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!

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!!

Since we were multitasking the family reunion at Lake LBJ with handing out Team Sherry t-shirts, I figured why not also throw in a baby shower on the same weekend for good measure? We do, after all, have Griffin and Lauren’s new baby girl to celebrate! So, Saturday night was all about Baby Dayton. Well, Baby Dayton and bees. I’ve always wanted to throw a bee themed baby shower, and this seemed like a great time to give it a try!

I made my own fuzzy bees for the flower arrangement. They look…special. And I’m pretty sure my bees would never survive in the wild, seeing as how I couldn’t figure out how to attach antennae. But they’re fun and festive!

Pretty yellow chevron plates, cups, and napkins with matching school bus yellow plasticware.

A bee decorated picture frame of the happy couple and all natural beeswax candles for party favors.

Now the food! Which of course, I had to stick to the bee theme when coming up with ideas! I LOVE a good theme. I will not let you leave a party without making sure that theme is beat into every aspect of your consciousness. After all, the fun is often in the details.

Honey Vinaigrette Orzo Salad from Everyday Italian with Giada. (I don’t love mint in my food, so I substituted with more basil)

Bee Bee Q chicken drumsticks, from Down Home with the Neelys. and what emphasizes the word “bee” better than cute clip art bees? (the actual sauce was served separately)

Honey Glazed Baby Carrots from Sunny Anderson’s Cooking for Real. This is now one of my favorite ways to prepare carrots!. Super easy and pretty tasty!

Stingingly Spicy Shrimp from Food Network, for all the spicy shrimp lovers in the group.

And the best part of the meal? Dessert, decorated in a few more disabled fuzzy bees!! Sopapilla cheezzzecake from Allrecipes.com. Honestly, this is the easiest dessert ever and everybody loves it! I feel like quite an accomplished baker as everybody oohs and ahhs as I pull this out of the oven.

And no party is complete without a few beverages! I made fresh honey limeade mocktails and bee’s knees cocktails. Plus, we brought a case of Revolver’s Blood and Honey beer. Here’s me and Debra cheers-ing to a buzzingly lovely baby shower!

Plus, how about this beautiful basket of goodies from Burt’s Bees Baby? (I didn’t actually get a picture, so thanks also to Burt’s Bees for the photo)

So, we took a bunch of photos of Griffin and Lauren opening Dayton’s gifts. However, it really takes a very special photographer to get good present opening pictures. Andy and I are not said special photographers. I always find it hard because people are usually looking down, talking amongst themselves, and awkwardly gesturing.  So, I thought it would be best if I didn’t post those pictures. How about a cute one of Hudson as his parents open his new sister’s gifts instead?

Hudson entertaining himself with crumpled wrapping and tissue paper.

And because that one was a little dark and grainy, how about this one?

Look at that face! Look at those beautiful blue eyes!! We love our little nephew, we really really do! (And yes, he has smeared strawberries on his face, like a one year old is prone to do.)

We are so excited for Griffin, Lauren, and Hudson. They will soon have one more darling member to add to their family. And we are even more excited to meet our baby niece!!

And there you have it, one action packed family weekend at Lake LBJ. You can check out some more of the pictures we took by clicking here.

Cancer is a big scary unhappy topic. Though it may sound macabre, it is also what keeps me employed. Being in the research department, it means I scan through a lot of patients everyday looking for matches to the clinical trials that we currently have available. Often from the background, I get the chance to mourn with the sad stories, rejoice with the survivors, and cheer on the fighters that are still in the midst of their battles.

My view on cancer took a sudden twist last January when we learned that Andy’s mom has been diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. The last few months have been rough and the next several months may be tougher yet as they pursue more treatments and options.

I truly believe that a good attitude can make a difference in so many things, even when it comes to fighting a frightening beast like cancer. So, Andy and I wanted to help his mom remember how many people are out there cheering for her, wishing her luck, and hoping for the best for her.

With that said, Cathy and I started brainstorming ideas for a “Team Sherry” t-shirt. We decided to focus on something to do with roses, since Sherry’s maiden name was Rose and the entire family has had an affinity for roses for…well, close to forever. Eventually, we came across the phrase, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from the musical, Gypsy, by Stephen Sondheim. The idea was distributed amongst family and friends, t-shirts were printed, and photos were sent back to me of everybody in their t-shirts.

The first big chance we got to show off our shirts was at the family reunion lake trip (as you may have seen from previous pictures). But the idea was to collect as many photos as possible and place them in a picture frame for Sherry to see whenever she’s feeling discouraged or weak. Since the picture frame was successfully delivered to Sherry last weekend, I thought I’d post the pictures here for everybody else to see too.

Family reunion 2014 at Lake LBJ with everybody sporting their Team Sherry t-shirts. This was our nice photo, things quickly disintegrated into mayhem afterwards…

This was our somewhat silly picture, still a pretty nice shot of the family.

But then it was decided that we should show off the back of the t-shirts, but weren’t sure how to do so without a picture of a bunch of butts. This is better, no?

Which quickly led to this picture being taken…It looks a little like we’re performing Baby Got Back in front of the pool. Whatevs. It’s a fun picture nevertheless.

In case you wanted to see the back. Cathy did an amazing job, as per usual. I think the t-shirts came out wonderfully! (thanks Debra for taking this picture!)

Here’s Aunt Susan blowing kisses from Kansas City.

Molly and her family sending happy thoughts from South Carolina.

Jolene sending love from Alabama

Another bit of good luck being sent from Alabama via Ronnie (Jolene’s husband)

Charlotte, Walt, and Kaitlyn sending a little iron from Topeka. (In the picture frame, I had to cut out everybody but Walt. So here’s the picture in its full glory)

The Trommer side with Uncle Gary, Grandma & Grandpa, and Michele’s family standing behind Sherry (literally and figuratively).

Adorable Aunt Ilda sending some of her spunk from Emporia.

Our dear friends, Ethan and Bethany, sending one beautiful smile and one really questionable look from Houston.

My mom sending her “V for victory” fingers from California.

And of course, Cathy and me, the co-conspirators. We took this photo late one night during one of our less than 24 hour trips to Austin in order to pick up/quality check all the t-shirts. Andy had already gone to sleep. So, we precariously propped the camera up on a stack of books and used the self timer option. This is the best shot we could get…but it works!

There you have it. Love, support, and happy thoughts from all around the country. I’m not sure how to end a post like this, so I’ll leave you with a few lyrics from Everything’s Coming Up Roses and a performance from the great Angela Lansbury.

You’ll be swell! You’ll be great!
Gonna have the whole world on the plate!
Starting here, starting now,
Honey, everything’s coming up roses!