A Couple High Notes

Hi, everyone- Wow, a lot has changed since my last post, published only about ten days ago. It feels a bit odd to even be blogging right now, but I know we have to also hold onto the things that bring joy and normalcy in the midst of so much uncertainty. I’m thankful for this platform of connection in a time when most of us probably feel somewhat isolated. I won’t say too much more about everything going on with the virus right now- you all are inundated with it, but I will say I pray you are all safe and healthy. I also implore you to stay home if you aren’t already. Last, if you are feeling anxious during this weird time, I do want to share a verse that always encourages and comforts me in any difficult season:

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah: 41:10)

Writing these posts is therapeutic for me, and it helps me find the beauty in the most stressful of days. I hope it provides you a fun little escape too or provides some distraction.

In the BEST of news and the absolute highlight of our week, month, year, etc…. My sister-in-law had her baby last weekend! We have a new healthy, beautiful baby boy in the fam <3 We’re sad, of course, that we can’t just jump on a flight to meet him, but that will be priority #1 when it’s safe again.

Now, continuing this recap from the last post…

January 12th we went to Church and then after went to a restaurant called High Note for a little birthday brunch! P.S. We’ll be on that church streaming train tomorrow. I’m so thankful we live in a day of technology where that is possible!

Walking in the door of the restaurant, I immediately was drawn to their fun palm-themed wallpaper.

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But everywhere you turned it seemed the decor took a different direction- yet, it all worked together in a fun and mesmerizing way. I was trying to absorb every detail!

197ab86b-786b-4557-b771-3c648e86b9e4After being seated at one of their gorgeous deep blue booths with a marble table, we scanned the mouth-watering menu. First, we ordered their dip trio with fire roasted salsa, edamame, and cashew queso. It was good, but we probably wouldn’t order again. The “queso” wasn’t so much of a queso, but rather more of a savory vegan dip (in queso you were wondering).

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Now onto the stuff we loved! DJ ordered their breakfast sandwich with soft boiled eggs, seasonal greens, tomato confit, herbed hot sauce, cashew aioli and ciabatta bread. I loved this!! I actually preferred DJ’s to my own choice, so he didn’t have a choice kindly shared.

9740dad3-7594-4123-a026-37e5e286f1d1I ordered their vegan cuban panini with braised tofu, peppered beet, whole grain mustard, charred pickled vegetable, cashew aioli and grilled sourdough.  This was great, don’t get me wrong- but compared to that breakfast sammy there was no competition! Still a great option for those that are strictly vegan.

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I took a quick shot of their patio as we were walking out, but it was closed since it was pretty chilly that day. It’d be fun to come back in nicer weather and sit out there one day.

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On Monday the 13th, my actual birthday, I went to Starbucks and plopped down to get my studying done while enjoying a cafe au lait. The sweet barista wrote happy birthday on my cup!

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I also enjoyed the sweetest gift of Baked By Melissa treats! These are my favorite little cupcakes in the world!

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These macarons were also ohhhh sooo tasty.  I actually didn’t think I liked macarons all that much because the ones I’ve had in the past were a little dry- but these redeemed macarons for me. Talk about a great treat with coffee or tea!! I dare say I liked them as much as the cupcakes themselves!

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January 14th was more of a study day too. Jan 15th more of the same, but I did see this  natural marvel as I was on my walk on Ladybird Trail! Have you ever seen so many turtles in one place?! The cranes were somewhat majestic too with the way they were glowing in the sun.

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The same walk I spotted this white squirrel- a rare sighting fur-sure, hehe!

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Questions for you:

  • What is one highlight/good thing from this week in spite of all that’s happening?
  • What’s the most interesting creature you have spotted in its natural habitat?

xo <3

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La Volpe, The Meteor & Antonelli’s Famous Cheese Shop!

So, I’m breaking all the rules right now and sippin’ on a cup of joe past 4 pm. Why? Because it was Daylight Savings this week, which is easily one of the most aggressively exhausting days of the year. How does one hour trip ya up that much? Also, let’s talk about how it was also International Women’s Day on the shortest day of the year… what’s up with that?! (P.S. Shout oooout to every.single.woman out there!). Also… reason #2 for having coffee past 4 pm….. *DRUM ROLL*…. it’s our spriiiing break!

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Somehow, someway we both have a somewhat less intense “spring break” that actually overlaps! With grad school, I’ve always used the “breaks” to get ahead or catch up on work, but this time around I actually can afford to take a couple days off?! What is that madness!  I do still have an assignment or two, but overall I can catch up on sleep and spend some time with my guy <3 I also scheduled in a few restaurant food shoots!

In addition to all the above, something I’m particularly excited to do these next couple of days is catch up on some bloggin’ :’) So without further adieu, I’m transporting us back a decade (and you thought those jokes were over, tehe).

On December 31, 2019, I made this naan panini with the garlic naan from Trader Joe’s for lunch! Highly recommend trying out paninis with it! Mmmmm mmmmm!

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That evening, to celebrate New Years Eve, we first went up to the rooftop bar of an apartment complex! These views!!!!

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We had a dinner planned at an Italian spot on SoCo. Wellllll, I missed the part where it was only a special prixe fixe dinner for NYE (I thought they’d have the regular menu still). This restaurant is usually extremely reasonably priced, but this night it was about $100 a person.

I thought maybe I needed to go back to the eye doctor when I saw this! Upon this realization, we cancelled our reservation. I will say, they were incredibly gracious about the cancellation, especially with it being last minute.

So, we were standing on SoCo around about 9:00 pm with no dinner plans, extremely hungry (AKA Me: HANGRY, DJ: cool as a cucumber with no emotional reactions determined by his level of hunger, ever). We contemplated what to do- I had done a major grocery store trip that day, so I thought we could cook at home… but we were both so looking forward to a night out on the town together. I went to Open Table, and La Volpe located downtown was the first restaurant that popped up. It’s a newer restaurant in Austin, but had great ratings, so we took a chance on it. We hopped across the bridge and made it in at about 9:30 pm.

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We stepped inside and were mesmerized by the decor. It’s kind of hard to pin exactly what this restaurant is like— it seems to be inspired by 20s old-fashioned-chic meets modern eclectic (does that make any sense?? Probably not).

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We sat out on their patio and were surprised it wasn’t poppin’ more given the cozy ambiance.

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^And this is how not to use Portrait Mode, friends!

We ordered a few different dishes, most of which we shared. They had an array of chef selected menu items you could pick and choose from for the evening.

I was cravin’ something green to start, so I had their house mixed salad with their balsamic vinaigrette (I think?). Gee, good thing I took a picture of the menu to actually confirm what we ordered, hah- who put me in charge? Anywhooo, the leafy greens were pretty basic, as you can probably tell, but I did rave about the dressing. If they sold it in a bottle, I’d probably stock up on some!

3060607d-b68e-4629-bc49-f20d1268e681-1Next, we tried their squid ink pasta with I thiiiink grilled swordfish. It was yummy, but probably my least favorite of all the dishes, surprisingly!

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The dish below was a mushroom risotto. YUM! So much flavor.

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And lastly, our favorite dish, the blue crab gnocchi. Goodness gracious, I need to have this again!

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They even brought out some complimentary champagne. It was a beautiful dinner and we were both pretty happy the original plan fell through. This is definitely a new favorite spot in town of ours. It’ll be a local favorite in no time too, I have no doubt.

We officially rang in the New Year at home, asleep, per usual 😆

January 1st was a day of cleaning/getting everything in order for the year ahead! January 2nd I went to get my car taken in for maintenance, and while I waited I walked over to The Meteor Cafe on South Congress.

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I’ve passed by this place countless times, but this was my first time popping in.

It was a great, relaxed vibe- they even had a little shop fully equipped with biking gear.

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The food on display was catching my eye! Next time I’m gonna try one of their flatbread slices.

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I wasn’t initially planning on ordering any food, but when I saw the lemon curd kouign-amann I couldn’t resist!

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I also ordered a cafe au lait with almond milk. The combo…. can’t dream of anything better.

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The Kouignn Amann was yummy and perfectly flaky. But. Still not on B. Patisserie’s level in SF 😉

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On January 3rd I worked on getting ready for the next semester. When going for a walk I realized they painted the bread blue! Do y’all remember from this post?

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January 4th was a real treat! DJ and I went to Antonelli’s, a local cheese shop, for their “date night” cheesy experience.

Soo… this is not just any cheese shop. This is THE cheese shop. It has been voted as one of the top cheese shops in America.

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As soon as I saw these signs I knew I would love this place <3

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They also had some very education artwork as well!

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Below on the right is the menu for our date night. If you decide to order any of the cheeses you try you just circle the form to the left.

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Wow oh wow. Some of the best darn cheese of all time. It was the kind of thing where you just wanted to savor each and every bite. They also had pass around marinated olives and bread. Gotta have the fixin’s! I think my favorite of the cheeses was their blue cheese (Roquefort), but it was all tasty.

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They even brought out a little array of desserts- some gingerbread (my favorite), dried apricots, caramels and sea salt dark chocolate (yum!).

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Questions for you:

  • What’s your favorite kind of cheese?

xo <3

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A Mini Friday Favorites!

Hi everyone! It is Friday! WOOHOO! I actually have plans with a friend tonight- look at me being social. DJ is studying for finals, but we have a couple days in March planned to explore Austin together a bit more. I am doing a little mini Friday Favorites post with five instead of ten faves. After publishing this I have about seventy pages of textbook to read (Smalls 2.0), but at least I have something to look forward to, right?! Let’s get tooo ittt!!!!

  1. WEIGHTED BLANKETS! I am officially on the weighted blanket train. These are, wow, do I even have the words?! I received the one below for my birthday and am obsessed. They are a little bit on the pricy side- but worth it. I feel like I’m sinking into my bed at night and get the most sound sleep. It has definitely cut down on the amount of time it takes for me to fall asleep too. I was skeptical about them, but they live up to the hype in my insomniac opinion!3a8fd004-e4c0-4a22-99ed-f4c6d9c2fb11
  2.  The Silent Patient. Psychological thrillers are probably my favorite genre to read for straight entertainment value. This book did not disappoint. It’s a fast read and the ending has one of the best twists I’ve read in a while. The writing is intriguing and surprisingly profound at times too.img_0863
  3. SeaSnax Roasted Seaweed! Okay, this is definitely not for everyone, but I lovee roasted seaweed as a snack. I often get a little craving for it in the afternoon. One of my friends sent me a massive pack for my birthday because she remembered this was one of my favorite snacks in college (so thoughtful!).  This specific brand has a variety of flavors; I have the BBQ flavor and .oh. mannnn….. they are tasty!! (You can get them online from their website, Thrive Market or Amazon).img_0856
  4.  Fanola No Yellow Shampoo. I cannot remember if I already included this in another Faves, I feel like I may have, but here it is again… the most affordable and effective purple shampoo I have ever tried. I only use it about once every couple weeks, but it keeps those blonde tones nice and cool. Highly recommend.img_0864
  5. Oven-baked Cheese Bites with Black Summer Truffle. Need I say more?! I mean….cheese…truffle….cheese…truffle………. OVEN-BAKED cheese truffle. Imported from Italy. Trader Joe’s. Cheese truffle! Little morsels from heaven, I’ll tell ya what. 4fa5dd1f-62d6-4ecb-907e-0c5bc795212b

Alrighty that’s all for now. Time to get crackin’ on the cardiovascular system. Hope you all are well! …  I’m strangely nervous to publish this for some reason! It’s been a hot second since I’ve made a post, so I have those beginner nerves coming back, eek!

xo <3

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**Disclosure: There are affiliated Amazon links in this post! All ideas and opinions are my own**

Eye’ve got my Eyes on San Antonio!

Hi, everyone!! I am currently flying back from North Carolina after an on-campus intensive. A little update about this semester- it has been a game changer, in the best way.  I am in clinicals now, which means I am back with patients <3 I have doubted this decision to return to school many times, especially last semester, but I just kept praying, praying, praying and trusting that this truly what I’m supposed to be doing. And finally, it all feels like it’s coming together. I still struggle with some insecurity about my knowledge or experience, but I am reminded the purpose of this program is to fill in those gaps and provide us with what we need to know. Rather than the idea of being an FNP seeming so nebulous and intangible, it’s becoming more feasible. Prior to clinicals, I was worried about not retaining much of what we learned since it was so stinkin’ much, but it’s pretty cool to see how much of that knowledge comes forward when it’s called upon. My preceptor is absolutely brilliant, and I am learning so much from her. The MAs I work with could not be more wonderful. Last semester was grueling, but this semester feels like a weight is lifted; I have clear direction, motivation and assurance- I am feeling very thankful. My mom-in-law told me last semester (paraphrased) that throughout life often when it feels you are at your wits’ end is usually when you have a breakthrough/things turn up. That’s exactly what I’m experiencing, as is DJ. It’s busy as ever, but we’re both feeling reinvigorated. I do still have a tremendous amount of trepidation, nerves and amount to learn- but the accompanying emotional turmoil has lessened. Also, some exciting news- DJ sealed up his internship for this year. We will be apart for fourteen weeks since it’s in Ohio, which is going to be tough… but we are trying to see the bright-side: It’s a great opportunity for him, I have my heaviest amount of clinical hours during that time so I’ll be MIA anyway, he gets to explore a new city, and with the very little spare time I do have I can invest in friendships in Austin. It’ll just be another adventure for us both!

Okay, so I am posting one more post from 2019 (this one), and I’ve decided I’ll save my whole Christmas post for next Christmas season and release it at the beginning of December. I’ve never done that before, but maybe it’ll be a fun change of pace?!

Words, words, words… soo many words. And here are more words… but then pics will come soon too!

Sooooo story time (full disclosure, it’s a C+ story at best, read at your own risk of boredom):

I went to the ophthalmologist on December 17th for an annual eye exam (had my first floater…sad day). I had my appointment scheduled at 1 pm and was planning on meeting my mom for dinner in San Antonio in the late afternoon/evening (she was there for work). They said I would be just fine to drive after the appointment, so I didn’t rearrange my plans to drive straight to San Antonio immediately after. Well, it was more challenging than I would have thought. I was fine seeing a few feet in front of me/long-distance- I could read road signs easily, but I couldn’t make out anything on my phone, and even the car dashboard was hard to read. I went home and grabbed multiple sunglasses and somewhat blindly entered San Antonio into my GPS (Again, I was just fine seeing more than a couple feet in front of me, I just couldn’t read fine print). So I am driving and hear the ominous “ding ding” of the car maintenance alert on my dash. I had to squint furiously to make out what was the drama was. I figured out that it said my tire pressure was low, but my car doesn’t clarify which tire’s pressure is low, so time to go fill them all up. I found a gas station and pulled in. I could not read the meter for the life of me- it was just a black meter box with blurred numbers and letters. I walked into the gas station without running into the door (I know, I’m still surprised I didn’t too) and went up to the cashier with my double sunglasses on. Her face did not hide her confusion. I said to her, “I have a very odd request” which caused her to look at me even more… inquisitively. I explained the situation and offered to pay anyone a few bucks just to help me fill the darn tires up because I was helpless. One of the gas station employees helped me out, but when I turned on the car the alert was still on. I drove for a while longer, very cautiously, and the up-close blurriness slowly subsided. I tried one more gas station and this time I could make out the meter just enough to fill up my tires. But the dang alert light was still on my dashboard. I then took it to a car shop in San Antonio when I arrived, and they said it was probably just the alarm that needed to be reset since my tires were just fine (but they didn’t have that capability there). ANYWAY, I took the car in officially when I was back in Austin, and it was true, my light alert just needed to be reset… So I went through all that chaos for nothin’ ! LOL. Okay, D+ story at best. If you read that, bless you.

Anywho. After that fiasco, I met up with my mom at one of her malls she manages. We did some shoppin’, and I got the best deal ever on a Kate Spade purse. It was 60% off and I had a giftcard that covered it all with some left! My mom found some great deals on clothes too.

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After our successful shopping trip, we headed to our hotel for the evening. We stayed in the same one from the last time we were here!! As soon as we stepped through the lobby I had a rush of memories come back from the last trip. <3

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We dropped off our bags from shopping and took a quick view out the window before hitting the riverwalk!

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It is just magnificent at Christmas. There is no way to capture the beauty of the riverwalk in the photos.

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As we were looking for somewhere to eat we stumbled across a place that still had a happy hour going on- $3 glasses of wine. We stopped in for a glass at Lonestar Cafe while we had some wonderful conversation (mostly my mom encouraging me after an arduous few months). We also scoped the riverwalk for where we should eat.

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We decided on boudro’s. My mom remembered one of her coworkers actually recommended this. Wow, oh wow. This meal was one I will never forget. It’s one of those where every single bite was a flavor explosion.

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We sat out on their patio under a heater and were wrapped up in their cozy wool blankets. This was a moment where I felt like I could just relax for the first time in months. The setting was warm and seeing the Christmas lights on the riverwalk made it all that more magical.

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We decided to split three of their appetizers that were jumping off the page to us. First up, their seared scallops with white corn pozole (I don’t exactly know what pozole is, but it’s guuuud), red pepper vinaigrette and cilantro oil. I tried to savor every single little nibble!

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Next up were their wild mushrooms with grilled baked polenta, goat cheese, roma tomatoes and chipotle-thyme demi-glaze. Holy. Moly. Forever and always I have so mushroom for this dish in my life. So good. The polenta cakes were an excellent touch.

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And last… we went for a pretty uncharacteristic dish for us considering we do not regularly eat meat… but we could not resist a menu option as unique as this.. the all natural mesquite grilled Texas quail on pepper jack grits with fried parsley and jalapeno chips and chipotle demiglace. This was the winner. I didn’t think the other two dishes could be surpassed.. but woah…

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As we were munchin’, we had a little friend join us!!!

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He was so cute we could not stand it!!! Although he was a beggar!

My brother couldn’t help but point out on my insta story the irony that I posted our duck friend right after the quail. Whoops!

The riverwalk was hushed by the time we strolled back to our hotel. It was absolutely serene soaking with the quietness of the river and the brisk chill in the air. We both headed out in the morning. This was a quick and impromptu trip I will always treasure.

Questions for you:

  • Any good books you’re reading right now?
  • Did you watch the Oscars? I have them on while I’m editing this post, and these performances are captivating!

xo <3

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Lucky Robot & Trail of Lights!

Hey, everyone! In this post I am taking y’all on a culinary journey to Lucky Robot. This is a local restaurant on South Congress that I’m honored to be an ambassador for! This has been on our list of restaurants to try for a while, so I was ecstatic when they reached out.

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When we walked through the doors on December 15th we were immediately wowed by the eye-catching, electric and vibrant decor.

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We decided to sit outside since it was an absolutely beautiful day! It was nearly 80 in December. Whatt!

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Just a little background- they are the first sustainable sushi restaurant in all of Texas. They use the phrase Ichiban Dake to inspire all they do (it means “Only the best”). They put so much care and attention to every detail of their restaurant from the decor to the customer experience to the flavor to the presentation of each dish.

First, we started with peach blossom breeze which includes peach-infused sake, orange juice, cranberry juice and brut. It was light, refreshing and delicious!

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Of course, we have to have some edamame to start!

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We ordered their shrimp and pork dumplings with pork, shrimp, passion fruit ponzu and basil seeds. (Even though I don’t usually eat meat, for food shoots I do at least try each dish so I can appreciate the spread and give a fair assessment). These were great… the passion fruit was a wonderfully unique twist.

d6d39db9-02de-4619-b385-d1e3cb23fd3a82a8eba9-ff20-42f4-a03c-8eccd087d60aNext up were the steamed pork buns with spicy soy glaze, farm-to-table sunomono and cilantro.  They were extremely savory and packed with flavor. The bao itself was soft and pillowy as could be. DJ was particularly blown away by these, they were his favorite of everything we tried. We are starting a “must try” in Austin list with specific items from different restaurants, and this is going on it!640dbb78-f34f-4b76-ba02-a4d7f69798580066ed63-eadb-424e-adcd-8d1e8ebcda37Next up is my personal favorite- the veggiepillar with miso grilled eggplant, sesame, pickled cucumber and carrot, topped with avocado and serrano, yuzu miso sauce and sesame. Okay, this is seriously one of my favorite sushi rolls I have ever tried, and it doesn’t even have any fish. Phenomenal.eabdfd18-d347-48df-9ffb-a628eaaaa72c9b425252-2334-4a01-b8f3-06ca210786d7We also tried their famous Voltron with crab, avocado, pickled cucumber & carrot topped with tuna, salmon and amberjack that is served with sesame, spicy mayo and soy lemonglass glaze. It was delicious and had every fish you could ever dream in a roll- it was DJ’s favorite between the two, where I preferred the veggiepillar.cc4323bb-7098-4b9a-a208-ff4d6e7a7402Next up is the stunning king cebiche with big glory bay king salmon, tiger’s milk, serrano, purple sweet potato, shallot, persimmon and cilantro oil. The flavor was extremely delicate and you could tell how much attention went into this dish.5032eb2a-779e-461a-9f8f-1e13144d2c1e988ce4d4-ce98-431e-b582-510b3616b3efWhen we got home I went for an lovely run in the warm weather. After, we did some house chores, and then I worked on going through the pics a bit. We were pretty exhausted after such a busy weekend- but then had a second wind around 8:30. I saw that it was free admission to the Trail of Lights and since neither of us had classes the next day (what!) we decided to check them out.2f4c3a59-8baa-4c0c-b828-76bc132492b2839bf375-1544-4270-86e5-2acc31d6137fb99316f3-9e8e-44d7-8410-4c98ebb873e4We have heard a lot of hype around this event, but didn’t know what to expect. It was absolutely magical and magnificent. It helped get us in the Christmas spirit!58691701-281f-43b4-b58c-e277ebe9aaacCan you spot Texas on the globe?1928be52-72e5-4052-9b0b-d767f3e1d2e0e18171e4-43b7-46e7-b6da-036581501059832186cb-29c7-47b3-9155-a36ffcbf939cI was crackin’ up by the “Upside down” land. All the trees were literally upside down haha. How does that even work… ya there, gravity?9dbe9c20-3f26-45e0-9765-6234b5887ef3They had a variety of food trucks, a carousel and even a Ferris wheel!14880808-44c7-4250-80ad-bc1f253405ecb0a3afa4-5b4c-492f-b97e-a4420fc43340They even had a bat cave (Representing the bats on South Congress). I don’t know that I’ve discussed the whole bats on South Congress thing before… but I’ll make sure to discuss the whole situation behind them in a future post.2d9b0993-5d82-4924-8103-a3761ba027f1And to further the Christmas inspired lights, here is the North Pole!a3268256-bb80-4cf4-b557-bacdb447d038We even had the opportunity to go through Candyland!686d7de8-9c4e-46dc-ac93-01bfeed765fd4a86d51a-f5d9-4cdd-b0d4-abe1a932a7e3d68f1b3d-8417-4995-aef9-b8a304b5e8f2At the end of the trail there is even a live band playing an area to cook S’mores if you wish.30370549-5703-477b-877d-cc44d055c6fe5292d490-35c3-4262-b49c-78ff84d06465As we headed out we were in awe of the lights against the city skyline. Plus there was a massive moon that night, although I failed to capture it on camera.0bab99dd-10dc-468a-ba31-27a9ff864697Since we had sort of a “linner” at Lucky Robot, we grew hungry again by the time we finished the lights around 9. Since neither of us had to get up early the next day we decided to walk into town to grab some pizza.a9683439-4bbb-405e-9e18-5c96696beb87We went to Via 313 – another local favorite.800045f0-e3c7-4495-98ce-6615085aa8da36f16654-08f1-4ddd-864b-90e4b3a02f3cIt took a while to get our pizza (probably about 30 mins), so we enjoyed the quiet and warm setting and watched some ESPN in the meantime.88f8611a-dc9f-412e-8bc0-5f1bb14b0c04Finally around 11 pm we got our pizzas – the veggie for me and four cheese for DJ. The veggie was fine- but the four cheese was absolutely amazing!b1145553-a1d7-4c87-a80e-0f599f658ec0455838d7-a314-464d-9f37-945c32ae55acAnd I had to take a picture of the bathroom area- so cute.4f7041ba-3786-46af-8cbd-960449f562eeQuestions for you: 

  • Are you watching Bachelor? We must discuss.
  • Thoughts on the Grammys if you watched? I thought Alicia Keys did an incredible job…So full of grace. I loved Lizzo’s performance (of course) and Camila Cabello’s had me in tears. I still have about an hour left, but I will probably finish it tomorrow.

Before I end this post I just want to say we are absolutely devastated hearing about Kobe, his daughter and everyone else involved in the accident. Gosh, there really are no words… reminds us all to hug our loved ones a bit tighter and to never take a single moment for granted. <3 So many thoughts and prayers are with the Bryant family and all other families impacted.

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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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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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