November 2015 archive

Personal Challenge: Pure Barre

Have I mentioned I’m an Irish dancer? Look at these amazing ladies. I’m so fortunate to dance with them!

Adult dancers from the Irish Dance Company -- Often Charming

Members of the Irish Dance Company, Austin, TX – photo by Michael Sullivan Lockett

Last year I joined our performance company, which demands a level of fitness beyond just dancing for fun. I have been running to improve my endurance for dance, which worked pretty well until I got a stress fracture in my left foot running this September. Not only did that ruin my chance of dancing with our team at the Oireachtas this December by putting me in a cast for 6 weeks, it really put me off running, which I honestly never enjoyed in the first place.

One of our company dancers recommended barre classes to me as a low-impact workout for days we don’t dance, and a few days later, when my neighbor announced she was trying out the new Pure Barre studio opening in town, I decided to join her. (That was rather uncharacteristically spontaneous of me, I admit.) They had a nice introductory offer: 5 weeks of unlimited classes for a reasonable price, and it just so happens that I had almost exactly 5 weeks before our Disney cruise to the Bahamas and a week of wearing my swimsuit in public. The stars all aligned, pointing in the direction of Pure Barre, so I went.

I was nervous. My neighbor had said, “At least you’re a dancer, you’ll know sort of what to do.”  HA. Not so much, my friends. This was not like anything I had done before. And it’s HARD. But that’s good for me, right?

I’ve been an Irish dancer for 8 years, and I’m in pretty good shape. I weigh the same now as I did before my daughter was born five years ago. I didn’t expect barre class to be easy, but after so many years of dance I’ve got some strength in my legs, which I hoped would help. We don’t use our arms much in Irish dance, so I know mine need some toning. Truthfully, everything could use a little firming up, so I’ve decided to do a little experiment: what will happen if I go as much as I can in my 5 weeks?

I went for my first class. The studio is beautiful, and the owner is lovely and kind. Here she is in the photo below.

Challenge yourself with something new: Pure Barre! -- Often Charming

Rebecca Dunn, Owner of Pure Barre Cedar Park

I bought some of the famous grippy socks when I arrived and found a spot in the back corner where I could hide. The nice lady next to me advised me to go get a tube, a ball, and a small set of weights, clearly identifying me as a clueless newbie. What followed was a brisk 55-minute lesson in wow-holy-cow-oh-my-gosh. Who would’ve thought that such tiny motions could be so hard?

Thankfully, we moved quickly from one area of the body to the next. (When you’re in your first plank, 90 seconds seems like a very long time.) Rebecca talked us through each exercise, offering encouragement and correcting our positions discreetly when needed.

I hadn’t done any yoga or pilates before, but I was able to follow along with the rest of the group and it was fun to do something new.  Fun in a sweaty, semi-painful sort of way.

At first I was worried that everyone could tell I was just praying that the ball I was trying to squeeze between my thighs wouldn’t go shooting across the room. Then I realized they were all so focused on getting through their own ball-squeezing that noticing anyone else would’ve been unlikely. No need to be self-conscious here. Almost everyone was struggling along at some point during the class.

The mental focus required for Pure Barre is one of the best things about it, as it turns out. You have no chance to worry about anything but what you’re doing at that moment, and breathing. The rest of the world waits for you to come out of the studio when your workout is done.

Reward yourself with some cute (and functional!) workout gear at Pure Barre -- Often Charming

A little retail motivation to keep working at the barre! Cute and functional!

I felt so good for the rest of the day after that class, tired but relaxed. I loved that it was low-impact, giving my foot no trouble. And unlike running, I was not left red-faced and exhausted by my efforts. I went four days out of five the next week, and by then I felt encouraged to keep challenging myself.

It’s too early to tell if Pure Barre is changing my body, but I like it and it’s helped me commit to stepping up my game, which has to be a good thing. I hope I’m getting stronger, and that my efforts will pay off in some tangible way. I’ll let you know where I am at the end of my five weeks, and whether or not my ball has gone shooting across the room.

Fingers crossed.


Heather's Signature -- Often Charming

Note: This is not a sponsored post. Links provided in this post are purely meant to be helpful. Special thanks to Rebecca Dunn at Pure Barre Cedar Park for her permission to share photos.

Road Trip: Canton Trade Days

Postcard from Canton, TX Trade Days

London. Paris. Rome. Canton, TX.

What was that? One of these things is not like the others? True. But just because it isn’t a far-flung, exotic destination doesn’t mean it ain’t worth the trip, y’all.

Wow. Did I really just say that? Hang on, let me just tuck my Texas back in…there we go.

We who live in the real world can’t always take off for the glamorous cities of Europe. Time and budgets constrain us to stay closer to home most of the time. But hey: travel is travel and getting away for a fun weekend once in a while is definitely on my To Do list. So, off to Canton we go.

Why Canton? Because of First Monday Trade Days, that’s why! Imagine: acres of shopping, with everything from home decor to craft supplies, antiques, clothes, jewelry, holiday decorations, repurposed/upcycled vintage material, old architectural salvage, you name it! You never know quite what you’re going to find. And they do it every month!

Vintage chenille bedspreads make beautiful stuffed animals and pillows at Canton Trade Days. -- Often Charming

Vintage chenille bedspreads make beautiful stuffed animals and pillows in this vendor’s sweet shop.

This shop is full of vintage and reproduction fabrics and crafts made from them. It’s wonderful to see these beautiful things get a new lease on life.

Vintage Halloween display at Canton Trade Days -- Often Charming

These stuffed pumpkins are also made of vintage chenille fabrics, something this vendor specializes in.

Who likes china? Here’s my favorite:

Spode Woodland China display at Canton Trade Days.  Just gorgeous! -- Often Charming

Spode Woodland china features game birds, wildlife and hunting dogs surrounded by a floral border which has been in production since 1831.

Danna’s Home Decor, located in Arbor Boardwalk 1, has the most beautiful displays of china you will see at Trade Days. This is where I first saw the Spode Woodland pattern and every time we go to Canton, I pop in to pick up a piece or two. Lucky for me, she often has them on sale. This stuff is absolutely gorgeous, and it makes me laugh just a tiny bit. English china with golden retrievers on it? Yes! You should see my platter featuring the Atlantic Salmon. He’s one handsome devil.

Spode Woodland China at Canton Trade Days -- Often Charming

This is a big shop for a single Trade Days vendor, occupying not one but two spaces, and it is jam packed with fantastic china, as well as beautiful accessories and ornaments for your home. They have several lovely chandeliers at the far end of the shop. You will almost certainly find something there that you can’t leave without. Ms. Cindy and the rest of the ladies running the place are absolutely the sweetest and if you can’t fit all of your gorgeous china purchases in your wheelie bag, they’ll hold them for you until the end of the day. Go see them and tell ‘em I said hi.

My friend Traci and I go to Trade Days a few times a year. It’s really fun to see what the trends are: one trip it was great big monograms on everything, another time deco mesh wreaths and garlands were all over the place. It’s always fun to go before the holidays, too. Not only will you find super cute decorations and fun gift items, but you can just feast your eyes on the beautiful vendor booths and displays, and get some inspiration for things you can do yourself, if you’re the crafty type.

And I AM.

Now, the October Trade Days are not to be missed, because you get all of the awesome seasonal Fall stuff, as well as a good amount of Christmas stuff. The weather is generally pretty nice, too.

Vintage was the big trend for Halloween items. We saw a TON of retro/vintage-style Halloween decorations. Several vendors had baseball ringer t-shirts with vintage Halloween images screen printed on them, too. One of the best things about the vintage trend is that it brings back the excitement of Halloween you felt as a kid. Remember how much you looked forward to wearing your costume and going to parties or trick-or-treating? I LOVED Halloween as a kid, and these old-school decos are sweetly spooky.

Halloween decorations have gone vintage this year at Canton Trade Days. I love this trend! -- Often Charming

Vintage themes add charm and nostalgia to Halloween decorations this season.

Some vendor displays will just knock your socks off, like this one. No matter the season, their shop is just gorgeous.

Holiday and home decor finds abound at Canton Trade Days. Ready to go yet? -- Often Charming

This vendor’s shop, in Pavilion II, is one of the most beautiful at Canton Trade Days.

We found plenty of Halloween craft supplies and decorations outdoors, between the Arbors buildings and the antiques. If you are a fan of deco mesh wreaths and beautiful, sparkly stuff in general, this shop is a must.

Halloween decos at Canton Trade Days -- Often Charming

How adorable are these witch legs? We saw them sticking out of pumpkins and Halloween wreaths. So cute.

Tons of Halloween decos and craft supplies at Canton Trade Days -- Often Charming

Picks with sparkly witch hats, bats and ghosts just waiting to embellish a Halloween project. Everything you might want for a wreath is right here in one shop.

In Arbor Walk III, we found a new shop called Twinkles, which has the most fabulous hats you will find anywhere. Ms. Linda, the owner and creator of these fantastic creations, is just the nicest little lady. Traci and I had SO much fun in this shop, trying things on.

Twinkles Halloween Hats and Masks at Canton Trade Days -- Often Charming

Spectacular holiday hats and more await you at Twinkles, in Arbor Walk III.

If a full-sized witch hat is too much for you, go with a smaller version on a headband.

Halloween Headbands at Twinkles in Arbor Walk III, Canton Trade Days -- Often Charming

I bought the one on the left, with the silver sparkly spider and maribou feathers. I feel like the Princess of Halloween in it.

Fancy holiday fascinators abound at Twinkles shop in Arbor Walk III, Canton Trade Days -- Often Charming

Thanks, Twinkles!

Traci bought a headband topped with a sparkly haunted house, which actually lights up inside. It is beyond fabulous.

This haunted house fascinator from Twinkles was worth the trip to Canton all by itself! Canton Trade Days -- Often Charming

Speaking of fabulous, let’s just have a look at some of the spectacular Christmas displays we saw at Trade Days.

Winter white Christmas display at Canton Trade Days -- Often Charming

Look at all that wintry white fabulousness, so snowy and sparkly. This was in the shop with all the witch legs and cool wreath-making stuff. So was this:

Trimming your tree with gorgeous seasonal ribbon is definitely on trend this holiday. -- Often Charming

There’s a tree somewhere under all of that red and white cheer. I think.

One of the big trends I noticed at Trade Days and have seen in almost all of this year’s holiday catalogs is wide ribbon looped in among the ornaments on Christmas trees. It’s like a big ribbon garland. Two- and three-inch wide ribbon with holiday sentiments are especially popular. My favorite is the chalkboard-style ribbon done this way.  I was really tempted to bring some home from Trade Days, but I worried that the black would overwhelm our tree’s silver-and-gold palette. It was really cool, though.

We're loving this festive combination of plaid with ribbon in non-traditional grey and black stripes this Christmas -- Often Charming

We also loved this mix of traditional Christmas plaid ribbon with this grey and black, almost Addams family-style stripe! This is so much fun! Add this eclectic combination of old-fashioned and modern to the stag head silhouettes we’re seeing on everything lately, and there is definitely a playful, rustic trend happening in holiday decor this year.  There were a lot of stag heads at Trade Days this trip. A LOT.

There were also a lot of the time-honored, traditional symbols of the season, of course. We saw a ton of adorable snowmen in lots of different materials. Here’s a whole tree devoted to them.

Christmas display at Canton Trade Days -- Often Charming

Now, those people who said that ‘getting there is half the fun’ weren’t talking about Canton, let me tell you. It’s a long, boring stretch of nothing* on I35 from Austin to the turnoff for Trade Days. That’s why you’ve got to take a friend.

*The exception to this is the very lovely Collin Street Bakery, which is really a mandatory stop if you are anywhere near it.  Stop there for lunch and get a lemonade and a freshly made deli sandwich. The staff is incredibly nice and friendly. Then, before you go forth up I35, make your way on over to their great big pastry case full of BEAUTIFUL, DELICIOUS COOKIES, CAKES, BROWNIES AND PASTRIES. You can’t go wrong no matter what you choose. Trust me.

There’s so much more I could tell you about Trade Days, but this post has been long enough and you really need to see it for yourself. Not only are you sure to find some great things, you will meet some lovely people. Half the fun we have every time we go comes from the encounters we have with vendors and other shoppers. There are certain vendors we make a point of visiting each time we go, and you know what? They remember us!

So, ready to head for Canton yet? I’ll see you there in the Spring.


Heather's Signature -- Often Charming