Happy Third Anniversary (to me)!

Three years ago this week, I took the leap and hit the “publish” button for the first time.  The blog “Travel. Garden. Eat.” entered the blogosphere.  Three years of blogging = 314 posts, 21,118 visitors, and 48,048 views.

As I begin year four of my blogging journey, it is interesting to look back on posts of interest — whether yours or mine.  Some have been shared far and wide, others that I hold dear because of the memories they evoke may have stayed closer to home – it’s all good.  When one first tentatively puts that post out for public consumption, whether the effort is viewed or “liked” holds more importance, but I think over time that becomes less and less a point of attention.  Instead, this blog continues to be my creative outlet, for words and images.

Versailles on a Rainy Day
Versailles on a Rainy Day

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

~ Anaïs Nin

The topics of traveling, gardening and eating merely serve as a base — life is rich and varied, and I think blogging often provides the opportunity to remind oneself that the little things in life are often the most rewarding.  A walk in the woods can be just as rejuvenating and eye-opening as a journey across the sea.  Our own backyards often yield just as much interest as the backyards of our neighbors far and near.

Beargrass in Glacier National Park
Beargrass in Glacier National Park

The most viewed posts over the past few years reflect that philosophy of interest near and far.  For the five months I blogged in 2012, the posts with the highest views were all in response to Weekly Photo Challenges — a great way to engage bloggers on a wide variety of topics, and  help inspire a little creative stretch from time to time!  The challenges of Big, Renewal, and Everyday Life generated the most traffic that first year.

Buona sera, Trastevere!
Buona sera, Trastevere!

In 2013, traveling and eating both were reflected in the most viewed posts:

Pre-wash rinse, courtesy of the cat

Moving on to 2014, one of the most popular posts for visitors was my visit to the Apostle Islands’ Ice Caves, “It’s Not Too Late for the Party: Day-Tripping to the Apostle Islands Ice Caves.”

Kat in the cold seat
Kat in the cold seat

And, finally, 2015 — a year not over yet, but one in which I finally returned to gardening in “Gardener’s Mecca in Minnesota: An Illustration of the ‘Why’” for the most viewed post this year-to-date.  Interestingly, one of my older posts, “Iceberg Lake Trail ~ Glacier National Park” also has been a popular post this year — it is a favorite travel memory, so always happy to revisit that one!

“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.”

~ Ansel Adams

Iceberg Lake Trail ~ Glacier National Park
Iceberg Lake Trail ~ Glacier National Park

Thank you to all who have followed along since the first year, as well as those who have joined more recently — all 989 of you (spammers and all — I don’t flatter myself to think that I have almost 1000 engaged followers, but I am grateful and amazed by how many truly interesting and engaging bloggers and readers I have met along the way!).  For a little celebratory fun, I updated the look of the blog, and welcome any feedback you have — Font hard to read? Like the layout? Miss the old look?  All comments welcome.

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Thanks for reading – blog on!

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Door

The door to a charming setting for a pottery sale, with artistic inspiration galore!  I shared with you an afternoon at the Rustic Road 13 Pottery Event in this blog post.  Save the date for the 2015 sale this fall and explore the charming grounds yourself – September 19th and 20th!

Doorway to charm at the Rustic Road 13 Pottery Event

The pottery event’s website with schedules and directions to the show in Hudson, Wisconsin, can be found here.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  “Door” is this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vivid

While a sunset photo was my initial thought in responding to this week’s challenge, I instead was drawn to another photo taken the same Memorial Day weekend at the cabin.  In an old pallet leaning against a tree, in contrast to the dull brown-gray of the weathered wood and nest materials, was the most vivid blue collection of robin’s eggs.  The nest was diligently protected by Mother Robin, and the eggs certainly have hatched by now, two weeks later.

Vivid blue in the Robin's nest

Mother Nature’s palette is naturally vivid, producing colors that we find ourselves striving to reproduce in our daily lives.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Vivid” is this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Gardener’s Mecca in Minnesota: An Illustration of the “Why”

Along a lonely stretch of highway, near the small town of Zim, Minnesota, one can find a little piece of heaven for gardeners.

Highway 7 in Northern Minnesota -- the Road to Zim

Byrns Greenhouse is unassuming from the road, but as you pull in the driveway (or park along the shoulder of the highway on the typically busy weekends) and make your way toward the greenhouse buildings, you quickly discover why Byrns has such a following among northeastern Minnesotans.

Byrns Greenhouse of Zim

Byrns Greenhouse of Zim

After winning a gift certificate at a local gardening class in 1996, I have made the hour-long drive to Byrns almost every May for 20 years.  It is my “go to” source for hanging baskets and annuals, as well as shrubs and perennials.  But, it is also more than that.

Byrns Greenhouse of Zim

This year, I squeezed in my annual visit while returning home after several days away at a leadership development training session for work. The greenhouse happened to be just a slight detour, and I was craving some decompression time on a glorious summer-like afternoon.

Byrns Greenhouse of Zim

One of the last discussions my training cohort enjoyed earlier in the day was Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” regarding principles of successful leaders and businesses.  While I had intended to disconnect from work and unwind among the flowers and greenery, I found myself reflecting on Sinek’s TED talk and why I trekked miles away to a greenhouse to buy items available at numerous locations closer to home.

Byrns Greenhouse of Zim

The fundamental concept of Sinek’s talk is “The Golden Circle”People don’t buy what you do, they buy Why you do it.

I could buy petunias and hanging begonias anywhere, but I want to buy them from Byrns.  Certainly, the reasonable prices are attractive — but so are Wal-Mart’s.  They have a large variety of overflowing hanging baskets — but so do numerous other area garden centers.  In fact, other retailers have wider aisles with smooth concrete that allows large newer carts to glide effortlessly across the floor… while at Byrns the old double-decker metal shopping carts can often have a mind of their own as you wrestle them across the various terrains of the greenhouse outbuildings.

Herb-infused waters at Byrns Greenhouse of Zim

Much has stayed the same over 20 years — the colorful, bountiful hanging baskets and reasonably priced 6-packs of flowers are constants …  and so are those crotchety shopping carts.  The complimentary freshly-baked cookies and flavored herbal waters (soooo refreshing on a hot day while browsing!) are recent additions.  Old and new combine effortlessly, reinforcing the charm of the greenhouse.

I helped myself to a cup of mint-infused water and another customer came up to the counter and asked whether there was a cost to the herbal waters or cookies.  The woman behind the counter responded with a smile, saying, “No cost — it’s all part of the Byrns experience!”

The

The “Byrns experience” … as I heard her say that, Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” came to mind.  Byrns Greenhouse operates from the Why not the What, and that is what cultivates the sense of loyalty in customers like me.  The greenhouse has been operating as a family business for over 40 years.  During these last 20 years of their operation, I have watched the fourth generation grow up just as my own boys have grown.  I have watched multiple generations of family work side-by-side, teaching each other, passing knowledge down. Pride and joy both are evident.

Byrns Greenhouse of Zim

As I mulled over which of the intriguing head planters to purchase, the enthusiasm of one of the owner’s sons about these interesting new items was infectious.  Would I have bought a 2-foot tall ceramic planter head for the garden at Home Depot?  Not likely, despite my interest in them; there are many interesting features one can find for the garden.  Later, his mother, one of the third generation and my contemporary, graciously scavenged for one of the few remaining lemongrass plants as we shared ideas for the irreplaceable taste of fresh herbs in teas and foods. We reminded each other of how the years have flown and our boys had grown from toddlers disappearing in the foliage-filled aisles to young men carrying massive succulent-filled ceramic heads to the back of my car!  I wanted to support the Why of their business.

Byrns Greenhouse of Zim

Shopping at Byrns is a personal experience, where you are treated like an old friend returning for a visit.

Byrns Greenhouse of Zim

A rooster crowed periodically as I browsed the creative planters.  The whistle of a train could be heard as it approached on the rural railroad tracks parallel to the greenhouse. The senses were fully engaged by the end of my visit, beyond the visual beauty and fragrance of the greenery around me.  A detour to Byrns while driving home from a week away for work was as good as … no, even better than … a stop at a spa.

Byrns Greenhouse of Zim

Byrns Greenhouse of Zim

Why travel afar to pick up the petunias? Because I am buying family, I am buying small business, I am buying local.  I am buying lovingly cultivated plants and creatively crafted planters.  

Byrns Greenhouse of Zim

Byrns Greenhouse of ZimByrns Greenhouse is not your ordinary greenhouse.  Plan on a couple of hours for your visit, and make sure the back of your vehicle is cleared out and ready to accommodate both the planned and unplanned purchases you are certain to leave with at the end of your experience.

Byrns Greenhouse of Zim

Ciao! ~ Kat

For more information on and driving directions to Byrns Greenhouse:  http://www.byrnsgreenhouse.com/

Pottery on the Rustic Road

Every fall, a picturesque farm on the outskirts of the river town of Hudson, Wisconsin, hosts a pottery show and sale which is a feast for the senses.

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Once inside, the talent of this event is evident.

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The pottery is displayed inside a rustic and lovingly restored barn.

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The diversity of styles and creativity is inspiring.  You can’t help but leave with something carefully wrapped and packaged for the drive home.  The fact that a portion of the sales is donated to Second Harvest Heartland, the Upper Midwest’s largest hunger-relief organization, only provides more incentive to loosen the pursestrings.

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Wandering again outside, homegrown fiddles and country strings fill the air, while artisans work their magic.

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The farm features outdoor raku firing demonstrations, smoke and fire joining forces with the artist.

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And children are mesmerized as one of the artists magically brings to life a pot or vase from a lump of clay.

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The original farm cottage is open for wandering, and only adds to the charm of the setting.  You may end up visiting and never want to leave.

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You have until 5:00 p.m. today to visit this once-a-year event …. otherwise, be sure to mark your calendars next year and enjoy a classic fall day on the Rustic Road.

Ciao! ~ Kat

For more information on the Rustic Road 13 Pottery Event & Sale:  http://www.rusticroad13pottery.com.