By Natalie

We revealed the gender of our little babe this past weekend by cutting into this gorgeous cake from Drip Cake Bar. She’s a girl!!! We’re overjoyed and eager for her giggles to fill our home. I feel such a connection with her now that I can call her by name.

I’ve felt her move the past few evenings. Once when I had hibachi chicken at a recent girls night out and once when I had a slice of leftover cake! She loves food like her mama!

Pregnancy right now is pretty enjoyable. My hair will hardly straighten these days, it’s bizarre. Takes much longer than usual. I had it cut recently and Marissa who has been cutting my hair for a couple years mentioned she noticed a change in my hair. My roots want to remain true and ringlet all the way down. These hormones swirling around my body are unbelievable.

Bingley is suddenly realizing that he’s not the center of attention anymore.

Poor little bug.

I’m excited to see the growth in my 18 week belly but walking down the street I kind of feel like I appear to have consumed too many baguettes at lunch.

I hope to enjoy this time while our little girl is small and I can still reach my toes because before I know it I’ll be carting around a giant melon of a belly.

Currently I’ve been feeling a number of things both physically and emotionally.

I’m still having some low back pain but I visited a Chiropractor recently that specializes in prenatal care. I worked for physical therapists for 4 years but man oh man do I still love their sworn enemy the Chiropractor. I’ve gone in the past for neck tension and headaches which I’m hoping will also greatly decrease this time around. After my adjustment this past weekend I felt a rush of emotions. I was proud of myself for providing time for self care. I was rejuvenated to continue on this long journey of pregnancy with the help of my husband, my family, my friends, and the health care providers I have chosen to care for both me and baby.

I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that for years I’ve been pouring my heart and care into other children and now I have my very own listening to my words inside me. A child that will wake up from a nap one day crying “mommy” and knowing I am that woman. I’m absolutely honored to be this child’s mother.

Lastly I’ve been feeling grateful for our vacation to Montreal last summer. After a few months of trying to conceive we decided to start saving more aggressively in the event that we could plan a trip before  getting pregnant. We both saw it as a consolation prize to being disappointed month after month with no baby. Months before we started trying I wrote in my journal that I longed desperately to be a mother but I also felt a longing to use my passport once more. I kid you not. Well what do you know the next year I got both. I also wrote at the time that before a baby I wanted to build deeper friendships, start healthier eating habits and I know it’s silly but.. read 12 books in a year. I was able to check off all of those things. At the time it felt like a silly list. I wasn’t too serious about it at first but God knew what was on my heart. He knew I needed those things to help propel me forward in my future journey of motherhood. He knew I needed a support system and he knew I needed to be able to not only set goals for myself but accomplish them. I love looking back on my words and seeing God’s big picture plan perfectly written out for me. I’ve always struggled with patience. I’ve often questioned why I felt like God was holding out on me. But looking back I’ve never doubted that the timing in which events have happened in my life were uniquely authored by Him.

Our trip ultimately served the much needed purpose of having a last big hurrah before baby since a month later we were pregnant. Brandon and I have shared 6 years together as a married couple. Much of my identity lies in being a wife. I have my moments where I become terrified that I’ll turn into a yoga pants wearing, crazy haired milk machine. Which let’s be honest that probably will come to pass. I’m nervous about splitting my attention between baby and Brandon because it’s just been us for so long. But after all our years together and the many opportunities we’ve had to reconnect and grow I know that we’ll make an amazing team for this little one. I’m confident that Brandon is still going to love me when my hair is frizzy and I have no make up on. Mostly because that’s generally been my life as a nanny. I know that ultimately I’ll still find ways to show Brandon my deep love and gratitude for him.

Montreal – The Food

By Natalie

Friends! It seems that I never officially told you about our food experience in Montreal! Though it’s months later I still feel it’s worth mentioning considering we are the kind of vacationers who love to eat eat eat!

There were so many beautiful cafes filled with friendly baristas. They’d toggle between english and french causing you to believe you were half a world away. I wanted nothing more than to sip at each cafe window, eyes fixed on the characters striding up and down the streets.

Granola Bowl

Yogurt Granola Bowl + Americano [La Finca]

Turnover + Americano [Maison Christian Faure]

Turnover + Americano [Maison Christian Faure]



Pastry Case

Salmon Cream Cheese Bagel [ Tommy's]

Salmon Cream Cheese Bagel [ Tommy]

I wish this picture wasn’t blurry, but I did my best!

I sent this photo to my sister who I traveled to Europe with in 2006. I thought she’d be proud of me for trying something new. A salmon cream cheese bagel at that!

I did not nearly appreciate the food we had in Italy and Greece as I believe I would now. Being the selfless big sister that she is Nem traded numerous meals with me at the time that I had no appetite for.

I thought she’d be proud of how far I’ve come.

[Olive & Gourmando]

[Olive & Gourmando]


Smoked Meat Sandwich [Xavier Artisan]

As we walked out of the Notre Dame Basilica the skies opened up leaving us to search for shelter before we got soaked. Just to the right of us was a lunch shop full of fresh made sandwiches and juices.

During our research of things to try in Montreal we read that we needed to try both a smoked meat sandwich and poutine.

Listen. I’m not going to lie to you. This city knows how to make a smoked meat sandwich. I’m not sure I would have ever ordered one of these until I read how great they are and I’m so happy I did. Pickles and all.


Poutine [Monsieur]

We did try poutine which was just as tasty as everyone described. Poutine is a staple that contains french fries with gravy and cheese curds plus any other toppings different restaurants may offer. Ours was topped with a savory gravy, cheese curds, kale, and fried onions. We were surprised by how much we loved this unexpected flavor combination.

We also enjoyed Mandy’s, Albert Bistro and lots of Café Différance which we often grabbed on our walks back to our airbnb, enjoyed with all that fudge and chocolate we were suckers for.


First Trimester Recap

By Natalie

15 Weeks

We’ve officially made it to the second trimester.

I wouldn’t say that the first trimester took me by complete surprise. I expected to feel tired and nauseated. What I didn’t expect was the [Squeamish ears turn elsewhere because I’m giving the honest details here.] difficulty I had chewing and swallowing food without gagging. I did not expect how much my gag reflex would come into play with familiar smells like bacon, my spice cabinet and Bingley’s food. I underestimated how exhausting it would be to feel so sick for such a long stretch of time. The transition from the first trimester to the second has been a slow one. “You should be feeling better soon.” Is what everyone told me, but it hasn’t been an overnight change like I’d hoped.

I suffered debilitating headaches the past couple weeks that lingered for days. Got sick multiple times after eating my morning scrambled eggs. Woke at 3am multiple nights, with the most frustrating insomnia.

Today I feel legitimately better than those first few weeks but still beaten down. I still have food aversions and continue to be sensitive to smell. My headaches have subsided thanks to some helpful tips from a nurse at my OB office. She suggested I add more protein to my diet and to be sure I eat every 3 hrs. Some days that’s easy and I can’t eat enough, but others I don’t have an appetite for much of anything but my cravings. My recent cravings have been chicken wings, cheese-it’s, fruit loops and pizza. Specifically Digiorno pizza, something about the crunchy crust I don’t know. Basically all healthy things right? That’s been hard for me because for the past year and a half I ate a predominately paleo diet. Since the smell of most raw meat bothers me now and the time it takes to prep and cook dinner is longer than I care to spend in the kitchen I’ve slacked off a lot. I switched to Paleo in June 2016 for multiple reasons, one being that I was having lots of stomach upset and bloating from dairy, starchy foods and all those yucky chemical additives and gums and waxes. After talking to a friend with similar dietary choices I felt confident in currently eating what I wanted to eat and not beating myself up about it. She said when she was recently pregnant all she could eat was bagels with gobs of cream cheese in her first trimester so naturally that’s all I wanted the next week.

I have been able to get by with some homemade meals from friends and family, which has gotten me back on track. I’ve also recently made a few crock pot meals here and there. I just pulled a Paleo pumpkin bread out of the oven and I’m trying to get my veggies in as often as possible. I’m on my way but it’s slow going for sure.

Mentally I feel not myself at all. Which I suppose makes sense since I’m not my self. I’ve felt like my body is breaking down on me. But it’s not, in fact it’s creating new life. I’m not who I once was. My body is preparing me for my biggest milestone yet. Motherhood. It makes me all emotional to feel sick, unable to cook most nights. I’ve felt like such a burden to Brandon and my job. A complainer to my friends and ungrateful to God for taking this gift God graced us with and crying about how difficult it’s been. Yet I’m amazed by this beautiful journey my body is capable of. Hormones are all over the place these days. I’m understanding true sacrifice for this little one. Discomfort among many other things simply because I love this little human growing in my belly so stinkin much.

More than anything I’m amazed by the support I’ve had. I haven’t had a single friend tell me to shut up which I feel could be totally valid when I said I was feeling crummy for the millionth time. My mom and sisters have been available for advice and encouragement even on the days when I just needed someone to talk to while I ate as a distraction. I’ve cried while eating saltines many times while on the phone with my sister Nadir. Telling her I just wanted to be able to eat and that I was so happy but so sick.

Brandon has shown such love to me in these past 16 weeks that some days I just sit thinking about how much I love him. Truly dazed in thought about how deep my love for him has grown. He doesn’t get mad when I ask him to make me a second grilled cheese sandwich he simply says “Sure babe.” And hops to. That’s a good hubby.

We find out if this little munchkin is a boy or a girl at the end of the month. We’re anxious and excited for our little babe no matter the gender. Mostly I’m excited to go yarn and fabric shopping after we find out so I can make ALL the things!



By Natalie

IMG_0574We’re so excited to announce we’re expecting our long awaited dearest little one.

The past year has been extremely difficult for me to write anything meaningful or personal. My personal struggles had been consumed in trying to conceive our first child. I took a big step back from sharing things publicly because what now mattered to me was the support and closeness of family and friends. If it weren’t for their encouragement I wouldn’t have made it through with my head held as high nor would I have seen what God had in store for me during this waiting period. I learned the value of close relationships. Brandon and I became much closer than we already were, supporting one another when the other seemed to wonder what could possibly be the problem.

My emotions were all over the place until one day I had to choose to praise. If we got pregnant God was good. If we didn’t he was still good. The struggles I have overcome in my past greatly contributed to my faith in the one who has always blessed me and never left my side.

God was good after every negative test I frustratingly threw into the trash can. He was good through every ache that gripped my heart from the piece of our family that seemed to be missing.

I’ve loved the life that we’ve lived. We’ve taken some easy steps and some difficult ones but every single step has brought us to where we are today as individuals, as a couple and as a family. We felt ready months after our five year anniversary to start a family. We loved our lives and were ready for our greatest adventure yet. As the months dragged on my yearning grew deeper and deeper. All week I’d care for little ones who were not my own. Rocking them to sleep, praying for my own. Every day was a reminder that I was without. I had to make a shift and look at it differently. I had to choose to be grateful to have babies to snuggle. To curb the longing I had for my own child and grant it to the little boys that were in my charge.

I started a journal of letters to our child from the very beginning and I’m so glad I have that to look back on.

On September 1st 2016 I wrote “Whether I have to wait a month or a year for you, it won’t matter because God’s will in our lives is perfect.”

On October 15th 2016 I wrote “I’m anxious to share our life with you. I have all this love bottled up inside me waiting to be expressed to you.”

On January 28th 2017 I wrote “Life’s been tough without you.”

On February 3rd 2017 I wrote “I want you to know even before you were born you were in my heart. You have always been loved.”

On March 7th 2017 I wrote “I long so terribly to hold you. I’m wallowing in my sadness today because there is a lack of you… You are always loved. Always were. Always will be.”

On May 18th 2017 I wrote “I want you to be God fearing, empathetic and a kind person. I want you to be generous and have a hunger for more.”

On June 11th 2017 I wrote “Am I allowed to feel pain for something that has never been? That’s never been lost? …Promise you’ll come soon.”

On June 23rd 2017 I jotted down Romans 8:25-28

On July 20th 2017 I wrote “…I have sat on a doctor’s table and begged God to tell me why or at the very least when. I asked him to grant me patience and understanding. I was angry with him. Very angry that he placed me somewhere that I would feel this void so desperately. One day you might find yourself angry with God as well. All I can tell you is that he may not give you complete understanding of where you are, but he will give you what you need to get through it.

On August 11th 2017 I wrote “I feel empty today. Empty and sad.”

On October 19th 2017 I wrote “Oh my dearest little one, I just found out I’m carrying you and I feel so overcome with emotion.”

The letters continue, each signed xoxo. I share these personal excerpts because I know I was not alone in our struggle to conceive. I know we’re extremely blessed to have even waited such a short time in comparison to many others. I’m thankful for the time Brandon and I had together and the abundance of letters I was able to write to our child even before conception. Mostly I am grateful for the God who never left me, even when I questioned his plan.

It’s been a beautiful journey and we’re truly blessed to be given this gift.

How I’ve Been Feeling

  • The first trimester is kicking my butt. I started to feel nauseated all day every day starting at 6 weeks until now as it slowly subsides. I was completely unprepared for the toll it would take on me physically and mentally to feel so sick for such a long stretch.
  • The grocery store is still off limits!
  • Much to Brandon’s dismay I CANNOT stand the smell of bacon. Sad days in our home. No more Saturday morning bacon and pancakes.

The Facts

  • My due date is June 30th (Baby’s trying to creep up on my birthday.)
  • Nightly at home yoga has been extremely helpful for my mood and nausea.
  • I’m asleep by 9pm, 8pm if I’m lucky.
  • I have super smell!! Brandon has been amazed.
  • Cravings: Powdered jelly donut. A friend’s homemade oatmeal crust veggie pizza (which they graciously made for me!). Fried rice.
  • I’m blown away by Brandon’s love and care for me and our home during this season. He’s going to be an awesome Dad!
  • Bingley is mostly oblivious.
  • We have a terrific support system in our family and close friends. One’s who couldn’t contain their excitement when they heard the news and ones who even teared up at this answered prayer. They continue to encourage and pray for us which has been a lovely blessing.
  • Brandon and I are completly in love with this babe already.


Montreal – The Sites

By Natalie


Montreal has so much to offer for an extended stay. It’s a great walking city which is right up our alley. Everywhere that was too far to walk we opted for Uber which was much easier than renting a car. I’d recommend doing this to any city you visit. We’ve learned through experience that paying for parking can often be a hidden travel expense. In addition to not having to worry about parking the locals know their drivers as well as their streets better, plus they’ve acquired the knowledge of cut throughs. Brandon was much more at ease that he didn’t have to drive and I was much more at ease being picked up on our doorstop and being dropped off right where we intended to be.


The Olympic Stadium


Montreal hosted the summer olympics in 1976. Commonly remembered as the year Nadia Comaneci of Romania scored a perfect 10 in her gymnastics routine. We toured the museum, stadium, went up to the observatory for an amazing view and finally we saw the swimming and diving pools which is now open to the public. You guys I was geeking out. I’m a huge fan of the olympics. Brandon turned to me while our guide trailed off in french and he whispered, “I know this isn’t really my thing, but I’m pretty excited for you.”




The biodome is full of different ecosystems where you can see dozens of animals. We saw a capybara roughly the size of our 80lb black lab! He took a mud bath, then went for a swim much to all the children’s excitement. We also came across raccoons, bats, a crocodile, so many birds, monkeys, fish and penguins.







How incredible is the detail on all of those beetles? There’s so much to see here. Any bug lover would love this stop. It’s not me by any means but I still found all the critters fascinating. The dead ones. I just moseyed past the live wolf spider. No thanks.



Botanical Gardens


Unfortunately after the olympic stadium, biodome and insectarium we had little reserve to continue walking around. Each of these sites were right near eachother and connected by a great walking path. The Botanical Gardens were way bigger than we realized. We would have spent so much more time there if we had the energy.


Is there any place more romantic than a rose garden?


Rose Garden




Underground City

There’s a series of tunnels and malls under the city that is most commonly accessed at Eaton Center. We didn’t particularly go to shop so much as we did to just check it out. Most stores were similar to the ones you’d find in the states. After a half hour of browsing we were so overwhelmed and worried we’d end up lost that we decided to hop out onto the street to check out a nearby bookstore instead.

Oh and I promise Brandon was actually on this trip too. He was just taking all these amazing photos ♥

Brandon Photag


Montreal + Thoughts on Travel

By Natalie

Montreal-115Every time we step out of our comfort zone we’re forced to reassess the direction in which we live our lives. Brandon and I set aside the time to ask each other the tough questions. Are we where we want to be? If we’re not how do we get there? Are we gracious friends? Are we generous enough with not only our income but our time? Are we surrendering our struggles enough? What are our current priorities?

Monday morning we flew out to Montréal Quebec right around the time of the eclipse. It wasn’t quite as dramatic in the stratosphere. Watching the excitement of our fellow passengers was much more enjoyable. After a full day of rushing to our connecting flights we finally sat on our last plane to Montreal. Relief washed over  Brandon’s face as we prepared to land. I took a moment to be grateful. Our pacific coast highway road trip remains one of my favorite memories in our marriage. We had something we certainly don’t get enough of. Something fleeting that cannot ever be retrieved once it’s gone. Time. Time to talk and love on each other. We were about to embark on a new adventure. One that I knew we would come out of feeling refreshed and closer than ever.

Lately I’ve been working on speaking up. I’ve never felt like my opinions or dreams mattered much. I never want to inconvenience someone and even more so I do not handle confrontation well. If I receive the wrong order at a restaurant I say nothing. I clam up and shush the ones I’m with who clearly heard me order something different. That’s who I am. I’ve always made do with the hand I’m dealt. Never questioning and sadly never fighting for what I truly want. I’ve received some help since and have been asked “But what if it’s a bad deal? What if you are in fact not inconveniencing someone but helping them to give you the best experience?”

I’d never thought of it that way. I’m learning that I do in fact have a right to express my desires. I’ve come to understand that they may not be practical or they may take time but nonetheless I am free to think them and share them. The only hard part has been finding out what those desires actually are. After years of stuffing them down I’ve had a difficult time finding out who I truly am. Who is Natalie Poe? What are the answers to those simple who, what and when questions?

Who do I love? Brandon with my entire heart. My close friends, my family, Bingley. What makes me happy? Worship, reading, writing, candles, music, knitting, hosting, being generous. When do I feel most like myself? When I’m with Brandon or in deep conversation with a close friend. In prayer. When I’m home in Charlotte much to my family’s dismay. But mostly when I’m traveling. There’s something about being immersed in a different culture especially one where a different language is spoken that causes you to strip away everything you know, opening your mind to ideas and possibilities you never would have imagined otherwise. I mean come on, every Uber we got into the driver said to me, “Bonjour Madame.” Every lady needs to experience that once in her life.

I haven’t been certain of many things in my life but I have been certain about these things. God always has and always will love me. He has never forsaken me. Not for a second. Brandon is absolutely who I want by my side for the rest of my life. Friendships are important and they take alot of simple courtesy. The travel bug bit me in 2006 on a trip to Europe with my sister and it’s been holding on since. All I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a wife and a mother.

I am an altruist. An introvert. A dog lover. A writer. A reader. A maker. A lover of the small things in life. I’m someone who is just now finding out who they truly are which has been the sweetest and toughest journey in my life yet.

I certainly would have been happy to stop by a farmer’s market to grab some groceries and stay in Montréal for the next month. Our airbnb was gorgeous. Brandon and I had the most difficult time pulling ourselves away from the city after only five days of exploring. A piece of me lies there. Dreaming to be a traveler. Dreaming of a nomadic lifestyle in which we make our nest wherever we land. A girl can dream can’t she?


We were located about a 10 to 12 minute walk from the Old Port.

B was obsessed with the architecture, which truly takes you back in time.






Montreal-052Montreal-055Montreal-029Montreal-031Old PortWhy stop here right? Why stop in Montréal when there is so much more of the world to experience? I have some serious fernweh. A certain farsickness that aches inside me longing to visit different places. That’s gotta be my next tattoo.

About That Stephen King

By Natalie

IMG_0533Growing up if J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was demonic then Stephen King was the devil himself. I’ve had this stigma about him all my life. His books are untouchable. He writes horror, they shouldn’t be read. Until I realized that my goodness I am twenty six years old and I can read whatever I choose.

Don’t worry, I didn’t go straight for It or Carrie because I don’t think they are particularly my cup of tea. Perhaps I’ll read Christine one day simply because that’s my middle name and who doesn’t love a good suspense about a car with a vendetta? Who knows, we’ll see.

I was stumped after reading Mary Poppins and terrified of losing the momentum I’d acquired in my reading this year. That’s when I toyed with the idea of reading a Stephen King novel. For the past couple years King has unexpectedly become an inspiration in my writing. In desperate searches for substance during my many writing blocks I’d find quotes of his or snippets from his books always surprised to hear they were King’s.

The place where you made your stand never mattered. Only that you were there… and still on your feet.

You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.

Precisely. As an avid reader I’m desperate to become an avid writer. Whenever I’d hit those road blocks in my writing I’d consider King’s words.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others; read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.


If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.

These words have done wonders for me when I didn’t feel the urge to write. I could feel it welling up from somewhere deep down, but it would never reach the surface until I simply sit down to give it the time of day. I’ll often jot down terrible beginnings and even worse middles. The important thing is that I got something down. Eventually it’d turn into something substantial or it branched a new train of thought for a new post. During the times when I feel absolutely discouraged or uninspired I’ll use this quote as an excuse to read. That’s where I’ve been all this time. Nose buried in books. I may not be up to date on my writing this year but my reading has become a satisfying escape which I’ve convinced myself is an important tool in writing. I’ll take King’s word on that one.

I know what you’re thinking, this is the man who’s mind came up with Pennywise that terrifying shapeshifting clown. Did I get that right? The man who has written so much horror. But he’s also the mind behind many other suspenseful books and a captivating memoir which is definitely next on my list. Plus this ↓ This right here is a writer’s gold. This is everything I feel as I sit here time after time attempting to bear my soul.

The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.

When Brandon shared the trailer for The Dark Tower movie I knew it was time. Time to finally read one of the books of this author I have admired for so long. I shared with Nadir through unsure gritted teeth that I was thinking about reading a Stephen King novel.

After I explained why her next words were “Hey if he inspires you then I say go for it.” That evening I popped on my kindle and devoured the first few pages of the The Gunslinger. I figured it was a fitting choice as I’d read that King was inspired by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, thus he created the Dark Tower series.

IMG_0530In under a week later I finished The Gunslinger and have now been flipping between his memoir On Writing and the second book in the Dark Tower series The Drawing of the Three. Which I recently picked up at the library. Or as I like to call it The Happiest Place on Earth. Move over Disney.

Just Your Average Bibliophile

By Natalie

IMG_0532As a child my mom would offer to pay me a dollar for finishing one of my many American girl books. I’d skim through them but remained completely uninterested. I had yet to read a book that sparked my imagination. Somewhere along the way that spark eventually caught fire to something deep inside me. I finished a book I was forced to read for school finally feeling that sense of accomplishment that couples with reading a book cover to cover. After that I was hooked.

There’s a series of books and events that I believe have lead me to become the reader I am today. This is that story.

In fourth or fifth grade I read Out of the Dust. The book captured the dryness of the 1930s dust bowl through the fictional eyes of a little girl. I still remember the desperation of the people during that time and I remember the strained relationship the little girl had with her father. I completed a project on the book which entailed summarizing the story and its characters on a poster board folded book jacket. I was proud of myself for not only finishing the book and project but for allowing myself to become engrossed in the words on every page. I’d found a new love for reading. I received a C on that project. I remember that vividly because my teacher hung each book jacket on the ceiling above our desks. My big red C spun above me for at least a week and I wondered where the disconnect came. I loved the book. I tried my hardest to emulate that through my work but it didn’t translate, at least to my teacher. As much as I could have let that discourage me I continued seeking new worlds through thousands of pages.

Sometime after that I read Homeless BirdThat’s the first book that opened my eyes to the wonder of different cultures. Which remains a favorite genre of mine.

Following Homeless Bird I had to read Esperanza Rising for school. I encountered my first book block and didn’t actually make any headway on it until I found my sister at the kitchen table one day with the book in her hand. She’d just finished it and encouraged me to read it. Soon after that I flew through the pages all the way to the end. Then and there Nadir and I had our first book discussion. Our first of many. She loaned me The Bean Trees which I read one hot summer spread across the living room wingback chair. Wingbacks truly are the best for reading are they not? The Bean Trees was my first true adult novel and I devoured it.

I moved on to the Secret Life of Bees which kept me wanting more out of stories. On to The Sugar Island which taught me that although I didn’t particularly care for a blah story, reading was still reading. It remained my favorite pastime always leaving me hungry for more. Nadir at some point when I was in High School finished A Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks. I have this vivid memory of her stepping out of her room with tissues in hand. Tears steadily streamed down her face. “I finished it.” She muttered. “It was so good.” She said as she continued to sob. That Nicholas Sparks. He’ll get you every time. It was then that I realized just how much emotion could come with this new hobby of mine. I want to feel that rawness I thought to myself. I want to become so engrossed in a book that I can’t contain my emotions. I want them to change my perspectives. I want them to blow my world apart and step in someone elses shoes while my eyes remain fixed on their words.


Nadir read Memoirs of a Geisha, then she passed it on to me. This was the first time I truly became attached to a story’s characters. Feeling their pain and wanting more for them.


“I don’t want Sayuri to be with Nobu!” I pleaded with my sister. “She loves the Chairman. Tell me she ends up with the chairman or I won’t finish it.”

Nadir smiled and encouraged me to open my book back up and keep reading. I came across my first complex characters in Memoirs. As much as I wish to explain them to you here you simply won’t understand until you read the book yourself and form your own attachments. This book completely broke my heart in the best and worst ways.

If it weren’t for Nadir’s encouragement or vulnerability I might not be the reader I am today. The people around us truly shape who we are whether we choose to believe that or not.

Soon after Memoirs I read The Lovely Bones which left me angry. Every page was painful to finish leaving me feeling so out of control just as the main character of the story had been. I wanted to rip her from the pages. I wanted to write a new story for her and erase all of the horrible parts. I wanted justice for her. Every few chapters I’d walk into Nadir’s room furious. At some point I’m certain I even threw the book across the room. She lay there, bright blue cover begging for me to finish her story out. Ultimately I was left unsatisfied with the ending. But something greater had happened in my world of reading. I’d felt it all now. The full spectrum of emotions that authors invoke upon their readers.

Since those days I’ve read dozens of books. Goodreads pushes a reading challenge each year which has helped me to keep up with my reading regularly. You can catch my most recent reads below ↓

2016 Reads
2017 Reads

Perhaps it’s because I only read two novels last year, but this year has been loaded with Fiction. Fiction is the literary vacation and I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

You’re probably thinking my reading material is rather eclectic which would be absolutely correct. Generally I’ll reach for anything from dystopian, to classic, to cultural fiction, to a good honest memoir. I am however always up for reading anything recommended.

If you’re curious what has been added to my ever growing To Read list you can check that out here.

See You Soon

By Natalie

Today was my last day as a nanny to my precious charges. But this is not the end.


After nearly three years I felt like it was time for them to have a fresh face. Though it’s the most difficult thing to walk away I ultimately want the best for them and right now that isn’t me. The boys deserve a refreshed presence with a whole new batch of enthusiasm. I want it to be me. I’ve prayed for it to be me. But sometimes things are necessary for a season and I’d say I had a pretty good run.

No more prepping Caleb’s cookies and strawberries before he gets off the bus. No more Grant patting his pillow and begging, “Natalie lay here.” When I put him down for his nap.

No more getting Caleb into his swimsuit just the way he likes to wear it. Which is backwards.

No more getting Ryder off the bus and watching him run to his plate of pickles and hummus with crackers.

No more Ryder opening my car door for me.

No more Grant saying “Natalie, come here! Look!” At whatever latest creation he is proud of.

I can’t believe there’s no more. I didn’t teach them enough, kiss them enough, hold them enough. I certainly didn’t squeeze them enough. I didn’t tell Jacob and Mandy enough how much I appreciated them. They were always understanding. Always supportive. Never once did they make me feel uncomfortable, or unappreciated.

Believe it or not I’m going to miss sorting all those socks, peeling all those mandarins and wiping all those tears.

Though I won’t be there daily I know the door is always open for me to visit, spoil and love on them, which makes my transition much easier. This is no goodbye Coggins family, I will definitely see you soon because I already miss you.

I’m a nurturer to the core so it’s no surprise I’ll be embarking on a new adventure very soon. Two boys will be in tow this time. Because I know nothing but superheroes, diggers and jumping off of the most daring ledge. I have to thank my Coggins boys for teaching me everything I’ll need to know not just in caring for children but for my own life. They taught me to laugh at myself through every fall I had. How to be silly through every slide I was too big for. How to love someone so unconditionally through every tantrum they threw. Patience through every struggle they had communicating with me. They taught me that people can be cruel but they can be resilient, and if they can be resilient through judgement I can be too. They taught me to be myself and love myself just by being so individually themselves.



I love you boys so very much. Caleb remember to be a good helper. Read lots of books! You’re such an encouraging big brother. Be good this summer and maybe Daddy will bring you Chick-fil-a! I want you to have an amazing summer you water baby you.

Ryder remember to ask for squeezes when you need them. Never stop giving compliments. Even if you only say “I like your shirt.” It always went a long way for me. Go easy on the cheese sticks and finish all of your apple before you throw it away.

IMG_0471Grant big boy Grant. Stay sweet and kind. You’re a great helper too, you can always choose to set a good example even if you are the youngest. Grantsy one last thing. Don’t forget to pee in the POTTY!

Thank you for all the adventures boys and all the love. I wish I could have given you so much more.

Life Lately

By Natalie


My sister called me a city hipster recently. I have no idea what she means.

Our schedule has been all over the place this new year. While I’m ready to slow down and take a break I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed our busy schedule.

Bing hotel

We kicked things off in January with a week long hotel stay courtesy of our apartment complex. They had been undergoing some renovations for the past few months and needed to do some work in our apartment. We were grateful to get away from the noise and have our own mini staycation.



Grant is learning the difference between a duck and a goose.


Bing tent

We thought we’d take advantage of the warmer weather and plan a camping trip the first weekend in March. Of course we ended up enduring 30 degree nights, but the days were warm and we had the perfect amount of quality friend time.


Pam camping

Pam makes a stinkin good S’more.


ocean 1

We spent our second weekend in March taking the Coggins up on my Christmas present. A weekend spent at family’s condo in Atlantic beach. We’ve really been missing out on off season beach trips and have totally decided to do it more often.

B beach


Brandon Beach

It was just about exactly what we needed.

N Beachnatalie beach

I finally tried Hex coffee. Definitely in the top five.

Your coffee won’t last around here if it can’t stand on it’s own. There’s just too many places that have it figured out.


I took a break from social media and have a whole new outlook on it. I know, myself and everyone else right? I simply realized that I wasn’t living as much in the small moments that I could be. Through taking a break I was able to appreciate the small things for what they were and not for what others thought of them. Before I took a sip of my mocha at Hex I started an Instagram story.

“How do you like it?” Brandon asked.

“I haven’t taken a sip yet. I’m doing an Instagram story.” I told him.

“No one really cares about your cup of coffee babe.”

You see after nearly six years of marriage the truth sometimes comes flying out without any sort of sugar coating.

While I wanted to take complete offense I quickly noticed he had a point. It’s not so much that nobody cares. It’s more so that I was diverting my attention away from Brandon. He was excited for me to try Hex. He took time out of his day to take me out, why would I spoil that to sit and sift through a dozen photo filters? Nodding my head as he tells me what’s new in his world, while my full attention is zeroed in on that little device. Is it because it feels normal? Because I seek gratification in the opinions of others? I started to really question my reasoning for sharing.

This is a deeper issue and a touchy subject for most. But it is something that’s been on my mind and my heart. We do live far from family and to a certain extent social media has become a way to keep up with them. Lately I haven’t had the energy, or the words to compile a single blog post but I do wish to share a tid bit on Instagram. I think reasoning for sharing is different for everybody. For many social media can be a healthy and useful place. For a while there it evolved into a toxic place for me to compare myself to my peers and seek their approval for my own life. That caused me to seriously shift my perspective. It’s still a place for memories to be captured and shared with those I love. But now I’m more mindful of where I am and who surrounds me in that blurry space beyond my phone.

I made this beauty one weekend recently. I was in love with similar wall hangings I’d seen on etsy and knew I could come up with something from my yarn stash.


Our allergies hit us like a ton of bricks again. When I finally had the stamina to make it to Trader Joe’s for our weekly groceries my cashier made small talk with me. He asked if I had plans for the weekend. I told him I was getting sick so I’d be resting all weekend. He asked if we’d lived here long, that allergies can be rough for newcomers. Yada yada. I said yes, could be allergies. Then he grabbed the pink tulips I picked out and said “You know, I’m going to give you your flowers for free so you feel better. You get lots of rest this weekend.”

How sweet is that? I told him that wasn’t necessary and he insisted. He made my day with his kind gesture. He also ensured my loyalty to Trader Joe’s for life.


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