Our backyard project: the before

30 March 2017

We love many things about our home, but the backyard has never been one of them. It’s small, sloped, exposed, littered with acorns and sweet gum balls, and not receptive to our efforts at grass growing. For the last four years we’ve hardly spent any time out there, preferring to hang on our front porch (we mostly just went around back to tend the vegetable garden and grill).

We can’t change the size of our yard, but we’ve always hoped to do a major renovation to make it work a lot harder for us. With June’s arrival, it seemed like the time was right, so I spent part of my maternity leave getting quotes and meeting with landscape folks. It was shockingly hard to get people to respond to our calls and emails! (I was like, do you KNOW how much money I’m trying to give you??)

Speaking of so much money… a few quotes did come back, and they were higher than we were anticipating. We had saved up a good amount, but just didn’t feel comfortable moving forward. So, we tabled the project last spring.

Then, early this year, we received an unexpected and generous gift from a family member. It wasn’t large enough to, say, make a huge difference in our mortgage (and we already feel good about our progress and plan there), but it was enough to make our backyard project a reality. We were SO excited to start the ball rolling again, and the best part is that though the gift was given with no strings attached, I think the giver would be very excited about where it’s going, because kids being outside is something near and dear to her heart.

As it is to ours. I’ll share more about our plans in my next post, but for now, I wanted to show y’all the before photos!

Mmmmm… so lovely :) Back with more soon!

P.S. A crane is coming to remove two of the trees today!! Stay tuned to Instagram Stories for an update.

Taking ballet again

28 March 2017

One of my four focal areas for 2017 is to “live fit.” I’m hoping to accomplish this in a number of ways, but one I was really excited about was to take a ballet class. I’m in the last week of my first eight-week session, and I thought it would be fun to report in! Whenever I’ve talked about taking ballet with friends or strangers, they’ve had a lot of questions, so let’s pretend we’re having a typical convo here :)

Photo by Simply Seleta – one of the people who inspired me to return to ballet!

Why did you want to take a ballet class? I grew up a devoted bun head from about age 3 to age 18, taking classes 5 days a week at a traditional and rigorous school. I have a deep love for the rhythms and art of ballet, and mainly thought taking a class would be fun — and hopefully provide some exercise along the way.

Is it weird to take ballet again after such a long break? It feels like snuggling into a very familiar, comfy sweater :) The technique hasn’t changed, and I still know all the French terms. The music still makes me hum along, and I’m still not very good at développés. I am definitely not as flexible as I once was.

There was this very beautiful moment the first time I left the studio after class, stepping out into the cool night air, sweatpants over my sweaty tights and leotard. I had this rush of familiarity, like I’ve done this exact same thing thousands of times, but instead of scanning the parking lot for my mom’s minivan I hopped into my own car and drove home to my husband and daughter. How neat that something can stay a constant through such different seasons of my life! I’m grateful I’m able to enjoy it for what it is in this season and not wish for something that was.

How did you find the class? Like I said, I grew up with a technique-focused classical dance education, and that was what I was looking for (unlike a ballet hybrid like Pure Barre, which I’ve also taken and enjoyed!). If you’re looking for the same, keep an eye out for a studio that talks about a classical education and requires a dress code (usually certain color leotards for certain levels) and steer away from anything with a competition team. From there, I took a free trial class, and then signed up for an eight-week session!

What is the class like? Because it is a “fundamentals” class, it is very barre heavy – about an hour of the class is spent at the barre, unlike a typical class, which would probably be closer to 45 minutes. The teacher demonstrates each combination before we begin, and gives individual correction throughout. We sometimes start with sit-ups, push-ups, and planks. After barre work, we do center work, including adagio, turns, and small jumps, and then usually end with a few across-the-floor combinations (big jumps, turns, etc.). It’s an hour and a half long.

Who else is in the class? It’s been a bit different every week, but there are usually about 8-10 of us. If I had to guess, I would say that 3-4 of the other girls are in middle school, 3-4 are in high school, and 1-2 are adults. The skill level varies from a few girls who probably started dancing 1-2 years ago to the high school girls who are in the school’s company and are taking this class for extra conditioning. It’s a good mix!

Someone asked me if it’s weird or awkward to be in a class with middle and high schoolers, and in my opinion, no! I embrace it! I think it’s fun to be around them and get to talk about spirit week and things like that, haha! I was very proud when one of them complimented me on my sneakers – glad to know I can still hang with the youth :)

What do you wear? Ahh, the most popular question! I wear a leotard and pink or black tights, black shorts, and split sole ballet slippers. I wear my hair in a bun. Thankfully, I saved all of my gear from high school! The dress code is fairly relaxed, though, and some people wear workout leggings and athletic tops.

What did you love to do growing up, and do you still do it? Or any other questions I can answer? :)

Pretty athletic leggings

23 March 2017

My friend was wearing these Lilly Pulitzer leggings the other day, and I about died. I didn’t even know Lilly Pulitzer MADE leggings! At $98, however, they’re a little out of my budget at the moment, so I went down a rabbit hole to find some other fun, floral, girly options. Here are my best picks at a range of price points!

pretty athletic leggings

First row:
Lilly Pulitzer ($98)
Old Navy ($20)
J. Crew ($52.50 on sale)
Nanette Lepore ($68)

Second row:
Fabletics ($45)
J. Crew ($52.50 on sale)
Champion ($28)
Fabletics ($55)

Any other great sources to share with the group? :)

HGTV Home Town and our house portraits

21 March 2017

Are you all planning to watch the new HGTV series Home Town tonight? It’s at 10 EST, right after Fixer Upper – and if you love Fixer Upper, you probably will love Home Town! They both have a sweet, talented, smart, very-much-in-love couple at the center; small town coziness; fun house transformations; and a Southern heartbeat. Plus, Erin from Home Town wrote my favorite Southern Newlywed interview ever, and has been one of my favorite blogs to read for a few years. (She writes a short note sharing the best thing that happened that day, every day – admirable!) It has been so fun to see the show develop on her blog, from the first covert mentions (before they could even talk about what was going on but it was obvious something was up), to the pilot’s debut last year, to the past few weeks building up to the premier. They are an easy couple to root for and it has been so fun to do so!

We also have some of Erin’s original art hanging in our home! Before she became an HGTV star, she was a wedding and social stationer. Though she’s now using her drawing and watercolor skills to help Laurel-ites imagine home renovation possibilities, she used to create house portraits for people like me! She drew both of our family cottages (that’s one of them under her pen, up there), and they hang proudly in our main room. Since we live far away from Maine, I love walking by their sweet facades every day. I’ll always be grateful for her talent in bringing them to life!

Join me in supporting this sweet Southern couple tonight, friends? 10pm EST – I’ll see you there!

P.S. I am going to Laurel next month – counting down the days!!