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The Journal

A Nashville photographer's story blog.

Newborn Session: Cadence Ivory

Amy Roberts

A week ago I showed up at my long-time friends' home (I passed it twice) with a large pot and several fluffy blankets. With a name inspired by her parents' mutual love of music, Cadie unsurprisingly responded best to auditory prompts like light music, white noise, and lullabies from Dad. It was a sweet morning paced by meal time, nap time, and poop time. I'm grateful to have been there for this lovely, muggy day to photograph Cadence Ivory as she gets to know her family and her new home.

My favorite part of these shoots is when I snag the in-between moments. My hope with my work is to preserve not only the creative, styled ideas we find online, but also the way it all feels. The process of expansion, making room for the newness, the raw introduction and gradual growth into one unit we call "family" - this is the magic I want to find and capture. Your light, your space, your unique, collective being - it's what I work for. It's worth preserving. If this sounds like something you'd like to do, too, please feel free to contact me. In the meantime, enjoy these beautiful images of one beautiful family!


Travelogue: Round Top, TX

Amy Roberts

If you'd told me last June how our lives would change in the space of one year, I would have been afraid. Afraid, because the balance of highest highs and lowest lows is so dramatic when I look back over the last twelve months. We have mourned the loss of two grandparents and one friend, witnessed our families shift and shuffle homes and lives, and have been to the other side of the world and back. Oh, and I graduated college. :)

It's been a hard one. So when my mother-in-law Emily mentioned that she was visiting her sister Sharon in Texas, I asked if I could come along. This was odd for me, because I hate the idea of imposing, but it was a gut feeling. My very bones knew I would need this, and that it would be good for me. (This was probably due to my thorough knowledge of how amazing Emily and Sharon are, especially when they're together.)

For four days, I wandered around shops, restaurants, and homes with these two, and I have never felt so restored by travel in my life.

Normally, I narrate trips in a journal-entry style and include everything about where I went and what I did. But that doesn't feel right for this post, because it wasn't about what we did. Our itinerary was loose at best, and some evenings we really didn't know what we'd do, if anything, until we felt like it. The places were great, the food was awesome, and the inspiration was everywhere (Texas knows how to vintage).

But at the heart of the trip was celebration and community.

It was like we were collectively feeling out our gratefulness for being alive, having survived what we've survived, and being with each other in this breath of time and transition.

And while we did that, we, you know, shopped and slept and ate tons of tacos.

Okay, maybe the tacos were just me.

So this post is a bit different. I'm just going to throw out some words that capture what I'm trying to get at, because to write it out would make four days into an actual novel. It's not because I don't want to write it, either. It's just that I've spent a few days trying to write it, and it's too much of a feeling to write. So, the words that feel the closest are:


Adventure Tonic
Communal Peace




Glean from this what you will. And, to fill in for the words that I still haven't said, enjoy the images I was thrilled to capture, which I think are each worth way more than a thousand actual words.




Round Top, TX

Image by Stacy Allen


I will interject here, because I was so happy to meet Stacy Allen at our beautiful B&B. She and her family were adorable, and she was generous enough to swap photo shoots with me and give me a couple lovely photos (these are tagged with captions). Her minimal blog is littered with stunning images and amazing tips, so please check her out, and if you're ever in need of a B&B in Texas you should consider The Vintage (not sponsored in any way).


I will always remember this trip as a feeling.

A good, good feeling.


There's a bit more on my Instagram Story Highlights, which is where you'll always find my in-the-moment updates when I'm on an adventure. How do you travel? Do you pack it in, or focus on the R&R?



Two Hearts, One Forest

Amy Roberts


When I was beginning the third grade, I was thrown mercilessly into class with my frienemy. It didn't last long, though. Soon we became absolutely inseparable, to the point that our favorite past time during recess each day was to walk far away from the playground into the fields surrounding. Just talking and wandering. There was a golfer nearby who routinely lost golfballs in those fields, and so our self-assigned "jobs" were to find and collect those golf balls.

Stealing? Maybe.

Still, not as a bad as when we literally stole candy from the reward jar during recess the next year.

We were very good at recess.

No matter where life has flung us (mostly her, to Germany and around the U.S.A.) we have always managed to take a walk together every so often. This spring, when we both needed it desperately, we walked together once again in our hometown.


Ever in her own Wonderland and fond of deathly things, she is incredibly good at finding mushrooms.

Ever obsessed with anything living and adorable, I found multiple snails.

A good haul, even by our 3rd grade standards.


It's crazy to me that, while far-off adventures are magical and hard and worth it, the most joy we ever really find is in moments of connection with each other.

Love you.


Travelogue: Shanghai

Amy Roberts

First things first: The hospitality of the people we encountered in China was absolutely staggering.

Our flight from Yantai (read my post about that leg of our trip here) to Shanghai was at 7:00am, so we were up by 4:00am to be sure we had plenty of time at the airport. We were travelling with our friend, Wenbo, which was an incredible experience in itself! We had met his roommate, Kay, maybe twice in the States, but when Kay learned we were visiting Shanghai he immediately offered to have his family meet us there (and show us around, and lend us their only car...!). Kay's parents greeted us at the Shanghai airport, took us to our hotel, and helped haggle for our rooms (a new concept for us).

Once we were settled in, we all went to lunch at a restaurant that specializes in Yunnan province food, where we had some of our favorite food of the whole trip. Scrambled eggs with lavender buds, black fungus with greens, rice, some kind of barbecue... it was all incredible.

After lunch, we hit the pavement and headed toward a small, older area of the city. Right away, we found a beautiful Buddhist temple and, as it was on our list to tour a temple at some point on our trip, we stopped and looked around.

The temple was home to lots of kitties, who lived with the monks in a mutually advantageous situation. They kept the mice off of the food offerings which worshipers would lay on the altars, and they got a home and fancy pillows to sleep on in exchange. It was pretty clear how much they loved the monks, too - they followed them around everywhere!

It rained off and on while we were in Shanghai, and one this afternoon became one of the highlights of our trip to China. After visiting the temple, we ducked into a small, sweet-smelling tea shop, where we spent about an hour being served tea by a very kind woman who owned her shop and took pride in its independence. As she showed us the tea ceremony, she spoke to us in Chinese and our friend translated for us. Her tea was hands-down the best tea I've ever tasted. 
This was also during our second week in China, and I had been traveling with two men for the entire trip. I remember wishing desperately to have some female interaction which wasn't an aggressive sales pitch or a request to take a photo. This hour with this woman, as her grown sons wandered around her shop, filled that gap in a tiny way. I was grateful, even though I couldn't really tell her directly.
As we looked through the teapots available, since I had planned on buying one and hadn't found what I wanted yet, we saw one which wasn't quite straight (not the one in the picture, that was HER teapot). She said this other one was imperfect as it was made by hand, and no one had wanted it. Our friend was really confused when our eyes lit up at its teeny indications of human touch. He pointed out the things that made it imperfect, and frowned when we said, "We know, that's what makes handmade things so special!" Home it came, along with tea of several sorts, quickly jotted-down instructions for brewing, and a happy, grateful memory.

We continued walking the ancient strip, the clouds threatening to break into rain. We were eating meat on stick when it started pouring, so we took refuge in a crawfish shop, where we chatted with the staff (I say we, but I mean Wenbo) while eating crawfish (Wenbo and Justin actually ate the crawfish) and sipped on Tsingtao beer until the weather cleared.

The day ended with a moon bridge sighting and a lot of happy feels.

The next day, we ate lots of food and looked around in some of the nicer shopping areas. We weren't all that interested in buying a lot, but we were thoroughly entertained by the excess of badly translated phrases printed on most of their popular clothing. I came home with one which says fittingly "More Less." I'm not really sure what they were going for in terms of translation, but it feels like the right idea for Meanderblog values, don't you think?

From there we headed to Shanghai's famed waterfront area called The Bund, which abuts the Huangpu River and offers a skyline you'll never forget. We saw it during the day, though the weather was still very heavy and there was a thick grey fog obscuring our view. Still, it was really quite spectacular.


We ate at a lovely fancy buffet, where we had a booth near a window that looked out onto the river below.

On our way back, we took another look at The Bund, this time all lit up for the evening. Stunning!

Our last day in Shanghai was just as wonderful. We spent some time in the well-known Tianzifang district, another ancient part of Shanghai which has been transformed into a hub for food, craft, and architecture. After hours exploring, we breezed through a city park and flew back to Beijing in the evening.

This is merely a highlight reel of all we experienced in beautiful Shanghai. Thanks for coming along with us! The next and final installment of our adventure through China will outline our day trip to Suzhou, the loveliest leg of our journey. 'Til next time,



Birkenstocks: How They Fared

Amy Roberts

My last post of the summer, before school begins and my life is consumed in books... (actually that sounds pretty ok to me). I've got big plans for the blog this fall, though, so keep your eyes peeled for more good stuff. Anyway...

Before my trip to China, I decided to take the plunge and get my first pair of Birks. I'd read about them for years and I knew I would need something easy to slip on that could take a bit of walking. I decided on the traditional Arizona Birks in Habana, and I have to say, they did not disappoint!

I didn't get to use them quite as much as I thought I would, since I learned that it's not wise to wear open-toed shoes out too much in China. But I did wear them to the beach on our trip to Yantai, and they were perfect for a stroll on the shore of the Yellow Sea (though I did try to keep them relatively dry to protect them).

They are comfortable, easy, and they don't make my feet tired, which is what I was hoping for.


The only complaint I have is that they rub right in the arches of my feet, so I can't walk far in them - a problem, since I bought them for walking. I'm working on researching the reasons why this might be happening and what I can do to fix it, but if you have any advice I would love to hear it! I've read that you can sand or hammer down areas of the cork bed that rub, so I might try that.

Do you have a pair of beloved Birks that have worked for you? Tell me all about it!



10 Months Later...

Time-warp forward to Mid-May of 2018 and these shoes have seen some pretty good wear. After I got back from China, I developed calluses where the gigantic blisters were in my arches which allowed me to wear them as much as I wanted. Once winter set in, though, my Birks went to the closet. I pulled them out for a full day of walking this past weekend and unfortunately got the same blisters as last year. Looks like I either need to try hammering the cork or trust my feet to form some annual armor every spring.

I can’t deny it. I still love them. Do I have for Birkenstocks the same inextinguishible love that other women have for bright red stilettos? Because that would be fitting...