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

Tips for Traveling to Iceland

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetI have been missing our Iceland adventures ever since we returned from our wonderful trip, and I got the opportunity to relive them in a super small way by writing about them for Darling Magazine. Hop on over to Darling’s blog to read the piece in full, and enjoy some of my favorite photos from our adventures! I’m also including some of the places, restaurants, and excursions we loved the most. We traveled with our dear friends, Rachel & Nick, and they are excellent planners, so they helped so much with finding amazing things to do on our trip.

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How to Get There

We took full advantage of Icelandair’s Stopover program. We purchased tickets and chose Paris as our final destination but we opted to participate in the stopover program, which offers travelers the opportunity to enjoy a layover in Iceland for up to seven days. How cool is that? We loved the airline – the amenities were great, the flight attendants were lovely, and the prices were absolutely amazing. It was incredible to travel to two countries for the price of one flight.

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Where to Stay

We loved our stay at the Icelandair Marina Hotel. Nestled right near the water, it offers really nice views and it’s located in the heart of Reykjavik; we found that our favorite restaurants and local spots were easily within walking distance. The decor at the Marina is spectacular, and the hotel is continually expanding the building and adding more amenities as tourism to Iceland continues to explode.

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Where to Eat & Drink

Reykjavik Roasters – we drank the best coffee here. Sometimes we would pop by multiple times in one day to caffeinate! The coffee shop makes their own unsweetened whipped cream, and we couldn’t resist adding a dollop to our lattes and cappuccinos.

Sjavargrillio (or Seafood Grill) – hands down, our favorite restaurant in Reykjavik. We would have eaten here for every meal if we had allowed ourselves to. The seafood, as you’d expect, was astounding, and we are still dreaming about a pork belly + langoustine appetizer that we savored here. I ordered a seafood pasta that was served with a creamy tomato sauce, and it was out of this world. The wine list was great, too.

Sandholt Bakery – we popped in here while we shopped and explored Reykjavik’s main street and we devoured the tastiest pastries. My favorite treat was a delicious, citrusy lemon tart, and we also ate yummy quiche and pretzel bread.

The Laundromat Café – yummy spot for brunch. We loved the coffee and fresh-pressed juice, too.

Kex Hostel – we came here on Friday night after spending the day at the Blue Lagoon (more on that below!) and we were in the mood for a cozy meal, which we definitely found here. The carrot soup I ordered totally hit the spot – it was luscious, and it was served with an unending selection of thick, soft bread and salted butter. We also noshed on homemade Parmesan crisps and burgers, and we drank really refreshing local beer. The decor at the Kex is just perfect – imagine if Anthropologie outfitted a hostel and you’ve got the right idea.

Snaps Bistro – really good French food and an awesome cocktail program. This was a great spot for the four of us to kick back, have long talks, and drink good wine.

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Things to Do

Spend an afternoon (or a whole day!) at the Blue Lagoon. This may seem like a touristy activity but I can promise you that, based on our experience, the experience did not feel touristy at all. There were Icelandic locals and experienced travelers alike enjoying the geothermal spa. If forced to choose, I think I would say that spending 6+ hours at the Blue Lagoon on the day that we arrived in Iceland was my very favorite activity. The warm water is so relaxing and refreshing and there’s a super fun swim-up bar where we refilled our glasses of Prosecco. There are tubs strewn around the lagoon full of mud packed with minerals, so we made plenty of masks and relished in how good they felt on our faces. We all opted to get hourlong in-water massages, which were insanely amazing – definitely an out-of-body experience, a splurge that I highly recommend.

Take a tour of the Golden Circle, and book a private jeep. Rachel booked this excursion for us and while it was pricy, it was worth every single penny. Our driver was an absolute gem who imparted so much wisdom about Iceland and the various sites we saw. We stood between two tectonic plates, frolicked atop a glacier, and off-roaded through rivers and volcanic rocks. We marveled at geysers and waterfalls and rainbows and the fact that one minute we were standing on ice but the next we were soaking in the sunshine. We stopped at a cafe and noshed on delicious grilled cheese paninis with tomato soup (bottomless bowls of it!) and drank the best hot chocolate. The whole day we were so acutely aware of how obvious it was that God really knew what He was doing when He created Iceland. If I had to pick between this adventure and our afternoon at the Blue Lagoon, I don’t think I could choose.

Spend time wandering around Reykjavik’s main street, popping into shops and cafes and just generally enjoying the slow-paced life that Iceland natives enjoy. There are so many cool Scandinavian-influenced home decor stores that we just loved, especially Hrim. We went up to the top of Hallgrimskirkja, the large Lutheran church that boasts beautiful views of the city. It was so fun to peer through the windows and look at the brightly colored rooftops.

We also did a Northern Lights tour, and while it was seriously amazing to see some of the gorgeous lights, I don’t know that I would do this again…probably because I like to go to bed early and the tour starts at 10:00 a.m.

IMG_2187 IMG_2262 IMG_2385 (1) IMG_2232 IMG_2183   IMG_2395 No pun intended, but this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg in terms of guides and things to do in Iceland. James and I are already plotting our inevitable return to this beautiful country – there is so much more exploring to do!

Countdown to 30

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI absolutely cannot believe that my 30th birthday is next week. Next week! Honestly, I have no qualms about leaving my 20s and entering into my 30s. I feel so grateful for the life I’ve led so far and for all of the goodness that has occurred in my 20s – graduating from college, landing my dream job, moving to Dallas, getting married, becoming a puppy mama, traveling the world. Admittedly, there have been seriously hard times and I’ve made plenty of mistakes throughout this past decade, but overall I look back upon my 20s so, so fondly. I learned and grew and stretched. I prayed and played and worked; I cooked and read and ran. I cried and laughed and hopped on planes and took road trips. I made memories and photo books and the very best friends. I am excitedly anticipating my 30s, as I expect that amidst life’s inevitable hardship and sorrow, there will be endless amounts of joy, newness, richness, and beauty – and for that, I am grateful.

On a lighter note, I am beyond thrilled and honored that my girlfriends are throwing me a birthday dinner here in Dallas next week. They created and mailed out the gorgeous invitation pictured above – isn’t it fabulous? I feel so known & loved, and I can’t wait to celebrate with so many of my favorite women on the planet!

Wonderfully Made


Even though I took a self-proclaimed blogging sabbatical, I have still been writing for Darling Magazine and I’ve actually scored another writing gig with a beautiful organization that I’ve believed in for so many years, Wonderfully Made. I wrote for Wonderfully Made’s blog when I graduated from college and I got to interview amazing women who were making a difference in the world. It was so much fun. After a year or so, I took some time off from that project as Wonderfully Made underwent some exciting changes, but I kept in touch with the organization’s founder, Allie Marie Smith, through the usual channels of social media and the blogosphere. We reconnected at the Yellow Conference in August, and she asked me to come back on board as a contributor. I was so excited that I jumped at the opportunity, and I’ve already written a few pieces that you can read here and here. Stay tuned for more fun posts and projects that are in the works. Thank you for having me, Wonderfully Made crew!

Here, There & Everywhere


Oh my goodness, I can’t believe so much time has passed since my last post! I would apologize but, truth be told, as much as I love this sweet space of mine, I am not sorry. It has been refreshing to step away from my screen and enjoy a writing sabbatical of sorts. I feel recharged and inspired and ready to dig back in to Coffee & Tacos. Thank you for your patience and your readership – it means so much.

James & I had the very best time during our European adventures (recaps & photos to come soon, promise!) and there’s been a lot of wonderful things going on around here. Hard things, too, because life is not all pie in the sky, but mostly we have been feeling grateful that we get to travel, cook delicious meals, and savor time with one another and with our amazing community (and with our snuggly puppies, of course!).

Regular posting to resume starting now. It feels good to be back!

Image via pop & scott

Wedding Season

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetI love fall for a myriad of reasons but one that tops the list is because it’s wedding season! I have attended three weddings in nearly as many weeks and it is so, so special to be included in a couple’s sacred day, whether as a guest or a member of the wedding party. Most recently, I was the co-Matron of Honor (alongside my bff, Karli) in our best gal, Becca’s, wedding in Nashville, and even though it’s already Wednesday, I’m still having wedding weekend withdrawals. It was an incredibly gorgeous ceremony combined with an unbelievably fun reception spent with some of my very favorite people in the world. James & I went to a sweet wedding at a beautiful venue in Weatherford, and I went home to Chicago for my cousin’s wedding, which was family-filled and wonderful. The cherry on top is that one of my Dallas bests, Laura, got engaged over the weekend! We met for coffee & wedding talk this morning as I sat there with my cherished friend, I felt that there is so much love in the world. All seems really, really right.

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We’re Going to Europe!

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetJames & I have been busily curating our packing lists and checking them twice because in just a few short weeks, we’re heading to Europe! We’ll be gone for 14 luscious days and we’ll be exploring Iceland, Paris, Florence, and Rome. We have so many fun plans in store (like massages at the Blue Lagoon, a Northern Lights tour, a photo shoot in Paris, and noshing on pizza here), which we’ll balance out with plenty of days filled with absolutely no plans, armed only with the intention to wander around, pop into any store/café/watering hole that delights us, and enjoy our time together in Europe. I absolutely cannot wait!

Passport via Gigi New York

Should You Quit?

deskLast month I was assigned a really interesting topic for my most recent post on Darling Magazine’s blog. My editor asked me to write a piece that explored the reasons why we should stay in a tough job when the going gets rough and compare them to the reasons that justify a transition into pursuing something new. This post took me a while to write; I was surprised by how much this topic consumed my time and energy. As the writing started to flow, I realized I had been caught up in the premise because there’s such a strong tension that exists between today’s world of living-for-the-moment, the same attitude that pushes us to chase our dreams no matter the cost (causing us to want to quit any job that doesn’t seem perfect), and the character development that’s built from sticking it out in a job that may not be our passion but gives us the space to explore who we are and who we want to become (which, though this cultivates personal achievement, could hold us back from professional gain). I began to wonder which option was best, and if there was a healthy middle ground between the two choices that could provide a sense of balance and stability.

I came up with three reasons why we should consider quitting our jobs (when there’s no more room for growth, when we’re opening our own businesses, when the office culture is abusive or derogatory) and three reasons that build the argument that we should stay (when the positives outweigh the negatives, when the going gets tough, when relationships can become resources). I found so much personal value in writing this piece, as it challenged me to explore an area that I had previously not given much thought. Hop on over to Darling’s blog to read the whole piece, and let me know what you think!

Image via The Everygirl