create your own stock photo library

as bloggers, we've all been there: you've written a post but don't have a relevant image to include. you could hit "publish" as is... but you know that the physics of the internet make it practically impossible not to include a picture in your post. having a quick shoot is out because it's likely raining or 2am or your camera battery isn't charged or you're just feeling lazy. so what do you do?

many bloggers, big and small, use stock images in their posts... but I don't. the ins and outs of properly using and crediting these images can get tricky, and I just like the idea of having all my content being unique to me and my personal style. it's true that I'm a bit of a photography nerd, but you don't have to be a camera wizard to shoot great stock photos to use for your own blog. follow these six tips below, and soon you'll have a folder full of pretty and unique images to use on your blog.

use what you have

don't own a DSLR? no problem. you can take great photos with whatever camera you have. [let's be real, your iPhone has a better camera than most professionals 10 years ago.] stock photos can be shot anywhere in your house or outdoors where you have natural light. think of what types of images you want to have, then create them. go for a walk, get some props, stage a scene. wood floors, brick walls, grass, even construction paper make great backgrounds. seriously, you don't need to go buy fancy things. but for the love of cheese, TURN OFF YOUR FLASH.

create simple, clean images

stock photos are typically used when you want to include an image in your post, but the image itself is not the star. this doesn't mean your photos can't have your personal style. add your favorite coffee mug, houseplant, or journal to the shot. just be sure clear away distracting background clutter. I like to shoot photos in my office because I love the contrast between my chalkboard wall and my bright red desk. but my desk is rarely clean and my chalk wall is typically covered in lists and doodles. shoving papers to the side and a few swipes to erase the wall make a world of difference!

take a variety of shots

having a library of photos that complement the mood and theme of your blog will allow you to easily drop one in where needed, without boring your readers with the same image over and over. I have a single stock photo I use regularly for my writer's block series, but I wouldn't use the same image in a different type of post. that would probably get confusing! I have used the same photo more than once, but I try to space out their usage and vary the kinds of photos in consecutive posts. shooting similar photos in a "series" will also allow you to include more than one in a post [like I did here.]

save the original file

I'm going to say it again, because this one is really important: save the original file. having the full-size, unedited and uncropped photo enables you to go back to square one at any time. you can use the same photo in a variety of ways - square or landscape, vintage-y or black and white, with text or without. the look and feel of your blog changes over time, and keeping an unedited file means you can update it and use it again in the future.

think about text placement

on some photos, make sure that you leave space with a semi-solid light or dark background where you can place contrasting text. one of the main reasons you want to include an image with your blog post is so that people can pin it to their Pinterest boards, right? when using a generic photo, adding text to describe your post can seriously boost the number of clicks your pin gets. [think about it: a photo of flowers or a cup of coffee on it's own may get repined, but over time people will change the description and not realize it links to your awesome post. but if you add the description to the image? people will know that the pin is linking back to something useful!] if you shoot your photos with this in mind, it will save you trouble when trying to edit and add text later.

browse your existing photos

you probably have hundreds of photos sitting on your phone or computer already that could be used in place of a stock photo. I shot new photos for this post, but I have an entire folder of "blank" photos that I can reference. every few months I scroll through my library to add to this folder and keep things fresh. I find that a lot of photos that aren't interesting or exciting enough to include in a travel post make great stock photos - blurred shots, nature details, faceless portraits, etc. and of course we all know that coffee mugs and laptops are blogger kryptonite!

do you use stock photos or shoot your own? what tips would you have to add?

linking up with Nicole for treat yo self Thursday


sunset on the Ludington lakeshore

when it comes to beaches and sunsets, I'm partial to Lake Michigan. and when it comes to Lake Michigan beaches... I'm partial to Ludington. I was able to spend a few weeks there this summer while visiting the US. we try to make it a habit to walk down to the beach around sunset. the clouds and weather this year were not very cooperative, but on this particular evening I was able to get a handful of shots.

can you see why I love this place? I know that having grown up in Michigan and spending many childhood summers here makes me biased, but Ludington will always be one of my favorite places to watch a sunset.

linking up with Bonnie, Camila, Jessi, and Amy for Travel Tuesday.

and now I want to take the opportunity to introduce my featured sponsor this month. Sara is the expat behind the blog Bristol in my Pocket. if you're heading to England [or just dreaming of it], I would suggest checking out her travel guides and her recent posts on the gorgeous shoreline of Wales.

Hey y’all! I’m Sara, a Texas girl who found herself in England. About a year ago I decided I hated the idea of “settling down”, so I moved to a city I had never been to and a country where I knew absolutely no one. Bristol In My Pocket is a place for me to document my expat life and other things that interest me (history, photography, traveling, and food of course). Hope y’all enjoy!

any travel plans or goals you have for this year [or have done already] that you'd like to share? I quite enjoy taking day trips to places around England. I believe it’s important to explore your own backyard. However, I’m hoping to make a trip over to Amsterdam later this year to finally experience one of Europe’s most beautiful cities!

what is one thing you'd love to learn how to do? This is going to sound so lame, but this past year I’ve learned how to transcribe medieval manuscripts. As a medieval history masters student, transcribing documents is essential to my research.

two of your favorite posts: Overcoming my fear of small spaces was difficult, but in the end the view was absolutely amazing. Cabot Tower showcases Bristol's amazing beauty. The Cliffs of Moher were always on my list of places to go one day. The fact that I can now cross that off my list is so rewarding!

where would you dream trip take you? My dream trip would be to travel around Europe, spending at least a month in each country. I love throwing myself into new cultures and learning to overcome the smallest of tasks, like conquering public transport. On my dream trip, I would be able to spend enough time in each country to understand its culture a little more.

describe yourself in 3 words: Restless. Independent. Fearless (at least I try to be).

read more about Sara on her blog: Bristol in my Pocket
follow along with


back to the future.

I've made it to Taiwan after 20+ hours of travel and am easing back into the world from my jetlag/melatonin haze. the last few days in America always feel so conflicted... and I decided to be a bad blogger but a good wife/daughter/sister/friend and pay more attention to my real life.

to break the silence here, I'm going to tell you a little story about our travels back to Taiwan.

we had an amazing summer. we traveled A LOT, and were able to see so many of our loved ones. we ate a ton of food and spent way too much money. there were kitten snuggles + slumber parties, weddings, barbecues, runs on dirt roads, and one night of intense margarita drinking. but when the time came to head back home to Taiwan, we were ready to go.

packing, as I have mentioned before, is always a trial for me. I had high hopes this summer of only bringing back one extra suitcase. we would have been fine on space. but I seriously underestimated the weight of everything. and since an overweight bag costs more than checking an extra bag under 50lbs... we ended up checking 4 bags in total. [after, of course, I had a Unikitty rage moment about it.]

we arrived to the airport and each paid the extra $100 to check an extra bag [Delta only allows one 50lb bag per person] and I was not in the greatest of moods when we approached the bag drop counter. the attendant asked for my passport and visa.

I should stop here to explain a little about visas in Taiwan, and my particular situation. laws have changed in the past few years and Americans are allowed to enter Taiwan with a 90-day tourist visa. this is given upon arrival in Taiwan, and requires no special forms or paperwork. for the previous two years, I have been in Taiwan under a residential visa [which required a LOT of paperwork] tied to my Husband's work visa provided by his school. unfortunately my Alien Residence Card [or ARC] was unable to be renewed before I left this year. you see, I can't have mine renewed until my Husband's has been renewed, and I left the country before that happened. an ARC lets me skip the long line for nonresidents and to leave or enter Taiwan with minimal hassle. the person in charge of visas at our school told me that I should return to Taiwan on a tourist visa [since my ARC was no longer vlid] and instead of renewing we would apply for a new one upon my return.

I explained this to the check-in attendant.

I'm not sure if she was unfamiliar with the new law that allows visas on arrival, or if she thought I was trying to illegally immigrate to Taiwan, or if she was simply having a bad day. but her response to me was "you're not allowed to do that. they probably won't let you in, or else you'll be deported." I again tried to explain that I was following the course of action recommended to me by someone who knew what they were talking about. "I guess I don't know about Taiwan... if you were trying to go to Japan you would be deported for sure." I refrained from mentioning that Japan also offers visa on arrival... and that I had been there 3 months ago with no issue.

I was 98% sure that things would be fine, but her certainty that I would be refused entry flipped my panic switch. Husband quickly started messaging our contact to double check I would be ok to enter the country while I did my best not to have a meltdown.

the attendant then proceeded to make a huge hassle out of weighing and checking our bags. first I wasn't loading them on to the scale properly, and then one bag was magically 4 pounds overweight [though we had weighed them all at home and made sure they were under.] of course, it was the last bag and so we couldn't just rearrange things to another checked bag. I frantically pulled out what I thought was 4 pounds and put the bag back on the scale. "oh, now you took too much out." the attendant informed me. I resisted the urge to scream and shoved a few things back in the suitcase, tying the rest into a plastic Target bag to carry on.

the attendant handed Husband back his passport with a "well I know you'll be fine." and gave me mine with a very doubtful sounding "good luck."

while Husband frantically messaged with our contact in Taiwan, I tried not to picture being thrown into a holding cell and shipped right back to the USA after spending 20 hours making my way to Taipei. we were reassured that entry would not be a problem, so long as I didn't whip out my expired ARC and try to use it. consolation came in the form of a soy caramel macchiato and being sent the new Taylor Swift video from my BFF.

2 flights, 3 screaming babies, 4 really annoying toddlers, and several almost panic attacks later... we arrived in Taipei.

delirious from lack of sleep, I waited in line for 20 minutes before I was directed to wait at counter 25 at immigration. there was man in his early 20s in from of me, American. he was having trouble with the officer because he hadn't indicated an address of stay for his time in the country, didn't have a phone number of a friend or even know the name of town the was staying in. my heart started racing as the officer called another man over and they took the American off... well I don't know where they went but I was terrified I would shortly be following.

I stepped up to the counter and handed over my passport. he asked me to take off my glasses, look at the camera, and squinted at my face to be sure I was really myself. he started flipping through my passport. "you have been to Taiwan before?" I don't know if he saw the expired visa or just the dozen or so stamps of entry/exit I've accumulated. "yes. my husband is a teacher at an international school in Hsinchu. I'm just here on a tourist visa though." I could see Husband standing on the other side, having gone through his line in about 3 minutes.

for a minute the officer thought I was with the American they had taken away, but I clarified that my Husband was already through and approved, and waiting. he stamped my passport and let me through.

thankfully, I don't have a more interesting story to tell.

we made our way back home, found six dead cockroaches in the apartment, went on a late night 7-11 run for some water, and melatonin-ed ourselves to sleep. the next day we met up with friends for [what else] some xiao long bao and card games, and have been slowly trying to unpack and adjust.

school starts next week, which means we will finally be getting on a somewhat regular schedule. this fall I am going to be teaching a blogging class [or really "activity time"] for a handful of students and I am both excited and nervous. I also have a lot of work to do with editing and completing my book manuscript, and of course I'll be blogging and sharing more of my summer adventures with you.

until then, xo.


the writer's block: summer vacation catch-up

we're already more than halfway through August, which just seems crazy to me. in the madness of this summer I haven't had time to keep up with all of my favorite bloggers - but lucky for me [and you] three of them are here today to help get us back up to speed. these women are all passionate creatives and travelers, so I know you'll love them as much as I do! read on below, then stop by their blogs to say hello.

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I'm Megan. Inspiring, encouraging and empowering are the words you should expect to hear on the Artistic Brunette! AB's mission is to do all these things and more through weekly posts on advice for your career pursuit, travel, DIY, non-profit, lifestyle and more. Visit AB to be encouraged to live a creative, fun-filled life. Let's be pals!

catch us up on your summer with some posts:

where did you travel this summer? I actually did a lot of traveling at the beginning of this summer. My mother and I took off on an adventure to Scotland, Ireland and England in May after I graduated. It was a great time, and I loved seeing the Scotland countryside. Make sure to check-out my favorite posts on Scotland: Edinburgh and Driving Britain.

what is one thing you want to do/see/accomplish before September and fall arrive? I really want to get a good handle on my new job! I just started this last June, and I want to be comfortable by the end of this month. I also plan to see Houston!

any travel plans for fall [or for next summer?] I am planning to visit Houston, Texas at the end of this month! My best friend just moved to the city, and I can't wait to explore it with her.

learn more about Megan on her blog:  The Artistic Brunette

or follow along with

I'm Marielle, a twenty-something dilettante, thinker, and quiet smirker. I'm also a former expat and EFL teacher who's still readjusting to life back in the States. This Flooded Sky is where I write about travel, culture, feminism, and other assorted rants.

catch us up on your summer with some posts:
How I embraced being a "feminist" + the F-Word link up
Would you go a year without makeup?
Living life in Hangzhou
Local exploration

where did you travel this summer? My boyfriend and I are saving up for a vacation in October, so we've just done some local exploration and hiking at Ohiopyle in PA. We're also planning on going to the beach with some friends in a few weeks.

what is one thing you want to do/see/accomplish before September and fall arrive? Before summer ends, I want to apply to some jobs and work seriously on my writing. And maybe finish knitting this sweater for my boyfriend that I started around this time last year. Maybe.

the best meal you ate this summer - what was it and where did you have it? The best meal so far was a good old-fashioned cookout in my backyard with fresh burgers, homemade buns, bacon, and feta cheese. I love summertime grilling.

learn more about Marielle on her blog: This Flooded Sky

or follow along with

I'm Christina, the girl behind the scenes here at Route Bliss. I'm a 30-something single wannabe vagabond whose practicality and realist side keeps her planted in East Texas. By weekday I write lots of reports at my job as well as daydream frequently where I want to travel to next, ways to motivate myself to getting fit for health and happiness's sake, and experimenting in the kitchen to make my favorite not so healthy foods healthier. I also like to take lots of photos of pretty things, furry critters (aka canines and felines), and beautiful destinations.

catch us up on your summer with some posts:

what is your favorite memory you made this summer? Spending time with my Austrian penpal while she was in Texas during her US travels

what is one thing you want to do/see/accomplish before September and fall arrive? Headed to Little Rock over Labor Day weekend to visit the best friend and photograph her bridal portraits. Hope to catch up on blog related emails and comments before September as well!

any travel plans for fall [or for next summer?] Aside from the Labor Day trip to LR, one more back up there in October for the BFF's wedding, maybe a early winter weekend trip within East Texas. Hoping for a long roadtrip next year ...

learn more about Christina on her blogs: Route Bliss + Christina McCall Photography

or follow along with:


23 fun facts + travel stories

happy friday! we are leaving for Taiwan in less than a week, which means I'm still trying to cram everything in that needs to be done/seen/eaten before we go. and as I was digging through my drafts yesterday I came across a post I started writing several months ago when Elizabeth of Wanderlust nominated me for a Liebster Award.

sad to say, this is not the first time I've been nominated for this kind of blog award and belatedly [or never] participated. I thought now might be the time to make the effort because Dana from Wanted an Adventure nominated me for another Liebster Award last week.

both of these ladies sent me some phenomenal questions related to traveling, and I knew they would be a lot of fun to answer. so today you are getting a two-for-one Liebster post chock full of fun facts and travel stories from yours truly.

first up are the questions I received from Elizabeth:

1. What gave you the travel bug?
I grew up in a family that loved to travel and took many vacations around the US as a child - travel is in my blood. I did my share of teenage complaining about it, but in truth I'm so thankful I was able to see so much.

2. How has travel changed you? 
traveling puts you out of your usual element - and that's when you learn the most about both life and yourself. for me, travel isn't just about seeing amazing places, eating new foods, or getting a tan: it's about growth.

3. What was your biggest travel blooper? 
shortly after arriving in Taiwan we took a trip to Hualien with some teacher friends. somehow we got booked at a hotel that rents room by the hour. we walked into our room to find a very interesting chair that was definitely not intended to be used for sitting.

4. Where are you going next?
back to Taiwan! 

5. Why do you blog?
partially to keep friends and family updated on our adventures, partially because I enjoy connecting with other bloggers... but mostly because I love to write.

6. What are your carry on travel necessities? 
I wrote a post last winter about my 12 travel essentials, but the two absolutes for taking on board would be something to read, and snacks. 

7. How do your families respond to your vagabond lifestyle? 
I think it depends on which family member you ask! but seriously, they've been really supportive of us [while at the same time letting us know we are well-missed]

8. What's your favorite city for eating? 
I lived in Manhattan for 6 months, so New York is definitely up there for me... but I also lived near Philly which has so many amazing places... and then there's Bangkok and Taipei too. can I just eat them all?

9. What's your worst transportation horror story? 
when I was 19 and flying home from a study abroad trip to Spain, I arrived in the Netherlands to find my connecting flight was cancelled. this was before smartphones and whatsapp and everyone having wi-fi devices, so I had no way to contact my parents. the airline wouldn't let me get my checked luggage so I ended up buying some clothes at the airport. they did, however, put me up at a hotel for the night. I met a girl from Rhode Island and we drank wine and swapped stories all night... ok, so not such a horror story.

10. Where do I absolutely have to go and what do I need to do when I get there?
Thailand is still my favorite destination. I would suggest spending a few days exploring the temples and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, hiring a driver to tour the ruins of Ayutthaya, and then heading down south to Railay beach for some relaxing. and of course, eat all of the things.

11. Tell us your top place that you want to travel to and what you would do there? 
I've had a fascination with Egypt ever since I wrote a report on the Great Pyramid in fourth grade. ideally, I would like to time travel back to the late 1800's and attach myself to a wealthy British family of egyptologists... but I would settle for visiting in modern times. I'd love to take a cruise along the Nile and stop and see... everything.

12. What is your favorite food?
even being gluten-free, I have a serious love for pizza. bacon, avocado, or any form of potato [chip, fry, mashed] also make me a very happy Jamie. and wine... does wine count as a food?

and now the questions from Dana:

1. What’s the best food you’ve ever discovered abroad?
xiao long bao, aka: soup dumplings. they're not gluten free, but they are pretty much the only things I "cheat" with nowadays.

2. Have you ever experienced reverse culture shock upon returning to your home country? How or in what way?
reverse culture shock hits me in a lot of ways when I come back to the states, but the biggest has to be the overwhelming feeling of being able to understand everything. commercials, signs, people's conversations... sometimes I really like being in my expat bubble and blocking that all out.

3. If you haven’t blocked it out, what’s the worst accommodation experience you’ve had?
as I mentioned above, we once accidentally stayed in a "love motel." I guess now it's a funny story to tell...

4. Do you prefer solo travel, with a friend/significant other, or group travel?
Husband and I have another married couple that we love to travel with. they are good friend of ours and we work well together as a group- but also can split up for couples activities or girls/guys nights.

5. What’s the place you’re most proud of having visited?
moving to Taiwan after having never visited Asia or done much international traveling was a HUGE deal for me. technically we aren't visiting... but I'm really proud that I was able to move there and not only adjust, but love it.

6. Has there been a place you’ve been disappointed with? Where and why?
Tanah Lot in Bali was a big letdown for me. I had done too much research beforehand [aka looking up photos on Pinterest] and the reality didn't live up. the crowds were insane and the entire area was one giant tourist trap.

7. Top 3 places on your bucket list?
all of Egypt, Istanbul in Turkey, and Machu Picchu in Peru

8. If I were to bump into you on your travels, what are the chances you’d have a map of the place on you?
maybe 25% chance of map... and that includes both paper kinds and screenshots on my phone

9. Finish this sentence: The thought of going on a long road trip makes me...
want to stock up on snacks.

10. To camp or not to camp?
we are planning to do some camping [or at least car camping in New Zealand and I'm really excited about it!

11. You arrive at your hotel and they tell you the Internet isn’t working. Your first thought is...
"dang it." but my second thought is "oh well, let's go find a drink."

if you're familiar with the Liebster Award, you should know that now it's time for me to nominate some of my favorite blog friends and let them answer some of my questions. well, I think I had two great sets of questions to work with, so I'm just going to let my nominees choose which set [or combination] they would like to answer! here are the five bloggers I'd like to nominate:

Polly // A Girl and her Travels
Christina // Route Bliss
Jackie // Boy and Girl Globetrot
Dannielle // Chicadeedee
Phyllis // Desperate English Teachers

if I've nominated you [and you decide you want to participate] then you should answer your choice of questions above in a blog post. link back to me [please] and then nominate some of YOUR favorite bloggers and write up some questions you'd like them to answer. most importantly: have fun!

last but not least, I want to say thanks so much to Dana and Elizabeth for nominating me!


I'm ready to go back to Taiwan

I woke up this morning and sat out on the patio to drink my morning coffee and write this post. that's pretty awesome. but then the craziness of "I'm an expat living at home for the summer with things left to do before I leave" happened.

Husband came out to remind me that we need to get international drivers permits, so that turned into 30 minutes of conversation and trying to figure out how and where to get it done. by then I was too hungry to go for the run I had planned once I was done blogging. and after breakfast we realized that we needed ingredients for making pizza for the nephews for dinner. so I showered and we left, stopping to run another errand that involved 2 stops and 5 phone calls. by the time we got back it was 2pm. we scarfed down the takeout sushi we has snagged and I went to work on the pizza dough. while it was rising, we went through our finances because a: we are meeting with our financial advisor on wednesday and I have plans tuesday, and b: flying back to and traveling around the US all summer gets expensive. then it was time to make the pizzas and eat the pizzas.

and finally, 12 hours after I originally planned to finish this post, I'm here. [here specifically being in the back bedroom of my mother-in-law's house where it's quiet.]

suffice it to say: I'm ready to head back to Taiwan. we have 10 days left here and I plan to enjoy them as best as I can [of course] but there are a few things I'm really excited to do once I'm back in our expat home...

get back to my routine. 

vacation can be fun, but when you're never in one place for more than a week... the constant newness can get old. staying with family, borrowing cars, trying to fit in plans with everyone means every day is different. and usually, your schedule is dependent on [or at least affected by] someone else's. in Taiwan, I'm spoiled in that I get to wake up every morning and pretty much do whatever I want. I can set my own routine with the only considerations being "how much food is in our fridge?" and "do I have clean underwear?"

be healthy. 

making time to exercise this summer has been... a challenge. I've been getting out to run once or twice a week, and that's just not enough for me. we have also been eating a TON of amazingly delicious and not-very-good-for-you foods. most of these things we don't have access to in Taiwan, and may not see for another year [or two] so we eat them while we can. I am thrilled that I can have easy access to things like gluten free beer and bread. I am not thrilled about the snugness of my jeans.


I was pretty ambitious in thinking I would get my book finished and edited this summer. um, no. that didn't happen. and now that my blog vacation is over, I have to work posts and emails and sponsor management back into the equation as well. but when faced withe the choice of catching up on blogs vs. grabbing a drink with old friends or playing video games with my nephews... I think you know what I've been doing.

plan more travels. 

is it silly to say I want to go home so I can plan to leave again? maybe, but this is going to be another big travel year for us. I'm hoping to take a girls weekend to Hong Kong Disney, we are spending 3 weeks in New Zealand over Chinese New Year, and I'll be chaperoning a student trip that travels from Budapest and Bucharest down to Istanbul over the course of two weeks next summer. we also have friends visiting in October and I plan to give them the full hiking/eating Taiwan experience around the island. planning travel is one of my favorite things, and I can't wait to dive in and sort this all out.

have my own space. 

I love our families, but living with your parents at age 29 can get a little cramped. especially after the freedom of my recent lifestyle. I'm used to waking up and having the apartment to myself, being able to get ready and have breakfast at my own pace, work in my office or go to Starbucks or really do anything and all at my own pace. and with blissful silence. [guys, I'm an introvert. and I need my silence.] I miss my office and my scooter and our bed and just... I miss home and our space.

am I the only one who feels a 2 1/2 month vacation might be a little too long? does this only happen to expats returning to their home country for a visit? I've had a wonderful summer and it's been great to see everyone... but I miss my scooter and my dragons and my dumplings and my everyday life.

Taiwan, I'm ready to come home.


travel by iPhone: Detroit

like the tank top my dad had in the 80's said: "Detroit is no place for wimps." it's full of fighters who believe in their city. but what might surprise you is that it's also full of artists, new development, local businesses, great music and some darn tasty food.

it's been a while since I've had an installation of my travel by iPhone series, and given that I'm back in the mitten... I need to show Detroit some love.

yesterday afternoon we went downtown to walk around the Campus Martius area, Hart Plaza, Renaissance Center, and the Riverfront Park. you never know what you'll find in Detroit: buildings old + new, food trucks + gourmet restaurants, and all forms of art + music. we even found Taiwan!

how cool is this community library box in the riverside park? in recent years, large companies have started moving offices back downtown, and around lunchtime the streets are filled with professionals out for a stroll or sunning and reading in the park. this also helps support the smaller local businesses in the area, and creates even more jobs.

after wandering around and enjoying the free live lunchtime music, we drove further out to the Corktown neighborhood to eat some tasty tasty barbecue at Slow's. the nearby train station is still abandoned, but the lot where old Tiger Stadium was has been converted to a neighborhood baseball diamond.

and this is only a small slice of what you can find in Detroit these days. the Eastern Market, the DIA,  and Belle Isle are just a few more ideas. if you haven't been in a while - or ever - I suggest taking a detour through Detroit and checking things out.

linking up with Nicole and Megan


hiking to Big Sable Point

I have a soft spot for lighthouses. growing up in Michigan and being surrounded by the Great Lakes [and having a mother who is a little obsessed with lighthouses] I have visited my fair share. Big Sable Point is one of my favorites. partially because you have to hike, bike, or boat to get there.

the most direct route involves a straight but sandy path back from the Pines campground, and is a little less than 2 miles. you can bike this way. but the road runs between the woods and the dunes so in some spots it can get a little tough with all the blown over sand.

or you can hike out on the aptly named Lighthouse Trail. this trail starts in the woods, then emerges onto the dunes. your shoes will definitely be full of sand by the time you make it to the lighthouse... but that's why you take them off and dip your toes in Lake Michigan when you get there.

you can pay a small fee to go inside the lighthouse for a tour and to climb to the top. [we opted to skip that given our hike was going to be 5 miles round trip and we've all been up before.] instead we enjoyed the view from "sea" level and took a snack break.

crossing the dunes from the woods to the lake can be really warm, especially in the low areas where you are shielded by wind. since it was a hot day we decided to follow the shoreline back to link up with the Coast Guard Trail. not only did this mean we had a lovely lake breeze, but we could walk barefoot in the cold water.

[check out the Michigan DNR website for more information on hiking this and other trails at Ludington State Park.]

the cup of coffee that fueled the writing of today’s post was sponsored by Jenn. she drinks her coffee with Truvia + almond milk and blogs about lifestyle + home improvement over at Near and Far Montana.

linking up with Bonnie, Kaelene, Sammy, and Van for Travel Tuesday
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