Tennessee snowstorm in 2024

January 2024 Highlights: The Highs + Lows

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For the first time in six years, I didn’t write a monthly recap in December, not because I didn’t have a great month, but because it was so busy, I just lost the time and then before I knew it, it was nearly the end of January and seemed silly to still be writing about the holidays. And now February has almost come and gone, but what are you going to do? Life has been life.

In truth, the holidays seems lightyears away. I think, in that month alone, we made up for those unspoken-of-years between 2020 and 2022 when social interactions were few and far between by doubling our calendars in 2023, as it seems we had no nights off from holiday parties, friend dinners and events we shot as photographers.

Christmas lights shoot
Christmas lights shoot

That month, we took no flights and spent zero nights away from our house. It was glorious! We also celebrated my dad’s birthday—our second without him—in which his best friend came over, and we played their favorite pastime: darts. It’s become a fun way to commemorate his memory, especially given his birthday was sandwiched right between the holidays, traditionally a hard time for people missing loved ones.

Remembering Greg Luna: Dealing with my Dad's Death

We rang in the new year at my mom’s house with my cousins and some of my best friends, in soft clothes and accompanied by plenty of champagne and bourbon. It was the best night!

New Year's celebration

In January, we took four flights and started this post from—plot twist!—Qatar. Who saw that coming, right? (But I’m finishing it from the other side of our three-week vacation on the eve of my 41st birthday because best laid plans and whatnot.) January also brought an epic snow I haven’t seen the likes of in 30 years, and we spent the days sledding with the kids and our friends. It was so much fun.

Tullahoma, Tennessee snow

Tullahoma, Tennessee snow
Tullahoma, Tennessee snow
Tullahoma, Tennessee snow

The Highs

We went to Qatar! SVV’s first Middle Eastern country and a new passport stamp for both of us. Doha was the first stop of a 17-day trip to Thailand, and we absolutely loved it. I know I say this a lot and don’t often make good on my promise, but I will blog about this trip (and very soon!).

Trip to Qatar

We went to Charleston! SVV’s Navy roommate and dear friend Joe took command of a NOAA research vessel, the Nancy Foster, and we got to be there for the ceremony. Bonus: We stayed with my brother-in-law Josh’s sister Rosa and her family and got to spend some quality time with them.

Nancy Foster ship in Charleston

We finished the North Alabama Birding Trail. If you’re in the South and looking for a fun (and free) trip idea, check out our entire guide to birding in Alabama here.

Where to See Birds in Alabama: A Birder's Guide | copyright Odinn Media

Photos, photos, more photos. If I had to summarize December in one word, it would be: photography. We photographed our club’s annual Breakfast with Santa event, I did more than 20 kids’ B&W portraits, we had a few last-minute family Christmas card shoots, and we photographed the Bell Buckle Christmas. I turned my calendar off for family photo sessions for the next few months due to how busy we are, but in January, I made one exception and photographed the 90th birthday party of our lovely neighbor’s mom.

Black and white portraits in Tennessee
Black and white portraits in Tennessee
Black and white portraits in Tennessee

Black and white portraits in Tennessee

Of all photos I took in December and January, though, this one—snapped during a rainstorm when the kids were being crazy—is my favorite.

Tullahoma family photographer

Our new Tullahoma tourism video debuted! A few years ago, we shot a tourism video for the Tullahoma Chamber of Commerce in my hometown and the city in which we currently reside. Five years later, they were ready for a refresh. As part of a Tennessee Department of Tourism Development marketing grant project, we jumpstarted this project around Labor Day with the goal of wrapping it in time for the January coffee. This was tricky given the timing—everything we shot was between September and December, not historically the prettiest months in Tennessee (and we had hardly any foliage this year!). But I think we got creative with it. Here’s the final product, our love letter to Tullahoma:

All the visitors’ guides are debuting! I love, love, love working on vacation guides for DMOs each year, and for 2024, I got to write the cover story for the Tennessee Vacation Guide and profile six tastemakers across the state (you can order your free copy here).

Tennessee Vacation Guide
Tennessee Vacation Guide

Also, this tubing photo we took in the Smokies a few years ago was featured in this cool ad for the Peaceful Side, which I think is so cute and clever.

Tennessee Vacation Guide

For the Knoxville Visitors’ Guide (free copy here), I crammed all my favorite restaurants, breweries and bars in Knoxville into one 800-word piece. Bonus: Ella made a cameo!

Knoxville Visitors Guide story by Kristin Luna

I also wrote a pair of features for Bourbon+. For the winter issue, I wrote a profile on Barrell Craft Spirits and a travel piece on Tucson. It was fun seeing the big displays at the Nashville airport, because I often never see my print pieces in the flesh!

Bourbon+ magazine story by Kristin Luna

The Challenges

January was rough, I’m not going to lie. Both of our HVAC units broke, and we still haven’t replaced them (because of the cost….). We had a major water line break at the Victorian, and it took SVV about two weeks to fix it because no plumber would show up.

Snowstorm in Tullahoma, Tennessee

While he was off to get a part, the family truck he’s been driving since his car has been out of commission since October broke down, and I had to go fetch him. In a snowstorm. While bedridden with pneumonia.

Which brings me to … pneumonia. I rarely get sick, and that unexpected January gift knocked me on my butt and put me in bed for nearly 10 days straight. Thank God for modern medicine that got me well just in time for our big three-week trip to Asia!

Puzzling for New Year's

My Favorites of the Month(s)

Favorite book: The Christmas Orphans Club by Becca Freeman and Mrs. Nash’s Ashes by Sarah Adler (more book recommendations here)

Favorite audiobook: none this month, but here some recent great audiobooks I loved

Favorite TV show: All the Light We Cannot See limited series (Netflix) and Daisy Jones & the Six limited series (Amazon)

Favorite podcast: Smartless (not a new podcast for me, but I took a break and forgot how much I loved it!)

Did you get snow, too? What were your top December and January highlights or favorite holiday memories in general? All past month recaps are linked here.

  • February 26, 2024

    Awww, sorry to hear about the pneumonia and so happy you recovered in time for your trip.

    I’m also a total nerd about last names and I love that SVV’s friend’s last name is Carrier. He sounds destined for naval greatness.

    • February 27, 2024

      I hadn’t even thought of that. It IS a great name for a Commander; I agree 🙂

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