Holiday Gifts for Neighbors and Colleagues!

HEY EVERYBODY, REMEMBER ME? 

Yeah, it's been a minute. I've just decided to give myself some grace about updating since I am exactly 9 days (at the most) from giving birth. Which is a sentence I can type and understand in theory but really is melting my brain into a puddle of Gak on the floor. 

(Nickelodeon Gak? Anyone? Anyone?) 

ANNNNNNNNYway, the point is, I have my entire house decorated for Christmas and my nursery done. My hospital bags are packed. I am completely ready to go, which means that for the next little while until this baby decides to make its debut, I need things to occupy myself. 

Enter: a project! 

I usually bake things for my neighbors at Christmas, but this year (with the help of my mom, as you'll see in a moment), I thought it would be fun to do more of a crafty gift. The idea of these cute lil' guys it that the recipient can dump out the contents of the jar into some water, simmer it on the stovetop, and make their house smell like Christmas! Once you've gathered all your ingredients, this is an incredibly easy and fun project that makes your OWN house smell delicious as you work on it. It's also really kid-friendly, so if you have young babies at home, they can easily help in assembling your jars. 

IMG_4307.JPG

You will need: 

  • An assistant who has graphic design experience and make your tags adorable, if you're 9 months pregnant, will go pick up all these ingredients for you and bring them to your house along with lunch. (Okay, you don't REALLY need that, but it sure does help!)
  • Halo or Cutie clementines 
  • Whole cranberries 
  • Christmas tree clippings
  • Mulling spices (available at World Market!) 
  • Mason jars 
  • Festive ribbon 
  • Cute gift tags 

Then just work from the bottom up! Start with your mulling spices, which is really the key to making this smell so dadgum fabulous: 

IMG_0419.jpg

Next, add a handful of cranberries: 

IMG_0420.jpg

One or two clementines, depending on the size of your jar: 

IMG_0421.jpg

And then fill the top with Christmas tree clippings: 

IMG_0422.jpg

Seal off the jar, tie some ribbon around the top, and add a cute message along with some instructions, to the tag. Voila! 

 (Sorry about the extra text here - this was downloaded from my Instagram story because it was the only photo I had of the tags. Oops!) 

(Sorry about the extra text here - this was downloaded from my Instagram story because it was the only photo I had of the tags. Oops!) 

It's so colorful and fun AND functional - the best part about these jars is that, as the water boils/simmers out, the recipient can just add more water and leave the same ingredients in your pan. Get creative if you don't have mulling spice on hand - you can use cinnamon sticks, cloves, ground nutmeg - all scents of the season. 

Hope you enjoy! 

5 Things: Hosting Out-of-Town Guests

One of the things I love to do more than anything on this earth is host visitors in our house. I was always so concerned in the months before we made this move that we'd be largely alone in Asheville, but it turns out we get to see our friends and families more here than we did in Alabama, in some cases! 

Particularly in the fall, Asheville is covered up top-to-bottom with tourists who we call "leafers," in town to watch the Blue Ridge Mountains change from this 

mountains.png

to this: 

4FGp82m.jpg

(I know, right? Pretty spectacular). 

So I thought it'd be the perfect time of year to talk about little things I learned from my mom that I like to do when hosting guests, besides putting out fresh towels. 

1. Flowers! 

IMG_2639.JPG

Buying flowers can get expensive, so lots of times I source the blooms from my yard, or even just use the greenery. A little bit of "living thing" in a room totally changes the feel. I try to put two large arrangements in the den, kitchen, and guest bedroom, and small arrangements (usually in Mason jars) in each bathroom. 

As you can see in the background of this photo, the first weekend we moved up here, we had a big arrangement of wildflowers in our den. Also very funny to look back on this decorating from three years ago. We've come a long way, baby. 

2. Candy and snacks! 

This is another direct result of growing up in my mother's house, but we usually have bowls of treats (my signature is seasonal M&M's) all over the place. One in the kitchen, one in the guest room, and one on the table in front of the TV. 

I know. It's an issue. 

Really, it's less about candy specifically, and more about having something for people to easily reach for. I've found that if you ask your guests, "Are you guys feeling hungry?" the answer is always, "Not really!" because no one wants to put you out or make you work. 

But if you just MAKE the food and put it out ANYWAY, it always mysteriously gets eaten...funny how that works. ;) 

So just put it out! I always have a cheese board ready when people are coming in from out of town, just so folks can immediately have something to nibble on and don't feel like they're inconveniencing me. I also like to play a fun game with myself to see if I can remember people's favorites and buy them in advance - favorite beer, favorite kinds of cheese, favorite chips, etc. I may or may not have a running list in a drawer. Don't tell. 

 Normally I cook a full breakfast (eggs, bacon, yogurt, granola, berries, OJ, etc.), but this is a perfect quick option: Sister Schubert cinnamon rolls served with fruit and carried out onto the front porch to enjoy the fall temps. 

Normally I cook a full breakfast (eggs, bacon, yogurt, granola, berries, OJ, etc.), but this is a perfect quick option: Sister Schubert cinnamon rolls served with fruit and carried out onto the front porch to enjoy the fall temps. 

3. Bedside water and coffee. 

Another "my mom" touch. We bought these glass bottles for about $5 each Michael's a few years ago and they have paid for themselves about 1,000 times over with how many times we've put them to use. 

When we have company, each guest has a glass bottle filled with water and fresh, clean glasses on their nightstand. If I'm REALLY doing a good job, I make sure to go up and re-fill the water bottles at some point during each day. 

We also happened to have an extra Keurig, because Jordan's sweet parents got us a Ninja coffeemaker for Christmas two years ago. So we moved our old Keurig to the guest room, stocked a glass canister with pods of coffee and tea, and I always stick an extra mug or two up there in case our guests are super-early risers (as in, before 6 AM) and want to have a cup of coffee without waking the whole house up. 

4. Have a plan.

No photo to go along with this one, and this may be showing my cards too much, but when guests are coming for a weekend, I like to sit down with a legal pad and map out the trip. It's helpful for my type-A brain to go ahead and plan what we're going to do, because there is SO MUCH in Asheville and often we only get one full day with our guests, as Friday and Sunday are travel days. 

One of the most important things I've found is to also include rest time in the "plan." The perfect weekend tends to balance activities and downtime. As much of an extrovert as I am, I also really need time to be quiet and re-charge - so if I'M feeling tired or overexerted socially, I know my friends are. Laying around on the couch and drinking makes for some of the best memories anyway, don'tcha think? 

 Like so. 

Like so. 

Okay, so I only made it to four things. Sue me. Hopefully that inspires some ideas and makes you want to call your friend to invite them over! These little touches really are so fun to do and are all about thanking people for driving to see us. So - how comfortable can you make your guests? 

Happy hosting! 

Fetch or Wretch? Emmy's 2017!

WOW. 

As a TV nerd and a diversity nerd, I am pretty blown away by last night. When Best Male Actor in a Comedy is a category that includes, among six nominees, two African American actors, one Indian American actor, and a guy playing a post-transition transgender woman, it makes me proud of where we've come in the entertainment industry. Not to mention the two big winners of the night, The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu) and Big Little Lies (HBO) are stories that focus on the lives of women. 

YES, AMERICA. YES! 

Also, if you haven't watched those two series, you need to GET ON IT. Those are two of the best things I've seen on television in a long time, and well worth the time you'll sink into them. 

But kids, we're not here to discuss how far we've come in creating diverse television. We're here to rip some fashion. 

LINE 'EM UP! 

FETCH. 

zoe kravitz.jpg

Zoe Kravitz

Can someone be deemed "fetch" just because of their bone structure? Because DAMN. Also, I really like this dress (even if the neckline is just a teeny tiny bit too wide for me). 

michelle pfieffer.jpg

Michelle Pfeiffer

I am so over the "sheer overlay/nude shell" look, but Michelle Pfeiffer is serving some chic pre-Halloween witchiness and I'm here for it. It just works. 

kids from stranger things.jpg

Kids of Stranger Things

millie bobby brown.jpg

+ Millie Bobby Brown

The children are slaying. I think that dress is perfection on her and the boys are GIVING ME LIFE. Look at those jackets, people!! 

yara shahidi.jpg

Yara Shahidi

I don't watch Blackish, so I wasn't sure what show this chick was on, but OMG. I think she might actually win the night for me. This is so ethereal and gorgeous. 

leslie jones.jpg

Leslie Jones

Now listen. I'm not saying this is my favorite dress of all time, because it's certainly not (slits up to here, sheer/non-sheer, sparkles...there's a LOT going on). But when a woman who is an "untraditional size," whatever that means, looks and feels this good on the red carpet? Fetch. All day. Christian Siriano, you have found your calling. She is absolutely glowing. 

julia louis-dreyfuss.jpg

Julia Louis-Dreyfuss

...will always be on the Fetch list. The End. 

kate mckinnon.jpg

Kate McKinnon

I'm not even gonna pretend like the lower half of this dress isn't problematic, ill-fitting, and unflattering. 'Cause it is. But Kate McKinnon traditionally doesn't have the greatest track record on the red carpet, and she won some Emmys for being a badass, and from the waist up we're calling this a win. Go, Kate!! Take it and run! (BTW - my husband has an absolutely enormous crush on Kate McKinnon. He saw her in this dress and said she looked, and I quote, "So great." Kate, you're wrecking my marriage.) 

uzo aduba.jpg

Uzo Aduba

The boobs are a lot. Let's just get that out of the way. But like, the hair. The lines on the dress. The fit of the bodice. I may be in the minority with this pick, but I think she looks fantastic.

rashida jones.jpg

Rashida Jones

I feel like my theme of the day is "Okay but hear me out...". This is another one that I think could have probably been a bit better from a structure standpoint (her boobs kind of look like they're being held for ransom), but this color on her/those earrings/that head styling = a win. 

Blah blah blah they all looked great let's get to the real reason we're all here today. 

Congregants? Please rise for the 

WRETCH. 

jessica beil.jpg

Jessica Biel

Yeeeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhh I know. I went back and forth on this a LOT. Here's what I ultimately decided: Jessica Biel is such a striking siren of a human being with an abnormally beautiful face and body that she's tricking us into liking a garment that is...just pretty tacky, if we're all being honest with ourselves. That train is picking up all kinds of lint and cat hair. I don't even know if she has a cat, but you know there's cat hair in there. I don't mind the top half, but the bottom half is bad. I did have to cover up her head to reach that conclusion, though, because Jessica Biel's face is impossible to resist. 

samantha bee.jpg

Samantha Bee

It is actually impressive that a dress in which the lines on the bodice are designed to make the wearer appear shapely could end up looking like a big, blocky-ass Gumby. That is not a slam about Samantha's bod, that is a slam to whoever designed this thing. It is unflattering in the worst way, and the center split only makes it worse. I wanted to like it, Samantha Bee. I did. But I do not. 

jane fonda.jpg

Jane Fonda

What I am about to say is blasphemous because Jane Fonda is a QUEEN AMONG QUEENS and I will do penance for it later, but....JaneyouaretoooldforthatdressandthathairstyleI'msosorryI'llseemyselfout. 

Reese Witherspoon

Another one that I really debated on. I mean, first we just need to acknowledge that homegirl looks like she hasn't aged a day since Elle Woods. Those legs? That skin? Gimme a break, she looks incredible. I just don't care for the oversized-men's-blazer-as-a-dress look. I even have to give props where they're due, because it's perfectly fitted to her, it's just not my favorite.

elisabeth moss.jpg

Elisabeth Moss

Ballerina gone wrong. I get the irony of wearing a very twee color/style to an awards show at which you're being honored for playing a feminist resistance leader, but this is just too damn close to her skin tone. It looks like she made a dress out of twin. Also, it doesn't really fit. But congrats on the Emmy! (Also you are a Scientologist and it makes me so sad.) 

ellie kemper.jpg

Ellie Kemper 

EXPLOSION AT THE TEXTILE MILL! Brave Ellie Kemper ran back into the mess on a rescue mission, but didn't make it out unscathed. Kemper suffered an electric shock while trying to dismantle the Old Lady Lingerie Machine, resulting in permanent Miss Frizzle Head and scores of cheap blue fabric welding to her own skin. Kemper was forced to wear this look to the 2017 Emmy's and her handlers ask that no one say anything about it. She is a hero. 

sofia vergara.jpg

Sofia Vergara

WE'VE SEEN IT. WE'RE BORED. 

shannon purser.jpg

Shannon Purser

Not the night for ladies in emerald green. Great color on her, absolutely terrible everything else. It looks like the dress Cinderella is wearing after the stepsisters come and tear it to pieces on their way to the ball. And girl? Ya got bugs. 

mandy moore.jpg

Mandy Moore

It's not fair, but I just HATE IT. 

A couple more categories...

Bitch Stole My Look! 

And finally,

SLAY. ALL. DAY. 

ellie-kemper-titus-burgess-emmys-2017-04.jpg

Tituss Burgess

Magnetic Eyelashes: A Review

"You have to put magnets inside your eyelids?!" 

This is the #1 question I've gotten when mentioning these to people. 

No, folks. I do not and would not stick magnets in my eyelids. 

But these are kind of just as magical. 

A little backstory...

When I went to the doctor a few weeks ago, we talked about how, immediately after having the baby, you kinda feel/look like garbage for a little while. The baby's out in the world, but you're still carrying around a little extra weight, not sleeping, and generally adjusting to a brand new chapter of life. 

"Hmmm," thought I, "let's do something in the way of self-care to combat the post-baby scaries! What about eyelash extensions?" 

So I did a little research and LOLOLOLOL they are insanely expensive. The salon here in Asheville charges $250 for the first application and over $100 for every refill. But, TBH, the money wasn't the ultimate deterrent -  the time was. The first application takes four solid hours of sitting in a chair. 

If you're blonde, or someone who gets their hair colored regularly, you know that we already spend 3 1/2 hours in a chair every six weeks. That's enough to make me go crazy all by itself. I couldn't do another cosmetic and unnecessary thing that took that long.   

SO, I began researching other options and came across something that seemed too good to be true: magnetic lashes. 

After looking into various brands, I settled on One Two Lash. They cost $70 and arrived within a week. I was SO EXCITED to try them on. One Two Lash offers three different varieties, but, as a non-false-eyelash wearer, I went with "natural." Felt like that was the safest choice. 

My first impression was that I was really impressed with the packaging. The case the lashes come in is super attractive and very well-made, which is great, because if you take care of these suckers, they can last you a really long time. In fact, there are two sets of them: upper and lower on the left, and upper and lower on the right...x2. 

original-insert-web.jpg

As you can see in that photo, each lash strip has a teeny tiny rectangular magnet. The science is basically that you place the "top" lashes so that they rest on your natural top set of lashes. Then, when you have it positioned, you literally click the corresponding "bottom" set underneath your top lashes, and voila! Instant lashes. 

No glue, no muss, no fuss. 

Rather than subject you to me attempting to be a beauty blogger, I'm going to link someone else whose job it is to do this to show you how they work: 

(Small aside - this is not a sponsored post. This is just a product I like that I want to share with y'all.) 

So. What do they look like on a non-beauty blogger? 

It took me a while to really feel like I got the hang of exactly where they needed to be positioned on my real eyelashes. The pictures below are the first night that I actually got ready/put on a full face of makeup to go out somewhere, and I think I positioned the magnetic lashes too far toward the outside of my own lashes. They look a little "16-year-old at prom" in these photos: 

(PS - you're welcome in advance for the close-ups of what I'm now realizing is my SEVERELY deviated septum. It's no wonder I can't breathe, I mean DAMN!) 

Having not worn false eyelashes before, I was really self-conscious about them, but the group of girls I was with told me that they didn't even notice and wouldn't have guessed they were fake unless I'd mentioned it! And when I got home that night, I popped them off in less than 5 seconds, put them back in their case, and went about my normal nightly skincare routine. They added almost no time to the process of getting ready for bed. 

So I played with them over the next few days and I think I got better at applying them. My process is: 

1. Curl lashes as I normally would. 
2. Apply eyeliner and mascara (or just mascara, as in the photo below) to top lashes.
3. Apply a very light layer of bottom-lash mascara (this was actually Jordan's suggestion to keep the One Two lashes from looking too "fake-y," - his words). 
4. Snap on the One Two lashes, one eye at a time, adjusting as necessary. 

Over the last week, I think I got better at positioning them: 

 For context, I'm not wearing any eyeliner in this photo - just mascara and the new lashes.

For context, I'm not wearing any eyeliner in this photo - just mascara and the new lashes.

SO, overall, here's my review: 

Pros: 

  • Even if you aren't a beauty guru, these are not complicated to get the hang of. It certainly took me several tries to get it right, but ANYTHING that's new in beauty takes a few tries to get right. 
  • There is no glue involved. Zero. It's snap, snap, go. 
  • These are considerably less expensive than eyelash extensions, and, if well cared for, longer lasting. More bang for your buck and ultimately the same result. 
  • The case is beautiful and will encourage you to take care of the product. 
  • Removing them is extremely simple. 
  • They stay locked in place for as long as you're wearing them. 
  • Eyelashes for days! 

Cons: 

  • The red dot that denotes the "bottom" set of lashes rubs off very quickly. It was gone within a few application attempts, so it's important to make sure you place them back in the case in the correct section. 
  • They do feel a tiny bit heavy at first, but I think that's probably true with anything fake that you're sticking to your eyes. After a few minutes, I forgot they were there. 

Tips: 

  • As I said, it takes practice. Play with where you put them on your lash line - what looks most natural? Should you scoot them a little further in? Toward the corners? You'll know when you hit the sweet spot. 
  • Don't put any more mascara on after you've applied your lashes. They're plenty on their own, and more makeup is going to damage the product. 
  • In fact, let your lashes be the last thing you put on. Are you applying loose powder? Do that, THEN apply those bad boys. 
  • Never sleep in them or wash your face with them on. It's easy to forget they're there, so I keep my case out on the bathroom counter to remind me to take them off before I start slapping water on my face. 

What do you think?? Is this crazy? At the end of the day, I highly recommend them to anyone who's considering eyelash extensions, but doesn't want to shell out the cash or the time in the chair. These are an amazing alternative, reasonably priced, and achieve the same result. I love mine and am actually excited to go put them on in just a few minutes! Yahoo! 

Chicago by Air, Land, and Sea! And HAMILTON!

Okay y'all. Chicago is amazing. 

My amazing friend and across-the-street neighbor, Cindi, used to live in Chicago - still does part-time! - and works there, which gave us a great excuse for a little girl's getaway. 

One thing I just didn't realize about myself (and I'd wager most wives, and CERTAINLY most women who are wives and mommies have this in common with me) is that I spend a lot of time worrying about/taking care of the goings on of our household. Of course, this is completely fine with me - the arrangement in my marriage is that one of us works and one of us stays home. It's not a gender thing, it's a "the way we've worked it out" thing, so lots of this is just my jurisdiction. But the point is, lots of my mental energy is spent on worrying about whether the laundry is done and ironed; the groceries are bought and put away; the dog hair is off the floor; etc. 

I didn't worry about any of that FOR A WHOLE WEEK. Oh my gosh. Goodbye brain. I don't even think I HAD a brain. It left my body and went on a cruise. 

So here were all the things, pictures included, that scored my incredible week in Chicago with my precious friend Cindi. People, this trip was every girl's motherfrakkin dream.

WEDNESDAY: 

  • After a flight delay that caused us to miss our original Tuesday evening plane, we eventually arrived in the city. 
  • But not before I was introduced to God's greatest gift, the Stroopwaffel. You guys, I didn't know this existed. But it does. It DOES. Two waffle wafers with molten caramel inside that melts when you place it atop a coffee cup. Goodbye, willpower. 
stroop.JPG
  • We then arrived in the most chic and fabulous condo of all time. Mmhmm. Do you wish you lived here? I know. I know. And Cindi did all the decorating herself, because she's not a real person and is insanely talented. 
  • Drooling is an appropriate reaction. My own drool started with condo lust and just kept happening because of ALL THE FOOD, like this: 
  • After we were stuffed up to our eyeballs, we had our nails done and took naps. I'm telling you, it was Girl Heaven, this trip was. 
  • We then decided we needed to probably go outdoors and move around for some portion of the day, so we took a stroll around Maggie Daly Park. Unsurprisingly, it was extremely charming. 
  • Look at all these adorable little play areas for kids! 
  • After our stroll around the city, it was back to the condo for a quick jaunt to sea! Well, not sea, Lake Michigan, but you get the point. Cindi rounded up some buddies and we took to the water armed with to-go meatballs and beef sandwiches because #chicago. 
  • Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday night. 
  • Dream. 

Thursday. 

  • We kicked off right with breakfast at a local Chicago restaurant, Hash House A Go Go, that's famous for its portion sizes. Which became clear, when they served us a bananas foster pancake the size of a pizza. 
  • By the way, we had that pancake as an appetizer. At breakfast. Did I mention this was Dream Week? 
  • D-voured. 
  • We walked around a bit, visited Cindi's sweet mom, went back to the condo for naps, then struck out for a late afternoon coffee-and-walk run before our insanely delicious evening plans: RPM (a fab Italian restaurant) and HAMILTON. 
  • DID I MENTION WE SAW HAMILTON? 
  • WE SAW HAMILTON. 
  • So as we approached dinner, pregnancy hit me with a nasty headache, which means I was lousy dinner company and also have no photos of our beautiful meal. But I do have pictures of us FAH-REAKING OUT on the way to the show!! 
  • Maybe the most tragic outfit choice of all time for me, but y'all, I just didn't care because HAMILTON. 
  • I think that experience requires a separate blog post. It was overwhelming. I have literally been singing songs from it EVERY DAY since we've been back. I wake up with the songs in my head. It's just insane. 

Friday and Saturday.

  • Good morning, Chicago! 
  • Fabulous Friday, we awoke and started packing the car for the next leg of our journey: a trek to Cindi's husband MIke's family cabin in Wisconsin. I kept checking cities/states off my list this trip! 
  • Mike had driven up to to Chicago the day before, so we got the pleasure of Jake and Elwood's company while we were packing - those two cute little Frenchies down there. 
  • On our trip, I had my first Culver's experience. Delicious, which is no surprise. #fastfoodforever #gonnafailmyglucosetest 
IMG_1619.JPG
  • Our experience over the next two days is largely undocumented because it was a largely technology-free weekend. Which was FANTASTIC. We met up with Cindi's Chicago girlfriends in Wisconsin and just lazed around. We hiked a little, ate a lot, and spent a lot of time with movies, great conversation, and lots of alcohol. 

Sunday.

  • Early Sunday morning, we woke up, packed up, and headed back to Chicago. This was such a delightfully restful part of the trip, and I really enjoyed a little quiet time on the dock Sunday morning. It kind of hit me that this was the last girls' trip I'd ever have a non-mom; that every trip from here on out, I'd have to make childcare arrangements or bring that baby with me. I am SO excited to be a mom, but I'm also very conscious of bidding farewell to parts of my life that are going to change. Got a little choked up this day as I said goodbye to Wisconsin and goodbye to this chapter of life! 
  • The lump in my throat didn't last long, though, because before long we were back in the city and getting hour-long massages. Because...YES. Have no photos of the spa because I was trying not to be a redneck, but it was gorgeous and we drank delicious tea and everything, everywhere was good. Turns out prenatal massages are WHERE IT'S AT.
  • When we arrived back at the condo, it was time for the main event: 
  • CHICAGO
  • DEEP DISH
  • PIZZA. 
  • IN ACTUAL CHICAGO.
  • So a little backstory: 
  • Cindi and Mike gave our neighborhood deep dish pizzas last year for Christmas. I had never had a deep dish pizza (how this was possible, I'm not sure), but I have never taken a bite of anything and been so instantly in love. Love at first bite, if you will. So deep dish in Chicago was obviously going to be a huge part of the trip. Here are some photos of me with the pizza: 
  • We watched The Founder on Netflix and passed on in a pizza and cheesecake (did I mention I'm going to fail my glucose test?) haze. Nothing has ever been sweeter. I mean, it's like 1. This deep dish, 2. My wedding day. 

And just like that, it was time to come home! Since we started with a Stroop, the only logical conclusion to the trip also had to be with a Stroop: 

IMG_1653.JPG

Easily one of the best trips of my life. Thanks to my incredible friend Cindi for an unforgettable experience, and to ChiTown, you beautiful city - can't wait 'til next time! Thanks for showing me your very best self! 

How Pure Barre Changed My Life.

Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones, you guys, but I am feeling particularly emotional about my last Pure Barre class this afternoon. At noon, I'll teach my last class before taking some time off to go grow this sweet baby. 

It's definitely time - my "demo's," where the instructor shows the clients how to set up positions, are getting a little laughable with this bump in the way. The clients at our studio have been so patient with all things pregnancy, particularly with the times when I'd get a move set up and then blank out completely. "Heavy tailbone, and...huh. Hmm. OH YEAH! Okay, 2 pulses down!" Hot mess. 

That kind of grace and community is just one of the many reasons I have loved this workout. If you've been following my blog for a while, you may remember this post about me going to Pure Barre for the first time, then an update after I gave it a shot for about a month, posted here. I've been taking Pure Barre since March 2016 and teaching since August of the same year, so I've spent a lot of time in that studio. Here are my thoughts as I put the mic on for the last time (for a while, at least!) this afternoon: 

1. Pure Barre is the most effective workout I've ever done. 

 Please ignore my weirdly huge left knee??

Please ignore my weirdly huge left knee??

From a purely exercise-based place, all the emotion aside, I cannot say enough about these classes. My background in exercise was pretty limited in terms of what I'd tried in earnest. I grew up running (very slowly, but running), and that had always been enough. As I graduated from college, I realized that running alone wasn't going to cut it. I added in some light arms and ab work, but it was always exactly that: running for 2.5/3 miles, then arms, then abs, then I'd leave the gym. 

I'd done group classes like Zumba, pilates, and yoga, and found myself really digging the class atmosphere. I'm a person who is pushed harder by the presence of other, more in-shape people. And running was starting to get hard on my knees and shins. 

Enter: Pure Barre. I started this workout a few months after an ankle injury that prevented me from running regularly. The difference I saw in my ENTIRE BODY - arms, abs, thighs, butt, posture, strength level, endurance - took about three weeks to start and hasn't stopped yet. I don't feel like I ever plateaued, I don't feel like it ever got easy. One of the complaints I hear is that Pure Barre isn't enough cardio. I'd encourage you to attend one of the new Pure Empower classes, a 45-minute cardio-centric class that has even the instructors dripping sweat. WOOF (but in the best way).

It has changed my body, my confidence in myself, and my perception of my own strength. I'm not an Olympian, but it turns out I can work pretty hard and achieve the results I want. Who knew?? 

2. The clients are incredible. 

 Cuties Cher and Mary Frances at Halloween last year!

Cuties Cher and Mary Frances at Halloween last year!

One of the things that Pure Barre Asheville has cultivated is a ubiquitous sense of community and positivity. When you hit the door, you'll be greeted by name by anyone standing in the lobby. For me, these days, it's been, "Look at you, cute pregnant girl!! How are you feeling??" (This happens on days when I am most certainly NOT cute, so that should tell you something about the level of support these clients offer me all the time!) 

My very first time, I was so nervous. Upon entering the studio, I was greeted by the women who became my "8:30 family" (the class time I always chose) - Linda, Vanessa, and Kendra. These ladies, ranging in age from younger than me to closer to my parents' age, made me feel so welcome and right at home. I include the part about their ages to add another dimension to the wonder of Pure Barre - I know of a client we have who is 19; I know of a client who is in her 70's. And these are REGULAR clients. The same goes for size, shape, and race. We've got clients all across the board, all of whom show up and prove their inner badass every single time. We show up to work out, not to put on a fashion show, not to judge each other. It's the most supportive workout environment I've ever seen - every SINGLE time.

There is something about a group of women (although we have several male clients too, who I absolutely adore!!) banding together to lift each other up that is all too rare in this world. Girl power is a THING. The Spice Girls had it right. And Pure Barre is absolutely dripping with it.  

3. The team I teach with is next-level amazing. 

 Fellow instructor Christina and me, also at Halloween last year! 

Fellow instructor Christina and me, also at Halloween last year! 

Pure Barre is hard. There's no getting around it. It's a challenge mentally and physically to push yourself beyond what you think you're capable of doing. In order to feel good and encouraged by that challenge, rather than defeated by it, you need a team of people who's going to ensure you see yourself as a dadgum fitness warrior. That's exactly what exists at PB Asheville. 

These girls are just precious and delightful and energetic and wonderful and uplifting and ALL the rest of the adjectives. It doesn't hurt that they're all knockouts, either. I mean, why not have something pretty to look at while you're sweating your vital organs out? 

I moved to Asheville with no friends or family, and have found both here. I love sitting around after class and chatting with my fellow instructors when the studio is empty and no one else is around. We've shared fears, hopes, developments in our dating lives, pregnancy stories, career moves, engagement stories, house-building excitement - it's just a really special group of people.

There is no greater gift than helping another woman realize her potential - to see it written across her face that she did it after all, even when she thought she couldn't. I've watched clients go from not being able to hold a plank position for more than 10 seconds to breezing through the 90-second plank during warmup. I've seen people struggle through a few push ups early on, then conquer those things with no problem after a couple of months. 

Pure Barre changes people's lives because it changes the way people see into themselves. One of the things you'll hear repeated on the mic from instructors is, "You're stronger than you think." 

Well, you are. 

4. Carrying this baby around is a lot easier. 

IMG_1684.JPG

I mean, I don't even want to imagine what carrying this monster baby around would be like if I didn't have a strong core to start with, thanks to PB. 

(Probably very hard.) 

A strong body and mind going into a pregnancy is something that's helped me exponentially. Not to mention walking into a studio three-four times a week where people say, "You look great!" even if you don't FEEL great; where people are pushing themselves to be their best. It makes me word harder, sweat more, and, most importantly, keep showing up and giving it my best shot. I am not Gal Gadot by any stretch (holler at your girl who filmed parts of Wonder Woman while she was 5 months pregnant ARE YOU KIDDING ME), but I can hold a 90-second plank in my sixth month of pregnancy, damnit. And that's not half bad. 

-- 

So, for now, farewell to teaching. It is weird to close this particular chapter because I feel like this was the last thing to "go." Months ago, when I was planning out when I'd probably need to step away, this day seemed like it was years in the future. It's here, and it means that Jordan's and my life is about to start getting really different with the arrival of this little baked potato. 

I am so grateful for this year of my life I spent with a Britney Spears mic strapped to my head, ra-ra-ing our wonderful clients, cutting up with instructors, drinking a million smoothies, getting wisdom and development from our studio owner, Flavia. Pure Barre has been a gift from God to me, as have the people that inhabit that studio daily. I'll still be taking classes, of course, but for now, I'm taking a minute to be still, to be thankful, and (at noon) to go get after it one last time. 

Nothin' but love, PB.

IMG_0150.JPG