Our Babymoon to Laurel

My mom and her friends often laugh at some of the modern traditions of having a baby: things like gender reveals, push presents, and babymoons. This type of fanfare just wasn't part of pregnancy for them like it has become for us. Of course, neither was straying away from deli meat or chicken salad, things that grace the no-no list for pregnancy today. 

Although I just came back from my second babymoon, I sometimes feel cliche or cheesy talking about it. But, I find the heart of it to be wise and wonderful. No matter what our life circumstance, it's important for Woody and I to consistently invest in our marriage, and in the weeks before welcoming a new member to the family, I find it especially valuable to take some intentional time away together. So, babymoon, it is!


32 weeks with Baby girl!

32 weeks with Baby girl!

Before Fox was born, we combined our babymoon with our anniversary trip, and we traveled to Fairhope, AL, to stay at The Grand. With Baby Girl, we also wanted to have a babymoon, and decided to do something low key and close. It was important to stay budget-friendly, and we didn't take as much time away as before since we have Fox and needed to figure time away from him and childcare into the equation.

This narrowed us down to the Southeast, and there are several places that are old favorites, but we wanted to try something new. We ended up choosing Laurel, MS, a decision which left many people asking, "what's in Laurel?"

We're longtime fans of HGTV's Fixer Upper (which inspired us to buy our own fixer upper), and when it went off the air, we decided to take a chance on the new HGTV show, Home Town based in Laurel, MS. We don't watch much TV, and Fixer Upper felt like big shoes to fill, so we didn't immediately fall in love with Home Town. We kept watching though, and it quickly became a favorite of ours. 

We love the hardworking attitude and authenticity of the show's couple, Erin and Ben Napier. As old home owners ourselves, we also enjoy seeing historic homes come back to life. Both of us having lived much of our childhoods in small towns, there was something about the homegrown, Southern community of Laurel that took us back to our roots. On top of that, we caught up on most of Season Two of Home Town during this pregnancy, so making a trip to Laurel in person felt like a real treat.

We picked Labor Day weekend, and fortunately, most things in Laurel had regular hours that weekend. If it continues in a similar direction as Waco, TX, after the years of Fixer Upper filming there, it won't be long before Laurel becomes busier and more booming. While it's been a charming town for a long time, I really loved the idea of getting to visit while it's still in the smaller stages of growth and notoriety that can come once there is a TV show about your town.

We had a great stay, and we already can't wait to return! Part of the beauty of visiting a new place is finding your own way and creating adventure, but I love having some solid recommendations, too, so here's a glimpse of our trip to Laurel:

Laurel MS Babymoon
Laurel MS Babymoon

We took this selfie right as we arrived. We were so excited to finally be on our babymoon! Our first stop was the Laurel Mercantile, and they had this adorable guide to Laurel from Erin and Ben of Home Town. I had already researched places we wanted to go, but this guide added to our list and confirmed some we already had in our plans.


Accomodations

We booked the Sweet Somethings Bed & Breakfast through Airbnb. The space looked just the right size for us, was at a great price point, and was nestled into the heart of downtown making it a convenient and enjoyable way to experience Laurel.

Upon arrival, we ended up meeting Joseph, the owner of Sweet Somethings, and he was so kind! He gave us our keys, showed us to our room, told us about the property, and let us tour some other rooms at the B&B. He also helped with dinner recommendations. It was just the start of the Southern hospitality we would experience all weekend long.

Sweet Somethings B and B.jpg
Sweet Somethings B and B
Sweet Somethings B and B
Sweet Somethings B and B

We lived in a downtown loft our first three years of marriage, so this took us back! We loved it. It was spacious and comfortable. Also, included in our stay was breakfast from the bakery. All we had to do was walk downstairs where we were greeted with tasty smells and cinnamon rolls blanketed in icing.

Sweet Somethings Bakery
Sweet Somethings Bakery

Eating, shopping, & SightSeeing

Laurel MS Babymoon

I reached 32 weeks pregnant with Baby Girl on this trip, and it was special having her tote along for all the fun.

We first saw Pearl’s Diner on the show, and as big fans of Southern cooking, we knew we had to make a stop. We ended up getting to ride out a quick afternoon rain shower as we feasted on some delicious fried chicken, the sweetest sweet tea, and more Southern hospitality.

Laurel MS Babymoon Pearls Diner
Laurel MS Babymoon Pearls Diner
Laurel MS Babymoon Pearls Diner

We got several recommendations to visit Guild and Gentry, a men’s store downtown. Woody enjoyed shopping, and I enjoyed the “Ladies Lounge” pictured below. Taking a moment to rest my feet was just what I needed to refuel for the afternoon.

We also got to meet Caroline, the owner of the shop. We talked as if we were old friends, and she is also expecting a baby girl about a month after we are! She and her husband’s home was renovated on Home Town, so it was fun talking to her about that. She is investing back into the Laurel community as they grow their men’s store with a barber shop and humidor room, and she shared some of the town’s history with us. Woody also got a pair of pants while we were there, and they’re some of his new favorites.

Laurel MS Babymoon Guild and Gentry
Laurel MS Babymoon Guild and Gentry

We did eat things other than Southern food (I promise!), but another delicious stop for some Southern cooking was Estelle’s for Sunday lunch. We both got the buffet and filled our plates with classic Southern favorites and a few nostalgic childhood dishes like creamed corn and jello.

Laurel MS Babymoon

The new Scotsman General Store opened a week before we arrived, and it was a treat to go see it in its early days. We bought old, classic candy and sodas, and got to stand around and talk with some of the owners. Again, everyone was so friendly and easy to talk to. It’s not hard to see why the town of Laurel is growing and thriving with such kind people caring for and investing in it.

Laurel MS Babymoon
Laurel MS Babymoon

You can see into Ben’s wood shop from the General Store. I liked looking at the pieces in progress. He wasn’t building while we were there, but it was interesting to see the place where so much hard work and artistry happens.

Other spots that we loved, but I don’t have photos of include:

Lee’s Coffee and Tea: this was my favorite! I had a delicious sandwich, chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookie, and the perfect iced latte.
Mimmo’s: Garlic Knots. Enough said.
Boutique on Central: I found some adorable, unique pieces at a great price, and of course, the staff was as sweet as can be.
Southern Antiques: one of many home decor stops. I love designing rooms, and these home shops were like a playground!

Laurel MS Babymoon

We ended our stay with a sweet stroll around Laurel’s historic neighborhood. Walking neighborhoods is one of our favorite things to do, and it was nice spending the last little bit of our trip holding hands, avoiding puddles, and talking. We got to see several of the homes that we’ve seen renovated on the show, too. I really enjoyed getting a feel for the heart of the place that we’d previously only experienced on a screen. 

We highly recommend a trip to Laurel. It was simple and enjoyable. We ate well, rested well, and shopped well. We met great people and felt like we found a home away from home where we can return to enjoy so many of the things we love about small towns and Southern life.

I’m happy to answer any questions about our trip, and I also always love favorite destination recommendations from you! 

March 2016 Goals

I love March. It brings the first hints of spring and longer daylight hours as well as my husband's birthday and the anniversary of our engagement! This time of year often feels like a season of new birth as we emerge from winter, and it is sweet.

We learned so much and had a great time with other married couples at  our church 's marriage conference this year!

We learned so much and had a great time with other married couples at our church's marriage conference this year!

February had several full weekends including traveling to Tennessee for Valentine's Day with two other couples, hosting friends for our church's marriage conference, and spending a long weekend in NC visiting sweet friends and family. In between all of that, our family calendar kept us in a great flow of communicating with each other and spending our days intentionally.

Most of all, I'm so grateful for the people and precious relationships that made February special, and I look forward to how we can continue cultivating that this month.

I cannot describe how valuable spending time with other couples who share similar values has been for us. Investing in these friendships has brought so much richness to our lives. For the second year in a row, we went on a Valentine's weekend trip with friends, and we hope it will be an ongoing tradition!

I cannot describe how valuable spending time with other couples who share similar values has been for us. Investing in these friendships has brought so much richness to our lives. For the second year in a row, we went on a Valentine's weekend trip with friends, and we hope it will be an ongoing tradition!

Franklin TN_The LovingKind

February Goals Progress

  • Have three meaningful date nights with Woody
  • February family calendar planning
  • Plan and enjoy Valentine's weekend with Woody and friends
  • Invite Mom for a weekend in Birmingham
  • Kick off Young Marrieds Small Group with the Bradshaws
  • Post friendship list where I can regularly see it
  • Have two friend times-coffee, lunch, dinner, etc.
  • Write for the TLK blog (two posts plus goals)
  • Host The Orchard, meeting two
  • Try YNAB (We are loving YNAB so far!)
  • Write thank you notes (I got a few done, but still a few to go!)
  • NC trip with Woody to visit family and friends
  • Choose blessing fund purpose

March Goals

Three date nights with Woody
Family calendar planning night with Woody
Family budget party
Host Woody's family for a weekend in Birmingham
See all of our parents in person
Supper Club
Work on writing projects
Two blog posts in addition to monthly goals
Research bedding options (mattress, bed, etc.) for guest room (suggestions welcomed!)

I'd love to connect with you about your goals for March. Share in the comments below or leave a link to where you've shared them online. 

Also, if you're looking for a great tool to get started with meaningful goal setting, my absolute go to are PowerSheets from the Lara Casey Shop!
 

July 2015 Goals

Well, hello there, July 13! Woody and I embarked on an impromptu beach vacation at the end of June through the weekend of the Fourth, and that put a kink in my goal setting flow. I'm realizing more and more these days that I simply can't do it all. In this case, a week away with my love won out, so here we are with the first mid-month goals post! 

Sweet moments on the pier in St. Simons captured by our friend and photographer,  Sarah DeShaw .

Sweet moments on the pier in St. Simons captured by our friend and photographer, Sarah DeShaw.

In every year of our marriage so far, Woody and I have saved the majority of our vacation time for our anniversary celebrations in November. Last year, as I watched friends and coworkers head to the beach in June and July, I realized waiting for vacation until November just wasn't cutting it! There is something about a midyear break that is good for the soul, and I wanted in on it.

We began the year intending to take a summer beach trip, but when we got a contract on a house in the spring, June and July turned into home renovation months. Then, that contract fell through (full story to come), and we found ourselves in late May with no house and no beach plans. When June arrived, we decided it wasn't too late to make it happen and planned our summer vacation in about two weeks. As we quickly made plans, I realized it would be our first full week away since our honeymoon two and a half years ago! I couldn't believe it.

These bikes are the best! We rented them and rode around  Sea Island  even as the rain sprinkled down on us. They were adding more bikes for the weekend of the Fourth, which explains the lovely truck and cardboard boxes behind us! 

These bikes are the best! We rented them and rode around Sea Island even as the rain sprinkled down on us. They were adding more bikes for the weekend of the Fourth, which explains the lovely truck and cardboard boxes behind us! 

Our vacation week was so good for us, and it's safe to say we won't let another year pass without taking off for a full week (or two!). It was refreshing to step away from the flow of daily life and breathe in some different air. We have a lot of great things happening in Birmingham right now, so it was actually a little hard to leave, but it was so important that we did. In addition to giving ourselves time to retreat from life's everyday responsibilities, it was a helpful reminder that things can go on for a week without us (shocker, I know). For our getaway, we chose to return to St. Simons Island, one of our favorite spots in the world. I hope to share more with you about why we love this place soon.

How is your summer going, friends? Have you made time to retreat? Whether it's a day, a week, a month, or some length of time in between, I hope you'll create the opportunity for your soul to rest this summer. In fact, it would make a great summer goal for all of us!

S'mores in the summer! While on vacation, we got to see our dear friends,  Sarah  and Brent, who live in the St. Simons area. This particular evening, we went to hear the bagpiper play on the golf greens at The Lodge at Sea Island as the ocean waves rolled by. And yes, it was as dreamy as it sounds.

S'mores in the summer! While on vacation, we got to see our dear friends, Sarah and Brent, who live in the St. Simons area. This particular evening, we went to hear the bagpiper play on the golf greens at The Lodge at Sea Island as the ocean waves rolled by. And yes, it was as dreamy as it sounds.

June Goals Progress

  • Make vacation plan with Woody Not only did we make our vacation plan for the year, but we also took an impromptu beach trip! Double hooray for accomplishing this goal!
  • Clean out my closet in prep for capsule wardrobe This hasn't happened yet, but I did start reading "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" which is setting me up for success!
  • Write and post three blog posts
  • Celebrate Christy's wedding
  • Continue triune wellness plan with Woody I'm learning I need a really solid plan to make this happen effectively
  • 30th birthday planning
  • Celebrate Father's Day with my dad We had a special weekend at the lake, and I prepared all the meals, which is a big step for this cook-in-training!
  • Sigma Kappa work group research
  • Make prayer list

Standing monthly goals

  • Send June birthday cards
  • Write Woody a love note
  • Goals blog post
  • Budget party with Woody
Happy Independence Day! Love this festive flag at the  Sea Island  Beach Club.

Happy Independence Day! Love this festive flag at the Sea Island Beach Club.

July Goals

The numbers beside each monthly goal indicate the corresponding yearly goal.
Also, I am continuing to work on staying simple, yet very purposeful with my goals.

Write four blog posts (5)
Close on our home! (1) I can't wait to share the full update on our house journey!
Host Sarah and Brent in Birmingham (31)
Send 30th birthday party invitations (12, 33)
Watercolor (10, 11)
Celebrate July 4th with family (25, 33)

Standing monthly goals

Send July birthday cards
Write Woody a love note
Goals blog post
Budget party with Woody

What are you excited to do in July? Even though we're now mid-month, there is absolutely still time to make it count for what matters in your heart. I'd love to hear from you in the comments below or leave a link to your own goals blog post!

Adventure Together

I recently heard someone recount the advice they gave their son, "you'll never get a girl to fall in love with you until you go on an adventure together." As a romantic, I love this advice, and I also think it imparts a valuable truth that matters for marriage. Adventuring together is so important to enjoying each other and continuing to fall deeper in love and companionship throughout your life together. 

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When I hear "adventure," my mind automatically thinks "spontaneous." But, I've learned that as romantic as spontaneous adventures can be, if you sit around waiting for them to happen in your marriage, they probably won't. You have to purpose to adventure together by dreaming, talking, planning, and committing. Woody and I have made it a point to dream about travel and adventures, mark our calendars and make it happen! For us, once it's on the calendar, we have an accountability to plan, book rooms, research restaurants, and show up. What steps do you take that help you commit to making adventures happen?

This Valentine's Day, before even talking to each other about our plans, we both separately had the idea to go out of town together and celebrate with another couple. After considering a few options, we decided we didn't want to travel too far since it was just a weekend trip, and we were going by car. Living in Birmingham, we thought the Nashville area would be nice, but weren't too excited about the hotel options and prices we were finding.

After checking our usual travel resources, we hopped on the popular VRBO to see what we could find. We stumbled upon the most adorable cottage called Brigadoon by Shelter & Roost in Leiper's Fork, Tennessee. The location was perfect, the price was perfect, and we were in love with this romantic getaway spot. Woody contacted the owner, got the details sorted out, and our adventure was booked within 24 hours.

Wanting friends to join us for a Valentine getaway, we invited fellow adventure lovers, Rachel and Lucas. It didn't take them long to say yes after our persuasive pitch of how much fun it would be! We all got together a few times to make plans for our trip, but for the most part, adventuring in Leiper's Fork was easy and laid back and didn't require too much work beforehand. With most things being within walking distance of our cottage, we knew we could do as much or as little as we wanted with ease. We decided to eat out Friday night to enjoy some local flavor and then to cook in Saturday to avoid the Valentine's crowds, and it was perfect.

Delicious Southern lunch and live music at the original  Puckett's Grocery  in Leiper's Fork.

Delicious Southern lunch and live music at the original Puckett's Grocery in Leiper's Fork.

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I surprised Woody by making his favorite cookies, and it's safe to say the look on his face at first bite was priceless!

I surprised Woody by making his favorite cookies, and it's safe to say the look on his face at first bite was priceless!

One of the things I loved most about this trip was the relaxed flow. We planned enough activities that we got to experience the location, but left enough flexibility in our schedule to relax and be spontaneous. It helped that the vibe of Leiper's Fork naturally contributed to the laid back flow we wanted for our weekend away. In fact, one of my favorite memories is simply walking hand-in-hand with Woody exploring new shops and places. 

Looking back, as adventures should be, this trip is like a bookmark in our relationship. It's something we can turn to as an experience we embarked on and enjoyed together. The memories we made and the time we spent together truly served to fuel us and our marriage.


Adventure helps to build companionship in a marriage. Whether it is camping in the Tetons or traveling to New York to see a Broadway show, the excitement and mystery of adventure can be strong coffee for a marriage. The new sights and sounds, the need to pull together to erect a tent or hail a cab—and yes, all the tensions also—they awaken us from the dulling effect of the daily grind and make us more alive to our world, to each other, and to God.
— Love & War by John and Stasi Eldredge

 When you adventure together, something new happens as you find yourselves in unfamiliar places absent of usual routines. This allows you to see your partner in a new way and experience something fresh together. As husband and wife, we are designed to make it through life together, so it only makes sense to keep your skills sharp by making adventuring a regular part of your marriage!

In addition to making your marriage better, shared adventures are a great place to build friendships. It's important to pick the right people to welcome along on your adventure, too. One of the things we love about being with Rachel and Lucas is that we feel inspired in our marriage after spending time with them. They are the kind of people that make you want to be a better spouse because of how they love each other. It's no mystery that who you spend your time with will impact how you live your life, so find other couples that you respect and enjoy and invite them along your journey!

Rachel is a fabulous photographer, and she captured all these beautiful and sweet moments of our adventure. I hope you've enjoyed a little peek into our Valentine weekend, and that it inspires you to take an adventure with your spouse. Whether it be long or short, near or far, just get out and go and get ready for your marriage to grow! 

What are your favorite adventures you've shared together?