From Then to Now. A Fresh Start. A New Direction.
The Fresh Exchange began in 2010. That year I graduated college, I got engaged, and I started my freelance career back home in Northern Michigan. A year later, I married my best friend and we pursued our dreams side-by-side. Through our 20’s we always took the approach to keep going, keep striving, keep hustling, and keep trying it all. We spent those years from 22 – 28 pursuing it all at a breakneck pace. By the time we hit the end of our 20’s I knew it was time to get real about my dreams, my passions, and what I saw for our life when I closed my eyes each night. I have never been someone who works for anything other than creativity, happiness, and a life of freedom. So I set out a few years ago trying desperately to recognize what made me who I am and what didn’t. During these last two years, while making sense of the desires of my heart and soul, I also have been trying to make sense of how The Fresh Exchange aligns with it all. I will be the first to admit that we have taken steps with our business in directions we unknowingly chose because they fit a box and lacked passion. It is an easy place to find yourself when you work for yourself and want to succeed, but I had vowed to no longer step forward in any direction I didn’t feel my heart was 100% invested. My 30’s are intended to be less about exploring and more about doing what lights me up creatively. So here I am, 7 years into blogging, 5 years into owning a business with my husband, nearly 9 years into being self-employed and I feel I finally found my footing in my path and the direction I am intended to take.
For the past 7-years, the blog has been my constant companion while growing up in my 20’s, becoming a mother, working with my husband, moving, and more. It has been there every step of the way. We have gone through tough moments. The blog and I have had low days. We have had big days that were mountaintop moments. We have felt on top of the world together. We have also wanted to quit one another a few times. Nevertheless, I love The Fresh Exchange because it has never stopped feeling like home. I needed this space to find myself, create without bounds, and to try a lot of things. The beautiful thing about a blog is that it can be whatever we want it to be, but I never could grasp that idea till now. I saw a prescribed path blogs must take and if mine didn’t, how could I ever find success doing this thing I loved. Most of my years blogging I have felt that and it took till now, discovering my purpose and voice, to see the only bounds on a blog are those we create for it ourselves.
Mike told me that 30 was the year you learn to accept who you are in a way you never were able to in your 20’s. He told me you accept the dark places of yourself, the weird things of who you are, and things you need to work on. You find humility. You find comfort. You find ease. You find your place. I felt he was silly because I thought I knew myself, but as I approached my birthday this year, I felt the earth settling under me and as if I was finding comfort with myself for the first time in my life.
It was after a walk this fall with Hayes where I stood there on the shore him asleep on me and the beach vacant around us as it was most fall days. The chatter of the summer on the lakeshore had floated off with the warm air and in that silence I watched the water lapping the shore. I took in the colors erupting all around me. I smelled the wood stoves burning recently chopped wood. On my way back I kept rambling on in my head the feelings of the season as I do. I wrote my thoughts in an Instagram. Later that week, I took a call for a magazine interview and I talked about gathering. I talked about how the changing seasons here are an always present reminder to live in the moment and how gathering is the best way to make the most of the fleeting seasons around us. Then the next day I set up a shop on Canopy and coined the description of my shop “A Curated Collection for Seasonal Living” with no real reason other than I felt it captures what I was curating. All in a few days what I had been searching my heart for was arriving in my lap without me even noticing.
I talked with Mike that evening about how lost I felt and out of touch with the blog and where it was going. In fact, I remember saying, maybe it just isn’t my thing anymore and he grabbed me by the shoulders and said, no you know exactly what you are meant to do and where it needs to go. He rattled off all these moments from the last week and that Friday night with a glass of wine in my hand and tears in my eyes from frustration, I realized just what he meant and how I finally knew exactly what I had been searching for. No number of outlining my brand’s vision or detailing my goals as a company could have defined these things that simply needed time, space, new scenery, and more to reveal itself.
That night, he told me all I needed to do was spend time focusing and dwelling on this direction. So for the last two months now, I have spent every hour I possibly could outside of work and chasing Hayes restructuring The Fresh Exchange. I realized The Fresh Exchange needed to not only continue to follow my passions, but to do it with more intention, purpose, and thought than it ever has before. I took all my skills from working with magazines and brands and applied it here to this space in a way we never have before. I wrote out what I wanted this to be from big dreams to the little things. I wrote phrases as they came to me about how I wanted people to feel every day when they walked away from our content. I wrote about how I wanted this space to be a reflection of the life we love and for others to feel they too can do and feel the same. I gathered up notebooks from the last few years where I jotted down the feelings of what I wanted for the blog and compiled it all in a fresh new notebook, organized an Evernote Notebook, and then designed a multi-page PDF that planned out the next year of content to see if this idea even had any real legs. I read a lot of poems and books. I stopped watching TV and using most social media in order to quiet my mind to only focus on the blog when I wasn’t a mom or wife. I jumped in head first to what I not only have always dreamed TFE would be, but what I have always dreamed our life to be.
I am not sure about you, but I am always able to visually see things before I can explain them, structure them, compile them, or make sense of how they can ever come to be. The last two years my heart has known what this space would be, but making sense of it all felt impossible. I would close my eyes at night and see it night after night. I would be cooking and listening to music on a warm day with the windows open and I could smell it. My heart has always known. It was once I saw the clear vision that night a few months ago, I knew we were fast approaching the time the steps would be taken to begin this new chapter of the blog. Though it all is still very much a work in progress, spring is the time of beginning new so today we are doing just that. Perfection doesn’t happen out of the gate, but it does come with time, practice, and a willingness to fail and try. So, today I am so excited to share with you where my heart and soul have been.
This week, we will be starting a whole new TFE that is going to have more heart, more thought, more food, more gatherings, and more of what deeply inspires us and our lives. This space has my heart. It always will no matter the numbers that show up on an analytics report, but I knew I needed to chase this dream of creating this space the way I have always hoped to. I know this is exactly what I was intended to do and to not chase a dream isn’t something I know how to do.
Beginning March 1st our content will be taking a major shift. We will be focusing on Intentional Seasonal Living. I have always felt most alive living amongst the seasons and as we build our home, our farm, and our lives in Michigan as a family we will be living a life of seasons and intention ourselves. A new journey in many respects, but one we know we have always wanted. I have big dreams for what this all means and it is amazing to look back at your life and see how each step leads you to the place you are meant to be. This may not seem like a far departure from what you know TFE for already, but the focus and purpose here will be far deeper and greater than ever before.
So what can you expect from here on out?
Each season we will release a newsletter that gives you a look at what is ahead for those three months of that season. These emails will hold exclusive content, intros to our contributors we have hand selected, playlists, an upcoming list of what is in store for the season, and more. Each month of each season we will name a theme we will be focusing on that correlates to the season itself. Our recipes will become more abundant and focused on eating with the season, what is fresh, and available from farmers. We will be sharing stories from people who inspire us such as chef’s, artisans, entrepreneurs, and others who are focused on the seasons or our themes each month. Each month will have a dedicated contributor who we hand-select because we believe in what they do (something I have been dreaming of for years).
We also will be focusing more heavily on gatherings. You will see a whole new series begin called “A Seasonal Gathering”. These gatherings will be what you may have known as Simple Evenings before. These dinners will be collaborative, aspirational, and eventually, you will have the opportunity have a seat at them yourself. Don’t worry, though, each month we will be helping you feel inspired to gather all on your own as well, by truly taking our Simple Evenings back to being simple and giving you the tips and tools you need to make them possible for you and those you love. I have struggled for years with how people write to say how beautiful our dinners are or how they wish they could do something similar, so I we not only will be showing simple and approachable takes on gathering each month, but also offering tools, videos, and tips to make these exact gatherings happen for yourself. The hope is that you will feel empowered to gather in the least once a month with those you love without feeling the task is too difficult. I want to continue creating both beautiful gatherings with chefs and farmers, but to empower you to feel beautiful gatherings are possible for the every day or every month occasion. All of this is just scratching the surface of what I have been planning and developing these past few months. I get giddy just talking about it because it is all of my heart and passion put into one place. I hope it will inspire a healthier, more intentional, more meaningful, and communal life for everyone who loyally reads TFE or even spends only a few minutes here.
That said, we hope you sign up for our email list if you haven’t because I am so excited to release tomorrow’s email! The email will reveal more of what we have planned and what is ahead for spring. I feel so thankful for winter this year because it has allowed me time to build this dream and feel confident enough to open it up this week. See you in the newsletter tomorrow, my friends! Be brave enough to do big things.