Listening Lately

Talk About by The Gospel Whiskey Runners

“If you need more love, it just takes time. We’re just singing songs with different rhymes. Let’s talk about you. Talk about me. Talk about everything that’s in between. Talk about this, talk about that, talk about love until it comes rolling back. Let’s talk about everything that we want back.” – The Gospel Whiskey Runners

Dollywood Pumpkins, 2021

“I don’t see how a pumpkin patch could be more sincere than this one.” — It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

The first weekend of October, we took a one-day trip with C.A. to see the Pumpkin Luminights at Dollywood.
The Mystery Mine illuminated for the events.
It’s not Dollywood if you don’t eat an entire loaf of Cinnamon Bread.
We shared our apple butter with this honey bee.
My original theme park crew: these two cheery faces!
See our quick vlog of the day here.^

We’re already looking forward to going back for the Christmas lights!

“Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” — Dolly Parton

The Roll from Key West

Photos from my Minolta XG-1 (Ilford HP5 Film), 2021

At Hemingway’s house in Key West, where he lived with his second wife Pauline after it was purchased for them by her uncle for $8,000 in back taxes in 1931.
Hemingway had a polydactyl cat named Snow White and many of the (~50) cats that still live on the grounds carry this genetic trait.
Scott with the urinal which Hemingway ripped out of Sloppy Joe’s bar and turned into garden feature: now a water fountain for the cats living on the grounds.
Art Deco tiles on the floor and a polydactyl cat in the window.
A feathered guest at brunch.
The best way to travel in Key West (by scooter).
Poolside iguana.
Getting a drink of water.
Learning how to roll a cigar at Rodriguez Cigar Company.
I actually did quite well at cutting / rolling for my first try. The act of anchoring / applying gentle traction while simultaneous advancing with the other hand is not entirely unlike the dexterity needed to start an IV.
Looking out towards Cuba, only 90 miles away.
Sunset on the pier in Key West, near Salute! On the Beach

the Southernmost point

In September 2021, we went back to Key West.

Our first trip to Key West was for my 30th birthday. We picked it because it was new, tropical, and remote enough to be free from any family obligations. We had no idea how much we would love it – and how much we’d want to go back again!

Photos taken at the Hemingway House in Key West

As a couple, we often lean towards ‘adventure’ vacations in which we pack in as much site-seeing, tourism, and learning as possible. But that was not the purpose of this trip — this trip was just for us. Just to relax, to sit by the pool at time, to drink banana daiquiris and Cuban coffee. To simply be together for several days on end with minimal agendas or goals or timelines.

Of course, we still opted for SOME adventure…
And plenty of key lime pie. This slice was from Salute! on the Beach
And this one was from Bagatelle. Did you know that Key Lime is the official “state pie” of Florida?
We were both surprised at just how magical the Key West Butterfly House turned out to be!

This vacation was a good one. A last hurrah of summer, one final tan… But mostly it was just lovely to be together. How lucky am I to be so in love.

Cheers to a final summer adventure as fall begins!

Visiting Dolly’s Kingdom, Summer 2021

Outside the Mystery Mine at Dollywood; pretty sure this is my favorite ride!
Scott’s emotions after trying cinnamon bread for the first time.

A “must do” at Dollywood is visiting the Grist Mill for cinnamon bread. If Disney World has Dole Whips and Universal has Butterbeer, the iconic must eat item at Dollywood is the hot, fresh, gooey cinnamon bread.

C.A. and M. also visited the old time photo booth. There was no wait and a plethora of costumes and backdrops to choose from. They made their own theme by mixing ‘southern belle’ dresses with a hot air balloon + a racoon and some weapons.

Scott loved the park so much he got himself a season pass at the end of the day! Their pricing is actually pretty fantastic for a season pass – and since this trip was in August, we didn’t get to see any holiday decorations this time around, so he’s already planning to return for the “Illuminights” (Halloween) and Christmas events.

Our pro tips:

  • We stayed at Riverstone Resort which is only 3mins from the Dollywood entrance. There are lots of hotels in pigeon forge.
  • The blacksmith shop inside Dollywood is a working blacksmith studio and IF YOU HAVE CLOSED TOED SHOES you can make a small knife out of a screw, railroad spike, or horseshoe and take it home with you. But you gotta have the right shoes! Scott missed out this time because he had soaked his tennis shoes on the River Rampage ride and changed into flipflops – but it’s on his to-do list for next time! Prices for this start at approx $30 and the easiest knife project only takes about 20mins of your day. We recommend getting over to the blacksmith shop first thing if this is something you’d like to do, since the appointment slots book up.
  • Don’t miss the cinnamon bread! You have to find the Grist Mill to get it. We like the apple butter with it.
  • The bald eagles / bird show is also a “can’t miss” moment in the park, check the map for the schedule of bird shows. See their livestream here: https://dweaglecams.org/
  • I think my favorite ride is the Mystery Mine – although there’s still a couple of coasters I haven’t tried so who knows! Coaster lovers with love this short ride with special effects, super fun loops, and two “straight up” pieces of track (my coaster nerd verbiage needs improvement, I know).

Fun fact: Dolly hasn’t ridden any of her own rides (except the train). “I don’t ride the rides. I never have,” she told The New York Times. “I have a tendency to get motion sickness. Also, I’m a little bit chicken. With all my hair I got so much to lose, like my wig or my shoes. I don’t like to get messed up. I’m gonna have some handsome man mess it up, I don’t want some ride doing it.”

Additional fun fact: Dollywood was on Forbes best employers list for 2021. They offer benefits like tuition reimbursement, scholarships for the children of employees, and a primary care health clinic.

You have an opportunity around the park to “round up” your purchases to benefit Dolly’s Imagination Library. If you have kids, check out this resource!

Check out our vlog here^.

If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.”

– Dolly Parton

Minolta XG-1

“For my next camera, I’d like a Minolta,” I mentioned to my friend Zach as we both perused the camera section of the antique shop with its dusty Brownies and rusting Land camera. Scott and I had already restored several Land cameras and enjoy them very much. Scott’s favorite by far is his Polaroid SX-70, a truly beautiful instrument.

But I was craving an old glass lens, with sharp focus and blurred backgrounds, and contrasty black and white film. I’ve had my Holga since 2012, but it doesn’t give much by way of focus (that is to say, the focus is only a rough guess), and the viewfinder is only a rough estimate of what the lens will see.

Less than an hour later, Scott stumbled on this Minolta XG-1 for $15.

The near mint interior held a completed 12-exposure roll of Kodak film, color. His battery was dead, but not corroded. He was labeled to be sold as a “prop camera” by a seller who apparently thought he’d only be wanted for his looks. Unable to test the shutter without a battery, there was no telling if he’d shoot— but the real view seen through the viewfinder was lovely. Scott argued it was worth $15 to take the gamble, who cares if it’s a dud?

Once at home, Scott popped in two button batteries and the XG-1 clicked on like he’d just been used yesterday. With the exception of a loose power knob (that slides out of place a little too easily), he seemed to be working perfectly, the shutter snapping importantly with each test.

This camera is from circa 1982, a consumer level camera from Minolta. The lens is a fixed distance (no option to zoom in or out) 50mm lens. For my first roll of test film I used Ilford HP5 Plus, 400 ISO.

For an idea of what this camera could possibly be capable of, here’s a lomography page dedicated to images captured using a Minolta XG-1: https://www.lomography.com/cameras/3338520-minolta-xg-1/photos

And for an idea of how it works, you can find the original manual here: https://www.cameramanuals.org/minolta_pdf/minolta_xg-1.pdf

And here’s a few shots from my first roll of film (Iford HP5 Plus)…

Here’s to many more images to come! Let’s burn some film. 🎞

Israel on Ilford

When Scott and I went to Israel in 2019, we carried with us an Ilford disposable camera (specifically: this one, the Ilford XP2 single use ‘Harmon’). We finally got around to dropping off the film last weekend. All of these are 100% unedited, this is exactly how they came out of the developer.

We used Wolf Photo in Atlanta for our developing.

Fun fact: this film went through the airport xray machine at least once and still turned out fine.

Hogwarts on Holga

Film: Ilford HP5 Plus 400 ISO 35mm in a Holga 135 camera (these photos are completely unedited, this is how they came out of the developer).


What is a Holga?
The name comes from a Cantonese phrase, “ho gwong,” which means “very bright.” It is a plastic camera from the early 80s that takes far from perfect pictures — the appeal is the artistic nature of the unpredictable photos and the lightweight “toy” feel of the camera. It was designed to be a cheap camera for non-professionals (tourists, mostly). Images commonly display vignetting, blur, light leaks, and other distortions. Some argue that Holga cameras influenced the style development of Instagram because looks such as altered colors and light leaks were hallmarks of a Holga photo. The original camera also utilized the square photo format on 120 film (which might have helped to inspire the Insta square), although mine is a little army-green Holga 135 that uses 35mm and shoots rectangular images.

This style of photography is sometimes referred to as “lomography” [an experimental form of photography using film and old-fashioned, analogue cameras]. A Holga is not the camera you want to use when it’s very important to you that your shot come out a particular way, but if you’re looking for something fun and unpredictable that captures images in a unique and artsy way, you’d probably love a Holga.

Me and my Holga in Diagon Alley.

Cheers to keeping film alive one roll at a time!

Universal Fun!

In June 2021 we took a big ol’ fashioned family vacay to Universal Studios for Dana’s 40th birthday!
We are Kings of the (theme park) Bus! [<–This is a Tim Tracker reference, and if ya know, ya know.]
Rainy weather can’t dampen our spirits.
Did you know that Universal had their own Purple Wall just like Disney?
“Books by the dozens for you and your cousins!”
Family photo taken at Jurassic Park… um, I mean Universal. You know the one. Check out a one second video of our trip below.

Happy Birthday, Dana!

Chestatee River 2021

Kendall and I wore the same sunglasses
The whole Krewe + a dog named Penny
Video highlights, 2021

Notes on our North Georgia kayaking adventures:

  • For kayak rentals, we use: Appalachian Outfitters. This was their Lower Chestatee River trip. Dahlonega is close enough that we do it as a day-trip — drive up, paddle, eat lunch, and drive back. We usually strive to be on the water by 10am (arrive at A.O. by 9:30a).
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen, water shoes and a change of dry clothes.
  • After getting off the river, we enjoyed lunch at: Yahoola Creek Grill (get the fried green tomatoes! And a grouper sandwich!)
  • Kilwin’s in downtown Dahlonega solved our after-lunch dessert cravings (and fixed us up with iced coffee for the ride home).
  • And he was closed when we got there, but if you’re downtown early enough, stop by Brad Walker‘s pottery shop. It’s one of my favorites.

If you enjoyed these photos, you can check out previous years’ highlights here and here, or here.