Around Here

tumblr_o2py8vpTzt1qkol0qo1_1280Life has felt so full lately, a perfect balance of travel and rest and productivity and fun and a lot of really good time with people I love, especially James. We’ve had friends visit from out of town, hosted barbecues in our backyard (in February!), treated ourselves to foot massages, and tried new restaurants (like Filament, Afrah, Unleavened Kitchen, and Motor Sisters Ice Cream). We went to a monster truck rally (beyond hilarious and entertaining), took Coach on approximately 204,237 walks, cleaned out our closets, and binge-watched House of Cards. We’ve launched individual passion projects (a podcast for me – stay tuned! – and grilling for him), booked an anniversary trip (to Seattle to visit Karli & Nick + to Florida to lay on the beach!), bought a new couch, and taken lots of naps. I spent a weekend in Boulder with my best friends from college, and I celebrated my beautiful bestie, Laura’s, bachelorette weekend in Austin, one of my very favorite places. Tomorrow I head to Florida for the second annual adult spring break, this time with Kyla and our sweet mommas. This year feels like it’s flying by, and while there have definitely been hard days, when I look back at the past few weeks it’s easy to remember how very blessed we are.

Image via Kate Arends / Wit & Delight

Around Here

Party DecorWow, time sure does fly – December 10th already?! I apologize for my absence on the blog lately – but then again, I don’t because so much goodness has been happening around here and I’ve stepped away from my online presence to soak it all in.

The holidays are such a magical time of year, aren’t they? We had an amazing time in Chicago for Thanksgiving, and last week was spent celebrating James and my birthdays, which are just four days apart (so fun!). My 29th birthday was on Wednesday, the 3rd, and Touch A Life has a policy that gives employees the day off on their special day, which is such a treat. I got my stretch on at yoga and my sweat on at City Surf, treated myself to my favorite juice and smoothie at The Gem, picked up some birthday goodies at J. Crew, and got a foot massage at my favorite place. James and I noshed on filet mignon, barbecue ribs, creamy spinach dip, and French fries at Houston’s for dinner, toasting with martinis (for me) and whiskey (for him). It was the perfect day.

James’s 30th birthday was on Sunday and I threw him a surprise party! It was the best. Nearly 35 of our closest friends came to celebrate James and he was so totally shocked when he walked into our house – we nailed the surprise! My super talented friend Bri took photos of the day, which I’ll share here soon. I had so much fun planning the decor (a few party remnants are pictured above), snacks, and drinks, and all of our friends pitched in with setting up, throwing James off, and keeping the secret about the party. It is the best party I’ve ever hosted, filled with so much fun, love, and good food. James had a fantastic time, which made me so happy.

Holiday events are in full swing, which I love! Tonight is a Christmas-themed girls night in at Korena’s, and tomorrow the Black Frames are playing at a charity wrap party hosted by Fullosophie. My dear bestie Becca and her boyfriend Mark are coming in from Nashville to attend a wedding this weekend, and I can’t wait to see them (and eat tacos at the best spot in town). Sunday night marks Laura, Kyla, and my fifth annual Christmas besties dinner, and the following day is my favorite event of the season (tied with the besties dinner, of course) – the Cone Christmas dinner at Patrick and Lauren’s, where Patrick cooks an entire holiday meal filled with delicious seasonal favorites. James and I are going to check out the Highland Park lights with Callie and hot chocolate in tow, and we’re scooting down to Austin the weekend before Christmas as a special treat to one another (also with Callie in tow, as we’ll be staying at my favorite hotel).

I’ve been cooking some of Shauna Niequist’s recipes, as I planned, so I’ll be sharing a recipe tomorrow, as well as some fun posts the rest of the month! But if I go MIA again, have no fear – I’m just enjoying all that the holiday season has to offer, namely the fact that we get to spend this month thinking of the amazing Christmas story and Jesus’s birth. What a beautiful season – I hope you are loving it as much as I am!

Wedding Photos

In honor of hitting the two month mark of wedded bliss tomorrow (eep!), here are some of my very favorite wedding photos. It was so hard to choose just a few (okay, more than a few) out of the hundreds of gorgeous images that Heather took, but these are certainly some pictures that are going to find their way into frames very soon…

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Wedding Weekend Reflections

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I know, I know, you’re probably wondering why I’m still rambling on and on about our wedding festivities. Frankly, I think I’m still living on cloud nine. Being married is such a blessing and as the photos and videos continue to roll in, I get to relive our special day over and over again. I just can’t help myself, really – everything was so perfect that it needs to be documented and shared.

One thing I especially loved about our wedding weekend was that everyone got to spend so much quality time together. Though our wedding wasn’t until Sunday, I headed down to Austin on Wednesday to be with my parents and brother for a few days before everyone else arrived. We had so much fun eating delicious meals (at places like Hopdoddy, Bufalina, and La Condesa), exploring the city, and resting and relaxing together. If you’re getting married soon and you have the luxury of taking a few extra days off, I would highly encourage you to spend some down time with your family – it created such an irreplaceable memory for me.

Since Austin is only three hours from Dallas, it didn’t strike me as a typical destination wedding, but at its core, it was – not one person on our guest list was from Austin, making it a destination for literally everyone. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that many of our wedding guests had never been to Austin and wanted to carve out time during our wedding weekend to have fun in the city – I loved that it could serve as an opportunity for a new experience for them. Because of that, people arrived early and stayed late, making plenty of time for my whole family to catch up with loved ones who had traveled to join us for our special day. Nothing felt rushed or condensed – we got to laugh and talk and enjoy one another for as long as we liked.

My two favorite memories, aside from the wedding, of course, took place on Saturday afternoon after our rehearsal lunch and on Sunday morning on the big day itself. On Saturday, everyone was free to rest and relax after we rehearsed and had a great home-cooked lunch together. Organically, everyone (including friends who we love but weren’t members of the wedding party) congregated at the courtyard bar at my beloved Hotel San José. We sipped on delicious cocktails, munched on cheese & hummus platters, and had the absolute best time being all together. At one point, I looked around and felt myself getting emotional (for the zillionth time that weekend) – everyone I loved, from all different walks of life, was in the same place at the same time. It was so surreal. I wanted time to stand still so I could soak it all in. Erin Pommer snuck away to our courtyard suite so she could capture a group photo from the balcony, and she probably doesn’t realize what a gift that picture would be to me – it is truly one of my most favorite images from the whole weekend. As the evening progressed, my bridesmaids, Mom, and I made our way upstairs to order pizza, drink wine, and have a slumber party. Throw an impromptu ice cream run (adorned in our gorgeous hotel robes, of course) into the mix and you’ve got yourself the most fantastic conclusion to a perfect day.

The next morning, my brother and I went for our daily run, which is really the best way to start any day. When we got back to the hotel, we found nearly the entire wedding party (minus James, of course – we didn’t want to see each other until I walked down the aisle!), several of our relatives, and tons of friends from our hometown of Wheaton having breakfast and enjoying the beautiful morning weather at Jo’s Coffee. Once again, organically, people had congregated at a fun spot in town, ending up all together to mingle and eat and relax. While I had listed Jo’s on our wedding website as a place to go, it still amazed me that so many people were there all at the same time. I love the fact that Austin is big enough to offer so many things to do while still being small enough to allow you to run into people you know wherever you go. I had the best time snacking on breakfast burritos, drinking green juice & coffee, and chatting with so many of my favorite people before I got ready to become Mrs. Brown. In fact, I was having so much fun that I was a little late for my hair appointment – oops. Patrick was at Jo’s that morning, too, shooting so much great footage of everyone having a blast together. I love that that footage was showcased in our wedding video – it is so special for me to have that morning captured on film.

Reflecting on these memories just reminds me of how grateful I am for community, and also of how consciously I need to continue pursuing it for the rest of my days. Community is life-giving to me – making memories with people I love is sustaining and soul-filling in a way I can’t really describe. I’m so thankful for the incredible people that walk with me through life’s ups and downs. I could go on and on about them and our memories and experiences but I think I’ll stop here, pausing for one more moment to give a slow clap for the most perfect wedding weekend of all time…

Hotel San José

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Posts are popping up all over the interwebs about summer vacations that people are embarking on – it’s June already, say what?! – and it made me think about the Hotel San José, one of my most favorite places in the world to rest and relax. Located in the heart of Austin’s South Congress district, it is situated in the midst of the city’s hustle and bustle while simultaneously maintaining a super chill and comforting vibe. For those reasons (in conjunction with the rave reviews I gave after staying there with my brother in 2012 and my mom in 2013), it was the hotel of choice for my family and many guests during the wedding weekend festivities. The rooms are gorgeously outfitted in hipster-chic decor with lots of neutral pieces and pops of color, like these fabulous hippie blankets (Mom gifted me with the teal & yellow combo after our first visit to the hotel together). Beautiful kimono-style robes are provided for each guest – I love them so much that Mom & Dad sent two to James & me as post-wedding gifts and, suffice it to say, we are obsessed with them. The rooms are stocked with Malin + Goetz products, which are my absolute favorite (who can resist peppermint shampoo, cilantro conditioner, and bergamot body wash?). The hotel’s breakfast is the stuff of legends and their courtyard bar is undoubtedly one of the best in Austin. The Hotel San José owns Jo’s Coffee, the delightful coffee shop adjacent to the parking lot, and they serve unbeatable coffee, Daily Greens juice, and the tastiest breakfast tacos from Tacodeli, all of which you can charge to your room. Even the keychains that go along with the room keys are darling (and the answer is yes, I have one of them on my key ring – so, basically, I bought everything in the gift shop). The decor, service, food, and ambiance are all truly perfect. It is, without a doubt, one of my very favorite places to be – and, lucky me, it’s just a three-hour drive away!

The Hotel San José is owned by the Bunkhouse Group, who also built, designed, and outfitted the El Cosmico in Marfa (where Kyla, Laura & I stayed in September), the Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin (where James & I stayed on our wedding night), and the Hotel Havana in San Antonio. The El Cosmico and the Saint Cecilia are just as gorgeous as the San José, and I’m sure the Havana measures up – but I’ll have to make a trip there to find out!

I love these photos that Heather took of the Hotel San José during the wedding weekend – they really capture the boutique-y & beautiful essence of the hotel. If you find yourself in Austin in the near future, do yourself a favor & book a room at the Hotel San José!

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Week & End

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It’s Memorial Day Weekend, eeeeee! Exactly one year ago yesterday, James & I got engaged – so cool! To celebrate, we headed to Chicago for a mini-Johnson family reunion, which was a total blast. This year we’re spending the weekend in Dallas doing lots of fun things with friends. Last night we were at a benefit concert hosted by the Cones & their friends from their church community, the Kellums – The Black Frames played (and James got to do a cameo on his fiddle, so fun!) and the proceeds of the event benefitted Touch A Life. Does it get any more awesome than that? Tonight we’re having friends over for a backyard barbecue, and on Sunday we’ll meet more friends for dinner at Hopdoddy & a game night (where a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity will definitely be involved). I plan to soak up the sun on Monday and convince James to take me out for a Mambo Taxi (or two). Three cheers for three day weekends!

And now, for some fun links from around the web…

Everyone (including myself, clearly) has been posting gorgeous pictures of peonies & I don’t blame them – they’re in season right now and they make me so happy! I picked some up at Trader Joe’s for our house and my office and I need to read up on how to care for them so they last for as long as possible.

I am obsessed with Daily Greens juice (made in Austin but widely distributed in Dallas, even at my yoga studio) – I drank a bottle of the Harmony juice every day while we were in Austin for our wedding festivities, even on the big day itself! When I read that they are opening a juice bar where they’ll also serve cocktails, I nearly fainted – what a delicious concept.

There are so many good new restaurants cropping up around town. I want to try Pecan Lodge, Top Pot Doughnuts, and Stock & Barrel.

Wouldn’t it be fun to host a build-your-own sliders party?

These sandals! Swoon. So perfect for summer!

Wedding Video

There are not enough words in the English language to describe how much we love the insanely perfect wedding video that our talented friend & videographer, Patrick Cone, shot and created for us. He captured our wedding day (and the events leading up to it, including our proposal) in a way only a genius/close friend can – it’s like Patrick read our minds and snagged footage of all of our favorite moments. Enjoy this beautiful piece – I promise that it will make you laugh & cry! Thank you, Patrick, for blessing us with this incredible keepsake!