Thursday, January 14, 2021

A Trip to Texas Hill Country

For Aaron's Thirtieth Birthday, I wanted to plan a surprise trip. With everything going on in the world, plus the fact that we had two little kids, it wasn't going to be anything too crazy. But still, our first getaway since our Babymoon trip back in October of 2019 sounded pretty great to me. Initially, I was thinking we'd go back to Napa Valley. But when I asked a couple of friends about being a part of the surprise, they threw out the idea of visiting a different wine region in the states: Texas Hill Country! 

Knowing that this meant flying into Austin, Texas, which is special to us for a variety of reasons, really sealed the deal for me. I was able to set up surprise meetings with some really incredible folks who have been a huge part of The Brim, and I knew Aaron would DIE when he found out he was getting to meet with each of them. We did have our non-stop flight get changed to one stop, but other than that, everything came together perfectly. He had no idea where we were going until we got into the airport to go through security, and then I didn't tell him anything on our itinerary! 

I'll share the details of where we went and what we did. If you are looking for an easy, in the States getaway that allows for social distancing and driving, then this itinerary may be right up your alley! 


We flew into Austin and rented a car. We ended up getting an upgrade to this red Jeep Wrangler since our car wasn't ready yet. Texas Hill Country is to the west of Austin, so you actually don't have to spend any time in the big city at all if you don't want. That being said, there is some AMAZING food in Austin, so you could definitely try carry-out or eat outdoors at a place or two in town. 

We had our first meeting at Loro for lunch. It is an incredible blend of Asian Smokehouse and Texas Barbecue, and we were treated to a ton of delicious menu items. We sat outside with lots of space and it was definitely a place we'd go back. 

From there, we drove out to Chapel Dulcinea and the Wizard Academy, where I had set up a surprise meeting with the amazing couple from Austin who helped us get The Brim going. Aaron was so touched, and our last visit to Austin was so special, that he cried when I told him we had a meeting. We were treated to wine, conversation, and even given a couple of paintings and a sculpture, which Aaron carried back home on the plane. 

After this meeting, we continued driving West so that we could make a stop at Marble Falls. We still are big fans of IHG hotels, so I used points to book our hotel there that evening. Aaron didn't know this, but it was the city where our architect who designed our chapel lived, so we were set to meet with him the next morning. For dinner, I had found a little place called The Real New Orleans Style Restaurant, and it was both delicious and affordable. Highly recommend. You could also easily drive right into wine country this day and get things started, I just had some more personal things I set up for Aaron instead. Or you could spend a little time in Austin to start your trip if you've never been!


After packing all of that into our first day/night (we arrived in Austin around noon), Aaron was already blown away and didn't know how it could get any better. But he had no idea what else I had up my sleeves! 

We grabbed a to go breakfast from the hotel (their version of free breakfast minus the buffet with COVID precautions), and then headed out to meet our architect at his office. Aaron didn't know this, and we had to drive around a bit, but once we saw him Aaron freaked out! We were able to go up and tour his own wedding chapel and venue he is building, which is set to open in April: Hozhoni on the Hill. It is a whole campus offering glamping in tents and it is AMAZING. He is so creative and such a dreamer. 

They took us to an early lunch at a yummy Mexican restaurant, and then they actually took us to their home where we were able to meet the little boys they are currently taking care of. We also got to see their home, which he had completely redesigned and it was so beautiful.

From here, we headed off to Wine Country! The first winery we visited was Perissos Vineyards. They have the most gorgeous property, and you truly feel like you are in the middle of Napa or something, but you're closer to home in Texas! It's so beautiful out there, with tons of wineries all around. Perissos had a tasting- our go to- and we sat outside at picnic tables, spaced, walking up masked for our next tasting. 

What Aaron didn't know was that two of our good friends were going to surprise him and meet us here- driving down to join us for part of the trip. We were able to pull off the surprise flawlessly and it was so great! I had other people "join us" for Aaron's 30th by sending a "toast" to him- little videos I showed him here and there while we were tasting. He loved it.

Next, we drove to Torr Na Lochs Vineyard. They have a breathtaking view up on a hill with a lake down below, and they even had some Texas Longhorns roaming in the hills. They had an event going on where you could order from a food truck or buy some decor. They had outdoor seating overlooking the hill and they gave us our tastings in little plastic cups that we poured into our wine glasses when we were ready for the next one. Definitely visit here! 

From there, we decided to drive on to our destination for the evening, Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg is the cute small town with great food and the cutest little downtown area. I had no idea at the time, but apparently it is rated one of the top small towns in the US! We briefly checked into our Airbnb, which was so cute and had a little backyard with a fire pit so we could hang out and be outdoors. It was also within walking distance of downtown if we wanted to walk. 

After that, we hit one more winery before we headed to dinner. In general, I was following this wine tasting itinerary, but of course we also wanted to leave room for spontaneity and there were some places that had different operating hours with COVID.  We hit the Texas Heritage Vineyard on a whim. It was family owned and they were so kind, with the most beautiful deck and a perfect sunset that evening. You can actually see us in this Instagram post ha! 

For dinner, we drove 20 minutes out into the middle of nowhere for the best burgers we've ever had in our lives at the Alamo Springs Cafe. Seriously, this is a MUST visit. They have a ton of outdoor seating with string lights and live music. Aaron even got to go up and play a song and sing! 

A major unexpected bonus was that they had JUST set up the Christmas decorations for the season in downtown, so driving down Main Street was a delight. 


After two really full days, we decided to take it a little bit easier this day. I had a couple of places I wanted to try for breakfast, but they were super crowded so we ended up at a little Mexican restaurant. Then we headed off to try Grape Creek Vineyards. They were definitely the largest, most expensive tasting we tried, more like what you would see in lots of places in Napa. Texas is definitely a more affordable wine region to visit, and still delicious! Their gorgeous property reminded me of Tuscany! 

From here, we had a few more places on the list, but we decided we were a little wined out. So we went out and visited a little wildflower farm called Wildseed Farms. We went back downtown for some delicious pizza at Social Haus, then grabbed coffee and walked around for a while. From there, we hung out in the Airbnb and played some cards. You can find more Fredericksburg Winery options here


This day we were heading back into Austin to get ready for our flight and to tour part of Wizard Academy. For reference, Fredericksburg is an hour and a half from the Austin airport, and we broke up the trip into chunks so it was super easy. We hit a yummy taco truck and got a donut on our way back into town, and then I got my nails done (a special treat Aaron spoils me with on vacay). We then grabbed one more Mexican lunch, and then headed home to KC. 

All in all, it was an amazing trip. I would highly recommend a visit to the Texas Hill Wine Country if you like wine, but want something closer to home in the Midwest. You could even drive here if you didn't want to fly- and there are plenty of options to be outdoors and distanced. If you fly, you can really fit in a lot in a short amount of time. We went in November, and I was wearing tank tops and shorts many of the days, so it's warmer than home and the perfect getaway! 



Wednesday, January 6, 2021

My Word for 2021

I used to do New Year's Resolutions. One year mine was to not eat donuts, which was actually very challenging because our Sunday School Class had them every single week. (Guess what- I made it!) But then I grew up a little, and in 2018, I decided to start choosing words of the year. I liked having something to focus on and tie back to in a variety of different areas of my life. In 2018, I chose cultivate, which ended up being way more applicable than I would've ever guessed. In 2019, I chose listen, which was also very very fitting- and is still a work in progress for me. In 2020, I chose trust, which was scarily accurate in a year where I went on sabbatical, started a business, had a new baby, and navigated a pandemic alongside the rest of the world. It was my riskiest year yet, and it has honestly blown me way. Which leads to my word for this year: remember.

As a verb, remember has a couple of different meanings, all largely landing on things like "to bring to mind or think of again" or "to keep in mind for attending or consideration". 

Remember. Recall. Think back on.

This may seem like a strange choice coming out of a year that was arguably everyone's least favorite. Things like lockdowns, health scares, and more were obviously not light and easy- and with a potty-training three year old, a newborn, and two of us teaching from home, there were days I didn't know if we'd make it. But for us, 2020 was actually a pretty incredible year. 

We welcomed Addie Jo into the world on a joy-filled January morning, the sweetest surprise: a daughter. The world shut down and I was able to "come back" virtually from maternity leave early, making money again but still being home with my baby. I never had to leave her, as I went right into Summer and then into my Sabbatical. In March, we had our first Brim wedding and then we went on to have 38 more, ending November 1st, a crazy first season that somehow was more successful because of our unplanned, COVID friendly option for people: affordable, outdoors, and available. The timing of it all is almost scary, and definitely not luck. Throw in the additional financial blessings of stimulus checks when I had just cut our overall take home finances in more than half, and we had so much to be grateful for. Not to mention the amazing and generous support of so many who believe in us. 

I don't say this to brag or to make light of any of the hurt and devastation that has come to many during this time. I say it to focus on specific good we experienced and to be grateful for the silver linings. There were hard things the year brought too- new stresses and new worries, but they do pale in comparison to the struggles of many. I say this to remember.

 “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. Psalm 77:11-12

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 

Why? Because I not only want to remember these little bright spots of 2020, but I want to forever remember a year when I went all in on what I felt like I was being called to in this specific season, no matter how terrifying it was or how risky it felt. So much unknown, so many what ifs that weren't answered and yet I had to make decisions and go with it. 

I want to remember that God delivered and provided. He was faithful. I want to remember that being called doesn't mean it will be easy- to just keep walking in faith, waiting for just enough light to take the next step. I want to remember the way that I felt when I watched our first Brim bride walk down our ceremony aisle to say "I do" on a breezy March Monday afternoon. To remember where we came from and why we started all of this in the first place.

Why? How does this move me forward rather than just keeping me nostalgic?

I want to remember because I never want to take for granted how blessed I am to be where I am right now,  even when it is stressful or difficult. I want to remember because I want to slow down and make time for what is most important: faith, family, and friends, even if it means letting things sit undone for a while. I want to remember because I want to rest in knowing that God has a plan that is for my good, that He is with me, and that He has never failed me yet.

I want to remember because I want to trust, I want to rest, I want to listen and learn and grow and so much more. I'm still a work in progress, and I always will be. There is so SO much up ahead that is incredibly daunting (like building a wedding chapel and planning for more), and there is a lot of stress and a lot of potential worry that can creep in. So when that does, when I long for control and I start to spiral into anxiety, I want to remember that I have already been given much much more than I could ever have expected or asked for. And I want to make it count by blessing others as much as I can.

Happy New Year to you all!