Tuesday, 30 September 2014

September was golden

September, you deserve a round of applause. You were outstanding! Lots and lots of golden sunshine, fun outings, a camping trip, a free dress, some surprising happy news - what more could a girl ask for? This is a tough act to follow (yes, I'm looking at you, October!).
Here is the usual monthly picture-round up.

Summer in the city | Blackberries | Sunflower | Hungry horses (and a Sheila)
Our own apples | Sunshine flooding the office | Ghost, the llama | Lily, sheep herder
My faithful companion | Under the willow tree | Breakfast for the horses
Hummingbird dress | Blue | Poppies | Dahlias
 Perfect evening idyll | Coffee love | Autumn is colourful
Beach walk | Grasshopper | Evening sky show | Red berries
Green-eyed girl | Boots season has started | Mushrooms in our yard | Texture
Spiderweb | Turkeys on the prowl | Autumn leaves | Bear

Tomorrow is the first day of Blogtober! Are you in?

xoxo Miriam

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Monday, 29 September 2014

Little victories

Last Saturday was a bit of a roller coaster of emotions. I woke up excited, which changed to apprehensive, went to enthusiastic, anxious, awkward, surprised, relieved, victorious. 
You may ask yourself: what event could cause all those emotions? Well, ladies and gentlemen, it was an event that certainly warranted all those feelings - it was a dinner party.
Of course, it wasn't just any old dinner party. It was the birthday celebration of one of my very best friends, and there was no question that I would not be there.

Here is the thing though: I don't know many of her friends.
We move sort of in different circles, and don't really have overlapping friends. She is a normal, outgoing person, while I indulge more often than I should in my anti-social tendencies. Going to a dinner where I know only the host well, a couple people just a little bit, and the majority not at all? It's terrifying.
All day, I gave myself internal pep talks. "You get to dress up!", and "You get to eat yummy food!", and "You get to hang out with one of your favourite, funny people!". It was working pretty well - as long as I was still in the comfort and safety of my own home.
Then the time came to get into the car. The first butterflies started to flutter in my stomach. "Don't be ridiculous!", I scolded myself sternly. "It's going to be perfectly fine!"
When I arrived there (5 minutes early, as per usual), the butterflies were dancing a wild tango. I forced myself to stay in the car for 7 minutes, so as not to be the very first person to arrive. Then I got out.
The place was hopping, which never helps: too many people all at once make me feel claustrophobic. But I took a deep breath, clutched my purse firmly to my chest, and pushed my way through the crowd. As I was looking around, I noticed a large table with only 4 people on it, but nobody I knew. No wait, hold on... one guy looked vaguely familiar. After confirming that I didn't see my friend anywhere else, I hesitantly made my way over. "Ahem, is this B's birthday party?" They confirmed, and we introduced ourselves. I immediately forgot their names, sat down, and cursed inwardly for still having arrived too early.
Once I was sitting, I pulled a menu towards me, and buried my nose in it. That's what I usually do, because I don't know how to deal with the most dreaded of social interactions: trying to make small talk with people I don't know. Or in that case, 3 total strangers and one guy I only vaguely know and have last seen more than a year ago. How do people do it? What to say? My mind was a total blank. I couldn't think of a single topic to talk about.
Fortunately, not 5 minutes after my arrival the other guests started to trickle in, and there was the usual commotion of welcoming each other, introductions being made, and choosing a seat. My friend also arrived, and I'm always very happy to see her.
But then everybody settled down, and little pockets of conversation erupted all around me. Here I was, sitting as a lonely island amidst a lively ocean of chatter, not knowing what to do.  I had already finished my first glass of water, just to keep myself busy, and had visions of spending the night making frequent trips to the bathroom, not only out of necessity, but also for something to do.
Then, something wonderful happened. The friendly looking guy across from me pulled out his phone and laid it on the table. "Hey, I have the same phone", I inadvertently blurted out. I have a HTC One phone, and you don't see that one very often. Guess what? That was all it took! We started a conversation about phones, apple products (we are against them), my accent (a godsend when it comes to striking up conversations), how I know B, how he knows her. Huh, who knew it could be so easy?
That little interaction made me reckless enough to chime in to another conversation a while later. And so it went, and it was a really great night.
Three hours later I left feeling absolutely elated. I was on a high that made me feel like I conquered the world. I could small talk to strangers! Sober, I may add - I was driving. (With enough alcohol, I can become very outgoing.) I was singing along the radio off the top of my lungs, envisioning my new life where strangers would come together, leaving as friends. I would be a people person! A social butterfly! The life of the party! 
Well, after I came down from my high (several hours later, it was intense), I realized that this was obviously crazy talk. One successful night of chatting to strangers (very friendly onces at that) does not an extrovert make.
However, I realized something: There are a few strategies one can use to overcome that inherent awkwardness that we introverts have in social situations.
Here is what I have learnt this weekend I'm determined to try next time:
1. When meeting new people, try to use their name right away. Not that I have ever done this myself, but I have the best intentions every time. I figure that gives you at least a fighting chance trying to remember their name? I imagine it something like this: "Hi, I'm Miriam." "Hi, I'm Aaron." "Hello Aaron, nice to meet you." I'm usually so focused on the person's face, the name doesn't even register. Maybe by having said it out loud, it will stick? Or all people simply wear name tags. That would be much more convenient.
2. Once you sit down, don't bury your face in the menu. It gives off the message that you don't want to talk. Instead, look around, maybe comment on the restaurant, the flowers on the table, or ask our dinner companions how they know your mutual friend. Again, I have not actually done any of these things, but they seem like a good idea.
3. When it comes to ordering food, talk about it: Discuss the choices, ask if anybody has tasted any of the dishes, maybe talk about other great restaurants or foods you have tried.
4. Bathroom bonding. I don't know what it is, but sometimes it's just easier to talk in the bathroom than out at the table. It is more intimate, there are fewer people, and usually there is less noise. You can comment on the other girl's outfit, hair, make-up, jewellery (whatever catches your eye), or ask for some styling tips. I myself am quite styling-challenged when it comes to hair, and am always interested how other girls get their amazing hairdos. That's a topic I can talk about with almost anybody, without feeling awkward at all!
5. If you can, drink. A few cocktails make everything easier. 
That's all I've got so far. Writing all these down, it seems remarkably simply. But believe me, when I'm in these situations, I'm clueless! So as always, this little list is basically written for myself. Hopefully some of you may find it helpful as well!
Do you have more helpful tips for conquering social situations? If you do, please share! As you can see, there is lots of room for improvement, and I can use all the help I can get. Thanks peeps!
xo Miriam

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Saturday, 27 September 2014

At the burrow

This morning looks like a scene from Harry Potter. It is foggy, rain drops are hanging from branches and leaves, and there are spider webs everywhere, including the spiders. Ron Weasley would hate it!
I had my morning coffee in front of the fireplace, snuggled into a blanket, contentedly sighing. I forgot how much I love these morning - reading in front of a fire, cozy and warm while it is wet and grey outside. 
You can make three guesses what I'm reading (again)!

Harry Potter
Harry Potter
One of Aragog's many children's home
Harry Potter
 My own Fang
Harry Potter
 "Are you creatures Thestrals?"
Harry Potter
 Fluffy - not only three heads, but three bodies as well!
Harry Potter
Harry Potter
Devil's Snare
Harry Potter
Phoenix's ugly little sister
Harry Potter
Uh-oh, all the rose thorns are gone - love potion, anyone?

Have a magical weekend!

xo Miriam

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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Style: It's getting dark, baby

All of a sudden, it gets dark really early. Have you noticed?
Yesterday, after a perfect 'me'-day involving shopping, reading, and walking the dogs, I wanted to take a few outfit photos. One moment it was still sunny, and the other it's suddenly almost dark. Yikes, the dark season is approaching rapidly!
One thing I'm really looking forward to for the colder season is tights. I went on a bit of a buying rampage yesterday and bought 4 pairs: 2 black ones, 1 graffiti-pair (it looks so amazing, can't wait to show you guys!) and one fire-engine red pair. I'm all set for colder temperatures! But no rush warm weather, stick around for as long as you like. ;-)

Boom! Night has fallen, just like that.

Top: Winners (just bought it yesterday, isn't it cute?); jeans: American Eagle; clogs: Lotta From Stockholmnecklaces: gifts; bracelet: Chickpea Design Studio (similar here)

I had some trouble with my lighting this time around, sorry for the grainy photos. You win some, you lose some, right?

Happy Friday!

xo Miriam

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How to start a blog in 5 easy steps

Once in a while, people will come up to me and ask me how to start a blog. First of all: thank you for giving me an opportunity to talk about blogging, I could do it all day every day! Second: I always feel very flattered when you ask. Because, third: what I cannot stress enough is how little I knew when I started. I had absolutely zero clue about blogging. Zip. Nada. Totally clueless. 
The good news is: it's easy to get started. 
(The hard part is to keep going, but let's not worry about that now.)

Here is a simple 5-step plan how you can get your blog started today, right now, right here. Let's do this, future bloggers!

1. Choose a name
This one may be the toughest part about starting your blogging adventure. If you ever had to name a pet or a child, you know what I'm talking about. I know of several blogs who changed their names at least once, sometimes more - it is possible, so don't think you will have to keep your name for the rest of your blog life. However, it creates more work for you and may be a bit confusing for your readers, so it is easier to stick to a name right from the get-go.

A few things to consider when choosing a name are: What do you want to blog about? Try putting that in your name. My friend Mariah blogs often about food, drinks and travel, and coined the perfect name for her blog: Food, Booze & Baggage.
Melyssa from The Nectar Collective has a clear vision of what she wants her blog to be: "I wanted this website to be a community where people can go for their daily dose of nectar - the positive, inspiring, holy-crap-I'm-sharing-this-with-all-my-Facebook-friends kind of stuff." Clear vision, great name!

Others simply use their name as blog name: Jillian LorraineForever AmberChantilly

The Lady Okie lives in Oklahoma, and came up with her name when she had to choose a name for a Fantasy Football League. 

I came up with mine because a friend always called me farm girl. I live on a farm, like to talk about my animals and I'm a girl, so I decided it would be a good fit. 1.5 years later it still fits!

2. Choose a blog platform
I use Blogger, which wasn't really a conscious decision, but made at random. I am very happy with it, and don't think I will ever switch. It is free, easy to use, and has plenty of ways to customize and make it your own. There is always much debate in blogland about Blogger versus Wordpress, one of the main arguments against it being that Blogger can apparently delete a blog at its own discretion.While this may be true, I think that it is a highly unlikely possibility, and not a reason for me to switch. 
Since I don't know much about Wordpress, here is a few posts that shed some light on it: Before You Move To Wordpress... from Anna and Should you switch from Blogger to Wordpress? from Kate.

3. Create your blog
If you have decided to create a Blogger blog, you can take a look at this Getting Started guide.
Or simply follow these steps: 
Go to www.blogger.com. Click on Create an account.

When choosing a username, try to use your blog name, or a variation of it. That email will show up when you comment on other blogs. Alas, I wasn't that smart, and used a variation of my names: mivasophia@gmail.com.
It works, but it's not ideal. 

Now they ask you to confirm your profile. You can choose between a Google+ Profile or a Blogger Profile. I chose the latter, because the Google+ Profile makes you a 'no-reply' commenter. There may be a way to correct that, but I never figured out how. Since I don't use Google+ (I have an account, but cannot for the life of me figure it out), the Blogger Profile suits me.

Almost done! Click on New Blog

You have done it! You created your blog. Start blogging!

4. Templates, formats, html, url, say what??
If this new computer world scares you at first, rest assured that you are not alone. Many (most?) bloggers feel the same way in the beginning. Here is the good news: You will figure it out! 
I googled everything. There are tons of tutorials online, for any and every question you may have about blogging. Don't give up! I'm pretty sure I made all mistakes one can make, but that's how you learn. I'm still far from accomplished, but I have learned a ton in the last 18 months! 
If you are really stuck or simply don't want to figure it out, you can also get a professional to design your website. I haven't tried any of these ladies, but heard good things about them:
5. Where are the readers?
So you have started your blog, done a few kick-ass posts - and nobody is reading. 
The blog world is a huge ocean, and it's hard for a tiny, new blog island to get noticed. Here are a few ways to gain exposure:
  • Comment on other blogs. Chances are that you are already following some bloggers. Comment on their posts! Not only do they notice you that way, but other readers may like what you have to say and click on your name. 
  • Join a blogger network. I came across the Better Blogger Network when I was new, and it's a great place to find blogger friends and gain some exposure. If you are new, you can join the group NEW bloggers! and make new connections.
  • Link-ups. That one took me a while to understand. For the longest time I was like "Huh? What the hell is a link-up?" Basically, a blogger hosts a party, and everybody is invited! Link-ups are great ways to gain exposure. I don't participate in many, but a couple I like are: Weekly Wishes every Monday; Kathy's Humpday Confessions on Wednesdays; Treat Yo'Self ThursdayPassion For Fashion on Fridays. There is also a Blog Every Day in October challenge coming up, hosted by The Daily Tay and Helene in Between. It will be fun, and I anticipate a ton of bloggers taking part! Will you be one of them?
  • Promote. To be honest, I kinda suck with promoting my blog. To do it right, you have to be consistent and invest quite a bit of time and/or organizational talent. Once I have written my post and answered my emails, I'm usually done with sitting on the computer, and the networking part falls by the wayside. If you want to do better than me, make sure you tweet about your new post, pin it to Pinterest, instagram one of the pictures you used, update your Facebook page, do whatever people do on Google+. 
  • Network. That one is huge. Don't just promote yourself, but other bloggers, too! Everybody appreciates positive feedback, so tweet a post you really liked, comment on it, mention some of your faves on your own blog. It not only helps you get your name out there, but may be the start of a wonderful friendship. And it's good karma!
I hope you found these helpful! If you have been contemplating starting your own blog for a while, but sort of waited for an extra push - this is your push. Go on, get started! It is a great adventure, full of possibilities, and it may open up opportunities you can't even imagine yet. Good luck!!

xo Miriam

Linking up with Treasure Tromp

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Monday, 22 September 2014

What is it that I want, that I really really want?

I'm feeling restless. 
Yet, also strangely paralyzed. 
I'm in this peculiar place where a lot of things are in order: I got the husband, job, house. The best dog-child you can imagine. We both have our health (hubs and I, not Lily and I - but she is a picture of perfect health as well, in case you were wondering), which is the most important thing there is - trust me, I see it daily (hospital worker here). 
Of course, there are the never-ending, annoying responsibilities of adulthood: bills to pay, what to make for dinner, laundry (so much laundry, and we are only two people!), oil changes, daily chores. Trying to keep up with yearly health checks, twice-yearly dentist appointments, monthly bang-trimming appointments. Taking care of the farm, with all its many tasks of feeding, watering, cleaning, de-worming, trimming, brushing, fixing, maintaining.
Everyday life, with little annoyances, lots of little joys, the normal ebb and flow.
Basically, what I'm saying is - it's a good life. A blessed life, and one that I am thankful for every day.

And yet. 
I have this yearning in me. This acute awareness of time. I am 34 years old - some people may call it my prime, some may call it old (teenagers), some may call it young (seniors). What I feel is this:
I only have one life to live, and I want to live the hell out of it! I want to try, fail, succeed, jump head first into new endeavours, learn, step out of my comfort zone, experience new things!

Here is the thing: Sometimes, I'm sure I'm happy with a calm life. Spending time with my husband, some precious friends, hanging out with the animals, going to work. Blogging, reading, taking pictures, watching some Netflix, repeat.

But then, there are the other times. When I read about people's success stories. Hear about them achieving extraordinary things.
When I listen to The Secret one more time, read some motivational quotes on Pinterest, or watch yet another rags-to-riches story on the Biography channel, I always inevitably ask myself: Is this it? Have I reached my pinnacle? Or is there more? Could I be just a bit more - extraordinary?

So here is the question: What is it that I want? If I could choose anything in the world, anything at all, what would it be?

Let's pretend there is a magical supermarket, where you can get whatever your heart desires. Success, wealth, looking like a supermodel, a world where carbs make you skinny and self doubts don't exist. What would you choose?

When I close my eyes and try to conjure up this dream life, this is what I see:
A little house by the lake. Chickens scratching in the dirt, peacocks strutting their stuff, dogs lolling about, a couple horses grazing peacefully nearby. The farmer walking around, feeding bucket in hand, taking care of his animals. The farmer's wife sitting on the front porch, steaming cup of coffee beside her, her computer in front of her, watching him - and writing.

You see, what it comes down to is my love for the written word. It has always been that way. From the time I could read, books were my solace. Everything else came after: playing with my sister, watching TV, having to play the piano. I always had to reluctantly tear myself away from a book to do these things. The characters in the books were my friends, as real to me as any real person in my life.

I was never a writer though. As much as I enjoyed the writing challenges from school, I didn't do any writing at home. It was like I had this unspoken understanding about myself that while I loved to read, there was no way I could ever create stories myself.

But you know what I think now? I had not found my language yet. My native language is German, that's all I read and spoke until I was 23 years old.

And then I moved to Canada. Learning English was a revelation. I love it with all my heart. It flows so much easier, is so much more eloquent to me than German. I love reading it, speaking it, and most of all - writing it.
Ever since I discovered blogging it has been the greatest joy for me to sit down every day and write.

It's the first thing I think of when I wake up.
It often is the last thing I think of before I fall asleep.
It has become a friend to me, a loving supporter, challenger, teacher.
There is nothing more exciting to me than these internal journeys I take: Thinking of blog post ideas. Dreaming up this story I want to write down, this book I have been creating in my mind for the better part of a year now. I think about it daily, jot down ideas, start it, discard it, start again.
I have not felt ready yet. But what am I waiting for? For my doubts to dissolve? For my writing to get better? I know those fears will never really disappear.

I guess what I need is a vision of myself, a picture of what I want my future to look like. Most of my dream picture is already complete: the man, farm, dogs, lake (it's really just a small pond, but no need to be picky now). What's missing is a clearer picture of this person I want to be - the writer part of me.
So I created a vision board of all the crazy things I would like to achieve:

I look up to these incredible women who do all these amazing things: TaylorAmberKatieDreaMelyssaElsie and Emma, Liane - and a little voice whispers into my ear: Why not go for it?
I'd rather try and fail than not try at all.

So here is a promise I'm making to myself, right now, right here: Stop dreaming, start doing. This change of seasons will bring a change in myself as well - changing dreams to goals. Let's do this, wannabe writer!

What are your dreams and goals? Let's all chase them together! 

Love, Miriam
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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Peeing in the woods

Is there anything more glorious than pine-scented air, a starry sky, and a warm breeze blowing gently across your nether region?

I'm glad you asked. Obviously, the answer is no.
Hi, I'm Miriam, and I have a confession to make: I like peeing outside.

Looking at this scenery, is it any wonder?
Luckily, I had plenty of opportunity to do just that over the last few days. We don't go camping that often, even though we love it. But time is a fickle lady, and gets away from us way too often... but not this time. We spent 3 marvellous days and nights out in the woods, and had a blast!

Part of the reason is the cowboy above. We hung out with him, his dog and horse before, and were happy to see them again. He's a really nice guy, total outdoorsman, and definitely unique. I even got a souvenir from him this time: he gave me his bandana (see below). Nice folks out in the wilderness! 

Apart from hanging out with our cowboy friend we ate and drank a lot, went riding with the horses, went for a little walk here and there, and tried to keep Lily under control. It was her first camping trip, and she was super excited.

We were hoping to see a bear, and almost did - but before we got a better look he disappeared in between the shrubs. Probably just as well, I'm sure he wouldn't mind trying Corgi - she is a perfect fun-sized snack for a bear!

These cacti were evil. Not only are they small and easy to overlook, which makes them easy to step on. Their barbs have hooks on them, and pulling them out hurts like a son of a gun.

Do you like camping? Or glamping? Or are you a hotel-lover all the way?

xo Miriam

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