Hoda Kotb has welcomed Kathie Lee Gifford, back to her seat on the fourth hour of “Today,” more than once over the past several months, but the return for the host this morning, February 4, was that extra special. Long before KLG brought Hoda to heartfelt tears with the announcement that she would be leaving “Today” following the celebration of 11 years on the air for the broadcasting pair, Kotb welcomed her buddy back from Scotland in the summer with a pretend paparazzi shower.

At the same time that she announced her farewell to her morning hosting duties, Kathie Lee Gifford let her fans and friends know that she would be away for the month of January.

The weeks seemed to stretch especially longer for faithful fans. Most love all of the “Today” family, but Kathie Lee and Hoda have shared a spark and a connection from their first day in the blustery outdoors on Rockefeller Plaza.

Kotb couldn't hold back the emotion as Kathie Lee described their initial bond as the beginning of a love affair as friends, and her voice broke as she remembered that “you chose me” for the job that put her in front of the cameras as never before. Gifford has declared that Hoda will have the decision on her next co-host, but replicating the same chemistry will be impossible.

Kathie Lee was bubbling over, with what she related as “joy,” in her recent travels and relationships, and especially about her time in Nashville, which is very likely her new permanent home.

She even shared a photo of a special evening with old friends and thanked viewers for their kindness.

Sisterhood meditations

For the first time, Kathie Lee explained that her annual time off in January actually started when her late husband, Frank Gifford, began to slide into failing health. Their time together in the Florida Keys used to be for the calm and “eating crabs,” according to the host.

This year, the time started with a spiritual focus, as Gifford and four of her girlfriends traveled to another friend's home in Carreras, Mexico, for a time of prayer and study. Kathie Lee shared a photo of the group boarding the plane and assured that the break wasn't anything close to a “girls gone wild” experience.

A treat with good buddies

Before beginning her trip south of the border, Gifford hosted a special screening of her “Then Came You” movie for good friends. Front and center in that photo were Regis Philbin and his wife, Joy. She describes the couple as “just precious,” and loves the fact that “we just pick up right where we were,” no matter the time that passes between get-togethers.

The veteran voice of showbiz didn’t mention any future plans with Regis. She initially was set to start a film project Dolly Parton, but “the script wasn’t finished in time.” Fans can still look forward to hearing more about that later in the year.

Kathie Lee Gifford confesses that she has seen “Then Came You” “about 10 times now,” and she still loves the senior love story.

There is no word just yet on film distribution so that news should be coming over the next few months.

Gifford is also getting comfortable in the producer's chair. She is working with Jennifer O'Neill on a film called “The How and When,” written by the “Summer of 42” star. O’Neill is also very open about her faith and the need for films that feature older stars in meaningful roles. Kathie Lee collaborated again with the composer, Brett James, for the theme music.

Rising Country Music star, Jimmy Allen, who is such good friends with the morning host and Hoda Kotb that he was willing to share his phone for the ladies to investigate, got involved beyond the singing. “He’s such a natural at everything,” praises Gifford, who described how the young star will be seen in the upcoming film as an actor.

Nothing but love for Nashville

“I will never use that ‘R’ word,” Kathie Lee Gifford insists, meaning retirement. In contrast, the singer, songwriter, and actress relates how all of the dreams she held as a young girl are still there and seem to be unfolding all at once now.

She knows that she is in the right place for her creative resurgence, having spent her longest time in Nashville at one time. What inspires such “joy” in Gifford is the “joyful” people all around her, without “one cynical person” to be seen.

“They love God, they love wine, and they love music,” gushes Gifford about Music City, which she already dubs as “heaven” on earth for her, along with Israel.

Casual dinner parties can often turn into country music concerts, with new songs flowing.

Even after 40+ years as an entertainer, Kathie Lee Gifford is amazed at the speed that artists bring a project into reality. The creative mood and uplifting spirit of the people Nashville have been “a balm to my soul,” says a contented Gifford. She doesn't forget that New York City has been “great” to her since 1982, but she is ready to turn her life page in a new place.

Before Kathie Lee Gifford can pack her bags, though, the weeks to come are guaranteed to hold generous helpings of “scrapbook worthy” reflections from best friends and fans to be treasured for years. The host herself may be the one who pops up with an occasional video, probably “picking and grinning."