The Art of Taking Tiny Trips

In the past couple of months my husband and I have taken a few small trips to places in the PNW. We don’t have the time off or money to do big travel right now, but we both have the urge to explore. Our solution is to do small getaways, long weekends here and there, to places within a few hours’ drive of where we live.

We recently explored northwest Washington State, around the Bellingham area and part of the Oregon Coast. Both trips were memorable and unique, but also different from one another.

Bellingham’s downtown area had loads of craft breweries, more than we could try out on this visit. I adored the downtown area, with its little, quirky shops, breweries, co-ops and restaurants. We went into Bellingham for a single day trip as we were staying just north in Blaine.

Blaine is a quiet, small town situated along Birch Bay, which boasts spectacular views of the North Cascades and Canada. While in Blaine we ventured out to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest area. I’ve never had the urge to take up skiing, but after spending an afternoon in the snowy forest and gazing up at the Mt. Baker peak, I could see myself giving it a try!

While northern Washington provided the perfect winter wonderland escape, the Oregon Coast wowed us with its ethereal beauty and sweeping views. Seaside is a cute coastal town with plenty of ocean side resorts and most of the town is walkable. We walked to restaurants, the grocery store, the town library and we might have made the justification that walking to get ice cream made it a slightly healthier treat.

Cannon Beach is the next town over from Seaside, and we made the drive over one day (it was the only day we used our car!) to walk along the beach and take a peek at Haystack Rock. We also visited Ecola State Park while we were in Cannon Beach. The park offers amazing views of the stunning Oregon Coast as well as a lighthouse and some hiking trails.

Who knows where our wanderlust will lead us, but I am sure wherever we adventure next, I’ll have pictures to show and words to share.

With summer coming up, do you have any travel plans? I’d love to hear from you! Leave me a comment telling me where you’re headed in the coming months.

*The pictures featured in this post were taken by my husband.


Building a Network

A couple weeks ago I attended a job search and networking event at Seattle’s University of Washington campus. The event was put on by UW’s professional and continuing education department and included a stellar guest speaker lineup.

The focus of the talk was on the unique facets of the Seattle job market (it’s a hot, but competitive market) and how to network to get a job (use your contacts, talk to pretty much everyone you interact with). I attended the event because I plan on enrolling in a continuing education certificate program this fall and because I’m currently looking to grow my skills, add to my portfolio, and hopefully, find a job in my field that is the right fit.

I met a few people at the event and have connected with them on LinkedIn. My hope is to keep growing my network, not just to have a certain “magic” number of people I’m connected to, but to make new acquaintances, and forge new relationships.

I’m also hopeful that with more eyes on my online presence, I can continue in the direction I want to grow into, which is turning these things I’m passionate about, writing, social media and graphic design, into a career.  I even had smart, chic business cards made up to help me on this path.

Are you currently in the midst of a job search? Perhaps you’ve made a recent successful career change or you’re a master networker. Got tips, questions or advice for me or my readers?

I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment here on the blog and share your thoughts.

A Museum Exhibit for the Young at Heart

I recently visited the Toytopia exhibit at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. I’d spied the flyer for the exhibit and thought it looked fun; the Mr. Potato Head and Rubik’s Cube on the promotional material inspired  nostalgia for some of my long forgotten childhood play items.

On the flip side, it also made me feel ancient. Toys I grew up playing with were going to be on display in a museum. I mean, isn’t that a huge red flag that I’m old now?

My husband drooled over the Star Wars memorabilia.

Thanks to my local library, I was able to snag a free pass to the museum, so my husband and I went, not sure what to expect.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how, well, young the exhibit made me feel. I wasn’t expecting there to be so many toys to actually play with, from a big lite brite, to classic arcade games like Ms. Pac-Man, Legos and an Etch-A-Sketch or two. Also, there’s a huge dollhouse that made me squee with delight as I walked through it.

My hubby loves video games. He could’ve stayed for hours.

Oh, and did I mention the Zoltar fortune-telling machine and giant keyboard you can play with your feet? Both are replicas of items from the 80s classic movie Big and I only wish I was talented enough to tap out Heart and Soul a la Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia.


I can’t play piano with my hands. I discovered I’m no better at playing keyboard with my feet.

If you’re in the area, I highly recommend taking in the exhibit, it’s lighthearted fun sure to make you reminisce. According to the history museum’s website, the exhibit runs through June 10.

The Benefits of Deep Work

I recently finished the audio book Deep Work, by Cal Newport. I’ve made one of my 2018 goals to increase my professional development. One cheap, even free way, thanks to the library and the internet, is by reading/listening to books, podcasts, YouTube videos and TED talks.

The book by Cal Newport was helpful, particularly because it wasn’t focused on one specific field or profession. Everyone, from students to professionals, can benefit from the tips in Deep Work.

Basically, Newport argues that deep work is valuable, because it’s rare. Deep work is focused, and that is sought after in our world. People have more demands on their time now, and are becoming more distracted.

Although I’m drawn to the theme of the book, staying focused in our digital and distracted world, I was skeptical about how much I could gain from it. A supporter of “shutting down” from technology at a set time each day as a way of avoiding unnecessary distractions, Newport doesn’t read emails after he leaves work. He doesn’t continue to engage in work behaviors once his work day has ended. One way he claims he’s able to do this is by not having an online presence. In fact, he’s never had a social media account, ever.

As a communication major and someone who has worked in social media and digital marketing, the idea that Newport might want me to delete my online presence in order to get to the deep work had me jittery. Thankfully, Newport doesn’t advocate that the only way to produce deep work is to get rid of social media. The idea of deep work is working without distraction, giving your work your utmost focus. Newport argues, persuasively and truthfully, that it’s getting harder and harder to work distraction free  in our multi-tasking, ultra-connected world.

Deep work can’t happen without coffee! Okay, that’s a rule from this java junkie, not Cal Newport.

According to Newport, there are levels to deep work, but I viewed them more like strategies. Some people approach deep work from a Thoreau-writing-Walden-stance, meaning they need to take a period of time and seclude themselves. Of course, taking two or three months off from life, work and responsibilities is not an option for a lot of people, so thankfully, that’s not the only way to produce deep work.

Other people who accomplish deep work may take a more scholarly approach and conduct research then pour themselves into it, while others schedule small blocks of time and stick to a routine. Little did I know until I listened to the book, that I’ve unwittingly been using a deep work approach to my fiction writing for months now.

One tactic is the journalistic approach to deep work. This occurs when someone can take short bursts of time, forty minutes here, an hour there, whatever, and intensely focus. I’ve been doing that with my fiction writing since November. I cram in 1,400 words on my lunch hour. I write 3k in two hours before work at Starbucks.

I value these short bursts of time, and because I know that my time is limited and somewhat precious, I get down to it and zone in on my manuscript. Want to know a secret? Thanks to this focus, this deep work, I’m more productive than I’ve been in years. Maybe ever. I’ve written close to 90k words in four months. And I’ve done it without sacrificing time with my husband, I’ve been able to take a week or two off here and there, spend time with friends and I work 31 hours a week at a day job.

It sounds almost too simple, right? I assure you it’s not too good to be true or too simple. Deep work is a valuable skill and it’s one that’s attainable, it just takes practice and drive to hone it.

I recommend reading or listening to Deep Work by Cal Newport.

I’d love to hear from you! If you have already read it and are reaping the benefits of Deep Work, leave me a comment and share your experiences with me and my readers!

Where to Go from Here

It’s been waaaaay too long since I’ve blogged. I took a seven month hiatus for many reasons. One of the main reasons was that I’d hoped to start freelancing again and well, that hope was dashed by my last freelance project.

I’ve been lucky that I have freelanced since 2010 and have always worked with professionals, received timely payment and have been treated fairly by the organizaton. My last freelance project ended that streak and quite honestly it left a bad taste in my mouth.

I unofficially took 6+ months off to regroup and decide what I wanted to do. With zero desire to pick up freelance writing work, or even to write on my own blog, I’ve remained silent, but I’m finally coming back around.

Long-time blog readers may notice some changes, mainly, I’ve removed my books page and streamlined my site.

This move was intentional and the long story is I’ve done so for numerous reasons, the biggest of which is that I’m heading in a different direction with my writing. I plan to explore a couple of romance subgenres and as such have decided the smartest way to do so is through pen names. I won’t mention those pen names here at this time, and maybe not ever. Just know, I am still writing, even though I’m not sharing as much.

Which brings me to the subject of my post-where to go from here?

I plan to use my blog in some of the ways I have in the past, to keep my writing chops relevant, I really do love blogging. And to also chronicle certain aspects of my life, such as my interest in minimalism and simple living, my bookworm-ish tendencies and my love of the great outdoors.

I have a lot of changes coming up this year, so I may post less frequently, but I don’t expect that to become the norm.

Shades of Lavender

Over the weekend I visited a lavender farm near Lacey, Washington. I’m a huge lavender fan, but oddly enough I’d never visited a lavender farm before, although I’d wanted to for quite some time.


I hope you enjoy the photos I took while at Evergreen Valley Lavender Farm   this weekend, and if you’re in the Lacey area, stop by the farm and visit for yourself.


Freelance Article for Boating Times Pacific Northwest The Fish Peddler Restaurant Review

The Fish Peddler

November 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment

BRETZ NW StewSituated on Tacoma’s Thea Foss waterway, The Fish Peddler serves seafood fare with a Northwest twist. The establishment has an outdoor patio while the indoors is decorated with a cozy nautical theme. The dining area’s wood plank walls and porthole windows add to the maritime effect. In addition to being a restaurant, there’s also a retail fresh fish and seafood market.

I dined on their seafood pasta.  It is packed with salmon, scallops, and prawns, tossed in a delectable white sauce and served over fettuccine. The pasta is a generous portion and is served with grilled garlic bread.

We also ordered the Northwest seafood stew. It comes loaded with Dungeness crab, red crab, salmon, mussels, clams, calamari, and bay shrimp in a flavorful tomato broth. It is served in a huge bowl, with grilled garlic bread too — perfect for sopping up the remaining broth.

Other items on the menu include a choice of grilled salmon, steelhead or walleye, served with seasonal vegetables and mashed potatoes and fish and chips. There’s also bacon-wrapped meatloaf, flat iron steak, and chicken to choose from.

For those with dietary restrictions, the eatery can make accommodations for vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free diners upon request. The peddler salad and the tempura fried green beans are great choices. BRETZ Seafood Pasta

The bar menu is unique and perfect no matter the season. In the winter try the warm cocktails such as the hot buttered rum or the Irish coffee.  You can also try the apple pie cocktail.

Be sure to save some room because the sweet treats at The Fish Peddler include decadent chocolate lava cake, bread pudding or a root beer float, all of which are amazing.

The eatery is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. There is a dock on the waterway, on the back side of the eatery, with two spaces available on a first come, first served basis. Docking is free for restaurant patrons.

The Fish Peddler
1199 Dock Street
Tacoma, Washington

Review and photos by Amanda Bretz