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Australia vs. USA

24 March 2012

Today I'm over at Finding Gravity talking about Australia vs USA.

Photo Source

Come on over to read about the price of bananas, driving on the left, and more!

Here's to the Weekend!

23 March 2012

©Sarah Morrison Photography
Dear coffee, I really love you.  But I have to ask--why do repay my love & affection with jitters and stained teeth?  Dear True Blue Dive, are you seriously canceling our Introductory Scuba Diving course for a second time?  Due to high winds?  Give me a break!  I'm pretty sure your company is a sham.  And I'm requesting a refund.  Bastards.  Dear emotions, why did you have to feel all weird and sad today when the job posting for my replacement was sent out?  You knew this was coming.  Dear Jasmine, I loved our blate :)  Thanks for being awesome in real life.  Dear Hunger Games, you are the cat's meow.  You totally rocked it, and lived up to my sky-high expectations.  And the fact that you premiered in Australia before the USA?  Well, that was nothing short of amazing.  Well.Done.  Dear MSU Basketball team, I'm sad you got eliminated.  Not only did this ruin my bracket, but it ruined my bragging rights.  Still love you though.  Go Green!


Dear Mindy Kaling, your book was freakin' hilarious.  Your writing and storytelling inspires me.  If I can be a fraction of the writer & comedian you are--I would feel like a very successful blogger.  Seriously though, I laughed so hard I was worried about waking up my husband.  Dear Katie, thanks so much for sharing this gem with me!


Dear Ashley, thanks for hosting Friday's Letters :)
Dear Heather, thanks for hosting Book Club Friday's.  Hoping you & the baby are doing well!

Happy Friday, friends!

60 Days in the Blogosphere: Part II

22 March 2012

I'm back with more blogging advice.  {I can feel the excitement in the air!}
First off, let me say the response to my first installment was uh-mazing.  It warmed my heart to get so many comments from bloggers saying that the advice helped them.  I know, I know, I'm a nerd.  I embrace it.

Without further ado, I give you Part II.

Sponsorship
So you want to grow your followers?  Paying to sponsor a big blog can be a nice way to do this in an expedited fashion.  Of course, there are free ways of doing this too, which I'll discuss in a moment.  If you want to do a paid sponsorship, here's what to consider:

1.) Does the blogger's content and writing style gel with yours?
2.) How has the blogger promoted sponsors in the past?  {go read old posts....if you were one of those sponsors, would you like the way you were presented?}
3.) Check out the usual stats {either provided on their "Sponsor" page or provided when you email them for sponsorship details.}  How many followers?  How many pageviews?  What size ads?  How much money?
4.) Does the blogger rotate the ads throughout the month for maximum exposure?
5.) Does the blogger tweet about sponsors or offer guest posts or hosted giveaways?
6.) Contact a current sponsor of the blog you're considering.  Ask them if they are happy with the experience and how many followers they gained.


My two cents: I would rather pay slightly more money to have a solo guest feature.  If I'm paying, I'd rather not share the spotlight.  Secondly, the best bloggers will never use the word 'sponsor' in their posts. When you read blogs that say "check out my lovely March sponsors", that translates in blogger language to "you can skip this post where I tell you how awesome the people are who paid me money."  {I see this a lot and I'm not being a hater; however I do believe that the very best bloggers promote their sponsors in a "check out this blog I love to read" kind of way instead.}

Also, sponsorship is not a silver bullet.  If your blog design is bad or you don't put time & effort into the introduction you provide the blogger, all the money in the world won't buy you new followers.  I also see some poorly designed buttons out there.  Why pay money to place a blah-button on someone's site? Invest in the basics first.

Guest Posting
This is an awesome way to meet new readers, and is mutually beneficial to both bloggers.  Even better? It's free!  Many bloggers have weekly series {such as my Tuesday Travel Diaries </end shameless plug>} for guest bloggers.  Otherwise, contact a blog buddy of yours and suggest that you blog swap for a day.  Your readers will follow you to your guest post, and the blog's regular readers will get a nice introduction to you and your writing.  It's a win-win.
{I also have a bit of a rant about guest post etiquette that I'm stewing on.  Coming soon...haha!}


Link-Ups
Another wonderful, free way to meet new bloggers.  There are link-ups galore around the blogosphere. However, a word of caution...it's easy to go overboard on these.  Yes, they are easy because the post is somewhat prompted and it's a nice way for your blog to be discovered.  The trap is that it can be difficult to make the content compelling.  Take a look at your Top 5 favorite blogs.  How many link-ups do they participate in each week?  I'm willing to bet the answer is zero to one.  Many big bloggers host a link-up, but it's rare to find them linking-up very often.    The reason goes back to creating unique, compelling content.

When you do a link-up, try to weave it into your post.  Your goal should be that your reader doesn't even know it's a link-up until you spill the beans at the end.

My favorite link-ups:
Ashley @ Aventures of Newlyweds hosts "Friday Letters"
Heather @ Undercover Blonde hosts "Book Club Friday"
{And, yes, all the good link-ups are on Fridays.  Oh, the dilemmas!}

Creative Content//Working Ahead
Jenni from Story of My Life recently attended a blogger conference.  She came back with this gem:




People respond to original content.” –Camille, Camille Styles (Jenni’s note: this is one of the #1 most important things to understand if you want to grow your blog!  Curating content is gathering pictures/inspiration from around the web and compiling it on your blog. But people truly do respond best to original content, created by YOU, photographed by you, and with your own personality inserted!)


I agree with that statement 1,000%.  It's the reason I love my favorite blogs.  Strive for that!  The number one tip I can recommend to help with creative content is working ahead.  As soon as you feel the obligation to blog, you'll lose your desire.  And if you force it?  The content will suffer.  Write when you feel inspired.  The best bloggers do this.  They write several posts at a time, when they are feeling creative.  They have their posts scheduled 5-10 days in advance.  This gives them time to write, re-read, and edit.  But most importantly, it gives them freedom.  Let's face it--there are going to be days when you don't feel like blogging.  And the best thing to do on those days?  Don't blog.  If you work ahead, then you can honor your creativity, and avoid apathy.  

Labels
You might think the "Labels" section under your 'Post Settings' is just for you, as a way to categorize your content.  Or you might think it's just to make your label cloud look cool.  Well, you're wrong on both accounts.  Labels are the things that tell Google's search engines what your post is about.  Hence, they are an important way to drive traffic to your website.  Use them!  Single words are typically best.  Try to add at least three labels to every post.



Internal Links
These are another item that Google search engine's love.  Without going overboard, it's good to link to other parts of your blog, within your posts.  For example, at the top of this post, I linked back to 'Part I'.  I cannot tell you exactly why Google loves internal linking so much, but they do.  So use it to your advantage, when you can.


I really hope this blogging advice is helpful!  Clearly, I'm no expert, but I have done my research.


What advice would you give to bloggers?

Why I Don't Understand Pinterest

21 March 2012

I'm usually a straggler on the technology bandwagon.  That is not to say that I'm a technophobe.  No, not.at.all.  As a survey our living room, I find 2 Macbooks, 1 PC laptop, 1 blackberry, 1 iphone 4, 1 ipod, and 2 ipads.

However, I'm rarely an early adopter.  I like other people to test the waters and give me their feedback.  Technology can be overwhelming at times, so I want to know the purpose it will serve before I jump on board.

I joined Pinterest exactly 47 days ago.  I was late to the party.  Everyone was already addicted to it, yet I still didn't get it.  I could understand why other people liked it.  But how would it help me?  How would I use it?  I'm not really on the hunt for new recipes.  I haven't done a craft since 4th grade summer camp.  So what's the point?!

Something about Pinterest just simply didn't sit well with me.  And I finally figured out what it is.

I dislike anything that brings my attention to things I don't have.  I don't want to long for that amazing pillow case or lamp shade or necklace.  Nor do I want to lust after the cutest new clothes or styles.  I want to focus on what I do have and spend time appreciating it.


However {at the risk of sounding like a flip-flopper}, it is okay to have plans, and goals, and dreams for the future.  One of my best friend's is a Life Coach, and she taught me a wonderful method to channel those goals & dreams, to expedite their arrival.

It's called an 'Ideal Scene', and it looks a little something like this.  I won't get into the nitty gritty of how to choose the right words, how specific to be, etc. {though you can find tips here, if you're curious.}

Source
J and I have been talking more and more lately about getting a house.  Not just any old house, but our dream house.  Something about getting a little older, and thinking about getting re-settled in California, has us wanting a home that will be "ours" for a very long time.

We plan to sit down and create an Ideal Scene for our home.  For now, we've been all talk....even though we both believe that the Universe manifests only after we get serious, specific, and put some action behind it.

Then it hit me!  I could use Pinterest to find some photos that align with the specific aspects of our Ideal Scene.  OF COURSE!  This is the way to use Pinterest to help me.


Seriously, guys, sometimes it takes me awhile to come around.


Here's what we're after:

1.) Windows, windows, windows {with water & city views}


Source: houzz.com via Emily on Pinterest


Source: brynalexandra.blogspot.com via Emily on Pinterest





2. Indian-inspired Design & Decor


Source: projectnursery.com via Emily on Pinterest




3. A Meditation Room



Source: google.com via Emily on Pinterest


4. Fruit Trees! {Okay, this *might* be more my desire than my hubby's}








Source: google.com via Emily on Pinterest




















Of course there are many more aspects to our Ideal Scene, but this is a nice little start :)




















Linking up with Michelle @ Vintage Apple for this Pinterest-inspired post.




Please share with me, how do you use Pinterest?

Tuesday Travel Diaries: The Mediterranean

20 March 2012


Hello! My name is Amy and I blog over at You Will Rejoice. Although my blog features a lot of DIY tutorials, style, and design, one thing I don't write about much is travel! My husband and I love to travel, and we were traveling together years before we were married or even dating. We've traveled to many places, but our favorite, by far, was our mediterranean honeymoon.
*unfortunately all of our pictures have the date in the corner :/
Last July we went on a 12 day Holland American mediterranean cruise. We booked and planned the trip about 6 months in advance, so we had plenty of time to save/pay for the trip. We used a family friend, Susan Rottschafer, of Dolphin Travel, to book our trip and she was incredibly helpful and kind. We looked at a variety of cruise lines--Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian, etc--but ultimately decided to go with Holland America because of their options and amenities. Holland America was a pricier option, but we couldn't have been happier with our choice.

We chose a 12 day mediterranean island cruise that departed from Venice, Italy. We spent about 15 days traveling, total. Our plane tickets to Italy were (graciously) covered by my in-law's accumulated credit card points, but would have cost us approximately $2000 per ticket. Our cruising, which included all meals and 3 different excursisions, ended up costing us about $10,000. In the end, with taxes, souvenir expenses (we tried to purchase one piece of art at every stop), our hotel stay in Venice, and tips, we ended up spending about $12, 000. Again, Yes, this is a lot of money, but we had been talking about traveling to Greece for quite some time, and given our planning time frame (6 months) we managed to pull everything together by saving and being wise with our spending.

We left from Detroit, MI and had a 10 hour flight, with one short layover in Amsterdam, to Venice, Italy.

We arrived 2 full days early so we could explore Venice, but also so we could have a buffer day if anything went wrong with our flights. Sue booked us the cutest, most luxurious hotel, right on the Canal!

We spent our first day exploring! We went to the Rialto Bridge, St. Marks' Square, the Doge's palace, and  walked around, and ate Italian food and gelato.

Later that evening, we boarded the ship, the Ms Nieuw Amsterdam!


Our first day on board was a day at sea, but our second day was our first stop--Split, Croatia.


It was beautiful and we had a wonderful time just wandering the streets, looking around, and walking through parts of the old underground palace.


The next day the boat stopped in Athens, Greece. We took a guided tour of the Parthenon (since it was about 30 minutes away from our port, we wanted to have a guaranteed and trusted route to the Acropolis, the rock the Parthenon stands on.) This was one of our favorite stops, it was very cool to see!


The next two days of the cruise were in Istanbul, Turkey. Our ship docked at 5pm and we had a full evening and day here. The first night we walked to the Grand Bazaar, a huge indoor bazaar, and had a great time looking at all the artesian's wears. It was a maze of vendors!


The next day we explored old Istanbul. We went to the Sultan's palace, the spice market, the Haggia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Hippodrome.


Our cruise featured three formal nights, and we loved getting all dressed up!


Next we stopped on the island of Mykonos, Greece. This was by far our most favorite place. The island was incredibly beautiful, clean, relaxing, and serene. We loved Mykonos so much that we're currently planning our next vacation back there right now!


Ephesus, Turkey was our next stop. Again, we opted for a guided tour because the city was about 40 miles away from our cruise ship port, something we didn't want to risk navigating ourselves. We toured the old city ruins of Ephesus and learned a lot about Turkish culture and history.


Santorini, Greece was up next and we decided to spend the day on one of the black volcanic beaches! It was warm, sunny, and wonderful :)


Olympia, Greece was our last stop. This was also our last guided tour; we went to the ruins of Olympia paired with a vineyard visit and wine tasting! We went the the original olympic stadium.


And we spent a few hours at the loveliest vineyard eating fresh olives, bread, cheese and drinking various wines.


This was by far the best trip we've taken so far, and it was worth every penny! We did save money by not drinking (much) alcohol on the ship, but usually getting drinks on land. We also tried to utilize the fact that we had essentially pre-paid for every meal, and only ate on the ship--except for one gyro on Mykonos! We also used public transit, buses and subways, which are way more affordable (usually about 50 cents/person) than taxis. We came with euros and were able to use those almost everywhere, and where we weren't able to, we exchanged for currency at the ship's concierge desk. 

One of the reasons we opted to cruise was because we got to see so many places, including 2 wonders of the world, something we would never have been able to do, for this price, on our own. We loved the freedom of just getting off the ship and doing whatever we wanted. It was truly a fabulous experience and we cannot wait to go back!
_______________________________________________
How freakin' cute are Amy and her hubby?!?!  Not only is Amy from my home state of Michigan, she is a seriously talented woman.  The DIY's that she posts on her blog are incredible!  They are very detailed, and simple enough for the average person to follow.  She's a sweet, genuine blogger and I urge y'all to go check her out at You Will Rejoice!

If you're been featured on TTD, please grab the button :)

Tuesday Travel Diaries

And, lastly, if you would like to be featured on TTD {for a trip, new or old} 
please E-mail me.  I would love to have you!

So What's Next?

19 March 2012

If you remember, I shared the story of our journey to Australia.  It seemed impossible to answer the question of "what's next", without a proper understanding of how we got here.  After all,

"All of life is a journey; which paths we take, what we look back on, and what we look forward to is up to us. We determine our destination, what kind of road we will take to get there, and how happy we are when we get there." -Unknown




Remember how my company could only offer us a one-year contract?  And how we made many arrangements based on that time frame {subleasing apartment, sister taking the dogs, etc}?

Well, an interesting thing happened when I started work.  Everyone simply assumed we were staying in Oz.  At the very least, they thought we would stay 2-3 years.  They acted like it was a given that I would have the opportunity to work there as long as I liked.  Even my boss started talking this way.  Soon, the Director of Sales jumped in the mix.  "Emily, I think you would make an amazing manager.  I really hope you'll consider sticking around so we can make that happen."  Are you for real!?!?  Now, not only were my colleagues assuming I would stay, but people in very high positions were talking about my management potential.  {For the record, I'm not particularly interested in climbing the corporate ladder, but it's flattering nonetheless.}

So J and I started talking.  Mulling.  Debating.  Do we stay?  If we stay, how much longer should we stay?  How do we make that work?  What about the dogs?  What kind of money would we need?  Would J be able to finish his school here?

Naturally, my logical mind wanted to sort this decision into pro's and con's.  


We felt very torn.  There were advantages and disadvantages to both scenarios.  Part of what makes me good at my job is my commitment and ownership over my territory and my customers.  I feel like the business is my baby and it's up to me to make it shine.  I also thrive on exceeding people's expectations--particularly managers.  For those reasons, a huge part of me wanted to stay in Australia.  I knew my territory was going to have a stellar 2012, and I would be beyond proud to reap the rewards.  I also knew my manager would be ecstatic if I stayed in Oz and began training for a management role.

So J and I started putting out feelers to see if we could sort out a few items on the "Cons" list.  We emailed our tenants to see if they wanted to continue subleasing beyond the year.  We checked with my sister to see if they'd keep the dogs a bit longer.  And we started researching universities in Sydney--would they take J's transfer credits, and how much would it cost?

We lived in limbo.  Not knowing if we were staying or going.  

Finally, one day I'd had enough.  I ducked into our second bedroom and sat down to meditate.  "Lord, please give me a sign.  Show me what your plan is for us.  We're happy in Sydney.  We're happy in California.  The most important thing is that we're following your divine plan.  Please, give me a sign."  I had a lovely, peaceful meditation....but nothing came forward.  I felt no more sure of which direction to take.  However, I've learned to have patience with these things.  

As it turned out, I didn't need to wait long.  That afternoon, I received an E-mail from our tenants.  "Hi Emily, Rachel and I discussed things and we are not interested in continuing the current arrangement for longer than a year.  If you were to stay in Australia, we would like to rent directly from the landlord, and you would need to sell your furniture."

And there it was.  My sign.  The one thing J and I agreed upon from day one is that we wanted to keep our apartment in Redondo Beach.  So if that piece didn't fit, the whole plan fell apart.


Now the cold, hard truth is staring me in the face.  In exactly 75 days, we leave Sydney.

The Power of Love

18 March 2012

This is one of my all-time favorite affirmations....

"As I radiate love and goodwill to others,
I open a channel,
for Thy love to flow to me.
Divine love is the magnet,
that draws to me all good."

-Paramahansa Yogananda


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