme to another level is food and beverage columnist Jim Henderson. Jim recommends two drinks for post-hunt enjoyment – the overwhelmingly British Pimm’s Cup Royale, and a pineapple ginger punch that is sure to delight. Cheers!

If hunting isn’t your thing, you could still mix one of Jim’s recommended beverages and settle in with a good book, like the one literary columnist Cary Knapp reviews in her column. In honor of Banned Books Week, which runs through Oct. 2, Cary recommends one of the most challenged books over the past 15 years. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian,” by Sherman Alexis draws on the experiences of a single year in the life of a 14-year old Native American boy.

After you bring home some of the art and home accessories from the Hunt Ball, you’ll need a place to keep them. That’s where our Coastal Home feature comes in. Mary Hunt, a Realtor with DeLoach Sotheby’s International Realty, on St. Simons Island, is a bit of a home renovation expert. In the feature, we find out what renovation projects give the best return on your investment, and create a cozy environment too.

Obviously, curb appeal is part of making your home attractive, and you can’t have an attractive landscape unless your soil is healthy. Horticulture columnist Anne Ditmer addresses some of the soil challenges coastal residents face, with easy tips to maintain a healthy environment in which trees and plants can grow.

Our Q+As feature two fabulous women. In our Local Q+A, we meet Michelle Johnston, president of College of Coastal Georgia, and get better acquainted with her and her plans for the future of the college. In our Realtor Q+A, Margaret Butler, with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hodnett Cooper Real Estate, and learn about her family and their fun activities, and what she considers important attributes for Realtors to have.

As always, our Events page will point you in the direction of fun, enriching activities of all types.

Don’t we all need a little retail therapy? In Shore Things, Cheri Leavy takes a look at fashions, accessories and home décor items all of which are “Pretty in Peach!” Check out her page, and then hit the shops for these, and other equally fabulous, finds!

Given my recent weekend, I would encourage everyone to touch base with an old friend or two. It’s been a strange almost two years, and hearing a familiar voice from long ago and far away can be one of the biggest blessings you can give, and receive. One of my favorite songs from Girl Scouts begins with this wisdom-filled couplet, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold.” Enjoy the issue!