why I love to read your blog

this post has been in the back of my mind for some time. it started out as one of your typical "blogging tips" posts but I felt I didn't have enough blogging clout just yet to give people advice. then I realized that no matter how big or small my blog is, I have a lot of experience in reading blogs. and who better to give feedback on blogging than a reader?

I will be honest and say that since becoming more serious about my own blog I have had less time to spend reading + commenting on other blogs. unfortunately this had also coincided with discovering more and more amazing people to follow as I became involved in the blogging community. but regardless of how often I visit or comment, the blogs I love most have a lot of things in common. and it has nothing to do with the subject of their content. now... not every blog I follow has all of these qualities [and certainly not in every post.] but I've found these are the reason I will follow someone new, or to keep coming back.

so whether you have 10 or 10,000 followers, write about food or fashion, here are five reasons why I love to read your blog:

I know who you are

I don't mean I know you, personally. but I know your name and enough information that we could have a conversation in real life. there's a picture of you on the sidebar and a nice little blurb explaining about yourself. it's clear who you are and what your blog is all about. maybe you even have a whole page devoted to telling me your life story, your cat's name, and about your weakness for skittles. you also respond to my comments, thanking me for stopping by. it makes me feel like we're friends [or at least we could be.]

you post pretty pictures

you don't have to be a professional photographer or graphic designer, but I like having a visual peek into your life. [plus it gives me something to pin if I like your post.] you also know to size your photos so that they spread across the width of your blog. and if you decide to use stock photography or share other's work, you always give credit. and let's be honest, I don't read every word of every post you share. some days I don't have the time or the mental capacity. but scrolling through pictures... that I can do.

your design is easy on the eyes

your blog has a light background, dark text, and is clean + uncluttered. links to your social media are easily accessible. you know that flashing ads or auto-play music make people run for the hills. and though you have sidebar banners [because you're just trying to make a living like everyone else] the main feature of your blog is the actual content. speaking of...

you post original, well-written content

ok, maybe you share an interesting round-up or a pretty inspirational quote you found on Pinterest from time to time. but for the most part you are creating and sharing your own work. if I want to see a collection of things that other people made that you like - I will follow you on Pinterest. [because I probably already do.] you understand that people come to your blog to hear your opinion. or at least your own take on something that's been done before. hmm... like a list of things that will make people want to read your blog, maybe?

you aren't afraid to get real

sometimes, you spill your guts. you write something that feels risky and raw and is unabashedly honest. and I admire that. I like seeing that you are human and not just the world's most perfect baker/ crafter/ traveler/ fashionista. that you [like me] have bad days, but can find ways to bounce back. and if you want to know the real secret... those are the posts that make me feel the most connected to you, and keep me coming back.

what about you- what do the blogs you love to read have in common?

linking up with Nicole


some thoughts + a walk in the park

well, hello there. how about a list?

1. the other day I decided to wander around our local park and shoot some self portraits. you see, I had really been hoping to get some good pictures of myself while we were in Bali. but it turns out that I have had the autofocus turned off since the photo workshop I went to in September. [yeah, uh, oops.] and so any time I handed my camera to someone it came out wrong. I also was shooting in full manual- the first vacation I've ever done so. but the weather was changing so quickly between clouds and sun, and it was so hard to tell on the back display what was going on, I ended up overexposing a lot of my photos. [not that anyone but me really notices or cares, but still.]

so things being as they are, I spent a few hours with my tripod and remote wandering the park. which isn't really a bad thing. time spent outside, practicing something I enjoy, and of course being pleased with the results. and strangely I did not get as many gaping stares as I thought I would.

sometimes I feel awkward shooting self-portraits, but also about posting them. but it just seems like the natural blogger thing to do, right?

2. everyone has been talking about modern calligraphy. including me. I had a book with calligraphy markers when I was in middle school - but I'm interested in something more advanced and a little more modern. I had dreams of signing up for this skillshare class... Melyssa and Beka and Amanda even gave me advice on where to get supplies. I went out searching and found not quite what I need here [but there were a TON of brush calligraphy supplies.] I'm still curious to try taking it up again one day, but for now I think I should be focusing on writing my book and playing with my current 87 hobbies... and maybe pick up supplies while I'm in the States later this year.

3. a few weeks ago Husband and I got real phones again. and by real I mean of course iPhones because our previous phone situation was a shared pay-as-you-go old school Nokia which required 10 minutes and 3 tries to successfully send a text message.

I know I can live without a smartphone, but having one makes life so much easier. like when you are driving around on your scooter and are trying to find your way somewhere you can use the maps. or when Husband is buying food and wants to look up a brand to make sure I'm not allergic to it. or for this novel thing called phone calls in which you can talk to said Husband from anywhere instead of worrying and feeling the need to stay close to the apartment and internet [and thus Facebook since that is otherwise your main form of communication.]

I still forget my phone is real sometimes, especially since I used to carry our service-less old iPhone around to snap photos and Instagram whenever I could find some wifi. but I'm ok with not being completely connected at all times.

4. in related news, I'm becoming obsessed with an app called duolingo. it's this amazing language learning tool disguised as a game. you lose hearts for wrong answers, and get xp points and level up as you practice. [sounds like Pokemon, now that I think about it.] right now Husband and I are brushing up on Spanish, but they have several languages to choose from and are developing even more. the best part is - it's free. and you can use it on your computer, phone, or tablet.

the second best part? I spent 5 minutes today practicing phrases I would actually use such as "I drink wine"/ "Yo bebo vino." and "I am writing a book" / "Yo escribo un libro."

5. a few housekeeping items, or more like blogkeeping items: you may have noticed I've tweaked my design a bit and you can now find links to my new facebook page and google plus on the sidebar. I realize what I am supposed to say here is "like my page!" and "add me to your circles!" but honestly, different kinds of readers like to follow in different ways - I won't be offended if you choose to keep on what you're doing and ignore that.

for anyone who had signed up for email subscriptions and is wondering why they stopped but now are again showing up in your mailbox? well, thanks to some investigation on feedburner and some verification from my mother [thanks, Mom!] the problem has been solved. carry on.

I've also opened up a new sponsorship option called the traveling novelist. this includes a large sidebar ad and the opportunity for you to write a guest post on ink + adventure. handing my blog over to someone else does make me a little bit nervous. but I hope it will help introduce you to some lovely people while I'm busy entertaining visitors and hopping around the globe these next few months. if you're interested in being one of those lovely people, the first 3 to book will get 30% off with the code: WRITEMEUP.

phew. and I think that about covers it. hope you're all having a wonderful week!


Ubud // Balinese cooking class

today I want to tell you all about one of our favorite things we did in Bali. while exploring Ubud, we discovered that many restaurants offered Balinese cooking classes. Husband and I are nothing if not enthusiastic about food… so we immediately decided it would be a fun way to spend a day.

we chose to take our class at Warung Semesta, which serves a mostly vegetarian menu. [I won’t lie - part of this decision was based on my dislike of handling raw meat.] overall I was thrilled with our cuisine choices in Bali, since they are in a unique position of being the only Hindu island of a mainly Muslim nation. this means they offer vegetarian options nearly everywhere. in Taiwan... not so much. I am not a vegetarian and I don't think I'll ever be one, but having the option made me want to choose it most days.

vegetarian or not, Warung Semesta offers fresh, local, and mostly organic foods in a beautiful space. huge windows, painted brick... oh, but we are supposed to be talking about the food. we arrived at 9am and were greeted with a drink of sweet coconut water with lime, given aprons and shown upstairs to the cooking area.

Wayan, our chef and teacher, went over the menu of what we would cook and explained each ingredient to us. at first I was a little disappointed that most things seemed to be prepared already. but as the morning went on I realized we would have NEVER gotten to the actual cooking if we had to do all the prep for 7 dishes.

there was still some chopping and grinding for us to do, along with the actual cooking. Wayan showed us the traditional way of making the paste that is the base for so many Balinese dishes, and also let us try grinding our own peanut sauce and sambals [sortof the Balinese salsa.]

the climate of Bali allows them to grow so many things, herbs and spices and vegetables. so everything we cooked with was fresh and in season. and outrageously delicious.

we made a few dishes [soup, fried rice, pork in soy sauce] then took a break around 11:30 to eat one of the salads for an appetizer. then we got back in the kitchen to finish everything up and made our dessert - coconut and palm sugar filled crepes.

I can't recommend this class enough. we spent about 5 hours in total, cooking and then feasting on the fruits [or - mostly vegetables] of our labor. they offer both a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian menu for the class, and allow you to mix and match dishes if you like.

the food was amazing, but we also learned a lot about the why behind the cuisine. the class was well balanced between the actual cooking, the learning, and the eating. Wayan was a fantastic teacher and we all had a great time. plus - we got to bring home cookbooks so we can attempt to recreate the recipes!

have you ever taken a cooking class on vacation, or do you just prefer to do the eating?

the cup of coffee that fueled the writing of today’s post was sponsored by Hayley. she drinks her tea with 2 scoops of sugar and blogs about life, travel, and adventure over at livin' it up as HayUp.


date night: Rick's Classic American Burgers

for our anniversary last week, Husband told me we could go to eat wherever I wanted. burgers may seem like a strange choice... but when you are an American expat who hasn't had a burger in almost two months, you want a burger. and when we want burgers done right in Hsinchu, we go to Rick's.

Rick's is run by - surprisingly enough - a guy named Rick. He's from Portland, but married a Taiwanese woman, and eventually they moved from the states to Taiwan. he's spent time as a teacher here before opening the restaurant, so he has an instant bond with any of the expat teachers who come in. he's also just a really great guy.

to understand why we love Rick's so much, you need to know about the typical burger in Taiwan. there's no shortage of "burger and brunch" places abound here. but they are 99% run by locals, not Americans, so they cater to local taste. their burgers seem to be more about: "how thick can I make this patty and how many toppings can I put on it?" sometimes the rolls taste a little off, sometimes the bacon is more chewy than crispy, but that's just life in Asia. they also seem to have a different understanding of rare/medium/well done over here. and as a person who is admittedly a little weird about food sometimes and just can't handle less than medium or medium-well... I can't bring myself to eat more than fries + salad at most burger places.

the menu at Rick's is basic, but everything is made with care: cheeseburger, chili fries, hot dogs, and grilled chicken. Rick grinds his own meat, makes his own sauces, and cooks everything himself. he's been working with a local brewer to develop new beers - the latest is an American blonde ale that has more hops than anything else we've found in Asia. [and they are working to make it hoppier!] it's Husband-approved so you know it's good.

and from all our time spent at Rick's, he's become our friend. he always comes out to chat with us, swap music with Husband, or offer us a taste of something new he's working on. after one simple conversation, Rick understands that I am gluten intolerant and so he serves my burger bunless with all the toppings on the side. he made us veggie burgers one night when we had a vegetarian friend in town, and is always very accommodating to our needs.

but you don't have to take my word for it - check out their facebook page or stop by to visit yourself. [and seriously - try the chili fries.]

Husband came up with the idea of doing a series of posts about our favorite local restaurants and their owners. we have been frequenting Rick's for just about our entire residence in Hsinchu, but I finally remembered to snap some photos with my phone before digging in [that should tell you how good the food is!] I'm hoping to add more posts like this in the future... I think you guys see a lot of our travels but not enough of our life here in Taiwan and I'd like to fix that!


DIY dots wall hanging + photo backdrop

I'd love to tell you that this project was easy... but I completely went about it the wrong way so it actually took me a lot of time. I used the wrong materials but hopefully you can learn form my mistakes and have an easier go at making your own version!

I've been wanting to make some kind of art to hang behind our bed ever since we had the wall repainted [after the leaky cieling incident, if you remember.] this week's prompt to Melyssa's creative collective was an "anything goes" art project. I wanted to use up materials I had on hand, so all in all this project only cost me 5 NT [about 16 cents.] and that's just because I used actual coins in the project.

the paper circles I had cut out for another project that never happened - just old paper shopping bags that didn't make it to the recycling bin. I painted them first, in turquoise and mint, then realized they were curling terribly. SO. I took some thicker board that I had on hand and taped strips to the back to reinforce the circles. [this is what took up so much of my time... and tape. I would recommend making your circles out of something sturdy to begin with!]

an hour later... I decided how I wanted to lay them out. I hung the top row first, hung strings from them weighted with 1 NT coins to hold them straight, measured then used tiny bits of washi tape to mark where I would hang the rest of the circles. I used the little markers to anchor the tape and just pressed the circles on, and reinforced them again when I was done.

hopefully I didn't scare you off from attempting this project... I ended up covered in tape bits and tangled in thread and still think it was worth it! so it took me a long time, but I'm really happy with how it turned out. I think it makes a great piece of wall art and I'm excited to use it as a backdrop for taking photos. you could totally make one for your next party, using whatever colors you like [or change up the shapes - but I'm partial to the dots.]

and don't forget to see what everyone else created for this week's project!


some days I hate Taiwan

let's get real. being an expat isn't all sunshine + rainbows. not every day is an exciting adventure, or even enjoyable. [in fact - despite all the rain we get, I have not ever once seen a rainbow here.]

the truth is: some days I hate Taiwan.

days when people stare at me open-mouthed, like I'm some kind of wild blonde animal that has escaped from the zoo. days when little kids point at me and laugh, and their parents do nothing. days when teenagers yell "mei guo ren" [American] at me as I walk by.

days when people - of all ages - stop and ask to take a picture with me. days when grown women think it's ok to pick up and inspect the items I am buying, right off the checkout belt. days when someone bumps me into a store shelf and I narrowly save the glass bottle of ketchup from shattering, and instead of apologizing... they laugh.

but then there are days like today. when a little boy smiles at me and tries to have a conversation with me, like I'm a real person. when his mother apologizes, even though there's no need to. when he excitedly chatters at me and shows me the game he is playing on his mom's phone. and even when I smile back and say "guitar" and I know he doesn't understand, he claps and giggles like he does.

there are days that it starts raining when I'm in the middle of running errands and am most definitely not wearing anything waterproof. so I arrive back to the apartment drenched and my boot slips on the kickstand and the entire scooter and box of groceries tips over. while the scooter is still running.

but then a random stranger who speaks no English stops to help pick up the groceries, right the scooter, and even offers to cary the soggy box upstairs [since it's pretty much just folding in half at this point.]

there are days that your washing machine decides to quit mid-cycle and start beeping at you, while it leaks all over your laundry room. and no matter which button you push [they're all in Chinese of course] nothing seems to happen.

but when you call to ask for help, you're told that they won't fix it... the entire machine will be replaced. this weekend.

there are days in Taiwan where I feel helpless, even hopeless. those are the days I visit six different grocery stores in hopes of finding an onion that is neither moldy nor mushy... and I fail. the days where I feel so homesick I start looking at real estate in Michigan, the days I would kill to have a real oven or a dryer or - please! - a dishwasher, the days that I want to pull my hair out because between the humidity and my helmet what's the point of having hair anyway?

and then there are the days [like today] where despite all that you find a way to make it work.

it's true that more often here than before I have days that seem incredible, grand, and wondrous. but in between the highs and the lows there's mostly just... life. and that's what I hope to share with you on this rainy tuesday.


Bali // rice terraces

we didn't intend to see the rice terraces in Bali, or at least not in the way that we did.

we had booked a cycling tour that would take us through the terraces and fields, explain the growing process, and include two highly rated meals including breakfast overlooking the volcanoes. instead, we got an unscheduled detour and an overpriced buffet that upset my stomach for the rest of our trip.

let me back up. when we booked our day of touring the island, we had a very specific itinerary in mind. there were 3 temples that we wanted to see, and that was it. they tried to book us the standard tour, but we said no, we want to go here. but they told us it was too far, and we should go to just two temples. we were a little disappointed but we said ok, since this is their island and they should know how long it takes to get from one place to another.

the morning of, we got into the van and our driver said "we will go see the dance first!"

understandably, we were all confused. despite our best efforts to communicate our desire itinerary, he wanted to take us on the prescribed tour of the island. we managed to dissuade him from a few stops [such as the dance and the butterfly house] but ended up at a few extra places on our trip. this included the coffee tasting and a drive through the rice terraces.

despite the circumstances of our being there, we tried to make the best of it. [it wasn't difficult with these views]

it's hard not to be amazed at the way the land had been shaped. even though I live in Taiwan [where they certainly grow rice] and have traveled through Asia, I have never seen rice terraces on this scale.

and it's also pretty amazing to think that this place will always be here. as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the rice terraces are protected from being destroyed by modern development.

we ended up canceling our bike tour, though I think that would have been my preferred way to see the rice terraces. I would definitely recommend stopping by on your trip to Bali... just try to go on your own terms.

the cup of coffee that fueled the writing of today’s post was sponsored by Brittany. she drinks her tea with sugar and blogs about her quest to create life experiences by traveling over at Life Changes ii.


ten years ago...

on friday the 13th of february 2004, I met this man.

we've gone a lot of places since - traveled the world both together and separately - but that night began the greatest adventure of my life. it certainly wasn't this simple in actuality, but the short version of the story is: he fell down a flight of stairs and into my heart.

I could say a lot of things to try and sum up the past decade, but consider these 4 photos my 4,000 word essay on the subject. Husband, I love you. and I can't wait to see where the next ten years will take us 

linking up with Nicole + TYS


Ubud // monkey forest adventures

when we first realized we would be staying just down the road from the Ubud monkey forest, we were excited. we had encountered monkeys in Thailand - and while they would not hesitate to break into your room and raid the mini-bar – they were mostly harmless if you locked your doors. monkeys are cute, right? they are fuzzy, and funny, and mischevious.

in order to walk to central Ubud [and Mexican food] we had to take a path that ran along the outside of the monkey forest. the area is fenced in but I think it’s more to keep unpaid tourists out rather than the monkeys in. they can easily climb over or under the fence and like to hang out on the trail where people walk and scoot past. we saw several monkeys the first time we went down the path, and though they startled us they left us alone.

on our second day in Bali we ventured into the monkey forest. you pay a few dollars to enter a fenced-in area where the monkeys live. it’s more jungle than forest, and the enclosure is dotted in temples and an exhibition center. like I said - the fence around the space actually doesn’t do much to keep the monkeys in. but because you can also buy food to feed the monkeys, and there are giant cages of sweet potatoes around the property… well they stay where the food is.

because there are so many tourists coming through all the time, and because most people actually want the monkeys to climb on them for pictures, the monkeys have no fear of humans. they know that in this patch of jungle, they are in charge. any time you unzip a bag, put your hand in your pocket, or even walk towards them they assume they will be getting food.

the monkeys will try to eat, and will actually eat, just about anything. we saw a man smoking a cigarette. of course a monkey sees something in his hand and thinks it’s food, and tries to grab it. the man thinks this is hilarious, lets the monkey climb on this shoulder and gives the monkey his cigarette. the monkey jumps down with its prize and tries to take a bite. monkey holds cigarette at arms length and gives it a dirty look, then bites it again. at this point I had to walk away because I wanted to smack the guy who gave it to the monkey.

Husband and our friend Sean were watching one tourist with dreadlocks who was letting three monkeys pick through his hair. Sean must have unconsciously put his hands into his pockets because a baby monkey jumped up and grabbed his arm. when he pulled his hand out and there was no food, the monkey bit his hand. it didn’t break the skin, but we all freaked out a bit and poor Sean ended up at a clinic getting a series of rabies shots.

the doctor couldn’t confirm that there had ever been a case of monkey rabies, but he recommended getting the shots anyway. [you can read more about it on Jackie’s blog.]

from that point, we were understandably nervous every time we had to walk past the forest. two days after the bite incident, we were walking back from lunch and made a critical mistake. we were carrying a bottle of wine and some soap in plastic bag. a monkey waited for Husband to pass, dropped down out of a tree behind him and went for the bag. Husband pulled it out of reach but then the monkey bared its teeth and lunged… he gave up the bag and soap and wine went flying. the wine bottle shattered all over the trail but the monkey [and two others that appeared from nowhere] went for the soap. they unwrapped it and started eating. our only consolation from this terrifying experience is that the offending monkeys probably had painful digestive issues for a week.

[notice how they all want to know what's in my bag? this was obviously before the bite incident]

from that point, we carried a backpack with us and put everything inside when walking down the trail. once Jackie was almost accosted because she was clutching her purse, but we were saved by some passing scooters who backed the monkeys away.

not all monkeys were frightened of the scooters though. we saw one monkey jump out of a tree and onto the back of a scooter to snatch a plastic bag away from some poor girl. all four of us saw it happen, but we can’t seem to agree on whether it was chips or bread or a sandwich.

regardless… these monkeys are crazy and I would advise extreme caution if you decide to visit the monkey forest. don't take any bags with you [especially not plastic ones] and keep your hands out of your pockets. if you want an idea of what to expect, you can search youtube for videos of monkeys doing crazy things to people in the Ubud monkey forest. and, well, good luck if you decide to go!

the cup of coffee that fueled the writing of today’s post was sponsored by Hayley. she drinks her tea with 2 scoops of sugar and blogs about life, travel, and adventure over at livin' it up as HayUp.
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