Catholic Minimalism Challenge: Week One

I mentioned in my most recent post that I was embarking upon an eight-week challenge to declutter my home.  As I was taking my before and after pictures this week I thought it might be fun to share the process with you.  Maybe you’ll be inspired to join in!

Week One was the Master Bedroom.  I followed this order (one project each day for six days): Closet Clothes/Shoes; Closet Accessories; Closet Storage; Dressers; Books; Everything Else.

This was an easy week for me because I don’t have a lot of clothes and have not allowed much personal clutter to accumulate in the past six years since I suffered the forced minimalization of our house fire.  The books were the exception, but I’ll get to that.

These aren’t the kind of pictures you’re used to seeing from me, y’all.  They are purely utilitarian with bad lighting and indifferent focus.  But they should serve the purpose.

Day One – I went through all the clothes and shoes in my closet.

Day Two – I went through my jewelry.  I didn’t get rid of any earrings so that drawer is not shown here.

Day Three – I went through the luggage and the ridiculous collection of tote bags and whatever other random things I had in the closet.
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Day Four – I went through two dressers.  I don’t have a lot in my dressers as you will see, but I do have two “sentiment” drawers, one of which I put every card I think I want to keep, and I was able to get rid of some of those, as well as some things I had saved for sentimental value but could no longer remember what they were supposed to remind me of!

Day Five – OK, y’all, this was the hard day.  One thing I’ve learned since the fire is what “things” are truly important to me.  I can tell what they are because they are what I have accumulated a lot of in six years as opposed to everything else I have refrained from acquiring.  And what they are, mostly, is BOOKS.  So whereas I finished the tasks on the other days in less than an hour per day, the books took two hours and lots of help from Lorelei (she helped most of the other days too!).  Anyway, I was very proud of myself when we were finished!

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Day Six – This was easy, a cedar chest and a couple of piles of books so I didn’t take any pictures.

In the end, we removed two miscellaneous bags of clothing and accessories and two full boxes of books that will all leave the house, and we relocated a few items to other places (where we will face them again when we get to their new homes at the appropriate time!).

Next up:  Bathrooms! I am so excited!  I’ll try to post another update next weekend!

12 in 2017: A Year in Pictures

And now for a quick trip through 2017, with some of my favorite pictures!

JANUARY:  Along with millions of women (and men!) around the world, Emily and I participated in the Women’s March.  I wrote about that here and here.  It was pouring down rain–an absolutely miserable day–and I love this picture that shows what a crowd turned out anyway.  This is what democracy looks like!

Best of 2017 - Women's March

FEBRUARY:  John and I took a weekend trip to Gatlinburg, which I wrote about here.  One highlight was moonshine tasting.  Here you can see all that goodness being brewed, right out in public!

Best of 2017 - Gatlinburg

MARCH:  William turned 16.  I chose this picture because I love the look of delight on his face.  He usually wears a rather solemn expression.

Best of 2017 - Willima's birthday

APRIL:  My sister Betsy treated my mother, our other sister, and me to VIP tickets to The Gambler’s Last Deal, the final tour for Kenny Rogers, which I wrote about here.

Best of 2017 - Kenny Rogers

MAY:   Of course the biggest event this month was Teddy’s graduation, but since I already shared so many pictures of that, I’m choosing this favorite from one of several trips to Dollywood.  This is Lorelei with her cousin Ella.

Best of 2017 - Dollywood

JUNE:  A trip to the zoo.  We got season tickets this year.  This is part of the new tiger exhibit, about which more later.

Best of 2017 - Zoo

JULY:  We went on a wonderful trip to Pennsylvania for a family reunion.  I hope to write that up at some point.  For now, this is an animatronic Spinosaurus from our trip to Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland, which was definitely the highlight of the reunion as far as William was concerned.

Best of 2017 - Reptiland

AUGUST:  Another trip to the zoo, where we were able to get up close and personal with the two Malayan tigers.

Best of 2017 - zoo

SEPTEMBER:  In another trip I want to write about this year, we spent a weekend in Cincinnati.  We were there to see the exhibit of original Star Wars costumes, one of which is pictured below.  What a thrill!

Best of 2017 - Cincinnati

OCTOBER:  My porch chairs continue to make me very happy.  Decorating for Autumn is another thing that makes me happy.

best of 2017 - porch

NOVEMBER:   Lorelei, William, and I attended the annual rosary service at Calvary Cemetery, Knoxville’s only Catholic graveyard.  I’ll be going back to take more pictures before I do a long-overdue write up.

Best of 2017 - Calvary Cemetery

DECEMBER:  In 2018, I will get a new title–mother-in-law! Jake asked Jessica to marry him a few days after Christmas, so I will have a wedding to tell you about this spring.

Best of 2017 - engagement

To see photo essays from past years, click the links below:
2013
2014
2015
2016

I’m linking up at Revolution of Love with other folks who like to do this too.  Click below for more 2017 photos!

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Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Go

Mary, My Mother: Quotations and Images

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A couple of years ago I started creating quotation images of the Blessed Mother to share on my blog’s Facebook page during the month of May.  I’ve been meaning to gather them into one post, and this month’s CWBN blog hop, with a theme of Mary, My Mother, is the perfect occasion for that.

All the photographs are mine, taken with my iPhone.

ve Maria, gratia plena!
This was taken at the grotto at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama.  My oldest child, Emily, graduated in 2013.

Do not marvel at the novelty of the thing, if a Virgin gives birth to God.- Saint Jerome
This comes from the grotto at the University of Notre Dame.  Our middle son, Teddy, graduated in May 2017.  Some day I hope I can return to Lourdes to take some pictures of the original grotto.  The ones I took with my little Kodak camera in 1984 aren’t up to my current standards. 😉

Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you.
This statue is in the flowerbed in front of our house.  For some reason, my younger kids think that Mary likes to be decorated with lots and lots of handmade rosaries.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to thy word.
We are not parishioners at All Saints, which is the closest church to our home, but we do enjoy walking there.  This statue is in their Marian garden right along the walking trail.

Bring flowers of the fairest, bring flowers of the rarest . . .
Another shot of our statue, which was originally a housewarming gift when we moved into our second home in December 2001.

“In trial or difficulty I have recourse to Mother Mary, whose glance alone is enough to dissipate every fear.”--Saint Therese of LisieuxThe picture in this photograph hangs in the art museum on the Notre Dame campus.

Always stay close to this Heavenly Mother.- St. Padre Pio
Emily gave me this icon for Christmas a couple of years ago.  I can’t even describe how much I love it.

Dear
We don’t have that sweet little kitten anymore, but the statue was one of the few things that survived our house fire in 2001.  It was far enough away from the house not to suffer any damage.

Do whatever He tells you.
This hangs on a wall in the student center at Notre Dame.

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope.
I took this one in the garden of a downtown Dallas church when I was visiting my sister there.

Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence.--Saint Francis de Sales
This picture of Lorelei and William was taken in our church basement many years ago when they were participating in a play during the annual Advent Workshop.

My soul magnifies the Lord.
Late summer in my garden.

Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.”--Saint Maximilian Kolbe
This statue is also located in the art museum at Notre Dame.

Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May
The statue of the Blessed Mother at my own parish, Immaculate Conception, relocated from her usual spot for the annual May Crowning.

-She is more Mother than Queen.---Saint Therese of Lisieux
A detail from another picture from Notre Dame’s museum.

What a joy to remember that Mary is our Mother!- St. Therese de Lisieux
This is another view of the statue in the Marian garden at All Saints.

mary conceived without sinI love this picture because of the icicles and snow, which I don’t often get a chance to photograph.

Let us then cast ourselves at the feet of this good Mother . . .- St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Another shot of Notre Dame’s grotto.  Don’t miss it if you ever visit the campus.

spring hill grottoAnd finally, one last look at Our Lady of Spring Hill.

I will update this post as I create new images.  Do you have any special quotations about Mary that you would suggest?

This post is part of the CWBN Siena Sisters Blog Hop.  Please click the image below for more posts about Mary, My Mother.
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Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Go
And if you’ve scrolled down this far, here’s a video version!

12 in 2016: A Year in Pictures

This is a little exercise I’ve been taking part in for three years now.  It’s always fun to look back over the year, and this year I am struck by two things: 1) How much Lorelei used my phone to take pictures of Webkinz this year and 2) How many adventures I had that I did not share on my blog, even though I meant to.  I plan to remedy that shortly, but in the meantime here are some favorite pictures and memories from 2016, proving that it wasn’t ALL bad!

JANUARY:  Our oldest son turned 22.  We celebrated with a family dinner at our favorite sushi place, Lemongrass, which sadly closed later in the year.

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FEBRUARY: A BIG birthday party for my husband, pictured here being toasted by our “big kids.”

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MARCH:  One of so many pictures from a delightful weekend visit to Chattanooga, just a short drive from Knoxville and full of things to see and do.  I have so many beautiful pictures from that weekend and still plan to blog about this trip.

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APRIL:  I don’t have as many hiking pictures this year, because we didn’t hike as much, something else I hope to change soon!  This one was taken at the Forks of the River Trails in the South Knoxville Urban Wilderness, my favorite hiking destination.

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MAY:  Y’all, these chairs were my Mother’s Day present and I love them so much.  I now actually sit occasionally.  I can look at my garden, read, and occasionally nap in my chair–although I sometimes have to sit in my less preferred seat if our cat has already claimed the other one.

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JUNE:  My husband’s uncle died this year and this picture was taken at his funeral.  We were so fortunate to have visited with him just a couple of weeks before.

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JULY:  This was also taken at Forks of the River, during the annual sunflower extravaganza.  If you live in our near Knoxville, you don’t want to miss this.

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AUGUST:  Obligatory cat picture here.  This time it’s Mace and Echo, shortly before we went from two cats to four (which, if you are interested, is kind of a lot of cats).

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SEPTEMBER:  How long it had been since I went to a Tennessee Volunteers game I can’t even remember, but it had been a long time!  Win or lose, there is nothing like it.

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OCTOBER:  I took this in Cades Cove, in the Smoky Mountains, when Emily and I went up early one morning to take in the leaves before the crowds arrived.

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NOVEMBER:  After we went to vote, Emily, Lorelei, and I went downtown to have lunch and pay tribute to this trio of Tennessee suffragettes.  It’s still painful to think about how happy and full of hope we were that afternoon.

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DECEMBER:  Merry Christmas! These Santas are so special to our family.  My grandmother collected them over a period of time from Lowe’s and displayed them every year.  At some point, as she often did, she turned them over to me and my kids always loved organizing them.  At the burned down house (that’s how we refer to it around here), the Santas were displayed in the basement and thus survived the inferno.  They are soot-stained but precious to us.

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And there you have it!  If you want to see prior years in pictures, just click right here:  2013, 2014, 2015.

I’m linking up with others who are doing the same thing at Revolution of Love.  Click the image below to visit the rest of the collection!

RevolutionofLove.com - logo_2016_photos

Photo Books from AdoramaPix (SPONSORED)

I’m here today to give my honest review of the AdoramaPix photobook I told you about several weeks ago.  I worry that you won’t trust a review that is as glowing as the one I am about to write.  But I assure you that even though I received this product ($50 value!) for free, I am giving you my honest opinion, as always.

So the way this works is, you head over to the AdoramaPix Website and select the type of book you want.  There a variety of designs and templates depending on what kind of book you want to make.  Are you commemorating a special occasion? Collecting vacation photos? Making a gift book for someone special? The design I chose was specifically for highlighting iPhone pictures.

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Yes, y’all, I made my very own coffee table book and I could not love this thing more.  And it was so easy.  The hardest part was figuring out which pictures to use.  The second hardest part was laying them out.  There are tutorials on the site to explain how the process works–for that matter, you can let the program lay them out at random.  You can even import a layout from your own program if that sort of thing makes sense to you.  It’s not something I have any experience with so I let the program do it for me and then moved them around until I got them where I wanted them.

My book is incredible.  Does that sound vain? You would never believe I took the pictures with an iPhone.

I waited too long to post this review so the coupon code I had to offer has expired.  HOWEVER, AdoramaPix is always running specials, and they have sales going on for the rest of the month.  And I don’t know if y’all remember, but I also ordered some metal prints from them that were incredible.  So don’t limit yourself to the photobook.

Here are more pictures but they don’t do it justice.  The colors are beautiful.

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Do yourself a favor and take a look at the AdoramaPix website and be sure to let me know if you buy anything!

Election Day! In (Mostly) Pictures

All I want to do right now is read the internet obsessively and get ready to watch election coverage.  But it’s NaBloPoMo, and I have to post something.  So I’ll do a quick Election Day photo essay!

Even though there was no school today, I got up relatively early, and got Lorelei and Emily up, hoping to get to the polls by ten.  We didn’t quite make that goal!  But at least we didn’t need to worry about crowds this time.  Unbeknownst to us, they split our precinct place and sent half the voters elsewhere (not our half, happily).  There was only a short line, although the workers said that it had been steady and was busy earlier with voters on the way to work.

Here are our happy post-voting pictures!

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Emily was away at college for the last election and didn’t get her absentee ballot in time, so this was her first vote for President.  Lorelei is still a bit young, but I let her push the button.

And here I am, rocking my “pantsuit.”

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I got the idea online to go on a field trip to the Women’s Suffrage Memorial, located downtown in Market Square.  We found a parking place and I even managed to parallel park!

Then we went to lunch at Pete’s (a downtown institution, where the girls had never been), and then to Krispy Kreme for our free doughnuts!

Since then I’ve been glued to my computer and I’m getting ready to be glued to the t.v.  We have snacks and pink champagne and we are going to have a little party. 🙂

And tomorrow, one way or another, life goes on, and maybe I will be able to concentrate on working again!

Adorama Pix: SPONSORED Review

Y’all, I am late doing this review and I feel really bad about it, because I LOVE this service and these products and I will definitely be spending my own money here in the future.

So, yeah, to get business out of the way, this IS a sponsored review, which means that U.S. Family Guide hooked me up with this sweet deal: to get free pictures from Adorama Pix in exchange for my honest review.

So here’s what this company does:

AdoramaPix helps people turn their digital photographs from abstract computer files into beautiful keepsakes designed to last a lifetime. Their contemporary metal prints capture memories in rich color and vibrant detail. Because your images are infused right into the metal, and not painted on the surface, their metal prints are extremely durable. Not only will your metal image be water and weather proof, but scratch resistant as well. You can even clean it with glass cleaner. Your memories deserve to live in true, archival luxury with AdoramaPix metal prints.

You can find all the fun gift ideas HERE:
http://www.adoramapix.com/app/home/

As I said, I am late doing this, which means you only have a few days to save:

My readers get to save! 25% off Hexagon #Metal Prints! Use promo code: PXHEXMTL25 expires 06/ 15 /2016

Luckily, I know from experience that there are many other offers if you register on the site, which is the first step of the process.  It’s any easy process, too, and the only thing that made it take any time at all is deciding which options to choose.  There are shapes, sizes, and finishes to pick from, as well as display options.  I was supposed to try the new hexagon print, which can be used to make cool displays like this one:

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I still had money to spend after I picked my hexagon, so I also got a basic square picture and one with a cool silvery finish (which I thought matched the non-digital old picture which I had scanned).

The hardest part for me was picking the right pictures.  They need to be of a certain quality to work well, and the tool on the website rejected my first few choices.  Someone who is more tech-savvy would probably know in advance what would be the best pictures to use.

Anyway, here’s what I got back (super quickly, by the way) along with a complimentary cloth to keep them nice and shiny.  The hexagon print is meant for hanging on the wall but the other two came with features so they can stand for display.

adorama 1

This is the old photo.  Keep in mind that this is a photo of a photo (which itself was made by scanning a fire-damaged 35 mm print that was about 15 years old).  The perspective is also skewed because the back of this has a fold out stand that I did not want to fold back in all the way! Anyway, the silvery finish is perfect; in person, it masks the imperfections of the photo and gives it an old-timey feeling.

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This iPhone photo taken at close range turned out the be the best of the lot according to the online tool.  And I do love this picture of William at 13! This one came with a little strip of wood to stand it up in.

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Finally, my hexagon print! I love this picture of downtown Knoxville, and I can envision this as the center of a display of lots of other Knoxville pictures.

I spent $55 (including shipping) for the three pictures above, the hexagon being the most expensive.  You can get a nice picture from Adorama Pix for $12, and I think that’s a deal.

Remember, you have four days to save using my coupon!  If you do give Adorama a try, please let me know what you think.

12 in 2015: A Year in Pictures

At the end of 2013 and again last year I participated in a linkup in which participants shared one picture for each month of the year.  I’m not sure that the linkup is taking place but I think it’s a fun way to recap the year so I am going to do it anyway!

January: Jake on his 21st birthday with a cake full of candles.

Jake 21

February: Last year we had a snowy winter for the first time in a long time.  I always like taking pictures of Mary in the ice and snow.

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March: I love this picture taken at Seven Islands Birding Park.

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April: Easter at our house.  This is Leo, age 4, our nephew and godson.

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May: This is Echo, the most recent cat-addition to our family.

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June:  I traveled to Dallas with my sister and we stopped in Memphis for the night.

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July: I took this at Cedar Springs Cemetery.

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August: John getting excited about his drink on one of the mini-vacations we took this year, this one to Pigeon Forge.

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September:  My cousin’s wedding in Nashville.

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October: Our awesome Notre Dame football trip.

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November:  Lorelei’s 11th birthday, in which this year’s obsession is evident.

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December:  Ready for Christmas (just barely).  And finally I got enough lights on the tree.  Note the rope attaching our tree to the wall.  Let’s just say that’s the result of some bitter experiences.

christmas 2015

Thank you, everyone, for reading my blog this year.  I hope the New Year is full of blessings for all of you.

To take a glimpse at a year in the life of other bloggers, click below!

RevolutionofLove.com - 2015 in 12 Photos // logo_end_year_2015A3

Fond Farewell to Autumn

I know that Fall won’t end officially for another month.  But let’s face it, the best part of it is over.  There are no more beautiful leaves on the trees and everyone is thinking about Christmas.

Every day (almost) since the first day of Autumn, I’ve made a picture to share on my blog using my own photographs and suitable quotations.  Just as I did earlier this year with my Spring quote pictures, I thought it would be nice to put them all together in one post along with a little information about each of them.

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October 2014, Holloway Cemetery, Knoxville.

“Autumn flings her fiery cloak over the sumac, beech and oak.” ― Susan Lendroth

October 2015, Island Home Park, Knoxville.

“Autumn is my spring!” ― August Strindberg

October 2015, Notre Dame University.

“In Heaven, it is always Autumn-.” ― John Donne

October 2014, Holloway Cemetery.

“Take heart and dive into the quiet maturity of autumn.” ― Kristian Goldmund Aumann

October 2015, Holloway Cemetery.

“the fallen leaves in the forest seemed to make even the ground glow and burn with light” ― Malcolm Lowry

October 2015, Victor Ashe Trail, South Knoxville Urban Wilderness.

 

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October 2014, Meads Quarry, Knoxville.

Are we not better and at homeIn dreamful Autumn-- Ernes Dowson

October 2014, Woodlawn Cemetery, Knoxville.

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.- Albert Camus

October 2014, Ijams Nature Center, Knoxville.

Autumn is Nature's last party of the year.- Deborah Walsh

Fall 2014, Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area, South Knoxville Urban Wilderness.

Be like autumn leaves which follow exactly the rhythm of the wind!― Mehmet Murat Ildan

October 2014, Holloway Cemetery.

Beauty for some provides escape, who gain a happiness in eyeing Autumn sunsets exquisitely dying. – Langston Hughes

September 2011, my back deck, Knoxville.

Change is a measure of time and, in the autumn, time seems speeded up. What was is not and never again will be; what is is change.- Edwin Teale

Fall 2014, First Creek, Knoxville.

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

October 2014, Meads Quarry.

Falling leaves hide the path so quietly. – John Bailey

Fall 2014, Campus of Knoxville Catholic High School.

In October any wonderful unexpected thing might be possible. - Elizabeth George Speare

October 2014, Forks of the River.

It looked like the world was covered in a cobbler crust of brown sugar and cinnamon. ― Sarah Addison Allen

October 2014, Meads Quarry.

It's so strange that autumn is beautiful, yet everything is dying.- Unknown

October 2014, Holloway Cemetery.

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace, as I have seen in one autumnal face. - John Donne

September 2015, Will Skelton Greenway, Knoxville.

October proved a riot to the senses . . ..- Keith Donohue

October 2014, Ijams Nature Center.

October, baptize me with leaves!- Rainbow Rowell

October 2014, Ijams Nature Center, Knoxville.

Once more the liberal year laughs out O'er richer stores than gems or gold- Once more with harvest song and shout Is nature's boldest triumph told.John Greenleaf Whittier

November 2012, Krutch Park, Downtown Knoxville.

Sweet and smiling are thy ways,Beauteous, golden Autumn days.- Will Carleton

October 2014, Will Skelton Greenway.

The earth has now fulfilled its design for this year, and is going to repose for a short time.-Christoph Christian Sturm

October 2014, Will Skelton Greenway.

The leaves as they spark into wild color just before they die are the world's oldest performance art.- Shauna Niequist

October 2014, Meads Quarry.

The magic of autumn has seized the countryside.- Elizabeth Coatsworth

October 2014, Ijams Nature Center.

The October sun filled the world with mellow warmth...- Elizabeth George Speare

October 2014, Forks of the River.

The twilight of the year is sweet-Where shadow and the darkness meet . . .- Ernest Dowson

October 2014, Stanton Cemetery, Meads Quarry.

The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.John Muir

Fall 2013.

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October 2014, across the road from Byrd’s Chapel Cemetery, Knoxville.

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October 2014, Holloway Cemetery.

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October 2014.

It was fun–sometimes challenging–creating these.  I hope you enjoy this look back at Fall, a season that always seems to pass too quickly.

My Sunday Photo: Autumn Sky

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I took this photo looking down the hill from my front porch.  We live about halfway up the hill.  The original plan for our neighborhood was that the houses would get bigger and bigger going progressing up the hill so there would be ginormous houses at the top where the view is amazing.  However, the neighborhood was going to be built in two phases and the recession happened after the first phase.  The original builder backed out of the project after our house was built.  So our house is the biggest house, and eventually a new builder came in and built much smaller houses all the way up the hill.  I hear that a lot of people in the big house part of the neighborhood were angry about this, feeling that it would damage their property values.  I personally think it’s hilarious.

OneDad3Girls

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