welcome ... enjoy yourself

Monday, July 28, 2014

blog hop

Today I'm sharing a slightly different post.  My friend Kate from Say Yes! Change Things invited me to take part in the "My Writing Process" Blog Hop.  I met Kate when we were both doing a year of service in Syracuse, New York, and we've reconnected over the past couple of years through blogging.  I love Kate's posts for their honesty, thoughtfulness, and vulnerability.  And appropriately for this blog hop - her posts are all very well written.  For the blog hop I'll answer a few questions about my writing process and then introduce you to three other bloggers, who I'll invite to pass along the Blog Hop.  


What am I working on?
Currently in my blogging world, I'm working on reaching out to new bloggers and building my readership.  Knowing readers would have more incentive to stick around if they saw a better blog design and stronger content, I've spent a lot of time over the past few months creating a new look for my blog.  I was really proud to launch a new blog design a few weeks ago - one that was brighter, easier to navigate, and just generally more fun than my last.  I'm continuing the self-improvement by putting together more food posts, garden posts, and really cool travel archive page.  

And of course, because I love writing lists and creating goals, I'm also working on my 30 before 30 list and my monthly four simple goals.  

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I've noticed some similarities between my blog and others, but my work differs in the unique way I put the pieces of my blog together.  I combine my love of photography with a simple focus on finding joy in my everyday life.  I live in Wisconsin, posts lots of pictures of flowers, nature, my gardens, my beagles, and my travels.  Here and there I also share posts about books, food, and the community I'm part of in Milwaukee.  Also, I find a lot of joy in personal development, so my work highlights lots of my goals and my efforts to reach them.  


Why do I write what I do? 
A few years ago, I realized I was in a rut.  I felt unhappy and bogged down by challenges in my life.  Sometime in summer 2012, I got a wake up call when reading the blog Today's Letters.  Blog author Emily Loerke had received a similar wake up call when reading Rockstar Diaries and realized she needed more gratitude and appreciation for her everyday life.  She writes quick "letters" to people and things in her life that she wanted to acknowledge.  Seeing the power of this simple appreciation made me want to shift my focus to the positive things in my life.  I knew I would always have challenges, but I didn't want these challenges to let me lose sight of all the good in my life.  I shifted my focus and started an attitude of gratitude by finding joy in all things.  

This shift happened at the same time I was wanting to start a new blog and they just combined into a blog about focusing on the simple joys of my life.  Over the past two years, my attitude has undergone a major shift, and I genuinely feel happier and more grateful for my life.  I still have bad days - even bad weeks - but I remember the saying "everyday might not be good, but there is good in everyday."

How does my writing process work? 
My writing process is simple and pretty organic.  I try to put together a monthly blog plan, but for the most part I write about what is drawing my attention that week.  In the summer,  blog posts come extremely easy - there's so much going on, I can create posts with pictures from my travels, activities, or all the other stuff happening around me (gardening, food, get togethers).  In winter, the posts reflect the slower pace of life and are more introspective.   

When I started the blog I used pretty simple language, basically journaling style.  If my post was about pie, I wrote about pie.  If it was about the garden, I jumped straight into writing about the garden.  After finding Reading my Tea Leaves, I felt inspired to change things up a bit.  I noticed that author Erin Boyle would tell a story or share some other anecdote that related to the subject of her post.  Her writing style is engaging and her posts read like a good story teller.   I wanted that for my blog, so I tried adding more flare to my posts.  I've slacked off a bit lately, but I'd like to continue developing this part of my writing process. 

In general though my blog is photo driven.  When I put a post together, I start with my favorite current photos and essentially tell a story about the pictures.  If a post is reflective, I'll generally pair it with photos of nature or whatever flowers I have around our apartment.  If the post is about a trip, I'll add a few details about our travels but for the most part I'll let the photos speak for themselves. 

And that is the most reflection I've ever put into my blog writing process.  And it was pretty enjoyable!  Thanks so much for reading.  And thanks to Kate for tagging me in the Blog Hop! 


I'm passing the Blog Hop along to Meghan of Simple Living and Loving, Sarah of Stand Tall Through Everything, and Melinda of Melinda's Musings.  All wonderful blogs that I highly recommend checking out.  And ones that I would love hearing answers to the above questions.   

Friday, July 25, 2014

happy friday


Happy Friday!!  We made it!!  Today I will be happier than a bumble bee on a bright pink flower.  Hope you all have a great day and a wonderful weekend :)
 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

baltimore inner harbor

 

 
I'm continuing with the travel post theme this week with the last of my photos from Baltimore.  I travelled there for my first official work conference at the beginning of June - which now sounds like a lifetime ago.  Since then, I've been to two weddings, travelled to St. Louis twice, flew to Seattle and Portland, went camping in Northern Wisconsin, saw Lady Gaga, and accepted a new part time job -- all in a seven week span!  Reading all that makes me want to take a nap. 
 
With the craziness of summer in full swing, I've been trying to take small breaks throughout my day and stick with a regular routine as much as possible.  
 
And now, back to Baltimore.   
 
 

I had last been to Baltimore about six years ago when I was doing my year of service on the East Coast.  But I somehow missed this whole area of the city.  Luckily our hotel was located right on the harbor giving me the chance to take a lovely evening photo walk.   


The weather couldn't have been more perfect during my trip.  Nice warm days with bright blue skies. 



The only thing cooler than all the large boats around the inner harbor was the ginormous Barnes & Noble.  With all the time I spend at libraries, I've barely set foot in an actual book store for years, but this was a cool bookstore to check out.  The inside still had a warehouse feel with large old timey photos of the Baltimore area. 



I opted not to rent any paddle boats, preferring to watch all the families and couples enjoying their time from the safety of the pier.





I walked so long I watched the sun go down and the harbor lights come on.  This long walk was a much needed balance to sitting inside hotel conference rooms all day listening to well informed, but pretty boring talks.  And that's really what this summer has been about for me: finding balance.  In the midst of lots and lots of activity, I'm finding ways to slow down and enjoy one of my favorite times of year -- before it flies by and we're welcoming the beginning of fall once again.

How do you find balance in the busy summer months?


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

seattle, washington


I'm wrapping up the Pacific Northwest posts today with some of my favorite photos from our trip to Seattle.  Before our latest trip, I had spent about 2-3 days total in Seattle, always quick trips before we drove or took the train down to Portland to visit family.  This was the first time I had been to Seattle in summer, and I loooooved it.  Like marry it loved it (sorry Paul).  We spent our quick 24 hour trip walking around the city and eating delicious food. 



The day we visited was pretty warm, and I admit I stared pretty longingly at all those kids playing in the fountain.  






Instead of spending a lot of money to go to the top of the Space Needle, we opted for the cheaper, cheesier tourist attraction: the Monorail!!!  Paul had been singing me this song for many years, and I decided it was time for us to check out this World's Fair relic.  

It turns out the Monorail was actually super nice, and I wished that it could have taken me more places around the city.  Seattle, can you work on that?  



After dinner, we walked along the Waterfront - mostly so I could be as close to the water as possible.  Secretly I just wanted to try to see some seals or sea lions.  No wildlife, but I did see some super nice reflections and a gorgeous sunset.  



Seattle - you are such a pretty city!  I'm excited for more trips so I can start to explore more beyond the touristy areas.  Maybe we could stop by one of these swanky places during our next visit??  

Where have you been traveling this summer?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

rocky butte


Things are slightly chaotic in my life right now with transitioning to working at two part time jobs and being in the height of summer activity.  I feel like I need a week long retreat!!  But until I get time for that retreat, I'll calm myself with photos from relaxing places I've visited.  Like these photos from our trip to Portland a few weeks ago. 

Friends of ours took us on a quick scenic drive to Joseph Wood Hill Park, at the top of Rocky Butte on our way to the airport.  A beautiful stone structure was added to the top of the Butte as a WPA project, and it offers amazing views of the mountain tops surrounding the Portland area.  It's one of those out of the way scenic views that we never would have known was there if someone hadn't shown us.   



A no-longer-in-service beacon stands in the center of the park and has been preserved for it's historical awesomeness. 


The views were absolutely amazing.  A large stone "map" points the way to the different peaks visible from the Butte.  We had a pretty clear day for viewing, but it was still difficult to see all of the peaks. 


View of downtown Portland and one of its bridges spanning the Willamette River. 


I think this is Mt. Hood...or maybe it's Mt. Rainier.  A lot of these mountains look the same to this Midwestern girl.

I believe this is Mt. St. Helens (you can tell it's Mt. St. Helens because it's peak was blown off in the volcanic explosion in 1980).  But I'm sure Paul, my go-to volcano expert will let me know if I've switched up the mountains. 

And with that I'm putting in my official request to be transferred to this park for the rest of the day.  Anybody else want to have a picnic with me?  You can come if you promise to bring a book and are ok with "hanging out" being loosely defined as "reading in the same vicinity." 

(Has anyone else been thinking of Finding Nemo while reading this??  Nemo touched the "butte"!)

Monday, July 21, 2014

today i'm thankful for


800 miles driven safely between Milwaukee and St. Louis

a great first week at my new job

three ginormous cucumbers from my mom's garden: ready for the juicer!
watching my dad make friends with sting rays

walking around the St. Louis zoo with Paul and my dad

a nice home cooked salmon dinner

conversations with my parents about marriage

spending a Sunday morning with my sister

forgiveness

the enthusiastic reception of my new blog design

the joy our pups bring to our lives

Friday, July 18, 2014

adventures in wildwood



I love books that I can escape into, books that make me yearn to be part of a world created by an author.  My current favorite escape books are the Wildwood Chronicles by Colin Meloy.  The books are a modern day Chronicles of Narnia-type series based in Portland, Oregon.  The heroine of the books, young Prue McKeel, ventures into "The Impassable Wilderness" and discovers a new world - populated by an evil queen, Wildwood bandits, and talking animals.  
 
I love how imaginative this series is -- and I also love that I can actually visit the Impassable Wilderness!  The "Narnia" of these books is Portland's Forest Park, the largest urban park in the United States -- 5,157 acres!  Paul and I took an urban hike through Forest Park during our last visit, and while I didn't see any talking animals, I did feel pretty excited to be in the setting of one of my favorite books. 
 


Portland has such easy access to so many beautiful areas.  I appreciate that their city planners took care to maintain a lot of the land's natural beauty when building roads and houses. 





The giant sequoias don't come up in the Wildwood Chronicles, but they're still pretty neat.  




Ah Wildwood.  Since I can't visit Portland as often as I'd like, I guess I'll just have to indulge my fantasies by reading more Wildwood Chronicles.