I am so excited to introduce Smarty Mom, Lauren Sawyers to you! As a Charlotte native, Lauren has a pretty good grip on the lay of the land. She is the creator of BlazeCLT, a site that gives families ideas and itinerary for adventures around the Queen City. I am constantly stalking her site to find new ideas for activities to do with the fam, that get us outside and (rarely) cost any money. We have not been disappointed yet, and bonus I get to look like the coolest Momma ever!
Smarty Mom: Lauren Sawyers
Married to: Husband, Jeff
Children: Luke (9), Madeline (7) and Emily (5)
Years in Charlotte: All my life! I’m a native.
Alma Mater: I attended UNC-Chapel Hill for undergrad (majored in Journalism and Mass Communication) and Virginia Commonwealth University (Masters of Science in Recreation, Parks and Sport Leadership)
Occupation: Work-at-home mom, blogger and freelance writer
Tell us a little background on Blaze; what inspired you to start writing about your family’s explorations?
We’ve always been super active with the kids. I have a hard time sitting still and am constantly looking for new, fun and energizing things to do as a family. Friends know that about us and a few summers ago, a number of people began asking me for recommendations for outings and excursions. I realized then that capturing what we were learning from our experiences could offer something of value to others.
My mission for the site from the beginning has been to help take the guesswork out of active, family-friendly adventures in our local area. It gives me great joy to hear from someone who checked out something I recommended and enjoyed it. My hope is that, by making it easier for folks to find adventures and better understand what to expect, more people will spend more time outside being active together with family or friends.
What is one of your family’s favorite areas to explore in the Queen City?
I always think that uptown is exciting. It’s got a lot of great options for playing and exploring — both indoors and outside. We love First Ward Park and its proximity to Imaginon, and Romare Bearden Park and its proximity to the Mint Uptown’s amazing family room. We enjoy pairing fresh air with something inside and movement with quiet learning or brain-stimulating.
What are some ways you and your family get involved in the community?
As far as service and mission, we are very active at Covenant Presbyterian Church, where we lead a number of outreach efforts, like supporting teachers at our partner school, organizing hikes for members and visitors, and participating in projects that support vulnerable communities.
But we also feel like it’s important to be active participants in efforts that work to make Charlotte a healthy, thriving place to live for all. So, as a family, we take part in things like Sustain Charlotte’s Biketoberfest, which promotes bike riding in the hopes of encouraging folks to consider alternative, earth-friendly means of transportation; Open Streets 704, which imagines a world where there are less vehicle emissions and a greater sense of community; and short road races that support causes we feel strongly about.
BlazeCLT has been on Charlotte Today a couple of times. Any tips to share about presenting in front of an audience?
Preparation is key! I come up with exactly what I want to talk about weeks in advance and practice out loud at least once a day to make sure I hit all the points I want to make in a way that is informative and compelling.
Summer break is quickly approaching, any fun tips to help the 12 weeks run smoothly?
Plan! Not necessarily the entire summer all at once. But I like to take some time on a Sunday afternoon to think about a handful of fun things we could to do during the week ahead, plug them into my paper calendar, and fill in the rest (the errands that have to be run, the chores that need to be done, etc.) around those. That way, when we get to the end of the week, I don’t feel like we’ve missed out on summer-fun opportunities. If you don’t have a plan, it’s easy to slip into doing the same things every day – or defaulting to what’s easiest, but maybe not most engaging or fulfilling.
What are some local CLT shops that you love to frequent?
I don’t do a lot of shopping, but if I need to get a gift, my go-to is Green with Envy on Central. I also recently discovered that The Map Shop (currently on Kings, but moving soon to SouthEnd), sells beautiful, unique prints. My husband gave me one I just love for my birthday last year.
What are some of your favorite things to do on a Saturday with your sweet family of 5 (+pup)?
We love to go on adventures. Often that’s as simple as a hike around a nearby nature preserve. But it’s all about getting outside and away from distractions. A perfect day for me is spending time in the woods with the kids, filled with conversation and laughter. We get to know each other so much better that way, and I think we’re happier for it.
What are some of your favorite day trips to take outside of the Queen City?
I used to be a beach girl through and through, but as I’ve gotten older, I find such joy in spending time in the mountains. We love to load up early in the morning and head west. We’ll pick a destination with a hike to plan the day around. Maybe grab breakfast on the way, hike, then find a general store, gem mine or other places to experience something we wouldn’t ordinarily do in Charlotte. Our absolute favorite area is Pisgah, but anywhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway is pretty spectacular.
Best place for a date night?
We actually enjoy sneaking in date mornings. We get the kids dropped off and then try out different brunch or lunch places. We like Flying Biscuit and Bad Daddy’s, and most recently added Snooze to our list of favorites.
Favorite place to shop for yourself?
I love to bake, so if I want to spoil myself, I’ll spend time in the kitchen section at most stores. I had a gift card to Sur La Table over the holidays, which felt indulgent. But I’m just as happy in the home section of Marshall’s at the Metropolitan.
Favorite place to vacation?
My standard answer is the beach, and it’s true. We go to Emerald Isle every year and it’s always such a fun, special week for me. But we also just bought a camper, so I’m excited for the possibilities. It might just be my favorite vacation is one we haven’t taken yet!
Best part of raising a family in Charlotte?
Where to start. . . I’m from here and I’m a homebody, so I love that it is comfortably familiar in so many ways. It’s fun to know about and do things with the kids that I did when I was little. That said, the city has grown exponentially over the years, which means there are a million new things to discover. I love our neighborhoods and our parks, greenways and nature preserves. We have a great school community and church family. I like that we have access to educational and cultural opportunities not just in town, but in many other places within an hour drive. And, of course, the weather is pretty wonderful, and we definitely take advantage of it.
If you could go back to give yourself advice as a new mom, what would you say?
I still remember the most helpful thing someone told me when we’d just had our first child. His arrival turned our world upside down – everything was so new and disorienting and somewhat overwhelming. One morning I somehow managed to get out of the house with him and walk to a nearby bakery. There was a woman in front of me in line at the counter I didn’t know, but there must have been something in my eyes that suggested I could use a pep talk. She very gently and very simply told me that it gets easier. She was right, of course, but that was hard to acknowledge or believe before she gifted me with that bit of wisdom. To new moms, I would say give yourself grace. Becoming a parent is a big job, but, with practice, in many ways, it really does get easier.
With spring break and summer vacation quickly approaching Lauren and BlazeCLT have you covered with fun adventures that are right in your backyard! Visit blazeclt.com and start planning!