Archive | things i like

Books I read this summer, books I quit this summer and what I’m reading now

Well, summer has juuuust about come to an end and I’m feeling quite bitter sweet about it.

Because we were traveling around the country all last summer, we missed out on the very best weather our beautiful Pacific Northwest has to offer. This year, we mainly stuck around home, with two trips over to Eastern Washington where it is hotter, dryer and the lake is much more swimable than the chilly Puget Sound. It has been an amazingly warm and sunny summer (which we all so needed after that dreadfully wet and gray winter and spring!) and it feels like we’re all holding on to it as much as possible.

Staying around home, taking some time off work and the easy ages of our kids has allowed me to get a few books finished this summer.

Since recommendations from a friend is my favorite way to choose a book, I thought we could spend a few minutes chatting about the books I finished, the ones I quit and what I’m reading now.



This is the book I can’t stop talking about. The Enneagram is a personality typing system that is both completely fascinating to me (my degree is in psychology, so I guess that makes sense) and also has been hugely eye opening and healing. This book uses the Enneagram as the basis, but approaches it through scripture. It’s so good!


Susan Meissner’s stories are my favorite types: historical fiction with multiple characters whose stories intersect in unexpected ways. This book is about the Queen Mary and *warning* it talks about ghosts. It almost stopped me from reading because I’m not super into ghosts, but I kept going and I really liked the story. Not my very favorite of hers, but still worth reading (fyi, my favorite of hers is this one).


Did you read Where’d You Go Bernadette? If not, you should. If so and you liked it, you’ll like this one too. Quirky, quick to read, endearing character, and it’s set in Seattle, which makes it fun for this local girl.


Annie Downs is adorable and I want to be her friend. I listen to her podcast and kept hearing pieces of the message of this book so I decided to go against my normal non-christian-living book preferences and give it a try. I actually listened to the audio version (Annie reads it so it feels like your listening to a fun/wise/kind friend sharing and encouraging you).

Here’s what Amazon says about this one: No matter who you are and what path God has you on, we all need to remember the lovely, fight to finish, and find beautiful in our every day!


READ THIS ONE! I loved it. I quit a WWII novel (see below) because I needed something a bit lighter and happier – but still engaging and well-written – and this one was perfect. A young woman goes to work at a food magazine, only to have it shut down shortly after starting. But in that time, she uncovers hidden letters written during the war between a young girl in Ohio and legendary chef James Beard. The letters, the characters, the way food is part of it all makes it such a delightful read.


I can’t remember how I heard about this one, and even though it is on the heavy side, it was a good read. I started listening to the audio version and it was read in a super depressing voice, so I switched to reading it on my own and liked that much better. There is a movie out, which I haven’t seen yet, but I think I will. A husband and wife find a baby and decide to keep it, but have to deal with the moral ramifications, which are many.



I’m not typically a book-quitter, but I am allowing myself the freedom to stop reading a book if it just isn’t holding my attention. How far in should I give it? I make myself get to at least 25%. These three I quit for various reasons … but chances are I’ll pick them up again when I’m more in the mood for the stories.


Based on a true story about the nanny who cared for the brothers who were both the King of England (Queen Elizabeth’s father is one of them), I wanted to like this one because I’m generally interested in history, England and the Royal family, but I grew bored pretty quickly. Perhaps I’ll try again.


See? History, England, royal family. I made it about 60% through but this one felt a bit dull as well. I might try to get through it, or I might just watch the pbs series of the same name and call it good.


A friend recommended this WWII novel and I jumped because I do like WWII novels and I actually really do like this book. It is just heavy and I was wanting something a little lighter for the summer (I picked up Delicious – see above – and it was just what I was looking for. I’ll come back to finish Lilac Girls this fall).




Just keeping with the Enneagram learning. This book is also written from a Christian perspective and is surprisingly witty and very enjoyable to read. If you are brand new to the Enneagram, this one is a great choice.

Here’s what Amazon says: Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile forge a unique approach―a practical, comprehensive way of accessing Enneagram wisdom and exploring its connections with Christian spirituality for a deeper knowledge of ourselves, compassion for others, and love for God. 


I’ll confess: I almost quit this one. I was at 23% and my sister told me to at least give it to 25%, so I did. And then I couldn’t stop. And now all I want to do is read and see what happens to the characters that I now really like and care about.

I was initially drawn to this book because its subjects are not my typical go-to (I’m trying to expand my reading preferences from the above mentioned history/England/WWII mix). This story is about an immigrant man and his family from west Africa who works for an executive for Lehman Brothers before its collapse in 2008. It is a story of immigration, family, facades, wealth, secrets and dreams.


While on vacation, we spent one dinner talking around the table about the best books we’ve ever read. My brother-in-law named this book as his favorite. We put on the audio version for our family to listen to on the long drive home but stopped a few chapters in after not finding it quite as child-appropriate as we prefer. I think I’ll keep going, though, because it is a clever and compelling story.

Have you read anything great this summer? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

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The Chickens + their backyard coop

You may remember that we dove headfirst into the country life and bought baby chicks this spring. Well, I’m happy to report that those sweet little fluffy chicks have grown into full-size, egg-laying hens.

This is our first go at raising chickens and while we don’t know all there is to know, perhaps you’d like to hear a bit more about how things are going and you’d like to see their coop?

Oh, good. Because that’s what this post is all about :)

For the first 6ish weeks, the chicks lived in our garage under a heat lamp in a big galvanized bin (which is now used as the kids’ lego bin on the third floor). Our plan was to design and build a chicken coop, but while walking through Costco, we spotted a pre-made coop and decided to go the easy route and brought it home. Here’s what it looks like in the product image:

It is a perfectly fine coop, but needed a few alterations to work for our chickens. We painted it white, reinforced the base and sides (it’s not the sturdiest right out of the box) and added an extension of the bottom ‘run’ to accommodate our six chickens. With those simple changes, it works great and was a much easier project than if we built from scratch.

You know what the hardest part of putting it together was?

The foundation.

It’s a good idea to have fencing material around the sides and top to keep predators out, but the underside is equally important. We don’t want rodents, coyotes or raccoons digging under the coop, so Ryan set us up with a Fort Knox worthy barrier.

We started by clearing a spot in our backyard for the chickens to live. Our yard is wooded around the perimeter and so it took a bit of work to clear out a few trees, underbrush and one million roots.

Once we had our spot cleared, we measured out the finished size of the coop and dug a perimeter about 12 inches down to fill with cinderblocks. This will prevent anything from digging down and getting up under the coop.

After the cinderblocks were in and level, we added metal grating and large cement pavers to create a foundation.
And then the coop was set on top.

Ryan added a back section for added space and put in a lift-up top so we can change the food and water and access the lower pen.

I love the idea of growing flowers or vegetables in the top garden box (like shown in the product image), but that didn’t happen this spring. We also plan to put in some shrubs and ground cover around the chicken coop to add back some green. That should help with how sparse it looks now!

The chickens are pretty easy. I like to let them out in the morning to wander around the yard, pecking at the grass, eating bugs and seeds and whatever they can find, and then around dusk they find their way back up into their sleeping quarters.

Usually we go out after they are in their coop to close and lock the door, but one night a few weeks ago we did not. They were fine all night long until they wandered out early in the morning and a coyote ran off with one of the chickens. Poor Nugget made a nice breakfast for that mean coyote. Surprisingly, the kids did okay with the loss of Nugget and it reminded us to make sure we go out each night to close up the coop.

So far, we have two chickens who are laying every day. We’re pretty sure the two black and white spotted ones are the layers, based on the fact that they have the most developed top red floppy things on their heads (apparently, that is an indication that they are developed enough to lay eggs).

Our chickens LOVE when we feed them scraps of food – especially fruit. It’s ridiculously entertaining to watch them devour a watermelon or leftovers from dinner and squawk at each other when one gets in the way.

Lately, they’ve been hanging out by the back door waiting for us …

We’re still learning about raising backyard chickens, but so far things have gone fairly well. Our friends just gifted us this darling book to help us learn more about chickens and gardening:

If you’re looking for a resource on homesteading, you’ll adore this book (and the blog!). I can’t wait to dig in and learn more about how we can use our property to grow more of our family’s food.

I sound like such a country girl. And maybe I am :)

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How to keep your home protected while you’re away

This post is sponsored by Blink Home Video Security. 

When we set off on our four month road trip adventure, our original plan was to have a friend stay in our house while we were gone. Plans changed and as it turned out, our house was left vacant for all but one week (when out-of-town friends used our house). Our old house was in a safe neighborhood, surrounded by lots of neighbors who offered to keep an eye on the house, but still, we wanted to take precautions.

We packed everything valuable into a safe. We hid away all electronics. We closed all the windows, locked all the doors and put lights on a timer.

And Ryan installed simple, affordable and very effective security cameras.

He originally discovered Blink cameras on a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 and was instantly sold. He put up five of them in the house before we left for the trip and we were able to monitor any movement from his phone no matter where we were in the country. Crazy, right?!

Once, while somewhere far from home like Texas or Oklahoma, Ryan’s phone alerted him that there was movement in the house. He checked the app and watched video of our good friend, Johan, looking around in the garage to borrow our pressure washer. Ryan called him and totally creeped him out when he told him we were watching him on video :)

Thankfully, that was the only time the cameras were motion-activated and all was safe with our house while we were gone. It was really reassuring to know that even though we were miles from home, we could still check in to make sure everything was safe and sound.

We liked the security cameras so much that we’re using them in this new house as well.

Whether it’s during the night, while we’re out for the day, or on a week vacation, it is nice to be aware of what’s happening when we’re not around.

(Ryan is even thinking about putting a camera out by the chicken coop to watch for predators at night!)

So here’s how they work:

You get a camera and receiver for $99 or a set of two cameras + receiver for $169 – check them out here. The cameras come with very straightforward instructions to make set up very easy. You download the Blink app, follow the walk-through, place the cameras where you want them and adjust the settings to fit your needs.

The cameras work on batteries that last two years (no ugly cords!), and the receiver just needs to be plugged into an outlet and connected to wifi.

Once the cameras are set up, you can place them anywhere in the house that you’d like to monitor (typically near entry points of the house).

So far, we have one set up in the entry facing the front door:

See it right there on the tray? It’s nearly missable.

And the second camera is in the kitchen facing the back door:

The camera comes with a low-profile mounting bracket, so you can mount the camera to the wall if that works better for your home.

You monitor everything from the Blink app on your phone. Each camera can be individually armed or disarmed to record whenever movement is detected. If this happens, a notification will be sent to your phone so you can see what is happening. Alternately, you can also open up the app and refresh the camera to see your home in realtime.

I grabbed a quick video so you can see what the quality looks like:

These security cameras are pretty brilliant. They are so simple to set up, easy to monitor from your phone and offer peace of mind while you’re away from the house.

The best part: you don’t have to pay a monthly fee and all you need is wifi (and NO CORDS!).

I don’t do many sponsored posts, but when Blink asked if I would share about their product, it made total sense. We actually use these cameras! And love them! And you know I like to share things that are helpful to our family as they may be just what you are looking for for your home.

If you’re away from your house during the day, want to keep an eye on things at night or you’re headed off on a vacation and would like some extra security measures for keeping your home safe, we could not recommend Blink Security Cameras enough.

The people at Blink are generously offering a set of indoor cameras + receiver to one lucky JDC reader.

To enter the giveaway, simply sign up for Blink’s newsletter here.

Giveaway ends Monday, August 7th.

*UPDATE: the giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Laura D.!*

If you’re interested in purchasing indoor or outdoor security cameras for your home, CLICK HERE to learn more.

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Life Lately on Instagram

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about the progression of blogging over the years.

When I started blogging (about 8 years ago), I used the blog as a daily-ish journal – dark, grainy photos and all. Once pinterest came on the scene and my blog grew from hobby into profitable business, it forced me to up my photo and content game (which I love, actually). At that time, Instagram became that place for less-than-perfect daily photos that were not quite polished enough for the blog. A few years later and instagram has morphed into a curated collection of photos that are a vital part of the business. Rather than random snapshots of the boys making forts or me with coffee spilled down the front of my shirt (yep, both waaaay back there in my ig feed), I pay close attention to the look and feel of each photo I post to make sure it feels on brand for JDC.

Has it all lost it’s ‘realness’?

Yes, I think it has and I wrestle hard with this.

I want it to be real! I really do. One of my biggest hopes with this online life is that I would come across the same on here as I am in real life.

And yet sometimes I just get annoyed with the whole thing. I catch myself in the moment and think:

Why am I trying to get the perfect picture to post with the perfect caption to get the most likes when what I really want/need to be doing is putting down my phone and engaging with the actual people in my life?

Why does anyone care about what we’re doing or what I have to say?

And is it even right to post a picture of a lovely part of the room when behind the camera are hidden piles of who-knows-what?

Or, even worse, when family dynamics are funky or parenting is hard or there is sadness or struggle – how do I keep posting pretty photos and stay honest and genuine in those moments?

Anyway, that’s the rub I’m feeling right now.

Perhaps you feel it in your own way too.

I still love blogging. And I still can’t stop instagram. Both are so creatively inspiring for me and a true blessing in my life. There’s just a thing happening in my soul about it all and this is me saying to you, I don’t yet have it figured out.

So until then, I just take it day by day. Sometimes I’m all about posting. Somedays I’m not. I’m allowing myself the freedom to pick and choose and be as genuine as possible through it all.

I did not mean to go that direction with this post! I was truly just going to catch you up on what I’ve been posting to instagram in case you missed anything :) I post over there one or two times per day and I try to switch it up from what’s on the blog, just to keep things interesting. Instagram (while definitely curated) is where I put snapshots of life in the moment.

Like this moment:

We had friends coming over for dinner and they got stuck in traffic, so it gave me an extra hour to clean the kitchen. There is nothing that gets me motivated to tidy up the house than when we have people over.

And then, of course, a few hours later and it was all messy again. As it should be :)

Sometimes I’m just doing my normal things around the house and a sight catches my eye. That’s what happened in this photo:

The way the sun shines through the window in late morning gets me every time.

I had a similar moment when I walked into my in-law’s house recently:

Ryan’s mom has such a natural talent at mixing patterns, layering, making a cozy and beautiful home. I’m grateful for her example and hospitality! (Did you know she teaches our Simplified Flowers online class? She’s adorable and talented and so peaceful to listen to).

Speaking of talented mama’s, I was at my mom’s house last weekend (they took all four kids for the weekend and it was such a treat!) and her entry was looking particularly inviting:

And now you know that plant-loving runs in the family.

Our entry keeps getting little updates:

One of my favorite pastimes is puttering around the house, moving and styling and putting more holes in the walls. Very little feels permanent as far as decorating goes, but I’m having fun trying out different pieces and art and accessories to see what feels right.

Note: many have asked if I’ll be putting up the wall of L’s in our new house (see it in the old house here). Short answer: no. I don’t have a wall for it and also I am loving the creative challenge of doing this house in its own way. So I’m just picking from the collection of L’s and putting them around the house here and there.

One thing we are sort of repeating from the old house is the wall of art in Audrey’s bedroom:

We collected so many cute pieces and I loved how the gallery wall looked in her old room (see it here with tips for how to create a gallery wall) that I created a second edition for her new room.

A few weeks ago I decided to tackle the little bathroom and painted the vanity:

Then I put up a sample of wallpaper and love it!

It is going to be a little wacky and pattern-crazy, but this little no-window bathroom needs something fun and unexpected. I’ll post the full makeover once the wallpaper goes up for good!

Another summer project we’re taking on is phase one of the family room:

This is our most-used room and hasn’t been touched yet! I painted the walls the same white as the rest of the house (shoji white by sherwin williams) and finished the trim this weekend as well. Details and a few paint tips to come soon.

And that is that.

Real life, in pretty-ish pictures.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments or thoughts on how you reconcile real life with social media.

You’re the best, you guys. Thanks for reading. XOXO.

P.S. you can find my on instagram @jonesdesigncompany.

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The amazing at-home workout I can’t stop talking about (and doing)

There is something I just can’t stop talking about.

Like I literally bring it up in nearly every conversation – with my friends, my sisters, with the girl at the Young Life office when I was turning in my son’s camp paperwork.

And if I’m not talking about it, I’m making people do it with me – out of town guests, my mom and dad, around the pool at girls’ weekend.

It’s mildly ridiculous, but here’s the thing: I feel like this is transforming me. My body, my breathing, my strength, my mindfulness.

What is this magical thing, you might ask? Well, let me tell you :)

Barre3 online classes.

When I was a girl, I danced ballet. It was everything to me. At one point, my ballet company brought my parents into the office and told them that they saw promise in me as a dancer, but my feet were not right. They wanted to break the bones and reconstruct the arch so that I could dance on pointe. Needless to say, my parents thought that wasn’t the best idea for their 12 year old daughter and my ballet career was over.

Fast forward 26 years and I still love ballet. As a new year’s resolution a couple years back, I took an adult ballet class. I felt like the biggest fish out of water and never returned.

A few years later, I found a barre class at my local YMCA and fell in love (I blogged a little about it here). If I couldn’t dance ballet, at least I could do some of the moves in a workout.

When we moved to our new town, I took a barre class at a local studio and felt like I was going to die. I’m only barely exaggerating; it was shocking how terrible I felt the entire class. Come to find out, my iron levels at the time were dangerously low and my poor body was not producing enough oxygen for me to keep up. Thankfully I survived, but it did keep me a little afraid of working out for several months.

This spring, I was finally feeling better and decided to give an at-home workout a try. I pulled up an old video I have in my Amazon video library (this one) and did it a couple of times. I really like the video, but was feeling bored of doing the same workout over and over.

After a bit of digging into who the teacher of that video was and discovered that she is the founder of a barre studio out of Portland, Oregon called Barre3. I was happy to find that while they do not have a physical location in my area, they do offer an online workout library for a monthly fee. I signed up on the spot and could not be happier with my decision.

Since May, I’ve been completely smitten with these online barre workouts, fitting in a 30, 40 or 60 minute session 3-5 times per week. I don’t say that to be braggy – I’m just really surprised at how much I now LOVE working out.

Let me tell you a little bit about the workout, where I do it, what the moves look like, what gear you need and then at the end I’ll tell you why I love it so much.


I explain barre as a mix between pilates, yoga and exercises inspired by ballet barre moves. You definitely do not need to have ballet experience to take or enjoy this workout. Also, you do not need to be well-versed in yoga poses or pilates form.

Barre3 explains it like this:

Barre3 mixes the best moves of yoga, pilates, cardio, and weight training to balance your body while giving you a deep muscle burn and endorphin high.”


Before the kids got out of school, I worked out in my studio. I just pulled out my gear from the bottom drawer, turned on a video and when I was finished, put it all back in the drawer and would get to my regular work.

This summer I’ve been switching the location up. Ryan moved his office into the studio for the summer (and beyond?) so he can work without distraction, so I’ve been mainly working out in the house (or the front porch, as seen below). Lately, I found that the entry way is the perfect spot since there is a mirror I can check my form in and I just open the front door to let the breeze in.

All you need for the workout is a yoga mat, light handheld weights (I switch between 2 lb and 3 lb), a small pilates ball and band. Some videos use the weights, ball and band, others do not use any props.

These are the exact things I use: yoga mat, weights, ball + band set.

I prefer to work out on a hard floor (carpet makes balancing much more difficult) and you really only need as much space as the yoga mat takes up.


There are a handful of online and in-studio options for barre. Just do a quick google search for “barre + your city” and you’ll likely find a studio. Or if you find another video, youtube channel or online library of workouts, go for it! You certainly don’t have to take from Barre3. I just happen to think it’s great, enjoy the workouts, the instruction, the well-done website and working out online makes it super easy to do anywhere.

I joined the monthly program and pay $29 per month for access to all of the 300+ videos. There are also meal plans and regular Q+A sessions as part of the subscription. TRY FOR 15 DAYS FOR FREE.

When you log in to your account, there is a library of online workouts to choose from. You can do 10 minute, 30, 40 or 60 minute classes. There are a handful of instructors and variety of moves, modifications and areas of focus in each workout.


Every class is laid out in about the same format.

You start with lower body- lots of squats, lunges, carousel horse pose. Your quads, hamstrings and glutes will start burning quickly!

You move between large range of motion, small range (think down and inch, up an inch, over and over) and isometric holds. Your muscles will begin to vibrate as you get deeper into working them and while it is super hard and strange feeling, it feels so powerful to be able to push through and know your body is getting stronger.

Barre3 loves a good plank.

After lower body, you move into combo work with light handheld weights.

This gets your heart rate up, uses every muscle in your body and is very low impact, but super efficient.

After combo, you move to core strengthening.

Barre3 really focuses on the complete core – not just your abs, but also your back, shoulders, hips and seat.

To finish, you do a few minutes of cool-down stretches and end with a big inhale and exhale, like in yoga class.

Some videos are more ballet-inspired, using a chair for a barre, so I took photos of those moves as well.


So here’s what I’m learning about fitness – you have to find the workout that feels right for you and go for it. I know barre is not for everyone, it just happens to completely energize me (which is why I can’t stop talking about it).

For years, I tried to run with my runner girlfriends and just couldn’t get into it. I tried cross fit once and decided quickly that was not for me. I’ve done step aerobics, dance, pilates and spinning. All were fine, but not totally my thing.

Barre is my thing. I feel strong and graceful; I push my body, but it never feels painful; I finish the workout feeling good and excited to do it again.

You guys, those statements I just made DO NOT SOUND LIKE ME. I’ve never been fitness-crazy. I probably should have been caring for my body long before now, I just never knew what to do. And now I know. And I want you to be as excited about it as I am :)

Okay, so here’s what I love about Barre3:


I would honestly love to take a class in an actual studio, but we do not have many options in our town. Therefore, I workout at home. Sometimes that’s much more convenient anyway. I can choose my own time, location, duration of class.

This summer I’ve taken to working out on the front porch, which is quite delightful.


The online instructions for my Barre3 videos are friendly, approachable and very knowledgable. They talk you through each move, explaining just where your toes should be, where your knees should be, reminding you to relax your neck and shoulders, etc. As you learn to do the postures correctly, you move deeper into strengthening and lengthening your muscles, so it is helpful to have someone reminding you throughout the whole workout to check your form. This is also why I like working out in front of a mirror, when possible.


As they say in nearly every workout, the Barre3 method really focuses on the back body to support, lengthen, improve posture and counterbalance how front-body focused we are throughout the day. A lot of attention is paid to our glutes and side seat (yes, please!) and for nearly the whole workout, you are engaging your core for a full-body workout.


Some people need fast-pace, pounding, punching, super sweaty workouts. You won’t get that with barre (well, maybe except for the sweaty part). There is a lot of balance, controlled movement, isometric holds, attention to form. It is not a workout you chit-chat with your girlfriends through, but instead requires intentional focus.


I am surprised by how much the instruction in breathing has made its way into my regular life. When I feel anxious I remind myself to inhale deeply through my nose, and exhale fully out my mouth (just as my barre instructors remind me to do in every workout). It’s truly amazing how getting a good, deep breath can release tension and allow you to push through hard moments physically, but also mentally and emotionally.


Perhaps my favorite thing about these barre workouts is how easy it is to modify for your particular body. In every video there is a main teacher and two others – one is doing every move full out, the other is modifying to show how things can be done if your knees, back, neck, shoulders, etc are not able to do the full movement. And the best part, is there is no guilt! The instructors say multiple times to do the workout that feels best for your body.

Which makes sense, right? My mom is in her 60’s and had back surgery last year. Surely, she can not (or should not) be moving in ways that will strain her, but instead should modify to build strength, balance and flexibility for her body. There are times when I can do the combo work with 3lb weights and other times when I need to put them down all together (like yesterday). You’re still getting a good workout whether you do the moves full out or modify for what feels right for your body in that moment.

(I just looked at the word count while typing and this thing is over 1900 words. I think that is a record for longest post in JDC history. If you are still reading, hi. And thanks for humoring me.)

So if we were real life friends and you were over at my house, the chances of me begging you to do a class with me are very high. I find great joy in trying to get everyone I know to love barre as much as I do :) Partially because it is fun to exercise with friends, but also because I truly find it to be an effective workout. It has been so good for my body, my mind and my soul.

But since most of you do not live nearby, perhaps you’d like to give Barre3 at try on your own. You can try it for free for 15 days and then decide if it’s something you want to spend your money on each month.

Use THIS LINK to join the free trial and I’ll get a small commission if you end up joining the monthly subscription.

I can’t wait to hear how you like it!

And now I’ll stop talking about barre. At least for today.

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