welcome to the new chookooloonks!

Thanks so much for your patience, friends -- and welcome to the brand new Chookooloonks!  There are still a few tweaks and updates to be done, but for the most part, the site design is complete. 

As you've probably noticed, the site design is very different from what it looked like last week, or even the design incarnation before that one.  And while there are a few technical reasons why I decided to change the look of the site so drastically, there are a few bigger personal reasons, as well.  For example:

•  I promised myself that I was going to focus more on the Story -- and I found that if I were going to do so in any real way, I needed to get rid of any distractions on the site -- really pare it down, so that it focused on the words and the images.  To this end, I eliminated the sidebar on the blog -- now, when you visit, you'll just see stories and images, and nothing else.

•  I remembered why I started blogging in the first place.  Or to be more honest, I recently realized that I had been buying into the current social media thinking that getting viewers to click on pages as often as possible to maximize page views as a good thing, even more important than actually creating content, and I was depressing myself.  Seriously, what had happened to me?  I started blogging almost 10 years ago because I wanted to share words and images, not because I wanted to maximize page views!  This realization was a true wake-up call, and reminded me what was important to me, and what really motivates me to shoot and write every day.  Besides, nothing bugs me more when I'm visiting a site than when it requires me to click-click-click to see images, or look through galleries.  And  if it bugs me, I'm assuming it bugs you -- so I was mindful of minimizing clicks as much as possible in this design.

•  Finally, my birthday's this week!  Last year when I turned 45, I actually had a hard time with my birthday for a variety of reasons, but most of which boiled down to my not having taken care of myself as well as I should have been in recent years.  Since that time, quietly, privately, I've been making some adjustments -- small, simple changes, nothing drastic (I've become exceedingly "anti-drastic" when it comes to taking care of myself) -- that mostly have to do with really paying attention to what my body wants, and absolutely nothing to do with whatever the current "intelligence" is on "what's good for you."  The result is that I'm feeling better than I have in a long time.  And now it's a year later, and I'm actually quite excited about my birthday!  So I wanted my site to reflect how I'm feeling about myself these days: clearer, if that makes any sense, and more open, both physically and mentally.

So, given all this, I present to you the new, more "me" site!  As I mentioned, there are still a few tweaks here and there that need to be done, but while I'm making them, please feel free to poke around:  the gallery page is new, featuring some of my favourite shots from some wonderful places.  Also, please check out the shop page -- I'm finally offering signed, personalized copies of The Beauty of Different (US only for now, I'm afraid, but stay tuned for some ebooks in development that I'm getting really excited about, and will be available to you wherever in the world you might be).   And please, let me know if you see anything that's buggy -- because I want Chookooloonks to be a place that you're excited to visit.

And now, to celebrate! 

Since it's both my birthday week and the launch of the new Chookooloonks, I figure that there can't be any celebration without gifts, right?  So I'm doing a giveaway -- one that reflects the new focus on words and images, and will hopefully inspire you to do the same.  When I was planning this, I knew I wanted feature products made by people who make it their business to buck trends, and who are fastidious in staying true to themselves as they create their work.

Naturally, Cheryl Schulke came to mind.



Cheryl is the founder and creative mind behind Stash, a company located in an old mattress factory in Sealy, Texas, that hand-makes beautiful leather bags.


I visited Cheryl and Stash a few months ago, and at the end of the visit, walked out with a gorgeous camera strap (shown in the process of being made in the image above, and which has remained on my camera since that day) and a beautiful, leather-bound journal.   Both of them wear wonderfully, and since they, in essence, represent both words and images in my life, I thought they would be perfect.  I purchased two new ones, and I'm going to give them away today.

But that's not all! 

Last week, I was sharing a preview of the site with my friend Jeannine over at The ONE Campaign, and she was so excited at how the Kenya and Ethiopia galleries were looking that she offered to add to my little giveaway.  So, courtesy of the awesome folks at ONE, I'm also giving away this beautiful scarf by FashionABLE.  You might remember that I visited the FashionABLE facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -- their story is really amazing.  And for the record,  I have this particular scarf, and it's even more gorgeous in person (and, like the camera strap and the journal, the scarf is unisex, too!  And seriously, I love a man in a scarf).

And finally, of course, I'll throw in a copy of The Beauty of Different, inscribed to whoever you'd like.

To enter to win, please simply leave a comment below telling me where you are (city and country), because nothing chuffs me more than "seeing" you all, all over the world.  I'll pick one person at random to win it all -- the camera strap, the journal, the scarf and the book, a total of almost US$ 300 worth of awesome -- and I'll announce the winner by updating this post tomorrow, my birthday.

Thanks, friends -- for introducing yourself in the comments below, and for supporting Chookooloonks as you have for all of these years.  It really means the world to me.


Update, July 16, 2013:

Thank you so much for all your lovely birthday wishes!  According to Random.org, the winner of all of the Stash-FashionABLE-book goodness is Alison Lee, who said, "Congratulations on the new site, Karen, it's beautiful!  I just bought a new DSLR and have been looking for a camera strap. The Stash one is gorgeous!  U'm in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Talk about far flung. :)"  Congratulations, Alison!  Look for an email from me to get your details.

And thanks again, everyone.  You truly made my day. 



Song:  Royals by Lorde