Bella Watkins and I decided to arrange the marriage of our dogs in a backyard ceremony. This event is something we have been discussing for a couple of years now, so we finally made it happen on March 11th, the last weekend of Bella's 6th grade Spring Break.
The night before, Bella made lots of tiny cupcakes for the guests, and selected the perfect icing colors. Rachel and I made a photo area, and we did everything but a rehearsal because we became carried away with other things, especially once my parents arrived in town and the chardonnay started pouring about. Eddy and Rudee sat on the couch and waited patiently while we doted about, oblivious to the plans in store for them.
Bella the baker, perfecting the icing colors for the tiny cupcakes
Rachel preparing the photo area with tissue leftover from baby shower gifts, she is so talented!
Our snacks for the people included my Mom's delicious pimento cheese sammy's, Bella's colorful cupcakes, a bowl of danish wedding cookies, carrots and veggies, goldfish, and some other delicious stuff brought by the guests.
For the canine guests, my friend Robin Taylor of the delicious smelling and tasting (yes, I've tried one or two) Oscar Bites Dog Treats provided the party favors and the beautiful wedding cake for the couple and their friends. Mom also made up some cute milk bone suckers.
Table display with the engagement photo and Robin's beautiful cake
Close up of the cake made by Robin Taylor of Oscar Bites!
My friend J-Nasty Sand had the perfect cake topper look-a-likes!
The wedding began around 45 minutes later than planned (we felt Doc needed a quick trip to the lake to get energy out before his friends arrived ) so we threw the remaining touches together with the help of some of the guests. John Watkins (Father of the groom) started his playlist of dog themed songs hooked to our karaoke machine. The crowd gathered as we waited on the groom to be escorted/held by Bella, as we played a special song called "Puppy Love" written by our friend Joe Shelby. (Vid with song at the end of this blog)
After the Puppy Love song, John Watkins blew "Isn't She Lovely" into the unique melodica for the bridal procession.
Walker led our bride down the aisle so I could take photos.. she lost her vale along the way but we fixed it quickly before she approached her groom. Here's a short vid from Marilyn Estes..
Our friend Lisa Stokes, a real deal ordained wedding officiant, joyfully led the ceremonials
We went straight for the kiss instead of adding rings, and tried to use a bit of hot dog threaded through fishing line, but only Eddy was interested so he stepped on his bride to get to it..
The cake eating begins, in the background is a beautiful wreath of camellias made by our friend Catherine of Flowers by Posy. She also provided the beautiful floral collar for Rudee. Rudee and Eddy shared their beautiful Oscar Bites cake with their friends
And after, the Bride and Groom took a few photos
Doc, Rudee's home brother looks a little disappointed we chose Eddy for her.. he'll get over it. Photobomb by the bride The Watkins family with the Bride and Groom
And some of the guests.. Bucky!!
My Mom and Dad with Banjo : )
Lisa even printed a marriage certificate for the happy couple!
Thanks to the guests, we received monetary donations as well as food and treats from the guests and we donated to Athens Council on Aging, and to Athens Canine Rescue for a spay/neuter.
Here's a very low resolution vid of the wedding photos with Joe's "Puppy Love" song...
Well, New Year's Eve I was a baaaaaad Momma.
I have to tell the truth. We went to a wedding in Tennessee and left the dogs at home by themselves for one night. I'd never done that with Rudee, ever.. I usually sneak her into the hotel room regardless. However, since we now have our black lab Doc we decided to leave both at home thinking Doc would be jealous of us taking only Rudee and tear something up. We do have a fenced in yard and doggie door and planned to be back by lunch the next day so things would be just fine we assured ourselves and bolted.
When we got back home there was no Rudee! We searched everywhere and I was panicking. Walker noticed one spot by the door of our wooden fence where only she could have squeezed through in a panic. I walked around the neighborhood and burst out crying while on the phone with my mom when I saw the Vultures atop a meat hunk of something at the house directly behind ours. Heaving with tears, I walked right up to it and realized it was just dinner leftovers from the night before. So I continued on, asking people in the neighborhood if they'd seen my small, Toto like terrier mix but no leads. When I went across to a neighbor's house and knocked on the door it suddenly struck me that there might have been fireworks somewhere for New Year's Eve and then I knew.. she'd fled. It's the only thing that makes her absolutely crazy and erratic and I was so mad at myself for fireworks not even crossing my mind on New Year's Eve, July 4th yes that's a given.. but I didn't even THINK about it!!
Meanwhile, after Walker headed the opposite direction on foot following several trips around in the truck, our neighbor who details cars was outside barbecuing. After asking about Rudee he got a lead, the guy had gone to pay his booth fee at the J&J Flea Market earlier that morning and had seen a dog fitting her description in the office on a dog bed. We headed straight over, across hwy 441 from our neighborhood off Newton Bridge and went to the little log cabin office and there she was!!
So, word from Kristen and Elise, the office managers, was that she had appeared at 11pm the night before and the security officer on duty left her where she was, thinking she would return back to her home eventually. When Kristen and Elise came in to work at 6am that morning she was still there on the office porch and they knew she must be somebody's house dog and let her in. She was given treats and a warm dog bed that belongs to Elise's dog Precious, who comes to work with her every day. I did not have a tag on Rudee (shame, shame, shame again!) so she had already posted on several sites looking for her owners.
We were so lucky to have found her, to have had the missing link come right from our neighbor we had never even spoken to before, and for everything to have happened within an hour of noticing her missing.. and the kindness of these ladies to recognize and take her in that morning. By the unbelievable grace of God she made it across highway 441 from our neighborhood that night and to the office cabin at the J&J of all places. We were so thankful to see her there and safe, and after the shock wore off I was able to focus on this little black and white dog sitting on the office table with it's tongue hanging out. This little toy dog named Precious had been rescued by Elise after delivering 6 litters of puppies at her young age by a breeder who sold pups at the J&J. Immediately I thought of one thing I could do to maybe express my thanks to these very sweet ladies.
Introducing, Precious of the J&J Flea Market:
Thank you soooooo much Elise, Precious and Kristen for taking such great care of my little Rudee in my neglect!!!
I recently came back from a photography conference in San Antonio where my parents met me. We stayed at the La Quinta close to the convention center where we could pretty much walk everywhere. A friend of my parents had mentioned we should visit a haunted hotel there, so naturally that was on my radar, loving doing the ghost tours and stuff in my favorite Georgia City with soul, Savannah. The second night after the convention we headed straight to the Menger Hotel, "the oldest continuously operated hotel west of the Mississippi" and steps away from the Alamo. It opened less than 25 years after the battle and is full of history and as they say, "People who have stayed here have been from all walks of life, including our non-living guests," (Ernesto Malacara, the Menger's director of public relations and ghost expert, San Antonio Express-News.")
So, after mom had several glasses of wine at the La Quinta bar and a sneaky cup of it to go, we headed to the Menger for a visit. Mom was feeling good and cracking us up, immediately when we walked in I felt a good vibe. The hotel is beautiful! It reminded me a little of the old version of the Monte Vista Hotel in Black Mountain.. with elegant decor and a feeling of welcoming old souls. The beautiful blue walls and hotel carpet were amazing. I'm not great at describing architecture but a great description is on their site.. We were in awe and wish we'd booked a room there. I had read that most sightings happened on the third floor so I headed there first to look around and take some photos. Unfortunately I wasn't blessed with any apparitions in the moment or after viewing the photos, but posting the photos anyway because it was a neat place to shoot. I used existing light with a 35mm lens on my D700.
My parents waiting patiently, mom's to go wine cup on the ground (we trashed it no worries).
A ghost tour forms at the bottom floor
The leader of the ghost tour tries to scare me coming up the stairs like an apparition in my photo
His ghost hunter apprentice, sniffer outer, or protector
On the third floor, many people experience seeing the ghost of Sallie White. She was a maid working at the hotel who was brutally attacked by her husband in 1876 and remained in her room suffering until she died, the hotel paid for her funeral which was $35 at the time. There are several photos and stories online of people experiencing her ghost. On the second floor is the King Ranch Suite, which hosted a man named Captain Richard King, who loved the hotel so much he became ill and chose to book a room where he stayed until his death. They have moved the original door to his room but he is seen by several moving through the walls, unaware of any changes. Here's a link to these and a few more stories: http://darkhaunts.com/TexasGhostStories/TheMenger.html
Before leaving, we felt we had to visit the famous Menger bar where Theodore Roosevelt formed his Rough Riders. Though Mom was probably good on the wine, I decided to purchase her just one more glass, Dad a bud light, and myself a decaf coffee (I'm pregger) and we sat in this lovely wooden piece of history and met some interesting people, as mom is great at never meeting a stranger.
This is mom in the phone booth trying to look scary.
Real bullet holes from back in the day
The next day we decided to visit another haunted hotel by the Alamo, called the Emily Morgan. Before it was a hotel it was a hospital that housed a morgue and psychiatric ward, and has lots of paranormal activity according to guests. It has been rated the 3rd most haunted hotel in the world according to this site: http://www.mysanantonio.com/lifestyle/article/San-Antonio-s-Emily-Morgan-Hotel-is-the-third-6582426.php
We explored a few of the hallways but didn't stick around too long. We went to a few of the floors reported to be the most haunted, and I will say it felt pretty freaky.. kind of stifling. The doors are dark brown and brooding and it has a strange sense about it, I'm sure it's a cool place to stay. I did speak to a worker who captured this image on his cell phone from the hotel lobby at one point. You can see a translucent image of a figure sitting on the blue chair. We met a woman on the elevator down and I asked if she was staying there, hoping she had experienced something paranormal but she had no idea about it even being haunted, oops. Also, my Uber driver mentioned he stayed there once thinking there was a jacuzzi in the room and was disappointed his didn't have one. He mentioned it felt eerie.. so I feel that people loving the haunt would most likely get their scare on here pretty easily.
Here's a photo of a hallway from one of the floors..
A scary looking antique mailing system by the elevator, with bloody looking condensation
On our last night in San Antonio we hadn't had enough of the Menger Hotel, and wanted to go back and try the famous mango ice cream made fresh for 100 years there, so we headed back since they serve it until 10 pm. We stepped into the Colonial Dining room where they play music from the 20's just like that scene in the shining. The architecture in the dining room was also beautiful, and service with a smile but not fake at all, not one bit. Everyone was super cool. One other family was finishing a meal near us and the waiters filed in with a chocolate cake and candle, flicking the lights on and off for a little boy's birthday. At first I thought we were experiencing a haunting but realized someone was in the room controlling the light on purpose.
I was trying so hard to find something in the photos.. thinking maybe the grey behind the little boy was a headless something in 20's clothing. Probably just a stroller or something.
Neat detail on the fireplace
One of the waiters mentioned people have often seen the ghost of what looks to be an Englishman with a bolo and hat, coming out of the fireplace and hovering above the table in the area around it (photo above). Also, people claim to see the ghost of a little girl named Sarah who was brought into the hotel after her accidental death from a horse and carriage. They say she plays in the restaurant and wears the 20's clothing she was brought in wearing.
I was thinking, maybe Sarah plays in here sometimes?
We left for the night and vowed to stay there if we come back sometime for a visit.
The Alamo at night
One of my favorite places to relax and spend a day or night is on Sapelo Island, off the Georgia Coast. There are many places to choose from to stay on the island affordably, but my favorite experience so far is camping at Comyam's Campground in Hog Hammock, owned by the Bailey's who are locals there, check em out: http://www.gacoast.com/geecheetours.html. Anyway, we bolted from Athens and missed the ferry the first day... but we made a night of it at a cheap motel and dinner at the awesome Old School Diner, then headed on the 9am ferry on Valentine's Day to camp for one night.
Me and Chef Jerome... so it turns out, his mom cooked for the notorious Green Frog restaurant in Waycross back in the day!!
We ordered the wheelchair platter of course! Lots of crispy seafood and ribs on the side. The hushpuppy appetizer was absolutely delicious!! I LOVE hushpuppies and Chef Jerome is right on with his recipe. Look at Walker's sticky fingers back in there!
These pix of the diner were from my iphone, pardon the quality... I was mad at myself for not bringing my camera. You gotta see this place during the day, we had reservations at 7pm so couldn't really see a lot outside, but certainly felt the sweet carpet in the parking lot!
This delicious double or triple or quadruple chocolate dessert I finished off for breakfast the next day still has my face broken out! But totally worth every bite and I'd do it again.
It was freezing Friday night! Probably a good thing we missed the ferry... our cheap hotel in Eulonia was fun, we'd do that again too, so we can spend more on great food around the area.
We arrived at the campsite and two bikes were waiting for us. It's about a 2 or 3 mile ride to Nanny Goat beach from the campsite. We brought Rudee so we squashed her in Walk's backpack for most of the ride. Next time I'd love to check out Cabretta beach, it's just a 2 mile or so walk down a dirt road from the campsite.
It was instant immersion for Rudee
Her energy is amazing at the beach, she loves it. Fetching shells and just being overall adorable.
I was too chill to take photos on the beach... but we ended up finding a sun soaked cranny near the dunes, away from the light wind. We spent an hour or more absorbing the sun and it felt like we were the only people on the beach. It's always like that there. We watched several dolphins near the shore which made it even more magical. We headed back and let Rudee run a while after us, and stopped along the nature trail.
An enormous magnolia. Read below, pretty cool.
Near sunset we walked a bit away from the campground. The marsh and live oaks are gorgeous around there.
Rudee totally fell in love with this most awesome dog. They played and she giggled and made weird noises like a lovesick girl.
Julius hooked us up with some live oak to burn for our campfire and Walker was fascinated the whole time about how solid and strong and long it burned. The next morning the embers were still glowing and all I had to do was throw in a little spanish moss and a few more logs and we were rockin for cowboy coffee. I toted a huge pot in my luggage on the ferry just for that... which was ridiculous but we made it twice to make it worthwhile.
Looks like we're about to set the tree on fire but it's just the angle. I can see how fires are easily started around these islands though.
The stars were beautiful!!!! So after gorging on 2 packages of sausages and Terra sweet potato chips, we put the camera down in the grass near the marsh at the campground and took some pix.
We had an absolutely peaceful night of sleep with no sound at all, not even a racoon. Well, also helped the campsite was empty except for us. We accidentally left the tent cover at home but luckily Walker brought a tarp so we used that. It wasn't cold at all though! Felt so perfect.
We had to wake up at the crack of dawn because we were leaving on the 8:30 ferry to head back to Athens and Julius was coming by at 8am to pick us up. I'm normally a very late sleeper... but I heard some roosters crowing around 6 and had this extra energy and excitement from the peaceful night there, and was looking forward to watching the sunrise over the marsh, so I woke up and waited for it.
These two photos are views of the sunrise from the pinhole we created for the digital camera.
We exited the ferry, which football player Allen Bailey (from Sapelo) happened to be on with us! I had no idea who he was, but he was huge so I suspected... and we saw him later at a convenience store and I confirmed it. This adorable poodle was in the parking lot as well, I missed out on the photo of Allen Bailey but did get the poodle.
On the way back, we couldn't miss going to the Smallest Church in America, off Hwy 17. It's adorable.
The end. We cruised back home to Athens and entered the ice storm.
A few years ago, on the way down South to Waycross, Georgia, via Highway 15, I noticed a striking scene of smoke filtering through some trees above a small green house - I turned back around to take a photo and saw a woman raking and burning leaves in piles, causing that roadside beauty in the late afternoon light. When I stopped to take her photo I was taken aback by her dog, barking fiercely at me while guarding his person. I kept shooting and she looked at me, then looked down and continued raking. I stopped and showed her what I was seeing and she smiled and was totally cool with me.
Anyway... it ended up making a really nice photo converted to black & white, so I printed and framed it and delivered it to her over a year or so later. Actually, I have to mention, I couldn't really remember where her house was... and on another drive to Waycross, Walker noticed a beautiful scene and pointed it out and it happened to be exactly her house. So we went, introduced ourselves and handed her the photo. She was doing the same thing as before, and wearing the same outfit and hat. She didn't say much, just smiled and took the photo and we talked for just a bit before continuing to Waycross.
More time passes and last week I received a fb message from Ben Reynolds, a friend and photo teacher at UGA, that Mary Ruth Moore is trying to get in touch with me about something. I hadn't seen her in like 15 years since I graduated from the photography department. Mary Ruth has been teaching photo at UGA forever and does the most beautiful pinhole photography you've ever seen. She taught during the Cortona studies abroad program I attended the summer of 99, so I took her photo class and became fascinated by her. Anyway... ask anyone about her and they'll have had the same experience of being touched by Mary Ruth's beauty inside and out.
So anyway... I called her wondering what in the world she wanted to say after all this time, and she explains a story about her friend Carol Anne plopping down this black and white photo while visiting, and she loved it and flipped it over and saw my name. I always forget to sign my prints but thank goodness on that print I had remembered, and Mary Ruth wanted to call and tell me the story and connection. Anyway, turns out Carol Anne helps care for Emma, the woman in the photo, and the frame had fallen from the wall so she was coming over to show the print to Mary Ruth.
The very next Day, Walker and I were invited to visit Mary Ruth and we had a wonderful time reuniting and just walking around her beautiful property and talking about pretty things. She has inspired us to break our film cameras back out and turn them into pinhole cameras. In a slow time for photography, one needs inspiration and I feel her contact was a gift. Well, that's my story on how things come back around in a neat way.
Holding one of her pinhole cameras and showing her most recent composition
Mary Ruth would like this "arc of light" Walker captured on her porch
Walker took a pic of us and immediately Mary Ruth started cracking up at Walker's unintentional photo stance
By the way, a selection of Mary Ruth Moore's photography is currently on display at Athens Academy in a show titled: