… to Fredericksburg

The idea of turning 30 used to “scare” me but as the years went on, fear turned into excitement. Being in my 20s was SUCH a roller coaster and the idea of having a fresh start, a clean slate, a new beginning… was appealing. I know that things do not magically change overnight, but for arguments sake, let us pretend that at midnight, I levitated into the air, spun around in a glitter tornado in a very Cinderella-esque manner, and landed as a brand new woman in a fabulous gown.

With that said, I had zero desire to throw a big “I’m 30” hoopla; partly because big groups (even of people that I love) are a lot for me and partly because I do not like rejection and did not want my friends to tell me they were not available. I am such an adult. *sarcasm* A few months ago, my siblings and I started doing a monthly sibling brunch where we catch up about our lives and discuss plans for the upcoming months (family events, etc.). In January, my sister brought up my birthday and apparently my suggestion of “maybe do a dinner some night” was trash because she immediately shut it down and instead suggested a weekend in Fredericksburg. I had never been as an adult and only recently fell madly in love with wine so while I had considered the idea to myself, I told her no one would go. She questioned if I had even asked anyone (I had not) and forced me to text some friends. I did… and within an hour, Kelsey had a trip changed so she could make it and Steven had a flight booked to Houston from New York. Jill’s 30th was officially on.

We had 2 months to prep and boy did we use it. Picking a house, meals, wineries, etc. was a part time job all on its own. Thank God for my family and friends because I could not have ever done it alone. Dad, Suzette, Jessica, and I got together one night at Dad’s house and over a nice steak dinner and 4 bottles of wine, we had a tentative game plan and a decently sized hangover. The game plan was shared with Steven and he whipped out one of his famous Google Docs. Invites were sent, a house was booked, wineries were picked, outfits were bought, and it all came together smoothly. This trip 100% would not have happened without the effort of that group; not just for helping plan and coordinate, but for keeping me sane and calming me down along the way.

The highly anticipated weekend finally arrived and I was beyond excited. I could not wait. I had so much to pack and coordinate with my co-hosts on their lists of things to bring but we were ready. I also had to bonus pack for a work trip to Corpus Christi that immediately followed the trip (plus for Elliott, of course). My car was full but I still had last minute errands to run so on Thursday, my boyfriend humored me and let me drag him to several different stores and helped me tackle my list. He treated me to a delicious Korean BBQ dinner afterward so I think we both won! Also, we survived our first time running errands together so that was cute. It was game time.

Friday, March 15

I went to my Dad’s house at 7am to help them pack and get ready but them being them, they were already ready to go when Elliott and I arrived. That little pup LOVES Dad and Suzette. It is so unbelievably cute to watch him scurry into their house and run around searching for them. The excitement when he sees them (and Kelsey, too) is insane. I am so grateful that he loves them but even more grateful that they love him just as much and that he always has a safe, loving place to go when I am out of town. Knowing that he is in good, trusting hands puts me at ease every time and I will never stop expressing my gratitude for them taking on my responsibility as frequently as they have (my new job has required more travel than I anticipated). Dad and Suzette were coming on the trip so Kelsey was the DDM for the weekend: Designated Dog Mom.

If you are a regular reader of this “blog” you know Steven and I have been friends for over a decade. It might shock you to learn that he had only met my parents once our Junior year of High School and my parents had never met his parents. I had to pick up Steven from his Mom’s house that morning and since his Mom lives literally less than 5 miles from my Dad, we all went together and Steven’s Mom and Stepdad met my Dad and Stepmom. Are they new best friends? Probably. We all visited for a little bit and then it was time to leave for the next stop: Kolaches.

Any residents of Cypress here? These Cypress people love Koala Kolache. My family has had it several times and while I have never understood what the big deal is, I do agree they are good. Do I prefer Kolache Factory? Yes. I bought everyone breakfast and we headed over to HEB to put gas in the cars and meet up with Katy and Paul so we could caravan together. Suzette was the only one who had met them before so everyone was shouting hello and introductions through open windows. We are fun.

Finally, we were on the road! Poor Alex got stuck riding with Steven and me and listening to Ariana Grande for 3.5 hours. No joke. Steven and I had planned our playlist weeks ago and there was no changing it. Sorry (not sorry), Alex! He was a trooper.

We all stopped in Giddings, TX for a break and to pick up Sunday’s breakfast from McDonald’s. Kelsey’s (not our DDM, but my BFF Kelsey) Stepmom had the brilliant idea for Kelsey’s bachelorette party years ago to bring McDonald’s breakfast for the last day so breakfast was fast and easy with a quick cleanup. Dad and Suzette had offered to provide all of the food for us for the weekend so Kelsey’s parents offered to donate McDonald’s breakfast to us from one of the stores they own. Thank you, Kevin and Carla!! Our families are so close and are always there for each other so I thought it was so sweet of them to do that for us.

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We drove for about 2 more hours and finally made it to Fredericksburg, TX! Steven and I were literally looking at the GPS thinking, “10 more minutes until we have wine, 9 more minutes until we have wine…” and so on. At least it was after 12pm so we did not seem like total crazies.

Our first stop was William Chris Wines. Steven had looked it up prior to the trip and it appeared to be reservation only but we gave it a try anyway. They were busy and we did not feel like waiting it out so we took a bathroom break and carried on. Plus, it was so cold and windy outside! *mentally restarted the countdown clock until we have wine*

Next up: Grape Greek Vineyards. Wow! This place was GORGEOUS! We signed up for a tasting and did not have to wait long. Alex had never really had wine before so he was getting into it. Dad and Suzette have never met a stranger so they were talking the host up while Steven and I just quietly sipped our glasses. It was nice to be out of the car and finally kicking off the highly-anticipated weekend. I am not usually a fan of white wines but they had a really decent one so I was already learning a lot and surprising myself. Must be those well-developed 30-year-old taste buds.

They had a great lunch menu so we decided to eat there. Katy and Paul grabbed an awesome table outside by some heaters (y’all know I am always cold) and we ordered a few bottles of wine. Steven and I split a pizza and it was delicious. Since Katy and Paul were in a separate car, I had not really gotten to talk to them yet so we caught up on the latest happenings. It was so crazy to be hanging out with my friends and family and watch everyone get along so well (note: this was not the only time I had this thought over the weekend). I loved it and it made me excited for everyone else to get there!

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The VRBO house was not available until 3pm so we decided to take a group trip to HEB. Dad and Suzette had packed most of the food for the weekend but we all needed some supplies and last minute things. By this point, we had done a tasting and as a group, finished 3 bottles of wine so we were feeling pretty good. Suzette joked about us walking into HEB and having a “Bad Moms” grocery store montage moment and honestly, the odds of that happening were pretty good. If you have not seen that scene, please stop reading immediately and go watch it. I could not stop laughing. The first thing I grabbed at HEB was a bag of potato chips from an aisle end cap… just be happy I did not rip it open and start snackin’. Steven bought a little bouquet of flowers because he is cute AF, we got all the items on our lists, and we were out of there.

I picked up the keys to the house and we made our way to it. The guy did not even check my ID! So trusting. The house had 5 “suites” (each suite had a bedroom, bathroom, and living room with a fold-out couch) so we scoped them all out and made a plan on who would unpack where. The house was cute as hell and had PLENTY of space for everyone. It was definitely a maze to navigate around but we figured it out like the smart adults we are and started getting to work unloading the cars. We unpacked, decorated, and then enjoyed some wine and relaxed while we waited for Jessica, Justin, and Kelsey to arrive. Jessica and Justin got there just before 5pm and Kelsey arrived shortly after. We unpacked their cars and finished setting up decorations and settling.

Just about EVERYONE I had mentioned this trip told me that we HAD to go to Hondo’s one night so when it came time for dinner, that was where we went. Would it had been easier to order food to the house or go somewhere that had a big enough table inside/out of the cold for us? Yes. Did the birthday girl want to go to Hondo’s? Yes.

This place was insane. A madhouse. You order inside in line and then they buzz you to a separate area to pick up the food. The inside was PACKED so the line was a mess of people. Suzette found a table outside and held it down while we all ran around like crazy people trying to coordinate menus and drinks. Steven won the Hondo’s award though because he came up with the brilliant idea to go to the separate bar line and buy 3 bottles of wine so we did not have to deal with a variety of orders and refills (and so we could start drinking and not have to wait). Well done, Steven!

The patio area was awesome. It was chilly out but with the fences around the courtyard blocking the wind, it was not too bad. The food was delicious! Kelsey and I split a burger and Dad tried sweet potato fries for the first time. Everyone was having such a fun time and I really loved being surrounded by the laughter and jokes. Steven tossed me curly fries from across the table and after I think 3 (maybe 4) attempts, I caught one! I was having fun. I think everyone was!

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I LOVE THIS PICTURE

Kelsey read my mind at some point and asked what was for dessert that night. We had nothing planned but had already decided to make a fire pit at the house so Kelsey and I suggested we make S’mores. I do not think anyone else cared as much about dessert or S’mores… but Kelsey and I were determined so while everyone went to the house, the two of us went to HEB for supplies. Apparently we were not the only people in town who had the idea because the marshmallow selection was limited and the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars were GONE. Gone. We grabbed a dark chocolate bar and some Reese’s peanut butter cups as replacements but we still wanted the classics. Kelsey won the HEB award (all my friends deserve awards, honestly) and suggested we go look by the checkout lanes for Hershey bars and BAM, there were more than enough. So freaking smart.

We drove back to the house and they already the fire going. Apparently Steven had wandered off to take photos, as Steven does, and started walking back yelling “I got sticks!” and it made everyone laugh. I love that guy. Justin and Alex built an awesome fire and we gathered around to enjoy the night. It was cold but with the fire, it was a perfect evening.

Y’all, we were a damn mess that night. Dad and Suzette had brought wine and we had all bought some at HEB and we went through ALLLLL of it the first night. ALL. OF. IT. We lost some wine glasses along the way (do not worry, we donated more than we broke behind when we left on Sunday) and it was such a wonderful night. Paul had his first S’more ever, we took photos, and we laughed and laughed and laughed. I love these people. We played a few daring rounds of “never have I ever” which was something else considering my FATHER was there. Facepalm. But, we all kept it mostly clean and it was fun to share stories with everyone. I can struggle with self worth and accepting that people care about me (especially after the last year) but it really filled my love tank up to be with everyone and have such a fun evening. I had no doubt my friends and family would all get along but it was nice to see everyone come together, too.

Over the next few hours, the rest of the party started to arrive. Mom and Robert showed up just in time to get a few drinks before we finished everything. Luke (my neighbor of 3ish years from my last apartment) was next, followed by Alex (my friend I met while volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House at Texas Children’s Hospital) and her boyfriend Bobby. Poor Alex and Bobby got there so late and went straight to sleep! Luckily, I had already set up all the fold-out beds for everyone so that no one had to worry about it after an evening of drinking. I am such a team-mom sometimes (I was also cleaning up bottles of wine and whatnot as we went, hehe). Everyone hung out until about midnight before turning in. It had been a long, fun day and we needed rest for Saturday! Day 1 was amazing.

Saturday, March 16

You would think after a night (ahem, day) of drinking, we would all sleep in but nope, apparently our internal clocks are all permanently set to “work mode” and most everyone was alive and functioning fairly early. Steven and I shared a room and were both up around 7:15am. The plan was to have breakfast at 9am and leave for our first winery at 10am so we took it easy. We enjoyed our pillow talk and laughed our asses off. Friend Alex (not Brother Alex), in the next room, texted me “omg y’all are so cute” because we were giggling so loud. We stretched and talked about the day before. Steven needs to move back home to Houston, stat. I miss him too much when he is gone!

Dad and Suzette started on breakfast and put Luke to work helping. They made eggs with sausage and biscuits and it was all delicious. We also had mimosas and bloody mary’s, of course. Most everyone was awake, ready to go, and fed by 9am! I had fun getting ready with my girls in the morning too! We were so ahead of schedule so we enjoyed the leisure time until it was time to head out. PS – I had been so worried about the weather but it was a slightly chilly and beautiful day! We got lucky!

Our first stop was Becker Vineyards for our 10:30am tasting. Todd and Rachel were meeting us there with his daughter and son-in-law but were running a little late coming in from Austin so we got started without them. I assumed each tasting would be about an hour since we had such a large group but it was over so fast! Too fast. I liked some of the wines and did not like some others, typical. I was kind of worried about making sure everyone was included and participating but I think it was an unnecessary worry, it was fine. I just did not want anyone to be left out!

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After the tasting, we purchased some wine and went outside to enjoy the property. Steven had picked this one because of how beautiful it was and he did a good job! The wine was average but the land was nice. I wish we had explored it a little more versus staying in one area but I wish that about all the wineries we went too. A large, drunk group can only do so much! My sister later told me that she thinks some of us (me included) forgot that the day is a marathon, not a sprint! Basically, we went too hard too fast. No shame in my game, boo. Todd and Rachel joined us and it was nice to see them! They had not met most of the people there either (at this point, not shocking since all of my friends are in different groups and no one knows each other) so we did introductions and hung out.

Our next tasting was not until 1pm so we decided to throw in an impromptu additional winery: Signor Vineyards. Y’all. Y’ALL. This place was SPECTACULAR. It was hands down my favorite winery of the weekend and it was the one place we had not planned to go. I love how that turned out! The property was breathtaking and the way they had it designed and decorated was so inviting. We did a tasting (Kelsey and I shared, thankfully) and the guys, Sammy and Aaron, were so casual and fun about it. The wine was great and I genuinely just loved this place. I wished we could have stayed there all day but with the next tasting looming, we only got about an hour and a half at Signor.

I had looked at the photos from Becker and hated that the sun was making everyone squint so I forced another round of photos. I love that they humor me!

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I cannot wait to go back to Signor and spend a much more significant amount of time there! Favorite. I wish I had bought one or two bottles of wine from them.

The next stop was Hilmy Cellars. Hilmy was… a mess. This is where we all started to fall apart and the drunkenness shined. I kept going behind the bar during the tasting, probably annoying the hell out of our host, Marshall. Todd and Rachel’s daughter, Monica, and her husband, Zaid, joined us. I had not met them yet but I have known Todd for several years and had heard so much about them both. They were awesome and while I was skeptical at first, I am so glad they came! It was great talking to them.

I mean, there is not a lot to say about Hilmy except that we were all over the place. I kept leaving the tasting to go outside and dance, then would go back inside and snack on the free popcorn and rejoin the tasting. Everyone was just sharing glasses. I had no idea which wine we were on and who was doing what. Marshall probably hated us! I somehow ended up with Katy’s hat? Yes, that question mark is intentional.

The owner (or someone of importance?) caught wind it was my birthday (/Dad chatted him up) and offered us a tour. No doubt he regretted that immediately because corralling all of us and explaining things to us was probably not easy. The tour was as short as our attention span. Luke had a family event to go to so we said goodbye to him. I was happy he could join us; I had missed hanging out with him since I moved in town a few months ago.

Shout out to Rachel for taking so many photos!

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By the time we left Hilmy, it was nearing mid-afternoon. We needed to eat. When I picked up the keys to the house on Friday, it came with 18 vouchers for a free breakfast or lunch at one of the 6 listed locations. Us being us, we OBVIOUSLY were going to utilize those so we picked a Mexican place and and all enjoyed a free lunch. Most of us used this is a time to take a break from drinking and hydrate but some just kept the party going and I love them for that! The food was decent (or we were just very hungry) but the waitress was the true star: she kicked ass.

After lunch, Kelsey and I took Friend Alex and Bobby back to the house. They needed a break. We met everyone at our last winery of the day, Pedernales Cellars, for our 5pm tasting. This was Dad and Suzette’s choice: it is their favorite. I loved the wine and the property’s views were so nice. It was a great winery to end the day at! I was definitely gone by this point but I remember sitting there with the group outside and watching all the different conversations going on and feeling happy. I know I have said it a lot but everyone clicked so well and it made me feel good to be surrounded by such a wonderful group of people: both in that moment but in life at home. The last year was something else for me and they were ALL there for me throughout the whole thing. They encouraged me, supported me, and got me through a pretty rough patch in my life and I could not be more thankful for them and our day together!

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After Pedernales, most of the group went back to the house to start on dinner. Monica and Zaid had to go back to Austin so we said goodbye to them. It was so great getting to know them! Kelsey (who 100% needs to be recognized for driving us all day!) took Katy, Paul, Steven, and I to HEB. We had depleted our water and wine supply Friday night. Kels dropped us off and we got 3 cases of water (unnecessary for ONE night left but ya know) and 7 bottles of wine (also unnecessary since we were having margaritas with dinner). Mess.

We got back to the house and I changed clothes into a dress because I felt like it. We took photos and snacked on chips and guacamole until dinner was ready. Dad and Suzette made the most outstanding enchiladas and street corn for everyone and we had more than enough food. I am so thankful that they provided food for everyone all weekend; I know it was a lot of work on their part and we all appreciated it so much! Justin makes an amazing margarita so he was on marg duty all night for everyone (I think… I honestly do not know how my glass kept being refilled). I attempted a speech to thank everyone but it was awkward as hell and I still refuse to watch the video of it. I showed my boyfriend and all he did was laugh that I started it by SAYING “ding ding ding” instead making the noise with a fork on my glass. Lord help me! I might not know what I said but I did know that I was going to cry and I was so determined NOT to. I have always cried at birthdays and was so sure I would at some point over the weekend but I had made it that far and held it together. Hooray for evolved emotional intelligence. Anyway, my heart was bursting and my love tank was overflowing and I was happy to have everyone there and enjoying a fun weekend away. It was wonderful.

It was too cold to be outside again all night so I elected to stay inside. Some people went back out and hung by the fire all night but I was more than content inside. For every birthday, Suzette asks each of us what we want for dessert. A few years ago, I said I wanted cookies. She one-upped my request and made a cookie skillet and it was BOMB. Think a BJs Pizookie but better. For this birthday, I had to have a cookie skillet and she one-upped me again and made two! The smell of the cookie must have lured everyone back inside so they sang and we devoured the dessert.

The rest of the night was chill. Everyone had gone hard all day and it was time to relax. I have no idea what the group outside was doing but inside, Dad, Suzette, Todd, Rachel, Kelsey and I talked around the kitchen table. Dad and Suzette totally clicked with them and I think they stole my friends from me… but I can share. I opened presents (even though I specifically requested no presents because their presence was a gift by itself). Steven and his mom got me 2 cute rompers and some fun goodies and Katy and Paul got me essential oils! Thank you!

When I finally made my way outside, it appeared everyone had already gone to bed! They were spent and I was too. I said goodbye to Todd and Rachel (they were staying nearby) and made my way to bed.

Sunday, March 17

Somehow, we were up and moving fairly early again. I hurt a little more than I did Saturday morning but hey, worth it. The morning was simple: eat, get ready, clean up, hit the road. The McDonald’s breakfast was perfect. Dad was heating up pancakes like a boss. I was not very hungry but I knew food would help me feel a little better so I ate them up. I think a lot of people were not feeling great because we had a LOT of breakfast left over!

There were no house rules on how to leave the house so we used our brains and left the place cleaner than when we arrived. Everyone gathered sheets and towels up into the laundry room and we took down decorations. The weekend went by WAY too fast and I was sad to have to pack everything up so soon. Teamwork for sure makes the dream work though because everything was finished and we were on the road by 10am, an hour before our 11am checkout time. I did not want to leave!

It was a long drive back. With the excitement over and our energy low, it was quiet. We chose Taylor Swift albums to entertain us on the way back but even then, it was just a draining drive. My car stopped at Sonic for a snack and again at Bucee’s for a break and gas. At Bucee’s, I ran into Friend Alex and got to sneak in some bonus hugs!

We made it back to Steven’s house around 2pm and we said our goodbyes. I am SO, SO happy he was able to come to town to celebrate my birthday and I cannot wait to go visit him in NYC for his big 3-0 in a few weeks! This trip would not have been the same without him.

I dropped Brother Alex off at Dad’s house and while I had originally planned to NOT go inside and see Elliott, I could not help myself. I had to snuggle that face of his. I double, triple, quadruple thanked Dad and Suzette for everything they did for all of us this weekend. They went above and beyond by offering to provide and prepare all of our meals and it meant a lot. I could not have executed everything as smoothly (and deliciously) on my own so I am very thankful for them. Everyone needs to give them a hug next time you see them.

I had about 2 hours before I needed to be at my office to leave for Corpus Christi for a work trip so I utilized my time wisely and visited my boyfriend. If you are wondering why he did not go… I would not subject a new relationship to meeting ALL of my family and the majority of my closest friends at the same time over the span of 3 days. I have a heart, people. I repacked my suitcase and reorganized my car and relaxed for what little time I could. I desperately needed a nap. The visit was short but I was happy to get in some QT.

From there, I drove to the office and then spent 3 hours in the car trying to be a good passenger and stay awake. Jessica had created a Dropbox folder for everyone’s photos and I guess I said 100 times that I wanted photos because everyone was incredibly prompt about sending me theirs! It was awesome and just another reason why I love them all so much.

So, I know I have said a ton of thank yous throughout this but I need these people to know how much I appreciate them for everything they did for this birthday trip:

  • Dad and Suzette – doing 100x more planning than I could ever do to pick out great recipes and grocery shop, pre-making meals for the weekend during your already-busy lives, cooking, cleaning, and generally taking care of us all weekend
  • Jessica – encouraging me to do something fun and enjoy myself and keeping me calm when I got stressed out, getting everything done and keeping us moving all weekend
  • Justin – I love your margaritas
  • Steven – Google doc-ing this whole thing, picking wineries, picking outfits, being my sounding board for every decision and moment for 2 months
  • Mom – contributing a generous amount to the cost of the house so that it was affordable for everyone and everyone had a nice, comfortable place to stay
  • Kelsey – volunteering to stay back and take care of Elliott all weekend (he loves you!)
  • My friends – you are awesome: Kelsey left Liam for the first time to come celebrate with me, none of y’all knew each other going into this and all clicked so well, for driving 4 hours to be a part of this with me after a long work week, and for always supporting and loving me even when I am a pain in your asses

It went by way too fast but I had the best weekend. Thank you to everyone for everything! My heart is full. I love y’all!

As for the rest of my birthday…

I spent Sunday night-Wednesday (Wednesday was my birthday) afternoon in Corpus. We had a ton of meetings and it was exhausting in a number of ways but it was a good trip. Ryan and Caleb took me to get a pizookie Tuesday night (they had also never had one before) and they reluctantly sang to me. It was awesome.

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When we got back to Houston, I noticed I had a flat tire on my car. That tire had been giving me trouble so it was only a matter of time something happened. At least it did not blow out while I was driving to and from Fredericksburg! It could have been worse. My awesome boyfriend met me and changed it for me. Swoon. I spent the next 2 hours at Discount Tire before spending another 1.5 hours in traffic to drive to Tomball to have dinner with my family.

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We had pizza, more wine (hehe), and cake (thirty, flirty, and thriving!). They spent all weekend celebrating me so it felt good that they tolerated me for one more bonus celebration with my nieces and grandparents. The girls even let Dad and I stand on their photo “stage”!

My nieces singing me happy birthday! This never gets old.

My boyfriend came over in the evening and brought me my favorite flowers in my favorite color and an awesome #flatearth shirt (inside joke).

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I am back in the office today and my boyfriend sent me Tiff’s Treats!

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Tonight, he is is taking me somewhere for dinner (he is keeping it a surprise). Update: we went to Taste of Texas and it was delicious! I felt special!

Tomorrow night, Lindsay and I are going to a nice dinner to celebrate each other (her 30th birthday is today and we have been friends for 15+ years!).

Turning 30 was wonderful. The BEST birthday so far.

Until next time,

Jillian

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