7 Travel Tips to Return Energized

“I’m back from vacation and feel like I need another vacation,” said the sunburnt zombie unpacking their suitcase.

This has happened to me countless times. Sure, I had 7 days without work or doing laundry, maybe even spent the whole time laying in the sand, but somehow I return feeling even more drained. Can I get an amen?!?

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If you can relate, then I’ve got some tips for you. After a busy trip exploring San Francisco, Yosemite, and Napa Valley, I came home surprisingly energized and refreshed. Putting these tips into action paid off. Give ‘em a try for your next vacation!

1. Let “THE PLAN” always be a rough draft.

Take naps if you need them or go on a walk if that’s what you need. Listen to your body and adjust your day as you go. Also, be ready for a detour. Look for places to explore that weren’t on your agenda and feel yourself expand with energy as you revel in the unexpected moment.

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2. Repeat an activity!

If you find a coffee shop you really love, go back, or re-visit a restaurant. Maybe you take a nice walk early in the morning on the beach. Repeat it. Repeating something brings this special familiarity that reminds us of how we feel when we’re home. I find that the second time doing something, I can connect even deeper to that activity and to the moment. It leaves a strong imprint and often becomes my favorite memory.

3. Take time to yourself.

It is easy to disconnect from ourselves when we’re busy on vacation or surrounded by family. It’s that disconnection from who we are that plays into the weariness we feel when we return. No matter how busy your trip is find a moment to be alone. Even 3 minutes, if used with intention to breathe and connect, can be really powerful! 

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4. Invest in the “regular” you.

This is one of my favorite things to do to keep me connected and even launched back into my normal routine. Download some podcasts or read a book on a topic that’s relevant to what you are learning in life. For me, I listened to podcasts on teaching yoga and how to be authentic on social media. On my way home, I found some cool ones on marriage. Whatever it is for you from mindful living, work-life balance, reaching goals, or balancing mom-life, find a way to invest in making your regular life more beautiful. When you get home, you will feel empowered to bounce back into being you!

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5. Break a sweat.

Let’s never underestimate the power of exercise. Go for a run or do a yoga class, maybe follow along with a workout video. You’ll get that boost of endorphins that we all just need when we’re out of our routine. Plus, making time for exercise also means that you get a second to yourself. Yay!

I love going for a run or bike ride at the beach to counteract how dehydrated and drained the sun makes me feel. On our California trip, we were walking all over the city so we signed up for two gentle yoga classes. My husband who is only a mild yoga fan even said, “I’m really looking forward to the hour on my mat later. I want some time to stretch and just be still.” That’s right, he knows, exercise can be so effective to stay energized.

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6. Jump back into community!

It’s easy to come home from a trip, feel tired, and think you just need alone time to recuperate. This might be true, but it also can lead quickly to a feeling of isolation. So, get something on your schedule and meet up with girlfriends. Reconnect with the relationships that bring you joy.

7. One cup of coffee never hurt anybody.

When it comes to needing energy, caffeine always has our back. Praise! So, if you return from vacation and end up feeling like that sunburnt zombie, go get an iced latte and love yourself well through the vacay recovery!

Six Days in California

My favorite thing about this trip was the moment my husband told me that I was going to be an amazing mom (one day). Maybe it was the romantic mood, the fancy anniversary dinner, or the lovely conversation about memories, but somehow hearing him affirm me brought on all kinds of butterflies. We went away together for 6 days, did all kinds amazing things, but it’s the marriage that was the best part. It will always be the best part.

Nevertheless, I wanna share some fun highlights from our shenanigans in San Francisco and the surrounding areas.

Ferry Building and the Farmer’s Market

If you are a foodie, put this place on your bucket list! I read in Skymall magazine on the way home that the Ferry Building was ranked the #1 Food Hall in America. One big fat check on my list! The market is HUGE with more energy and free samples than I’ve ever seen. It takes place right on the water next to the Bay Bridge. Buy a fresh croissant, listen to the seagulls, and watch the live jazz music unite everyone’s moods into childlike revelry.

Hayes Valley

What I loved about this highlight was its spontaneity! I planned the trip thoroughly, never wanting to be somewhere and have to research what to do next, but I was hoping there would always be room for detours. A friendly store clerk suggested we drive ten blocks up and stop in Hayes Valley to explore. It ended up being my second favorite spot in SF – tons of affordable hip boutiques, classic thrift stores (I got a vintage blouse for $20), and all the trendy ice cream and coffee shops you could imagine.

Yoga at Grace Cathedral

Meditating with 300 people in complete silence, potentially 300 people BEING IN THE MOMENT TOGETHER … I’m at a total loss. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced, EVER!

Lake Tenaya

There’s all kinds of epic spots in Yosemite, but this was my favorite. While driving to a well-known meadows area, we saw to our right a gorgeous panorama – a sparkling lake set between giant rock mountains. We found a private spot, changed plans, and spent the whole afternoon soaking in the beauty (and the cold water!).

Napa Valley and the Monk’s Blessing

Napa has always been a dream of mine. It was just that, a dream. Other than floating on clouds from all the wine, the best part was when our tour guide showed us the wine aging in the barrels. The whole room was filled with the ominous sound of Monks chanting. Kinda creepy. I obviously needed to ask, “Where are the monks?” She quickly responded, “Oh they’re downstairs chanting 24/7. It’s a family tradition that their chanting blesses the wine. Do you want to meet them?” After a big resounding yes and following the guide halfway down the stairs, she turned around and busted out saying, “This is the farthest anyone has ever fallen for this joke!” … I blame the wine.

Bubble Bath and Church Bells

After 2 nights of camping and going without a shower, a bubble bath felt GLORIOUS.

Ryan dropped me off at the hotel while he took the car to the airport (thank you hotelstonight.com for making 4-star accommodations affordable). Once the bubble bath was done making me a new person, I put on the super soft robe and slippers, #luxury, and cozied up on the couch with my laptop to write. Feeling the breeze from the window, listening to the nearby church bells, and getting to enjoy my absolute favorite hobby, I felt as if I’d come home.

Being at Home

That’s what I love about getting to know yourself well and letting God love you to that point. You find that no matter where you are, you are already home because your true home is inside. Whether it’s on an airplane, sitting at work, or cooking in your kitchen, there can be a sweet haven within to enjoy. What a beautiful, unmarked territory – our inner soul, our hearts – a place that could contain within them all the peace, safety, and warmth of a home!?!

Thanks for listening, friends! I love you for reading!

Showing Up

The past month has been really special. Opportunity keeps knocking at my door, and despite fears, I keep resolving to just show up. So, count this post as one giant celebration to the beauty that comes from just simply making an appearance. 

In February, a girl from the I Love Juice Bar reached out to me, trying to get influencers to promote the local store. I didn’t feel like going the morning she was in town AT ALL and was super close to bailing. Somehow, I showed up and oh holy moly am I glad. She wanted me to throw a social … the point of this seemed absurd at first. Who’s gonna come? And I’m not about to say come meet me. That’s just bizarre-feeling. I went for it anyway. Luckily, I could convince the manager to teach us about juice and my friend to talk on intuitive eating. With some real incentive and my friends there to support me in case no one came, I could sit back and enjoy whatever happened.

And you see, what had happened waaaas … 20 girls came! We sat around and connected and just had simple girl talk. I saw a few new friends connect over recent breakups, another get invited to the church I love, two others relate over emotional eating challenges, and everyone getting to share in a simple experience together. My favorite response was a girl I met told me that the time was super nourishing and she was really thankful for it! Eeeeee!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily gonna do socials on the reg, who knows, but I just wanted to celebrate the beauty that comes from saying yes and showing up when you are scared or don’t feel like it – community was made!

Ya’ll AND FOR REAL my dreams are coming true (true-ish atleast). The I Love Juice Bar contact asked me to write a guest blog for their website and I’m basically having a HAY DAY – my little passion feels borderline professional. What if I had not shown up that day in February? What if I had stopped pushing because being lazy is easier?

Can I say this – I’m proud of myself? Because I am. When I was teaching middle schoolers and feeling stuck, I would pine so badly for something to be passionate about or something creative to enjoy. Years later, I love the story God is writing for me and the joy He is cultivating inside. It’s a process, but I love where it’s going. 

I have a lot more to share, but I wanted to take time to celebrate first!

I’ve been thinking about showing upin relationships a lot too. Sometimes, the way marriage is portrayed on Instagram makes me sick – so many projections of perfection when marriage is never “perfect.” It’s beautifully the opposite, but nobody talks about the imperfections or the moments of confusion. Well, you are welcome because here is my honest moment I had recently. The story involves Rhythm and Blooms, a music festival here in Knoxville, which side note was incredible! You should add it to your calendar for next year – live shows, food trucks, and a lot of cool bands.

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I had been pumped for awhile about the festival – the April weekend came and so did the sleet and cold. AH. We were outside at a show Saturday afternoon and I realized something … I wasn’t really having fun. Sure, it wasn’t ideal weather, but I was with my best friend, my “perfect” husband. Shouldn’t it always be a blast? If a bunch of friends joined us, I guarantee we would have both popped right out of our shells. I would have been cracking jokes and Ryan would have been starting the encore. I told him, “I feel like if we both were light switches right now, we would be turned off, and I have no energy to turn on, or come online.” He said he felt the same way. We’ve been together for 9 years (married for 5) and I know to just enjoy the boring time without it being “extra.” It’s just been awhile since it smacked me in the face like this. So, I wanted to share and be honest – WE ARE NOT PERFECT. Not every moment is a party and that’s okay. There are so many special silly times because we do love each other a lot, but there’s also mundane ones too. 

The next day at church, I walked to my seat and immediately sensed a word about all this. I heard God simply say, “I’m glad you are here.” I had just finished leading a team of volunteers and was distracted, not ready to worship or be in the moment with Him. As I felt God say, “Thank you for showing up for me,” I knew He also wanted me to feel that way towards Ryan. Later, I told him, “Thank you for choosing to be with me even when the special feelings aren’t there.”

We show up for a lot of things in our lives – our partners, families, work, friendships, passions – I’m left thinking how do we show up for ourselves? How do we be present with who we really are?

I have no clue. 🙂

And that’s where I will leave ya with so much more to be discovered about the simple act of showing up. Thank you so much for listening, pals!

Life, Lately

I’ve been pushing a lot lately. I’m the type to never pick up that book, or start that new habit, or make any inch of movement towards a goal. This blog was 2 years in my head before I had the courage to start it. So, “pushing” for me feels completely against my nature. I always thought that the path of least resistance was just to hang out and never cross the start line towards my dreams, but oh the agony of waiting to begin, the analyzing and wondering of what to do. I imagined actually engaging with my goals would be overwhelming, exhausting, and more than I could handle anyways. So, why start?

In fact, the pushing – the waking early to write, the choosing to read yoga books instead of my normal morph into a netflix zombie, the extra time spent investing in people to lead well at church, the choice to be present at work when all I feel like doing is watching the clock until I’m done – the pushing has made me feel more alive than I ever have. Heck, why did I wait so long to cross that start line, to engage with what I wanted in life? The pushing for me has been SO MUCH easier than the aimless dreaming and waiting.

Random analogy: Osteoporosis! … (please enjoy my sporadic thoughts and recent obsession with everything anatomy/yoga-related) … In my yoga teacher training this past weekend, our instructor was talking to us about various diseases and what to be mindful of when our students have them. My favorite one she discussed was osteoporosis which typically develops from a calcium deficiency or hormonal changes (thank you menopause). Pores actually begin to form in your bones making them very weak and brittle, susceptible to breaking. Ow. There have been a lot of studies done on how yoga can help with the condition. One famous study done in 2016 tested over 700 people with osteoporosis and the results showed huge increases in bone density after they did yoga for just 12 minutes a day! Bearing weight actually builds back your bones. This gave me a whole new perspective on the power of downward dog, but it also me made think about the power of pushing! Bearing weight is what leads to growth, to change, to building strength. Sure, sometimes you can bear too much weight and that is a whole other topic, but when you rest for too long and you become idle, what you really need is to pick up a goal, revisit a dream, and start bearing weight again!

Life lately, it’s been sweet – lot’s of yoga, lot’s of thinking, and lot’s of pushing! 🙂 Also, it’s meant a lot of time in Asheville, NC where my yoga training is located. Here’s us in our tiny home from the past weekend. It was stinkin’ adorable and I felt like the real Joanna Gaines in it, minus the goats and kids. 

We always try to see live jazz when we go to bigger cities and lookie! I found free live jazz and crazy good food! I believe I had calamari on top of black squid ink … only know this exists because of the cute little octopus in Finding Nemo! We also went to Bim Beri Bon, a super yummy and creative restaurant; I had a pulled pork Japanese crepe. Yum!

I love the adventuring, but I also adore the way you feel when you get back home, when you remember the sweetness of your daily life and routine. Finding a balance in it all is lovely, same goes for the pushing and resting.

Thanks for listening, friends! Talk to ya soon!

Hello, Lauren

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I adore this new friend I made through the lovely world of Instagram. She’s honest, real, and such a joy to be around. Lauren’s from New Hampshire and moved to Knoxville last summer. She was teaching Spanish at a pretty elite boarding school for four years and then toke a big leap to Knoxville to work at a local private high school. At a New2Knox Social, Lauren hooked up with some local girls who run a health and wellness business. She’s now partnering with them as her side hustle and teaching our community about amazing ways to be healthy. She is so much more than what she does though and I hate emphasizing that. Lauren’s got a heart full of beauty and an important story to celebrate!

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So, sit down, grab yo’ self a cup of coffee or tea, and join our conversation about who she is and what makes her special!  

Hey friend, tell us about yourself. What are the things in life that bring you the most joy?

Sure, over the years, I feel like it has the changed. I feel like the simpler things in life bring me joy like a cup of coffee in the morning or sunshine in the afternoon whereas when I was younger or in college it was the big monumental steps that were fulfilling. Now, I can just sit and reflect and find so many more moments of gratitude. Connecting with people is another huge thing that brings me joy and it has been a learning process. When I was in college, I stuck with a core group of friends. Moving to Knoxville from New Hampshire was a huge step – I was 26 and stepping completely out of my comfort zone, picking basically a spot on the map. So, when I got here, I really didn’t know anybody. I had to throw myself into situations to meet people, like the New 2 Knox socials or going to breweries by myself and just talking to random people. Through that, I feel like I’ve made connections here and really grown more of an appreciation for them. A great example of this is recently I was traveling with my field hockey team and struck up a conversation with the bus driver. It turns out he lived in my hometown for a portion of his life. How crazy is this small world we live in? He told me about his experiences fighting in Vietnam, his travels, and how he came to my hometown and Knoxville. I learned so much and if I hadn’t said hello and asked how his day was going, I would’ve never got to experience that! 

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What’s a lesson you have learned throughout the years, friend?

So, I feel like being confident in who you are no matter what stage of life you are in super important. When I was younger and in college, I went through so many trials and changes and I wasn’t always confident in those decisions. When I look back at them now, I just wish I would’ve been confident in them. I transferred from a big school to a smaller school and at that time, I wasn’t sure of that decision, but now I am so proud of it and where it led me. Now, I feel like any decision I make, while there might still be a little wavering, I try to go into it with the utmost confidence in myself. In the past 6 months in Knoxville, I’ve grown so much in this ability. Through my health and wellness journey, I’ve taken so much more time to reflect, to spend more time being grateful. Also, through the big life change of moving, I’ve learned to take risks and no matter the outcome I trust my decisions. If something doesn’t work, I can move on and be confident no matter what, knowing that there is no set in stone timeline to live by. It’s okay to not get your dream-job ‘til your thirty. It is still bad-ass to own a house when you are forty. Getting married is amazing at any age! Those monumental things can happen at any time!

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What’s a tension you find yourself in right now?

Procrastination and time management right now. There’s a lot I’m juggling – teaching, the health and wellness side hustle, friends, self-development, and just life. I’m trying to find a balance between all those things. I’m so passionate about all of them, but it’s hard to give them all the time they need. So, ya know I find myself snoozing my alarm five times or turning to Netflix first. I want to get better at managing when my self-development habits happen, like journaling or reading. With procrastination, I’ve set a couple goals this month and not met them, but I’m human. I wanted no phone twenty minutes before I go to bed – that lasted two nights. Haha. Ya know, it’s a learning process though. I still want that goal (and write in my journal which I’ve done a lot better with) and others like exercising. Those are my struggles right now and there’s more. We all have struggles no matter what front people put on, they have internal battles. It’s about how you deal though, how you learn from them, and how you move forward. Nobody’s perfect. I would rather be authentic and real at the end of the day than crazy unique.

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Love these real words from my new friend. I think honesty and vulnerability can have the power to bring us together. So, I hope you know that you aren’t alone in whatever tensions you find yourself in. Lauren, myself, and all of us are with you, trying to juggle our different things and trying to find meaning in it all.

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Thanks so much for listening and celebrating this special girl with me! I hope you have a wonderful weekend, friends! Hugs!

Over Here, Becoming My Own Valentine

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Where do I begin? One, I’m sharing this not because I want to – posting your personal mess on the internet is a lil’ scary. However, somehow I got a following here and I want this blog to be an honest place where girls can say “me too,” where you can know you’re not alone in having struggles. Two, please read to the end because I am excited to share my truth with you and how cheesy enough, I’ve become my own valentine! Here, we go.

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Last year, in many ways, I was on the hot mess express. I stepped into a new job that was and is wonderful for me. Yet, working and brushing shoulders with 5 girlfriends all day everyday brought up a TON of insecurities. Pretty sure those insecurities have been there since middle school, just cozy and dormant. To note, these co-workers are dear friends who have been in my life for the past 6 years, and have never communicated anything but love. YET, starting work with them, all the sudden I felt like I didn’t know if they liked me … I didn’t feel funny enough … or outgoing enough … or strong enough.  I felt paranoid all the time and really couldn’t put a finger on why. This was months. Not fun.

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It’s weird because God almost gave me a warning this storm was coming. The previous two Mays, around the same time each year I had distinct memories of similar conversations. I was talking in groups of girls about things that I honestly wasn’t interested in, but I was working HARD to fit in, cracking jokes and trying to appear a part of things. Both times, the most random whisper came from within, “Why are you doing that?” 

I forget God knows and sees me far better than I know myself. I had no awareness to the performance I had learned to turn on and I sure as heck didn’t want to go there. So, I ignored the clear voice of God both times. Yep.

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Then, there I was this past year with the huge insecurities woken back up. They were alive and well and wailing for me to pay attention to them. Luckily, I had learned to not be scared of tension, that tension is the EXACT place God wants to meet me. 

So, after months of seeking and waiting in the mess, here’s my truth that He showed me. Here’s the new foundation He built for me after tearing down what was there.

I have immense value. Before anyone likes me or values me or before I do anything well, I AM FULL OF VALUE.

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My spread of traits – outgoing and shy, fun and boring, kind and short, strong and weak, silly and serious, unique and normal – is the perfect spread to be me, to be a wonderful me! Our world teaches us we have to be just as (fill in the blank) as the girl next to us, but why can’t we embrace having a beautiful spread that’s all our own?

It sounds silly, but I literally feel like I have a new best friend in my life and it’s me.

I used to need people to show me that I was likable, BUT NOW I LOVE MYSELF. And when you really love something or someone, it is a game changer. All the sudden, you have patience for that person. You see the best in them. You forgive them. Grace becomes natural. You remind them of their strength and you push them towards things they love. You are a voice in the corner, always. And the best love doesn’t have a measuring stick or a set of expectations. Loving yourself like that, is the gift that my God has shown me. I will never be the same.

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Yep. Thanks for listening, friends. I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and know you are so full of value today and worthy of all the love in the world, even your own.

My Staple Meals

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One of my goals last year, was to have staple meals that I could put on repeat. Every week I was doing new recipes that took forever or boring meat and veggies, and I wanted to have dishes that felt like my classics, my greatest hits in the kitchen! Confession: I also sort of have a superhero mom dream to have yummy meals that become comfort food for my family. That’s how my mom was – she had her special strawberry salad, lamb and taziki sauce,  chicken tetrazzini, omg and the best mini pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. I remember her making these and other special meals and how they filled our home up with love and comfort. It sure is simple, but it sure does mean something, at least to me.

So, in pursuit of my own recipes, I found SIX that my hubby and I loved in 2017. I made them so many times that I almost know them by heart, woohoo! Plus, most of them are Whole 30 – great bonus!

Alright, time to feast your eyes. Here’s my top 6!

P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps

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http://40aprons.com/whole30-lettuce-wraps-pf-changs-recipe/

Tastes just like PF Chang’s – I use soy sauce instead of the amino’s … one day maybe I will be that healthy. Also, I make the two sauces early in the day so when it’s dinner time I just have to chop veggies and sauté everything.

Spaghetti Squash

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http://www.paleorunningmomma.com/paleo-slow-cooker-meatballs-whole30/

I use marinara from a jar … because well it tastes better and it’s way easier. I LOVE this recipe for the meatballs though – it’s so easy and fun to mix it all together with your hands. Plus, spaghetti just has that wonderful effect of being comforting, right?

Breakfast Bake

image2 (2)http://www.aimeemars.com/turkey-egg-breakfast-casserole/

I make this with sausage and it is the perfect breakfast to get ya going in the morning, full of protein but it also has that special savory/sweet combination. I think I made this literally 8 weeks in a row … yep, a little obsessed!

Here’s the rest:

Acorn Squash: Thanksgiving in a Squash!

https://www.paleorunningmomma.com/stuffed-acorn-squash-paleo-whole30/

Sweet Potato Tacos: Great as Leftovers!

http://www.paleorunningmomma.com/paleo-chili-stuffed-sweet-potatoes-whole30/

Zuppa Toscano Soup: Healthy Olive Garden!

http://40aprons.com/whole30-zuppa-toscana/

A big thank you to the food bloggers who crafted these special recipes, who gave me a place to start with creating my own staples (40 Aprons, Paelo Running Momma, and Aimee Mars). Here’s to another great year of cooking!

Hello, 2018!

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New year, SAME me. That just sounds better right? I used to give into the temptation of creating a new me. When I was younger, and would feel depressed without really having that label yet, I would make a list of all the new things I wanted to be! Heh, those lists went nowhere, but sure did make me feel better.

The past year, I experienced so much refinement of who I am. While I have goals for this new year, they really boil down to the same thing I experienced in 2017 – refinement of the real me (the way I function, my perspective, my habits, my desires, etc.)

That being said, I do have ONE NEW MANTRA! I heard a quote about a month ago in a podcast and it has stayed pretty consistently in the background of my mind. It comes from the Queen of Movies:

“I want to feel my life when I’m in it.” – Meryl Streep

Love this. When I heard it, my heart paused, took it in, and then hasn’t let go of it. So, this is my mantra, my fresh intention for 2018, to feel my life when I’m in it.

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Every season is so different and boy do I appreciate the one I am in now – it’s relatively relaxing and happy. I remember though last fall, the refinement I mentioned came with some necessary valleys. It’s a long story that I will post about one day, but I was frustrated with a tension in my life that was staying around for far longer than I wanted it to. Frustrated it wouldn’t resolve, I talked to my friend PRISCILLA MOLINA who I adore. She told me, “Laura, this is your life. This is it.” I hear that a lot now, in her wonderfully Cuban and sassy yet somehow tender voice. That simple reminder made me realize I was missing my life. Worried about fixing it and focused on the “perfect” future, I was missing out on what the season actually felt like. Once I gave into that and let it just be, I could actually connect with myself. I could then be honest with God and that tension finally had the space it needed to heal.

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So, this is the dilemma: when life is hard, we over-work our minds and try to fix it. When life is easy, we float and don’t take in the goodness. Meryl Streep may as well have been the Queen of Slow Living because her quote calls us to slow down and FEEL the good and FEEL the pain. Heck, yesterday I was trying to “FEEL the busy” and yep it felt a little silly.

I think there is something here though to help us in the pursuit of slow living (which even though I hate buzzwords, how can I neglect this beautiful concept?). If you are going to live slowly and take in the moment, you are going to have to BE HONEST about how you are feeling. Angry, sad, frustrated, excited, happy, depressed, confused, busy – embrace your honest feelings and let yourself feel them. This has been for me the TICKET TO SLOW LIVING and the ticket to really enjoying the seasons of my life.

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That’s my heart for 2018, to FEEL my life when I’m in it. One day when I’m old, doing puzzles and eating mint chocolate chip ice cream every night (that’s the plan) I hope I don’t say, “Wow, my life flew by.” Instead, that I would have felt the days, weeks, seasons, and years of my life.

Hello, Pour Taproom

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4 Friends. A Unique Approach to Craft Beer. A Franchise Family. And the Perfect Place. We have something special coming our way this month to Knoxville and I am so excited to celebrate it.

Set to open as early as THIS WEEKEND in Old City’s Jackson Terminal, Pour Taproom will be a tasting room of local craft beer, ciders, mead, craft soda, and wine. The set-up is self-serve with a check-in system as you enter and a very techie wristband that controls your tab, as you have free reign to pour as much and as many tastes as you want.

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The story behind the new opening begins with Joel McLead who has been in food service his whole life. He grew a passion for beer (who can blame him), went to school for fermentation science, and ended up working in some of the best breweries in Asheville including Highland Brewing and Oskar Blues. His long-term goal became to sell the finished product and open a place of his own. Now, the atmosphere and concept of Pour Taproom in Asheville really tugged at him. So, he reached out to the founder, Nate Tomforde, via Facebook for tips (and yes via Facebook started one of his most important relationships – the internet is magical these days). Nate was actually hoping to start his 4th location in a different city and as magic would have it, Joel went from just searching for tips to being welcomed into a franchise family.

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I say franchise family because the people behind Pour Taproom are more than just entrepreneurs. They are people who do life together, who know how to have fun, who support each other, and put that community first before the dollar signs that have inevitability followed. Nate began his first Pour Taproom in Santa Cruz, having many people from his church become his CEO and leaders. Then, his family and HIS PRIEST moved out to Asheville to start another (how awesome is that – his priest is a hard liquor man by the way in case you were curious and is the artist behind the tree paintings). A start-up in Chicago and now here in Knoxville have followed.

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With Joel being welcomed into this family, his wife Mariah and two friends, Sam Natour and Caitlin Riley, joined him as partners. If I might say these 4 make an awesome team – with so many different strengths represented in the group and with a background of doing life together over beers. They are the perfect type of people to open a tasting room and the perfect down to earth friends waiting to show you around their new place.

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What these 4 masterminds and the founder Nate have prepared for you is what they call a “Beer Festival Everyday!” There are 68 taps, with each local brewery having at least 1 tap, a few ciders, 8 wines, a craft soda, and a mead. The wristband you get will allow you to be your own bartender where you can pour as little or as much as you like. “This is the only place where you can try 15 beers and still be able to drive home,” well-said by Joel. The customer scans the wristband at the tap’s screen and the tab builds automatically based on how much is poured – again the magic of wireless technology.

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He and Caitlin also explained that one of their main goals is to be a place that promotes all the local breweries. “People can come in here and let’s say they try Last Days of Autumn Brown Ale and really like it. I can say, their brewery is a few blocks away – go try out their other brews.” How awesome! As the queen of guilty sampling at a bar, I can already get behind the self-serve concept as an answer to my problems, but I can really stand behind their vision to build community in Knoxville. From promoting local breweries, bringing in food trucks, hosting events, and just bringing people together every day over beer, this place is going to be another incredible addition to Knoxville’s growing culture.

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So, this month if you are a local, then you can expect a “Beer Festival Everyday” open for you in the Old City. Remember how excited we were years ago when fro-yo was invented – this is even better – the fro-yo experience with beer! When you come in, you will also get to enjoy the gorgeous historic location with the original train terminal beams, river wood top bars from Loudon Lake, the boardwalk patio, and don’t worry if you get hungry – they will be serving FOOD including dips, appetizers, salads, and cheesy paninis.

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Thanks for listening and celebrating Pour Taproom with me. I hope you go check it out this summer and say hi to Joel and the team. If you aren’t a Knoxville local, then I hope you go support a local brewery or bar in your own city. Cheers!

P.S. The site will be soft-opening this Saturday July 1st and the Grand Opening is set to be July 14th at 2pm. I will see you there!

Hello, Rain

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It’s been sprinkling here.

There’s a lot of transition in the air around me. It’s hard to spell it out, but a bunch of small things are about to change in my life. I find myself arranging dates in my head, talking myself through decisions, and mentally juggling the things on my plate now and the new things coming.

I wouldn’t say I’m tired. I don’t know, in this busy time though, I’ve been asking myself, do I need to drop something? The easiest thing that comes to my mind is this, dropping this blog that still feels bizarre. So, amuse me as I disorderly hash out my desires for my own sake and maybe you can relate or just get to know an honest heart more.

All I want in life is to express what’s inside me, live simply from the heart, and learn how to be my true self.

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Lou in Knox is something tiny to me, valuable but small. Sometimes, I feel the urgency of the social media world to get followers and become something and my heart totally puts its fists up and says, “No!” Last week, I went on a week-long field trip and never looked at my blog, my Instagram maybe twice, and hardly thought about Lou in Knox. To my surprise, it didn’t phase me. I spent the whole week getting wrapped up in being a friend to my students and embracing their entertaining middle-school personalities. When I got back, I expected myself to feel behind with my account, but felt the opposite. I didn’t even care. Writing and being creative will always be waiting for me when I am ready. I’m learning that while this blog is public and I am putting myself out there with something my generation would urge me to make successful, I just don’t care to worry about that. I love the freedom of writing when I am inspired, of posting when I want to, and not really caring how consistent or dependable that is. I understand that is no path to money or success. However, I do think it is the path to something else that is just as special – freedom to create, to make beautiful things from the heart, and to let it be for my joy. So, friends I don’t find myself as a hustler; I still feel consistently that expression of what is inside doesn’t need a timeline, doesn’t need followers, doesn’t need success. It’s just beautiful as is.

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“To live simply” – God’s leading me into this desire. With everything I first described, I’ve been doing life with a very preoccupied mind. On my way home from work, God said, “Laura, I have you.” I wish I could describe what hearing the voice of God is like. It reminds me of an unexpected downpour on a dry baseball field. The busy game stops. The pros rest. The field gets covered and all the fans wait and watch the sky’s show in silence. “I have you.” My head and heart are completely interrupted and met with a strong, impressionable, presence. “I have you.” That is a strong I. That is a dependable I. That is an I who knows me so deep that I loose understanding. That is an I who has sustained me and brought so many parts of me to life. When that I says He has me, I believe Him and I mysteriously unravel to nothing, yet everything. All dates, task lists, and next steps, seem like a part of tomorrow’s mental journey. BUT now, like Ray Lamontagne’s song, is just for being here, simply with no agenda. To live simply like this, letting my HEAD function when it needs to and my HEART able to be present in the moment is what I want on this side of heaven.

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Last, is learning how to be my true self. I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking that “being myself” meant being some epic version of a girl. I’m learning that it’s completely different. This is challenging to hash out because I AM STILL IN PROCESS over this. So, to be continued.

The time of transition sure does have me thinking over here. Goodness, what a ramble. If you are still reading, go you, and thanks for listening to me hash out my desires during this busy time. I hope you go take another moment for yourself to be quiet and still and maybe wait for a rainfall of your own.

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Photo Credit: Tasha Grabowski (amazing Knoxville photographer – check her out on Instagram – @tashagrabowski)