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Visiting the World with Natalie the Explorer and a Cup of Coffee

Lucky #13 of the Challenge Interview Series

Welcome, Natalie. I’m Marsha Ingrao and this is my blog, Always Write.

I love to spotlight bloggers, especially those who reach out to provide challenges or other ways for bloggers to meet and greet. So grab a cup of coffee and something sweet and let’s greet Natalie the Explorer.

Natalie's cup of coffee
Coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, USA since we’re talking about Weekend Coffee Share from Natalie

I met Natalie recently as she graced the blogosphere. She’s so bright and talented I could post her picture on Becky B’s BrightSquares as one of this month’s posts. Since Natalie is a photographer, I will sprinkle a few of her photos through the post as well as some links to specific posts that I think you’d enjoy visiting.

What prompted you to begin to host Weekend Coffee Share? 

Weekend Coffee Share link-up has been around since 2014 and had four hosts between 2014 and 2020. On January 1, 2021, Alli, at Eclectic Alli blog, decided to step away from hosting the weekly Weekend Coffee Share. I was a participant and volunteered to continue hosting it. I’m the 5th host. Weekend Coffee Share is neither a writing challenge nor a photography challenge. It’s more like a weekly bloggers’ social event.


I love that – a history lesson! Volunteering to host an existing blog a great way to start hosting because you know how it works and can change gradually as you make it yours. The participants already know you, which is a great way to get started. Several of our hosts have started out that way. I included a link to your post this week, which is a wonderful summary of what you did in March. You are so busy!

What is your purpose in hosting the weekly Weekend Coffee Share link-up? 

I hope to provide a friendly virtual place where bloggers meet every weekend to share what’s on, their thoughts and lives. I hope to build a fun, positive, social, and supportive blogging community.


Judging from the many comments you get each day, I think you are accomplishing that purpose magnificently. I counted 38 blog posts linked to a recent Coffee Share, and 122 additional comments. Sprinkled throughout this post, I’m including what a few of her readers had to say about her.

“Hi Natalie – I love how you make the most of things even when in lockdown. Your green photos were lovely and the tulip display sounds amazing – I hope you do a post on them when they are at their most colourful. Glad Spring has arrived and things are warming up for you – it must be lovely to be able to get out and about in the sunshine.”

Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia in March. Photo by Natalie
Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia in March. Photo by Natalie

Oh, those travel photos give me itchy feet! The emerald lakes in Croatia are beautiful! You certainly have had many adventures. I hope you get the chance to share more travel photos before too long. I love the photos of the trees with the arrows. So cool how you did that! Thank you for hosting and thanks for the coffee!


How long have you been doing this? 

Since January 8, 2021. Weekend Coffee Share takes place weekly. The link-up starts at 8 a.m. on Friday and ends at midnight Sunday night, Canadian Eastern Standard Time.


How much time does it take? 

I spend about 3-5 hours on each of the 3 days of the link-up to read 35-45 participants’ blogs and write my comments on their blogs, plus replying to comments on my blog. 

The participants from five continents join at different times from Friday to Sunday so I read a dozen blogs on Friday, another dozen on Saturday, and the remaining on Sunday. Sometimes it takes me into Monday as well.

I also review and approve ping-backs. I oversee the link-up to delete any posts that I deem to be unsuitable for my audience. These may include ads, “drop and run” links, promotions, and any that are offensive in nature, overly political or religious.

I spend another 5-10 minutes to create and verify the InLinkz link and its codes for the next link-up.

I spend several hours to write my weekly blog, select, resize, and upload photos on my blog. I do it in bits and pieces over a few days.  

My guesstimate total is about 20 hours per week for blogging and hosting.


What a thorough answer, Natalie. Your blogging is like the commitment of a part-time job. We can tell that we, your public are the most important part of your blogging effort. You use lots of hastags and links in your posts as well as visiting so many people each week.

Lens Artist, Loving LIfe,Weekly Smile, Wordless Wednesday Ice Festival NYC car.
#IceFest21, #Lens-Artist#Lovin’Life#WeeklySmile#WordlessWednesday. Photo by Natalie

These are genius, Natalie.

Thanks for sharing these precious gems with me on #WordlessWednesday and yes, a very welcome aboard #WW.  

Look forward to witnessing more marvel unfold from your side in the coming weeks.  No pressure though. 

Have a fabulous, restful week ahead.


What steps do you take to get your link-up ready? 

  1. Create and verify the InLinkz link-up code.
  2. Write my blog and add the InLinkz code in my post.
  3. Schedule my blog to go live on Friday at 8 a.m.
  4. Verify my blog and the link-up go live as scheduled.
  5. Once the link-up starts, read other posts, write my comments, and reply to comments on my blog. Also review and approve ping-backs.
  6. During the link-up, monitor and delete any posts that I deem to be unsuitable.
  7. Once the link-up ends, verify it’s closed and review stats. 
  8. Repeat the steps for the next link-up.

No one I have mentioned ever mentioned deleting posts that seem unsuitable. Do you get many of them? I don’t get any that are obnoxious on my blog, but I don’t follow up with commercial blogs that are primarily trying to sell something.

How do you follow up with your participants?

I read their blogs and leave a comment. I reply to comments on my blog. I reciprocate blog visits to bloggers who leave comments on my blog.

When I started hosting Weekend Coffee Share in January 2021, I read all blogs and left a comment on each blog. The first link-up had 25 participants. Subsequent link-ups have had 30-45 participants.

I greatly appreciate my blog readers and their thoughtful comments, as well as all Weekend Coffee Share participants.

Toronto, Canada COVID sign "Stay 3 geese lengths apart."
Sign from Natalie’s post, “A Year Later.”

Natalie, a beautiful reflective post of the last year! It’s lovely that the weather has brightened for you and you can go out to enjoy some of it. The goose social distancing sigh is sweet and a welcome change from the usual ones! Here we are still in deep lockdown apart from schools going back this week … see how that goes. Exciting news for me today is my first vaccine (owing to health conditions), second one in three months time. It does feel more hopeful. The biggest change I’ve noticed is the fantastically improved air quality, wildlife flourishing and deer in main roads is now a common (and dangerous) sight! Here’s to a good spring and summer full of travels and seeing family! Xx 


How did you attract people to participate? How do people usually find out about your link-up?

When I started hosting it in January 2021, there were about 12 regular participants. I have blogger friends outside of the Weekend Coffee Share link-up. I invited them to join and some have. 

I also participate in other challenges or link-ups where I read and leave comments on other blogs. As my blog readership grows, more bloggers join Weekend Coffee Share.


I have seen links on many people’s blogs. As a part of the interview series, I have met the most interesting people. My goal is to keep in touch on a regular basis with each interviewee’s blog. I’m impressed with how you have done that through your Weekend Coffee Share.

Are you a part of a group on social media that picks up your challenge and promotes it? Is your challenge like a club where you put a widget on your website or embed something on your post? What about a Facebook Group or Page, or a group in other social media?

I have a page and a link on my blog to explain how to join Weekend Coffee Share. I haven’t used Facebook or any other social media to promote it. I don’t have a fixed badge or widget on my blog.

Jardin Majorelle in Marrakesh. Photo by Natalie
Jardin Majorelle in Marrakesh. Photo by Natalie

I have not been to Morocco or any country in Africa, so I really appreciate seeing the pictures you have shared. It looks like a fascinating place to visit. The doors are huge and so meticulously detailed, I can’t imagine building them in the time in which they built. Thanks for linking to Thursday Doors, Natalie, this was an interesting, educational and fun post.


It doesn’t sound like you need to promote your posts on social media or have a widget on your blog. You do the most important thing. You connect with people one by one on a personal level. If you expanded beyond the participants you have now, you’d have a full time job!

What do you do with the entries? Do you post or promote the results or links anywhere? 

I use the free InLinkz plan to display all entries on one dashboard. All Weekend Coffee Share participants can see the results and the links in the dashboard. 

Snow on evergreen trees and the ground in Toronto, Canada Photo by Natalie.
Snow on evergreen trees and the ground in Toronto, Canada Photo by Natalie. Coffee ShareGratitudeMonthly reviewPhoto ChallengeTrying new things

I like the idea of thinking of the “gifts” a month gave you. Very positive! February gave us several days where while it was still cold, there was sun and not too much wind, and we could take a walk outside! Thanks for your post, and enjoy your day!


Well said, Betty and all of you. I hope you enjoyed this short trip into Natalie’s blog. Enjoy a few more of her amazing pictures to exotic places.

Natalie’s Bio

Natalie the Explorer headshot

Natalie is the author of Natalie the Explorer blog, from Ontario, Canada. She writes about the steps she takes to live a healthy and enriched life. 

She currently hosts a weekly Weekend Coffee Share blog link-up. It runs from 8 a.m. on Friday to midnight on Sunday night Toronto time. Everyone is welcome to join in any and every week. Her favourite part of blogging is the interaction and connection with others. She would love to hear from you. You can connect with her in the Comment section below, or via her blog:

Thank you, Natalie for agreeing to this interview. You are one of those wonderful people who make blogging so enjoyable.

Did you love this interview? I sure did. I’ve made a new friend and I feel just like Mr. Rogers must have. Denyse Whelan shared a different interview with Natalie on her site as a Woman of Courage. It is a short, easy-to-read post, and well worth the read.

If you know someone who hosts a challenge you love, someone who participates in a lot of challenges, or whose blog you enjoy, I’d love to interview them. Contact me through my contact page.

A Few Little Plugs

Here’s a BRIGHT idea. It’s not too late to link a #BrightSquare post or Natalie’s

If you’re good at using quotes with your #BrightSquares, Cee Neuner’s Challenges link up one or two of them with Wednesday’s Quotes on the topic of Fitness, Health, and Wellness. You can combine challenges and post any time until next Tuesday.

April’s STORY CHAT with the Twilight-Zone-like story, Miniature Planet is up and going like a Chatty Cathy doll (do I date myself?) Stop by, enjoy some of Natalie’s coffee, a beignet, and chat.

94 replies »

  1. Thank you for sharing an interesting post, Marsha. I have been off the grid for awhile and I enjoy reading and catching up. Natalie has always been one of my favourite bloggers. It is interesting to learn more about her. Natalie’s work ethic and integrity is admirable. She does a wonderful job with the Coffee Share. I periodically visit the Coffee Share on the weeks I know I can commit to reading and responding to everyone’s post. I appreciate the inclusive, kind and wonderful vibe. Thank you for a wonderful interview, Marsha. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Erica. I wondered what was going on. I’ve been so busy the past few weeks that I haven’t had a chance to sit down and do intentional blog visitations. After several months of no interviews, I’ve had three in the last three or four weeks as well as Becky’s BrightSquare challenge, hosting Sunday Stills for three weeks, and my other two regular posts per week. I have loved it, getting to know lots of people, but I am anxious to catch back up with all my friends. 🙂 I hope you are doing well. Are you back on the grid now, or just easing into it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are also an exceptionally organized, inclusive and kind blogger, Marsha. And, you do it all so well! I am a mixed bag of life right now. Always staying grateful and counting my blessings.🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you for the wonderful compliment, Erica/Erika. I derive a lot of pleasure in doing interviews, Story Chat and participating in Challenges these days. I spent an inordinate amount of time learning the blogging and writing ropes from the “pros.” I am grateful, too, having survived two years post cancer, and staying healthy. My family has been healthy, too, so I’m triply blessed!

          Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Erica/ Erika, for your kind words. After I answered Marsha’s interview questions and realized how much time I was spending on blogging and hosting every week, I made changes to my blogging habit and reduced the time I spend on blogging. Kind of like blogging smarter, not harder, and continue to enjoy the blogging connections 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • Gosh, I’m amazed that came out of that effort, Natalie. I’m glad. You are a super hard worker, and there is nothing wrong with that unless your life gets out of balance.


        • That’s a great book title! We should all contribute to it. That’s one of the biggest reasons for blogging burnout. I looked through my old posts last night from 2012 trying to find a specific friend. Most of the people who liked my posts no longer blog.

          Liked by 1 person

          • You are absolutely right, Marsha! This would be a great collaboration of effort and gems. I am like everyone else and I get overwhelmed with the time commitment. The main reason I usually do not link up is because I feel it is kind and the right thing to then visit everyones’s blog, read and comment. I look at it as visiting each other’s homes. We would communicate with each other. Not, just sit quietly on the couch staring at each other. Blogging friendship is a mutual relationship, as you know well, Marsha. ❤️

            Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, it is. I am also part of a small weekly zoom group, which is fun and helpful. We are from all over – Eastern Canada, FL, AZ, OR, CA, and WA.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Erica and Marsha, My 5th year blogging anniversary is coming up in October. I’ve jotted down my random thoughts for a post titled “Blogging smarter, not harder…”. I need to get myself organized before reaching out to other bloggers like both of you to collaborate. The time issue and how to manage blogging in general and blogging burnout have been discussed and written by bloggers before. I want to hopefully share a post that offers something new and useful without just repeating what’s already talked about.

          Liked by 2 people

          • I was kicking out some thoughts to Marsha, since we were on a roll 🙂 I don’t know whether you need/want to add anything more to your plate, Natalie. You are already a busy woman. Just fun to think about ideas. I have told you many times, and you know I mean it, you are an inspiration! ❤️

            Liked by 2 people

          • I think we were both kicking out thoughts, Erica/Erika. It is something to think about. I agree with Natalie that if we did something like that – even a short book, would have to offer something unique and helpful. I think since blogging has changed so much – even for those of us who don’t make a living from it, it has become much more professional and polished. The updated blog serves a purpose above sharing our own stories and provides real support to others. I think it is worth thinking about. I would bring in a few more people to help with writing, so that it is not onerous and so that is is the same collaborative effort that smart blogging has become. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  2. LOVED this insightful interview. I had no idea how much time and thoughtful energy went into hosting a weekly blog host event. Natalie does an excellent job of making us all feel welcome and heard. I have met several online friends by participating in these Weekend Coffee Share events.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good day Marsha. I don’t think we’ve met, but the gray matter I used to trust so dearly is getting less dependable so forgive me if I’m incorrect. I’ve been part of the weekend coffee share for about 3 years and have missed very few of these weekend virtual meetings. Because you seem to be interested is such things, let me share something you might enjoy.

    I decided early on not to loose the path back to any of the shares” and have them cataloged from within each of my essays for a given weekend.

    It’s really simple to find your way through the full list (of ones I’ve been part of). Right after creating the page that will become my share, I update a link at the top of my page that points back to the full list – capturing the way back for later use. Then I have a simple menu on my story blog about the coffee shares and one of the links there goes to a single page that lists and links to all my shares. You could go to my blog, click on that menu and then on the full list and scroll down as far back in history as you care to and find some neat treasures. All my shares are named with the date built into the essay title.

    Natalie has done a great job of transitioning the weekend get-together from Alli to her care. She has expanded and changed to tone some, but I like the results and have met a lot of great other bloggers, who I hope soon turn into friends.

    I sense that my blog is different from many in that I use mine almost strictly as a museum of sorts where I create and collect types of stories. I have a large collection of entertaining autobiographical stories, a growing list of fiction and only a few non-fiction (so far). I love writing and entertaining and educating others. As much as I’d love to “Publish” my work and appreciate the comments of others who have told me I need to do so, I’ve never seen a successful path to doing it, so, I just create and share for the fun of it.

    I hope you become a frequent visitor to our group and bring some of the wealth of your writing experience to share each week. I’m pretty confident that you will always be warmly welcomed.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Gary, I don’t think we’ve met, unless you live in Visalia in Central California. I knew a Gary Wilson there. I like your organization, and I’m going to stop by right now and check it out. Thanks for the lovely comment. You might also be interested in my Story Chat Challenge in which I host an author a month. Here is a link to April’s short story. I accept unpublished short stories. Once they are published here, you are free to do whatever you want with them. 🙂


    • If you have a Twitter or some other social media, you can publish this page. Otherwise, it doesn’t get publicity. But it does make it easier for you to sent people a link to a specific post. That’s what I did with my own challenges. I haven’t figured a way to do it easily with all the different Photo challenges I enter. I also don’t want to clutter up my menu bar. Yours is perfect, but if I get too many more, it will look cluttered. 🙂


    • Gary, I’m glad to hear you like the results and have met a lot of great other bloggers since I’ve started hosting Weekend Coffee Share. Thank you for your continuing participation in the weekly link-up.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Such an interesting post which gives us an insight to what’s involved Marsha! Natalie is amazing for her thoughtful and interesting posts and then her just as thoughtful comments on other people’s blogs. I am in awe of her commitment. I love being a part of these linkups. #weekendcoffeeshare

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great interview! Although I’ve never participated in a Coffee Share, I enjoy reading what others write. Natalie has always impressed me with all of her activities… how she found time to also host a “challenge” is beyond me. But, I’m so, so grateful for her and others who do (especially after reading her list of all that it entails). Blogging is all about sharing and getting to know a little about each others worlds.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Marsha, I enjoyed this post. Natalie was one of the first bloggers I found when I started blogging. I think I connected with her through a link-up that no longer exists (#MLST). Participating in the weekend coffee share has given me a whole new group to connect with. I enjoy Natalie’s pictures and background information, as well as her very intentional routine of exercise, and different sports practices. Thanks for featuring her in this blog. Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles


    • Hi Michelle Sommerville, the Beach Girl Chronicles. That you for that lovely response. I love Natalie’s energy and her bright, positive personality. I haven’t heard of the #MSLT. Challenges come and go as do groups. As you can tell from Natalie’s post, it’s a lot of work to keep up a group. Which beach are you on? Beaches are my favorite places, although I live in the mountains – which are my second favorite. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Marsha, I am from Onset, Massachusetts, so Onset Beach, but I live in he mountains too, in North Central PA. My blog is mostly memoir, about growing up in a beach town near Cape Cod in the 1960’s,but other parts of my life also fit in the memoir category.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sounds interesting. I’ll be spending some quality time reading blogs in the next couple of days. I’m behind, and since it’s almost tomorrow here, I’m going to bed. See you tomorrow. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

    • Michele, I’m so happy to hear Weekend Coffee Share has given you a whole new group to connect with and you enjoy reading my blog. Thank you for your participation and for commenting on this interview.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Marsha, this is a wonderful post featuring Natalie! Wow! I had no idea of all the work involved with the Weekend Coffee Share and with up to forty posts to link every week it is phenomenal!

    Congratulations to Natalie on continuing the success of this regular get together, a fantastic feat! The global reach of the weekly event is amazing and as a regular visitor (thank you for including one of my comments – are they always that long!? 😀😀) it means a lot to me to see other parts of the world I haven’t yet visited, meeting people from all walks of life! As Betty says in her comment, the posts are indeed ‘gifts’!

    Here’s to sharing the gift of our lives, travels and joys on Weekend Coffee Shade. Only one problem, I don’t drink coffee … does tea count? 😀😀 xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Christina, for your kind words and for participating in my link-up. I’m glad you love it! It’s a fun place to “meet” virtually and hear from blogger friends all over the world every weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Yes. Today I am wonderwoman. We went on an 11.2 mile e-bike ride, and I got my bike up to 17.5 MPH pedaling like a crazy woman. Then at 3:00 we went to the gym and lifted a few weights. Finally, tonight I took the dog for a nice long walk. I walked nearly 12,000 steps today. Yay! I’m trying to lose 7 pounds this month, and so far I’m at a net gain of 1 pound.

          Liked by 2 people

          • I finished high school, went to college, and worked in Portland, then married a man originally from Seattle. We moved to Cottage Grove where we lived for several years, all the while traveling back and forth to Portland and Seattle to visit family. My brother still lives in Portland. My husband and his family are all gone now, so I never get back to Seattle. But I love the Northwest. I will become a regular visitor of your blog if for no other excuse that to get my PNW fix! I know I will have many more reasons to get better acquainted, though. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  8. A lovely interview. I admire people who want to host blog challenges even though I no longer do them. Also, thanks to Natalie, I now know about Marsha and this new-to-me blog. Hi! I’m Ally.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s Friday evening here in Australia and after linking up to Natalie’s blog, and commenting (because I never link and run!) I popped over to read this. Thank you Marsha for sharing Natalie’s blog, her weekly link up and more about her “reasons for hosting a blog link up”. Great reading and the questions and photographs helped make the story one of great interest for me too! Denyse

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Denyse. I hope you continue to share the back story of your work with the head and neck cancer. I still haven’t read the whole story. Your story on Natalie’s InLinkz was amazing. You have come so far! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        • I know it would have been a 14 hour flight to the west coast of USA from Sydney Australia and I sure did not think I could manage “that” so I stopped at Hawaii – 10 hours and then on return, stopped there again and flight home was more manageable.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Marsha – lovely to see Natalie being interviewed here today. She’s definitely a blogger to keep an eye on as she hosts her weekly share party and also keeps in touch with all the participants. Blogging parties seem to be declining, so it’s nice to be part of one that’s still going strong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad to hear back from you Leanne. Natalie’s personality is a force! She radiates positivity and strength and has such talent and experience. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, both on her post and on mine.


  11. Thank you, Marsha, for featuring me and the weekly Weekend Coffee Share link-up on your blog. Your inquisitive and bubbly approach to the interview and your lightning quick responses made me smile. Let the blogging fun continue this weekend and beyond 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, let it begin. I linked as soon as I got up this morning, and I’ve been going strong ever since. Thanks again for the wonderful interview. I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂 Thanks for the mention in your post. 🙂





Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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