Jingle Bells

In my penultimate blog post, I wrote: "Today, October 4, I celebrate my 36th birthday. Tomorrow begins the next adventure. I am starting a new job with a new firm and I am very excited. I am thrilled about what this upcoming year holds as I write the next chapter of my life." I still pinch my self in reading this. Oh four simple yet loaded sentences and the spectacular excitement that would imminently unfold.

Little did I know that the very next day I would enjoy an outstanding first day of work. I would meet my new team and delicately nibble on splendiferous Thai food with the gang at lunch. After carefully managing a long drive home on the interstate in the rain, I would swing by the house to grab a grinning Matthew, who was standing waving on the porch, to head to the car dealership. After an hour of learning how to maneuver my new toy, I would drive home very carefully in the pristine new car as I regaled Matthew with details of my day. 

Matthew would ask what could possibly top a great first day of work and a new car. A hot bowl of my bison chili, a generous glass of red and couch time with you I responded. As we pulled into the driveway, Matthew would ask me to turn a car light on. When I did, he would pluck a tiny box from the glove compartment and ask me to be his wife. I would stare in utter disbelief (hopeful disbelief) and mutter "Oh my God" no less than a thousand times,. Ultimately I would throw two arms around my Matthew, say yes - I think, I blacked out - and he would confidently slip the most stunning band of sparkling diamonds on my finger. We would retire to bed that night excitedly calling one another fiancĂ©. 

Also, unknown to me that exactly 40 days later, I would marry Matthew in front of our families in one of the most beautiful rooms I have ever stood in. My father would walk me down the aisle to an acoustic guitarist strumming Tina Turner's, Simply the Best. I would say my "I Do's" with my father quietly rubbing my left arm and Matthew holding my right hand tightl. The two most important men in my life would both be by my side. How could I possibly know that we would be surrounded by so much love and emotion that the room felt as if it could burst with joy. 

With this ladies and gentlemen, I am now writing to you no longer as Ms. Elizabeth Breyer, #howtobreyer but rather Mrs. Elizabeth Johnson, #howtojohnson. What more can I say other than that, I am so tickled pink to the moon and back. We are on cloud nine. I am so fiercely proud to now be a Johnson and Mrs. Johnson at that. Everyone told us, "nothing changes when you marry", "the only difference is a ring" but I wholeheartedly disagree. I am on top of the world. With each breathe, I inhale pure happiness. I want to squeeze Matthew every minute of the day and cover him in a million kisses. For now, it is just the two of us. I married my life partner and best friend. The wonderful world, which has been our oyster the past four years and eleven months, now awaits us to move full steam ahead together.

Over the holidays, a close family friend (and one of Matthew's greatest champions) said to me: "Matthew takes his time but when he moves, he moves!" Matthew and I indeed had a whirlwind engagement. We managed to successfully plan what would become the wedding of our dreams in just 32 days. Don't be shocked as I did have some help in the form of an outstanding relationship with someone very close to me who also happens to be a wedding planner extraordinaire. A man I met in Starbucks back in 2009, together with his husband, have become my two second Dad's in the nearly seven years ago that I moved to Charlotte. They have seen me through three jobs, countless trips overseas, a couple of hysterical dates as well as one promising one, endless family vacations, fifteen pounds up, ten pounds down, adult braces, two apartments, a jazz concert or two, multiple meals at favored spots around the city, halcyon times, stressful times and everything in between. 

Upon our engagement, I called this friend and told him of our nebulous plans. He runs all events, parties and weddings at magnificent club in uptown Charlotte and said he had a wedding at 6.00 but could we come at 4.00. How perfectly elegant I responded and yes, please put us down. Two Friday's before, after work we selected the room where we would marry. My sister, who is 7.5 months pregnant had a travel cut off date and communicated that the weekend of November 14 would work for her. The Tuesday following our engagement, we had dinner with Matthew's folks to confirm that this date worked for them. It did. We called my parents and they too were on board. A quick ping to Keith to regale him of the excitement and he said he was booking a ticket. Three and a bit weeks later, it seemed that all roads would lead to Charlotte. 

One of my brother's best friends, a very well-known jeweler in NYC, sent an email stating that she heard the outstanding news and was taking ownership of hand-making Matthew's ring. The father of one of our best friends changed travel plans to be on hand to marry us. I maxed out my credit card online buying dresses and two were keepers. We found an absolutely amazing photographer who was done for the season but after our chat fortuitously agreed to participate in one final rodeo. The city's best florist also happened to be available. The elements were unfolding nicely. It was all meant to be. My wonderful mother called to remind me that I had spoken to wanting an engagement party. A cause of timing, I said, let's do it on the Friday night. Technically, we would still be engaged. Matthew's generous parents took ownership of hosting what can only be described as the most wonderful engagement party turned rehearsal dinner ever known to man. You see, outside of the families, we did not tell a person of our quick plans to wed. 

A dear friend with whom I have worked on past non-profit galas catered the food and drinks. He knows of our penchant for grub as well as Beets and Bratwurst and his creativity in the gastronomy department was unparalleled. We created a cocktail called the JB (a hybrid of our two last names) and that was that. The party itself was magnificent. We did a run-of-show with our minister (who is the father of one of our very best friends). Also around this time, I asked my sister to be my "best woman". Some time in, the fathers gave toasts. Ray's was a warm and generous welcome followed by a glorious nod to us. Ted's was tongue-in-cheek as always and he had the crowd roaring with laughter (and others shaking their heads in disbelief). My Matthew spoke from the heart and his words were quite simply, spellbinding. A friend later told us that she felt the room to be filled with love on this wonderful night.

Next up was yours truly. Matthew lent me the honors of spilling the beans to our friends. I told those in the room that they were there for a reason and that this was a different party of sorts. I spoke to a tradition my father ignited at the wedding of my sister two years prior. He identified important individuals and asked folks to introduce themselves. The objective was that our circle of friends and family would grow. And so, after a bit of this, I said that the past four weeks of engagement have been so brilliant that we cannot wait another minute to marry and will be doing so the day following in front of our families. The room erupted in utter bedlam and magnificent jubilation. Our wonderful photographer captured the emotions perfectly. With this, we celebrated, cut a hummingbird cake, awkwardly fed one another, listened to more toasts (Keith, yours took the cake) and drank the night away.

The day following was calm as a cucumber and surprisingly, rather quiet. In tradition, I stayed at our house alone. Never mind awaking with a serious headache and then some, nothing that an everything bagel at my parent's apartment couldn't fix. For you future brides, I caution you not to mix drinks the night before. My mother and I went to have our hair and makeup done. The woman giving me a blowout asked what kind of party i was going to and when I told her I was getting married, she almost screamed. Apparently brides aren't so calm. I haven't a benchmark and just shrugged. There was happy laughter in the salon as we had our faces painted and false eyelashes applied. My make up guru even managed to match my lip color to the bustle of my stunning dress. 

After a quick stop home to dress, which was also a non-event, my father helped me select the shoes I was to wear. I chose his tie. My brother asked if he could go without socks, but of course I responded. In return, he said I looked awesome. I split another bagel with someone and together with my sister, we jumped in an Uber to the grand event down the street. My mother proudly told our driver that he had a bride sitting in the back and he lit up. This gentleman spoke to his affinity for the sanctity of marriage and said that his wife is his soul mate, whom he "knows like commas in a book". He asked to squeeze my hand before I got out of the car and with this generous nod, we were on our way.

Upon arrival, our dear friend took us to the President's Room, where we were to marry followed by the Mint Room, where we would await our "big day". As my sister curled her hair and hand wrote my brother's reading, my mother and I drank champagne and chatted with our brilliant photographer. Our flowers arrived and we ogled over my bouquet, which was masterfully created by another city artist and shaped by proteas, the national flower of South Africa. At some point, I said to my mother, I feel very calm. Usually categorically hyper, passionate and type A, I was inordinately relaxed. Approximately 45 minutes later, our dear friend came to show my mother and sister to their seats. Everyone kissed me and rubbed my arm. My sister jumped back in the room to kiss me on the lips, squeeze my shoulders and share some pearls. 

Then, in walked my father. He said "pretty soon, you will no longer be a Breyer". This was the trigger and finally, I was flooded by emotions. I composed myself by showing him photographs taken moments earlier of my beautiful mother dancing. Within minutes, our friend came to collect us. It was go time. My Dad rubbed my arm and told me to breathe. I took deep breaths endeavoring to savor each and every minute. Quickly, I asked that the doors please note be opened quite yet. I was still processing. Smiling, our friend told me, "when I open the doors, look directly at Matthew". I did and you know the rest. Around a half hour later, the guitarist began to play the Beatles, All You Need is Love. We were presented as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson and arm-in-arm, like giddy school children, we walked out of the room and into the world ahead of us.  My father says I tend to speak in hyperboles so here we go: This my friends, was the very best weekend of my life.

Now that my days are a tad longer (which I do not mind because my job is fantastic), I am the ultimate advocate of flavorful, healthy meals that can be pulled together in nanoseconds or in advance. Look out for more soups, stews, chilies and one pot wonders in this space. The below is no exception. You need around five minutes to prep and an hour in the oven. Bonjour for sure.

Quick and Easy Pork Chops with Diced Fennel and Apple


2 organic bone-in pork chops
2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS dried fennel
1 TBS dried rosemary
Generous pinch or more of kosher salt
1 fennel bulb - chopped
1 sweet apple - chopped


1. Generously rub your chops with 1 TBS olive oil, dried fennel, dried rosemary and kosher salt. You can also use fresh rosemary and thyme if you like. The sky is the limit here.

2. Finely chop your fennel and apple. Place however you want (mixed, layered, etc.) in a Dutch oven or Pyrex dish. I usually use my Le Creuset but it was in the dishwasher, so I resorted to Plan B, which worked out just dandy. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil.

3. Place your chops on top. Roast in the oven at 450 for approximately 50 minutes to an hour. You want the fat on the pork to be crisp and lovely. When done, remove and dust with a pinch more of salt. By now, your fennel and apples should be a soft, wonderful borderline compote that pair marvelously with the crispy pork.


  1. I am thrilled to read your post. It’s amazing and nice post actually. I am sure you had annoyed your day beautifully. Hey next week is my birthday and I am going to invite my all dear ones at Chicago event venues which I have booked for party. I really wish my loved ones enjoy my party.

  2. Many thanks for your generous words. We moved quickly but everything turned out exactly as it should have. Wishing you the very best for a wonderful birthday and an outstanding year ahead. Chicago is one of our favorite cities and I am sure your event will be a grand one. Happy, happy!