Our Texas Christmas- Part 2!

hey y’all! I am soo far behind on these posts, and I feel like I’m moving at a snail’s pace getting them out. My goal is to catch up before starting back up at school in a few days! Oh, and this is entirely foodie laden, so have your snacks in hand need be 😉

The last post ended after an awesome run Christmas Day. Around 3:00/4:00 pm, a couple neighbors came over to have lots of appetizers & a phenomenal dinner.

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My mom’s neighbor brought over this gorgeous cheese spread with olives and tomato garnish with a wonderful oil drizzle. It was the best cheese spread ever.

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My mom also made her homemade guac which is to-die-for.

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We went out onto the patio to enjoy some wine, scrumptious appetizers, and great conversation.

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Dinner time! We had roasted green beans & potatoes…

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Dinner rolls.. (a must)..

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Wild rice…

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Roasted butternut squash & craisins…

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Halibut for us pescatarians.. (gosh this was guuuud)…

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And beautiful Cornish hens for the meat eaters! I tried a tiny bite of DJ’s out of curiosity, and although I don’t care for the taste of meat usually, this was very tasty! DJ kept talking about how much he loved them too.

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That is a meal I will remember for a looong time. After dinner we played What Do You Meme? OFFICIALLY my favorite game.

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Dessert was a mix of Christmas cookies, french silk pie, and Pete’s famous pumpkin crunch.

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Pete’s pumpkin crunch is one of the things I look forward to most during the holidays. It’s basically pumpkin pie meets cake meets alll your dreams come true. Ya just load it up with cool whip and you are good to go!

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In the evening we started A Star Is Born. We only made it halfway through before going to sleep. Even from the first half of the movie I was amazed by Lady Gaga’s acting & of course Bradley Cooper was outstanding as always. The story line was gripping.

In the morning of December 26th, we went for a nice long run and then I had some of my mom’s vegan pesto pizza & a couple hard boiled egg whites for a protein boost.

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The day was sooo relaxing. We lounged around most of the day, watched an episode of The Great British Baking show, I blogged a bit, and then in the evening we went to Fogo De Chao. The weather was horrible getting there (there were tornado warnings all over the place, but has that ever stopped us from hunting down food?!). We have all been talking about going here for a while since my mom, Pete, and DJ haven’t tried a Brazilian Steakhouse before. So we all thought why not give it a try! (I had been to one in high school when I still ate meat that was incredible, but was dying to try it out again! Their veggie options are tremendous too).

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You can choose to do the meat + feijoda bar or just the feijoda bar (veggies galore, meats, cheeses, smoked salmon, unique dishes, hot dishes, breads, etc.). If you choose to do the meats, they come around with multiple cuts of amazing meats, and if you have your card on the “green” side (meaning you would like a cut of the meat off the skewer) or they pass your table if you have the “red” side (meaning I’m okay…. for now).

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The brought out these bread rolls, pao de quiejo, which I was immediately obsessed with. They were so light, delicious, fluffy, and had a cheddar flavor that lingered on the tongue after a bite.

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Here are some pics from the bar! Some of my favorites were the smoked salmon, beets, hearts of palm, and various cheeses.

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Since we came on a Wednesday, bottles of wine were half off- woohoo!!! We split a Chilean red, and oh MY, I’ve heard Chile wine is great from my sister who has been there, but goodnessss, this stuff was top-notch.

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The picture below shows an example of them coming by with the skewer and meat being shaved off table side! You can see on the table that DJ has the green side up meaning he would, in fact, like more meat.

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They also brought out some sides from the kitchen that blew our socks off. The polenta sticks may have been my favorite, the caramelized bananas were sweet and delicious, and the creamy garlic mashed potatoes probably speak for themselves!

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Once we came home I snuck in a couple snuggles with this little pup. She loves me, I promise… even though she looks a bit unsure… haha.

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We finished A Star is Born that evening too. Talk about a tear jerker!! Goodness that movie is so well done and so darn emotive. Have tissues if you watch.

Questions for you:

  • Best movie or TV show you’ve watched recently?

xo <3

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Our Texas Christmas!

Hey All! I left off from our arriving in Texas after our Cleveland trip.

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In the evening of Christmas Eve we attended the candlelight ceremony at my Mom and Pete’s church. (Love my sister photo bombing us… It was like she was there, lol!). I realllly did miss her so much- her and Kevin went to Peru to spend Christmas with his fam. We face-timed the day of though, and it was fun to virtually meet some of Kevin’s family!

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The Candlelight service is one of my favorites of the whole year.

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The service & music was just moving- my eyes sweated a few times during the ceremony for sure. Easily one of my favorite hours of the entire Christmas season- taking time to worship & remember the true meaning of this chaotic, fun, wonderful season.

When we returned home my mom put out the most delicious shrimp cocktail & cheese with a pepper jam and crackers. Okay- I neeed to get that pepper jam! This is such a scrumptious appetizer to whip up; I’m gonna remember this for next time we host!

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I also had to share the Christmas table my mom assembled. Each set of plates is unique, and they were not all bought from the same place. Look how beautifully it all goes together though!

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I always get home decor tips/tricks from her when I visit.

For dinner we had grilled romaine with parmesan cheese and tomatoes (post the romaine scare- don’t worry it was the safe stuff 😉 ).

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For the guys, Pete made some mouth-watering lamb tenderloin. DJ raves about Pete’s grilling.

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My mom made the vegan version for us!!! Below are little seitan riblets. Gooooodness gracious, I think this is my favorite faux meat dish everr.

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We had some of my mom’s famous cornbread… I could eat this straight out of the pan with a spoon. It’s insanely good.

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Roasted potatoes with rosemary, yum!…

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And the whole doggone delicious spread!..

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After dinner we watched the movie BlacKkKlansman. It is a really thought-provoking movie, with a fast paced, intriguing story line, and a gut-wrenching, powerful ending. It’s one of those endings you forget to breathe.

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After getting a deep night sleep, we woke up to Christmas!

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Our usual pattern for Christmas morning is presents, breakfast, stockings. This year we made an Instapot egg casserole with bacon for the guys and a veggie egg casserole for us.

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Time for stockings!!  They are so sweet to still do them for us even as adults <3 Pete and my mom make one for each other each year too which I think is just precious.

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Stocking stuffers! Look at all those See’s Candies suckers! *heart eyes*

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In the afternoon, I went on a 7-mile training run.

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I don’t know what was in the air, but I was just having the smoothest of runs while I was there. Christmas night was tons of fun, but I’ll save that for the next post 🙂

Question for you:

  • What’s your favorite thing you’ve done so far this year? cheesy question, I knoww 😉

xo <3

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Our Cleveland Christmas!

Happy New Year, my friends!! I am crazy behind on getting posts out, but this coming week I think I’ll be able to recap our Christmas festivities & New Years 🙂 December 20th we headed to the airport. Our Uber was a Tesla– kinda fun riding in one! However, the driver took a wrong turn and then tried to cover it up by saying there was some specific drop off for Teslas at the airport? There wasn’t, and he dropped us off on the International side, not domestic. Hence, we had to take the tram to get back to the Domestic terminal. Oh well, at least we got to see the beautifully lit up International side.

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We got to the airport with plenty of time because we were nervous about the holiday travel. The airport really wasn’t bad at all, and we were at our gate in no time. We went to our favorite little restaurant in the San Francisco airport, Mission Bar and Grill. I had a big salad right before we left to use up all our veggies, but DJ grabbed some tacos. All their food is always so fresh & delicious.

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We had a red eye and quite literally had red eyes at the end of it. Everything that could lead to lack of sleep happened to a comical degree– wailing babies (not just crying- wailing) (I know they can’t help it though), turbulence, the only lady that felt the need to read the entire flight with the bright light was in our row… needless to say we were a bit exhausted when we finally landed at around 5 am on December 21st. The only saving grace was having episodes of The Great British Baking Show downloaded onto my phone.

It felt so good to see this sign that means we are home!

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My mom-in-law picked us up from the airport and once we were back at the house we slept… and slept… and slept. We slept from 7 am to about 2 pm. It was weird waking up with only a few hours of daylight left! That evening we were getting together with my Dad’s side of the family for Christmas. We were doing a double white elephant gift exchange this year (1 funny, 1 nicer gift), and I realized I forgot our joke gift back in CA. Mom B to the rescue with a cute little tree she had at her house that she offered to give away. DJ and I ran to the nearest gas station to get lottery tickets so we could decorate it.

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We all met at my cousins’ home, and it was just so special spending time with everyone together. I was so darn excited that there were Peppernuts, the traditional cookie my family used to make all together every year. Even though time & distance doesn’t allow us to get together for the baking day, my Aunt Pam made sure to have large tins full so we could all take some to go.

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Gotta get a cheesy family picture with the cookies, right?!

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I have so missed them all.

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We also got to spend some quality time with my older sister, Andrea. I think it had been two years since we have seen each other!

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Dinner was so stinking yummy. We had pasta, pizza of all varieties from the favorite local pizza chain (my favorite was the artichoke- mmmm mmm!), salad, and a few other sides. It was perfect.

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We had my niece and nephew open their gifts first, then we did the white elephant exchange.

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Cuties <3 They always melt my heart.

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We went back to my brothers house and played some card games before heading back. We returned probably at 2:30 (ish) in the morning. We slept until about 11 am on December 22nd. I’m tellin’ ya- travel and the time change threw us all off!

In the morning, we woke up to a beautiful snowfall!!! It made me so happy to see snow. I do miss it (I just don’t miss the cold that comes with it 😉 ).

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We went to DJ’s Dad’s home to spend time with that side of the family for the day. It was great spending that time with them, especially since they moved from CA back to OH this past summer. DJ’s younger sisters are now going to the same high school I went to and have some of my previous friends as teachers- it’s been fun discussing that and making connections.

In the evening back at my MIL’s, we enjoyed some phenomenal desserts (including her FAMOUS pumpkin pie) and played Codenames (seriously LOVE that game).

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On the 23rd we woke up early to get in our training run- 14 miles- then went to my Dad-in-laws home for a few hours before heading to the Cavs game that evening!

This was a pretty spur of the moment event. We were offered tickets from our family and although we had to change our flights from CLE to TX around a bit this was just an opportunity we could not pass up.

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We arrived early and grabbed some delicious food at the Bacardi Ocho lounge.

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I had a ton of sushi & then downed some delicious crostini with smoked salmon & quinoa that was cooked perfectly.

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Game Time!

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We lost, but it was an unforgettable experience.

For our last evening in OH we opened the cutest stockings & gifts with the fam and Pool Noodle while sipping on champagne all together. It was a wonderful evening before our early flight.

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Oh, and I had to share this picture below we found back from 2011 I believe.

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Our rearranged flight left in the morning at 6 am heading to Dallas/Fort Worth.

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We had a layover in Washington and it was fun to see the Washington Monument and Capitol building as we were being shuttled to our gate.

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We arrived to DFW airport at around 11 am on December 24th. My mom and Pete picked us up from the airport. Once home, we were greeted by my mom’s annual mouth-watering cookie display & my sweet pup, Jade. UGH, I missed that dog!

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We snacked & ate a hodge-podge of items- my mom always has yummy vegetarian treats on hand & DJ and Pete had BLTs.

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After fueling up I went on an incredible seven-miler. Something about the warm air was just invigorating. I’ll finish up our Christmas eve in the next post.

Questions for you!

  • Travel pet peeves?
  • Best White Elephant gift you’ve ever given/received?

xo <3

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Lotsa Pho & Homemade Soufflé Pancakes!

** SO I wrote this post on the 20th and totally forgot to publish it, so here it is over a week later, haha**

Can four posts in 24 hours be done?! I am tryin’! I have 45 minutes before I am heading to Boys and Girls Club, so I’m gonna try to get this done really quick. Although I’ll probably publish it in a couple days to give ya a breather from all the Disney excitement 😉

After saying our goodbyes to the fam on the evening of the 8th, Amy, DJ, and I all headed to the airport at around 6 am on December 9th. Amy and I were starting to feel that ominous “tickle” in the back of the throat. We loaded up on Vitamin C packs to take with our generous 2 ounces of complimentary water on the plane.

I thought this little set up at our gate was adorable!

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Luckily the seat next to DJ and me wasn’t occupied, so Amy joined us! Unluckily, I felt like absolute crud, so I was a bump on the log and barely moved the entire flight. I studied what I could and then just slept.

The only food that sounded appetizing once we were home was pho. Pho is the ultimate comfort food when sick, especially from House of Pho (hands down the best Pho around).

I also had to get the fresh tofu spring rolls. They always look so darn good in Hunida’s posts, and had me craving some of those too. They were so tasty and refreshing. The peanut sauce was on point.

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We door-dashed it, as we had ZERO energy. I chose the vegetarian option. It was just what I was craving, and I always feel like eating spicy pho helps to clear out the sinuses and kill the bad germs. I don’t think there is any science behind that theory, but I’m stickin’ to it. I felt almost instantly better after eating the noods.

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DJ ordered a chicken pho that he really enjoyed.

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Later that evening DJ got hungry again so I whipped him up Chicken Tikka Masala with Naan from TJ’s. I always like to have fast meals on hand for when I’m not in the mood to cook. TJ’s comes in clutch with frozen meals, especially during this crayzayyy time of year. This gets a 8/10 from DJ. I absolutely love the naan. For being frozen naan I think it’s as good as it gets!

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December 10th I spent the entire day studying away. Just studied, studied, studied! In the evening I made DJ a cheese tortellini with parmesan crisps.

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I had the second half of my leftover pho. The serving they gave in this delivery was very generous!

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December 11th I took my final!!! It went really well, and I am very thankful it is behind me now. A couple months ago I was debating if I should go to Disney because of the final, but I’m glad I made it work because it would have been horrible to miss out on such a wonderful  family trip. That is something my undergraduate self would have never dreamed of doing- look Ma, I’m more balanced!

In the evening I made Deej his favorite tacos per request. How he isn’t sick of these by now is beyond me.

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I was craving fresh raw veggies since I was finally feeling better. I had a big salad with a bean burger and hummus.

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December 12th I ran some errands in the afternoon to restock on groceries. I spent the rest of the evening catching up on laundry and all that fun stuff. In the evening I made Deej a cajun style pasta. He gave this pasta a 9/10.

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On December 13th, I grabbed a coffee in the morning and went for a walk while listening to podcasts. Perfect start to the morning. I also went to TJ Maxx to peruse for gifts & get a new planner after.

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After, I zipped to Santana Row to look around there for gifts. The five level parking garage was FULL midday. That is unheard of! Tis’ the season. This reminds me why I always try to get shopping done a few weeks before Christmas. People— people everywhere…

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On my way home I ran to the post office to drop some packages off and make some returns.

Friday the 14th was a fun day! I completed an 18-miler for marathon training, and then caught up on blogging. In the evening I made DJ a Shepherd’s pie from TJ’s. He rated it a 6/10. Probably not a rebuy for us. I had my big ole’ veggie mix again. I get on kicks with that salad. Mmmmm ! I’m already excited to have it in a few hours.

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We made sugar cookies from scratch and then decorated them. I just love the cookie making tradition 🙂 I would have made more, but since we are traveling the rest of December it didn’t really make sense. Every time at this year I am reminiscent of our Mingle & Jingle. One year I would like to do something like that again!

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Saturday December 15th I woke up early, worked on a blog post while watching The Great British Baking Show and enjoyed oatmeal & coffee out on the balcony.

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Saturday was a super lazy day for us, but much needed. I don’t even remember much of what we did- I’m going to guess Arrested Development & eating sugar cookies was in the mix.

Sunday the 16th was our Christmas Creative at church. I always love the Christmas Creative every year! Our Pastor says it’s the time of year when “we let the creatives out”, hah. They tell the Christmas story through gifts of singing, dancing, acting, video, etc. The talent just astounds me.

With no in-post segue (who has time for that?) I’m sad to inform you we found out some terrible news. You know the soufflé pancakes we just discovered and are obsessed with? Apparently, that was only a pop up location. They are moving out 🙁

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WELL. Are we gonna let this get us down?! NO… heck to the NAH. We are just gonna have to make our own! I looked up a recipe for soufflé pancakes and gave them a shot. I was ambitious and tried to make them in Christmas shapes. I forgot to grease the cookie cutters, so they didn’t come out perfectly shaped (womp womp), but were still a success from the flavor and texture standpoint!!!

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They were so fluffy, light, and tasted just like the ones we had! I definitely have room to improve, but I am excited they turned out as well as they did.

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This was the second batch which looks much more like the original ones we tried from Koja.

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On Monday December 17th, I did a HITT routine in the morning then met up with our campus Pastor, Amy, in the afternoon for some lunch & to catch up. We went to SoFa, a place in San Jose that is like a nice cafeteria set up with the yummiest foods to choose from.

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We both decided to nom down some poke. I usually go for ahi tuna when I get poke, but they had octopus on the menu which I had to try. It was absolutely satisfying.

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I caught up on more blogging in the afternoon & evening.

Tuesday December 18th I woke up early. I mixed up my usual oatmeal breakfast to use up some of the food we already had on hand. I made an egg white omelette with a bunch of veggies, hummus, and a slice of Ezekiel bread with low sugar raspberry jam.

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I went for a run in the afternoon. It was a gorgeous day!

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Yesterday the 19th I was running around like a nut trying to get everything ready to go for Christmas and traveling. And that brings us to today, the 20th! We leave later tonight to go back to Cleveland. It’s a red eye so I’m a bit nervous about the lack of sleep I’m facing especially with the time change, but I’ll just take it in stride per usual.

Question for you:

  • Favorite holiday tradition?

xo <3

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Friday Favorites #17!

Oooohhhh hello there. Thank you for taking a few seconds out of your crazy schedule to stop in and visit lil’ ole me. And I wish you a very happy friday to youuuu! I am sitting in the airport right now waiting for our flight. I am hoping to finish this up by the time we board so I can have it published for the morning. So without further adieu, let’s get to the faves!

  1. No Cow Chocolate Fudge Brownie. So I was mad at No Cow bar for a bit after they changed their initial formula. WELL, I think they changed it again because I tried a few other flavors beyond my trusty lemon meringue, and I am now team No Cow Bar hard core again. I love the lemon, blueberry, raspberry chocolate, and this double chocolate fudge brownie bar is literal dessert.

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2. Sabra’s Caramelized Onion Hummus. I tried to make homemade hummus this week, and it was no bueno. I tweaked it enough to make it edible, but had a hummus hankerin’ that it was not satisfying. So I froze it like I do basically everything. I went to the store and found this baby, and as the container shows, it only lasted a few days. This is my new favorite flavor for sure.

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3. Bible Reading Plan. I discovered an App that puts together a reading plan for you by themes (you can choose other ways for how you would like to read). I have never read through thematically before, and the way it highlights how the New and Old Testament are interwoven is blowing my mind. I am just loving reading the Bible in this way.

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4. My girl Rach got sent me this ornament for Christmas! I am so touched! She wrote in the card that she didn’t get it because I’m flaky but because it was punny. Does she know me or what?! LOVE it, love her.

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5. This week I have loved writing the Disney recaps. Being able to reflect on each day has helped tremendously with even remembering those little moments that can flee from the memory quickly. You can find all the parts of the Disney travels below.

Universal Studios Part One

Harry Potter World

Animal Kingdom

Epcot

Magic Kingdom

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6. Dis’ Sourdough bread from TJ’s. It’s so tasty!

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7. I received this Alex and Ani Cleveland Indians bracelet from one of my best (and longest) friends, Melissa, as an early birthday gift. How stinkin’ cute is this?!?! It is so treasured and I will wear it proudly!

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8. My TV obsession this week goes to The Great British Baking Show. Have you watched?!?! I watched the last two seasons (you can watch each season exclusively), and I am living for this show.

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9. This meme. Mine is bottom right, no doubt.

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10. Hunida sent me the sweetest little goodie bag & card for the holidays. I mean, my heart is absolutely melted! How. dang. thoughtful!! I just love this girl. If you don’t follow her blog ya need to right nowww. Isn’t blogging just the best for forming friendships like this? I am thankful for this one!

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Have a wonderful holiday weekend & A VERY Merry Christmas, friends. And I know the holidays can be tough and heighten the rough times too- so I’m praying for those that may be feeling a little more dejected during this season, that may have lost loved ones, or are just going through anything at all. Sending you all my love & hugs!

xo <3

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Magic Kingdom & Vacation Wrap Up!

Five days till’ Christmas! Can ya even wrap your noggin’ around it?! We leave this evening to go back to OH, and I have two more posts to whip up before then. Thankfully I am all packed, so now is devoted to time to write! My favorite 🙂

After Epcot, we walked back to our hotel (only about a half-mile away) and soaked up the gorgeous golden sunset on our way.

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We passed through the boardwalk on our way back. This boardwalk had a fun, relaxing, carnival inspired vibe. And it’s way cleaner and nicer than typical touristy boardwalks.

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Since DJ and I arrived to Disney later than everyone else, we didn’t have the chance to ride the Tower of Terror with them earlier in the week. Luckily, we had a bit of time before dinner, so we decided to go to Hollywood Studios to ride the legendary ride!

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I LOVED Tower of Terror. That and Avatar were my two favorites. Now I finally understand what the hype is all about!

We decided to eat on the Boardwalk at Big River Grille. My picture didn’t come out great since it was dimly lit, but I had a salmon salad. I was craving some greens after all the sugar and carbs that day, and that hit the spot. We ate outside, and although it was a chilly evening, the space heaters definitely helped keep us toasty.

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We even witnessed a beautiful fireworks display.

We all went back to the hotel and watched The Office for a bit. I couldn’t keep my eyes open; insomnia didn’t have a chance to set in that night! On Saturday December 8th  I woke up feeling refreshed & ready to go. I woke up early to run and study, and then we all met up to go to Magic Kingdom.

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I know I keep saying it, but I just loved all the Christmas decor.

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Cinderella’s castle!!

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First ride: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This was a fun little coaster for sure!

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And now… for another favorite- Splash Mountain!!!

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This picture below cracks me up every. single. time.

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After this we headed over to the Haunted Mansion ride.

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On the way we saw the big parade!

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*cue the spooky sounds- ooooOOoooOoooOOOooo*

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It was, again, a very immersive ride. I cannot get over the design & creativity of everything in Disney.

For lunch we went to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. Below pictured is the loaded fries- they had flaming hot cheetos on top! YUM!

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They even had a vegan sloppy joe. Score.

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We tried to ride Space Mountain, but it was shut down for the day. Always need an excuse to go back 😉

We perused the park a bit more before heading back.

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Here are more shots we grabbed from around the resort on our way back…

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There is an endless amount of activities for all ages.

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DJ and I decided to squeeze in a game of mini golf across the street before dinner. We hadn’t been in ages!

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SO much fun. I forgot how much I loved this game. DJ only won by only a hair!

For one last hurrah, we had dinner at the spectacular restaurant, Il Mulino located in the Swan hotel (sister of the Dolphin where we stayed). OH.my.goodness. Easily the best Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to!

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They started us with a little complimentary appetizer that had salami on one side and eggplant antipasto on the other. The eggplant- sooo tasty.

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The bread had several options, and I opted for the pizza bread. I could have ate five slices for my meal alone. I savored every little nibble.

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Two orders of meatballs for the table!

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The caprese almost looked like mouse ears! I don’t know if they did that on purpose, but an excellent presentation nonetheless. It sure was refreshing!

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I have been wanting to try truffle oil pasta for a while now. Sometimes I will go down truffle pasta rabbit holes on Instagram. I found a few places in SF that have it, so I said for my birthday I would like to go to one of the to try it. However, when I saw Rigatoni con Funghi with truffle oil on the menu, I didn’t hesitate in deciding what to order! And it lived up to, if not surpassed, my expectations! Now I have to find a new food to stalk 😉

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The Deej ordered the tortellini alla panna with meat tortellini and peas in a cream sauce. So good! I definitely had a bite (or two).

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Dessert though… WOW was this ever next level tastebud explosions. We split the cheesecake, tiramisu, and flourless chocolate cake. I don’t think I could choose a favorite…. it was all actual perfection.

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Final group photo for the trip <3 This was truly an unforgettably magical week.

Question for you:

  • What is an item on your food bucket list?

xo <3

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Epcot!

Happy happy Thursday, aka Epcot post day!! I am just sooo excited about this post. When we got to Epcot I told DJ I couldn’t believe I didn’t know about this place’s existence until this trip…. it is literally a foodie’s paradise!!! I could have killed an entire week in this park alone.

We took the ferry over from our hotel to the park. I highly suggest staying in Disney (on one of their hotel properties) if you are going to visit because all transportation is taken care of, painless, easy and decently quick. You can take a ferry or a bus to the parks at almost any hour of the day. Saves so much time & money in dealing with parking or uber/lyft!

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So the entire park is set up to take you from country to country. Each “country” is created so that it feels as though you are actually there. Its unreal (quite literally unreal, but they fool you well 😉 ). You get a taste of traveling across the world without actually leaving the US. My two favorite things were in one single place- “traveling” and foooood! At the end of the day, I told DJ it was one of my favorite memories/days of all time.

We briefly passed through the UK on the way to our first fast pass! I had to get the famous “telephone booth” photo, of course! One day I WILL actually visit. Where my UK bloggers at?! Holllaaa

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Our fast pass was for Test Track. For this you get to design your vehicle and then “test” while competing against other cars. The car below is the one DJ, my MIL and I created. I mean getttta load of these hot wheels 😉

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It was such a fun ride. We competed against others in our group which made it all the more competitive, naturally.

Now for Space Mountain! Unfortunately, someone had an “episode” on the ride right before us… so the clean up crew had to come in before we could ride. It stalled the ride for probably about thirty minutes. Finally, we got to embark! I am a bit claustrophobic and didn’t realize how enclosed the space was.. but I just tried to calm myself down and reminded myself I was fine. I am much better with the small spaces than when I was as a kid- I used to have a really hard time with even elevators. Anyways, that ride was in-stinking-tense!!! But totally worth it.

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After the ride we ran into some friends from college (fun!), then went to Club Cool to sample coca colas from around the world.

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The flavors were all super unique. I think my favorite was the Fanta Melon Frosty from Thailand, yummmy!

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Now we trottin’ through Mexico. Although it felt weird not stopping for Mexican food when available (one of our faves) we decided to try all the unique food before going back to the food we have access to usually, ya know?.

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Hence, a stop in Norway was absolutely mandatory.

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We walked into the bakery there, Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe, and were greeted by wonderful scents of sugary baking bread.

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We tried the lefse, a norweigan flatbread stuffed with cinnamon and sugar. It was light & scrumptious.

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We split an authentic Norweigan cider while we were at it. The pairing of the lefse and cider was fantastic; it was super refreshing and delicious on that hot day.

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China time!

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Oh my, was it beautiful. The intricacies, once again, took my breath away!

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I have had my eye on bao for a while now. When I saw it on the menu I had to get it for us to try! Even though it had meat, I still tried a nibble, but mostly ate the bun with the sauce which was delish in its own right. I will say– I don’t think this particular bao is as good as they come, but I loved trying it out nonetheless. The bao bun I had in SJ was wayyy more tasty. I think we need to make our way to SF soon to try more.

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Can you guess where next?

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Germany it is! Here we tried an authentic potato dumpling, and I think this was my favorite thing we had all day. Man, was that ever tasty. I think it was the texture & savory mushroom mix gravy I loved so much.

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When the moon hits your eyes like a big pizza pie that’s amore!!! Welcome to Italy, my friends 🙂

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If we had one more day here I would have LOVED to spend a day (or at least a full meal) in Italy. I bet the pizza there was delicious!

We did, however, split our first ever sangria. I gotta say, I wasn’t a huge fan. It was tripping my brain out… is this juice? Not quite! Is this wine? Not quite!!

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Of course, we saluted the US as we passed through, but didn’t stop to eat anything. Gotta leave room for things our taste buds have never explored.

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On to.. JAPAN TOWN! This past year I have grown a fondness and appreciation for Japan. Tokyo is easily #2 on my travel bucket list (after all of the Mediterranean). One day, one day…

We didn’t get any Japanese food because we actually have it quite often here in the Bay Area.

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There was a fun drum recital that played while we were there. Definitely added to the whole authentic experience!

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^^ Don’t know who those people are, but hope they had a good day ruining my perfect Epcot photo. JK JK.

Aaand we are off to Morocco! Oh my do I love Moroccan culture & food. We had it for the first time in Dallas actually, but have sought it out since. Remember our run in with the belly dancer a couple years ago?

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Onto France! LOVED France <3 (ok, let’s be real, I loved every second of every single moment being there). Anyways, this is the place to go for the baked goods for suuure.

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we had to try a delicious crepe, duhhh!

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And this brings us back to the United Kingdom!

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After exploring the UK a bit more thoroughly, we ventured into Canada

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Then we split a shrimp & guac arepa from the Columbia stand right before Mexico.

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Ok Ok, we gave in and had to have some Mexican cuisine 😉 We enjoyed some bombbb margaritas and tacos. I ate the salad and queso (such freaking good queso) & DJ had the tacos. mmmmm!

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This is quite long- I’ll stop here! I’ll wrap up our evening and the rest of the trip in my next post (I think!). I have sooo much to fill y’all in on. I adamantly told DJ I am gonna stay up all night if it takes me to write up these posts before we leave tomorrow to head back to Ohio. Bring on the all-nighter!

Question for you:

  • Which “Country” would you be most interested in trying out?

xo <3

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Animal Kingdom!

Hey hey!!! I was putting this post together and realized it was basically 99% food pics per usual. I shook my head and thought to myself, “ya dun it again, kid”. I guess food is just too darn photogenic, but I’ll fill in the gaps with words (also per usual) haha. Y’all have your snacks ready? Let’s gooo!

After wizarding our way through Harry Potter World we passed through Jurassic Park and The Comic Book Land to ride the Hulk Ride (what a blast!) & then went back to the hotel. We were all pretty tired and chilled to the bone after the cool day. We decided to order takeout from a hotel restaurant and stay in the cozy community room to play CodeNames with the whole gang. If you guys haven’t played this game, ya need to! It’s soo much fun and perfect to whip out with the family for the holidays (or anytime).

For our meals we ordered from Todd English’s Blue Zoo (located within the hotel). I had the Blackened Florida Grouper and da-da-dannng was it ever delicious. It came with black eyed pea puree, polenta “johnny” cake, jumbo lump crab meat, and creole cream. Every bite was heaven.

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DJ had the lobster carbonara. Obvi, it was good. I mean it has “lobster” and “carbonara” in its name after all. Can’t go wrong with that!

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After several rounds of seriously our new favorite game ever, we called it a night. I definitely slept more that night than the one before! On December 6th I woke up at 6:45 am (3:45 my time… oy vey!) to study & get my training run in for the day. It was worth it though when followed by a stellar breakfast (and lots and lots of coffee). We had a hotel breakfast with my mom-in-law and stepdad in law, Gordie, before meeting up with the rest of the group. This breakfast had so many nomz!!! Here is a little roundup.

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Gosh, this breakfast was sooo tasty & fresh & delicious. Mmmm! I love the combo of a muffin, fruit, yogurt, and granola.

Time for Animal Kingdom!

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Immediately after going through the entrance we were greeted by a walking tree. Only in Disney!

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And thennn we were greeted by the tree of life!

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We first went to Dinoland to ride the Dinosaur ride. Too fun!

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Then we headed in the direction of Expedition Everest. This may have been the ride I was most excited for yet.

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SOOO. much. fun! Also that kids face in the back….poor thing doesn’t know what he got himself into. hahah.

We walked around a bit more and had lunch at the Tusker House Cafe.

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This buffet had alll the goodies- there was something for everyone! I loved every bite, but their hummus was particularly yummy!

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Time for the Safari ride. Buckle up!

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This guy below is definitely my Monday mood.

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I was amazed at how close we were able to get to the animals.

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It’s a real life Lion King!!! Naaaaaaants ingonyama bagithi baba

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The whole fam in front of the tree of life 🙂 <3 Just love this group so much.

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PANDORA TIME! I love love loveeed the movie Avatar when I saw it for the first time. I remember watching it when I was in high school.. I was home on a weekend recovering from being sick and just got lost in the beautiful world while lying on the couch like a log. I was awestruck by this recreation of Pandora at Disney. My pictures do not even come close to doing any type of justice. It’s just one of those things y’all will have to see for yourselves 😉 Blogger meet up in Disney?!

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Below are some epic adult beverages you can grab at the stand Pongu Pongu in Pandora. They have boba right on top. On your left is the Rum Blossom and on the right is the Mo’ara Margarita. Mmmm!

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*PS. Thank you to the fam for being so patient and helpful ( and for being hand models) through the trip*

Time to head to the Avatar Flight of Passage. ok….WOAH. Where do I find the words?! This is easily one of the coolest VR rides ever ever ever. I didn’t know this type of technology existed?!?! If you go to Animal Kingdom you HAVE to ride this ride. Definitely get the fast past though, because the regular line is crazyyy long (rightfully so). This and Tower of Terror were probably my two favorite rides from the week. Although Escape from Gringotts was up there too.

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After going back to the hotel we got dressed up then went to Shula’s within the hotel for dinner to celebrate DJ’s sister, Renee’s, birthday! I love that her birthday fell during the trip- we rarely get to see her with all our crazy schedules, nonetheless on her birthday, so the fact that we could celebrate ALL together was very special <3

We started off with warm, fluffy, perfect bread… *insert drool face* good lawd. That bread… I will dream of it for all of my days…

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For an appetizer DJ and I split the seafood trio of shrimp cocktail, crab meat, and lobster tail served with a trio of sauces. My mouth is watering all over again!

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For my main, I had maybe the most delicious scallops I have ever tasted..

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DJ’s steak… (once again, probably needs no description 😉 ).

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And sides that will blow your socks off!! Crab mac and cheese.. me oh my was this ever good! Holy moly, I could have ate that as my meal alone!

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& Some scrumptious asparagus..

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Dessert was a chocolate souffle DJ and I split. 2018 has been the year of souffles—savory, sweet, and pancaked! If it’s on the menu, we basically have to try it. We compared this to Cafe Jacqueline– yes .. that good!

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Picture is a bit pixelated since I stole it from the good ole’ f-book, but ya get the idea 😉

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We slept so well that night after such a phenomenal meal. In the morning, DJ and I snuck in a run then grabbed some coffee from Fuel downstairs in the lobby. That coffee touched my very souuul. No no, that statement is not dramatic at all.

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DJ enjoyed a ham and cheese sandwich, and I had some leftover breakfast from the day before- fruit, granola, and yogurt.

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Next we go to Epcot!!! Wooohoo!! I probs should edit this post, but I’m too excited to share.. so we’ll just post it with all errors and whatnot, k?!

Question for you:

  • Favorite Disney movie of all time?

xo <3

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Harry Potter World!!! (mostly)

Okay all, hold on tight to the Portkey, as I am transporting us Muggles to Harry Potter world today! (and finishing up the rest of our time in Universal).

We left off in “San Francisco”. A bit past SF you will see King’s Cross– the first hint of our entrance into the fantasy land! There are a few little Harry Potter references in a crossway that leads to other side of Universal. If you directly cross through King’s Cross you will end up in HP land.

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Knight Bus, anyone?!

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I am forever convinced this is the creepiest creation below in all of HP… even above the noseless He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named.

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Before exploring HP land through King’s Cross, we decided to first explore that side of Universal Studios. We entered into Krustyland- a Simpsons Fan’s dream. I have never watched an episode of the Simpsons, but it was still fun!

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For lunch we had Moe’s, which is a big cafeteria providing many options that are odes to Simpson’s food. (sorry to all the innocent bystanders that I captured in my photos- whoops)

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I was still able to sniff out a vegetarian option. I had some hummus and pita with a veggie sandwich that was tasty & filling. I did notice that nearly everywhere we went in Universal Studios and Disney had accommodating options for people who don’t eat meat.

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But most would opt for their delectable burgers & curly fries! This is the “Clogger Burger” below. That name…. hahah.

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The big group of us also all had a try of the Lard Lad Donut!

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It was so yummy! Even better than I expected. Mmm ! I thought it would taste like straight sugar, but it actually had great flavor that came through too.

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Okay, zipping back to King’s Cross — crossing through we entered into Diagon Alley.  Even if you are an expert in Harry Potter I think it’d be impossible to absorb all the details. It’s ah-may-zing.

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First things first! Gotta grab a wand 😉 If you buy an interactive wand, you are given a map that leads you to place in the park where you can use your wand to “cast spells”, marked by a circle symbol on the ground that you step on, with a pattern for how to use your wand to activate the “spell”.

Each wand corresponds with a character from the series. Can you guess whose is whose?

img_4536-2img_4538-2img_4539-2img_4537-2img_4589img_4588img_4590img_4593facetune_14-12-2018-10-35-14Originally we all grabbed our character wands (Amy and I chose Hermione), but then we realized you could trade it in for personalized wand at Olivander’s. Basically they take your birthday and tell you what wand is specific for you. For my January birthday, I received the  “Birch” wand!

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Below is one of the spots you can use your wand I was describing earlier. In this one you can control the eyeballs. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write? haha.

Next, we rode the new Gringott’s ride which was just insanely incredible, easily one of my favorite rides we did the whole day. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Virtual reality + roller coaster= mind blowing experience. Wow oh wow- Did I mention I loved that ride?!

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Time to finally try a Butterbeer!

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The gang with our wands and butterbeers 🙂

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They were SO gooooood! It is like a cream soda, but thicker. it’s very very sweet, and typically I don’t like any drinks too sweet- but gosh, I loved that. It almost had that root beer float type of creaminess. There is actually no alcohol in Butterbeer despite the name, so it is safe for kiddos & trust me- they’ll love it!

Below is a building that you can turn the lights on and off with your interactive wand.

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Time to enter Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes!

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In order to get to the second part of HP world, you have to take it Hogwart’s Express to get to the second part of the park. But first- you have to run through platform 9 3/4, of course. 

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All aboard!! We shuffled into a cabin that perfectly resembled the ones in the movies. There is a screen that has passing images of rolling hills, a simulated invasion of dementors, and finally your arrival to Hogwarts. Too cool.

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We heeeereee! This is the Hogsmeade portion of the park.

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Breathtaking.

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It was really chilly that day, so it added to the real feel of the fake snow on the rooftops.

HoneyDukes was one of the “must-visits” for the day…

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It did not disappoint! I was blown away by everything you could try that was straight from the books. Anyone brave enough to try the Bertie Bott’s Beans?

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I opted for a chocolate frog. I mean you havee to get a chocolate frog, right? Next time I’ll be trying the pumpkin pasty. That is something in the book that always sounds so delicious too.

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It was wonderful milk chocolate! I am not even a fan of plain milk chocolate usually (I prefer dark), but this was lovely & smooth.

Oh, and you get a trading card just like they do in the books. I received Bertie Bott!

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Last, but not least, we saw THE Hogwarts. There is a ride called The Forbidden Journey inside the castle we rode too- it was a blast, but Gringotts still has it beat. Better just do both to be sure 😉 I was just wowed by the attention to detail, the magnitude, and again, the total immersion of the experience.

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Okayy, I’m off to finish up The Order of the Phoenix now! Have a magical weekend, my friends 🙂

Questions for you:

  • What is your favorite Christmas movie?
  • Anything fun happenin’ this weekend in your world?

xo <3

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Travelin’ & Universal Studios Part 1

Hey heyyy!! Oh man, am I ever excited to share this trip with you all! I have taken a few days to even get this post out because I wanted to get my final exam done before any blogging. I finished up my semester yesterday & all went very well 🙂 One step closer to that Doctorate degree!! So let’s jump right in because we have got a lot of ground to cover (I mean quite literally, these parks are MASSIVE!! So glad I brought my walking shoes ;)). This will take several parts, no doubt. This vacation was with DJ’s side of the fam to celebrate many birthdays (including Mickey’s 90th, of course) and to just all be together in one place. We rarely can get everyone together for a few hours, nonetheless a few days! This was such a treat and truly a vacation of a lifetime. And before I start I have to shoutout my Mom-in-law for planning this absolutely spectacular vacation & making it all possible!

Back to the beginning…in the evening of December 3rd I meal prepped a bit for the plane. I can’t go a few hours without having a snack, but buying snacks at the airport is pricy. So I made overnight pumpkin oats with cranberries and yogurt and a salad with protein crumbles & hummus. I also had grapes and apples and protein bars to munch on.

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I put everything in my Pack It lunch box in my carry on. It keeps it nice and cool the whole flight since there are built in ice packs!

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After getting through security, you know the first place I went (even though it was in the opposite direction of our gate, hehe)…

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Breakfast & study time!

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On the plane I studied a majority of the plane ride, enjoyed my salad & protein bar, and sipped on some seltzer water.

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We arrived in Orlando in the evening around 5:30 pm, and headed directly to the Walt Disney Dolphin Resort to meet up with the family. This hotel lobby is just breath-takingly stunning, but also fun & exotic!

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After getting the family all together we headed to The Boathouse.

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If you are going to the Boathouse for dinner a reservation is a must!! This is a popular spot and rightfully so. The decor from the moment you step in is exactly what you would anticipate- fish, boats, netting.. it is a sundry of all things nautical!

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They have some awesome unique drinks too- even their lemon drop martini is served with a rock candy stick.

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They started us with some melt in your mouth rolls- so good!

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For the table we shared a couple rounds of oysters- some Rockefeller and some regular.

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I had never had Rockefeller oysters before- and although they had bacon in them I tried a little nibble of just the creamed spinach and oyster, and it was an explosion of flavor. The regular oysters were the definition of “fresh”.. mmm mmm!

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I ordered the cedar plank salmon for my main dish & DJ had the Maine Lobster and pasta skillet- holy maloly it was all so scrumptious! I would recommend the pasta skillet over the salmon though!

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^^ Perfection.

& The decadently delicious desserts all around…

Key lime pie in a Mason Jar

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Macadamia Turtle Pie

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Double Chocolate Bundt Cake

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I probably don’t need to explain how good those are, huh?

Walking back to the hotel we passed some beautiful Christmas decor lit up in the evening. It was wonderful catching up with everyone & just chatting the night away. I kept feeling like I needed to squeeze everything into one conversation, but then remembered we still had several days ahead of us to chat and hang out!

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Despite getting up so early, I was not tired one bit. It was technically only about 7 pm Pacific time once we returned, so I decided to go run to wind down from the traveling day. I actually was able to get my studying done that I had planned for the next day, so that felt productive!

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I loved the workout room- they had a separate smaller room where you could choose HITT routine programs, and they even had a punching bag.

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Time to hit the hay! I actually couldn’t fall asleep until about 5 or 6 am, and we woke up around 7.. hence, the sleep was very minimal that evening. Jet lag always throws me off no matter how tired I am. When I went to India I couldn’t sleep for over 48 hours straight (and melatonin does nuthin’ for it for some reason!).

Anywho- this was a gorgeous view to wake up to!

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I grabbed my protein bar and headed downstairs with DJ to get some coffee before heading out for the day’s festivities!

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There was a little place in the lobby called “fuel” that had just anything and everything you could want food/drink wise. Their coffee shop was SO good. I loved the cafe au lait I had there.

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I paired it with my No Cow bar in the morning to get a protein boost before getting the day started.

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Time to head to Universal Studios!

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We rode a bunch of rides to start out the day- the Minion Ride (such an insanely fun virtual reality ride!), Rock It Hollywood Rollercoaster, & the Shrek Virtual Reality ride. I was blown away by the detail, high technology, and deep immersion of it all.

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For a little pick me up, I grabbed a cup of jo at Boulangerie.

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This place was super cute, but their coffee was awfully bitter!

We continued along in the park and passed another mammoth Christmas tree.

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We were so taken aback when we saw this sign below. There is actually a faux “San Francisco” in Universal Studios. We laughed saying we traveled across the country just to end back up in San Francisco.

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They recreated notable spots in SF pretty darn well!

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I mean there was even a “Ghirardelli Square”.. too funny

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And it was located right on the water- how perfect.

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I’ll end here. In the next post we head to Harry Potter World (eeeek!!!!!!). It was a day to remember, I’ll tell ya that much! Can’t wait to share. But for now I will leave us in San Francisco… And you thought you were getting a travelin’ post, eh? 😉

Question for you:

  • Highlight of your week so far?

xo <3

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