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. 

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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.

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Picnic at Max Patch

One of these days, I'm gonna make every single one of you come up here on top of this mountain. Max Patch is just ridiculously fabulous every single time. 

On Sunday, I got to meet a sweet friend's parents and hike up this familiar trail with a group of folks who'd mostly not been to this heavenly spot. When you crest the mountaintop, you get a 360 degree view of layers and layers of mountain ranges. I am positive that's not the correct way to describe it, but I have cake on the brain and "layers" seems okay. Always so wonderful to experience it anew all over again through other people's eyes.  

If you would like to see shots of it, complete with a cheesy score, watch this video! 

So anyway, it was totally fabulous. Cindi, my friend whose parents were with us, brought an adorable vintage picnic "basket" (several deep metallic discs that stacked on top of each other) full of deliciousness: cookies, broccoli salad, berries, pimento cheese...we had it all. So yesterday, we sat up there, ate, and talked about how good it was to be alive. 

Here are some pictures (my favorite is Jordan making a dog tent for the two Frenchies that were with us who were overheating a bit. Hehe!): 

Hope you guys had a great, relaxing weekend filled with a little bit of outdoor beauty. On to Monday! 

I Went to Luke's and It Was Awesome.

In case you live under a rock or hate Gilmore Girls, you have probably seen "Luke's" take over some corners of social media in the past 24 hours. 

Some brilliant marketing genius over at Netflix had an idea: to celebrate GG turning 16 (but really, to promote the fact that it's coming back to Netflix in November), why not turn hundreds of coffee shops around the country into a Luke's? 

My friend Mary Frances and I decided we needed to take advantage of this momentous and singular opportunity to pretend we were actual Gilmore girls. Fall in Asheville has started to kick in, so amongst the blustery, blowing leaves, we sought out a participating coffee shop (Biltmore Coffee Roasters) and started to get VERY EXCITED. 

Each participating business was sent a box of swag from Netflix to give customers the Stars Hollow experience. They got a sign for the front door (pictured above), signage for inside (pictured below), hats and aprons for the employees, a special blend of coffee, and Gilmore Girls cups and coffee sleeves. 

The line at the shop was out the door, but it wasn't anything compared to more urban locations - I heard that lines were two hours long in some cities. We had to wait, but only a few minutes. However, the free first 250 cups of coffee were long gone by then - our barista (let's call her Luke) told us that they gave away those first cups in less than an hour. 

(That red thing is an arrow pointing to the "No cell phones" sign, not the number "47." Although this morning it took me about 5 minutes to figure out why I'd written what I thought was "47" across this picture. Penmanship is important, folks.) 

We stepped up and got our coffee, Luke's Blend (obviously) and then entered the drawing for a Luke's hat and apron. 

It was seriously kind of magical. Everybody in there, for the most part, was a Gilmore Girls fan and was equally as excited as we were. There was a woman behind us in line who I was positive was judging the hell out of us for being so giggly and excited, but when she stepped up to order, she actually stopped the barista and had her pose with the coffee cup for an Instagram picture. EVERYONE was about it. 

We sat outside, sipped coffee, discussed whether we'd want to be Rory or Lorelai (Fran picked Lor, I picked Rory -- we go together well!), and settled on the fact that Logan is definitively the best choice (read more about that hot take opinion here). 

Once we removed the sleeves of our coffee cups, we saw that there was a secret Snapchat code on the cups! It unlocked this adorable lil' Luke's filter that I used to take the photo below. 

All in all, it was just perfect. So happy that Fran found this place and that we got to have this real-deal Stars Hollow moment. To top it off, yesterday Netflix released a new featurette for the show. 

Like I said, marketing geniuses. 

ARE YOU EXCITED YET?!?!?!1

Sunset on Max Patch.

Every so often, Jordan and I have a very "Asheville" experience that reminds me why I'm so thankful that we live here. 

When we moved from Birmingham in July 2015, I was so nervous. I'd lived in Memphis for a year, but other than that, Alabama had been my home throughout my childhood and young adulthood. It was alien to consider the idea of living in another state, let alone one in which neither Jordan nor I had any friends or family. 

Moving away together was one of the greatest things we could've done, both for each of us individually and for our marriage. Picking up and going somewhere neither of us had any connections created any immediate need for us to cling to each other and really grow as partners. We became stronger, more intuitive to the other's needs, more grateful, more generous. 

So when Jordan asked if I wanted to go watch the sun go down on Max Patch, a bald on top of a mountain about an hour away, my answer was, "YEP." We packed Tom Hanks, a picnic, some wine, and took off.

To our surprise, the mountaintop was filled with other folks who had the same idea. While at first it was a little annoying that we weren't as original as we'd thought, it became a kind of community experience. There with forty or fifty strangers, we watched nature really show off.

Here's a little "pretty" for your Monday morning. Happy October!

My First Camping Trip, Part II

Catch up on Part I here

SO. 

  • We boarded a bus that took us upriver. Before we'd gotten on the bus, our rafting guides were announced, and we were placed with the only female guide on the river, Emily (henceforth known as Guide Emily for clarity). 
  • When we got to the river, we realized why Guide Emily was the best one: most passionate and strong as a freakin' ox. Seriously, her arms were like tree trunks. 
  • James and Brittany, our fifth and sixth riders, were placed at at the back of the raft. Emily and I were in the middle, Parker and Jordan were up front. 
  • Right when we put our raft in the water, Emily started giggling uncontrollably from pure joy. 
  • Within about 3 minutes, we hit our first major rapid and got sucked into some kind of terrifying whirlpool vortex death machine. 
  • Brittany, back right, started choking a little on the water that was cascading in and over our raft. 
  • "LEAN LEFT! LEAN LEFT!" 
  • We followed Guide Emily's instructions and finally managed to free our raft from the pocket of suction, but not without everyone having been SOAKED to the bone and a little frightened of just how powerful water can be. 
  • We learned that white water rafting was a niche sport until the movie Deliverance came out, which started a booming tourism industry. 
  • I will NEVER UNDERSTAND why anyone would ever ever ever ever want to white water raft after seeing Deliverance. 
  • That's like saying, "Space travel?? SURE!" after seeing Gravity or The Martian. 
  • That's like saying, "Dinosaurs?? YES, PLEASE!" after seeing Jurassic Park. 
  • That's like saying, "Abandoned hotel through the winter?? WHY NOT!" after seeing The Shining. 
  • What part of that movie makes you say, "Hey, YEAH! I'd like to do that!" 
  • Is it the part where that little inbred boy follows them down the river? 
  • Is it the part where the only nice and conscionable man on that trip gets his arm snapped in half while rafting? 
  • Or was it this charming fellow that people wanted to see more of? 
  • Or MAYBE people were hoping to see these dance moves instead. 
 Just adorable. 

Just adorable. 

  • Or maybe it was Burt Reynolds' open scuba vest that, to my 2016 eyes, looks like something that a gay man would wear to a nightclub on Bear Night. 
  • Either way, I don't get it. 
  • We got about halfway down the river when Guide Emily asked if anyone wanted to "ride the bull." 
  • This entailed someone passing their paddle back to her, climbing to the very tip of the raft, grabbing onto a little piece of fabric, and going through a Class 4 set of rapids with nothing else to anchor them to the boat. 
  • Obviously, I was game. 
  • I will now provide you with a series of pictures taken by the Ocoee Rafting Photographer - please note the change in everyone's faces as we start, then actually see the rapids, then get hit by them. Jordan is a particularly good one to watch. You can actually see him realize that his wife is probably going to fall in (I didn't) and start death-gripping my vest - meanwhile, I'm smiling like an idiot. 
  • So it was really, really fun. By the end of the trip both Emily and I had ridden the bull, though sadly her time didn't get photographed (which is a real shame because she had it way worse than I did). 
  • After rafting, we tried to go get lunch at the Tanning Salon/Pizzeria (no, I am not making that up), but it was closed. 
  • So we went to the only other restaurant in Ducktown: Hardee's. 
  • There, a very surly teenage girl took our orders. And when I say "took our orders," what I really mean is that she took one order and then walked away mid-sentence of the next one. 
  • #ducktown 
  • After we ate (and got milkshakes), we stopped by the gas station for some cold beer and headed back to our little home in the woods. 
  • Parker immediately resumed his work of trying to start a fire. 
  • Emily and I were more interested in lounging. 
  • Jordan went fishing and actually caught a fish on his first cast. But we still picked on him a little bit because he was dressed like a mix between Prison Mike and Survivor Man Michael Scott from The Office. 
  • Finally, after about three hours, the fire starter Parker bought, that had come pre-loaded with 1,000 strikes, broke in half. No more strikes. Struck out. So stricken. 
  • So Jordan came over to offer his support, and within minutes, the two of them had a fire started. 
  • We FOR SURE were singing "Parker started the fiyAH!" over and over. 
  • Just look at that thing! 
 Such pride. 

Such pride. 

  • For the rest of the afternoon, we sat around, drank, made s'mores, talked, ate hot dogs, talked some more, drank some more. 
  • As night fell, we started to hear this long, high-pitched scream that sounded very human. 
  • Every 30 seconds or so, we'd hear it. That was scary enough until we heard the second scream from behind us, far off in the distance. 
  • Whatever these things were were talking to each other. 
  • WERE THEY HONING IN ON US?! We (Emily and I) were very unsettled by this. 
  • Jordan theorized that they were coyotes. But they sounded like women. Or like maybe this guy. 
  • We didn't hear anything for about ten minutes, then, suddenly, the howl was RIGHT BEHIND OUR TENT. 
  • ...
  • ...
  • ...
  • ...
  • ...it was Emily. Trying to play a prank so she wouldn't be so scared. But then she scared herself by imitating the coyotes, which was funny, but when the laughter died down we were all scared again.  
  • We all carefully crept into our tents and prayed for no coyote attacks. 
  • They spared us. 
  • The next morning, Jordan made "cowboy coffee" (pouring the ground straight into the boiling water) and, surprisingly, it was some of the best coffee I've ever had. Very impressed. 
  • We packed up the campsite and thanked it for providing such a great weekend. All I could think about on the way home was how thankful I am to have such an awesome husband, and sibling, and for Parker to have chosen a significant other so well. The four of us always have a great time together. 
  • 'Til next time, Ducktown! 

My First Camping Trip, Part I.

I SURVIVED. 

Big, bold headline to start. 

I am also VERY thankful that I had not seen Deliverance prior to this trip. Although I did immediately come home and stream it on Netflix, which was probably a poor choice for future camping trips. 

You may have read last Friday that I was striking out with Jordan, Parker (my brother) and Emily (his girlfriend) on my first-ever camping trip. So much fun, so many stories. So I'll give you a play-by-play of the weekend. 

  • We depart about two hours late because Jordan had a work emergency. 
  • As we're driving, it starts to rain. So we're late and it's raining, and because we're late, we have no idea whether or not there will actually be a campsite, since you can't reserve them in advance. 
  • Jordan is a little flustered and misses our turn, so we end up driving about 4 hours instead of what would've been 3. 
  • Off to a good start.
  • Jordan had planned to arrive around 4 so that we had plenty of daylight to "make camp," which is a thing outdoorsy people say to mean "put up a tent and build a fire." 
  • Instead, we have about 10 minutes of low-level daylight left when we get to the site at about 8 PM, so Jordan deftly assembles the tent with a little help from me, then gets to work on the fire. 
  • I start to gather firewood (small sticks, medium stick, and larger logs, as I'm instructed) and immediately discover two woodland creatures living by our campsite: a giant frog and a teeny tiny garter snake. 
  • Instead of losing it re: seeing a snake, I cover my total panic by stating, "SNAKE," in a very loud, clear voice. I knew upon seeing it that it was a garter snake, but it was still two tiny, shiny eyes staring at me from within the bowels of a dead tree stump. 
  • I pick up a log and five GIANT daddy longlegs crawl off of it. 
  • I also discover with horror that the last people to use the campsite decided to use the facilities, i.e. POOP, in the middle of the dirt road leading to where we pitched our tent. 
  • Human. Poop. 
  • Their toilet paper, which also should have been disposed of, is sitting in a crumpled pile next to the HUMAN POOP. 
  • We avoid it all weekend. 
  • Jordan grabs his headlamp and starts a fire using the few scraps of wood that I gathered (and dry, because it also rained while we were driving out there - yikes).
  • Because it is SO DARK, he also has to turn the headlights of the Jeep on in order to have something to see by. 
 Why yes, it  was  dark as hell. 

Why yes, it was dark as hell. 

  • Having never been camping before, I was trying to talk myself out of being freaked out. The dark is not my favorite thing, particularly unfamiliar dark. Add "outdoor" to the unfamiliar darkness, and it's basically my own special little horror movie. 
  • To keep myself from being scared, I nervously chatter to Jordan. "Wow. This fire is impressive. Seriously! How did you learn to do that? Well, you're good at it. I feel so protected! Also, cute shirt. Did I get you that shirt? I can't remember. Blue looks good on you, though. You should wear more blue. I love you! What are you thinking about?? Do you miss Tom Hanks?" 
  • #myhusbandisasaint
  • Eventually, we got the fire going. I remembered that I actually know how to make/stoke a fire from my childhood home's wood burning fireplace, so I help Jordan and actually do a pretty damn good job taking our fire from small to medium. 
 Look at me go! 

Look at me go! 

  • Parker and Emily were driving in from Nashville, so Jordan and I had a couple of hours to ourselves, we decided to make dinner using the MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) we bought. 
  • I had a penne with marinara, Jordan had something called Chili Mac. ...mmm. 
  • I am sad to report that Jordan's was absolutely better than mine. Like, not even close. Mine tasted like what I would imagine shards of fiberglass soaked in unseasoned water would taste like. 
  • Jordan's, though the name was MUCH grosser, tasted like what I expected - not great, but definitely not terrible. He shared with me. 
  • Emily and P rolled in at about 10:45 and we got the party ROLLING! 
 They were in color in person.

They were in color in person.

  • They'd already eaten, so we toured them around the campsite (included the HUMAN POOP), they set up their tent, and we cooked some marshmallows. 
  • After some catching up and giggles, we all headed to bed to get good rest for the day ahead. 
  • We piled into our tents. Jordan's and my tent is mesh at the top, so we could see the stars We could also see the moon, which happened to be a full one that night and VERY bright. 
  • I felt stupid complaining about it, but the moon was so bright that it was as though a giant lamp was being held over my face as I slept. While Jordan slept peacefully, I flipped around in the tent all night like a fish.
  • I started with my head in one direction, then flipped so my head was at Jordan's feet to try to find some SHADE FROM THE MOON (yep, that's a real thing). 
  • At one point in the night, we hear a gunshot in the distance. I am convinced that someone is going to come shoot us to death and that I will wake up to a crazy mountain man's face grinning wildly through the mesh ceiling before he puts me out of my misery. 
  • The murderer does not show up, though several trucks drive by around 3 AM. With each passing car, I shoot up straight in my sleeping back and prepare for battle. 
  • They keep driving. 
  • I jam up my shoulder a little bit trying to sleep on my side, but it's worth it. I finally fall into a deep sleep for three hours or so, until we were all gently awoken by the sweet sounds of the crow:
  • Jordan and I got up a little ahead of P and E and got "ready" for the day. That entailed wiping down with some baby wipes, changing clothes, and brushing our teeth over the little river flowing behind our campsite. 
  • Once I was able to see everything in the daylight, I started to really appreciate where we were. Though the night had been a little sleepless, the area we had chosen was gorgeous and secluded, and it started to be exciting that we were really fending for ourselves out here.
  • Jordan got started on coffee while I started setting things out for breakfast burritos. 
  • When Parker did wake up (last, of course), he immediately asked for a marshmallow. And so his trail name was born = MARSHMALLOW. 
  • Once the whole gang was up and moving, Emily and I started preparing the potatoes and sausage for our burritos, while Parker started what would become an hours-long odyssey to start a fire with a fire-starter he'd bought at an outdoor store.
  • For anyone going on any future group camping trips, I can't recommend our breakfast highly enough. Let me just include this recipe really quick: 

One-Skillet Breakfast Burritos - AKA Camp Food: 

1 package of Andouille sausage
Carton of eggs
1 ziplock bag of chopped peppers and onions
2 russet potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Cheddar cheese
Small tortillas

Crumble and cook the sausage while chopping the potatoes into consistent pieces. Add the potatoes to the sausage mixture and let them soften. Crack 6 eggs right into the pan and scramble the mixture together. When you're ready to serve, add chopped peppers and onions. Lay tortillas on a flat surface, scoop the sausage mixture in, and top with cheese which will melt upon sprinkling. PERFECT camping meal! 

  • Then we sat around, drinking coffee/tea and and hanging out for a while as Parker continued to work on starting a fire.  
  • Jordan made him what's called a "featherstick," and is supposed to be helpful. 
  • It turns out, starting a fire without a lighter is pretty challenging. 
  • I snuck off to go to the bathroom, i.e. tee tee in the woods, and was of course, immediately caught by a passing car. #classic 
  • After our breakfast pans were cleaned, we finished the coffee and started getting ready to go rafting on the Ocoee. 
  • We piled in the car and drove to Ducktown, which was about 15 minutes from our site. Ducktown is exactly as you would picture it: very small, very rural, lots of ducks.
  • (Just kidding about the ducks.) 
  • We get AMPED for rafting - I am the only one on our trip who's never been, and I am extremely excited. 
 Emily, I know you're going to kill me, but this picture is way too funny not to share. 

Emily, I know you're going to kill me, but this picture is way too funny not to share. 

  • We get geared up - vests, helmets, and paddles - and board the bus for our river adventure. 

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2! Spoiler alert: