Magic Camera Monday: February 20, 2012

Magic Camera Monday: Strang Days Opener

Today is a special day for several reasons, but the biggest reason is because I am sharing photos and friends with you.

When I went to Tennessee in the Fall for Bill’s Memorial Service, I took time out to see some very important friends.

A couple of these friends took me on a magical journey—as in Magic Camera Monday magical—which I’m delighted to share with you today.

Tom and Jeff at Cades Cove

This great guy next to me is Jeff Strang. He and I have been friends since the earth started to cool. I’m happy to say that he and I have shared a lot of magnificent adventures together. He’s super talented and a very dear friend. He and I are practically twins. We share so much in common, it’s hard to tell where he ends and I begin.

Here are a few examples:

  • Jeff loves golf. I don’t.
  • Jeff loves football. I don’t.
  • Jeff loves basketball. I don’t.
  • Jeff loves hard liquor. I don’t.
  • Jeff loves long road trips. I don’t.
  • Jeff loves movies and watching TV. I don’t.
  • Jeff loves being outside. I don’t. Especially when it starts getting hot.
  • Jeff loves all sorts of music. I don’t. I am a pop and disco baby.
  • Jeff loves to eat out. I don’t.
  • Jeff loves blue. I don’t.

As you can see, we are practically the same person—and I adore him anyway.

Although we don’t share all of the same interests, we share many and one of those is photography. Jeff’s interest in photography has been ongoing. He has taken photographs and shared stories for as long as I can remember. My interest in photography is relatively new.

This trip back to Tennessee was very important for many reasons beyond Bill’s service. I hadn’t seen Jeff and many of my dear friends since I moved to Houston in 2005.

While I was away, Jeff continued his love for all the things I listed above, but he also added something new and very special to the list.

Tom and Cyn Strang at Cades Cove

This new love was/is Cynthia, or Cyn, for short. She loves all the things that Jeff loves—and they are a perfect pair.

Early in their relationship, I would get emails about their adventures. Jeff would take the photographs and she would write the stories. Cyn was able to put into words all the emotions that Jeff conveyed in his photography. Each adventure was filled with love and laughter.

They made a dynamic duo. They were like two peas in a pod. They went together like peanut butter and jelly. They fit together like too-tight jeans and a pair of Spanxs. Oh . . . they are too cute for words.

Jeff and Cyn Strang at Cades Cove

A couple of years ago Jeff and Cyn decided to get married. That way if something illegal happened, they wouldn’t have to testify against each other in a court of law. Just kidding . . . Everyone knows you can testify against your spouse in court. 

These two lovebirds got married at a beautiful chapel in the mountains because that’s what people when they are in love—and it’s legal. Get a load of that ring! He picked out that beauty and he’s not even gay. I’m so proud!

You would think from all the letters (Yes, letters—and  handwritten ones at that—for Christ’s sake.) and emails that I received while they were dating, that Cyn and I knew each other, but that wasn’t the case.

She wrote and emailed me like we’d known each other for years. She did all of this because Jeff cared about me—so in turn—did she. It is no wonder Jeff fell in love with her. It is very easy to do.

I never heard her voice until I came to Tennessee. She sent me many postcards and letters letting me know that she and Jeff thought about us constantly and that Bill and I were in their prayers.

As part of my trip to Tennessee I stayed with Jeff and Cyn for a couple of days. We had a blast from the time we got up, until we fell asleep. We ate and laughed and reminisced about the old days and discussed the plans they had for their new life together. It was an extraordinary 48 hours.

East Tennessee is amazing in the Fall, because there is so much to see and do. With so much to experience so close, I thought a special Magic Camera Monday expedition was in order. I figured that I could enjoy the scenery, spend time with Jeff and Cyn, and show you something other than what’s lying around the house.

Magic Camera Monday: Lavender Wildflower

Lavenderous Don'tKnowUs, commonly known as That Purple Wildflower at Cades Cove That I Can't Find The Name Of.

We started our Magic Camera Monday Special Assignment at Cades Cove, which is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is a breathtaking place, that you have to see to believe.

Magic Camera Monday: Pickles And Peppers at Carver's Apple Barn

Fresh packed pickles and peppers at Carver's Apple Barn and Orchard.

After a wonderful trek through Cades Cove, we went to Carver’s Apple Barn and Orchard. This is a photographers dream come true. Jeff and I could have stayed there all day, but we knew there was much more see along the 8-mile Gatlinburg Craft Loop.

Magic Camera Monday: Burning Bush

Euonymus alatus (Thunb.) Siebold, otherwise known as a Burning Bush.

This renowned Craft Loop is something to behold. Awe-inspiring man-made and natural beauty abound.

Magic Camera Monday : Ornamental Kale

Brassica oleracea var. acephala (BRAS-si-ca o-ler-ACE-ee-a), or Kale for short.

There are some many feasts for the eye, that you can’t sling a dead cat without hitting something exquisite.

Sorry to offend cat owners, but I was just trying to make a point. For those of you considering a trip through the Gatlinburg Craft Loop, there is not need to worry, dead cats are not being thrown about.

Magic Camera Monday: Lavendar Daisy Mum

Officially named Chrysanthemum rubellum, but her friends call her Clara Curtis.

When I say natural beauty abounds, I mean it. Just look at this lusciousness.

The photos above are only a sampling of the beauty I shot that day. If you would like to see more, just click here or on one of the photos.

Tammy, Tom, Rodney and Jeff at Best Italian Restaurant in Gatlinburg, TN.

As if the beauty and friendship I shared that day weren’t enough, I was treated to the most amazing dinner, which I got to share with the most amazing friends in the world.

I had the pleasure of eating at the Original Best Italian Restaurant in Gatlinburg. This was my first time to eat there—and boy was it something. Best Italian has the most delicious food and their garlic rolls are just sinful. So . . . if you are contemplating sinning, I recommend you start here.

Having people like these three in your life can help you get through almost anything. This amazing trio (Tammy, Rodney and Jeff) have gotten me through more rough water than I could have imagined. I feel blessed to have them in my life.

Having an action-packed and laughter-filled day was beyond description, but ending it with friends like these, left me speechless. It was a day and an evening that I will cherish forever.


While I was with Jeff and Cyn, I nudged, chatted, cajoled, did a little arm twisting, and gently urged them into sharing their experiences with the world. They have a great life filled with many adventures and wonderful food. You can see what they are up to by clicking here.

Thank you Jeff and Cyn for the amazing adventure, but more importantly for sharing your life with me. You are treasures beyond measure. 


I’d like to close this Special Magic Camera Monday Assignment by saying “THANK YOU” for all of YOUR wonderful responses to last week’s posts. Your joy-filled and enthusiastic replies filled my day with laughter.

You are the BEST BFFs a guy could ask for!


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25 Responses to “Magic Camera Monday: February 20, 2012”

  1. Paul Leger Says:

    a beautiful post

  2. kathydrew Says:

    Tom, your photos are wonderful. I loved reading this article. Thank you for sharing the photos of the friends we spoke of.
    As always, Love you.

  3. Cyn Strang Says:

    Tom, you leave us speechless! You are so dear to us and we LOVED having you stay with us. 🙂 What a wonderful post and what beautiful and kind words. Thank you for sharing your time with us! We love you!
    Cyn & Jeff

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey You! I’m glad you dropped by. It’s taken me a while to figure out how to write about the time I shared with you two.

      It was truly amazing and I am looking forward to our next adventure together. Pumpkin fudge keeps calling my name and I am feeling, more and more, that I need to answer that call.

      Love you too!

      • Cyn Strang Says:

        You and I can go in the kitchen and whip up some creations and your room is ready for whenever you want to visit again! Looking forward to it….can’t wait! ❤

  4. kimber Says:

    Wow… great photos, wonderful story. I’m pretty sad I didn’t know you were in town. I would have loved to see you, too!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi KImberly, Glad you enjoyed the photos. Don’t feel sad. I’ll make sure you know the next time I am in KnoxVegas.

      I know this great place to eat that is sinfully good. The most amazing people I know go there, so I’m sure you will fit right in.

  5. Patricia Eaton Says:

    Tom, Your friends look like fine people and I’m so glad you got to be with them….love the photos and you know what? YOU look great!!!! Loveya, pat

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi there, Yes, they are fine people.

      Some of the best people I’ve ever known. It was good to see them again. Seven years is a long time to be away from such amazing people. I’ll not wait so long between visits.

      I am glad you enjoyed the photos. I thought I shot more, but I would get so caught up in looking at things, I would forget about the camera.

      Ah . . . you’re gonna make me blush. I only have two words to say about how I look . . . Photo Shop. 🙂

  6. Eddie Landreth Says:

    What a great post, Tom. Friends really are the grease on the wheel, aren’t they? They keep our lives running smooth (well, as smooth as smooth can be at times). It certainly looks like you have some cherished ones in your life, it doesn’t get better than that.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Eddie! Thanks. I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. I couldn’t agree more.

      Friends are the sugar that helps life’s medicine go down—in the most delightful way. I just had to add that in. I couldn’t help myself. 🙂

      I have been blessed with the most extraordinary friends. I often wonder how I got so lucky. I don’t question it. I just remain forever grateful.

  7. Brenda Wall Says:

    Another fabulous Monday with Tom. Your photos are beautiful and your friends are just awesome. Of course they have an awesome friend too.
    Cades Cove brings back memories of my honeymoon and then taking the kids 2 years later to see where Bill and I had gone. It would be wonderful to go back there again. We met a friendly woodchuck and watched my husband take the kids into the woods to follow a crowd of people with cameras. Then I sat in the car and watched a bear and her cubs run across a clearing, as the crowd of people ran out of the woods in the opposite direction. Ahhhhh memories aren’t they wonderful.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey Brenda!!!! I’m glad you enjoyed the story and the photos, but I was overjoyed to hear your story. Thanks for the laughs. As you described the events, I could see it all so clearly.

      It was like the Keystone Cops go to Cades Cove. Such a funny story and such a wonderful memory. Thank you again for sharing.


  8. Jayardi Says:

    • • • Disco? really ?

    It’s so nice to see you having a good time. Enjoy it every chance you get.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Oh yeah, Disco ROCKS!!!

      I am doing my best to savor every moment for as long as I can hold onto it.

      Life is entirely too short, so bring out the mirror ball, because I’m ready to Rock the Casbah!!!

  9. Penny fp Says:

    So funny,……when I see anything pertaining to Gatlinburg I always remember how our class didn’t get a cool class trip to go snow skiing because we didn’t raise very much money. So our senior class trip was to….Gatlinburg!

    Your blog is absolutely delightful. I’ve enjoyed it from day-1. Your writing is exquisite and your quilting/sewing is even more so.

    My heart was/is saddened for your loss. I wish I could give you a hug. Thank you for sharing the ups and downs.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Penny, Thanks for sharing your story. I lived in Knoxville for 23 years and never went skiing. Gatinburg is beautiful when it snows, but I think its real beauty shows up in the Spring and Fall.

      It’s always great to hear that someone enjoys reading your blog. I was resistent to blogging for years. I considered myself boring and was afraid I’d run out of things to share. Much to my surprise, I have more things to share than I have time to blog about.

      I’m glad you enjoy my quilts and my writing. Your comments flatter me. I constantly reedit my posts. As many times as I read them before posting, I miss things. I’m such a goober. The important thing is that you enjoy them.

      Life is good and I’m blessed to be able to share it with you. Thank you for the hug. You are very kind.

      Have a fabulous day!

  10. Carol Ann Wilbourn Says:

    Hey Tom,
    I love Magic Mondays and love the stories. Thanks for sharing your friends – cute couple! And I love the photos of the flora! Just Beautiful! Thanks!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Carol Ann, Thanks! You are too kind. Jeff and Cyn are the cutest things to watch when they are together. The photos turned out great, but they only show a tiny part of their big personalities.

      I love taking photographs of nature. I don’t know why I am so captivated by what I see, but I truly enjoy each and every detail. I’m glad that you do too.

      Love you much!!

  11. Lynn Kelly Says:

    You are a hoot, Tom! Please do come back to visit at Sugar Land Applique. We meet this Saturday! Bring your cute little camera. We miss you.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Lynn! It’s so fun to read your comments. Your enthusiasm always brings a smile to my face. I’m glad to see that you enjoyed the story and the photos.

      I appreciate the invitation, but I can’t make it this Saturday, maybe I can make it next month. I miss going to the Applique Society. The members do amazing work and Show and Tell is always inspiring.

      You bet. When I show up, I’ll have the Magic Camera.

      xxxooo 🙂

  12. Carla Says:

    You boring, I don’t think so. I didn’t get to know the real you until I started reading your blog. Now I already knew you weren’t boring, that you were talented, funny, honest and endearing but now I’m positive of it. Love reading your blog.
    Thanks for sharing your pictures, talents, friends and your life with us in blog land. You’ve always had a smile and a hug for me when I see you which always makes me feel special.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey Carla, Oh yes, I’m boring. If I sat next to a manilla folder, you’d hardly be able to tell us apart. It would need to be a pretty big folder, but the parallels still apply.

      I’m glad you enjoy reading my blog. It’s fun to share and get to know people better. I feel like I know you much better because of your continued contributions. You make me smile every time I read a comment from you.

      You are special and I’m thrilled that I have the opportunity to show you just how special you are. The joy I get out of seeing you smile is addicting, so the hugs are easy to give.

      I’ve been saving a few special hugs just for you and I plan on delivering them when I see you at the Tri-County Quilt Guild Show, so I’m looking forward to seeing you there.


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