Posts Tagged With: blogging

What I didn’t know a year ago

Hard to believe we’ve been in Finland for a full year now!  We’ve experienced winter, spring, summer, and fall.  We’ve survived through the short daylight hours of winter and the long daylight hours of summer.  We’ve enjoyed new surroundings, new friends, and new experiences.  And I’ve learned a few things this year.

  1. I’ve learned what -25°C feels like.
  2. I’ve learned to think of temperature in degrees Celsius.
  3. I’ve learned that I’d rather it be -2°than +2°
  4. I’ve learned that using centimeters is a lot easier than inches when sewing hems.
  5. I’ve learned how to sew.
  6. I’ve learned how to make pancakes and biscuits and bread from scratch.
  7. I’ve learned that the Finnish language is beyond me.
  8. I’ve learned to live without a clothes dryer, a dishwasher, or a garbage disposal.
  9. I’ve learned that finding washcloths is nearly impossible in Finland – apparently they don’t use them here.  Ikea’s kid section to the rescue – those are the only ones I’ve found!
  10. I’ve learned that not tipping is hard to do.
  11. I’ve learned how to play Mölkky.
  12. I’ve learned how much I love the opportunity to live in Finland.

I’ve learned much more than that, of course, but that’s a pretty good list.  I look forward to the next year, the experiences that still await us.  We’re planning trips to Latvia, Italy, and Germany (for Oktoberfest), and I also hope to go to Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Sweden.  Until then, some highlights from the last year:

Highlights from our first six months.

Our trip to Ireland.

Attempting to learn Finnish.

A trip home and to Mexico.

Thanks for reading – I love being able to share our lives with you!!


Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Hey, it’s November, give me a break

It’s been how long since I posted?  Shame, shame.  In my defense, it is November, which of course means National Novel Writing Month.  And, although I may not have been posting, I have been drafting blog posts.  Now to edit and post…yeah, I’ll get right on that.

I’m trucking along on the book.  27,000 words.  I shaved off a bit of length on my goal, so now I’m trying to hit 75,000 words instead of 90k.  Because, really, for the type of book it is, it shouldn’t be 90k.  So, 75k.  I’m almost halfway through my plot now, though, and I already know I’m going to have to beef up some scenes.  I’m saving that for after I finish, though.  Hopefully that will still be done in November, but we’ll see.  I’ll still hit the 50,000 NaNo goal, I’m just not sure I’ll hit my personal goal.  (You can follow along with my word count if you look to the top right of this page – see it?)

I’ve also been working on organizing a big American Thanksgiving here in Rauma, with a bunch of people from The Company.  I had to find a rental space, which didn’t end up being as difficult as I was afraid it was going to be.  I wasn’t sure how I would go about it in Finnish, and I didn’t really want to make any phone calls (because the whole answering the phone in Finnish and me saying “Hi do you speak English” and them saying something back in Finnish and it just being a huge cluster).  But I was able to take care of it through email (barely) and reserved a lovely hall with a large yard.  We’re going to have around 40-45 people, including some non-Americans who are excited to see what this whole Thanksgiving thing is about.  It’ll be potluck style, 4 turkeys, and all the regular fixings, plus some irregular ones (which is perfectly fine and dandy with me!).  We’re going to attempt to record the Thanksgiving Dallas Cowboys game and have that playing during the day, to make it feel right.  Since Thursday isn’t a holiday here, we’re having it on the following Saturday.  I’m going to be cooking one of the turkeys (the second turkey in my life), and I’m curious to see how it’s going to work with the small European oven.  I think I’m going to spatchcock the turkey, but then I’m not sure if I’m going to roast it or attempt to grill it.  Grilling seems interesting, a little something different, but I’m not sure if anyone we know has a big enough grill….

I’ve been working on a couple of sewing projects, I should have those done in the next few weeks.  I’ll post photos if they turn out well!

I took a couple of weeks off on the cooking challenge, after I was unable to find certain ingredients for something I was working on.  I figure my next cooking challenge will be the Thanksgiving Feast, so I’ll get back to the regular program after that.  I do have a bit of a backlog on the challenges, though (I started it a few weeks before actually posting anything), so I’ll post some to fill the gaps.  🙂

Let’s see, what else has been going on…

It’s getting darker here.  It’s not really “daylight,” where I can open the blinds and not have the lights on, until around 9am, and by around 3pm I have to turn the lights on again.  Of course, that’s on a normal, sunny day – today was so overcast it seemed to be dusk all day.  It’s good and dark by about 4:30pm most days – and we’ve got about a month left of dwindling daylight.  But then, guess what, it’ll start getting brighter again, and we’ll have 22 hours of daylight again before you know it!

In the meantime, we’re looking forward to a trip back home soon, where we get to see the family and some friends and do some shopping.  Then we’re going to MEXICO, where it will be sunny and warm and we can go swimming in the ocean and lay on the beach and drink fruity alcoholic beverages and Ican’tfreakingwait.

In other news, my permit for living in Finland is due to expire in a couple of months, and I filed the paperwork yesterday to have it renewed.  Hopefully I’ll have it before I need it, unlike my friend Pam, whose permit took four months and a lot of shouting from The Company.  She ended up getting detained in Germany, nearly missed her flight to the States,  and couldn’t come back to Finland until her permit arrived.

Oh, and the elections are over!  Yay!  It was hard enough to get through here, I don’t know how crazy we would have been if we were back home!  We were saved from the plenitude of political ads, the robocalls, the 24hour news cycle for the weeks leading up to the election.  We both voted absentee without a problem, and I woke up Wednesday morning, checked the news, and knew who won.  Can’t get much better than that!  Although, we still had to deal with the sometimes nasty diatribes on Facebook…

Categories: Finland, Random | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments


I have two main blogs – this one, about my life, the things going on in my life, and the fun things I do; and the one I call “my writing blog.”  With dreams of being a published writer, I felt it was important to start blogging as a writer, connecting with other writer-bloggers, as well as agent-bloggers.  Knowing, or I guess more hoping, that my name would one day be known to people who read my books, who would also read my blog, I started blogging at

At the same time, I had a life, a life removed from writing.  I wanted a little more anonymity in my life than my writing blog allowed.  And I figured that while some people would be interested in both my writing life and my non-writing life, most wouldn’t be.  Blogging is all about niche, right?  You must have a niche.  My writing blog was obviously in the writing niche.  My life blog was in the me niche.

But I’ve been absolutely awful at keeping up with blogging.  I have dry spells in blogging, like I’m sure everyone does.  I sometimes have ideas that I think should be cross-posted.  I sometimes have ideas that don’t really fit either.  I’m often so frozen with indecision that I do nothing.  That’s usually when I have a blog lapse.

So when I saw this blog post by Kristen Lamb, I thought a lot about it.  The part that really struck me was, it’s the “interests other than writing that are going to connect with readers.”  She goes on to say, “Readers don’t give a flying squirrel’s butt about three-act structure, Create Space, or the future of publishing…”

Well, duh.  No really, DUH!  She’s exactly right!  I was using my “writing blog” only to connect with other writers, not to connect with future readers.  So, then, what’s the point?

There is no point, obviously.  My friends and family, who I primarily write my “life” blog for (although I love anyone who stops in!) will probably also read my “writing” blog.  Very possibly, people who stop into one blog will be interested in the other.  Not every post, of course, but some.

I cook.  I sew.  I travel.  I write.  I take photos.  I’m an American ex-pat.  I’m interested in the world around me.  I try to embrace life.  And I’m often inspired.  If any of these interest you, please check back for more.  🙂

I’ve migrated my blog posts over with the original date stamp.  If you’re interested in reading these, choose the “Sara Johnson” category over on the right. →

If you subscribe to my blog and got hit with a ton of new blog posts, I’m sorry about that!

Categories: Random, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Toning up your writing

“Is your writing flabby or fit?”  That’s the question The Writer’s Diet asks, and it gives you immediate feedback on your writing, showing you where you have excessive verbs, prepositions, and adverbs (among other things).

I found The Writer’s Diet via MetaFilter, one of my all time favorite websites.  I’ve been introduced to hundreds of news stories, photographers, artists, singers, ideas, and interesting individuals I would never have discovered otherwise.  This is just the latest.  From the metafilter post:  “The WritersDiet Test, created by Dr. Helen Sword, allows you to enter a writing sample of 100 to 1000 words and have it graded from “lean” to “heart attack” on its level of excess verbiage.”  Well, of course I wanted to find out where my writing fell.

Since I wasn’t on the computer with my current WIP, I entered in the text of one of my more storytelling posts on my other blog, Blessed by Holy Water in Tallinn.  The results?  My overall score was “Fit and Trim,” with everything except the verbs coming in at lean.  My verbs, though, evidently need toning.  The site also highlights each of the instances within your text, so you can see where you might look into editing your content.  I can see each and every instance I used be, is, are, were, am, and was.  Very interesting, indeed.  You can also download a full diagnosis, which includes suggestions for improvement.

I definitely wanted to see what came up with my current WIP, so I switched computers and copied in the first chapter.  My results:

My current WIP is lean, baby!!

So what about this post?  “Fit and Trim,” although my verbs still need toning (but, it counted the 6 instances I used it in the paragraph above as examples, so I think I should get a break on that!).

Try out The Writer’s Diet and let me know what you think of the site.  Do you think it’s useful?  Where did your writing sample fall on the health chart?

Categories: On Writing, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Blogroll Call

In case you didn’t notice, I finally added some blogs to my blogroll.  See, look there, over to the right.  Check ’em out.

The Expat Life and arrival gate are both by other American women here in Rauma whose husbands work at OL3.  We’re quite literally all in the same boat.  Check out Pam’s post on getting stuck in the snow and Allison’s post on things she’s learned so far, then stick around to read more!

There are tons of ex-pats here in Finland blogging about their experience, people from Australia and the States and the UK and more.  I’ve also discovered other great blogs about Finland, and a few great ex-pat blogs outside of Finland.  A few of my favorite posts include:

There’s more over there, you can see.  They’re there for a reason.  Check them out and enjoy!  And if you want to find ex-pat blogs for other countries, check out expat blog.  It’s a great way to learn about different cultures and travel experiences!

(A little note to anyone who blogs on Blogger – there’s a reason I don’t comment on your blogs.  I can’t seem to ever do it.  Every time I write a comment on Blogger, it either won’t let me post it or it completely erases the whole thing.  So I don’t even try.  Doesn’t mean I don’t read your blog, though!)

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Random thoughts from Finland v. 4

As mentioned in my last post, my brain is running a hundred miles kilometers a minute, yet refuses to function.  So what better time for a bulleted list?  🙂

  • Open windows means things flying through them.  I was really hoping we would be high enough (6th floor) for there to be minimal flies, gnats, etc, but I guess not.  I found a trick online for a sort of “fly trap,” which I will try this weekend, but I doubt that will help with the *ginormous* bee that flew through the window this morning.  I jumped up, called Stephen, and stood outside the room, ready to run, while he dealt with it.
  • Speaking of which, Stephen is home today because it’s a holiday here in Finland – Ascension Day.
  • We made pancakes this morning, using a mix I picked up in the store.  It…wasn’t quite right.  Kind of sweet.  And the maple syrup was…wow.  Sweet.  Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever really liked pure maple syrup, I just never realized it until now.  Anyway, I used some Buckwheat Honey I picked up at a local honey place, instead of syrup, and it was wonderful.  I’ll attempt to make pancakes from scratch next time, though, and see how it goes…
  • I keep noticing things that are really stupid of me to notice.  Like, “Oh, look, there are ants here, too.”  Or “Oh, look, eight year old Finnish boys like to poke things with sticks, too.”  Well, of course.  I don’t know why these things surprise me.  It’s the complete lack of expectation, I think – having no idea what to expect means that everything is a surprise.  Even the things that should be relatively obvious.  Like, yes, people here get their hair cut, too, dummy!  (That wasn’t a surprise, btw, just an example of how stupid some of my observations are.)
  • We recently found out that we have two addresses.  Here’s what happened:  We registered with the city, and on the paperwork I noticed that they had our address wrong.  I had two thoughts:  (a) Is my handwriting that bad that they thought the 4 was a 1? and (b) Great, now I have to go back down there and get it sorted out.  But then I remembered that our building, situated on a corner, actually has two numbers on it, and it finally dawned on me that we actually have two addresses – 1 Street A and 4 Street B.  I don’t know that one is better than the other, but we’ve gotten mail at both, so I don’t guess it matters.

Goal for the next week:  blog posts about: a pile of rocks; a visit to Tampere; cooking and grocery store shopping in a foreign language; and The Joys of Learning Finnish!  Another goal:  getting my blogroll set up.  So many blogs to link to, and I’m a very bad person for not doing so before now…

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spring Fever has infected my brain…

…and not necessarily in a good way.

It has been absolutely beautiful here in Western Finland, for the most part, for several weeks now.  Temps up to and into the 50s, sunny skies (and some rainy one), windows flung wide open and looking for patio furniture weather.  We’ve been getting about 17 hours of daylight – the sun sets somewhere around 10pm, I think, and rises about 5am.  Flowers are blooming, trees are fuller, and things closed in the winter are opening back up.

And, in the last few weeks, I haven’t been able to concentrate for shit.  My brain has pretty much refused to stay focused on one thing for any length of time.  Is there such a thing as Seasonal Attention Deficit Disorder?  Perhaps that’s the spring/summer version of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I should be working on planning our trip to France at the end of the month.  But instead, I’m daydreaming about where we should go for Christmas.  I should be writing like crazy, finishing one of my manuscripts.  Instead, I blink at the screen.  I should be blogging, telling you all about the last couple of local trips I’ve taken, how things are going, what’s been happening lately.  Instead, I can’t seem to force myself to sit down long enough to form sentences and paragraphs, let alone upload photos.  I should be hemming my curtains with my new sewing machine.  Instead, I’m looking for charities I can do crafts for.

I feel very…antsy.  Restless.  Edgy.  Full on case of Monkey Mind.  Brain won’t function, but won’t turn off, either.  How exactly does that work?  I have a hundred things on my to-do list, but spend more time trying to decide what’s more important than doing any of them.  And then I log onto Pinterest, because it’s the ultimate procrastination tool.  It allows me to add even more things onto my to-do list…

As much as I can’t seem to sit still, I’ve also been a bit of a homebody lately.  I don’t really want to go out, but at the same time, I desperately want to go out and enjoy the beautiful weather.  I think it’s more the human interaction portion of going out that I’m shying away from, for whatever reason.  Maybe because I have enough noise in my head right now.

But there’s only so much exploring I can do.  I’ve walked through all the areas nearby, and yesterday walked about 4 miles to a new area.  I’m now at the point where I’ve seen everything there is to see, on foot.  A month ago I was still undecided about getting a bike – now I’m chomping at the bit to have one.  It signifies freedom.  I feel like a teenager trying to get her drivers license.  That little piece of plastic once signified independence – when’s the last time you had that feeling?  I guess I should be grateful, then, for the reminder.  But until I actually get the bike, I’m still on a leash the length of my walking endurance.

I’m hoping the bike, the ability to explore, to be free, will cure this frantic race through imaginary quicksand.  I need less thinking, more doing.

And then, although I spend half an hour on it, I am unable to upload a photo, and I am ready to throw the computer out the window.  See – when I finally get around to a blog post, the internet-verse is against me, and tries to tell me I shouldn’t have bothered in the first place….grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Embrace Life. Be Inspired. In Finland.

I have been desperately trying to figure out my blogging life.  Do I want a blog for me and a blog about my life in Finland?  Or do I just want to do it all on one?  What about a photo blog?  Do I want to do a separate one, or do it on here?  People who come here because it’s me won’t care, but what about the people who come here because it’s Finland?  And what about the ones who come here because of the photography?  Neither one of those groups cares about anything else, right?  And what about when I’m no longer in Finland?  I want a blog to last a lifetime, not have to start another one in a couple of years.

After much consideration, I think this blog will live beyond Finland…just with a different name.  Now, it’s “Embrace life.  Be inspired.  In Finland.”  But maybe in a few years, it will be “In England.”  Or “In Paris.”  Or maybe it won’t have a location.  Maybe it will just be.

Maybe.  I’m the master of indecision.

Categories: Random | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Embrace Life. Be Inspired.

It started with a trip to Michael’s in August 2010.  Idly wandering through the aisles, I came across the clearance section in the bead aisle.  I saw three rings – spacers, actually – for next to nothing.  One said “Embrace Life.”  One said “Be Inspired.”  The third said “Live With Passion.”

I picked them up and thought I could wear them as rings.  But three didn’t quite fit on my finger, so I chose my two favorites (the third went to my friend geauxgirl).  On a date one night, less than a week after I got them, my date asked what they said.

“One says Embrace Life, the other says Be Inspired.”

“Which one is more important?” he asked.

I considered it.  “Both are important.  You have to embrace life, and you have to be inspired.”  I paused, thinking.  “You can’t be inspired without embracing life.  But I suppose you could embrace life without being inspired.  So I guess that’s more important.”

“Then you should wear that on the bottom, and the other on the top.  The most important thing should be closest to your heart.”

I wore those rings almost every day.  I looked down at them often, turning the rings around on my finger, playing with them, unconsciously repeating the words over and over again in my head.

Embrace life.  Be inspired.

Words to live by.

And the perfect title for my new blog.

Categories: Random | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

5 Things I wish I had more time for

  1. Working out
  2. Writing
  3. Reading
  4. Crafting
  5. Blogging

Everyone knows that you should get some exercise every day, but finding time to do it is difficult.  That’s one of the issues every contestant on The Biggest Loser complains about.  What time do you cut into to make the time?  Time with the family?  Work?  Sleep?  There is only a finite amount of time in each day.

I do pretty well with daily exercise, and sometimes I even work out twice a day.  But I rarely read daily, or craft daily, and I sure don’t blog daily (my last blog was…2 weeks ago?!)

I should write daily.  Every piece of writing advice says this.  But I don’t.  Actually, right now, I can’t remember the last time I wrote something creative.  Within the last two weeks, certainly, but within the last week?  I don’t think so.

I recently thought, you know, I want to do each of these things daily.  Surely there’s time for that somewhere, right?

But where?

Where does my time go, and when can I carve out some time to do the things I’m supposed to do?  Maybe if I stopped showering, or cut my sleeping down to four hours a night, maybe then I’d have time.  A teleporting device would sure come in handy, I could easily get an extra 3-4 hours a week by not having to drive. 

What’s sad is, I don’t even have kids I can blame it on.  I can’t say, “I have to pick the kids up from soccer practice, make them a snack, help them with their homework, get them bathed and put to bed.”

So how is it they can do it, and I can’t?

Is it that I have to choose?  I only get one thing of those five?  Then what’s it to be?  Write?  Or work out?  Read, or blog?

I don’t want to choose – I want to do it all.

Categories: Five Things Friday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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