My goal is to catch up on my blog posts before we leave for our big trip. I’ve been woefully neglectful of my blog. But in my defense, work has been crazier than ever. Going into work early and staying late, giving me little chance to do very much else during the week is stressful to say the least. So…let’s think about happier things, shall we?

How about our week long trip to Austin at the beginning of September? We absolutely love spending time in Austin, it’s one of our favorite cities. There is so much to do, so much to see, so much to eat, and also, so many friends and family to hang out with! We enjoyed every single second of our trip!

We didn’t take a lot of pictures though. I guess sometimes it’s hard to remember to take pictures when you’re having fun. But we did take a few pictures at the wine tasting we went to in Dripping Springs. There are actually quite a few wineries in the Hill Country, but we only had time for one. So, we decided upon Duchman Winery with lunch first at the Trattoria Lisina. What a lovely afternoon with awesome friends! (wish I were still there!)

Cheers to enjoying wine in the Hill Country with some of our favorite people!

Just wandering around the Duchman Winery property. It was a gorgeous day for a stroll!

As for the rest of our trip, I’m just going to make a list for you of all the places you really should try if you ever find yourself in Austin.

  1. Jester King Brewery in Dripping Springs – Beautiful property, interesting beers, definitely an awesome place to spend an afternoon.

    If you’re on Facebook/Instagram, then you’ve probably already seen some of these pictures. But I’m desperate for more photos to accompany this post. I will try harder in the future not to crossover from platform to platform. I typically try to avoid redundancy in photo sharing. Anyhow, how about another viewing of us enjoying ourselves at Jester King Brewery!

  2. Trudy’s – an Austin institution, the stuffed fried avocado is legendary.

    We had an amazingly fun group at Trudy’s that night!! Bet you wish you had been there eh? ;)

  3. East Side King – Very unique and tasty Asian street food, especially loved their beet home fries!
  4. Deep Eddy Pool – not as crowded or popular as Barton Springs, a nice place to relax and enjoy the sunshine.

    Just relaxing and enjoying a lazy day at the pool.

  5. Gourdough’s – Probably the least healthy but most tasty meal we had this trip, EVERYTHING is made from donut dough. Chicken and dumplings? With doughnut holes instead of dumplings. Chicken fried chicken? On a bed of doughnut. Big juice cheeseburger? Served on a doughnut bun. SO good but I’ll admit that it was a little overwhelming. Thankfully, Cathy warned us to pace ourselves and we were able to snack on tasty leftovers for a few days!
  6. G’Raj Mahal – Seriously delicious Indian food! We absolutely devoured everything we ordered!
  7. Magnolia Cafe – our perennial favorite, I absolutely adore their Love Veggies dish
  8. Mozart’s Coffee – a pretty view in the evening with top notch desserts and coffee
  9. We saw the Congress Bridge bats emerge at dusk, which I’ve always wanted to do. Though honestly, all you can really say is, “wow, that’s a lot of bats” Still a fun experience, but I think I’m good on bat viewing for awhile.
  10. And we really wanted to go to Hamilton Pool Preserve, which sounds super exclusive. But alas, the pool was closed due to high levels of bacteria in the water when we were planning to visit.
  11. Amy’s Ice Cream – a local favorite
  12. Oh! And we (minus Andy) went shopping at the Domain, Austin’s newest fancy shopping area. Delightful!
  13. Bouldin Creek Cafe – a truly wonderful vegan/vegetarian restaurant that we LOVE.

It was a little too warm to do all the canoeing, hiking, and biking kind of activities that I had hoped for. Darn Texas weather! But that just means we’ll have plenty to do for another trip to Austin!

A now fairly famous wall near South Congress in Austin. I’m not entirely sure if there’s one defining thing I want to do before I die. But I do know that there is still a lot of adventures to be had in Austin before that day!

Well, I suppose it was only a matter of time before the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge got around to our house. I will admit, I was hoping to get through this trend unscathed. I’ve heard a lot of opinions and thoughts on this challenge. But no matter your conclusion, it is still trying to raise money for a worthy cause. So, here you go!

#1. Look! Andy reloaded my pretty blog theme! Yay!

#2. I always seem to just about catch up on my blog posts and then get lazy and fall behind again. So, here we go with our short little trip in San Francisco after our big Napa vacation.

We didn’t have nearly as much time as we wanted in San Francisco. But then again, I suppose we could say that about every place we’ve ever been. Andy and I have both been to San Fran, but never together. So, we tried to visit as much as we could in the short amount of time we had!

Union Square was right in front of our hotel, so it seemed like a great place to start!

With a moderate amount of lying and trickery, Andy convinced me to walk from our hotel down to the pier. There are a LOT of serious hills hiding in the streets of San Francisco. Yes, they’re hiding. They wait for all those unsuspecting, overindulging, vacation happy tourists to wander onto their paths, and BAM! You’re surrounded by incredibly steep hills no matter where you look. So, after some major huffing and puffing, we were finally rewarded with a beautiful view of the ocean…and some delicious San Fran sourdough. Oh yes, I will absolutely replenish all the calories that I burned climbing those darn hills.

Look at the pretty church like building. And while you’re enjoying the nice scenery, the hills are totally plotting against you! They’re out to get you!! (I really appreciated the walk, can you tell?)

San Francisco sourdough from Boudin Bakery. Yum!

After a lovely lunch, we meandered around the pier and Ghirardelli Square. What beautiful views! What ginormous seagulls!

It’s a seagull AND Ghirardelli Square!

It’s Alcatrez. What a creepy island and a scary prison. I have NEVER had any inclination to do an Alcatrez tour. That is way too haunted and spooky for me. I am happy standing on the pier and taking a minimal number of pictures of this historical (and terrifying) site.

And of course obligatory picture in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

And for dinner? We went to Limon Rotisserie per our friend Oscar’s recommendation. It was a delicious memory of our trip to Peru in meal form. The best rotisserie chicken and lovely empanadas! Yum!

We love Limon Rotisserie! (and yes, it’s a cell phone picture at night. sorry about the less than stellar photo quality)

We had a little time in the morning before heading to the airport, so we decided to find a good cup of coffee.

And we stumbled upon these gorgeous rental bikes. How fun!

And we ended up at BeanStalk Cafe, a cute neighborhood coffee place. Fantastic coffee and fun to people watch.

I got a lovely toast cup filled with eggs, ham, and cheese. A perfect little breakfast snack accompanied by a cute set of bulldog salt & pepper shakers.

In conclusion, we love northern California. Napa and San Francisco are both tremendously wonderful and we can’t wait to visit again! You can check out all our Cali vacation pictures by clicking here.

Luck is a funny thing. Most of the time, you don’t even realize how much luck you possess until after the fact. For instance, we planned a big group trip to Napa with several of our friends. We rented a house to share, we planned a wine tour complete with limo, and we were all really looking forward to escaping Texas for a nice long weekend in California. But less than a month after our planned trip, as many of you have probably heard in the news, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake hit our vacation spot.

I can’t even imagine the losses and damage that the residents of the California wine region must have suffered in the last week. I sincerely hope that the businesses, homes, and families recover from such a tragedy. For Napa is a beautiful place and we’re so lucky to have enjoyed it before the catastrophe. And I hope we will be able to visit it and enjoy all that Napa has to offer again in the future! Well, how about some photos of pre-earthquake Napa in all her splendor?

We rented an interesting farmhouse on Silverado Road, just down the street from downtown Napa. Plenty of comfy rooms and places to hang out in the evening. Just watch out for the historical bees in their historical beehive that has incorporated itself into the historical farmhouse. The bees didn’t really bother us since we didn’t bother them. But there are a good number of bees on the property. It’s a good thing to note if anybody has a bee allergy…

On the other hand, did I mention, there’s a huge porch in the backyard with a beautiful view of the sunset? We all give it a thumbs up!

But our trip to Napa wasn’t just about our cool house, we had plenty of activities planned too! First up, a trip to Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa for some beer tastings!

Once Andy discovered how close this elusive brewery was to Napa, it quickly became part of the “must do” itinerary.

Everybody enjoying a nice beer in the gorgeous California sunshine. Look! We’re sitting outside without sweating ourselves into dehydration and heat exhaustion! Be jealous Texas, be very jealous.

Russian River Brewery is famous for their Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger beers. But they only distribute in a few states outside of California. So, taking a case home was too much temptation for us to bear!

Then after a little bit of wandering and window shopping around downtown Napa (Oxbow Public Market is amazing!), we stopped at UnCorked for a nice laid back wine tasting on the porch. That’s right, I sat outdoors and ENJOYED it! Seriously loving California summers.

The next morning, our limo driver picked us up for our Napa wine tour. And before you think that we got too fancy, there are a ton of companies that specialize in wine tours for every price range. Besides,  drinking and driving should always be avoided, that’s just common sense! And since we were in America’s wine country, of course everybody wanted to sample the famous vineyards of Napa, nobody wanted to be designated driver!

We used Beau Wine Tours for our excursion around Napa. They provided a driver with a lot of Napa knowledge, helped us select the wineries, coordinated the tasting room reservations, set up a lunch spot complete with a picnic table cloth and plates/silverware/water bottles, and really made our afternoon special.

Getting ready to hit the road in our wine tour limo!

First winery on the list? Clos Pegase

Cheers to the first wine tasting of the day, and certainly not the last!

This is supposed to be us looking snobby while we sample our fancy wines. Snobby? Special? Mentally Challenged? Constipated? It works in so many ways. ;)

Wine barreling room at Clos Pegase.

Beautifully straight rows of grapevines getting ripe in the California sunshine.

And of course, I can’t help posing with such a beautiful vineyard in the background. I’m a sucker for posing, like mother like daughter I suppose?

Feeling pretty good about ourselves at this point, time for wine tasting #2 at Frank Family Vineyards. Our limo driver recommended this one and though all of our choices were fantastic, this was probably my favorite stop.

Start with our whites and end with the darkest red. It was here at Frank Family Vineyards that I discovered I do not hate a nice buttery chardonnay! In fact, I like it quite a bit!

And cheers again!

With all that wine, how about a lovely picnic lunch on the Frank Family Vineyard property? The wine tour company will certainly supply a boxed lunch, but we picked up a bunch of picnic foods when we were out shopping the day before. Perfect! (again, watch out for the bees! They have a peculiar affinity for meat/cold cuts.)

Getting ready for the final wine tasting of the day at Tefethen and we’re starting to get a little sleepy from all that wine and food. Time for an Ethan nap pile!

Last wine tasting cheers of the day!! So much tasty wine, it was hard to decide what to take home! But we decided on a bottle from Frank Family and a bottle from Trefethen. Call it a splurge, but it will be a nice anniversary treat come October! :)

After a nice nap and some much needed lounging time, we headed to a nice dinner at Kitchen Door in Napa. It was a delicious and unique restaurant, but Napa seems to have more than its fair share of fabulous dining options! If you do go to Kitchen Door, make sure to save room for the bread pudding. It was definitely worth the stomach space!

It was an extremely memorable trip and I’m so glad we got to share it with our friends! But there’s still so much more to explore! I hope the damage from the earthquake is quickly repaired and that Napa gets back on its feet soon! We will most definitely be back for more wine, food, and good times! Check out more Napa pictures by clicking here. Next blog post? Our 24 hours in San Francisco after leaving Napa.

After two long years of hard work, sleepless nights, cramming for finals, project meetings after 40 hour work weeks, missed outings with friends, and late night study sessions, Mr. Andy finally graduated with his MBA back in July!! This deserves some serious celebrating!!

We were in Austin for Andy’s last class weekend, so we met up with his family for a nice graduation brunch at Kerbey Lane Cafe.

Andy with The Johnsons waiting for our table at Kerbey Lane’s. The weather was pretty decent for a July day in Austin! Always thankful for small miracles. :)

Graduation brunch with the family! Celebrating the end of finals with coffee seemed only fitting. :)

Also, look how proud the puppies are that Andy finally has plenty of spare time to play with them now!

Then once Andy caught up on some sleep and let the realization sink in that he was truly done, we threw a properly huge graduation party the next weekend at the Glass Boot Biergarten.

As legitimate of a beer garden as one is apt to find in DFW. They had a lovely porch, plenty of drinks, and GINORMOUS pretzels.

Andy with Teena and Jessie. Sorry Sean and Brian, you got cut out of this picture. But your counterparts are much prettier anyhow ;)

Ashley and Jacques enjoying a not sweltering Texas evening in July. I’m surprised that we sat outside all night and nobody passed out from dehydration or heat exhaustion!

Jeromy, Lily, and Richard also came to help Andy celebrate by joining us in beer drinking and GIANT pretzel eating!

The girls being lovely and the boys being strange. That’s pretty par for the course I suppose?

Sue, Miko, and me hamming it up for the camera!

Oscar and Karen are all smiles!

Cathy and me with Thomas and Karen (Andy’s MBA classmate). Though I think we’ve done something to utterly disgust Thomas, which I hope we do again because that face is amazing.

Everybody smile and say BEER! Or just smile and look at me awkwardly because I’m the crazy picture lady. Yeah, that works too.

A beautiful brother and sister duo.

Huy and Yesenia, who is totally rocking that straw fedora! Now I want a straw fedora…

Two of my favorite people, plus a creeper Andy trying to photobomb unsuccessfully.

Martin and Joy posing with their party favors, mini das boots!!

Carrie and Hau being cute.

And as per usual, as it got later, we got weirder. That’s just the natural way of things.

Weldon’s taking the photos now, and Andy’s roaring at the camera. Because, why not?

Becoming incoherent, because I have no idea what look this would be.

??? (your guess is as good as mine)

But at least we’re ending it with happiness!

I wish I had taken more photos. I missed a bunch of people by accident! But I suppose I always wish I could remember to take more photos. And that’s saying something in this case, because there’s quite a few pictures that I’ve just shared! What it boils down to is that we had so many awesome people come celebrate with us that I couldn’t even get proper photos of everybody! (also the fact that I love to talk kind of gets in the way of focusing on being camera person) Thank you to all those that encouraged, supported, and celebrated with Andy along his MBA journey. And hallelujah, we’re so happy it’s finally done! (click here to see the full gallery from Andy’s graduation celebration)

We had a busy but splendid Fourth of July holiday this year. As with most of our lives, we spent a good deal of it running from place to place. But we wouldn’t have missed any part of the weekend for anything.

We kicked off the long weekend by cheering on the Fort Worth Cats, our local minor league baseball team. And honestly in my opinion, the only reason to go to a baseball game is to eat hot dogs and watch fireworks, preferably with awesome friends. I was definitely not disappointed!

Hot dogs? Check!

Awesome friends? Check check!

Believe it or not, it was actually a pretty tolerable evening for July in Texas. This is me being outside and being grateful.

The fireworks were too difficult to take a picture of, and near impossible to capture with a stupid cell phone camera. But I promise you they were fantastic! (though I probably could’ve done without the superbly twangy country anthems)

On the actual Fourth of July holiday, we started off at Bob and Nancy’s pool party/BBQ.  A nice dip in the pool, a fun toss of the beach volleyball, delicious burgers with Nancy’s garlic broccoli dish committed to memory, a perfect afternoon!

Oh look, it’s Bob. Doesn’t he look thrilled? ;)

Jess and Nancy after a little fun in the sun. Yay pool time!

After leaving Bob and Nancy’s, we headed to Joy and Martin’s house for another fireworks show! Again, fireworks don’t show up well on cell phone cameras. And unfortunately, I didn’t bother taking any other photos either. But we had a splendid time at Joy and Martin’s too! SO much food, so much Street Fighter!

As if that wasn’t enough excitement for one weekend, the day after the holiday, we headed up to Mount Pleasant for a day with Lauren, Griffin, and Baby Hudson. First on the list, Andy and I heard about an amazing berry farm that we simply had to visit. Who doesn’t love fresh ripe blackberries?

Andy loves fresh ripe blackberries, that’s for sure!!

You definitely appreciate your berries more when you work to pick them yourself!

But don’t worry, it’s easy! Even Baby Hudson can pick blackberries!

Baskets of blackberries, yum yum yum. Also, I’d like to point out again that it’s July in Texas and I’m standing outside with a smile on my face. That’s very unusual indeed, usually I’m grimacing from the heat and humidity.

On the way back to Griffin and Lauren’s house, we stopped at this fun little market. They had beautiful (and tasty) produce, interesting products, and the best homemade soft serve peach ice cream I’ve ever had. (Andy got strawberry, but I think peach is still my favorite)

Andy’s strawberry ice cream cone. Makes me wish I had one right now…

Our Mount Pleasant hosts smiling for a beautiful family picture after a delicious ice cream treat. (Btw, getting a toddler to look at the camera for a photo is an interesting process. Dogs are easy, just hold a treat in your hand. Toddlers require all sorts of strange noises and faces. Really, somebody should be taking pictures of us taking pictures of toddlers.)

Also, look at all that beautiful fresh produce! We couldn’t help ourselves, we ended up with a basket of ripe tomatoes and peaches. Some of our favorite things!

Even Hudson couldn’t get enough of those farm fresh peaches!

After our exciting outing, we went back to Griffin and Lauren’s to relax and enjoy a leisurely dinner.

Griffin made his famous BBQ ribs, so fantastic!

And I made a chocolate peanut butter pie for dessert. I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out. It could use a little refining, but overall Alton Brown’s recipe made for a perfectly American pie.

There you have it, Fourth of July 2014. We sure did manage to stay busy, but we also consider ourselves so very blessed to have that many amazing people that want us around! Happy.

I got so preoccupied with getting the family weekend pictures posted, that I forgot about the photos we took at our nephew’s first birthday party! So, here’s  a belated post to wish our sweet nephew Hudson a very happy birthday!

Look at that face! Look at those beautiful blue eyes! What a gorgeous baby boy!

I agree Hudson, inspecting the pool is a must. Be sure to check for sharks, sea serpents, and deadly jellyfish!

Dad and son chilling at the pool, the perfect place to be for a June birthday in Texas! Hudson doesn’t look too terribly thrilled, but I think he was tired of all the pictures!

Feeding the birthday boy his favorite food, cheese pizza!!! (It was a pirate theme, hence my striped shirt with red bandana. And no, I don’t generally do the do-rag thing that often.)

Hudson with his Uncle Andy, do you see any family resemblance?

Always wishing this happy family the very best! Yay Hudson, one year down and many many MANY more to go!!