Austin Beauty, Wildlife & Eats!

Hey all! Only a few posts until I’m all caught up! Maybe I’ll get the Christmas posts up in time for Christmas in July, haha. Okay getting straight into it- in between indulging in leftovers  and studying over the weekend, I took advantage of nice long walk out on the lake on December 4th. I was greeted by an array of wildlife!

1c385ae5-9195-4cf6-b27d-69b109a632b9cac23789-4e93-41e9-9c13-1b45421124ae53d3abcb-3b10-4d42-a663-d53c6c55f8b31fe4e928-0f00-47f0-9cfa-27da538ed78afe6c0fa6-97d2-405b-94e1-fe8ad1d8c53bI have been shocked by the diverse wildlife in Austin. I didn’t realize so many animals (and reptiles) could reside right in the middle of a big city, but due to the lake and climate it’s suitable to lotsa living creatures. I’ve seen parakeets, swans, cranes, snakes (one I almost stepped on-eeeep!)… the list goes on.

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Oh, speaking of which, here are the swans…

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This was finals week, and my motivation was at an allll time low. It took everything in me to focus, and I think I was just entirely emotionally depleted by the time the final exam rolled around. I sent this meme to DJ during one point in the week which about summed it up.

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December 12th I took my final-final exam! I actually felt like I could physically breathe again when it was over. I have never been more proud of myself or my classmates for making it through a semester. We really did rely on one another to survive, and I think  that was the worst semester of the program (oh please, Dear Jesus, I pray).

December 13th Once DJ finished his last final, he came back, napped for several hours while I blogged and then we went on a walk outside together.

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It was the most beautiful evening we’ve seen thus far. I was happy we could experience this together. Definitely kicked off the break on a high note 💓

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On Saturday December 14th we had friends in town. We headed into town to go to brunch with them. It never gets old how convenient everything is within walking distance.

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It was a stunning morning.

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We met at the historic Driskill Hotel that has a restaurant right inside called 1886 Cafe and Bakery. We appreciated the historic car parked out front (That still has to apply for legal registration according to the sticker on the windshield!).

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The interior was just spectacular.

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I ordered their lady bird omelet with egg whites, spinach, peppers, tomato, onions, goat cheese, country potatoes and breakfast toast. Oh my, was this good! My favorite omelette ever is from Bill’s… but this is taking a very close second.

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DJ ordered their Hot-Fried chicken with serrano-buttermilk marinade, two eggs sunny-side up, housemade biscuit, and sausage gravy. He raved about it!

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We also took note of their gorgeous lobby before heading out.

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We dropped our friends off at the airport and were home by 2 pm. It was a wonderful morning.

After an awesome church service on December 15th, we had coffee with some new friends, Alana and her husband, Kyle. Alana is one of those rare friends where we just clicked instantly. She also blogs so I will link her blog here! Y’all will love it and her- she is one of the most genuine people I have ever met, and I can’t wait to hangout again 😊

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Anyway, we went to Brentwood Social House. This is one of the coolest little coffee shops I’ve ever been in, and I’ll definitely return to do some studying next semester. Immediately when we walked in we were hit with the aroma of roasting coffee beans and baking pastries.

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The boutiquey decor was adorable too.

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We enjoyed some great conversation over coffee and treats then headed home to get ready for a food shoot in the afternoon (where I go to a restaurant and take pics to promote them on social media). That’ll take a post of its own! Thanks for reading!!

Questions for you: 

  • Anyone still have their Christmas tree up?
  • What’s something you are looking forward to this week?

xo <3

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Thanksgiving Day!…Just a couple months late…

Hey all! Hope your Tuesday is going well. I begin my semester later today, and my heart is racing out of my chest. It’s a stressful week here in the OldMackDonald Household (The “D” in DJ stands for Donald FYI). He has some interviews for internships, and I have my first NP clinical. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so excited and nervous at the same time. Due to this, I may not get caught up like I thought I was going to around here- I’m trying to cram in a 300 page diagnostic textbook in a couple days as a review. I think January will be a blur, but I’m hoping to find my groove after enough time. I’m really going to try to be more intentional this coming semester with finding balance. I do have a few posts on the back burner again that I whipped up over break, so I’ll release those in the coming weeks.

Anywho! Jumping on in..

On November 26th I had my hair brightened! I hadn’t had it done since June prior to that, so it was quite the change going back this blonde. But I think I prefer my hair somewhere in between.

I woke up extra early on November 27th to bake a pecan pumpkin loaf to take over to my mom and Pete’s for thanksgiving. I also had a can of cranberry sauce sitting around I grabbed as we left. DJ and I both just recently discovered we enjoy cranberry sauce within the last couple years but have only tried the Ocean Spray kind. Maybe next year I’ll try to make some from scratch! I know the cranberry sauce convo evokes some strong opinions- would love to hear yours!

I did some Insanity in the afternoon while listening to Radio Rental (a new podcast I became obsessed with). Right before hitting the road, my white coat came in the mail! It’s exciting, but I feel like I don’t deserve this yet. Hopefully I’ll “grow into it”, but the imposters syndrome is real, y’all. P.S. I have ironed this since, don’t ya worry, hehe.

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We drove to the Fort Worth Area to join my mom, Pete, Halston and Kevin for dinner. We chatted up a storm the whole evening and played Catch Phrase (looove that game!). My mom made the vegan stroganoff I featured a few posts ago for the girls and some regular meat for the guys.

Then November 28th was Turkey Day! My sister and I woke up early to get in a nine mile run together. I love runs with her; it’s where we catch up with no distractions and have our best conversations.

It was a particularly emotional Thanksgiving since it was the 10-year date of my Dad’s passing. There have been many times where I’ve wanted to recount how incredible of a Dad and person he was on here, but it feels daunting- how can words do justice to describe such a phenomenal father and the most tremendous loss in our lives? I miss him and love him more than it seems words could communicate. However, my sister did an amazing job conveying even what I’m feeling and thinking, so I’ll share what she said; I could not have said it any better.

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That afternoon we Facetimed the rest of my siblings and shared some of our favorite memories of our Dad. I think over the years I’ve learned how to “sit” with a certain amount of pain, but this year was particularly tough. But, being able to be with my sister the day of (and the rest of the fam) and chat with my siblings was a blessing. It was a bittersweet day I’ll reflect fondly on.

Going back to the morning, after our run, we helped prep some food with my mom and then ate a yummy breakfast of an egg scramble, fruit, vegan bacon, toast and some pumpkin bread too!

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In between prepping the food we grabbed some quick pics.

We started around 4:00 pm with appetizers, and my mom brought out Tom the Turkey pineapple. Isn’t he cute?

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I loved her place settings too.

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And here’s a portion of the goodnesss! I couldn’t picture everything in one photo- but some of the favorites. My mom even made a seitan turkey for us non-meat eaters!

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We laughed how Hal is photo-bombing us in this pic haha.

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After eating our incredible food we indulged in Pete’s famous pumpkin crunch. The guys particularly went to town. Both DJ and Kevin made a whole otha’ meal out of dessert alone! Tis’ the season!

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We watched the Ellen Degeneres special on Netflix to round out the evening. It was a memorable and wonderful Thanksgiving <3

Before leaving in the morning we enjoyed my mom’s Monkey Bread. I haven’t had this in years, and holy moly y’all, I forgot how scrumptious this was. DJ described it best- it’s like eating only the best part of a cinnamon roll.

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Thanks for reading! Sometimes when holidays pass I just want to move on from them because I get too nostalgically achy for family and those moments. But, although I still feel that to a degree, it’s fun reflecting and reliving these memories! Especially with the semester starting soon, it keeps things in perspective.

Questions for you:

  • Have you had Monkey Bread ? (If this is a no, you gotta try is ASAP!).

xo <3

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Second Bar and Kitchen & Second On-Campus!

Hey all!! I am just spammin’ ya with these posts. I start classes next week, so I’m trying to get them out while I have the time. Then, hopefully I can just keep recent updates released during the semester. DJ and I have a date night tonight- we are going to sample a whole buncha cheese at a famous cheese shop in town. We were considering cancelling because we both have a ton we could be doing before the start of the semester (they gave us our reading for the first module early- WHY (?!). I would rather them not have done so because now I feel like I have to do it early. Even though I know they are just trying to help us out, I feel the pressure already! Maybe I’ll just read a chapter or two and call it a weekend. Okay, now I’m just externally processing.) ANYWAY, as I said we were going to cancel, but, we are held accountable by our commitment to spend that intentional time together, so no cancelling for us! I’m sure I’ll be documenting it on @mackncheeeesy if you would like follow along. The new Smalls will have to wait (and yes, there is a Smalls 2.0 this semester).

So.

*Rewind sound* Going alll the way back to…

November 15th. This day I enjoyed savory oatmeal inspired by Kori with cottage cheese, a fried egg and everything but the bagel seasoning from TJ’s. I usually associate oatmeal with sweet due to the traditional combo of brown sugar and cream, but me oh my- this is incredible! I took one bite and announced out loud to myself, “This is soo good!”. Just writing this now, I can’t wait to have it again for breakfast tomorrow. #Teamsavoryoats

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That evening I was running and studying in the workout room and caught a glimpse of this sunset. I had to sneak outside to get a full view and picture. The picture cannot do justice, but I love the way the lifesaver was reflecting into the pool.

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November 16th we were craving some cookies. We usually go for Tollhouse, but the HEB we were at didn’t carry them, so we tried out the Pillsbury instead. DJ says he liked Pillsbury better, but I think Tollhouse still takes the cake, er, cookie! We did a poll on my IG, and Tollhouse won… jus’ sayin’ 😉

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On November 17th we went out for our first brunch ever in Austin. We’ve passed this place several times, and it was recommended to us from family, so we had to give it a go. (P.S. there is actually a location in the airport, so if you are ever passing through keep an eye out).

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The decor on the inside was neat, modern yet still warm. I find that’s a hard line for restaurants to navigate. Sometimes the modern look can be kinda cold and sterile. Even though we loved the interior, it was a nice and mild morning so we decided to sit outside.

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I thought it would be busy at 11 am, but it was a ghost town! I did not mind one bit because them I can be less sheepish about getting my pics, lol.

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Coffee first, always. I don’t usually add cream to my coffee at home, but for some reason whenever we’re out to brunch it sounds yummy.

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The one item we had to try was their Autumn bread pudding french toast with apple curd, spiced pears, sage and whipped cream. We shared an order of it, and it blew away expectations- the flavor of this was absolutely tremendous. I think this surpassed the “best french toast” I’ve ever had from Nopa-— but it’s still a really close call.

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I also ordered the SBK benedict with poached eggs, hashbrown cakes, tomato, kale and brie cheese mornay. It was also just packed with flavor. I feel like you can’t go wrong here.

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And DJ’s choice was their pork belly benedict with poached eggs, pork fat biscuit, jalapeño hollandaise and charred frisee. He said the flavor was great, but there was a bit too much sauce for his liking.

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We’ll definitely be back! They have a stellar looking dinner menu that has a truffle & blue cheese pizza I’m itchin’ to try!

On November 18th I chatted with a friend back from OH while doing my loop.

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And November 19th was another walk in the afternoon. I’m telling ya- these walks are just the highlight of my day during the thick of studying. They really give my brain a nice break.

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November 20th I arrived at the airport nice and early to head to my next on campus intensive. If you want to see how the first one went head here! I grabbed a calming cafe au lait from Ruta Maya. I’ve found the baristas there always do a lovely job steaming the almond milk, which is more difficult than other types of milk.

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When I arrived, I was excited to return to the same no-fuss hotel I stayed in last time. I walked around the campus to calm my nerves. I had my major testing that weekend so the nerves were heightened even more than the last time.

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I decided to Postmates food since it was getting quite dark out and walking in the area alone may not have been the wisest choice. I found a restaurant called Mellow Mushroom that looked absolutely delicious! They are known for their pizzas, but their vegan options particularly caught my eye. I decided to order a whole bunch of food so I would have leftovers throughout the weekend.

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I enjoyed their warm, pillowy pita with homemade hummus, a garden salad with feta, a spinach salad with mushrooms and red peppers, tofu with BBQ and tempeh with pesto. All tasty- although the tofu with BBQ was a bit lackluster comparatively.

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I was up bright and early on November 21st, ate the complimentary breakfast offered with the hotel and headed to our lectures and learning opportunities for the day. We also had some time to practice our head to toes.

In the evening I took a little jog outside and then called it an early night since the next morning was my testing.

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November 22nd was the big day. For the head-to-toe you get an “actor” patient. We all lined up outside the patient rooms, exchanged nervous glances, and when they said to, we all knocked and entered to greet our patients at the same time. We joked that it felt like the Hunger Games the way we were all lined up, haha. Then in the room there is a camera and a clinical instructor is watching you on camera across the hall. It was the most intimidating thing I have ever done in my academic career (next to the panel interview for the residency). It went really well though- I can’t express the relief I felt when that was over. It was a moment of “finally all this hard work is paying off!”.

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To celebrate all of us passing our head-to-toes, we went out in the evening to Bull City Burger and Brewery in downtown Durham.

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I cracked up when I saw this “Carnverted Vegetarians” on the wall, hah. I wonder if it’s accurate.

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So thankful for these ladies <3

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I ordered their Joan Jet Veggie Burger with three beans, goat cheese, aioli sauce, and lettuce. I also ordered a sweet potato on the side.

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After dinner we explored the city a bit. Durham gets a bad rep, but we enjoyed our time there and were pleasantly surprised by the downtown area.

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We also went back on campus to a spot that was supposed to have Karaoke, but it ended up getting delayed due to the basketball game. Once the game wrapped up, we found out it was Bollywood Karaoke night. We enjoyed a few performances, but figured we probably would do a less than stellar job if we attempted ourselves!

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On our way back to the hotel we passed this gorgeous view of the chapel all lit up.

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After some morning sessions on  I went to the cafeteria through the rain to grab some lunch.

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That ended the second on campus intensive! I had to leave around 4 am the next day for my flight, so after the afternoon session I just went back to the hotel, took a hot shower to warm up from the chilling rain and then went to bed early. I tried to watch The Crown, but I fell asleep before getting through the first episode. Has anyone watched- is it worth getting into?

Questions for you:

  • Do you enjoy Karaoke? If so- do you have a go-to Karaoke song?

xo <3

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Clark’s Oyster Bar & Gabriela’s!

Goooood morning! (or evening, afternoon, whenever you may read this). I do hope you are having a great week. I’m excited in this post to share a couple more date nights we had over the semester!

First up was Clark’s Oyster Bar on the evening of October 26th. This is an Austin favorite. Any time I ask for restaurant recs this one almost always comes up!

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I knew I would love it based on just how cute the exterior of the building was. I would like to go back during the day to get pictures of the bright yellow striped canopy too.

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Even though they had reservations booked for the evening I called several hours prior to see if we could still get a spot at their oyster bar. Luckily, they had a spot! That’s one of the biggest lessons I have learned in my 20s- “It doesn’t hurt to just ask!” (well, in most cases, hehe).

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We decided to split some oysters and french fries with a glass of crisp white wine. It was a tremendous combo!

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These fries were seasoned with rosemary and had such a distinctly delicious flavor. I have never had fries like them before. The mound was so large, but the fries were so skinny, it was a bit of a feat figuring out how to tackle it… but….where there’s a will there’s a way!! Can I get an Amen?

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On October 30th I ate one of my favorite dinner bowls of quinoa, tofu, coconut oil, roasted zucchini, some yogurt Bolthouse ranch, kale and hummus.

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On November 1st we had butternut squash pasta with  mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, and I believe we added a little Lightlife chicken. I may have used regular for Deej.

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November 2nd we were able to sneak in another date night. The first half of the semester we hardly spent time together and realized how intentional we have to be with carving out time together. It’s so important, and while it may not be realistic to do something every week we are going to try to aim for every other week- even if it’s just a coffee date, brunch, a picnic in Zilker– just something intentional!

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This evening we were craving Mexican. We found Gabriela’s and decided to make the trek on foot there. We passed through 6th street which is notoriously known around here as “Dirty 6th”. I thought it had its name from the fact that it’s the main college party street… but as we walked through we realized it quite literally is dirtier and grungier than most other streets in town. We did walk through at a more “tame” hour, so I’m sure we didn’t even see the spectacle that is dirty 6th late into the evening.

Gabriela’s is tucked away on a side street, but so adorable and inviting!

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Since we went at a fairly early hour we were seated immediately. It is so much easier to go out to eat here than in the Bay Area. It was always a project to get into a restaurant there, especially on the weekends, so this is a very welcomed change.

We started with their famous queso. It was just a big cast iron pan of flavor. Holy maloly… the only thing is as time passed the queso congealed a bit as it cooled which made it difficult to dip the chips in after a while. El Alma’s is still my favorite, but this is still a must-order if you find yourself at Gabriela’s.

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I was listening to a comedian special recently and she said how when we take pictures of food with flash it looks like we are holding our food hostage, lol!!! It’s so true. Oh well, gotta do what you gotta do in super dim lighting, right?

So here are my hostage veggie tacos with pretty much an entire avocado. These were tremendous!

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And DJ’s prisoners were their tacos de carne asada with marinated rib-eye steak with caramelized onions and aguacate. Topped with cilantro and tomatillo salsa. He loved them!

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November 3rd I walked my usual loop around Ladybird lake.

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I also discovered I like putting Dateline on in the background while making flashcards. I go through phases with True Crime and usually get into it more around Halloween season. I had never watched Dateline before and gave it a go. I was hooked!

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November 6th I enjoyed these cornbread crisps with some vegan tofu stew. I LOVE the cornbread crisps. Mmmm mmm.

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On November 5th I grabbed a cup of joe from Starbucks and walked on the trail while studying flashcards on my Quizlet app on my phone.

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November 7th I camped out at Starbucks to get ready to take an exam the next day.

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November 8th I made us Lobster Ravioli for dinner- WOW, this was good!

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November 10th I woke up extra hungry. I whipped up eggs with lots of veggies a slice of Laughing Cow swiss cheese and a slice of toast with cottage cheese, jam and hummus on the side.

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That afternoon on a walk we noticed the leaves were starting to change. The leaves definitely change later here than in the midwest.

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We saw a group playing some water game in kayaks. We stopped and watched for a while- it looked challenging!

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On the second half of our walk around the lake we did a double take and realized a couple was out walking their pet ponies. Casual.

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Below is a flatout flatbread with veggies, tofu, hummus and ranch.

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And that’s a wrap for this post! Har-har.

Questions for you: 

  • How is the start to your new year going?

xo <3

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Skydiving & El Alma’s!

Jumping into this recap- quite literally….

I saw this person putting on a show on the slack line along Lady Bird Lake. There was a little crowd watching him. How fun does this look?!

On October 11th, Deej and I went for a nice walk in the evening. The view of this city never gets old.

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On October 12th I enjoyed one of my favorite dishes for the fall. It is packed with flavor- sautéed tofu with coconut oil, brown jasmine rice, various Indian inspired spices, wilted veggies and roasted chickpeas. Such a comforting and filling dish.

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Now for the big event of this post!! On October 14th I surprised DJ for his birthday with Skydiving (or sorta surprised because he figured it out almost immediately when I said I had a surprise). He has wanted to go for a while, and we had one single afternoon/evening we could actually do something— so go big or go home right?!

Neither of us had been before, and it was the definition of epic. I think I embarrassingly overuse that word, but if there is any instance to use it, this is it! The scariest part, in my opinion, was just the tiny little rickety plane we were in. I have never been in a plane that small, and it felt like it could fall out of the sky any second. The views were STUNNING- I wish I could share those.

Some things that surprised me: Firstly, it was freezing as we were about to jump out. You can see me shivering right before we jump. I think it was just shocking since minutes prior we were in very warm and balmy temperatures on the ground. Secondly, it’s a much more mental experience than physical. I expected to have the ultimate “stomach drop” feeling like you experience on rollercoasters- but since there is no G-force your stomach doesn’t drop (I don’t entirely know what that means; I’m simply regurgitating what I heard, haha). Lastly, the free fall lasts longer than I’d expect. I didn’t mind though- it’s a great experience. My ears did hurt a bit, but I have always had ear sensitivity with changing pressures, so that wasn’t much of a surprise. We were pretty excited to check it off our bucket list! That’s been at the top for a while.

In order to celebrate both DJ’s birthday and surviving falling from 15,000 feet out of the air (give or take), we headed to El Alma for some great tex-mex.

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Inside is super cute and upstairs has an outdoor stone patio area. It’s relaxed, but still adorable with twinkling lights everywhere.

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We started with their house queso (of course!). It is called queso blanco y rojo with spicy queso, árbol salsa, rajas, onions, mushrooms, and tostadas. This is my favorite queso we’ve had so far in Austin yet. It had mushrooms in it which is a pretty original twist, but oh boyyyy did it work!! It was the creamiest most flavorful queso with a kick and the tostadas they served it with were not your typical tortilla chips- they had more flavor and were more hearty.

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For my main dish I ordered the veggie verde enchiladas with spinach, mushrooms, rajas, smoky tomatillo salsa, raw hemp seeds, white rice, and black beans. It was fine- I probably wouldn’t order it again. I also filled up on a whole lot of queso before so maybe I’m not giving a fair assessment, haha.

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DJ tried a couple of their tacos which he enjoyed, but probably not the favorite in town. We’ll definitely be returning for that queso though!

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October 15th I took an afternoon walk and listened to a podcast per usual.

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In the evening I made DJ some rice and pesto genovese chicken.

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I had my leftovers from my enchilada and threw on a fried egg for good measure. If you’re ever not sure what to do with certain leftovers, I recommend throwin’ on an egg! Makes a meal out of just about anything.

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I had this fun find below at Trader Joe’s. Okay this officially shows how behind I am on these posts, hahah.

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We also tried the burrata, prosciutto and arugula pizza from TJ’s on October 19th (I just took the prosciutto off mine). It was so yummy. I have yet to have a bad pizza from TJ’s- they are some of our favorites.

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On October 21st I chatted a while with one of my friends from my previous nursing job. I put this lasagna in the oven and then decided while it cooked I would walk and chat on the trail. (It bakes for about 45 mins). I totally forgot about the lasagna, and when I realized the time I interrupted my own sentence with “THE LASAGNA”. My friend was like “come again?” I explained I think I was burning our lasagna, potentially down our apartment, and our phone call wrapped up quickly after that. Thankfully DJ took care of it, so we’re all good, and it did not burn down our apartment complex, thank gooooodness.

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On October 24th I enjoyed oats with raspberries, Fage and PB2 with some coffee to start the day.

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Later that day I took a chance taking a walk out on the trail. I did end up getting rained on a bit, but it was fun seeing these dark clouds over the lake.

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The morning of the 26th I had a couple errands to run downtown. I stumbled upon this Day of the Dead Parade and took a moment to line up with the rest of the crowd to watch as the various characters passed. It was a fun surprise to start the Saturday!

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That evening we witnessed one of the first of many gorgeous sunsets.

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Feels like a good place to stop for now. Thanks for reading 🙂

Questions for you!

  • Any experiences of your own with skydiving?
  • Do you have a preferred meal or restaurant for your birthday?

xo <3

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Decade Favorites! (And a couple throwback pics).

Happy New Years Eve, all! I have been feeling particularly nostalgic this year as we come to an end of a decade. It’s crazy to see all that has occurred in just ten years. I decided to compile a list of 10 favorites along with some throwback pictures from the start of the decade. It was extremely hard to narrow down, but DJ helped me decide on some fun categories to make it a bit more concise. I’d love if you’d share some of your decade favorites with me too!

1. Favorite Restaurant: Cafe Jacqueline.These soufflés were truly life changing. While it was hard to make a final decision in this category, our experience at Cafe Jacqueline for our anniversary was one of the most unique, delicious, romantic and phenomenal meals of our lives.

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2. Favorite Travel Destination: Bora Bora for our honeymoon. That was a trip to heaven and back.

3. Favorite Beauty Product: They’re Real Mascara. (I oscillated between this and Urban Decay Setting Spray). I usually use cheaper mascaras on the day-to-day, but for special occasions I whip out this winner.

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4. Favorite Artist: Tim Cantor. I have never appreciated art as I should despite the “art appreciation” course I took in college. But something about Tim Cantor’s art resonated with me when I saw his exhibit the first time in San Diego. I’ve been obsessed ever since. When I look at his pieces I feel understood. I could do a whole post on this… but for now, I will include my favorite painting: Thieves of May. 

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5. Favorite Team Accomplishment: Running a Marathon Together! DJ completed his first marathon, and I qualified for Boston in the same race. Talk about an event to remember.

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6. Favorite challenge: completing the RN Residency Program. I think forever that will be one of the most challenging years of my life, but I’m immensely thankful for it. I don’t think I’ve ever grown so much in a single year. Below is a picture from our graduation day.

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7. Favorite Day: Our Wedding.We were married in 2015, but we also began dating at the beginning of the decade on January 19, 2010. (Our first casual date was July 1, 2009). I’ll include a couple of throwback pics from those first few years, because, hey, why not!

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My one and only <3

8. Favorite TV Show: Game of Thrones. If you know, you know. I still am not totally pleased with how it ended, but the journey was incredible. Succession is a contender for second though!

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9. Favorite Musical Artist: Ella Vos. I just adore her music. Here’s a link to one of my favorite songs. Florence and the Machine is a close second with Lana Del Rey third.

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10. Last, but not least: Favorite New Discovery: Trader Joe’s. I’d be remiss to leave out Trader Joe’s from any type of favorites compilation!

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This was tough to put together! There are a few other general favorites I would include like living in California, beginning this blog, the birth of my niece and nephew, the emergence of podcasts, the friends we have met and relationships we cannot imagine our lives without, memories with our family and the growth of our faith. This last ten years has been formative, and reflecting on all that has happened and can happen in ten years puts things in perspective and helps you count your blessings. Heck, most of what I’ve mentioned has happened in the past five! I would love to hear if you have any favorites that fit in any of these categories or just one of your own. Have a wonderful NYE <3 Sending all my wishes for the most blessed 2020…and next decade… for you all…

xo <3

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**There is an affiliate link in this post, but all opinions and ideas are my own. I receive a small compensation for any purchases with no additional cost to you!**

Mom’s Cookin’ & Dirt Puddin’!

Good morning!! I am sitting here with a big ol’ bowl of oats a big ol’ cup of coffee on a bright sunny morning. Our December has been pretty beautiful. The more mild weather of the fall and “winter” actually reminds me of the Bay Area weather many times with the warmer temps and less humidity.

…Hold on, someone is knocking…

Okay odd. There was no one at the door. Creepy! *Cue twilight zone soundtrack*. Also, it’s 7:30 am. Too early for maintenance or anyone from our management team. Hmmm. I bet they just had the wrong apartment.

Anyway! I arrived back from my campus visit on September 15th. I was beyond exhausted from the 3 am wake-up call. I think I slept practically the entire afternoon.

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In the evening I made whatever we had in the fridge. For a snack that day we enjoyed some stuffed jalapeños with cheese.

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Not much is documented the rest of the week. There are going to be many “holes” in these recaps where is was days entirely spent in the books. I grew kinda apathetic even toward recording the little, fun life details at some points which is sad, but the truth. I presently have my excitement back for the day-to-day, but the stress at that time just made me listless toward pretty much everything for a while.

Anyway, September 19th, we tried out this vegan tikka masala from TJ’s. I was stoked to see they had a vegan version! It was pretty dang good- will be getting it again.

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That evening I took my much needed time outside.

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This wrap below is one of my favorite wraps I’ve made! This September 22nd snack had roasted veggies, vegan “chicken” lightlife tenders, spinach and hummus on a flatout flatbread. Mmmm!

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On September 24th I woke up with some Dave’s Good Seed bread, Fage, peanut butter and honey (and a little dash of stevia).

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That day I had a group project that I worked practically through the night on. Thank goodness I had some candy corn to keep me company!!

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Since DJ and Pete were both going to be out of town that week, my mom suggested I come to Fort Worth so I could get out of the apartment, enjoy her Michelin star cooking (not her words, but those are facts), clear my head and just get a change of scenery to study.

When I arrived in the afternoon of September 25th, my mom was still at work and only Jadey was home (this a couple weeks prior to her passing). I didn’t know that would be her last hyper-jump-all-over-me welcome, but I think it’s pretty special that I have that moment clear in my memory since it was just her and I. I think she could sense my general state of dejection and she was as doting and loving as ever.

I worked on some assignments while my mom also did some work with me at the kitchen table. Then for dinner we enjoyed this perfection of a meal of grilled salmon, mixed veggie avocado salad and seasoned brown rice.

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The morning of September 26th I woke up extra early to finish up a paper and get it submitted. I enjoyed a cup of coffee out of a mug of the coffee shop I worked at as a barista in college. It was one of those moments where nostalgia crept right up on me!

6656b797-77d9-42c4-b3b0-ac9b12e99a453d6abb03-02f9-4663-a0a5-59600e68f90dFor a mid-morning snack I had some lemonade with a slice of toast, vegan Daiya cheddar cheese, edamame, mixed marinated veggies, avocado and some bolthouse ranch dressing (my new favorite dressing!).

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My mom returned earlier than normal from work, so shared some hummus and veggies in the afternoon while continuing to work on our individual tasks at the kitchen table.

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For dinner we had vegan beef stroganoff with mashed potatoes and broccolini. This meal was insane. One of my absolute favorite “meat recreations”.

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On September 27th while I worked on Notecards I watched the show Diagnosis. It’s a fascinating show, and I try to figure out what’s going on with them as the show goes on. It’s a bit like a real life House!

Unfortunately, on September 27th I took a nasty tumble while running outside.  I won’t share pics, don’t worry- but I reopened a scar on my knee from a previous fall. Whoopsies. Clumsy Runner Woes.

That evening we enjoyed another awesome meal of teriyaki tofu, fried rice, and spinach beet salad with mandarin oranges. It was tremendous, and I definitely went back for seconds!

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I took this last picture I ever would with sweet Jaders <3

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I was planning on leaving Saturday evening the 28th, but was not quite ready. I made a lot of progress on Saturday during the day with school and DJ wouldn’t be back until late, so we decided we would have a girls’ night out, and I’d just leave in the AM!

Before heading out we enjoyed apps of roasted eggplant, crab dip and crackers and olives.

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We went to a restaurant called Simply Thai in Keller. Keller practically shuts down after dinner time, even on the weekends. We arrived pretty late- around 8 pm, so we had the cute little place to ourselves.

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Usually we split two dishes, but with our spice preference difference that makes it a bit more of a challenge. My mom ordered their mixed vegetable pad pak. She got the mild spice and I ordered extra spicy. When we tried them we realized they probably mixed up the spice orders because hers was hot hot hot and mine was not not not.

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Thankfully they brought out some extra chili and I spiced it on up! My mom still enjoyed the veggies despite the heat, and I shared my pumpkin curry with her because it was the star of the show. Just writing about it is making me crave it again.

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After, we went to the Station Patio Icehouse to watch a live band, enjoy a glass of wine and chat about just everything. A beautiful evening to remember for sure <3

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Before heading home in the morning of September 29th, we enjoyed our favorite wood-fire roasted coffee from Summer Moon. If you are a coffee lover and visit Texas Summer Moon is my #1 recommendation. Their “moon milk” will change your life! Ok, that might be a bit of a hyperbole, but I’ll let you decide. I will warn, it is very sweet, so tread carefully.

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This meme could not be more accurate!

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October 5th I made DJ the traditional dirt pudding for his birthday. Even though it’s technically for him, I always enjoy my fair share too 😉

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For his actual birthday on October 6th I made DJ pancakes with sample Runamok Maple Syrup’s we received as a gift. They were so yummy! Each different flavor was robust, but not overwhelming.

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We had to celebrate DJ’s birthday a week late since he had midterms that week. But I’m pretty excited to show y’all how we celebrated.

In October in general we traded in our Impractical Jokers to watch half an episode of Castle Rock here and there on Hulu. It was great to get in that spoOooOoOky spirit- we watched the first season, although I know a second season is now out. Has anyone seen it?

Thanks for reading!

Question for you:

  • Do you have a special coffee cup that has extra meaning to you?

xo <3

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On Campus Weekend #1!

Hi everyone! I hope you are having a great weekend. I put on some press-on nails for the first time in everrrr, and these are so tough to type in, lol! I’m sure I’ll get used to them but my hands are currently looking like baby giraffes learning to walk for the first time.

Anyway! In my program, we are required to do on campus intensives multiple times a year. Basically it entails learning hands-on skills, some testing, case studies and simulations with various lectures in between. I was nervous as could be before my first one with no real idea what to expect. However, once we had our first session the nerves were placated a bit. I loved meeting my peers in person. We learned a ton, and it made things feel quite real! Prior, I didn’t know anyone personally, but after the first on-campus I exchanged numbers with several people. They have been such a great source of encouragement, and often it’s just nice to know I’m not alone in feeling out of my depths sometimes. I don’t know how I would have survived this semester without them!

Our sessions started at around 8 am on September 13th and finished around 4 pm each day. I was able to walk back to where I was staying to eat my leftovers for lunch and work on some pharmacology lectures in between sessions. Once the end of the afternoon session rolled around I was in need of some time to unwind. I decided to walk the campus while listening to a podcast. This walk is one of my favorite memories from the last few months, and I’m happy to take you on this walk with me if you are interested!

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It was a bit overcast, but I love overcast days. It felt like it may rain at any moment, but the temperature was perfectly warm and dewy.

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While walking I spotted this spider that I thought could not possibly be real! Sure enough… it was. The web was massive. There was no one else around me, but I was eager to share the shock of the spider with someone else. I kept thinking, “Am I seeing this thing right?!”. I also wish the camera had captured the web better, but you can get an idea of the proportion based on the size of the eight-legged terror.

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I was a bit more on guard for crawly creatures the rest of the walk, but we boldly traversed on.

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I stumbled upon this story circle that was absolutely charming.

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When you entered in there was a book exchange box and a cute little sitting circle. I imagine kids just adore this!

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More walking on…

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When I saw the school buildings I was in awe.

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And the chapel… wow…

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I knew the campus was beautiful beforehand… but seeing it in person nearly took my breath away. I was truly amazed.

On September 14th after our morning session I went to the food court with some of my classmates.

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It was a food court to contend with any top tier food court! I always look forward to trying something new whenever I return.

This time I enjoyed an ahi tuna poke bowl. So refreshing and filling.

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I repeated another walk that afternoon, but a more abbreviated version. I chatted on the phone with my family and friends while taking in the serene landscape.

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Nothing to calm the nerves like some time outdoors!

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That evening I enjoyed an Rx bar and some tea to unwind from the high energy of the last couple days.

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Around 3 am I woke up to head to the airport. I settled down to have breakfast at around 5:30 am with Starbucks, a parfait and some of a quest bar.

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A valiant effort on the spelling, I’ll say.

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And that’s a wrap for my first on campus intensive. I left feeling elated and like I had a new drive to survive the daunting semester. I have doubted myself countless times over this semester- almost daily, but the on-campus intensives always help give me a boost of confidence. I am trusting the process and the fact that God has me here for a reason. He doesn’t call the equipped, but equips the called, right? One of my dearest friends and roommates from college reminds me of this often <3 Hope you all are so well! Have a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays!!

Questions for you:

  • Any Christmas traditions?
  • This is a bit deeper: Any times you have doubted yourself, but thrived nonetheless? I’d love to hear!

xo <3 

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Friday Favorites #26!

It’s Fridayyyy (the 13th)!

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Hope you all have some fun plans for this weekend. This is the first weekend where I will not be studying in a while and am I ever excited! So why not do a Friday Favorites to kick it off?!

  1. This Pukka Lemon, Ginger and Manuka Honey tea is some of my favorite tea I have ever tried. It’s smooth, comforting and tasty as can beee.

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2. Red Jalapeño/Fresh Garlic Olive Oil. I was a little unsure what to expect from this olive oil, but I went through nearly the entire bottle in a couple months- it goes with just about anything you could want to sauté, cook, roast, etc. Time for me to stock back up!

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3. Trader Joe’s Cedar Balsam Candle. I initially saw this candle on Kori’s story on IG, and while I was at TJ’s it caught my eye. We were in desperate need of some candles, and this one brought Christmas to our home! We haven’t had a chance to get a tree yet, but this is a great place holder for that scent. It has a piney, calming scent that burns even more beautifully than when you initially smell it in the jar.

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4. Ettitude Sheets. These bamboo sheets are like absolute butter… so silky smooth like you wouldn’t believe. I grabbed them during a Black Friday sale, and it was the best decision. Highly recommend if you are looking for some new bedding.

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5. Gnocchi Gorgonzola. This is easily a new favorite of ours from TJ’s. If you are going to try one item at TJ’s right now… make it this! The flavor packed in this is just outstanding. Wowzzaaa.

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6. Younger. I am a bit behind on the bandwagon for this series – but this show is so stinkin’ good!! It’s a great Hulu watch when I just need to turn my mind off at the end of the evening. So light and fun. The concept on paper sounds a bit improbable, so rather than try to sum it up, I’d recommend just giving it a watch (It took me about four episodes to be hooked). I’d say it’s geared toward Millenials, but I think anyone could enjoy it.

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7. Austin Sunsets. Since it’s been getting darker earlier, I’ve seen more sunsets outside when I’m on my afternoon/evening walks. They are just breathtaking some evenings.

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8. This meme cracked me up. The level of ingenuity is impressive- hahah.

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9. invisibobble hair ties.These are quite popular right now for good reason. My hair stylist recommended that I replace my basic hairbands with these since I was having a lot of breakage. I was skeptical based on the look of them, but I took her word for it, and I’m glad I did!! These are surprisingly strong, hold my hair better in place than the traditional hair ties and do not rip my hair out. They come in a variety of colors too. They stretch out over time, but I was told you can put them in hot water to shrink them back up.

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10. Dark mode on Iphone. While it took a little getting used to, I love using Dark mode on my phone. I almost noticed a difference immediately. My eyes have been so dry and irritated this semester with how much I stare at a screen while watching lectures, studying, etc. This definitely helps calm down the intensity of that light, at least while using my phone. Now they just need one for laptops! I also ordered some blue light glasses, so we’ll see how those work too.

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11. And a little holiday bonus… this video is circulating the internet and if you need a good laugh you must watch it!

Have a Merry weekend, friends! 

xo <3

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Corner Restaurant & Flying Bread?!

**Testing one…two…three, Testing…**

Let’s hope I remember how to do this!

Hey all!! Ohhh how it feels good to be back on WordPress. I just took my last final exam (early!) and it went well. The semester is a wrap, and I feel like I can breathe again! Even though quite a bit of time has passed since I’ve actually physically written a recap post (August), I don’t think it’ll take terribly long to catch up since we really have not done a whole bunch. It’s been a tough few months. Some of the toughest. We are depleted- physically and emotionally- so we are definitely looking forward to a tiny bit of a break. I know this is just life and this was a season, but oh man, was it a doozy. However, there were some fun memories along the way that are begging to be written down. Something I have learned through blogging is there is always something good even in the most stressful or difficult of times, we just have to find it. It’s okay, and important, to acknowledge and allow yourself to feel the hard times too, but intentionally being thankful for the good that does exist helps keep things in perspective. Since I haven’t been writing at all I have lost track of that a bit, and it became very easy to fixate on the stressors without any kind of outlet. But here we are, a bit retrospectively, to dig the good out of what has been a trying time.

I currently have on the Great British Baking Show on in the background (ya know I always get a hankerin’ for baking shows at Christmas time) and my cup of coffee… so let’s get on with it, shall we?!

On August 24th, we walked downtown to Corner restaurant for a little date night. We first noticed this restaurant when our family stayed at the hotel attached a couple weeks prior. I loved the whole relaxed, yet modern, feel of it all.

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It actually reminded me a little bit of Santana Row in San Jose with the outdoor seating. Also, the indoor seating is beautiful! It’s dim lit and very chic- so if you’re going for that ambiance that’s an option too.

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There were a few items on the menu we could not pass up on! The first was the zucchini cornbread. It was actually better than I expected… and I had high expectations based on the reviews! I think this may have been my favorite of everything we tried!

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We also had the blistered shishito peppers two ways with kaffir lime crema. Now, the peppers were great, but that kaffir lime crema was tremendous!! The mix of flavors that these dishes had were unique, but in a melodious way. It makes me want to try just everything on their menu because even the more “basic” items probably have a delicious spin on them.

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We also had their roasted kale and farro salad with pickled grapes and miso sesame vinaigrette. I did not know what to expect flavor wise with this…. but once again.. it blew me away! The flavor was certainly different, but it worked so well. Anytime I return this will be a must!

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And for DJ’s main dish- the braised short ribs with mashed potatoes, horseradish cream and seasonal veggies. He loved it.

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On August 25th after church I went for an afternoon jog along Lady Bird Lake trail.

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And August 26th let the semester commence! Boyy, I had no clue what I was in for.

On August 27th I decided to try out a new cafe while I went into syllabus shock and delved into the first assignments.

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It was some strong coffee, but also very delicious!

August 28th through the 29th I studied from home. On August 30th I decided to walk over to Bennu and enjoy one of their oat milk lattes.

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For dinner I made a sweet potato with black bean burger, quinoa, roasted mixed veggies and asparagus.

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September 1st we went to church and after we stopped by Thundercloud Subs, a local sub stop.

I was stoked to see they had “vegan chicken”. I loaded up on that and added some hummus and all the veggies to create a massive salad with some balsamic vinaigrette. It was filling and delicious. 😋

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I’m not sure which sub DJ opted for- I think something with Roast Beef- but he liked it. I think he still prefers Jimmy John’s.

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In the evening I did a massive trip to Trader Joe’s since I knew my time to go the store would probably be slim in the coming weeks. I guessed right- I have definitely had to stretch my trips out! Going to the store is such a treat for me–Any excuse to get out of my study den. Whenever I check out the cashier asks how long these groceries will last… It’s always less time than I guestimate. Anyone else?

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September 2nd I started the day with toast topped with figs, cashews and strawberries.

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I also enjoyed some sushi from TJ’s…. I wouuuld recommend this, but there has been a recent recall… so yeah, probably stay away for now, hah.

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In the evening I spotted this gorgeous view outside the workout room so I snuck outside to snag a picture of the picturesque sky.

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September 3rd more studying with occasional screen shots of memes I resonate with given my camera roll. September 4th I tried a new area of running near Zilker park! 🏃‍♀️

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On September 4th Christmas came early! These are all instruments I used to practice for my head-to-toe that I just completed a couple weeks ago (more on that later). DJ was the most gracious letting me test his reflexes, hearing, and look at his eyes/eardrums 938130958309 times. Haha. He’s the best.

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That evening I made some salmon with sun-dried tomato, an artichoke heart, quinoa and asparagus.

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September 7th I started the day with a delicious paratha topped with smoked salmon, capers, and a poached egg. I think I finally have that poached egg down! It only took 25 years. Thank you for the tips, Kori!

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On September 9th I started the day with some buttered naan with a fried egg and yellow lentil daal from TJ’s.

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In the afternoon I took a walk out on LadyBird lake. Gosh, I love love love this trail. You can find me on it pretty much every day (unless the weather prohibits it). I love turning on a podcast and walking or running a lap. I took DJ on the trail recently, and he was pretty amazed at how lovely the trail was. We try to get out and have a walk together on the weekends if we can because it’s so relaxing.

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Also, while crossing a bridge I saw this painting. I couldn’t help and take a pic because…. truth. Bread= An angel? Carbs give you wings? Bread is the wind beneath my wings? Whatever.. they all work.

In the evening I whipped up my go-to sweet potato with beets, avocado, roasted veggies, sun-dried tomatoes, and hummus.

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And then September 12th it was off to my first on campus!! I grabbed some Einstein Bros. coffee to help me wake up a bit.

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I studied on the whole plane ride and was pleasantly surprised to get Popcorners as a snack and a whole can of sparkling water (not just a cup of ice with a questionable dash of liquid). Go, JetBlue! I rarely ever fly with them, but it worked out it was the airline with the best deal for that trip, so I’m not complainin’.

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I arrived to the hotel I’d be staying- it was just fine, no frills, but it had everything you could need. It also had a full empty fridge and microwave which came in handy for my leftovers (and free coffee 24-7 in the lobby!).

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I was pretty famished when I arrived, so I popped in a podcast and walked to the nearest food. There was this strip area below that had a mediterranean restaurant that had my name on it. No, I didn’t even consider Chipotle for all you Chipotle fanatics. Chipotle is well…. it’s.. okay… it’s sustenance. I just think it’s overrated. There, I said it. Talk about an unpopular opinion- coming back into blogging with a splash, lol.

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I got enough to feed an army– a side of lentils, tabouleh, marinated cucumbers and tomatoes and tzatziki to go with hummus, baba, pita, and falafel.

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In the morning I got up at 5:30 am to get ready for my first OCI day! They offer a complimentary breakfast, nothing too crazy- but I love the Chobani mixed with different cereals and a little danish.

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I’ll recap more of the on-campus in the next post. Thanks for reading! Thankful for you all & the WP community. Blogging is more important to me than I even realized; a few months without it certainly brought that to light! I’m going to try to do a better job prioritizing it next semester. I hope you all are having a great holiday season thus far!

Questions for you:

  • What do you think that bread with wings symbolized? Curious if someone has some insight…
  • Chipotle- yay or nay?

xo <3

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