Thirty One

It’s my 31st birthday today! I’m spending the day with my hubby. He’s my favorite person ūüôā We’re exploring Austin, TX all weekend and are having the time of our lives!

A weekend getaway to a new place often heightens my senses to the world around me. The air, sights, and sounds all stand out a bit stronger because it’s new and different. That¬†got me thinking – I hope I take enough time to appreciate the little things that I adore in life. I used to be better at that.

Throughout high school and college I’d escape for a few minutes (or hours) and add to a list of what I loved. Totally random things…like…how people tilt their head when they eat a taco, or a much needed¬†outburst of laughter after something has gone horribly wrong¬†and that poor moment needs some comedic relief. Before I knew it, my list had exceeded 1,400 things. The sad truth is that I have no idea where that book is now. But the idea of doing that, of writing down the little things that I love about life, well I think today’s a brilliant day to bring it back.

So, in honor of my 31st, here are 31 little random things that I love:

  1. Snuggling with my yellow lab, Stella.
  2. Stovetop popcorn.
  3. The entire experience of walking around an Anthropologie store.
  4. Slowly sipping red wine on a cold night.
  5. The 1st cup of coffee in the morning.
  6. Finishing a long run.
  7. Writing.
  8. Star gazing.
  9. Small town America.
  10. Getting positive results from using little pockets of time wisely.
  11. Country music.
  12. Cowgirl boots.
  13. An unforgettable culinary experience.
  14. Dark chocolate.
  15. Laughter from my favorite people.
  16. The distant smell of a campfire.
  17. Swivel chairs.
  18. HGTV & The Food Network.
  19. Needed hugs.
  20. A new dress.
  21. Baking.
  22. Stained glass windows.
  23. Coffee shops.
  24. Windows open, kinda weather.
  25. Sushi.
  26. Getting asked to take strangers’ group photos.
  27. When a baby smiles or yawns.
  28. Zumba. 
  29. Hearing perfectly beautiful harmony sung a cappella.
  30. People who don’t complain, appreciate life, and embrace each day.
  31. Choosing happiness.

More than any of these, more than anything in the world in fact, I love and adore my family and friends over all. I’m a very lucky lady to have such joy surrounding me all the time. Not quite sure how I got so lucky, but I thank God everyday for y’all.

So…what’s on your list?!

Happy day, friends!

Oat Choc-Chip Banana Bread

That right there’s a long title, but a scrumptiously simple recipe. I’m sending¬†a virtual high five to the lady who submitted¬†this recipe.¬†I found it from Taste of Home. Check it out! I made a few changes though, so below is my own adaptation¬†of it.

Changes:

  • I didn’t have the mini-chocolate chips that¬†she calls for, so I used 1/2 cup of regular chips instead.
  • I¬†substituted shortening¬†for good ‘ol butter.
  • She recommends using instant oats but I love the look, texture, and durability of Old Fashioned Oats – so I used those instead as well. They held up beautifully in the baking process!

My version of this recipe: 

  • 1/2 cup unsalted softened Butter
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 3 very ripe Bananas
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 3/4 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1 cup old fashioned Oats
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet Chocolate Chips

Here’s what happened:

STEP 1

In a bowl or mixer (low to medium speed) combine the sugar, softened butter, and eggs all until smooth.

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STEP 2

Peel and add the 3 over-ripe bananas to the sugar/butter mixture.6O9C2517

STEP 3

Add in the baking soda, baking powder, and salt. 6O9C2522

STEP 4

Gradually add in the flour, then the oats, then finally the chocolate chips. 6O9C2524

STEP 5

Pour the mixture into a greased bread pan, and place in a pre-heated oven. 6O9C2528

STEP 6

Your timer should  be set to 40 minutes, then check on it for 10-15 minutes. 50-55 minutes total should do the trick, but as ovens vary Рjust check on it starting around 40 minutes.

STEP 7

Check the center to make sure it’s fully cooked. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes.

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ENJOY! Hubby and I sure did. It should last the week if it’s just you and a spouse/roomie…but if you have a large household or lots of housemates, it’ll be gone by the end of the day.

Happy banana baking!

“Newlie” joined OK Women Bloggers!

Delighted to share that I am “newlie” (hehe…never gets old) a member of Oklahoma Women Bloggers!¬†This community shares¬†inspiration, humor, how-to’s, recipes, and much more.¬†Their mission:¬†“Gather. Grow. Connect.”¬†I’m thrilled to do so¬†with¬†the fabulous women bloggers of this beautiful state.Oklahoma Women BloggersAs the worldwide population of bloggers continues to grow, so do the challenges to connect¬†to truly interested readers within your own content. Sure…there’s always Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – lots of great tools…but having a community like this to “talk to” and read about is exactly what I’ve needed as a newcomer to Oklahoma.¬†Thanks for including me, OWB ladies! If anyone has suggestions on any additional¬†communities that you think me/Newlie would be a good fit for – I’m all ears!

A Blog Post About Blogging

This whole “blogging” thing – let’s chat about it.

I remember the first¬†time I decided to start my blog. I thought about it for a while…posted something…then didn’t actually tell anyone that it existed for a long, long time. Then one¬†night the perfectionist in me had a second glass of wine…a ‘lil liquid confidence…and then I did it. I finally made my blog “Facebook¬†official” and¬†invited anyone to follow along as I shared my little corner of the world.

I was terrified.

I still remember hovering over the “Post” button on my status to share the link. I’ll admit it – I was scared of what people would think. What¬†exactly¬†was I doing? Writing about how to make chicken soup? About the fact that Sean and I were engaged and we lived in a house with our dog…wooopdiedooo! Would anyone care? Was I being silly? Then, fully annoyed at my momentary lack of self confidence I decided to stop posing ridiculous questions to myself, took a sip of my wine, and hit “post.”

Newlie 1st Post

…then I hit refresh…

“Ohhhh! Someone liked it!” I said to myself. “Two..three..FOUR people like it!!”¬†Then I¬†switched tabs over to my WordPress statistics of blog-volume and how many views I got. “What’s up with the stats…OMG people are reading my post!?” I was excited (obviously), but still a little terrified. It was a classic reminder that I’m my own worst critic; the case for many of us, I imagine.

Blogging is such a fun, creative outlet. But what most readers/non-bloggers don’t know is that it can also be a little scary. You’re putting your own words out there for people to critique you. Not only can they judge you on that misspelled word or run-on sentence, but you welcome others to¬†have an opinion about what you’re doing with your life.

Don’t let it get too heavy though, because, as many of you know, your biggest fears are often what propel you to greatness; to something you KNOW you can personally¬†grow from with hard work, soulful dedication, and good ‘ol fashion patience.¬†Everyone has something that humbles them; that challenges who they¬†are and ultimately makes them¬†stronger.

I’m curious…what’s yours? I’d love to hear about it. Is it that promotion for more money or¬†a well recognized¬†title that you aspire to reach in your career? Is it that presentation to 70+ people that you aim to perfect, and ultimately inspire your audience with? Is it that athletic goal of getting a P.R. on your next marathon? Or, maybe it’s the classic fear of breaking your habitual laziness and finally doing something about your ambitions to live a healthier life? We’ve all been there…heck…I’ll certainly raise my hand for some¬†of those!

I can’t even begin to put into words how helpful writing has been for me to stay accountable, consistent with my goals, and aware of my weaknesses. It’s a recipe for success, really.

I’m no blogging expert yet, but I’m lucky enough to know now that I adore writing. I adore how it challenges and even surprises me. My friend Bridget (hey hey, fabulous lady!) recently asked me to write a post on my top 5 tips for new bloggers. Bridget – that meant the world to be asked! I can’t wait to follow along and be inspired through your words!

I hope these tips below help any of you who are interested in¬†sharing your own voice, skills, and passions with the world through your writing. If you decide to create a blog, or already have one for me to follow, PLEASE let me know! I can’t wait to follow along your journey!

So…here’s what I’ve learned:

1. WordPress

When I worked at George Mason University’s Admissions Office, we decided to start a student +¬†staff blog. A member of the IT admissions team recommended using WordPress and showed me the basics to get started. I have to admit, it was a little overwhelming at first. There are tons of options which is GREAT¬†now, but was hard to comprehend at first. I chose to stick with WordPress when I wanted to creative my own personal blog because I liked how it’s not just a community for bloggers – it’s also a strong community for writers¬†and the whole literary world.

I slowly began to learn about “widgets” and how I could stream my tweets and Instagram photos along the side of my blog. I discovered the widget where I could have a countdown to my next big adventure or holiday. I learned that I could also¬†showcase¬†a text box where I then created my¬†“Yay for the Day” section. It’s completely up to you! I’m sure other blogs do most of those things too…but I’m partial to the way I can manipulate¬†WordPress look the way I want it to look.

As you discover which blog site to use, make sure that it can adapt to the changes you see yourself making overtime. I’ve been able to change my web address from newlie.wordpress.com, to newlieliving.com. I’ve changed the blog’s design from time to time. I’ve even changed my header to represent this little Southwestern stage in my life. I’ve had the freedom to make it my own and I love that! Find a¬†domain that best suits you, but be sure to shop around first to confirm that it’s not only right for you now, but also for years from now.

2.¬†Edit…Edit…Edit

This is usually what happens when I write a post…

An idea for a post!
Type...type...type...type...add photos...type...
Walk away for a bit.
Edit what I wrote...
Write more....type...type...type...
Preview how it looks...
Edit what else I wrote...
Read it over again...
Edit a little more...
Tell myself I'm being a perfectionist...
Find a misspelled word...
Thank myself for being a perfectionist...
Assign a "featured image" to represent the post...
Add "tags" to get the post noticed in google searches...
Assign the post to a "category" (i.e. food/fit/travels/etc.)...
Breathe...hover over the "Publish" button...
Smile.
Hit it!

Notice something consistent? I edit often. I¬†edit, walk away, edit, and edit again. This is not necessarily because I can be a perfectionist from time to time. Instead, it’s a lovely little education I give myself. I ask myself things like “does that make sense?” or “is that sentence redundant…and is it even necessary?” or “did I really evoke that feeling eloquently?” Sometimes I think I wrote a beautifully illustrated paragraph, and then I walk away for a few minutes to later¬†return with fresh editing eyes. Then, many times I realize “……hah……yeah that sentence is terrible.¬†I don’t even…uh…rewrite!” I learn SO much this way. So, allow yourself time for many edits.

3. Share

Don’t you DARE hold back. If you’ve got a good story, recipe, or trick for repurposing an old antique abacus then you better tell the world! True, someone may¬†find it¬†to¬†be uninteresting. That’s perfectly fine – they don’t have to read it. You can’t expect everyone to wanna read that you make a mean marinara sauce, but someone (yourself, your mother, and me at the very least!) will applaud your work and be inspired by it. The right audience’s¬†interest will grow if you just give it time and have faith.

If I could say this a million times, I would:

As long as you have something positive to share then you will never know how inspirational your words will be to readers¬†until you shatter your self-doubt and just SHARE¬†it. Tell the world about it. When those few people do tell you how your post inspired them, it will make your day/week/year ūüôā I mean it! You’ll never forget it.

For those who do “like” or comment on my posts – it means the world to me.

I stopped writing for way too long at one point. I think it had been like 6 months or something. I didn’t really think my writing was making any kind of impact, and I just assumed that no one would notice or care that I had stopped. Well…overtime a few friends did notice and asked when I would be writing again. You should’ve seen my face. It was shocked! “You mean you actually liked it? You read my blog?”

Seeeee? Just give it faith, give it time, and keep sharing.

4. Read

WordPress has two things that keep their bloggers’ literary inspiration fresh and fabulous:

  1. Reader” – a news-feed of sorts where all of the WordPress blogs that you choose to follow will stream onto¬†one page. It’s a great way to see what new post is up!
  2. Freshly Pressed” – ladies and gentlemen…the day that my post gets “Freshly Pressed” is the day that drinks are on me. Kidding…I don’t have that kind of money…but it’s to that effect. It’s an HONOR to have your post Freshly Pressed. WordPress’ team hand picks their favorite posts each day and shares the best and brightest in a really awesome news-feed. It’ll also spike your stats of viewers and interest like crazy. As a new owner and freelance writer – that’d be pretty great to have that kind of interest in my little LLC!

So, between both of those little news-feeds you’ll have plenty of literary inspiration surrounding you…so READ! See what’s out there! Comment on others’ posts, follow their blogs, “like” their posts, and get inspired.

You never know – you may even make a new friend…

…’cause I totally did!!! It’s true. Shout out to the fabulous Coach Jessica Sprenkel!!! One day, before our big more out west, I decided to search for blogs on WordPress about Tulsa. So I literally just searched “Tulsa” in my Reader and came across her blog. After reading a post or two I learned that she was about to move to Tulsa only¬†2 months before me & Sean, so I commented, we kept in touch, and now we’re friends! She’s absolutely awesome, an inspiration for health and fitness, and you should follow her blog. If you ever need any recipe or workout advice, she’s your girl! Check it out:¬†Coach Sprenkel.

5. Be Sensitive To Time

Patience.

Practice.

And more patience ūüôā

Building a blog is like building a business that has NOT¬†been snatched¬†up by a member of The Shark Tank¬†yet. You’re gonna have to give it some love, lots of attention, and precious time. It’s been 2 years since I finally made my blog public, and only a year and a half that I’ve really devoted attention to it. No…that’s not even true…I feel like it’s been a hobby of mine for a year and half and only just recently have I given it the true attention it deserves. It takes time.

Don’t get discouraged when you have like 3 followers on WordPress, and just 4 comments in like, 6 months. If you post consistently, you’ll be surprised by how your readership will grow and ultimately follow along. If you don’t post consistently (which has been my own fault in the past!) well then, they’ll pretty much stop hoping for a post to come along!

Try to blog once a month at first, then maybe move to twice a month. Are you not too bogged down with work/life? Great! Keep up the great writing by stepping it up to once a week or even twice a week.

Your writing skills, your readers, and your heart will thank you!

Happy blogging, friends!

Go get it.

stella eos m (1 of 1)We can learn a lot from dogs like Stella. She’s ambitious, loving, fearless, hilarious, grateful, trusting, and protective when necessary. I’m convinced this girl is made purely of heart…and high jumps. When we first got her, I don’t think I realized just how much she would teach me. Yes, though this little “being” doesn’t talk, she teaches me every day.

“Go get it.” we’ll often say to her with both command and excitement in our voice as we play fetch. But before we can get to “it” she’s off like a bullet out of a gun. Those of you who have spent some time with her and have seen her run/jump – y’all know. She’s in the ZONE. No holding her back. In her incredible¬†mind there are no plans later in the day, no concerns for how long we’ll be playing, or if she’ll get injured…she’s fully committed. This girl could play fetch for HOURS. I especially love it when¬†she also tells us that she’s done. She’s her own little lady who knows when it’s time to stop and rest.

Yesterday afternoon around 5:30 p.m., I took her to the end of our street where there’s a¬†big ‘ol field. We LOVE our new neighborhood by the way. I love everything about Oklahoma. Anyway, I took her over there for what I call “Stella’s Happy Hour” where she gleefully accepts every stick/frisbee/ball challenge I throw past her. Below is a quick¬†iPhone video I took just to give you a precious little peak into her happy hour. Sorry in advance for the vertical-length filming!

It’s nothing fancy. You’re probably like, “…mmkay…it’s a dog playing fetch. That’s…great, Kath.” Yes, I know. But she’s MY dog playing fetch! But more importantly, while we all have these little inner struggles/excuses/fears – there’s inspiration staring us in the face, just WAITING for us to “go get it.”

What’s there to get?

It’s different for everyone. For me: it’s a long, consistent run where I don’t give in to walking the last 2 miles. It’s those magazines and publishing companies I want to work for as a freelance writer but am sometimes¬†too shy to put myself out there. It’s the terrifying feeling I sometimes get when I hit “Publish” on this little blog in fear of someone not liking it, or that someone’s annoyed that I write about my dog playing fetch, or they’re annoyed that I’m a genuinely happy person who wants to share some happiness with the world. That last one gets me every time. Those Negative Nancys out there spark fear of judgment and insignificance sometimes.

What the…what on EARTH?! Those are the silliest fears¬†I’ve ever heard. Funny though…because they’re fears and excuses that cloud my judgment. I’m human, and I know I’m not alone. What are your fears? What’s holding you back? It’s helpful to get ’em out there in the open and own up to the fact that they’re holding you back. You deserve to be successful in whatever form of success you define.

So, go get it.

This morning, Sean and I woke up around 5:45 and went for a run with Stella around our neighborhood. It was awesome!!! Yes, we were tired, but we were fine and knew when it was time to stop. When we stopped running it was awesome….because we stopped running…haha. BUT also because we got it. We broke the excuses and started a new routine in our new town.

Now, go get it!

A Southwestern Sunday

Last Sunday was everything that a Sunday should be: uncomplicated, with just a hint of productivity.

In our home –¬† you could hear on T.V. the rolling roar from fans in the stadium for an NFL game, mixed with a frequent whistle blow from a ref, and of course…both cheering and heckling from my husband, Sean.

Outside – you could feel the warm breeze strolling through the scene of a jaw dropping blue sky with puffy white clouds scattered throughout.

Sean and I went out for breakfast, Stella and I went for a jog, I baked and cooked a little…but before all that we started the day with a little adventure nearby.

So, at 6:00 a.m. the alarm (set to a local country music station) began our day. I got my cowgirl boots and new red dress on. I poured myself a coffee while Sean packed up his camera, tripod, and lenses. We were going out to take photos of “the Oklahoma” that we adore so far, and I got to be the wannabe country girl that I am, staged in these photos. We live right by a huge, beautifully maintained open farm in town; we’re surrounded by them actually.

Our scene was set as the sun rose a brand new day for us.

Sean’s an amazing photographer. Seriously amazing. He just “gets it” when it comes to capturing an image’s inspirational lighting, its balance between interest and intention, and the pure mechanics and inter-workings of the camera that I have yet to comprehend. He’s just awesome. I’m totally biased, I know. He’s my hubby! But I’m just say’in…I’m super proud of him ūüôā

Here are some of our favorites from that morning:

OK - landscape6O9C1834OK - leanOK - bootsOK - happyOK - profile

You’ll probably recognize one of them in “Newlie’s” new header. Thanks, Sean Mason Photography!

What do you think? Fellow “Sooners” – where should we go for our next photography adventure?! I’d love your thoughts.

Thanks y’all ūüėČ

Katherine