Napa Valley

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetWe are spending the weekend in Napa Valley to celebrate Mom’s birthday and it’s so much fun to be all together! We realized that this is actually our first Johnson-Brown family vacation, the first time the five of us have traveled together to somewhere other than where one of us lives. It’s so fun to explore wine country together, especially as we celebrate Mom’s special day.

We actually arrived on Thursday and have been doing so many fun things – savoring our hotel in Yountville, wine-tasting at some of our favorite wineries, eating delicious food, soaking up the sun at the pool, and enjoying lots of new adventures together. A full recap will come when we return, but for now, back to the wine! Happy Saturday to you & yours!


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Andrew and I had so, so much fun on our brother-sister trip last weekend. Seattle was absolutely amazing, with perfect weather to boot. I couldn’t get over all of the gorgeous water and delicious fresh air. We stayed at the Ace Hotel in Belltown, which we loved – our room was darling and the amenities (free breakfast, including fresh waffles & Stumptown coffee) were fabulous. I have to share this synopsis about the Ace found on the hotel’s website because I thought it was so fascinating – I learned some things about the boutique chain that I didn’t know.

We fell in love with a former maritime workers’ hotel in Belltown and started our first-ever hotel in 1999. It’s where our roots are — the unfussy luxury and intentional design ethos that drive the Pacific Northwest. Loft ceilings, hardwood floors (wherever we could preserve them) and art by our friends like KAWS and Shepard Fairey in guest rooms were some of the elements that put us on the hotelier map, and they’re still a touch point for Ace today.

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The hotel is located a stone’s throw from the water, which is bordered by an ideal running path encompassed within Centennial Park that’s adorned with art installations and rose gardens, ensuring that we always had something beautiful to look at while we jogged. We spent so much time with Karli & Nick, our treasured friends who also served as the most incredible tour guides. Kar & Nick live in the Ballard neighborhood, a sweet area lined with darling houses and great restaurants. They took us to so many good spots – Pike Place Market, Gas Works Park (my favorite! all of that gorgeous water, wow), Kerry Park (such a good view of Seattle nestled in the gorgeous Queen Anne neighborhood), and the Olympic Sculpture Park.

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In regards to food, we ate very well. We savored oysters & Negronis at Essex before noshing on bacon & onion pizza at Delancey. We drank fizzy fruit-infused beverages at Rachel’s Ginger Beer (apropos name, no?) and soaked up sun on the heavenly patio at Westward, where we devoured more oysters, sardine, arugula & avocado toast, flavorful vichyssoise & rosé (if I had to choose, I vote for Westward as my favorite spot of the weekend). We dined in style at Single Shot, where I enjoyed a delicious pork chop with smashed peas & roasted potatoes, and we had late-night dessert at Pie Bar. We inhaled biscuit sandwiches & iced lattes at Morsel, and we cooled down with ice cream at Molly Moon’s (I had strawberry with lemon curd in a homemade waffle cone – heaven).

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In sum, the weekend was totally perfect. I fell head over heels for Seattle and its waterfront lifestyle, and I am already plotting my return. Best of all, I got to enjoy the weekend exploring the city with Andrew, which was the most special. I can’t wait for our next trip together!

P.S. Andrew was the photographer on this trip – he’s so talented – so enjoy a few photos from my iPhone for now!

Brother-Sister Trip


I can’t believe I’m typing this but I’m getting on yet another plane today, this time for a personal adventure – a brother-sister trip to Seattle! Andrew and I started a tradition of taking siblings-only trips a few years ago (check out a recap of our Austin trip here), and I’m so excited to explore a new city together. I visited Seattle during my senior year of college and haven’t been back, and Andrew’s never been, so it’s a perfect place for us to have an adventure. We’re staying at the Ace Hotel and we’ll get to spend plenty of time with our besties Karli & Nick, who moved to Seattle in January. We’ll definitely be devouring pizza at Delancey (I read the book about the restaurant and loved it) and enjoying the weekend’s amazing weather. Other than that, the agenda is wide open. I can’t wait!

Ghana Bound

IMG_6857I’m heading to Ghana today, and I can’t wait to be back in West Africa. The climate of the region has calmed considerably since last summer’s heartwrenching Ebola outbreak, and I’m really ready to be back at the Touch A Life Care Center with the children and staff whom we love so much.

I never got around to posting photos from the last time I was in Ghana (way back in August of 2013, oh my gosh!), so I thought I’d share some with you now. I was so thrilled that I got to travel with two of my nearest & dearest friends, Lauren & Patrick Cone. We went to Ghana with a group of about 15 volunteers and we helped lay a mosaic installation in Seth’s Social Center; host tons of fun activities for the children while they were on summer vacation; and visit Lake Volta, the home to nearly 10,000 child slaves, brainstorming with our Ghanaian staff to determine the best way to make space for more children at our facility. Patrick shot this amazing video for Touch A Life on that trip, which I think is the most powerful & beautiful way to sum up what our organization does.

I can’t wait to share photos from this trip when I get back in a few weeks. I had high hopes of scheduling out posts while I’m gone but I didn’t quite get every item tackled on my to-do list, so this post will have to suffice. See you soon, friends!

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Pepperdine University

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This afternoon I’m heading out to my alma mater, Pepperdine University, and I’m so, so excited to be back on campus. I’m actually getting to go to Malibu for my job, as Touch A Life’s work in Ghana is being featured in the university’s annual Bible Lectures. Pepperdine has a beautiful art museum on campus, so an exhibit is going to be set up to showcase paintings from the children at our Care Center as well as photographs by our amazing friend, Nancy Borowick. We’ve been working hard on getting everything ready, so I can’t wait to see the exhibit come to fruition.

Of course, I also can’t wait to be on the best coast. Malibu holds one of the most special places in my heart and revisiting the small quirky beachside town always gets me all sorts of emotional. Malibu is the place where I really came into my own as a young woman, and it’s the spot where I met the very best friends on the planet. It is going to be so good to be back.

For fun, here are two posts (one here, the other here) from my last two overnight stays on Pepperdine’s campus. I love looking at old photos and reflecting on all of the amazing memories from college. What a beautiful place!

New York

IMG_2388I know, I know – I just got back from Florida, but today James and I are heading to New York! We’re visiting some dear friends of ours in Brooklyn for five whole days – I am so, so excited. James has never been to New York so I can’t wait to explore with him and take him to some of my favorite places (perhaps for a meal in Soho here). The only thing that will be missing is Callie (oh, and Coach, of course!).

‘Til next week, friends! Lots of travel recaps to come.

Photo from my last trip to New York

The Cure for Anything

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.” – Isak Dinesen

We got back from Florida on Wednesday and I am still having major ocean-related withdrawals. Kyla, Lauren, Mom, and I had the perfect trip to Naples, full of beach time, sunset happy hours, dolphin & alligator sightings, delicious food, morning strolls, afternoon naps, and every other good thing under the sun. I read this book that Kyla lent me and by read, I mean devoured – it was so gripping, descriptive, tender, and moving. I felt so relaxed each day as we sat on the beach and watched the waves crash on the shore. I would read and nap and walk along the sand and giggle with the girls, and time passed in an instant, if it even existed at all. We all agreed that the ocean was soothing our souls, and we spent every possible second outdoors. It was the perfect trip.


IMG_5471I am so excited because tomorrow morning I will be on a plane headed to one of my favorite spots in the world: my parents’s home in Florida! Kyla and Lauren are coming with me as part of an adult spring break of sorts, and I can’t wait to introduce them to my family’s place near the beach. We’ll soak up the sun, take yoga classes, go on long walks, cook delicious meals, drink lots of wine & beachy cocktails, watch the sunset, go kayaking, and search for alligators. The forecast is dreamy and Mom has already set up shop at the condo in preparation for arrival. I am counting down the minutes…eeeeep!

For fun, here are some of my favorite photos from our adventures to Florida over the years!

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San Francisco

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetWe’re experiencing California-like temperatures here in Dallas this week (a high of 77 degrees today, eee!), and the weather instantly transports me to the wonderful trip I took to San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, and Big Sur with Mom and Andrew in November. It’s about time that I finally share some photos, and I have to break them up into parts since each location easily deserves its own post. Up first: San Francisco.

Mom and I flew into San Francisco on a Thursday, and though I’ve been to northern California a dozen times since I graduated from college, I hadn’t gotten a chance to explore San Francisco on its own in such a long time. Mom and I had so much fun together. After we landed, our first stop was at Craftsman and Wolves, a hipster coffee shop and patisserie that I had been dying to try, and there we encountered the most delicious treat of all time – the rebel within, the dreamiest and most curious savory muffin stuffed with a perfectly poached egg (now I have to try to recreate it). We wandered around the neighborhood, popping into lots of little shops, my favorite being Little Paper Planes. Later we met my cousin and her fiancé for dinner at Nopa, sharing cocktails and lots of delicious small plates. The next day we woke up feeling refreshed and took a long luxurious stroll near the water, meandering over to Saint Frank for more hipster (and delicious!) coffee and breakfast. We strolled past Lombard Street, finding ourselves out of breath as we hiked through the hilly streets. We headed to Plow for a super-late brunch, which was just divine (three words: lemon ricotta pancakes), and then made our way to the Golden Gate Bridge – the day was too beautiful to pass up a photo shoot with the gorgeous landmark. We took a pitstop at the Painted Ladies before strolling through Hayes Valley, the cutest little strip of shops and restaurants.

Looking back, I can’t believe how much we packed into our San Francisco schedules in such a short amount of time. It was perfect!

Stay tuned: Half Moon Bay is next.

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French Class


I am a self-proclaimed Francophile. After the trip I took to Paris and Champagne with Laura, Kyla, and Lauren a few years ago, I fell in love with all things French – the style, the culture, the language, the wine, the art, the fashion, and, of course, the food. I am incorrigibly drawn to striped shirts and pain au chocolat and French accents and real ice-cold Champagne (not sparkling wine, non!). Ever since that trip to Paris, I have been planning my imminent return. As Audrey Hepburn said, Paris is always a good idea.

Last year my brother signed up to take a French class at a local community college, and the idea intrigued me. I took Spanish throughout high school and college and, in spite of the pop quizzes and grammar lessons and oral reports, I loved learning a second language. I like the way that Spanish words rolled off of my tongue, and I felt that it was an increasingly useful skill to know how to speak it. French, as a language, interested before my love for the culture began; the sounds and words seemed so romantic somehow. Anyway, after Andrew told me he was learning French, I kept learning about people and bloggers and colleagues who said they were, too. It’s like when you buy a new car and suddenly you see that make and model on every single highway and street corner – everyone, it seemed to me, was studying French. And I felt a stirring within me to learn French, too.

So I took the plunge. I put the idea on my list of 2015 New Year’s Resolutions and, while browsing the internet one day, realized that a class at Dallas’s Language Institute started on January 13th (today!), lasting through the first week of April. My calendar was completely clear on Tuesday evenings and, coupled with the fact that James and I are hoping to travel to France and Italy in the fall, I took it as a sign that I needed to register for the class.

I have always liked school, so in my typical nerdy fashion, I am super excited (and even a little nervous!) for my first class tonight. I have a brand new notebook and everything, y’all. Wish me luck!