Santa Monica & Malibu

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetLast weekend my mom and I snuck away to the best coast for a girly getaway. Santa Monica and Malibu are two of our most favorite places in the world, and while we love exploring new spots, sometimes it’s so comforting and relaxing to revisit an old haunt. We both agreed that we love doing this because even though there’s always new sights to see and restaurants to try in LA, we don’t feel pressured to do anything new because we’ve already been to the city so many times. It truly feels like home at this point (and it was my home for five whole years), so coming back for a relaxed weekend was an absolutely perfect plan.

IMG_2361We checked into our favorite hotel in Santa Monica on Thursday night and we were feeling a bit worn out after a few travel delays, so we cozied up in our plush robes and ordered one of our favorite treats, the famous salad pizza from Abbot’s Pizza Company. Topped with greens, feta, vinaigrette, and the ripest avocados (and accompanied by the most delectable spicy sauce), this pizza is such a special culinary experience.

IMG_2374We both woke up super early on Friday morning thanks to the time change (a daily occurrence for Mom, a rarity for me) so we lingered over breakfast by the pool, enjoying eggs and crispy potatoes with caramelized onions and tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and New York-style bagels and grapefruit that tasted better than candy. We headed out for a long walk on the beach – the weather was truly perfect and I am always so inspired by the nature and colors on the best coast. It was such a great way to kick off our first day.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetAfterwards, we took a beautiful drive north on Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu, the city that stole my heart 12 (!!) years ago when I started college at Pepperdine University. Our first stop was cult favorite Lily’s for the best breakfast burritos (appropriate to eat during any time of day) that you will ever have in your life. They’re made with refried beans, scrambled eggs, bacon, and cheese and they’re wrapped in the softest flour tortilla known to mankind. The burritos are served with the most delicious spicy green sauce and a mild red salsa. The flavors are just amazing. We needed another long walk after such a delectable treat so we headed to Westward Beach to watch the (huge!) waves and stick our toes in the sand. It was heavenly. As an added bonus, we popped over to my gorgeous alma mater, Pepperdine, to hike around the campus (and if you have ever been to Pepperdine, you understand why I’m using the word hike) and take in some gorgeous views of the ocean. We capped off our Malibu day with frozen yogurt before heading back to Santa Monica.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset IMG_2408 Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset IMG_2416Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetEven though we had intended for our weekend to be a girls getaway, of course we couldn’t exclude brother-bestie Andrew, who lives in LA. He met us for dinner at cute, cute Pono Burger (I just salivated thinking about their fries + dipping sauce) before we all crashed at the hotel for the night.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset IMG_2477 Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetOn Saturday we had a super fun and inspiring outing at The Broad, LA’s newest contemporary art museum. Curated and financed by the Broad family, this gorgeous museum is free to the public. You do have to reserve tickets in advance, but Andrew was able to score some from a friend who was no longer able to use his. Truly, this museum is the most perfectly curated space I have ever seen. I really do love most modern art, and the collection The Broad has is so interesting and amazingly displayed. My favorite pieces were every sculpture by Jeff Koons, the mind-blowing Infinity Room, and the hauntingly beautiful “Visitors” video installation by Ragnar Kjartansson (those vocal harmonies!). A note for potential visitors: we had to sign up to get a spot in line to go into the Infinity Room, as each person gets to go in alone for 45 seconds, making it take nearly an eternity to earn your turn. Our estimated wait time was legitimately five hours, so we thought we would just skip it. We ended up heading out for a quick Parisian-inspired lunch at Pitchoun Bakery and as we were finishing up, we got a text message that our turn was coming up two hours earlier than anticipated! Since The Broad kindly allows visitors to exit and reenter the museum, it was no problem to hop back in to take advantage of our time in the special exhibit. I wished I had 45 minutes to spend inside of it instead of 45 seconds, but the experience was so neat nonetheless.

IMG_2453 IMG_2553 IMG_2499 IMG_2471 IMG_2488 IMG_2451 IMG_2558Afterwards we retired at our beloved hotel for the night. Mom and I caught the sunset and we all agreed that, even though Mom and I had just enjoyed salad pizza two nights prior, it was in the cards for us as we planned on having a low-key evening in. We watched The Martian (I loved it!) and noshed on our pizza before drifting off to dreamland.

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetOn Sunday Andrew had an early soccer game so he snuck out before I was awake. It was really rainy and windy, so Mom and I had breakfast at the hotel and then I curled back up in bed to read for two hours (I was so sucked into Room that I couldn’t put it down). When the weather started to clear a pinch, we headed to Abbot Kinney, one of our favorite parts of Venice. We put our name in for lunch at The Butcher’s Daughter and had an hour to spare. We sought refuge from the rain at Salt & Straw for the creamiest ice cream (dessert first, right) and we perused the TOMS store (now I want these and these), Cuyana, and lots of pretty home decor stores. Our meal at The Butcher’s Daughter was impeccable (cauliflower grits with cheddar cheese and mushrooms, the best ever avocado eggs benedict, green juice, the tastiest flat white) and the interior design was so inspiring – I wanted the staff to come make over my house!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset It was time for me to head home to Dallas after that. The weekend felt too short, as usual, but it also felt packed with so much love, delectable food, memory-making, and time with the best mom and brother in the whole wide world. I am grateful!

 

The Little Things

SugarFix-Cake-Monkey-12-600x900I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the little things, how tiny, small, nearly imperceptible things in our day-to-day lives can make all of the difference in the way we feel. I’ve been thinking about how grateful I am for sunshine and clean air and cold drinking water; for a hot breakfast and a sweet card in the mail and puppy snuggles at an unlikely moment. I’m thankful for a really great workout counterbalanced by homemade chocolate chip cookies. I feel happy when I go for walks and spend good quality time with people I love and add life-giving plans to my calendar. I feel joy when I really connect with my husband (even over the silliest or smallest of things), when I laugh with a friend over the phone, and when I complete a tough project at work. I am grateful for clean sheets and great-smelling candles and Mexican food, for a new notebook and a hot bath and loved ones I can count on. When the world seems too big and terrifying to take on, I remember the little things, and that makes all the difference.

Image via Jeff Mindell for Studio DIY

A Fresh Start

IMG_0783-copyIsn’t it funny how much easier it feels to turn over new leaf on the first day of the month (especially when the first falls on a Monday)? I don’t know about you but I love fresh starts, and even though I’m always invigorated by the start of a new year (well, except for this year maybe), I find myself feeling rejuvenated, motivated, and inspired in a brand new way when I flip the calendar to the next month. So many of life’s bigger blessings inspire me – travel, nature, relationships, service – but so many little ones, like books and restaurants and gorgeous photos and the first day of the month, provide a surge of creativity and revitalization, too.

Early on in January, I shared a post on Darling’s blog about some resolutions that could help us find our spark this year. I wanted to write about creative ways to set resolutions instead of always defaulting to the typical, generic goals of living a healthier lifestyle, saving money, and pursuing happiness. Those are wonderful resolutions, to be sure, but I wanted to inspire readers to take a chance, do something a little different, and really push themselves to achieve the lofty dreams they have, bringing them into reality and making them happen.  I am revisiting that piece today as I’m reveling in my newfound sense of inspiration, and I am plotting out the things I can do to keep this energy flowing. Don’t feel the same way on the first of the month (especially when it falls on a Monday?). Last spring I wrote this post about being stuck in a rut, and to this day it remains one of my favorite pieces that I’ve written. I actually wrote the piece while I was in a rut myself and it was a therapeutic process that actually helped me find inspiration in a variety of ways.

So here’s to you on this Monday, February the first – whether you feel ready to embrace a fresh start or ready to dive back into bed, I salute you, friend. Keep on trucking and persevering, regardless of how you feel. Inspiration is out there just waiting for you to seize it.

Image via Madi Ellis for Darling Magazine

2016

plants_4I know, I know – January is almost over already and I’m just now posting about 2016. Well, I finally made it just in the nick of time! There have been many reasons that the start of this new year has been so exciting that I could burst (more on that later!) and other reasons that it’s been heartbreaking and frustrating in such a way that I haven’t had the energy to post on my sweet blog. The darkest moment has been the loss of our precious, perfect Callie girl. She went to heaven just before New Year’s Eve after valiantly battling cancer for six months, and we miss her every single minute of every single day. I wish I could muster up the strength to write more but thinking about her still just makes me so sad. I did write a lengthy post on Instagram about her life and how much she meant to us, so please hop over to read it if you feel so inclined. We are so grateful for the support we’ve received from everyone ranging from our family and best friends to the loving staff at the vet and our neighbors. We are surrounded by pet-lovers and that has made this process easier in so many ways; people have related to us and commiserated with us and embraced us during this difficult time.

So, that’s my update for now, but I’m looking forward to resuming a normal posting schedule. Stay tuned, friends, and thanks for walking beside me on this journey.

Image via Veda House

The Best Christmas Gift

Companion Pass

How was your Christmas? Ours was an absolute blast! We spent the holiday with my family in my home away from home, Florida, and I’m actually still here. James had to head back to Dallas to hold down the fort but I couldn’t resist spending a few more days at the beach with my parents and brother.

This year my family decided to treat our Florida trip as our mutual Christmas gifts, which I really loved. As much as I enjoy gift-giving (okay, and gift-receiving), I thought this was the perfect idea – truly, none of us need anything except more time with each other. But James and I were treated to a gift from our favorite airline, Southwest, that we are so dang excited about: a Companion Pass! This means that James and I will get to fly together for two for the price of one for a whole entire year. AMAZING. We earned this through our Southwest credit card, as points added up through a combination of purchases on our card, flights around the country, participation in the Rapid Rewards Shopping Program, and an extremely generous credit card sign-up bonus of 50,000 points. We are already plotting out the trips we want to take together (you can even apply your points to the fare, meaning that on some adventures, both of us can travel for free!), and we feel totally liberated and empowered by the fact that we have all 0f 2016 to plan more travel. Three cheers for Southwest!

Presence > Presents

mholmlund_76This post may be coming a little late, considering that it’s Christmas Eve already (!!!), but I thought I’d share my most recent piece for Darling Magazine about 3 Ways to Add Presence to Your Holiday Celebrations. This was my favorite piece to write for Darlng (yet!), and I hope it can be a sweet last-minute reminder to cherish the time you have with loved ones this Christmas. Here’s a little excerpt from the piece:

In this season, there will always be more to do — more cards to write, more gifts to buy, more parties to attend, more people to see. But what if this year we opt for a little less, not in an attempt to sacrifice the richness of this season but rather in hopes of giving our loved ones the gift of presence?

What if we strove to connect more intentionally with one another by saying no to invitations, taking a break from social media, and really living in the moment? Though we may have less on our calendars this holiday season, we may find that we end up with so much more joy.

Head on over to Darling’s blog to read my tips for engaging with your loved ones in a more committed, intentional way this Christmas! And enjoy your celebrations with family & friends!

Image via Madison Holmlund

Paris Photo Shoot

PPRJ-01bOne of my most favorite memories from our Europe trip is the photo shoot we had in Paris. There is truly no better souvenir than wonderful photos, so when my friend Lauren told me about Stacy Reeves, the Texan photographer behind L’Amour de Paris, I knew I wanted to book a mini-session with her during our visit. It may have been one of the best decisions I made all year; when I got the photos back from Stacy, my jaw dropped. That girl knows what she is doing, no doubt about it. She was so much fun to be with, and our photos turned out so beautifully – I already have many plans to use them in frames and books, and we chose two to use in our Christmas card. The session itself was short and it took place at an outlook near the Eiffel Tower early in the morning, which left us with the whole day to play. Stacy gave us fun tips about things to do and places to eat (Breizh Café, one of her recommendations, became a favorite of ours), and overall our experience with her just took our trip to the next level. We are going to cherish these photos forever and ever. Thank you, Stacy!

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All images credited to the super talented Stacy Reeves of L’Amour de Paris

Birthday Surprises

IMG_1937 (1)I have been basking in my 30th birthday celebrations for nearly three weeks now, reveling in the thoughtfulness of my loved ones, all of whom made me feel so incredibly special on my big day. First of all, I have to announce that the $30 for 30 campaign raised $2,500 – I am so blown away! Thank you, thank you to those who gave to Touch A Life – your gift means the world to me and to the amazing children in our care.

IMG_1939My birthday party itself was an absolute joy. Kyla and Laura planned a gorgeous evening that started with Mambo taxis, chips, and guacamole at Mi Cocina, where we sat in a special secretive bar area on the top floor of the restaurant. When I walked in, I was so stunned to see my mom there – she had flown in from Chicago just to celebrate my birthday! I was so excited. Isn’t that such an amazing gesture? It meant so much!

IMG_1866 Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset IMG_1816After noshing on beverages and snacks, we made our way over to Rise for soups, soufflés, and Champagne. We got to sit in the most gorgeous part of the restaurant, a cove of sorts surrounded by birch trees encircled in sparkly white lights. I looked around the table in awe as I thanked God for the amazing women who have become my home team here in Dallas. I felt so blessed.

IMG_1820 IMG_1938 IMG_1812The girls presented me with the most thoughtful gift – a darling clutch filled with 30 letters from 30 special people in my life. I struggled not to cry as I thanked them for this amazing gesture. Since birthdays should last all month long (right?!), I have been reading one letter every day, and I am seriously overwhelmed by the kind things my loved ones have written.

IMG_1845 IMG_1858On my actual birthday, the 3rd, Mom joined me at the ESPA at the Joule Hotel, which was the perfect birthday treat. I hadn’t been to the spa since my bachelorette party and I had been dying to go back, and the whole day was made so much better with my mom in tow! We had coffee and donuts at Weekend Coffee before spending four blissful hours at the spa, indulging in our treatments, our bento box lunches, and the complimentary shortbread cookies that seemed to continually reappear at our sides. It was dreamy.

That night we spent a low-key evening in with James and the pups, noshing on pizza and drinking wine and reflecting on the whole whirlwind celebration. Loved ones near and far made me feel so incredibly spoiled; it was almost difficult to take it in. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to enter my 30s. Cheers to an amazing year ahead!

$30 for 30

www.nbarrettphotography.comI love birthdays and celebrations and gift-giving. I love cake and Champagne toasts and treating myself to something sweet because it’s my special day. But as much as I love these things, I love giving back even more. I don’t like asking for anything, especially for gifts, but this year I am donating my birthday to Touch A Life, and I would be so honored if you would consider giving $30 to this amazing organization as a part of my birthday celebration. In this season of gratitude and in light of next week’s Giving Tuesday, you may be looking for a way to make a diffence, and I’d love it if you’d like to support Touch A Life. I hope to raise $3,000, allowing our organization to offset initial expenses for the amazing 25 new children who were just rescued from trafficking and placed into our care. If you feel compelled to give, you can donate here and select “Rachel’s 30th Birthday” in the donation drop-down menu.

I love the photo above so much. James & I have sponsored Baba for several years, and I was on his rescue from Lake Volta in August of 2009. Back then he was scrawny and suffering from malnutrition, so much so that his black hair had an eerie orange tint. He was sullen and depressed and silent. But Baba quickly transformed into the darling young man he is today – a hilarious, helpful, hardworking leader who has sprouted up several feet and now towers over me. Baba, like so many other children at the Touch A Life Care Center, is such an obvious representation of how well our organization’s methods are working. He is a tangible example that by providing rescued children with holistic care, the love of a family, and an opportunity to heal, we can make a huge difference. And by donating to support our efforts, so can you.

P.S. Take a peek at our brand new website! We have been working so hard on this revamp all year long and I am just so dang obsessed with how it turned out.

Image by Natalie Shelton