Tuesday, 26 August 2014

BLOGGING: The Writing Process


Today I'm sharing my unworldly experience when it comes to blogging. After being tagged Kelly who's blog Adventures in Tea and Cake always makes me hungry! I was actually surprised how much these questions got me thinking. As a hobby blogger I don't necessarily really think about my blogging, writing process call it what you will, so it was interesting to take a step back and think through it all. 

What are you working on?
There's always posts in the working on phase and I constantly feel the struggle to try and find my voice, have my personality spilling out the computer screen. But for whatever reason it's so hard for me not to write formally - at least that's how it comes over when I reread my words. Some see the light of day long before others. I have a couple of posts from our short trip to Bay City lined up - historical homes to former train stations. Digging up old photographs for more snapshots, more expat themed posts and room tours. There's even some old Detroit and Pittsburgh posts that have been sleeping in my draft folder that need finishing. They'll get done eventually

How does my work differ from others in the genre?  
Aside from sitting under the lifestyle blog umbrella I don't think my blog necessarily just fits one genre. I'm not a typical expat blogger (I don't get the chance to jet set around the country/world like many in that "niche") but since joining in the expat revelations link up I do like the challenge both myself and the conceptions that expat life is all merry and happy.  

While I might not be a stand out blogger on anyone's reading list, but I do hope to show Michigan and particularly Detroit in a new light. Michigan is never a stand out place on anyone's must visit list when it comes to the US and Detroit is always seen in the wrong light so I love trying to challenge those perceptions. 

I guess I like having my fingers in lots of different pies when it comes to topics and the longer I blog (five years plus now) the more I throw caution to the wind and just share what I want regardless of the stats.


Why do I write about what I do?
In short because it's me.

My blog has always reflected my life - the adventures, the everyday, the good and the bad. Life happens first, the blogging comes afterwards. Topics, themes they've always shadowed what's surrounding me - whether it was being in a long distance relationship, getting a visa to being that Yorkshire lass in the US. 

But it's more than that, blogging is just one of my hobbies, the hobbies fit and feed content be it tackling the garden, DIY, collecting vintage compacts or listening to records. I always want to keep this space real, personal and me, and the only way I know how to do that is to share my everyday life and adventures. For me, that's my freedom when it comes to writing. 

How does my writing process work?
In short - things happen first, blog post comes after. I tend to work off and around the photographs as I find them the best way to stimulate the words. For tags, questions or posts about a particular place I often work out of my notebook before I can even think about typing. Jotting down words, emotions, things I need to fit in for me I find that more productive than staring at a screen and hoping the words come to my fingers. 

Like I said before, sometimes a post will get worked out and published within a day, sometimes they sit in draft form for months. I don't like to rush my posts out just because something happened there and then. Sometimes they need curing, they need going over to get the feel just right. Sometimes I have the pictures and not the words to express the emotions behind them. 

As I'm not one big on organisation that's as far as my process as such goes. Blogging fits in around everything else - a spare 30 minutes here, and hour or two on a Sunday as and when. For me, that seems to work best, those are the ways that keep me energized to keep blogging rather than forcing myself.

*               *               *

It seems like everyone has more than likely been linked into this hop by now - but if not, consider yourself tagged. Either way i'd love to know how you get around to writing up those blog posts, while you're at it, i'd love to hear what you love, or even hate (play nice) about this blog of mine!
Blogger Tricks

Monday, 25 August 2014

LIFE: What's Inside the Bag Inside the Other Bag


The first and only time I've ever done a what's inside my bag post was way back in August 2011 on trip to London for my visa medical. That seems not only a lifetime ago, but a world ago. So after seeing my favorite brightly hair coloured pal Kerri offering a peek into hers, I though it was high time I did another. But I thought I'd do it a little different and show you the things inside my rucksack in which my bag is carried for our little two night stay away in Bay City, Michigan last week.

Oh my old Nike rucksack, my once well used and well trusted bag for lugging things back and forth in my former student life train journeys between York and Newcastle which now gets dusted off for such little adventures. My handbag, or purse if I'm trying to pretend to be more American then I am was a second hand find, it's a bit like a Mary Poppins bag, you can cram a lot more in it them you'd ever guess. It's normally filled with Post Office receipts and shopping coupons but for once I had a clear out. Normally it's contents aren't that exciting - a mini toiletry bag, a purse, hand cream, a bunch of keys with more keyrings then keys to be honest (not pictured) tic tacs (nom) and my trusty Samsung MP3 - which was actually pictured 3 years ago in that other what's in my bag post.


Whether it's a night away or a week long trip I always over pack, so for once I've been trying to cut all the stuff down. With Joe attending a work conference I had eight hours to please myself - a great excuse to catch up on some reading (an advance copy of The Betrayers by Davis Bezmozgis and Plunge into Michigan - a hilarious factoid book about the state I call home, and yes I really do read the Model Railroad magazine, for that time when we eventually get to set ours up in the basement) and perhaps even do some blogging.

While I'd love to leave technology at home and even with Ebay on vacation mode, my trusty Acer netbook tags along - ya know for checking TripAdvisor and general link to the outside world and while it's not pictured I even packed an extension lead - hotels like to challenge you with where they stick their measly limited sockets so I find having some extra wire length on the handy side. But as much as I love my netbook, I also love having a notebook on hand - it's my go to for jotting down blog, craft ideas to feelings and newspaper clippings. After reading about some self guided walking tours around the historical residential area, there's even a highlighted map and notes about the houses as my guide.

Of course adventures to little places means taking my camera - it's always difficult to take photographs of the camera you intend to take when you need it to take photographs of the things in your bag, so you get a glimpse of the GE point and shoot (which is really Joe's) but I always take my Fuji bridge (yeah I'm a rare blogger that doesn't have a DSLR) and batteries to give it some juice. 

As for giving myself some juice, there's some tea bags. I never trust that there will be enough coffee or tea supplies in my hotel room and sometimes they just taste dam awful. So yes, I pack some Earl Grey.

What are your must have things for a short trip away?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

LIFE: How I've Changed Since Expatiation


Sometimes I wonder if how I've changed as a person over the last two and a half years of being an expat if it's all been because of moving countries or because of growing older and everything else that's been thrown my way. How much difference have those 3,656 miles made?! So for today's Expat Revelations link up with Holly, I'm exploring how becoming a British expat in the USA has changed me - for good, or bad.

To back track I was a bit rebellious in my teen early twenties - the time that was matched with my university years. I went out drinking three times a week, probably drank too much, smoked a little, went to gigs and had lots of friends. Now I'd rather stay in of a night and watch Family Guy or read a book. Is that because i'm eight years the wiser? Because I'm nearly 28 and growing up (or old), or because moving countries knocked my confidence and i'd rather stay in and lets be honest here, hide a little. 

Which is odd when you think about it. Moving countries is a big deal, it's nothing to take lightly. You have to have confidence that this is the move, the life change for you. You pack your bags, you move thousands of miles. I moved to the US and had never stepped foot in the country before. I left family, friends and a job behind. I didn't have plans, other than being with Joe. Surely that took a huge ball of confidence? I guess it did just for some reason it knocked me down rather than built me up.

See I don't like bigging myself up can't you tell.

Being an expat makes me feel like the odd one out, being the one with the funny, the odd accent (that everyone thinks is Australian) or jokes that I was Joe's mail order bride knocked me for six, it's made me so self aware of myself that I pull myself apart. Waitresses sometimes can't pick up what I say, you get double takes, you get people complaining about foreigners right behind you. All that compiles in pushing my social anxiety to the forefront. It makes me question myself about being the outsider. 

Regardless I remind myself that being an expat has made me strong. It's given me opportunities to do things I would never have otherwise, I mean after being in a long distance relationship I get to be with my guy that's worth it all. But it's additionally the estate sales which created a vinyl collection through which I got into blues music. I'm a lot more aware of the beauty of the world and just how vast it is and of how sheltered my youth was. Maybe moving countries gave me the kick up my arse to grow up, to take a bit more responsibility. It's certainly made me a bit more adventurous about exploring places - something I regret not doing more at university. Granted I need a push from Joe at times, but I love finding new places to eat, new places to visit, it's given me a new and better appreciation of the world around me, and I certainly would never have thought about promoting Detroit like I try and do here even knowing it was going to be my home until I took to exploring the city for myself. 

Being an expat certainly changes you, it makes you so self aware, it makes you aware of the world around you - the small things, the big things. While it can make you aware of yourself, your nationality, your confidence in doing such a huge thing, it can also make you so, so aware of being an outsider and as someone who likes to fade into the crowd a little, it's hard to handle at times.

I for one certainly could do with reminding myself how strong I am.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

GREEN FINGERS: The Taming of an Unruly Back Garden


There's nothing better then starting the day off with some gardening a couple of times a week. I'm super luckily in being able to work out of the home, so to spend those quiet hours working away has been lovely in the last couple of weeks. With an August challenge to finish all the hard landscaping - the trimming the trees, straightening up the borders and getting rid of most of the unruly weeds, it's been a bit of a work out, not sure it'll all be cleared by September, but it's fun all the same.

Garden Garden

So the before and after of the border in front of the decking after most of the unruly weeds have been pulled out. In a former life I think it was somewhat of a rockery - there's certainly a lot of large stones, but it's a damp and dark part of the garden, great for hostas mind. So far I've put in a homemade bird feeder and bird bath, both of which I hope to be sharing in the coming weeks once I get chance. Along the side of the decking you'll find half of the raspberries which need transplanting because where they stand right now, we can't get down the side of the house which is an issue when you have a chimney to fix. So as the autumn approaches we'll be moving the berry bushes and restraining the deck a lovely blue on our mission to add some colour other than green into the garden.

Garden Garden

Jump to the other end of the garden and attention has been turned to clearing out overgrown shrubs, weeds and trees and turning it into the veg patch - I'm aiming to get some carrots, radishes and garlic in to start us off. This is where the other half of the raspberries can be found and where the others will be finding their new home. So aside from the berries and the hibiscus trees that I love the colour of, everything is getting cleared out. The above before and afters were taken after a hard mornings work but there's still a load more to do to the opposite side (shown below) what with a a random tree growing up in the middle of my raspberry brushes and some really overgrown Evening Primrose flowers.


Beside weeds there's not much else going on back there, we did try our luck on some out of season and therefore reduced dahlia and foxglove bulbs back in July. Apparently the dahlias couldn't care less that they should be coming to the end of their flowering season by now and are growing like no ones business, really not sure what's going on with the foxgloves. Ah well, worth a try either way.


Running along the back fence is an over run mass of ground cover. It's like ivy, but more in the form of a mini bush - i'm saying that because I have no idea what it really is. All I know is that it's a pain to pull up. It's awful. I hate it with a passion. Still I guess it's keeping the weeds out, but I want it gone. The garden still has things to uncover - pavers lost under 2 inches of soil, bricks, rose bushes in the shade of dead shrubs to wind chimes long knocked off their branches. As for the front garden, that's pretty much taken care off with lots of bushes and a gorgeous magnolia tree, but again there's no colour.

With autumn around the corner, it's been time to work out what needs doing before winter sets in - what needs moving and pruning but also the really fun stuff like how to get more colour in. Like I mentioned we're staining the deck a blue shade in the coming weeks and have plans for filling the borders with spring bulbs - daffodils, tulips and snowdrops to finally add some more life into the garden. Slowly working towards my pinterest fed dream of having an old Englishy style garden in the suburbs of Michigan.