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

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.

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.

a BuHi V-Day

For Valentine’s Day 2020, Scott and I took the day off work and headed to Buford Highway.  In case you didn’t know, this ~6 mile stretch of highway in Doraville is considered to be THE place to go for international food and culinary diversity in Atlanta. You can find everything from Szechuan mapo tofu to Bangladeshi shawarma. Ever wanted to try Malaysian food? Buford Highway has got you covered.

We started our day at Paris Baguette for coffee and pastries.

Next stop (and a MUST DO whenever you’re on that side of town): the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market [5600 Buford Highway]. The first thing to know about the farmer’s market is that it’s not actually a farmer’s market. It’s a supermarket. An amazing 100,000 square foot supermarket with fruits you’ve never seen in person before…

You can find dragon fruit.

All the peppers in the world.

Raw cacao.

Amazing cheeses (for really amazing prices).

A jug of chili sauce the size of your head.

“Chinese spaghetti sauce” (an interesting cultural mash-up if ever there was one).

And even peanut gluten. Although why in the world you need peanut gluten (and wtf that actually is), I have no idea.

Oh and I forgot to mention chocolate. Belgian chocolate! (Isn’t she lovely?)

Next up it was time for the best drive-through taco I’ve ever been handed [5084 Buford Highway].

Then onto the Food Terminal [5000 Buford Highway], where the menu is designed to look like a magazine.

This hip slightly-industrial modern restaurant has tons of Malaysian options and a perky playlist.

Next stop: Sweet Hut Bakery & Cafe [5150 Buford Highway] where they have chocolate domes and all sorts of pastries. We picked up a few pastries for friends who just had their second baby, and some for us too.

Then we took a short jaunt over to Atlanta Vintage Books [3660 Clairmont Road]. We love bookstores, period – but this one is something special with it’s signed copy of Julia Child’s Joy of Cooking, extensive Jewish/Israeli section, and free-roaming TNR’d cat colony. We think it might also be subject to some sort of time warp, since we easily spent 2 hours pouring over bookshelves and it only felt like 15minutes. Fair warning: probably not the spot for you if you have cat allergies.

Final stop of the day: Matcha Cafe Maiko. I looooove matcha and this is the perfect stop for a matcha enthusiast. Scott went with a Matcha/Hojicha swirl softserve and I picked the ‘Matcha Kokuto Gelatin Float’ (an iced matcha latte with a rich brown sugar jelly on the bottom and matcha icecream on top).

I just spent a whole afternoon on Buford Highway and I’m already wondering how soon I can go back. There are simply so many things to try! If you need help planning your own trip down this international corridor, this article has some great ideas. So does this one.

Things I’d like to try next:

New Orleans, 2020

“Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?”

  – Louis Armstrong

new orleans mardi gras mask

I didn’t know what it meant to miss New Orleans until this January.  I’d been to the zoo there as a child, but had little to no memory of it — and Scott had never visited.  Despite this, I had a fondness for NOLA already due to growing up in Mobile, AL, the only other city that respects Mardi Gras as much as New Orleans. I figured it would be love at first sight, and it was.

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We stumbled across these (real) mid-century lamps in a shop on Conti Street.

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And I adored pouring over the bottles in an 1800s pharmacy.

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A medallion from the first Mardi Gras celebrated in Mobile, AL in 1703. Hello, my childhood home town! You’ll always be the original Mardi Gras.

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This is the house that some claim inspired the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland, except that it didn’t really. That house is actually in Baltimore. But the resemblance is notable! For an excellent walking architecture tour of New Orleans, we HIGHLY recommend New Orleans Architecture Tours. We took the Garden District tour with Katrina and can’t praise her enough – very knowledgeable guide, educational info and no silly ghost business. If we’d had another day in the city, we would have taken another tour with her!

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If you don’t get beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde, I don’t think the trip hardly counts… we had beignets at least 5 times!

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We also very much enjoyed seeing the floats at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World.  Not only is this where many of the floats are created, but it’s the birthplace of the Chik Fil A billboard cows. These flowers are from the Krewe of Orpheus floats.

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Papier-mâché flowers need papier-mâché bees!

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Not sure what this gorgeous Star of David piece is for, but I’d love to know.

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We also really liked seeing the costumes at this museum. (Again, I’m drawn to the bee theme!)

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Happy faces on Frenchman St., which is where you want to go for good jazz, fyi. We caught a show at Snug Harbor and loved it!

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If this isn’t the most perfect crossover, I don’t know what is… and yes, I definitely got a copy for my creole-cookin’ Mama (whoever knew she’d end up with kosher kids?).

beignets

I wasn’t kidding about how many times we ate beignets. So many beignets…

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This drink is a Vieux Carré, invented in 1938 by the head bartender at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone.  According to the Hotel Monteleone website, the drink “consists of Cognac, Benedictine, Rye Whiskey, Sweet Vermouth, Angostura, and Peychaud’s Bitters. The recipe was inspired by the diverse cultures of the French Quarter. The Cognac and Bendictine pay homage to the French, the Sweet Vermouth to the Italian, the Rye Whiskey to the Americans, and the Bitters to the Islanders of the Caribbean.” [https://hotelmonteleone.com/blog/a-drinkable-history-of-the-carousel-bar/]

carousel bar hotel monteleone

The Carousel Bar itself is not to be missed. First of all, the bar — which looks like a carousel, hence the name — actually spins. The seats rotate around the central bar at a rate of 1 rotation every 15 minutes. Secondly, Ernest Hemingway drank here. Need I say more?

st louis cathedral new orleans

Another touristy stop is the St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square. This is the oldest cathedral in the U.S. and worthy of a stop for that distinction alone. There’s been a church on this site since before the revolutionary war, although the building standing now was completed in the 1850s (the original structure burned down).

It is dedicated to King Louis IX of France who launched the disastrous 7th crusade in 1248, and was later canonized by the Catholic church for his crusadering acts and supposedly perfect Christian leadership. He was the quintessential medieval king; chivalrous, religious, ascetic, and hostile to Jews. The lovely stained glass walls inside the cathedral depict a very glorious looking Crusader, but leave out the part where he got his royal ass handed to him on the battle field against the Egyptians.  The windows also venerate his habit of collecting of holy relics, but don’t mention that many of these were of a dubious historical nature.

King Louis IX was well-known to be incredibly antisemitic. He sanctioned laws against the French Jews, forbade them from engaging in business, forced them to wear a badge (where have we heard that move before?), burned cartloads full of Talmuds and other literature, and forced French Jews to listen to missionary speeches meant to “convert” them. All this culminated when he ordered the seizure of Jewish property and the expulsion of Jews from France (although it seems this expulsion was never carried out).

As a Zionist / pro-Israel / pro-Jewish believer, to see gorgeous stained-glass windows and beautiful (and historical) murals promoting and heroizing a man who treated G-d’s chosen people with such contempt and outright persecution is a hard pill to swallow. But an ostrich with it’s head in the sand is no witness to history. I’d rather know what I know and see what I see, than accept in blindness the beauty of the story of the stained-glass.

I also acknowledge and honor those that have been brought near to G-d through the catholic church, be she ever so flawed. For this reason, I was glad we attended the 12:05pm Mass at this cathedral, and would recommend if you plan to stop to schedule your visit accordingly. Mass is held every day at 12:05pm. Note: If you are not Catholic, you should not take part in communion. Options include staying in your pew at during communion, or you may approach the priest along with others with your arms crossed across your chest (indicating you are not partaking of the Eucharist), most priests will then dispense a blessing (although some churches discourage this, so check ahead of time if this is acceptable, if possible).

scott and kelli

In conclusion, “Let me explain… No! There is too much. Let me sum up.” New Orleans is too great and complex a city to be explained in a short blog post with a few photos, but to sum up:  We loved it.  We’ll be back.  We miss you already, New Orleans.

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Recommendations:

Unashamed, Baptism Photos

You may have recently seen stories in the news about an American singer / celebrity who traveled to Israel and was baptized there.

You may have heard there was a backlash.

You may have heard she was shamed, yelled at, and scolded on social media.

She was told she should never have gone to Israel. Told that it’s not politically correct to travel there or support that country. Told that showing even vague support for the Israeli government was wrong, and that she had offended her fans.

You may have heard how she caved to this pressure.

She publicly apologized. (Literally, apologized.) She deleted photos. Said she should never have gone to Israel. She recanted everything she had shared, just days before, about her baptism experience.

Well, this seems like a good day to share…

I traveled to Israel.

I support the nation of Israel & their government. I love the people of Israel.

I will never regret going to Israel, or apologize for it.

I didn’t publicly post the photos of my baptism in the Jordan River before now, because I saw no need. But perhaps there is a need. Perhaps there is a need to make it clear that standing with Israel is not something to apologize for, and that traveling there is not an act worthy of retraction.

So, here they are.

Photos taken at the same river where that celebrity was baptized.

The river where Jesus was baptized.

You’ll notice I’m with my husband, who was baptized just moments before I was.

We will never regret.  We will never change our minds.  We will never apologize. 

 

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“If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.”  Psalm 137

Keep Paddlin’

I uploaded these photos late (“late” as in almost a year later) — and somewhere along the way the photos got all mixed together, so I can hardly tell which are 2018 and which are 2019 — or who knows when exactly. But then, does it really matter? They all come from that period known as “summertime” when the cicadas are loud and the river is rushing.

chestatee river
ready to go kayaking
kayaking on the river

We had a wonderful and relaxing day on the river! 

Do you ever have those days that if you just close your eyes you can go back to — and you’re there in an instant? A memory in which all is good and right in your world? This time on the river is a day that I can re-imagine so clearly: that warm sensation of being mildly sunburnt, the splashes of cool water against the kayak, voices singing just for the fun of it, the vague waft of cigar smoke… hooked on that feeling.

Israel 2019

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Photos from our trip to Israel, April 2019

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, “May peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good. [Psalm 122]