Two girls sit poised at the ready, both astride pink balance bikes, awaiting their parents’ word. When the time comes, they push off the pavement and scoot at breakneck speed down the hill in front of their house. Mom follows behind, pushing a toddler strapped into a tricycle, while dad coasts along on a beach cruiser, trying to keep up with the blurs of pink. The Malone family spends most evenings like this, walking (and coasting) the sidewalks near their Midtown home, hoping to meet the neighbors.
The Malones are intentional about meeting and embracing their neighbors. It is a daily, active endeavor spurred by their faith and a desire to be present to those who need a friend. They walk the sidewalks looking to meet new people, keep up with the happenings around them and offer dinner invitations. The menu might simply be a regular Tuesday night spaghetti or takeout pizza. “It’s nothing fancy,” mom Bayleigh explains. And the Malones don’t wait until their home is immaculately clean. “The house might be a mess, but the door is always open,” she says.
Walking the Walk
It wasn’t always this way. Just a few years ago, the Malones were living in a subdivision with manicured lawns and picket fences, but it was hard to meet neighbors. People drove into their garages and shut the door, while kids played behind privacy fences. The Malones felt called to be part of a community, and they just weren’t finding it there.
About that time, Justin and Bayleigh received a call that their paperwork for adoption had been approved, and a little girl was waiting. The couple and their then-3-year-old daughter, Anniston, travelled to Colombia and brought Maisy home a few weeks later. Bayleigh laughs that they committed a big “no-no” by adopting out of the birth order (Maisy is a year older than Anniston) but says the sisters are fiercely protective of each other. “The real treat was watching them welcome our next daughter, Miller, who was born a year later,” she says. “Both Anniston and Maisy had only ever seen older children join a family, so watching my pregnancy and the birth of Miller really stumped them!”
As time went on, the disconnect the Malones felt within the neighborhood grew, sparking their initial idea to move. Maisy’s arrival cemented it. They didn’t want Maisy, who has beautiful dark skin and achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, raised in an area where no one looked like her.
“We are trying to raise girls with kind hearts, and we don’t avoid talking about the hard stuff,” Bayleigh says. “Kids have a lot more empathy than most people give them credit for.” Having Maisy join the family, they say, inspired a desire to expose the kids to all sorts of diversity — racial, physical, religious and socioeconomic. “I never want them to be frightened by differences.”
The family of five took its neighborly spirit to the streets of Midtown.
Talking the Talk
Bayleigh and her friend, April Nicholson, began producing the Nestled Podcast, initially geared toward their flair for designing on a dime. But throughout the first season, topics became more about hospitality and less about design. “The podcast took on a life of its own, since we were just talking about the kinds of things going on in our own lives,” Bayleigh explains. “It was time to call it like it is — maybe design isn’t our wheelhouse.” As a result, the mission was reset as, “Loving your home, loving your neighbor, and loving and serving God.”
In a recent episode, Bayleigh spoke about her calling to embrace the vulnerable. This presents itself in big ways, like the family’s decision to adopt, and in little, everyday choices. One of those everyday choices was exemplified last summer when they built a lemonade stand to raise money for Stand for Orphans, an initiative created by kids, for kids, to benefit Lifeline Children’s Services. Kids from 19 states, including the Malones of Alabama, raised money for this wonderful cause.
Whether it’s cruising along the sidewalks hoping, maybe, for a chance meeting with neighbors, producing a podcast or selling cold lemonade on a hot summer’s day, the Malones open themselves to others. Inside their cozy home, the focus is always on welcoming hospitality. And now that they are nestled in their new neighborhood, it seems there is always room in their hearts for one more.
The Door is Always Open
Bayleigh Malone and her business partner, April Nicholson, are designers, bloggers and moms trying to make genuine connections in this hectic world. You can find more of their ideas for intentional living on their podcast and blog, through speaking engagements and their Nestled in The Neighborhood Book Club. poshnestdesigns.com
Recipes from The Malones
Limonada de Coco
The Malones discovered this refreshing Colombian slushy when they travelled to meet their daughter Maisy. It’s deliciously sweet, but Bayleigh says a little rum doesn’t hurt it, either!
1 cup cream of coconut
2 1/2 cups crushed iced
juice of 3 limes
2 tablespoons sugar, to taste (optional)
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately. Serves 2.
Tip: Don’t have the time? You can puree the basil lemonade in a blender and serve immediately, strained or not.
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups cold water
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and stir until syrup is dissolved. Refrigerate for 1 – 4 hours. Strain to remove basil pieces. Pour over ice and serve immediately. Serves 2.
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup hot water
1 1/2 cups cold water
Combine lemon juice, sugar, blueberries and hot water in a blender. Puree and blend until sugar is dissolved. Strain into a pitcher. Add cold water and refrigerate for 1 hour or more. Serve over ice. Serves 2.
This Middle Eastern frozen mint lemonade literally zaps the sweltering August heat.
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
4 stems’ worth of mint leaves with the stems discarded, plus more for garnish
18 – 20 ice cubes
1 – 2 drops orange blossom water (optional)*
Place all ingredients in a blender. Pulse a few times to break up the ice and then process until slushy. Serve immediately, garnished with mint leaves. Serves 2.
* Orange blossom water can be found at Whole Foods in the essential oils section.