Calligraphy Workshops with Laura Hooper

Monday, August 29, 2016

A few months ago, I discovered that one of my favorite wedding vendors, Laura Hooper Calligraphy, hosts workshops for beginners interested in learning the art of calligraphy. Calligraphy has always been something that fascinated me and I find hand lettering in general to be incredibly beautiful. I've always admired people who had the patience and talent for it, but I never thought I'd have the opportunity to learn myself. When I saw that there was a workshop being held in Alexandria, Virginia, I knew I wanted to attend but didn't want to go alone so I put it on the back burner until I could find someone to bring with me. Ironically, two days later, my best friend from college texted me asking if I'd like to attend a calligraphy workshop in Alexandria with her! It cracked me up that we had both discovered it around the same time and knew we had to make a girls weekend out of it.

The workshop itself was flawless, from the accessories to the florals to the styling of the studio. I was kicking myself for not bringing my DSLR to capture the day because every detail was stunning. These ladies clearly know how to run a business!

We sipped on Pampelonne sparkling rosé and munched on lemon macarons and bourbon truffles as we learned all about the art of the pointed pen. Laura and her sister Alyssa led the class every step of the way, breaking down everything from the structure and parts of the pen itself to each stroke of each letter of the copperplate alphabet. We practiced for a nearly three hours and while my hand was cramping up by the end, I felt so excited to have all the tools I needed to start practicing at home afterward. Aside from instruction, the workshop includes the practice paper, an instruction booklet, your very own pen and pot of ink, the necessary accessories, and a keepsake tote. I bought an extra practice pad and hope to be good enough by Christmas to address our greeting cards!

Since we traveled all the way down to Alexandria, we stayed the night at Hotel Monaco right on King Street. I had never been to Old Town Alexandria before, but the minute I saw the quaint little shops and historic homes, my Annapolitan heart fell in love. The outdoor cafes, basement bars, and sailboats on the Potomac reminded me so much of our favorite little spots in Annapolis. I hope that we can head back down again soon for another taste of Alexandria living!

Meeting Bean

Thursday, August 18, 2016

This past weekend I got to check off probably the single biggest item on my bucket list - I got to meet A SLOTH!

Up close and one-on-one, Mike and I got to hang out with Bean, the resident sloth at Lehigh Valley Zoo in Lehigh, Pennsylvania. He’s four and a half years old and the sweetest little thing I have ever met! I basically lost it when they brought him out to meet us, but getting to pet him and interact with him was seriously one of the coolest moments of my life. I wish we could have stayed all day watching him (slowly) climb around, eat, and take naps. He even fell asleep hanging onto his handler during the first half of our visit. When she woke him up so that I could pet him, he looked at me with his adorable sleepy little blinking eyes and I just about melted into the floor. 

As part of their education program, we learned all about where he came from, what he likes to eat, and what he needs to survive. We also heard some pretty disturbing information about how deforestation and the coffee industry majorly threatens sloths and their habitats. I had always known about deforestation, but never knew the degree to which coffee growers and coffee companies were involved. I always assumed it had more to do with fuel and timber than anything else and never suspected so many coffee companies (Starbucks included!) to be such huge offenders. See, the issue really boils down to this... Coffee is typically produced in tropical regions and naturally grows under the shade of trees. Back in the 70’s, farmers were convinced to replace this “inefficient” method with sun grown coffee and since then 2.5 million acres of trees have been torn down to support this new method of cultivation. As a result, animals, their habitats, and all forest biodiversity has been destroyed. To combat this problem, which affects not only sloths but thousands of other species in tropical regions worldwide, we learned about shade-grown coffee which is not only the natural way the beans are grown, but it’s higher quality and promotes biodiversity. As a parting gift from Bean, we were sent home with two little bags of ground shade-grown coffee. It’s safe to say I’m pretty much over Starbucks forever and I will only be buying shade-grown coffee from now on - which to my surprise isn’t hard to find. (If you’re interested, you can check out some of the major brands here.)

The best part about this whole experience is that Mike planned the entire weekend himself and kept it as a surprise for me as a belated birthday gift. 

After our visit with Bean on Saturday morning, we drove through some of the most beautiful country and mountains in PA to the small town of Macungie where Mike had booked a bed & breakfast for us for the night. We stayed at the Stone House Inn and Spa right on Main Street and found every inch of this place to be absolutely adorable. We walked a little bit of the town, sipped tea on the porch, and then got ready for dinner. Mike had booked reservations at Savory Grille where we tasted local craft beer before dinner and then enjoyed four amazing courses of some of the best food I’ve tasted since my last trip to Belgium. We started with salads and an appetizer of pork belly, arugula basil pesto, grilled peaches, and roasted scapes. For the main course, Mike had sesame-crusted ahi tuna with local mushrooms and jasmine rice while I chose the duck with fingerling potatoes, carrot slaw, shiitake mushrooms, and miso vinaigrette. I wanted to move in upstairs by the end of the meal. 

Overall, I could not have asked for a better weekend. It feels so good to indulge a little and spend time away from home. It’s neat to find little towns like these and explore all they have to offer. You never know what can be hiding in the most unlikely places!

Guess Who's Back...

Monday, August 15, 2016

Well HELLO there! Long time no see! Literally. I've missed y'all and I hope you've been well!

Believe it or not, it’s been seven full months since I last blogged and while I seriously needed the impromptu hiatus to sort out my life, I’ve been itching to get back to my little corner of the interweb for quite a few weeks now. I feel a bit rusty and I've got a lot to catch up on, so you’ll have to bear with me while I get back into the swing of things.

For today’s post, I thought a life update was in order. There's been a lot of change since January, so let’s get to it!

Fur-baby love

Blog world, meet Archie! We adopted this little furball from a rescue back in April and we’ve been smitten ever since. He’s half labrador retriever, half American foxhound, smart as a whip, loves to swim at the beach, play fetch, eat ice cubes, and snuggle with us in bed. He’s growing like a weed and keeps us super busy, but it’s worth every early morning and every wet-nosed kiss. His big brother Carlisle is his best friend, even though the kitty isn’t always so sure about him.  He turns seven months old in September and I can't believe how big he's getting! 

In loving memory of Paul Leonard Larson, Jr. 

Not long after I stopped blogging, we got word that my sweet grandfather had passed away. It was a heartbreaking loss after his long battle with Parkinson’s disease. I miss him and think about him every single day and it honestly still hurts to talk about it. He was the patriarch of our family and a truly a brilliant and honest soul. The world is quite a bit dimmer without his wit and wisdom. He taught me so many things as I was growing up and was one of the greatest storytellers of all time - which is probably what I'll miss most about him. It's hard to sum up how great of a man he was in only a few short words but all I can say is that I hope one day to raise sons as strong and genuine as him. 

A little R&R

The thing I've been most grateful for over the past seven months was the chance we had to recharge, relax, and reconnect. During the break, Mike and I made lots and lots of time for ourselves which was more than a little necessary. After the new year, and after my major confession about my struggles with anxiety, I felt strongly that the only effective solution was to slow down and take care of us. We took weekends away for just us two, hung out around the house, reinstated weekly date nights, and recharged our batteries. While somehow life stays crazy enough to keep us perpetually seeking these periods of down time, it’s been nice to know I’m not alone in my pursuit of a calm and simple life. Having Mike there to recognize when I need to step off the hamster wheel and recuperate has led me to realize, yet again, how big of a blessing he is in my life.

Home Improvement

With all that down time, we've also been making major progress on our little house. From outdoor landscaping to basement renovation, we've been quite the busy bees. I was hoping to share the progress photos I had been taking along the way but due to a corrupt file transfer, I lost all of my pictures from January through mid-May. Major bummer. In the end though, I think this was just another sign that I need to learn to keep things simple. As a result, I've decided room-by-room updates with before and after photos will suffice. I can't wait to share what we've been up to, so stay tuned!

Grad School Milestones

YOU GUYS, I'M MORE THAN HALF WAY THROUGH GRAD SCHOOL! Although it's really only been two years, it feels like twelve. I passed the half way point in the Spring and after my final this week, I only have four more courses to take! Working full-time and going to school is much harder than I thought it would be but I'm so glad I'm pushing through it anyway. (P.S. - all you mommies out there doing this, working, and raising babies - you are rockstars! Please teach me your ways.) While I'll finish up my master's next year, I want to walk at graduation and unfortunately, that will have to wait until the Spring of 2018 since Hopkins doesn't do a Winter commencement. It may take me three and a half years to complete this baby but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Woohoo!

Frequent Flyer

I never thought when I started working at my new job just over a year ago that I'd get to travel to Europe as much as I have. Four times in ten months! On my last two trips in February and June, I got to explore the most beautiful parts of the Netherlands and while it was an incredible experience, part of me was really sad that Mike wasn't there to see it with me. When I got back home this last time, I swore I wouldn't go back unless he could come along. So, on top of our vacation in Iceland next month, he's tagging along on my next work trip in late October! Our plan is to hit Paris for a weekend, explore Belgium while I'm there for work, and then on the second weekend, pop over to London. We're cramming in quite a lot, but the more we plan the more excited I get for fall!

Becoming A Bookworm

I know this is probably old news to most people, but have you heard of the OverDrive app? I discovered it in early May and have not stopped using it since. I'm completely obsessed. If you haven't heard of it, allow me to change your life. It's an app that works with your public library to bring eBooks and audiobooks directly to your phone or tablet. It doesn't require data after you download the books so it's perfect for reading or listening on the plane or in your car. I loved it for my long flights to Belgium and back! The best part is that it's free as long as you have a library card and here's a tip - if you have more than one card like me (since I've lived in three different counties) you can use them all to get a wider book selection. With all the reading I have to do for school, it's been great to be able to read or listen to something on the side for fun. The first week I used the app, I cranked out four audiobooks. Trust me, it's that addicting!

Blates on Blates on Blates

Aside from school and work and travel and puppies, we've been making time at least once a month to hang out with the Baltimore blog babes (and now boys). I can't even begin to describe how much I have grown to love this crew right here. From O's games and dinner dates to NYC trips and wine tours, Mike and I have had a blast spending time with them on every blate. It's crazy to think that in a few weeks, we'll be celebrating ONE YEAR of real-life friendship. To have met these ladies and their guys not even a year ago and to already be able to call them some of my best friends... I'm one lucky girl, that's for sure.

Well that's about all I've got right now. I'm so glad to be back in the blogosphere and I can't wait to catch up with all of you and see what you've been up to! Seven months of un-read blog posts, here I come!