Eating Our Way Through Portland Part Two!

Hey hey! I just had such a productive day, feelin’ like buzzing bee day where I saw my to-do list just dissolve before my very eyes. (edit: I was feeling that way two days ago when I started this post, no longer do I feel that way!). Lol. Anywayyyyys, we are NOT here to talk about today, we are here to talk about.. well quite a few days ago…. aka over a week ago….

SO let’s get to it, eh?!

Part One Portland is here in case you missed it.

We left off nomming down on Pine State Biscuits. After finishing up the breakfast of the century, we headed to Multnomah Falls.

The drive alone provided breath taking views. We cruised along the Columbia River Gorge taking in the deep green vastness, practically illuminated against the charcoal skies.

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We were planning on doing the hike up to Multnomah Falls, but the entry to the hike (a few miles past the viewing area) was closed due to the awful fire that happened last year. One of my patients actually warned me about this before going, and he was right! It was still a bit of a mess.

We turned the car around to head back to the viewing point. To our nice surprise at the turnoff, we were greeted by a portion of the Historic Oregon Trail! Love it when detours turn into destinations.

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We found a place we could snag some pictures in front of the falls without doing the hike. It worked out pretty beautifully that the hike was closed off because we were able to fit in so much more the rest of the day than we even planned.

One path closes, another one opens!

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The boyssss.

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The Majestic Multnomah Falls!!! The pictures can’t do them even a bit of justice.

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After hitting up the Falls we went to the Vista House overlook. There is a pretty cool history you can read about here for all you history buffs.

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These views!

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Contemplative…

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But not for long!

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After taking the views in at the Vista House, we headed to Washington Park.

We drove down a long winding road to find the park. It was like a scene from Alice in Wonderland, with roses accompanying each turn of the drive.

Something I didn’t expect, but adored, were the pastel colored homes ascending up the hill. It reminded me of a more spaced out SF. Squish in about fifty more houses, and we’d feel right at home!

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And time for the blooms in the Rose Garden! They weren’t even “in season” and yet everything still was gorgeous!

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After touring the Gardens, we went to downtown Portland to explore the Pearl District- a cultured, artsy, and heavily foodie laden area!

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We grabbed some coffee at Caffe Umbria, then continued exploring. This little coffee shop was so doggone cute.

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One of the places I had been dying to see was Powell’s Books- the largest Used & New bookstore in the world.

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It was MASSIVE. I could have spent hours upon hours in there. Gosh, I loveddd it!

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After Powell’s we walked around a bit more then passed through Providence Park.

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I couldn’t believe how large and PACKED the stadium was.

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And again.. the art never ceased to amuse!

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Since we were in a place known for their Breweries, one of the bullet points on our list was a “good Brewery”….. good thing Jay is a local and doesn’t know just a good brewery, but the best brewery!

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Deshutes had a long wait in the middle of the afternoon— and reason being- it’s amazing.

We started with a pretzel and it was the single greatest soft pretzel maybe I’ve ever had (except I’m forever a sucker of Auntie Anne’s). But this is just different, ya know?

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And we tried some fantastic beers to go along with it. DJ and I aren’t big “beer” people, but when in Rome. With the pretzel and the atmosphere, it all was fun to sample and actually pick up on the different flavors.

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Jay took us to a “locals” spot up a mountain to get panoramic views of the city! I couldn’t capture them with my phone, but gosh, they were awesome. It reminded me of the Twin Peaks in SF.

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On this little stone structure there are plaques that whichever plaque you stand in front of, if you look into the distance, that is the exact mountain you are viewing. Pahrettty neat!

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Believe it or not… at this point in the afternoon we definitely had worked up a real appetite. We decided to have a “snack”… aka a large 3:00 pm afternoon meal that we are calling a snack because in lieu of how much we ate on this trip, it really was just a snack. We went to a food truck stop that had a food truck for absolutely anyone- Indian to Vegan to Mediterranean to American to Mexican cuisine to etc. etc.- EVERYTHING.

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A place on my list was Viking Soul Food. When researching must have food trucks, this was on the list! It is Scandinavian food, which I have never even heard of before.

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The main thing they are known for is their lefse which is a Norwegian style potato flatbread, handmade daily. It is like a crepe, yet more savory. Hellooooo deliciousnesss.

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I tried their “Ocean Booty” with shrimp, aioli, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and almonds wrapped in the lefse. It was delicious, and perfectly light for the afternoon.

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DJ and Jay decided to try Herb’s Mac & Cheese. Jay had their Pulled Pork and DJ had their jalapeno mac and cheese.

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I had a bite of this magic and goodness gracious- it was maybe some of the best macaroni I have ever tasted. My mouth is watering looking at this picture again!

img_4596Time for one of the biggest HIGHLIGHTS of the weekend!!!

After we came back, we had a couple hours before we had dinner (yes, dinner, yet another meal so soon) planned with Jay and his girlfriend. On a total whim, I messaged Rossy from ayrgalaxy to see if she was maybe able to meet up. She was able to stop by with her husband Alex and her adorable, seriously cutest little man in the world, Ciel, to visit for a few minutes.

Y’all. Ok, where to begin? Rossy is the kindest, most down to earth, and beautiful person! Seriously- I know this will be hard to believe, but she is even more gorgeous in person! DJ and I had such a blast talking with her and Alex. They both are just the easiest people to talk to. Oh, and Ciel is just the most precious, gooodnesss gracious! Seeing Rossy interact with him and hold him gave me baby fever- she is such a good momma. I was so thankful they took the time out of their day (and go so out of their way) to stop by, it was the sweetest and seriously made the weekend.

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When walking with DJ to dinner after I kept saying, “Ugh! I wish we all lived closer so we could hangout more!”. But I am brainwashing them to visit SF for a double date, soooo stay tuned.

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We arrived at Masu sushi on foot after about only 10 minutes.

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Best. Sushi. Of. Our. Lives.

This is a must try if you go to Portland. Everything from the PERFECT ambiance, to the presentation of the food, to the TASTE (the most important).

Of course, I will simply adamantly suggest what to order so you have the most wonderful experience.

First, they bring you out complimentary edamame, sooooo yum!

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You have to start with the calamari. We savored every bit of the calamari. It isn’t the traditional fried calamari, but rather lightly breaded, but the calamari pieces are thick rather than stringy. The calamari was so juicy and without all the fried breading the flavor made quite the statement.

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Next, the Pearl with shrimp tempura, avocado, and crab topped with spicy tuna and sweet chili sauce is up. We also had a couple pieces of Kani Dungess crab to share.

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Next up was the Japanista– spicy crab, spicy tuna and kawaire with seared hamachi, cilantro and red jalapeno on top served with our hana and sweet chili sauce. YUM.

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And the best of all- St. Helen’s Volcano– whitefish, crab, scallops, shrimp and avocado baked with our volcano cream sauce, eel sauce and smoked bonito. It was flame. Literally.

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Jay, DJ, and I had been talking earlier that day about how we’d never been to Melting Pot. Jay surprised us by taking us here for dessert.

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The guys split a dish, and the gals split a dish. Y’all. How have I never had this magic before?!? My sweet tooth was terribly satisfied, and yet- I felt like I could have polished off a whole other plate. It was too dang good- the oreo crusted marshmallow and the brownies were my favorite.

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We parted ways with Jay and Carly (Jay’s girlfriend) after, excited to meet up again the next day. DJ and I headed to Departure, one of the restaurants in our hotel. We soaked up the views and just enjoyed one another’s company for a few minutes. It actually reminded us quite a bit of San Diego. We didn’t last long after getting up so early, so we headed to sleep fairly quickly.

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This was an unforgettable day. All the fun with great friends and great food- two of lives true treasures. Believe it or not there will be a part Three… one day probably next week, Haha. Y’all know I suck at blogging in a timely manner. Too late for new years resolutions (maybe I’ll just call it an early resolution and say I’m ahead of the game 😉 )?

Also- if you’ve ever been to Portland I’d love to hear your suggestions, favorite memories, anything at all!

xo ❤

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Eating our Way Through Portland Part One!

Hey hey heyyyy!!!! Been super MIA last couple weeks because we have been on the go (sandwiched between hospital shifts and trying to find some time for this weird, foreign thing called sleep?!). We decided a few weeks ago to visit Portland to visit one of mine and DJ’s good friends from college. Also, Portland is famously known for their eats, and we were about to fit in as much of this magical grub in as possible.

We left for the airport and first stop always?!?…..

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You knowww it!

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While waiting in the airport I decided to read.

I am trynaa to finish the fourth HP book, but for some reason I’m stuck on it. I have loved reading this series, but lately sooo many books have been vying for attention. I also go through genre stages. I flew through the first three of HP, then I went through a pop culture reading kick , then a “Fine literature kick” and now I’m on this thriller/mystery kick. My goal is to finish the series by the end of the summer!

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Now that DJ is twenty-five, we love to travel by getting an Orbitz package of a flight, rental car, and hotel to save some $$. Plus you get cash back that builds with each trip- it builds quick and is definitely worth it.

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Arrived!! We hopped in our rental car and began the drive to the hotel. The buildings in downtown Portland are eye-catching, there is art all littered all over the building’s walls, and standing art sprinkled throughout the city streets. Jay, our friend we were visiting, actually told us they are required to pay an Arts Tax. They take their creativity seriously and it is evident around every turn!

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We arrived at our hotel for the few days- The Nines! We were told by several people that this is a great hotel to stay in downtown. We usually just stay at whatever the most reasonable rate is, but we decided to try it out since the price wasn’t exorbitantly different comparatively to other downtown hotels & this was our summer vacation. The Nines has both a rooftop restaurant and bar and a regular gorgeous restaurant within it (Pictures to come!).

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Once again, the unique artwork continued as we checked in on the eighth floor.

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This is just what you imagine when you hear the word, “boutique hotel”. It is lined with turquoise walls, vibrant patterns, and cutesy touches.

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I’m huge on lighting (I truly think it can determine your mood), and this lighting was perfect. It was so warm, inviting, and calming.

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So fun!

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After settling in and shaking off the travel cob-webs, we went to Toro Bravo, a modern tapas destination in an area of gentrification in Portland.

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I made a list of restaurants and food trucks we really wanted to visit while we were there and this was right at the top. I love tapas style because you can try so many different flavors at one place. We did have a big dinner planned after, so we didn’t go too crazy (but I’d love to go back and try way more dishes one day!).

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They brought out a tasty lil complimentary bowl of corn nuts that were gone in no time… seriously where can we buy these just to have around the house?! I know I said we didn’t go nuts… but we went NUTS for these corn nuts. They were SO doggone scrumptious.

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Jay met up with us for the first time (wooohooo!). We had some light drinks and caught up excitedly on each other’s lives.

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The squid ink pasta with hazelnuts, anchovy syrup, and egg yolk was one of the big draws for this spot. I had squid ink pasta one time at La Mar in San Francisco, and to this day I maintain it was one of the greatest dishes I have ever tried. I wanted DJ and Jay to experience this magic. This dish was good, but it was certainly not on the level of La Mar’s.

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The star of this show was the oxtail croquettes with chili mayo. I’m not even sure exactly what this is made of, but I know it was darn delicious. If you go here these are a must! We actually were standing next to a couple in the elevator of our hotel talking about Toro Bravo, and I couldn’t help myself from popping into their convo and insisting that they try these gems.

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The boys also enjoyed the Moorish Lamb Chops a la Plancha with warm potato chorizo salad. I did sample a potato and it was potatoey perfection.

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We still had some time to kill before dinner, so Jay took us to one of his favorite local spots to hangout- Victoria!

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I love hanging with locals when we travel because they always know the greatest spots! This little dive is tucked away on a back street and wasn’t ridiculously crowded. Look how pretty this bar is with the warm lighting?

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I tried an aperol spritz.. I heard of this wine based drink mixed with soda water recently and it sounded so refreshing- it was yummy, light, and zesty. A perfect apertif!

Time for dinner!!! And oh, what a dinner it was. The rest of the night we declared our date night. We don’t have date nights in the summer often because of our competing schedules, but grab them while we can.

While researching vegan/vegetarian options (Portland is the land of plenty), this dinner came up. You have to make reservations because they only seat about fifteen people per dinner. This restaurant was unique to anything we have ever experienced. Everything they serve is from regional Farmer’s and entirely vegan.

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All patrons are seated at a long counter with a medley of Mumford & Sons-esque music playing in the background, mason jars galore, and fresh plants placed thoughtfully throughout. Quintessential Portland, right?

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Each seat has a name-tag as you come in so it’s easy to find where you should sit without playing musical chairs.

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Luckily- every single thing was everything you could dream of and more. Wowza. We were blown away. I won’t bore you with the details, but the way I would describe every dish was fresh, vibrant with flavor, and dimensional. The servings were small, but with so many courses (and our Toro Bravo eats), we were very satisfied by the end. They made each dish in front of us, with the utmost meticulous attention (they used actual tweezers!).

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The vegan extravaganza began with some local seed bread with honey mustard. I’ll label each item that came next!

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Black bean fritter (our favorite on this dish) with first press canola, fermented rhubarb and spruce, and Kohlrabi parcel & yeast sauce

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Purple asparagus, fermented sunflower, and basil cream 

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Pickled sun choke with leek scape

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Cauliflower soup & Oregon Murtle

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Adirondack potato with wild watercress and herb juice

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Zucchini, romesco, and puffed quinoa

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Blue Oyster mushroom, wild garlic, and chives (and flowers!)

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Portobello, young carrot, snow peas, and savory sauce

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Kefir Refresher 

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Vegan flower water and candies

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Strawberry spruce yogurt and wild flowers

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Sprouted Dakota Black Peppercorn, rhubarb, and hazelnut milk (this was my favorite “sweet”!).

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And they even gave us a complimentary breakfast loaf to remember them the next day. How cute!

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It was some of the most savory bread I’ve ever tasted! It was so hearty & had cranberries sprinkled throughout that provided a nice sweet kick with each bite.

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Oh, and the views at night were stunning!

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In the morning, I woke up at 5:30 am and snuck in a nine mile run while watching the new season of 13 Reasons Why. This season is even harder to watch than the first. Anyone else watching? Thoughts? Anyway, I grabbed some fresh strawberries and cucumber water before heading back to the room to get ready for the day.

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After we headed to Pine State Biscuits for a breakfast of a lifetime. When people have asked where to go since we came back our first place is HERE. You MUST, and I mean MUST stop at Pine State Biscuits if you visit Portland.

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From the moment you step in, you are overwhelmed by smells of cinnamon mixed with coffee. By the time I ordered I was practically drooling.

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Jay met up with us and we all ordered at the counter.  We grabbed our coffee then found a comfortable spot in the outside patio with heaters blazing down to keep us warm during the early morning chill (it was about 7:30 at this point!).

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I had the vegan veggie reggie- Vegan sausage patty, tofu bacon and cheese topped with shitake mushroom gravy! Oh. MY. GOOOODNESSSS. One of the greatest creations of all time. I crave this.

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The boys both had the Reggie Deluxe (deluxe includes an egg).

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And we all shared the greatest cinnamon roll of all time. All parties agreed- one of the best flavors of the week. This cinnamon roll had a bourbon caramel glaze sauce.

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A truly unforgettable breakfast. In Part Two we head to Multnomah Falls & many other unforgettable eats were had. And a huge highlight- I had the privilege of meeting another blogger (eeek!!).. stay tuned.

And thank you to all those who have served, are serving, and family and friends who have and have had loved ones in the service. Today we acknowledge and remember your sacrifice and dedication to our country, and remember those who bravely lost their lives for our freedom. ❤

xo ❤

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Friday Favorites #12

Happpppyyyy of all Fridays!!!! How are ya? It was super easy to whip up a Friday Favorites this week because there are some things I am luh-ving. This might be my favorite FF yet.

  1. A clean Patio!! I took a day to deep scrub our patio, clean the rug, wash the cushions, etc. etc. It took a while, but I am psyched to use this for the summer. It’s my little happy “feng shui” place for reading, blogging, and morning devos.

Before…

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After… !

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2. Blue Apron. I used to use Blue Apron when we first moved here all the time. It became a bit too pricey without discount coupons, but they sent a “we miss you” coupon in an e-mail, so I whipped up those tostadas from the last post and this pasta for DJ to have when he returned from the games lateeee at night!

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3. Dolmas. Dolmas are stuffed grape leaves. I don’t know what the heck a grape leaf is (probably leaves of grapes), but I do know they are darn delicious. I could eat these suckers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I put them in sweet potatoes, eat them with tahini, and just by themselves with hummus.

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4. Green Goddess Salad Dressing from Trader Joe’s. Holy canoli ravioli. Looking for an epic salad dressing that isn’t loaded with crapola??… well, here you are, look no further. You’re welcome, don’t mention it.

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5. Nurse’s Week Gifts ❤ The gifts below are from my sweet hubby for nurses week (last week, but you know I’m always behind on posting). This toilet paper roll is actually a study tool with real rhythms.. I am obsessed. I laughed sooo hard. Code Brown… lol.

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At work they had fun little things happening all week. I was able to sneak some of the cake & we were gifted water bottles & hats. I really felt the love & appreciation!!! And that cake was a nice & needed treat while working in the neuro close observation room.

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6. Summer Walks. It’s beginning to look a lot like summmmmer, everywhere you gooo!!! I love walks in the summer, and when I need to run errands I typically will walk to the store instead of drive. I usually call my grandma on my walks (she’s seriously one of my favorite people to just chat with… she cuts it to ya straight, is so wise, and always cracks me up!). But if Grandma is busy (which she is often because she has more of a social life than I do), then I’ll just listen to podcasts while soaking up the fresh air & sun.

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7. Wild Wild Country. HAVE YOU WATCHED THIS YET?! DJ and I are chipping away at it slowly since our schedules don’t line up, but the moment we have a free second we watch as much as possible. It is so good. So interesting, thought provoking, and your jaw will drop to the floor many a times. If you have watched it.. I would love to chat!

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8. When Breath Becomes Air. It won’t even do justice to say this is my favorite book I have ever read. It’s magnificent, a work of art, raw, and does not shy away from the difficulties of life and medicine. You will leave this book changed. The author is a surgeon who actually worked on the unit & hospital that I work for now, so it especially hit close to home. Many of my coworkers knew him personally and recommended this book to me. I have been harping my family this past week to read it… like sending nearly daily reminders. (y’all know who you are and I’m going to keep annoying you until you have read it).

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9. The Couple Next Door. On a very different literary note… I love reading thrillers and mystery books that keep you guessing and theorizing the whole time. This book had so many twists, turns, and definitely was not predictable at all. The writing itself was just okay, but the plot-line was spectacular. Highly recommend (after you’ve read the one above of course).

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10. Jergens Natural Glow. Recently Jergens came out with a face natural glow, and I nearly squealed with excitement in the Target isle. This stuff is amazing, it really does give a nice “glow”, I actually don’t even feel the need for any foundation or anything after using this and it doesn’t make me break out (I have very sensitive skin, so if it works for me it will work for you!).

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Have a good one!!

xo ❤

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Plants & Face-Plants.

Hey guys!!! I just finished up food prepping for work and am sitting back eating my usual giant summer salad. I’m pretty excited to write this update because there have been some fun happenins the last couple weeks.

April 21st I headed back to work. I forgot my lunch *sad face*, but discovered this gem in our hospital cafeteria instead. I always pack my lunch because we barely have time for our breaks so running to the cafeteria and back doesn’t make sense… plus it’s wayy more cost effective to pack. Anyway, this little gem is from Urban Remedy. Oh me oh my, so delish! If you see this out and about, snatch one! This bowl had quinoa, roasted sweet potatoe, cumin, himalayan pink salt, chickpea croutons, pumpkin seeds, and beets with tahini dressing. Lemme tell ya, a nurses lunch break is the most sacred, best part of the day (if they get it). Haha.

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April 23rd was a little “sandwich” day (a day off shift between a stretch of shifts), so basically my day consisted of sleeping and snacking.

DJ and I have been using Freshly to fill in a couple meals here with the couple codes they have for the first couple boxes. They have a southwestern bowl that I like combining with other foods- this combo was mmm mmm goood. I’m really feeling a quinoa kick lately. It just goes with everything!

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Also, from TJ’s I have started getting pickled beets and dolmas that I love combining with hummus and tofu and a slice of Dave’s Killer bread. The combo itself is killer 😉

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In the afternoon I went on a nice little jog to soak up some beautiful sun & blooms.

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The other kick I’m on is a purple sweet potato stuffed with avocado and Fage yogurt topped with cumin, paprika, Himalayan salt, and cayenne.

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After working the 24th, I came home starvin’ marvin’. I decided to whip up a makeshift pizza with the ingredients we had since all the pizza shops were closed. I made “naan” pizza with tandoori naan, tomato basil pasta sauce, sautéed veggies, and red pepper flakes (with of course some ranch… anyone else like ranch with their za?). My midwest is showing…

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And finally…. a moment to breathe for a bit on April 25th! I slept in and spent the morning cleaning up, catching up on emails, getting requirements done for grad school, yadayadayada. In the afternoon I had garlic and herb shrimp from Freshly over kale.

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On April 26th, I met up with my friend from work, Alexandra, for coffee at Voyager Craft Coffee in San Jose.

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Such an interesting place! I’m surprised I haven’t been here before now.

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The coffee and conversation were fantastic. I’ll definitely be back here for a pick-me-up!

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The sweet potato combo made another debut that afternoon.

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April 27th I woke up early and jogged my standard route and took note at how every single time I run there seem to be new flowers in bloom!

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I spent the day meal prepping again, and then had my standard massive salad for dinner. (carrots/bean burger/hummus/onions/mushrooms/power blend greens/avocado with green goddess dressing).

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The weekend at work was rough, rough, rough. Usually weekends are a respite from the craziness, but for some reason this one was ruthless. Needless to say, I was excited a couple days off. April 30th, I woke up with a twist on my sweet potato creation and instead did put yogurt & avocado over a rice cake.

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The rest of the day was spent getting Mother’s Day gifts, perusing the shops in Los Gatos, & making a bucket list for places to visit, hike, and eat in SF! I am determined to knock a bunch out this summer.

May 1st (how is it May already?!) I met my friend, Kim, at Cafe San Jose for brunchy food. Kim is also a nurse so it’s always a big breath of fresh air talking to someone who just “gets it”, ya know?

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This place is quite eclectic!

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I’ve been wanting to try this breakfast joint for foreeveeer. It had the best Yelp ratings and lived up to, no no surpassssed, the hype.

To start, I ordered an egg white veggie omelette… and oh. my. goodness…. this was the largest omelette I have ever seen. IT WAS HUGE (wait until you see it relative to the rest of the food in a couple pics).

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I also had read that trying their Swedish pancakes with ligonberry was a must. And I saw why… this was perfectly, perfectly cooked. The pancake was light, the buttery and fruity flavor tremendous…. one of the best breakfast morsels of all time. I am taking DJ back here ASAP to try this dish.

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In the afternoon I went for a nice long run.

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In the evening I made a Blue Apron meal- Mexico City Chicken Tinga Tostadas. DJ loved them! Can never go wrong with a Blue Apron meal (although I tend to make quite a mess when cooking up a storm).

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May 2nd was the last day off before another stretch of days. The day before going back to work I tend to get pretty down and feel anxious the whole day. (Sunday Scaries some might say…. but it could be any day of the week with a nursing schedule). I usually just meal prep and try to stay preoccupied with cleaning and what not. This day I was feeling extra anxious after such a horrible weekend….I had to do something to get me out of my funk, so I pulled out my SF Bucket List and tried to find something I could knock out in a couple hours. I decided to put the food prep on hold and get myself heck out of the house.

I got in my car, made sure I had enough gas in the tank, opened the sun-roof, rolled down the windows, blasted music teenage style and drove into the city.

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First stop was Twin Peaks. This overlook promises the best views of SF.

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After driving up a winding road, I parked with no problem (which is rare in SF) at the bottom of one of the peaks (there are two next to each other- hence twin peaks).

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It was FREEZING up there and so windy. I thought I was going to fly off the peak, lol. I held onto my hat and made the trek up the stairs.

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It was worth it. It provided a 360 degree view from the top. (and provided sub zero degree temps!) (Ok that’s dramatic, but it was chilly chilly!).

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After appreciating the majesty of the peaks, I headed to my next spot: The Sutro Baths.

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I didn’t think I’d been to the Sutro Baths before, but I actually had… with my friend Annie! There is a fascinating history behind them you can read here. They are situated right next to Lands End, one of my all time favorite hiking spots.

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I popped in my headphones and listened to a podcast while making the SF oasis my playground.

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In this moment when I took this picture, I embraced the warm sun beating down, had this view in front of me, and took a deep breath. I felt peace, just peace. The anxiety of going back to work dissipated for this brief moment in time.

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I came back home, feeling much refreshed, and food prepped with whatever groceries we had leftover. I made a stuffed sweet potato with leftover southwestern bowl and cottage cheese from breakfast at Cafe San Jose.

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I also prepped the second half my omelette with cottage cheese, southwestern bowl, and avocado.

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The next couple work days went well. I needed a bit of a break from the insanity that had been my last few shifts.

And this brings us to May 5th… you know what that means!! CINCO DE MAYO!!! I love an excuse for Mexican food. Can I get an Amen?!

I went on an easy run early in the morning, but suffered a nice little fall. I tripped literally over my own two feet. I fall far too often when I run. Unfortunately, this was not going to be my last tumble for the weekend…. stay tuned…

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I quickly forgot about the horrible fall as I got ready to hang out with two of my favorite people- Amy, DJ’s twin and my friend Sara y’all may remember from several blog posts.

We decided to go to Aqui, basically a Cal-Mex Panera. We had Aqui-perfected Mexican eats and drinks, awesome conversation, and plenty of laughs.

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Their veggie quesadillas were by far my favorite dish I’ve had there (which says a lot because I love all their dishes).

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When we caught the Cavs game on a TV in the restaurant, we glued ourself to the game for the last few minutes. When Lebron made that game winning shot, Amy and I did not hide our excitement. Have to represent the CLE in the CA! GOOO CAVS!

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After an unforgettable time, we went to Target to pick up sweets and went back to our apartment to watch The Sinner to wrap up the evening (woah, this show is twisted, but I love it. It’s giving off major Girl on the Train vibes).

Sunday, May 6th, I woke up bright and early to run a half marathon with Coastal Trail Runs, this one was called the Horseshoe Lake Trail Run. I ran a Coastal Train run last year and it was extraordinarily challenging because you run up a mountain essentially. I love them though because they are a great way to get some phenomenal views and have a nice long run on trails I would never dare to go on my own.

I LOVE races. Nothing puts me in a better mood. The look of pure excited anticipation.

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Now, I have to say…before the race I did think I was going to get murdered. I went on an emotional marathon before the race even began. The GPS took me up a tortuous road on a random mountain. Upon the Alexa-wannabe GPS robo-lady announcing, “you have arrived”, I found myself in the middle of nowhere. No other cars, people, or gu stations were in sight. I didn’t know what to do, especially because I didn’t have cell service.

Finally, a car slowly approached my isolated destination and I could make out a mid thirties guy with a neon shirt on, snacking on what looked like trailmix- I put my bet on the fact that he was a runner. I mean I had to be close to the start, right? I waved him down from my driver’s side and he rolled his window down. I asked if he was going to the race. In a British accent, he confirmed he was and told me to follow him but warned me the following road was treacherous. We started on a dirt road that was narrow, and I’m pretty confident would not allow two cars going in both directions. What if another car comes? I thought to myself. One wrong move, you are over the mountain. After ten minutes I found myself deeper and deeper into the mountain, the fog thickening, and my personal plot thickening. Christmas tree farms were on either side, with their Christmas decor still on full display. The smiling dirt dusted snowmen didn’t fill me with joy, but rather terror. This was the stuff of horror films.

At this point I was confident that this man was just leading my back to some obscure location to be murdered. I tried calling DJ, but the call immediately dropped. I didn’t know what to do, then he finally pulled over to the side of the road. I barely cracked my window as he got out of his car and ran back to me. He said, “You should be OK now, just take this road straight for another 20 minutes, I’m going to step on it so I’m not late”.

Another 20 minutes?! It was already 7:20…. the race started at 8:00. What the….. ? I thanked him, and he took off and left me literally in the dust. I drove at a more legal speed down the road, and finally, at 7:50 arrived at Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve, the starting point. They may want to update their online directions. Baha.

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After racing to the porta-potties, I sprinted to the start as the gun went off.

The race was horribly bottle-necked for the first couple miles, but evened out after a bit. I was awe-struck by the views, worth the 1800 feet ascent.

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I did have another fall at about mile 9. Whoooops! I can’t seem to stay on my own two feet. At the finish as DJ greeted me with a big hug, he just said, “Again?!” as he surveyed my dirt covered face, hands, and knees. Lol.

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And the best part of races….. the post race snacks!

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When I say I ate dirt, I literally ate dirt. I caught my body with my face. Haha.. I knocked the wind out of myself, so my chest still kinda hurts when I cough or turn in weird directions too. I find the whole thing pretty hilarious. Before this weekend I had gone quite a while without falling, so I was due for a good tumble.

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**WARNING: Graphic image to follow**

My knee is struggling though for sure…. not sure how I’m gonna be on it for 12 hours tomorrow.

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I ended up in 4th in my age group. After the race, DJ and I headed to Bill’s Cafe (our favorite), that now has a location within walking distance of our apartment. WOOHOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

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I had a massive breakfast of my go-to French Garden omelette and a Bill’s Mimosa.

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DJ had their scrumptious crab Benedict. (Their home-fries and potatoes are the besttttt around too).

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Last evening, we headed to DJ’s family’s for some yummy grilled food & great chats. We also started a documentary called Wild Wild Country on Netflix. It’s already super fascinating after one episode. Has anyone watched it?!? Thanks for hanging in there for this looooooong post. How are you?!

xo ❤

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Filling in the Gaps…

Hellllo and how the heck are ya?  I have a few fun little nuggets I really want to log from before and after the vacay. Let’s go way back.

When I say we’re going back, I mean.. we going wayyy-ay-ay-ay back.

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**Warning**- this post is pretty sappy & reflective. It’s more a journaling time for me, but you are more than welcome into my thoughts & stream of consciousness!

On March 16th, I received the most delish & yummy chocolate covered strawberries from my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew for graduation. I miss them all too stinking much. My sibs don’t always pop up in the blog as much as I wish simply because we are an entire coast apart… but I just want to mention how thankful I am for them. I especially hate being this far away from my niece and nephew. One of my main priorities this summer is making a trip to see them. ❤

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On March 19th after working a few rough days, I was running outside and had a moment. One of those moments where you reminisce and are overcome with reflection. This flower below literally stopped me in my tracks.

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Why? Because the last time I saw this flower I was facing some seriously significant obstacles. I was in a tumultuous place emotionally, and I had nearly an entire year of challenges in my wake. I was defeated and nearly about to give up, although I was fighting tooth and nail to stay positive. I saw this flower, and with a rush of memories & emotions I was reminded of what exactly I had overcome. Seeing this flower felt more official than graduation in affirming that I made it through, but not on my own. It was God’s reminder and promise fulfilled that He would carry me through, that in His power we can do all things (Philippians 4:13). The same flower is blooming again. As cheesy as it is, this flower represents to me my personal growth & blooming in this beautiful, terrifying, wonderful career. As I stated in this post  where I saw this flower for the first time, “I need this stage to blossom”. God’s creation is a powerful thing ❤

On March 21st, I presented our neurosurgical research for the last time. The research council seemed to love it. They even said maybe we could stay in touch moving forward!

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The rest of the week was work, work, work, work, work.

On March 24th, DJ and I saw DJ’s younger sister perform in the ultimate cheer competition! She is growing up far too fast for my liking, but it’s such a joy to watch her! She is incredibly talented, and I am amazed at her poise. (She is at the top of the group in the picture below). Ohhhh, and they won NATIONALS! YES, nationals! After this competition we had the most incredible dinner at LB Steakhouse with the fam after. ❤ (Saturdays that we can get everyone together are rare, so this night will always be treasured!). (PS. Their bread popovers are what dreams are made of!).

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I know I’ve said it before, but one of the greatest blessings I have experienced in this life is DJ & DJ’s family. I think about often how I don’t know why God thought I was worthy enough to have not only the perfect husband for me, but also the greatest family. It made a bit more sense this year, because I think God knew I needed them. The encouragement from DJ & his parents and their unwavering faith in me is part of the reason I made it. I wouldn’t have even applied for this residency program in the first place if my Dad-in-law hadn’t suggested it. I didn’t think I stood a chance at getting in the program, but seeing his confidence in me, coming from one of the men I respect the most, gave me that motivation to even fill out an application. ❤ I think all the time about how that one simple conversation with him changed the trajectory of my life and opened up doors that I didn’t even know existed.

Beginning March 25th kicked off my PTO streak for my full two week vacation! After Church we went to another couple’s house that lives nearby for salmon & to hangout. Mmmm mmm!

The rest of the week I basically spent getting ready for the cruise, running errands, cleaning, packing, and making sure Deej had food available. (I also ordered Freshly! I will do more of a thorough review in the future- but we LOVED it. We are still using up our promo codes, but the price for the ease of making such nutrilicious foods makes it worth it thus far!!!!).

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Is running errands anyone else’s happy place? I just relish in facing the day with a to-do list and knocking out everything with head to toe athleisure, headphones in, and podcast on.

Monday night of March 26th, I whipped up one of our favorite, easy, but tasty meals of scallops with cojita corn & brown rice.

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March 27th was a monumental day. Not only was it my beautiful Momma’s birthday, but I found out that I was accepted into Duke’s DNP program!!!! Previously, I knew I was accepted into the Masters program, but the DNP was a pipe dream in my mind. I cried when I saw the acceptance update on my profile and re-read it about ten times before finally calling DJ. Here’s to the next 3.5 years of studying & the academia grind. I start in August 🙂 I still can’t believe it, I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet!

During the day on March 28th, I had my hair brightened up a bit at Limon Salon! I just missed the bright blondeWhen I get my hair done, I like to get the Olaplex treatment. It has hands down made a mighty difference in keeping my hair healthy and my blonde bright. Hair treatments can be ridiculously damaging, but this mitigates the harm.

The night of March 28th, I was FINALLY able to see DJ play basketball! I usually have to work the next day or am working the nights he has games so I haven’t been able to make any. It was a blast seeing him do his thang (number 88)!

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These team names crack me up. Deej is with the Enginerds. Unfortunately, one of the players tore his achilles tendon during the game, so they continued to play 4 on 5. But they held their own!

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And- can you believe it- on March 29th, I actually got my nails done?! (Not just the Walgreens glue-on ones, haha). DJ said they were “aggressive”. LOL. I cannot remember the last time I had my nails done- I think maybe for Clair’s wedding, but even then it was a light polish because I had to go straight back to work. I think before that it had been a year, right before starting nursing!

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The evening of March 29th, DJ and I did an impromptu date night! We strolled through whole foods and grabbed some grub from their deli. Whole foods selections are ahhh-mazing. It’s the ultimate Sophie’s choice for the indecisive veg-heads.

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I also LOVE their olive bar. It’s the most massive olive bar I have ever seen. *Heart eyes on heart eyes*

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I made a massive salad which basically included every item from the cold bar (and some from the hot bar), and DJ tried dosa!

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Dosa is a southern Indian dish. Think a light fluffy crepe usually stuffed with potato and served with different chutneys. I joke that I knew DJ was the one when he was willing to partake in Indian cuisine with me 😉

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Then I jotted in the AM for the airport!!! That brings us to my last three travels posts from March 30th to April 5th! (Isn’t it crazy how much can happen in a few days?!)

Part One . Part TwoPart Three.

Annnd heading to the airport is where I left off in Part Three. We had a bit of a sad mishap with the airport. To get from the boat to the airport, Rach and I took a Lyft. We were taking two separate airlines out so we had to be dropped off at different spots. We agreed we would meet back inside after going through our siloed security stations. Once we both made it through we texted each other to figure out where the other was…. welll …. turns out we were in entirely different terminals and BUILDINGS. We were so sad we didn’t get to hangout those next few hours together and never actually said goodbye. 😦 Good thing I’ll be seeing her in a couple months for a wedding, but it was too sad. We just kept texting each other and sending pictures (keep scrolling) of what we decided on for lunch since we weren’t actually together to have lunch. Wahhhhhhhhh.

I parked it at a PJ’s Coffee and read my book to pass some time. PJ’s was pretty delish, but still not my Peet’s ❤

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For lunch I decided on one last hurrah for a NOLA meal at Ye Olde College Inn. I was craving some comfort food as our trip was at an end, and I was isolated from my best friend by a gosh darn wall.

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I pulled out my book, enjoyed the live jazz they had playing and ordered some gulf fish & smoked gouda grits (FANTASTIC!).

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I just read my book while savoring every bite.

The flight back was the scariest flight I have ever been on. There was an insane amount of turbulence, I really did think we were going down several times. I don’t think I’ve ever shed turbulence tears, but they were streaming this time. I love flying, but I can definitely get anxious when things aren’t smooth sailing, or smooth flying if you will. I couldn’t wait to get my feet back on the ground.

When I saw DJ pull up to the curb to pick me up from the airport I felt like I could finally take a sigh of relief. We headed to one of our favorites- Stein’s– for dinner. We had our two favorites, the quinoa butternut squash salad for me and the fried chicken sliders for Deej.

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We munched away while I told DJ every exhaustive detail of the trip and every. single. picture. He has the patience of a saint.

On April 6th & 7th I slept until the cows came home and then did laundry from the trip. I had a hankerin’ for Thai Food on Saturday evening. We ordered from Amarin Thai in San Jose. I actually had to reorder from Olarn (my go-to Thai place about a minute away), because my curry tasted thairrible. I’m refraining from going on a thairaid about it… I’m not picky, but I truly couldn’t eat it. I will say their Roti was the best roti I’ve ever had though, I’ll give them that.

DJ said their Pad Thai was fine (at least it was edible). I ended up getting the Red Curry from Olarn, a thaid and true ❤ ❤ <3.

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Stop with the thai puns you say?! I’ll thai.

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On April 8th, we attended a lovely Sunday Service then I ran errands in the afternoon to get ready for the work week. I have a funny story for y’all. So when my mom visited for graduation she ordered a sampler platter and brought back the leftovers to help me out with some food prep for the week! When I tried “Oren’s Eggplant” I had a moment of, “this is maybe one of the tastiest things I have ever had in my life”. I texted my mom, “Are you sure this is vegetarian? It is so savory!”. She was pretty sure the menu didn’t mention meat. I was curious what made it so good so I looked it up online and it listed, a puree of fried eggplant, spices, caramelized onion, and hard boiled egg. Well naturally, anything fried, with egg, and caramelized onion is going to be phenomenal. So this Sunday when I returned home, I decided to grab hummus, baba-ganoush, Oren’s eggplant, and pita for the week!

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After eating it for about a week, I looked at the list of ingredients on the label for the first time, noting their was more there than the menu had. What else was in it? Chicken fat. LOL. I had accidentally been eating meat for a week. I’m really holding down this pescatarian life well.

April 9th it was time to go back to work. I was terrified to go back. I usually get anxious after three days being away, so after having two weeks off my heart was racing out of my chest. It all went just fine and I did not forget how to be a nurse in just two weeks. Haha.

April 10th, I took a nice long run outside and soaked up alllll the beautiful blooms!

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Thursday April 12th, I went to Opening Night for the SJ Giants! DJ has been working  hard in the off season, and I was excited to be there for the big opening day!

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I just love these games. I couldn’t find anyone to go with, but I definitely don’t mind going on my own. The environment is jovial as can me, nothing beats stadium food, and it was exciting to see all of Deej’s diligent work come to fruition!

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When waiting in line at Turkey Mike’s for a veggie burger, two gentlemen in front of me asked me if I liked pickles. I was a bit taken aback, and a bit unsure of how to respond to this random inquiry. They explained that they are one of the sponsors and they were selling their pickles at the cash register. Bahaha. When cashing out they bought me one. So, if y’all go to a SJ Giants game, keep an eye out for the Buck’s Vineyard pickles. (maybe the weirdest paragraph ever written on my blog?!).

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This is where my loyalty lies: GORDON BIERSCH GARLIC FRIES.

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I may have gone a bit overboard on the food, but I ran eleven miles earlier and was ravenous! (The pickle was okay– I’m a salt fanatic and it wasn’t salty enough for me. I’ll stick to my Vlasic. Sorry, Buck’s!).

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I plopped down with my food, bundled up in a winter jacket (It was FREEEZING that evening), and contentedly sat back to watch the game. Literally, no one was sitting by me. I was laughing at how hilarious this whole situation much have looked. Just a girl alone, eating her garlic fries, cheering her favorite team on. (The guy speaking in the background of the video reflects my sentiment). “Here we are! We made it!”

I didn’t last the whole game because my Raynaud’s started acting up, and I couldn’t feel my toes. I and my numb feet ran over to give DJ a hug goodbye and then warmed up back home.

We both worked all through the weekend. Now that the season has started DJ and I are a bit of ships passing in the night again. I don’t think I’ve seen him for about three days now. But we soak up the little time we do have together! Our date nights are sporadic and often last minute, but we grab them when we can.

Last Monday the night of April 16th, I made us pizzas, and Amy’s Margherita Pizza (One of DJ’s favorites) and I tried the Cauliflower pizza, which I loved and included in a Friday Faves!

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On April 17th, Deej and I had an impromptu date night! WOOT WOOT!

We hit up Historic Murphy Avenue in Sunnyvale for some good Mexican Grub. We just adore this strip, but haven’t made it over much lately. The last time we were here was March 2017 for St. Patrick’s Day!

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We hit Roberto’s Cantina for the best veggie fajitas and beef tacos!

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On April 18th, I hit up Trader Joe’s to meal prep and stock up on some fun new eats for the week!

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I sauteed veggies & Tofu to make stuffed purple sweet potatoes with hummus for lunches.

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And here’s what the lunches and snacks for the next couple days looked like.

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I worked on the 19th and 20th with a couple emotionally strenuous shifts.. But now I am sitting here being a lazy bum, thoroughly enjoying finishing up this blog post sipping my cups of coffee. I go back tomorrow, and only have today off. DJ is doing a seven day home stand, hence we haven’t seen each other since our date night and probably won’t see one another again until next week. Tis’ the baseball season. I’m beyond proud of him though. His creativity in his role amazes me & he is one of the hardest working individuals I know. Well, this post was obnoxiously long, but at least my OCD side feels like I am now caught up. Have a fabulous week everyone!

xo ❤

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Friday Favorites #11!

Hey y’all! I feel super behind on blogging! Soo many awesome things have happened before and after the cruise, but I’ve been so busy and barely could get those vacay posts out alone. So stay tuned for recaps that are about three weeks late, lol, okay maybe four weeks honestly. But for now- I am quite excited to share a Friday Faves with ya!

  1. e.l.f. matte liquid  lip color. YOU GUYS, this is only $5.00 from Target and is my new obsession. I rarely ever invest in bold shades for the lip, but for vacation I thought it would be fun. I wore it much more frequently than I thought I would. Although it was bold, I felt like it wasn’t too much to pull off like a traditional deep red is.

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Here are pictures of it on you might remember from the cruise posts!

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2. When I came home from the cruise, I had some errands to run in the mall. Occasionally, I love to stop by See’s candies for a butterscotch lollipop after and they always offer free samples of chocolate 😉

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3. Spongelle Body Wash Infused Buffer!!! This was a Fab Fit Fun included gift- and I just love it. It smells amazing and is basically a loofa that has soap built in. It is greatly exfoliating, and I’ve already used it probably ten times at least with it still sudsing up for each use!

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4. I can’t forget Easter treats!!! Someone gets this crack away from me! Bahah. DJ’s fam sent us some awesome goodies for Easter starting with The Popcorn Factory popcorn & make your own cookies! This caramel corn right here is the most addictive stuff in the world.

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We also received the sweetest Olive & Cocoa gift basket from… all the goodies are just too darn delish. You see those little pink puffs at the bottom?…. I took them on the cruise with me and they did not last long at all. SO GOOOD! I need to hunt down more!

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I also wanted to include these here because these companies would make awesome ideas for mother’s day gifts too!

5. Trader Joe’s High Protein Tofu. Do any of you have a really hard time finding super firm tofu? I feel like sometimes even the super firm tofu in the grocery store still can crumble while cooking. This stuff does not crumble one bit and has a whopping 14g of protein! It’s my favorite tofu to cook with and throw in salads, sweet potatoes, or have for breakfast as a tofu scramble.

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6. Cauliflower Pizza! Y’allll I have tried (and failed) to make Cauliflower pizza on my own many times. I finally pulled the trigger and just bought some from Sprouts. This stuff… life changing. So darn delectable. I could not tell the different between a thin crust pizza & this cauli pizza! You can actually buy it on amazon in a four pack 🙂 You is welcome

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7. Korres body butter. Oh. my. lanta… talk about all the yummy smells. This also came in the FFF box! Whenever I put on this lotion I feel like I just rolled around in a coconut. You must try this for yourself! It’s a bit pricey, but seriously worth it, or makes for a great gift.

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8. Zodiac. Well this took a hard turn in another direction. DJ and I recently watched the movie Zodiac, a movie based on the true story of a Bay Area serial killer. I love love love thriller/mystery movies, and this movie hit the spot. Fantastic movie with amazing actors too!

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9. MantraBand!! My mother-in-law is one of the most thoughtful gift givers, and for my graduation she gave me this mantra band… it says, “Nevertheless, she persisted”. This meant more to me than I can even say. She was a pillar of support for me through the year, and this bracelet has such special meaning to me. (She also got me one that says, “Just Run”! Now if that’s not my mantra, I don’t know what is!).

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10. The Hills! You might laugh at me, but I’m actually watching The Hills for the first time and loving it. It’s such great mindless TV while working on other projects, and the drama is pure gold for this reality TV junkie. Can you believe I’ve never watched it?! I’ve seen episodes here and there, but not all the way through! A bit late to the game… but what do they say? Better late than never 😉

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Please leave your Friday Favorites links in the comments below!!!!

xo ❤

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Cozumel & Daze at Sea!!!

Hey ya ladies & gents. I am sitting here writing after experiencing an earthquake today and currently chowing down on some cauliflower pizza. Just a typical day in the C-A. I’ve been in three quakes now, and they actually don’t freak me out much- I kinda like them. Is that weird?! I bet I’d feel differently if I was in one above a magnitude 4.0. Anywho, I am STOKED about the final installment of my my my my Mexicoma (Tim McGraw anyone?!)!!!! It was a dream- perfection, absolute paradise, and the only times that have rivaled this complete R & R were our honeymoon in Bora Bora & our time in Marco Island. 

If you missed the first two parts you can find Part One here and Part Two here.

On Monday April 2nd, we rolled up (floated up?) to Cozumel, Mexico!!!

Not a bad way to spend a Monday, eh?

Rach and I had breakfast in the morning on the Lido deck then stepped our feet onto la tierra hermosa!

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New hat or just the tail of the Carnival ship? You decide!

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Puerta Maya here we come!

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I have never planned an excursion before- all previous trips have been with my mom who would always plan them- so I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to figure it out.

Wellll, it was a breeze! It was super self-explanatory to find our port and everyone was helpful in pointing us in the right direction.

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We found our excursion director (who was the kindest human being- shout out Che-cho!), and we all headed to the van to embark on one of the greatest memories.

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The excursion we booked was an exclusive strip of beach, house with a private Chef, snorkeling tour, and the best guac & salsa of one’s existence. If you are planning a similar trip the name of the excursion was La Casa en La Playa. It was only about $95 dollars extra, and deciding this would be our one and only excursion, we jumped right on it! Lemme say, every. bit. worth. it.

It was only about 20 minutes from the ship (some excursions can be over an hour away). When we arrived, they greeted us with the freshest mango juice. It was nearly homogenous to the liquid gold I still dream about from the Dominican Republic. Gosh, this stuff was like drinking straight candy, and refreshing all the same.

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The views, the water, and the company were spectacular.

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(The orange smiley sticker was to denote which excursion you belonged to- just in case you’re wondering, ha!)

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There was even a massage table available if you desired!!!

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There were comfy beach chairs, hammocks, hammock chairs, and of course, shady palm trees.

The house itself (la casa part of la casa en la playa) was quite quaint.

Inside the house, a pool luxuriously tempted us for a dip when the beach proved too caliente (I hope I’m using that correctly- or is it calor? Uh oh, I could get myself in trouble with this attempt at Spanish!).

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The tour guide exclaimed, “Mi casa, es su casa!”, so of course we needed to explore.

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If you wished, you could sit in with the chefs while they cooked the food for a culinary class (but we chose to spend as much time as possible in the sun).

I had hands down the GREATEST margarita of all stinking time (and I’m not even a big marg fan, but when in Rome (Mexico)) & Rach ordered a scrumptious pina colada!

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Isn’t she cute? I went a bit cray with the portrait mode– but when in paradise, gotta catch paradise in high def, amiright?!

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Perfect little peach!

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Artsy? Basic? Basically artsy? Artistically basic? Basically basic…

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Bring on the chips & salsa- YUM! Ugh, that guac- it was out of this world!

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Thennnn they brought out our fooooood. They seated us inside at the cute little table pictured a few pics above.

I had a beyond palatable pepper stuffed with a whitefish. Mmmmm it was delish!

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Rach had a chicken dish that was just oh so pretty!

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They took groups out snorkeling in two groups. Rach wasn’t sure how it would be trying to snorkel with being on crutches. But the guides (THE SWEEETEST guides in the world) graciously took us on a private tour. He pushed Rach around on a little buoy board and it was a forty-five minutes we will never forget!

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We held a starfish, a sea urchin, & a sea spider and saw an array of native aquatic life.

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Needless to say, we had an unforgettable time with so. many. laughs (we seriously couldn’t get a serious picture we were laughing so hard at this point). We made a lot of friends on our trip too, some of which we still stay in contact with!

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Before getting back on the boat, we decided to get a picture outside of Three Amigos!

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We couldn’t resist…. it was reminiscent of our 2009 photo shoot at Cedar Point amusement park. LOL

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When we returned to our room from the excursion we had the cutest little… monkey? Bear? Koala?  Hahha! What’s your guess?

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We decided to take a couple siestas after the eventful day. I then went for a nice thirteen miler while reading, then we headed to la cena!

This dinner was probably one of our least favorites, but we did have some delectable braised rabbit (definitely not vegetarian approved, oh well), and INCREDIBLE desserts!

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Whatever that marshmellowy stuff was, I was alll about it.

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This little son of a gun was probably our all time fave dessert of the cruise. Gosh, it was too yummy! It was some type of chocolate cake in a creamy chocolate sauce with a dollop of fudge & a light wafer atop.

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We went to bed early that night since there wasn’t too much going on, and then got up early on April 3rd for a relaxing day aboard!

I went for a run per usual while Rach snagged some lounge chairs for the day. I quickly grabbed my favorite breakfast of coffee, oatmeal, grapefruit, yogurt, and a few baked goods for good measure, because I didn’t wanna starve ya know? LOL. I don’t have a picture, but one of our FAVORITE baked goodies on the cruise buffet were their chocolate muffins. Mmmm mmm!

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This day we pulled up to Yucatan (Progreso) Mexico. We both decided NOTHING could top the day before and both were in the mood to just lounge and relax on the boat. From the people that got off the boat we heard we didn’t miss out on much. I think it’s a port that people usually are pretty disappointed with, so we were happy with our decision.

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We soaked up every second- reading, eating the most refreshing strawberry frozen yogurt, and basking lethargically in the hot calming sun.

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Then it was time to get ready for dinner yet again!

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Rach taught me how to play BlackJack in the onboard casino and I won $20 overall! I quit while I was ahead of course- (or pulled a “Jill”. My mom has only been in the Casino once ever, played one game, won, and has never played since.)

Also, something I love about the ship is you can carry around your drinks wherever. This is so nice because we would typically get a glass of wine before the evening show and sip it through the evening and then maybe get one more at dinner. It was so nice that you didn’t have to rush, and you could just take your glass with you to the shows for the evening!

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We killed a bit more time before dinner. Also, when snapchat fails you……

All kindsa yums met us this evening! This butternut squash soup was perfectly cozy and warm in the cool dining room.

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Rach ordered this seafood pasta dish that she let me try and I then had wished I ordered- yum yum!

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Rach also decided to try the Escargot. Lemme be the first to warn you: STAY CLEAR. The last cruise, my mom and I both got very sick after eating this, and the exact same thing happened to Rachel later in the evening (She bounced back quick), but we are convinced that there is something about this dish that doesn’t agree with most!

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Anywho now that I’ve destroyed all your appetites, I will continue with the food, baha!— The quinoa stuffed tomato & INDIAN FOOD was just insanely good! I think a cruise was the first place I ever tried Indian food. Gosh, it was amazing. I ate nearly every bite.

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And cheesecake for dessert 😉

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And the last few nights of the cruise, the staff performs! My videography skills are surely something….

We went to a couple comedy shows, and then somehow, someway, I had worked up an appetite and got some pizza to end the evening from Pirate’s Pizza. My favorite pizza was the Fungi pizza on the trip. The more ‘shrooms the better!

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In the morning of April 4th, I decided to run on the outdoor track atop the boat! I witnessed a gorgeous sunrise.

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We spent the day repeating the day before- reading, lounging, and soaking up the sun! I read in Colossians a bit- nothing better than the Beautiful sun, Bible & ya best friend right next to you. My iPad wasn’t charged, so I started diving in a bit more into the Book Thief. It was all fun and games……..

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….Until the clouds rolled in, the rain rolled in, and some SERIOUS wind rolled in.. I was scared Rach was gonna blow right off the boat.

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After things cleared up, we hit back to the lounge chairs (even though we had to layer up a bit!). Rach decided for the last day, she would order one of the cruises specialty drinks- in a pineapple!

Dawwww, how dang cute.

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When returning to our room we had a nice little heart ❤

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Before heading to the last and final show (which was a NOLA show that blew our socks off- SOOOOOO GOOOD), we tried to get a picture out by the pool before dinner but the wind was still in effect!

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This night was my favoritedinner of the entire week!

Rach had their caprese salad that had balsamic beads rather than dressing (I didn’t even know those existed?!??!)

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I sampled the frog legs. I savored every bit. I have never had frog legs before, but they were fantastic. I loved the lemony flavor with the savoriness. It reminded me a lot of the Spanish octopus I had in Marco and have been trying to hunt down ever since!

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I can’t remember what soup this was, but I do remember telling Rachel it was some of the mouthwatering soup I have ever had. It was creamy, yet light with absolutely magnificent flavor.

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This little gem below was probably my favorite dish of the entire trip (Although the Indian was a close second). It was a butternut squash/mixed spice pot pie. Gosh, I neeeed this in my life everyday allll day.

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I ordered two entrees this night….. no judging!…. I also LOVED this shrimp dish, an inspired NOLA entree with cajun spices.

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Rach tried their ribeye!

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Hands down, this was the top meal. I needed an extra couple stomachs to eat it all, but good thing I’d been training it to stretch throughout the week, lol. They definitely saved the best for last!

I hate when they sing this song 😦 It’s their finale show, bidding us a farewell 😦

Time for Punchliner!

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In between shows I decided to get my last dose of fungi pizza. (I really did a number on the food that day!).

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^ Don’t mind the fact that one of my nails fell off. Bahah.

In the morning of April 5th it was time to debark 😦 I woke up super early (around 5:30 am) to get a run in on the track and soak up the sunrise over the NOLA canal.

It was worth it! So much beauty!

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We had our last big lido deck breakfast, we enjoyed our last favorite chocolate muffin (that we stilllllll say we crave), oatmeal, and juices before going back to reality. I’ll share our airport trip in the next post.

xo ❤

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Easter Sunday on a Cruise!

OKAYYY, being super honest off the bat, I had a really hard time uploading these pictures because they make me want to go back SO BADLY. I guess that’s a good thing though, right? Always better to leave a vacay wanting more! (that’s what my momma always says!)

After our amazing time in NOLA, we headed to the ship around 2:00 pm in the afternoon on March 31st. Luckily, our Lyft driver came with a mini van that had the ability to tote all our overpacked typical how do I pack my whole life in a suitcase luggage to Port. Speaking of the port, when looking at where to go on maps, Rach asked me if we were disembarking from “Port of Call”. I recognized the name, and said, “Yep, absolutely that’s it!” with the utmost confidence. Our sweet Lyft driver, mother of five with a thick southern accent, kept saying, “You sure y’all want to go to Port of Call with all that luggage?! It’s a pretty tiny place!”. We were so confused until she halted the mini van in front of a burger joint called Port of Call with no body of water (or cruise ship) in sight… Uhhh whoops! The reason I recognized Port of Call was because I had seen it on lists of restaurants when I’d done research! After we all came to the epiphany that that burger joint was not in fact our cruise ship and had a good laugh, we headed to the REAL port!

And we made it!!!

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The port didn’t provide the most gorgeous views around, but we knew soon the swampy bayou water was soon going to turn into a sparkling blue!

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And here is the famous Natchez boat out & about, New Orlean’s only steamboat!

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We boarded the Carnival cruise, Triumph. Carnival cruises are known as more low budget cruises, but I have always LOVED them. Sure, you face long buffet lines, rowdy crowds and youngin’s, annnnnd may have to fight tooth and nail for a beach lounge chair- but for the price the food is pretty darn good (and unlimited, hellllo!), the shows are magnificent, the people and staff are friendly, fascinating, and non-pretentious, and it truly is FUN. I’m a big advocate of Carnival, especially for younger crowds and people with kids!

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We made it to our room!!!

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We loved our room. It was more spacious than we expected and had a window facing the water. It only cost about $100 more to get an outward facing room rather than interior, and totally worth it. The views, especially at night of the water and the moon, were beautiful! (Also it helps with any disorientation and claustrophobia).

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We unpacked a bit and Rachel’s momma snuck in THE SWEETEST little Easter basket for us in Rach’s luggage. It was soooo thoughtful & special. Even though we would be spending Easter on the cruise ship, this definitely helped us get into the Easter spirit!

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She even included dark chocolate because she knows it’s my faveee. This was some of the best dark chocolate I have EVER had (actually probably THE best). Malley’s chocolate for the win. I literally carried it around in my purse with me the whole cruise so I always had my chocolate on me 😉 It didn’t last long as you can imagine!

Rach quickly opened the Peeps because she likes them stale, lol.. I have yet to try a truly stale one, but I could see it?! Side note- My Greek teacher in high school invented something called “Peeps wrapped in a blanket”… peeps wrapped in bacon. It’s actually a thing on urban dictionary , haha. Anyone have a Peeps preference?!

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We finished exploring our Cruise Ship, which for food had a Guy’s burger joint (with all the burgers & fries your heart desires), a seafood shack, blue iguana cantina, the lido restaurant, and 24-7 pizza pirate & ice cream/frozen yogurt.

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I adore this picture ❤

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The ship was stunning with an endless array of activities, particularly on the Promenade and Lido deck.

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We headed down to the first show (they usually took place around 7 and again at 9).

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We had the late dinner time at 8:15 pm, so we always went to the early show. I don’t have any pictures from the nightly shows because photography isn’t allowed- but they were one of my favorite parts of the cruise. The talent was just phenomenal. I have much more of an appreciation for the shows now that I’m older.

After the show every evening we headed to dinner. This is my favorite part of cruises. I LIVE for the evening dining room dinner. The tables were decorated elegantly.

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We were seated with four other girls that were our age. Sometimes you are seated with other people for the fine dining meal, but we weren’t upset about it. The conversation flowed well, and we enjoyed their company! And just to clarify for those that haven’t been on cruises, you can literally order anything on the menu, and as much as you’d like (minus a small section where you can pay $20 upcharge for lobster tail). I mean can you think of anything better than that?! Some of the dishes weren’t great, but others blew our flip-flops off.

I won’t include pictures of EVERYTHING we ate on the cruise, because that may be obnoxious… but I will certainly highlight our favorites!!!

I had the “Port Featured item” which was a cajun salmon. It was FANTASTIC!

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For dessert I had a tiramisu dish, which I loved. We always called dessert time SUGAR TIME!!!!! (this originated on cruises with my mom & sister- making me very nostalgic for them at many points during the cruise).

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Another part of cruises Rach and I both love are the comedy acts. They have a mix of family friendly and then some with more adult content.

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We always sat near the front for the comedy acts (go big or go home, yo), and for the first one we went to we were picked on quite brutally by the comedian. We took it like champs though and weren’t actually offended. After, we decided to grab a picture with him, and as Rach crutched up to him, he put his hands in his face and felt horrible realizing he had thrown jabs at the girl with crutches without knowing it. Lol!

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We were greeted by a cute little elephant when we got back to the room 🙂

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We snoozed hard that evening. In the morning of April 1st, I hit the gym and read on the treadmill which became routine for the rest of the trip.

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I LOVED the book I took to read on the cruise (highly recommend). When I vacation I like to read mystery/crime/thriller novels. Girl on the Train is the epitome of the type, which I read on our honeymoon. It definitely set the precedent. This time around I read Don’t Try to Find Me by Holly Brown. I still have a tiny bit left to read, but I’m savoring every page. It’s a pretty great mindless read. I also brought along The Book Thief in the flesh (or in the actual 3-dimensional book form) for when my Ipad was dying (I’m AWFUL about charging my electronics).

After we headed to one of our favorite memories from the cruise- The Easter Seaday Brunch (they know the way to my heart with that pun)! Rachel got us the CUTEST bunny ears to wear for the day. We put them on and headed to one of our favorite meals, and memories, of the trip.

Once again, you can order anything on the menu, as much as you’d like!

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And somebunny was veryy hungry!!!

I tried the salmon benedict & the Frosted Flakes french toast.

SO . DANG. DELICIOUS.

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I literally could eat this meal, including the french toast, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner forever and ever. This was some of the best & tastiest french toast I’ve tasted. It was the french toast of my dreams. Just take two of the best breakfast foods & mash um’ together! Any other frosted flakes junkies up in here?!

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Rach loved their steak & eggs..!

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We laid in the sun for a bit while reading our books, and then I heard over the speaker that they were having an Easter Sunday Service on board at 3 pm. I decided to go with no clue of what it would be like. Y’all it was soooo awesome, truly a memory I will never forget! I didn’t think it would feel like Easter at all, but between the sweet Easter basket, the Easter brunch, and the Sunday service it truly was one of my favorite Easter’s of all time. I was shocked how packed out the service was, there was hardly a seat open in the whole room.

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They played some worship music and then opened up the floor for anyone to share any special testimonies, praises, or prayer requests. I was surprised how many people were willing to share. One testimony someone shared included an anecdote about a woman from their home church who was told she would never be able to have a baby, ever since she was 18 years old. Now currently in her 30s, she and her husband decided to adopt a baby. After going through the whole adoption process, the little baby was taken away and given back to his biological parents. However, at the exact same time of this devastating loss of the adopted baby, she found out she was pregnant! God is so gooood.

I was in tears by the end of it because the things people shared were moving, powerful, and awesome. Then we all sang Amazing Grace together. It truly was a special reminder that Church can truly take place anywhere, it’s all about the people worshipping the same God- not the place.

Easter evening the cruise hosted formal night, wooohoo!We glammed on up, took our fair share of pics, then headed to the evening show.

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Everyone thought we were sisters, I mean we basically are ❤ Was not mad about the assumptions!

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Like I said, our fair share of pictures!

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After the show we salivated toward the dining room. Yum yum yum!

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That night we had some savory scallops (that I gobbled up before getting a good picture, whoooopsie), oven baked Japanese sea bass, and baked stuffed mushrooms. Mmmmm Mmmmmm mmm!

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This was much longer than expected, so next post I’ll recap our Cozumel excursion! 🙂

xo ❤

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New Orleans, LA!

Hey Friends & Fam! How is everyone doing?! I am psyched about this post. Just writing the name of this travel location makes me giddy- New Orleans has been on my bucket list for ages, and to have actually step foot there is still hard for me to believe!

Lemme back up in how this all happened… One of my best friends back in Ohio, Rachel, and I planned a pretty spontaneous cruise to Mexico. You may remember Rach from here or here!

This all came about when I decided to try to use some vacation time since I have hit my one year mark (we are allotted one vacation per year). DJ won’t be able to do a full vacation until probably this winter, so I figured even if I didn’t do anything or go anywhere I could at least have two weeks without work, right?! Well when I told Rach my dates, she coincidentally had this time off too as her last week of recovery from a knee surgery. It could not have worked out more perfectly! Even though Rach was still on her crutches she was a TROOPER. She did not miss a beat, and didn’t let them stop her. We agreed it would be nothing but reading in the sun and relaxation (I mean you’re either healing up at home or lounging on a boat- so why not choose the one with more sun?!).

DJ had to work on Easter & this is a super busy time of year for him, so he encouraged me to go and soak up this time. (No worries, I ordered him Freshly so he didn’t starve 😉 ).

Anyways, we decided on a Carnival cruise that went out of New Orleans on Saturday the 31st of March!

We planned & planned, packed & packed, and then met early on March 30th in in NOLA to get the vacay started! That morning, I woke up at about 3:45 riddled with adrenaline and couldn’t fall back asleep before my 8:45 am flight. I decided to go for a run. Once at the airport I grabbed Peet’s (duuuuuh) and ate a protein bar while I waited.

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Time for the flight! I binge listened to the podcast “Unexplained” while I dozed on and off.

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And before I knew it I had arrived in NOLA! My Lyft driver from the airport was sweet and knowledgeable. I noticed that everyone was authentically kind & helpful. It appears Southern Hospitality is still going strong! She drove me past a couple old cemeteries (their mausoleums are HUGE) and through the French Quarters as I snapped shots along the way.

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When I walked into The Sheraton on Canal Street (where we were staying that evening) I was greeted by lively music in the lobby & people bustling around in the most cheerful manner. It felt as though I had stepped right into a party. I grabbed some of the complimentary cucumber water and waited to check into my room. Once taking the old fashioned elevators up to the twelfth floor, I was finally in a NOLA hotel room. I had to pinch myself. I am in New Orleans. For years I have wanted to go to New Orleans for the culture, history, boss beignets and shrimp & grits. I couldn’t believe I was actually there.

I looked down after opening the shutter windows to a view that was both fantastic, although could probably  be terrifying for someone afraid of heights (hence the shutters). I highly recommend staying in this hotel. We were able to get a night stay for a reasonable price and it’s conveniently located to everything you could want to see in New Orleans!

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I changed out of my grubby travel wear & freshened up after the long flight. Time to Explore! (Rach’s flight still wouldn’t touch down for a bit).

I decided to make the first stop Garden District!

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I adored the local architecture with balconies lining the alternately pastel pigmented shops and homes.

img_2141img_2142These houses! I just love the wrought iron and hanging baskets at every turn.

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I perused the shops on Magazine street. I was fascinated by the mix of mysticism, antique shops, and enticing bakeries that lined the way.

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NOLA, you are bizarre, I’ve gotta say! But a fun bizarre…..and I guess at times just a bizarre bizarre! 😉img_2149

Around 7:00 pm, Rach texted me saying she was at the hotel! It was perfect timing. Since it was getting dark I didn’t want to spend much more time alone in the Garden District. I went back to the hotel and wanted to cry when I actually saw Rach standing there in front of me! It had been 18 months since I’ve been with my best friend y’all. TOOOO LOOONG.

We got ready & organized our room while having totally non-linear conversations (because after a day of travel you have stories to share about the characters you met along the way and also have been storing up “oh I need to tell her when I see her” stories).

We then hit the town! We stepped out greeted by a beautiful sunset.

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We walked around the French Quarter, taking in wafting scents of cooking Creole cuisine, the fascinating people & costumes, a sundry of shops (including Halloween shops in March- what… well I guess explains the costumes?!).

Of course, we had to see the famed St. Louis Cathedral. It was interesting… there were religious groups preaching next to psychics with their crystal balls adjacent to street performers. Probably more entertainment right here than anywhere in the quarter!

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We kept walking on to Bourbon street! It wasn’t as rowdy as I expected, but it was certainly crowded. I was somewhat concerned about safety after doing a ton of research. We were extra cautious, but overall, I felt extremely safe in the main high traffic areas. The Uber driver back from the Garden District drilled into us not to go into any weird side alleys or anything that looked remotely sketchy.

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Do Pirates count as sketchy?

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We jumped into a Lyft to go to Arnaud’s!

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This restaurant was promised to be one of the most authentic New Orleans restaurants.

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I stepped in and immediately thought, Yep, this is the Big Easy!. The red and white stripes, jazz band playing the background, and elegant old fashioned decor met every NOLA expectation.

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Arnaud’s has a deep history like everything in the city. We loved the ambiance, the friendliness of everyone, and the live band made us relaxed and at ease immediately.

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I started with a dirty martini that seemed to fit the scene. It was one of the best I’ve had- not too strong and not too salty!

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Rach tried one of their specialty drinks- The Contessa! It was sooo goood!

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So, debate here- is turtle part of a pescatarian diet? I don’t know! Haha, but I had to try the turtle soup which is a staple of New Orleans cuisine. It was just okay to me, but if you are a chili lover & a meat eater, you would love it… even though this photo probably does the opposite of making it look appetizing, ha!

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Since Rachel arrived I hadn’t stopped talking about shrimp & grits (particularly the dish I had seen at Pat O Brien’s, our next stop). We decided to go light here for dinner so Rach and I split the amazing pompano duarte with sauteed fillet topped with gulf shrimp & tomatoes, seasoned with garlic, fresh herbs & chili peppers. Yum! It was delish- but I will say, my baby SF does have some fish dishes that could rival this.

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We then we weaved through the quarters to the next spot- Pat O Brien’s!—recommended by Rachel’s cousin. My grandma also said this is one of her favorite places in New Orleans to go, especially around St. Paddy’s day.

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The courtyard is the prototypical scene for some R & R on a Friday night in NOLA. There were laid back tunes playing and multi colored lights exuding festive vibes. They immediately welcome each guest with Pat O’s mardi gras beads- the only mardi gras beads either of us would be heading home with,  lol!

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We were told we had to try their Hurricanes, considered one of the staple drinks in the quarters. I had looked up Pat O’s before hand, so I knew they were massive! I told Rach there was no way I was able to even finish half of one and asked if she wanted to split. She said, “It’s one drink, how big can they be?!!”. We both ordered one and as they set them down she looked at me with the widest eyes. Needless to say, we barely put a dent in them, but the few sips we had were delicious!

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And *cue dramatic music*…. the ultimate reason I wanted to go to Pat O’s….. their shrimp and grits!!!!

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It lived up to the hype and the weeks of yearning for the ultimate shrimp & grits experience. Ugh, I can nearly taste them looking back at this picture. If I had to make a suggestion- I would say skip the fine dining and just go straight to Pat O’s.

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We jumped into a little unassuming place next to Pat O’s playing some good ole’ upbeat 90s tunes. We danced for a bit before heading back to the hotel!

We went to bed at a decent hour to get sleep for the next day. The morning of March 31st I woke up bright and early and hit the gym. I considered running outside, but since I’m not always positive where to run and which roads are safe, I just played it safe and ran in the Sheraton gym. I squeezed in about 8 miles, then was ready for some breakfast!

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I decided to walk to the Riverwalk on the GORGEOUS morning and grab some beignets and coffee from Cafe Du Monde for me & Rach (they are famous for their beignets!).

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I even spotted our Cruise Ship on the way!!

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We weren’t the biggest fans of them, sadly… I think the ones I had in Fort Worth were better. They are basically like donuts in flavor and have soft interior/crispier exteriors. I will say their coffee was PHENOMENAL. I would easily go there every day just for a cup of jo’.

After getting ready for the day, we decided to grab some grub at their famous Brunch spot, Atchafalaya! We weren’t able to make reservations, but the wait wasn’t as bad as we expected- only about 45 minutes!

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Atchafalaya is in the Garden District, so we were able to see cute little homes while we waited.

img_2189img_2226img_2225I just adore her yellow hat, can you picture any better outfit for brunching on a Saturday in the South?!

They have a fun little frying pan you can actually sit in too, how creative!

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One of their reasons their brunch is so popular is their epic make your own Bloody Mary bar. I have never made my own bloody, so Rachel helped me big time. I accidentally poured the tabasco instead of letting drips in, so it was spicy spicy, but in my opinion, the spicier the better!

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Rach had their refreshing grapefruit mimosa!

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We weren’t starving, and had no place to store leftovers, so we decided to go pretty easy on brunch. Rach tried their AWESOME potatoes and fruit, and I had their butternut squash salad with a side of poached eggs. It all hit the spot and dat cheese (triple cream) was some of the greatest cheese I have ever tried!!! It was tremendous.

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The rest of the trip may require about three more posts. Next time we go to NOLA, we’d like to do a cemetery tour & see Frenchmen street. If you are planning a trip, we were told NOW is the time to go. The weather was just perfect, and it doesn’t have the crazy traffic of their holidays seasons. Have you ever been to New Orleans?! Have any favorite restaurants/spots/memories to share? Stay tuned for some cruisin’, sunshine, & Cozumel!

xo ❤

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15 Things I Wish I Knew as a New Grad Nurse

One year ago, I began as a baby nurse, every fiber of my being laden with trepidation and excitement. I pulled up my compression socks, laced up my promisingly supportive Brooke’s ghost shoes and stepped foot into the hardest year of my life. I didn’t think anything could be more challenging than nursing school, and I was in for a rude awakening. Everyone says the first year of nursing is the most challenging, but it’s hard to grasp until you are in the throws of the anxiety, incompetence, and fear that plague your every day. There are a few things I wish I had known or someone had told me before I began this year, and maybe, just maybe, this can help some new grad nurse out there on this emotional, wild, and spectacular rollercoaster.

  1. You will make mistakes. For some reason, I didn’t realize that as a new grad nurse, you make mistakes. No one ever said point-blank, buckle up, you’re gonna screw up…. a lot. Maybe people don’t talk about it because we have people’s lives in our hands, and we should strive for perfection. This is true, but I think it would have saved me much of the intense self- badgering if I realized mistakes were inevitable. Don’t get me wrong– always triple check your meds, doctors orders, operate in professionalism, always do your absolute best….. but every little mistake from having an overdue med due to mismanaged time (IT WILL HAPPEN) to forgetting to unclamp your piggyback antibiotic (everyone has done it) to not charting something correctly is an opportunity. Never try to cover it up, make sure your patient is safe first and foremost, and then… learn. Trust me.. you won’t make that mistake again. Do not beat yourself up. Repeat after me… Mistakes= Lessons, Lessons= Growth. You need the mistakes to grow, and each mistake is molding you into a strong, robust, competent nurse. The mistakes will become fewer and farther between, but they never will entirely cease. Neither will the lessons, and neither will the growth.
  2. You will experience a new level of anxiety, but it will get better. Every single day I stepped onto the floor, the anxiety overwhelmed me in a way I have never experienced before; it plagued the crevices of my mind and soul. I felt like I was operating in flight and fight at work AND at home. I couldn’t separate the two, and would often wake up in hot sweats- “Did I return that med?! Did I chart that?! Oh shoot, I forgot to get that patient ice chips!”… I had literal breaks with reality. One time I woke in the middle of the night panicked because I thought I had forgotten to give my husband insulin (he’s not diabetic). But somewhere along the line, I was able to turn the “work” brain off. It took a long time, but now a year later even though I still think about my shifts, it doesn’t carry the same anxiety provoking reflection it did at the beginning. I still shed plenty of tears for my patients on the way home or the next day after a hard stretch of days, but it’s out of mourning for and with them… not from anxiety.
  3. Those impossible skills…. become possible. One of the most frustrating parts of being is a new grad is the lack of agility and the constipated pace of your skills. Tasks that are super “easy” to most seasoned nurses still scare the code brown out of us. Even priming IV tubing seemed like a formidable obstacle when I began (air- in-line alerts sent me straight into cardiac arrest). By the end of the year you will be taking out central lines, hanging blood, straight cathing, and working with PEGs/trachs like it ain’t no thang. Hands on skills were my weakness, I didn’t think I’d ever get the hang of it. But somewhere along the way, I did. And trust me, if I can do it, you can do it.
  4. 12 hour shifts are long, but nursing is a 24-7 job. One thing that I didn’t quite get when I began is nursing is a 24-7 job. Yes, in those 12 hours that belong to you, the weight of people’s lives are in your hands. But always remember— it’s a 24-7 job. Do your best not to pass on any tasks, make sure you give all your shift meds, but if you don’t get around to changing the now expired IV tubing because your patient was physiologically unhinged and you were keeping them from grave, it’s ok. I used to think I literally would get fired if every single little protocol ridden task was not completed. Some days, all you can do it keep someone alive. It’s a 24-7 job. Just remember that.
  5. Yes, you can do another day. Countless times I thought to myself, I don’t know how I can do another day of this. Sometimes we have such a bad first shift in a stretch of three, and we don’t know how we can physically or emotionally handle the next two. But you do. You just do. After enough times of thinking this, and enough times of doing that “next” shift, you start to know that you can, in fact, do another day.
  6. Listen to your patients! Sometimes symptoms are not textbook clear. If a patient says they feel “off”, listen to them, closely. What is off? When did it start? Listen to their concerns, even if they seem unwarranted, because often times they are not. There are clues in conversation, history, and in chats with family that may not show up in vital signs.
  7. Patients listen to you, closely. Patients will ask you so. many. questions. Sure, you may know some, but there are plenty you will have no clue. Do not be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but let me find out!” or direct the question to the proper team. Something I have discovered is when you have those scrubs on, patients take you at your word. Even if you put a disclaimer- such as I’m not 100% sure- or, make sure that’s ok with your primary doctor, or “I think _____” but double check with your pharmacy….. they will only hear the answer part of your statement. Avoid saying those disclaimer statements, because as soon as it is out of your mouth, they will hear my nurse said ____ and take it as truth. It’s better to utilize your resources (call pharmacy, ask your charge, ask the MD) and give them the most informed answer possible.
  8. Listen to your gut. “What gut?” you may be thinking as you have only been a nurse for about a month. Ok, your gut will develop as time goes on (and I’m not just talking from break room potlucks and donuts). If you have that “bad” feeling… investigate why. There are so many times I wish I had just listened to my gut a bit more. Just last week I had a patient who I had a off feeling about. Nothing had changed in their baseline neuro exam or technically by physiological assessment. But I knew something wasn’t quite right. I told the MD, but he had no real basis to conduct any additional tests either. I told the next shift nurse about this feeling too… and the next day when I returned this man was in the ICU. Trust. your. gut.
  9. Nursing Assistants are vitally important. Y’all. I don’t think I understood just how important nursing assistants are before starting this gig. They are massively crucial to our success and the patients’ success. The nursing assistants on my floor are brilliant, many have been working for years and single-handedly keep me afloat some days. I learned (and continue to learn) a tremendous amount from them. Do not be afraid to ask them for their tips/tricks in patient care.
  10. “Thank you” goes a long way. This may seem elementary, but as a nurse, you begin to understand the weight and gravity of a thank you. Give thank-yous out like candy. They are free to give and priceless to receive. Thank your housekeeping staff, your charge nurse, your transporter, your nursing assistants, the previous nurse who tried her best to get loose ends tied up for you, doctor’s, PT/OT who helped your patient walk for the first time since surgery. We are a family in healthcare, and it’s so important to remind them they are all appreciated.
  11. Make recommendations, and happily accept constructive criticism in return. ISBAR- the “R” (for recommendation in communication) is especially hard for a new nurse, but do it anyways. You will get some MDs who will make you feel as if your idea is the worst possible idea they have ever heard. You will also have others who will kindly suggest an alternative. And EVEN some who will accept your recommendation. Regardless of the response, ask them to explain the reason behind the intervention/order/medication, and then thank them for taking the time to explain. It will go a long way in developing rapport among you and the provider.
  12. Go the extra mile. Cue the eye rolls from my nurses in the back. I get it, we already are given an impossible to-do list every day. There is no way to go the “extra mile”. Or is there? When I first began, I barely saw my patient. I only saw the to-do list. I barely had time to be with them, because I was just trying to get it all done. Yes, this is the way of nursing now it seems, but sometimes, just taking the tiny extra seconds to hold their hand and say, “How are you” at the beginning of a shift or offering an extra pillow can make all the difference. This one takes time to conquer, but you’ll get there. I am still learning how to do this, and it takes reminding myself daily to just look the patient in the eye and not just to examine their pupils.
  13. ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS. Not sure how I didn’t have this listed as number one… but ask every question. Do not assume ANYTHING. You will feel like you are grating the nerves of some other nurses, but you will learn who your best resources are. Remember, a little annoyance is nothing in comparison to someone’s life. Even the slightest bit of doubt, check it out!
  14. ‘You time’ is necessary time! “On the clock” for us is a fight of life vs. death. When you are off the clock embrace your life- do what you need to do to take care of you. Go for a walk outdoors, exercise, do yoga, pray, write a letter to your friend who lives far away, get a massage (get multiple massages), pedicures, go out for a nice dinner, nourish your body with healthy foods (and nourish your soul with dessert), travel, or do nothing at all. Find what helps you relax and disconnect. I didn’t want to be social at all for a good six months and found myself in a hole of isolation and depression. I didn’t think I had the energy to do anything. But once I started making plans, planning trips, etc. things started turning around quite a bit. Find what works for you!
  15. It’s worth it. Oh my sweet fellow baby nurse, you don’t know if you will survive, but you will. I know it’s hard to believe, but things will get better. People would say that, and I just didn’t believe them. Have faith. You are stronger than you think. This year, yes it is hard, it’s probably the hardest thing you have ever done, but it’s worth it. When you see your competence start blooming, so will your confidence. When a patient tells you that they will never forget you, it’s the most rewarding feeling in the world. Through this whole process you are impacting countless lives and countless lives will impact yours. Soon you will have forever-in-your-heart moments, unforgettable connections to patients, and “good” days under your belt, or stethoscope rather. Write them down and remember them. Because at the end of the long twelve hour shift day, there is no amount of fear, anxiety, or bad days that can overshadow the honor it is to save a life.

Go get em, Rockstar! You’ve got this!

Ohh, and never use the “Q” word. Never, ever, ever use the “Q” word.