Photovision photography challenge

When my friend Celine, a spectacularly talented professional real estate photographer, suggested I join her new virtual photography meetup group, I was hesitant to say yes.. The thought of me and my very professional rose gold  IPhone camera (generation multiple years ago) – coupled with my inability to use Photoshop or even aim straight – joining a group of talented and possibly professional photographers seemed a tad daunting … even if it was just virtually. But with a good few months of this alternate reality we call 2020 under my belt, and isolation creeping up on me, I decided I could use a challenge. So I made up my mind, joined the group, enlisted my trusted phone, and ventured out of my comfort zone and into the world of digital photography. “It will be fun!” she assured me.

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The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial – J. Maarten Troost

2020.

If there was ever a time to pack up our shit and move to a tropical island in the middle of nowhere, now would be it. Simply pack our flip-flops and bathing suit, some sunscreen and a hat, maybe throw in a pair of shorts or two and a shirt – just in case – and live out our days in a small hut right on the beach. We’d surf and swim, work remotely while sipping margaritas in our beach hammock, walk barefoot along the shore, get a killer tan, grill freshly caught fish on our patio, and watch the sun rise out of the ocean in the morning and stargaze at night. The ocean would be our personal backyard, with pristine ivory sands and coconut palm trees as far as the eye can see, the sound of roaring waves and views of dolphins playing in the surf – and best of all, not a person in sight and all horror tales of climate change, inhumanity and pandemic diseases a long forgotten memory.

Let’s be honest – we’ve all thought about it.

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Knox Rocks (or how to spend a perfect afternoon in Knoxville, Tennessee)

For those of you who have ever planned a visit to Tennessee, I dare say that Knoxville most likely wasn’t the first city to come to mind – or even at all. With Nashville and Memphis to compete against, unfortunately, Knoxville tends to be forgotten. A real shame, because even though Knoxville is small – tiny even – it sure packs a punch!

On a recent trip to catch up with friends on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (read all about it here!), hubby and I decided to take a little break and spend the day in Knoxville, Tennessee – because really, driving over 5 hours straight, even if the reward is good friends and even better Bourbon, is just too much to ask of those of us hailing from a country small enough you could traverse it in a mere 4 hours. And boy, are we glad we did.

So, what exactly did we do during our mini break in Knoxville? Here are a few of the highlights we discovered in this soulful little Tennessee gem.

First off, if you have read any of my previous post, you might have noticed that my first stop on any trip is invariably the visitor center – and this trip was no exception! What we didn’t know, however, was that the Knoxville Visitor Center is not just your average visitor center. Yes, they have maps, walking tours, information about local attractions, friendly folks to help you find your way, and all that other good stuff. But even better than that, they are also home to the WDVX Blue Plate Special, a free live performance radio show held every Monday through Saturday at noon at the WDVX studio right inside the visitor center! Their line-up features a wide range of live music and musicians young and old, from blues to bluegrass, country to Celtic, folk to funk, rockabilly to hillbilly, local to international… so grab your lunch, grab a seat and enjoy some lively tunes while you eat your sammies.

Tip: There is also a beautiful musical Knoxville-themed mural on the side of the visitor center that you don’t want to miss!

If murals are your jam, you will love Knoxville’s Downtown Mural Walking Tour. From alleys to stairwells, the street art adorning the city are a sight to behold. Among my favorites are the visitors center’s mural Postcard from Knoxville, Strong Alley’s portrait of Dolly Parton, the London Streetscape at Central Street and the iconic staircase at Cumberland Avenue.

With old, beautifully preserved historic buildings around almost every corner, Knoxville is just downright charming. A great way to explore both the Old City Historic District and Market Square, where you will find the majority of significant historic buildings, is to take the self-guided Historic Downtown Knoxville Walking Tour (the free guide for which you can find – where else? – at the visitor center), which will guide you along 60 historic buildings throughout downtown Knoxville. If you have time, there are a few historic sites along the way that are well worth a visit!

Tip: As you stroll along Gay Street, stop in for a sweet treat at Phoenix Pharmacy. You won’t be disappointed!

If you like the theatre (or Broadway shows, classic films, opera, concerts, dance, etc, etc.), visit the Tennessee Theatre, where you can take in a show, or just take a tour to gaze at the unique Spanish-Moorish style interior that incorporates elements from all parts of the world, such as Czechoslovakian crystals in the French-style chandeliers, Italian terrazzo flooring in the Grand Lobby, and Asian influences in the carpet and drapery patterns.

History buffs will love the chance to stand in the very spot where where Knoxville was founded – and officially the birthplace of the city – at James White’s Fort . Set up by James White, the fort is a great place to learn more about the history of the city and the historic Southwest Territory.

For a Civil War-era home with hints of a dark past, visit Bleak House, also known as Confederate Memorial Hall, an antebellum Classical Revival style house which became a key battle point between the Unionists and the Confederates in the Battle of Knoxville in 1863. Today, Bleak House is on the United States Register of Historic Places, and it still boasts some fascinating remnants of its long history, such as bullet holes in the outside, and two canons which lay embedded withing the walls.

History is not all that Knoxville has to offer however! For some awesome river vistas, head to Volunteer Landing, which runs parallel with the Tennessee River to create a beautiful riverfront park where you can enjoy fishing, biking, and walking, as well as paddling on the river and other water sports and activities – either actively, or, like we did, just seeing them done safely from the riverbank. If you’re lucky, you might see the Vol Navy line the River along Volunteer Landing to create a sea of orange full of fun and excitement to cheer on the home team during UT home football games!

Tip: For a bit of a longer walk, hop on the Neyland Greenway that winds through the Park and connects with the James White Greenway – a beautiful pathway that will take you even further along the Tennessee River. From here, you can also traverse Neyland Drive, where the spur for the Second Creek Greenway borders the UT campus on its way to the World’s Fair Park.

Finally, if you’d like to see some beautiful panoramic views of the city, the golden dome of the Sunsphere, one of only two remaining structures from the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, is a can’t-miss. The 4th floor observation deck offers a 360-degree view of the city and is splashed with factoids on both the World’s Fair and Knoxville. Did you know, for example, that the world’s largest Rubik’s Cube is located at the Knoxville Convention and Exhibition Center? (I certainly didn’t!)

Tip: If the unique structure before you looks eerily familiar, it might be that you have seen it before, even though it is the only one of its kind… The Sunsphere was featured in The Simpsons episode “Bart on the Road” in which Bart, Milhouse, Nelson, and Martin head to Knoxville, Tennessee in the hopes of seeing the World’s Fair.

Drinking our way across Kentucky!

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”

– Mark Twain

An epic trip to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail… what so many have dreamed and raved about, was just never really on my radar. In fact, when it comes to adult beverages, I have always been more of a (craft) beer kinda girl. And If I’m being completely honest, my drink of choice nowadays is a nice cold Coke Zero, or, even better, a nice hot cup of tea – it seems that I have lost my taste for all things alcoholic somewhere along the way of life and try as I might, I cannot seem to locate it. Hubby, on the other hand, is a different story. A longtime enthusiast of whiskey, in the past few years, he has also developed a deep appreciation of all things Bourbon and he has been eager to share his enthusiasm with me. Like the good wifey that I am, of course, I have been paying attention, and so it happens that I have also become somewhat of a Bourbon enthusiast – even though I rarely get in the spirit to drink it.

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Discover what’s brewing in Asheville, NC

Hopheads rejoice! For nestled between the Blue Ridge and Great Smokey Mountains, there is a place waiting for you – and its name is Asheville, North Carolina! More than just the city of beer, however – Asheville has more breweries per capita (23!) than any other city in the United States – it is also the city of the arts, the outdoors, terrific cuisine, and the Biltmore, as well as the city of colorful history and literary inspiration.

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Selfies of New York

Selfies. Everyone takes them – celebs, athletes, even politicians. And yours truly, of course. Whether we openly admit it or not, we all love an opportunity to snap that perfect #me moment, and any reason will do. From showing off our trending duck face selfies and boastful hey-look-ma-I-made-it selfies to our smoochy lucky-in-love selfies, elusive you”ll-never-believe-who-I-saw-today celeb selfies, and (most importantly!) our obligatory don’t-you-just-envy-my-fabulous-vacation selfies — we are all at it. Because if you didn’t take a selfie, did it really even happen?

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Evvie Drake Starts Over – Linda Holmes

2020. Not just a new year, but a whole new decade! And that means that it’s time for some new year’s resolutions. For some of us they will be small – I’m thinking a new book challenge, and maybe lose those last 10 pounds – but for others, they will be big. Some of us might lose 100 pounds, start a new job, move abroad, leave our lover – or all of the above. For some of us, the new decade will be the incentive to start over. Maybe even completely. Because let’s be honest, sometimes, a fresh start is just what the doctor ordered.

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My 10 favorite reads of 2019

Now that the year is over, there’s no better time to recap my year in books. And because listing them all would just be too much, I’ve decided to make a top 10 list of the best books I have read, re-read or listened to in 2019. For me, the past year was a year of catching up- afflicted with a bad case of tsundoku (i.e. acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up on my book shelves without reading them), and with a huge list of past must-reads in my head, my focus was mainly novels published in years past. Consequently, most of the books on this list will have been published before 2019 – but hey, that doesn’t mean they can’t still be read-worthy, right?!

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Getting the royal treatment in Charlotte, NC – day 2

If you find yourself (temporarily) sated with all the hoppy goodness, Charlotte’s superbly walkable downtown, which Charlotteans have dubbed Uptown, offers some great opportunities for a culture break. Fun, pedestrian friendly, and filled with beautiful parks, interesting historical sites, one-of-a-kind museums, tasty food, and more, Uptown is the perfect place to burn off some of yesterday´s boozy calories.

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Getting the royal treatment in Charlotte, NC – day 1

When people think of the South, they envision Southern belles, debutante balls, old plantation houses and Sunday crawfish boils. Think again, however, because Charlotte, North Carolina – aka the “Queen City” – has successfully given the Old South a new modern spin. With an eclectic mix of modern architecture and historical landmarks, lush parks and greenways, lively breweries, quirky boutiques, and art sprinkled throughout the city, Charlotte manages to be both cool and family-friendly, hip and old fashioned, fun and artistic – a mix that is sure to make you feel welcome.

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