1. Road Trips with Girlfriends.
I love taking trips with my girlfriends. I’ve been blessed to travel to Europe, both East and West coasts, and lots of places in between with my best gals, and some of the most memorable experiences we’ve shared have been while in transit to our destinations. In particular, we have had some of the most fun while on road trips. Most recently, some girlfriends and I headed out to a lake house in Arkansas, and the journey was full of laughter, deep conversation, plenty of snacks, and great music. The best part is that a road trip doesn’t have to take you to some faraway destination for you to enjoy it to the fullest. Just last weekend, another friend and I headed south of Dallas just 30 minutes to see bluebonnets in bloom and even that little jaunt, as short as it was, was just as restorative and wonderful as any of our longer journeys.
2. Community + The Table.
My favorite writer is Shauna Niequist, author of Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, and, most recently, Bread & Wine. I devoured Bread & Wine (pun intended) within days of its release, and what resonated with me most about the book was Shauna’s focus on establishing community around the table, about bringing people together over food and drink, over bread and wine. I relate to this so much as a lover of both food and people. I have people over often, but Bread & Wine encouraged me to step further out of my comfort zone by trying new recipes, inviting over new groups of people, and cultivating a willingness to feed people any time, any place. The table, I believe, is the new hearth of the home.
3. Summer Snacks.
Summertime foods are amongst my favorites. And let’s be clear – I love all food. There’s just something about the fresh produce that defines the summer season that makes me giddy to go to the grocery store. Plump corn, ripe strawberries, fat avocados, and sweet blueberries are some of my favorite treats in the summer. On the other end of the spectrum, I love summer party food – flavorful ribs with rich potato salad and piping hot baked beans at barbecues; fresh shrimp tacos with tons of guacamole and lime at Mexican fiestas; perfectly-charred burgers topped with crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and caramelized onions at cookouts (with a crumbly blueberry crisp and sweet vanilla ice cream for dessert). And icy drinks – tart margaritas, fruity sangrias, ice-cold champagne – make the perfect pairing for any of these tasty snacks or meals.
4. Lake Life.
There’s just something therapeutic about water, isn’t there? I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago so while I was relatively landlocked, I still found myself taken aback by the vastness of Lake Michigan. I attended college at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and it was there that my love for water really grew. The beach, the salty smell of the air, the waves cresting on the shore – it all mesmerized me. When I moved to Texas, I mourned the fact that I would no longer be close to the beach. But what I realized when I arrived was the Texas is full of lakes, and I began to learn that lake life was my love language. I love sitting on the dock in the morning with a cup of coffee, listening to the water lap up against the boat or the shore. I love spending an afternoon in the water itself, wakeboarding or tubing or swimming or floating. I love savoring margaritas (with salt!) while watching the sunset blend into the water, watching it seep into the horizon. I love cooking a meal on the grill, watching the last few rays of color deepen into darkness. I love it all.
5. Extracurricular Activities.
I graduated from college five years ago, and from high school four years before that, but I’ve never wanted to stop learning. I didn’t feel the calling to pursue graduate school or any other type of formalized education process but I did know that I wanted to continue to challenge my mind and stretch my imagination. Extracurricular activities, as I call them, are ways in which I engage my mind and strengthen my creativity outside of work. To be clear, work challenges me in numerous ways, but I wanted an outlet where I could learn new things and accomplish goals. Over the past few months, I’ve taken a beekeeping class, a terrarium-building class, a yoga therapy class, and a printmaking class. Currently, my boyfriend and I are enrolled in a relationships class at a local church, and we are loving how it is stimulating our minds while also growing us closer to one another.
Rachel Johnson is the Director of Project Development for the Touch A Life Foundation, a non-profit organization that rescues and rehabilitates trafficked children in West Africa and Southeast Asia. She lives in Dallas, TX, and she loves traveling, yoga, coffee, lake life, Bon Iver, tacos, running, and margaritas (with salt). She enjoys nothing better than spending a day near water with good food and great friends. You can find her blogging at Through Painted Deserts.