Cozumel & Daze at Sea!!!

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

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

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

Not a bad way to spend a Monday, eh?

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

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

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Puerta Maya here we come!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Perfect little peach!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And cheesecake for dessert 😉

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dawwww, how dang cute.

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

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

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This night was my favoritedinner of the entire week!

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

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

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

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

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

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Rach tried their ribeye!

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

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

Time for Punchliner!

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

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

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

It was worth it! So much beauty!

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

xo ❤

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Easter Sunday on a Cruise!

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

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

And we made it!!!

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

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

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

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We made it to our room!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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I adore this picture ❤

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And somebunny was veryy hungry!!!

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

SO . DANG. DELICIOUS.

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

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Rach loved their steak & eggs..!

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

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

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

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

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

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Like I said, our fair share of pictures!

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

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

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

xo ❤

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New Orleans, LA!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I decided to make the first stop Garden District!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Do Pirates count as sketchy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I even spotted our Cruise Ship on the way!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rach had their refreshing grapefruit mimosa!

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

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

xo ❤

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Napa & Sonoma Part Two… & Graduation Day!

Annnnd here we are! Round two!!! Welcome welcome to perhaps one of my favorite recaps of all time. I am going to conclude our incredible time in wine country (if you missed part one, peep it here) then recap the rest of last week. I’ve just caught up with my favorite Peet’s barista while holding up the line (apologies to my fellow coffee addicts), have a cup in hand, and am situated in my favorite spot looking out the rain sprinkled window for the next couple hours. I don’t have any studying, applications, projects, or any other big “must dos” on my to-do list for the first time in years. I feel like I am breathing, really truly breathing. And this oxygen is quite nice. Inhale, exhale, sip some cafe au lait, repeat. Join me?

After we finished up at the brilliant Castle, we headed over to Frog’s Leap winery. I would say if you only have limited time in Wine Country Rambauer and Frog’s leap are the two I would recommend. Also, Kalpana, a friend that lives in Los Gatos, shared some amazing tips as well in the comments of the last post, so definitely take time to read those over too if you are looking for suggestions!

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Frog’s Leap is what I would equivocate to heaven on Earth. It is a floral oasis with winding gardens in the middle of a quiet cozy valley. Reflecting on it almost feels like a dream, the warmth of the sun and the wine as we walked around the Switzerland remnant abode nearly left me half expecting Julie Andrews to start serenading the visitors with Sound of Music.

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Halfway through our exploration of the majestic vineyard, I remember telling my mom no amount of pictures could do this place justice. And now I will say it again! Darn, guess you’ll just have to visit it yourself!

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Maybe I should put those sunglasses to use? Just an idea?

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We reluctantly left this ethereal destination only to follow a path just as beautiful onto our next destination. At one point we had to stop just to take in the most stunning natural spring of flowers we have ever seen!

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Adoring God’s creation can really work up an appetite. We headed to Mustards Grill upon my Uncle Pat’s recommendation. Good thing I just had a snack because even looking at these pictures my stomach is growling again! O my lanta, if you need a place to eat in Wine Country, I’ll tell ya, your decision is made- GO here!

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We started with the BEST calamari dish ever… crispy calamari with curried slaw and fresno chili. Yumayumayummm.

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Deej had their half Pound niman Ranch Hamburger or Cheeseburger, house-made pickles, french fries. I love how everything has a little touch of Mustard too on their dishes.

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My mom and I of course split their special Halibut. And we also split a glass of their recommended pinot grigio for the halibut. I am not even kidding, this halibut was some of the best of all time. And for it being split, they gave us such a generous serving. We didn’t leave one nibble to be consumed. It was tremendous. It was so good that momma Jill decided to purchase a cookbook to take home. Her and Pete like to collect books from places as souvenirs. Such a fun idea!

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We then headed to our last stop for the day- Domaine Carneros.

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This chateau is the oldest sparkling wine house in all of Napa.

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It’s pristine winding staircases leading up to a mammoth mansion overlooking the miles of vineyards, mountains, and rolling hills was a picturesque site to behold..

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We tried their sampler of sparkling wines with some roasted almonds. Once again, hate to be the bearer of bad bubbly, but we all agreed we preferred our Almond sparkling wine from Trader Joe’s.. Maybe we just didn’t try the right ones?! Certainly worth the experience though!

DJ had to head back that evening to work the next day, but my mom, Pete, and I watched Fixer Upper and ate our leftover desserts. Pete was feeling much better by this point!

That evening my mom handed me a big thick envelope. I had no idea what it could be. Inside were pages on pages of prayers she has wrote out for me through this year . I have cried reading her cards in the past, but this just pulled the heart strings next level. This was one of the most special gifts I have ever, EVER received. I still haven’t finished them all yet, it may take a while, but I cry every single time I read one. She has always set such a great example for us of what it looks like to be in true relationship with Christ and how prayer is not just about requests or bringing struggles, it’s about the conversation. The prayers are so real, honest, and raw. I truly believe the only reason I made it through this year was because of her and others’ prayers. I did not make it through on my own strength, there is no way. Thank you again, Mom<3

In the morning of Monday the 12th, I headed back a bit before my mom and Pete did to get my speech finished up for the next day, to run a couple errands, and do a quick couple loads of laundry. I was just following my GPS and lo’ and behold, stumbled right on through the Golden Gate. Don’t you love it when that happens?

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In the evening, we all met at Willard Hicks in Campbell. DJ and I have wanted to try this place out for a while, but it’s near impossible to get a reservations.

Time to put this place to the test! DJ’s mom, Laura, who hasn’t been here in a YEAR (you may remember this epic weekend), was able to come for graduation! It meant the world that she wanted to come in the first place. She has been one of my main shoulders to lean on and always an ear to listen through this wild ride of a year ❤

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So with the WH— LOVED the ambiance. I was expecting a pretty fancy steakhouse, based on the menu and wait, but it had a more casual sports bar feel, yet with a touch of pizzazz.

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We started with the exquisitely exotic willard hick’s baked brie. It came with phyllo wrapped baked brie with roasted veggies, whole roasted garlic (like still in the bulbs), dried fruit, chutney, and crostini. I probably do not need to even rave about how fantastic this was.

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We also had to try their iron skillet poblano cornbread. This may have been my favorite part of the whole meal. The sweet creamed corn was perfectly moist (sorry moist haters). We savored every single nibble.

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For entrees (everyone in my family is a saint for letting me be “That” person snapping pictures of their food)… anyway, Pete tried their awesome short ribs!

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Of course, my mom and I split the scallops with some of the most delectable mushroom risotto to ever grace our taste buds. The scallops were cooked to savory perfection and the small little critters carried the most divine flavor!

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Both DJ and my mom in law had the swordfish. Of course I snuck a nibble- it was mmm mmm mmm good!

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Sides- Butternut squash, Horseradish mashed potatoes, & Brussels. Can’t go wrong with those!

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I love these people more than words can say!

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The next day, March 13th, was graduation time!!!! I have yet to do a one year reflection post, and I will save most of my thoughts for that. But this was a HUGE day. HUGE. I honestly didn’t think I would make it to this point. I presented my research project that I have poured endless hours into, gave my speech (which went very well- thank you for your prayers & encouragement about that!), and lastly was given a certificate that I prize more than my high school or college diploma. This certificate states that I completed the Residency program, but to me, it symbolizes surviving the hardest year of my life.

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Also, I am so excited to share I was nominated Employee of the Month! When I saw the announcement in a staff e-mail I thought it was a mistake, or that there was perhaps another Mackenzie on our unit I was unaware of. Surely, it couldn’t be me?! This warmed my heart more than I can express. I feel like I fail and am incompetent on a daily basis, but it was beyond affirming that others think otherwise. I do not at all feel deserving, but it just motivates me to live up to the honor! Within a couple weeks I was accepted into my first choice for grad school, graduated from my residency program, had the most tremendous memories with my family, and then this?! Too much to handle. God is good and He is faithful. I was able to show my family the unit I work on, and of course my mom whipped out her phone for the picture below as I started blushing and quickly walking away. lol. It was great to finally show them where I work though after endless  conversations over this past year about it all!

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To celebrate, I was having a hankering for True Food kitchen which is nearby the hospital. Subconsciously, I think there is a reason I was craving this. After I took my NCLEX nearly a year and a half ago, DJ and I celebrated by going to True Food. I think it has officially become the place to go after super high stress events?!?

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I love that all the food is organic and wholesome, but it’s also annoyingly delicious (annoying meaning I crave it allll the time, but can’t get it enough to satisfy my craving).  Anyone else get that? All the girls tried the thai grapefruit martini… absolutely refreshing and not too terribly sweet.  Pete had their bloody! Can’t go wrong with a good bloody.

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Meals! Boy, can we eat. Us girls tried variations of their ancient grains bowl, which is my favorite thing I have had here yet (although their fall butternut squash and ricotta pizza is pretty flame- wood fired to be exact). This included miso glazed sweet potato, turmeric, charred onion, snow peas, grilled portobello, avocado, and hemp seed. Definitely something that could be recreated (although I probably could never make it taste quite as yummy). You can add shrimp, tofu, chicken, or steak too!

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DJ had their TLT again (tempeh, lettuce, and tomato). SO GOOD. You would never know the bacon wasn’t bacon.

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Pete had their spicy panang curry with organic potato, long bean, bok choy, carrot, thai basil, and coconut shrimp broth with chicken! I’m telling ya, their menu is super diverse- something for everyone!

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After the amazing lunch, DJ had to go to work, and Pete decided to take a little nap back at home. However, the ladies of the group were not about to turn down a stroll through a mall. We waltzed and frolicked (inside blog joke, anyone?) through the mall. It was a blast. Even the next day we were talking about how much fun it was to just peruse the mall together.

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Last, I just want to share something pretty special. When we were at Casillo Di Amorosa, my mom suggested we both get bracelets as a sweet way to remember our trip. We both picked out our own special color, and usually I would go for a neutral tone, but I couldn’t get over how pretty the periwinkle-like purple was. A couple days later I opened up a gift from my mother-in-law. I was blown away by the thoughtfulness of the gifts (I’m saving a couple for a Friday Faves), but I want to share one. This gorgeous necklace is Amethyst. She explained the amethyst represents healing powers and that this is what I give my patients. I cried when I read this. So beyond thoughtful, and something I will forever treasure ❤

I also realized both the Castillo di Amorosa stone matched the amethyst and loved how well the two go together. Wearing this jewelry will always remind me of the strong, prayer warrior women that have been my rocks to stand on, my source of wisdom, and my encouragers.

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I have never been so emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted as I have been this past year. And yet, in this moment I have never been so utterly fulfilled. Thank you for coming on this journey with us. Love to you all.

xo ❤

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San Diego: Part 3- An Italian Oasis, Museums, & Shout House!

HAPPY TUEEESDAY! It’s actually my Monday.. cause ya know, nurse life. But guess what? I get the first four hours off unexpectedly due to unit staffing! I’m thinking this is for the best considering I’ve already spilled oatmeal on myself after overflowing it in the microwave and burning my tongue on my coffee. It’s gonna be “that” kind of day so maybe it’s a good idea that we don’t place human lives in my hands until I wake up a bit ;).

Alas, we come to our last post from San Diego, but I think it may just be my favorite.

We left off coming back from the Zoo in Part 2… Hungry as a couple of bears.

Per recommendation from a couple friends, we had to try the infamous Cucina Urbana. I want to say straight up– If you have one meal to have in San Diego, and if you are a human being that has any kind of love for food, GO HERE. Besides the brunch (which is just in another food universe), this was hands down, our favorite meal.

It’s the ultimate tasteful experience the from the warm farmhouse feel to the contemporary aesthetics to the food itself.

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It was romantic, yet casual. All the food on their menu had Italian roots with unique twists.

We debated between the stuffed fried squash blossoms and the grilled octopus. We settled on the octopus (Can you believe it?!).. this was tremendous. I even liked this better than the octopus from Mister A’s, and I told DJ it was easily the closest I have had to Marco Prime’s (one day I will shut up about the octopus from Marco Prime- today is not that day). This octopus included speck + celery + cashew + lemon yogurt + salsa verde. Mmmmm mmmm!

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I am an odd bird, and I’m not a huge fan of traditional pasta… don’t kill me! If I have the option I would much rather choose a seafood dish or pizza usually over pasta. But the waitress convinced me I had to try this dish, and I would not dare go against the expert’s suggestion! This is the chili thread farfalle with tahitian squash + brussels sprout leaf + red cabbage + burrata cider fonduta.

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The verdict? Unbelievable. Seriously (I have my serious face on) one of the BEST pasta dishes I have EVER had. If I could go back to San Diego for one thing- I think I would grab this.

Anywho… DJ’s opted for their mouth-watering lasagna. There was not one little nibble left at the end of the meal.

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After, we grabbed the check and rushed back to the hotel so we didn’t miss a beat of Bachelor. Also, fun fact- Tipsy Crow, a local bar/dive, airs Bachelor on Monday nights. We considered going, but decided we just wanted to relax in the hotel room and get some room service desserts!

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The next morning, we walked to Gaslamp for breakfast. (This is going to be a comida saturated post).

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The Breakfast Republic was beckoning to us from our Yelp app.

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Every. little. thing. in this restaurant was paid mind to from the coffee mugs (Need) to the napkin holders.

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I had their mushroom & pesto benedict- mmmm mmm!

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Deej tried their pancake flight with oreo pancakes, traditional pancakes, and bacon pancakes… Take a look at their pancake menu! It’s amazing! I thought they were SUPER good, but DJ is a bit pickier 😉

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Also, to settle the whole debate with male/female restrooms in California, they just stuck the M right in the middle of the two restrooms. I thought this was hilarious… and actually ingenious… and interesting….

In the bathrooms they have on the wall backwards, “You look fine” so when you look in the mirror……

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You get a little pep talk!

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Even washing your hands is an experience, lol.

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We headed back to the hotel and got ready for the day to hit up the museums in Balboa park!

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First, we went to the Museum of Man.

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DJ might argue that this picture is pretty accurate at times, lol

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To be honest, neither of us were all that excited about it. It just didn’t seem to have anything that really, “Wowed” us.

BUT across the street is a new Cannibal exhibit, and that was very fascinating!

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Balboa is just stunning.

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We walked around Balboa park and hit up the Natural History Museum. Once again, not anything thrilled us too much. We decided we probably could have done without the Museums, but they were worth a shot!

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We couldn’t leave Balboa park without sneaking a peak at the Moreton Bay Fig Tree! It’s over 100 years old and one of the largest in California.

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We peaked into the Japanese friendship garden, but decided we were ready to head out!

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For our last evening we decided to spend it where? None other than the Gaslamp Quarter! We decided to see if we could snag a spot at Rustic Root, a desirable rooftop bar and eatery overlooking the heart of Gaslamp.

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This was a treat!!!! We decided to just pop in for some light apps, and the warm air and casual ambiance was the most relaxing experience.

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We devoured the salmon tartar with green onion , masago , sweet & spicy sauce ginger , papaya , avocado , and shiso as well as the garden flatbread with cherry tomato , jalapeno , roasted garlic , red onion zucchini , pesto , and manchego & jack cheese. So good!

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After our apps we had quite a bit of time before the last big event on our itinerary. We passed a Tim Cantor art gallery, and I couldn’t not stop in.

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I am obsessed with this picture below. (I knowwww I’m not supposed to take pictures of art, but I couldn’t help it).

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Alll of his art was impeccable. It blended reality with almost a carnival like, dream state. I spent probably twenty five minutes in the small gallery. DJ ended up just sitting outside, but I couldn’t get enough!

After, feasting with our mouths and our eyes, we headed to the Shout! House. If you are a San Diego native, you know this is the PLACE.

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We still had room for more food, so DJ had the wings and I was dying to try their Mac & Cheese balls.

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The show included Dueling pianos. We LOVE comedy shows and anything of the like. Even though it was a Tuesday night, the place ended up filling up quite a bit. I was in awe of how talented they were! If you need something to do in San Diego, highly recommend this!

After Shout! House, we walked back and swam in the warmed pool at the Westin. This was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. I love love love swimming, and swimming on a San Diego overlook in this beautiful city on a warm evening was perfection.

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We ended our last night with one more dessert from room service….

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In the morning, we ended with breakfast at the hotel. It was the BEST hotel brunch I have ever had. It was so good that I left a review for them on Orbitz. I know I already reviewed the Westin in part one, but I would say, it’s worth staying here for the breakfast buffet alone (it’s not free, but 100% worth it).

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They had beet and carrot juices that were so tasty.

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AND NUTELLA FRENCH TOAST

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One of my favorite parts of the breakfast was the goat cheese toasts. This would be a fantastic appetizer- toast, goat cheese, blueberries, and rosemary! I will definitely be recreating for a party or hosting.

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We packed up and said goodbye to the hotel ❤

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Since our flight was in the evening we decided to spend or last couple free hours at Coronado beach again. We went and laid  (lied? lain? HELP!) out on the beach, reading, and falling in and out of sleep.

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It was a perfect way to end an absolutely perfect trip.

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So, what did we miss?! I would love to hear all your suggestions for next time we stop by this incredible city!!!! Thanks for sharing in these fun memories with us 🙂

xo ❤

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San Diego: Part Two- Sunsets, and Gaslamp, and Bears, oh my!

Well I should probably get this part two written one of these days, whaddya say? I left off Part One with us heading to La Jolla!!! La Jolla was breathtaking- I’ll just let the pictures mostly speak for themselves. It’s just about a twenty-five minute drive from downtown San Diego.

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When DJ and I discussed our favorite parts of the trip after the fact, DJ said La Jolla was a candidate.

The cove is a gorgeous little beachy/cliff strip of land along the ocean. Up from the water’s edge is a quaint city with an inviting atmosphere and a small town feel.

We were immediately greeted by the cutest sea lions. They were a couple of lazy bums, plopping around on the sand until the tide came in too close.. then they would scootch a couple inches, probably the most movement they would have the whole day.

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What. a . life. Am i right?!

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And there was one that was determined to stake his claim.

 

We walked around the sidewalks, edging past other tourists, all of us trying to sneak in glimpses of the glorious views. Per my good friend Annie’s recommendation, we had to see the sunset at the cove. I absolutely understood why as the sun started making it’s way toward the water.

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Babe & Views, Views & Babe

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We sat on a dusty cliff and chatted in the most serene, calming moment accompanied by the background hum of waves and people’s murmurs. I looked over at Deej and said this reminded me of our moment on the cliffs in San Francisco months ago. At that time I had such anxiety, I felt such a hopeless, heavy, suffocating weight on my shoulders. I told DJ now I felt joy, excitement, and a new found hope in the future. This year has been hard (to say the absolute least), but I’m thankful to have had him by my side through every step.

On our way back to the car we spotted an acapella group, and drug DJ toward them to watch to his chagrin. Let’s just say this is not his cup of tea, but I loved it!! Babe & tunes & views!

 

After La Jolla, I had said it was time to rally, rally, rally!!!! I still was not 100%, but much better than the night before. Ohhhhh and you know how I wasn’t sure we were going to ever be hungry again following that massive brunch? L O to the L. We were ravenous. A serious sunset can take it out of ya. We headed to the Gaslamp Quarter to grab some grub… it was only about a mile and a half walk from our hotel.

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I love the energy of the Gaslamp quarter. It’s considered the historic heart of San Diego, yet it has such a contemporary and lively vibe about it all.

Even on a Sunday night, it was hopping on every corner.

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We were craving some good Mexican, and La Puerta had the reputation as being some of the best around. The 40 minute wait confirmed those rumors.

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It has all the rock and roll vibes and all though decorated to give off casual, garage like feels, it was meticulously decorated. The right side of the wall was covered in fake green moss contrasted by a wall of actual criminal mug shots. It was the most unique restaurant we may have ever been to.

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We tried their street tacos- I had the grilled veggies and DJ tried the carne asada. So good, the ingredients were fresh and delicious. The whole meal definitely hit the spot.

Funny(ish) story: The waiter brought out a CD player with our bill… we thought it was basically an eccentric billfold. We put the card in and when he came back to grab it, he was confused…not seeing a card or cash visible. We explained it was in the CD holder, and he said, “Oh no, that’s just staying on the table after you head out.” Whoops! Oh well. But a CD holder would be a creative way to collect cards and money….

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We stopped by our dear San Diegoan Ghirardelli cousin after because I had a serious sweet tooth. I grabbed a few Ghirardelli squares to munch on as we strolled around the street of Gaslamp. (If you ever pass a Ghirardelli they pass out free chocolate squares inside of that season’s flavor).

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After strolling around after another food coma, we decided to head to Altitude Sky Lounge- A rooftop hangout promising the ultimate views in San Diego.

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I highly suggest stopping by here if you visit San Diego. The ambiance was amazing- relaxed and comfortable. They even had a large flickering fireplace that people chatted around into the late hours of the evening.

And the views speak for themselves….

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We were even able to look directly into Petco park

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We walked back to the hotel with happy tummies and happy memories.

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On the 15th (yes we are finally into the next day), I woke up bright and early for a good workout. I loved looking out the window and watching the sunrise. I am trying to read through the “100 Books you should read before you die” list this year. I read, “The Lovely Bones” while working up a great sweat. I will say, it is quite disturbing, but I couldn’t put it down. I have so many highlighted sections and quotes from it that I’d love to share sometime soon.

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DJ and I headed out for the day for our long anticipated trip to the renowned San Diego zoooo!!!! We parked near Balboa park and decided to walk over.

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We did the Go San Diego pass, which I think was the best way for us to do both Balboa and the Zoo. It was the cheapest way and included nearly everything. The only thing the 3-day pass didn’t include vs. the 3,5, and 7 day pass was Sea World. We were okay with that, but if you want to visit sea world I suggest doing the 3, 5, or 7 day pass!

We grabbed breakfast from the cutest little coffee stand in Balboa park. I opted for oatmeal and DJ munched on a slice of lemon poppyseed bread. The coffee was tremendous…

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…Until I spilled some on my white sweater….. ya win some, ya lose some.

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The zoo, oh the zoo!!! Y’all know what a zoo has so I won’t go into much description. This was by far the best zoo I have ever been to. It had everything… it truly had creatures I had no idea existed. I would suggest blocking out at least three hours to see everything.

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DJ navigated us with the map, making sure we didn’t miss a beat!

These little guys below are >100 years old!!! How sturtling is that. I couldn’t believe these little critters were born back in the 1900s. And they were HUGE, I didn’t know turtles (or tortoises?) this large existed. The pictures do not do justice to their size. Males can weigh greater than 500 lbs. 500 LBS. I was in turtle awe.

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Gotta love a good croc.

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One of our favorite exhibits was the gorillas.

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The Easter Giant Eland is one of those creatures that looks magical, and I didn’t know anything like it actually existed in our world. They were spectacular.

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We started getting pretty hungry again after the Panda Exhibit (love love love!). We stopped by Sabertooth grill for some grub. Nothing like some good fried food to accompany a zoo day. DJ wen with the classic grilled chicken tenders and I was pleasantly surprised to see they had a vegan burger!

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Once we were all fueled up, we went back making sure we didn’t miss a single exhibit. We stopped by and watch the Jaguar Keeper talk (super fascinating) and listened the formidable lion bellowing in the neighbor exhibit. Apparently, it’s roar can be heard up to four miles away!

This sweet little man below was one of my other favorites from the exhibit. I didn’t take a picture of it’s name, so I don’t know what type of animal it actually is, but it was precious!!! Does anyone know?!

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The baboons probably should be a PG-13 exhibit to be honest.

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And if you don’t think God has a sense of humor…..

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Badgers are hilarious the way they scamper about.

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To cap off our adventures, we did the sky ride. Definitely do this to get a full look into the zoo! The sun was just starting to set so we had some pretty views of Balboa Park and the sky as well.

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We headed back to our car after several hours of exploring what felt like another world.

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We then made our way to dinner in Little Italy. I will include that in our last part of the trip, Part 3!

Have y’all been to the San Diego zoo?! In general- what’s your favorite exhibit?

xo ❤

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San Diego: Part One- Mister A’s, Coronado Beach Brunchin’ & Mission Beach

Long time no see!!! But I can’t say long time, no SEA! This past week, DJ and I zipped to San Diego (MY FIRST TIME) for an impromptu getaway. On a whim, I requested a couple days of PTO, not thinking it would get approved. But I’lllll be all the darned, I got em’!!! We quickly planned our trip, and I’m pretty confident I spent more time planning than we were actually there. I LIVE to plan a trip.

Since last year, I have been sick sick sick (overly dramatic use of the New Year). This virus is hanging around much longer than the usual.

It’s actually kind of entertaining— like “What form will it take this week?!” Behind week one we have a runny nose! Behind week two we have a dry nagging cough! Feeling adventurous- week three has a sinus infection and body aches! I thought I was getting better around the second week, but the last day I worked on the 12th, I entirely lost my voice by the end of my shift. Trying to give report to other nurses was painful.

The next morning (The 13th) I woke up with a swollen, hoarse, scratchy throat, horrifically runny nose, and swollen face. Happy 24th birthday to meeee! I felt all the body aches and allll the sick. Luckily, I was fueled up my hot coffee and ibuprofen which alleviated the symptoms a ton. PS. Get your flu shot if you haven’t. This year it is SO bad, you guys. Not something to mess with. I get that it is only 10% effective.. yadayadayada.. but majority of those who have become severely gravely ill did NOT have their shot.

Anywho, I was adamant I wouldn’t let this bug get in our way. Mind/matter. I was ready to rally through it and not miss a beat of what we had planned. “Rally” became the theme of our trip. Every time I felt like utter crap, I just said, “But imma rally!“.

The sweet guy gave me the greatest birthday card in the world and this flower birthday cake before hitting the road. I meannn come on now, how ingenious is this since obviously we wouldn’t be there to actually consume a cake. Even now (on the 22nd) the flowers are still in full bloom, without a wilt in sight. And it said, “Hope your birthday takes the cake”….

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I blew out those candles with all the energy I could muster and we jotted over to San Jose’s airport. Neither of us have been in this airport before, and we loved it! Easy & simple and much closer than the SF airport for us.

Naturally…. had to get some Peet’s with LOTS of honey and cinnamon lathered all over the foam of my cafe au lait.

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We flew Alaska and loved it! Granted, it was only about an 1.5 hour flight, but we were in the air much quicker than it seemed usual for most airlines, and it was all over a pleasant flight.

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We made it…500 tissues later!

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I turned a corner in the afternoon and was feeling much better by the time we landed.

Since this is a travel post, I will include quite a bit of information on the more practical travel side (skip this if you aren’t planning on visiting anytime soon, or ever, which would be a crime, and I may try to convince you otherwise)……

When DJ and I were trying to figure out the most cost friendly/ location convenient way to do San Diego, we found that doing the package deal seemed the way to go. We were able to snatch a flight, hotel, and rental car for <$1,000. Granted, parking is a bear, especially at The Westin where we stayed, it was $50 a night!!!! We found a lot directly across from valet that was much cheaper, but overall- that’s something that definitely needs to be taken into account when visiting. We debated if uber/lyfting vs. driving was cheaper, and honestly with all the parking fees it probably would have been about equal, but at least with a rental you have the convenience to get up and go wherever you would like at any time. But like I said- parking is a pain in the neck, so we would definitely consider just ubering next time). We also were able to walk to Gaslamp from The Westin which helped immensely. If you want to do San Diego, I highly suggest staying right in downtown so you can walk most places and not have to pay the uber fees at all (except for when visiting other beaches/Coronado island). ALSO, if debating Westin Gaslamp vs. Downtown 100% stay at the Downtown location. It is maybe a 0.3 mile difference, and the Gaslamp hotel is much more expensive. We loved the Westin downtown complete with a pool, hot-tub, amazing workout facility, beautiful views, super clean, an in-room coffee maker (essential), quiet, awesome bar, and friendly staff. Like I said, only downsides would be the parking cost & the fact that breakfast is not included. But the breakfast is tremendous if you vouch for it (it’ll be included in my last San Diego post).

This is the view from the hotel window. If you want to explore the Westin downtown, click here!

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We got all snazzed up and headed to our first destination in America’s Finest City: Mister A’s.

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Despite having totally lost my voice at this point, I had not lost my appetite. I’m one of those people that only lose my appetite if I have the literal plague. I actually usually get more hungry when sick, especially with colds. The ibuprofen definitely helped with the swallowing ailment too.

Mister A’s is located on the twelfth floor of a building overlooking San Diego. It promised to have the best view in San Diego, and the best food. Can’t pass that up, am I right?

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This is one of the classiest little restaurants we have ever been to.

Now, the foooood. Let’s chat food. I’m eating spoonfuls of PB while writing this to keep the hunger at bay. I suggest you do the same.

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Prior to the meal they brought out bread and butter with a complimentary little bread nugget with a light whipped aioli and hummus creme.

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Even their butter is served in the most beautiful fashion!

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Do you spot the sea salt below? We have never had anything like it. It was out-of-this-world delicious. It was unlike any sea salt I have ever had. I could actually go on for days about how much I loved this stuff. I need to find out where it is from and how I can acquire these little guys.

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I nearly ate their physical menu everything on it looked so good. After much YELP research, we decided to try what seemed to be two of their famous apps- the black mussels provencale with garlic, shallots, and fresh herb butter and their plancha grilled octopus with romesco sauce. I’ll tell ya what, those octopi are the closest I have tried to Marco Prime’s (the best octopus dish in the world). If you follow, I have been on a hunt for that flavor ever since. Gosh, this stuff was good. DJ LOVED the mussels, I preferred the octopus, but still thought they were savory and scrumptious as well. I even asked if the seaweed was edible, and the waiter goes, “Well it’s more for garnish, but I guess technically?”. I joked that he could leave the empty plate so I could savor the seaweed. He thought I was serious, and looked a bit horrified.

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For the main course, I had their main scallops with champagne butter, savory cabbage, walnuts, and parmesan. Oh. so. stinking. tasty.

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DJ had their lobster tail served over zucchini and basil. It was easily one of the most generous servings of lobster tail I have ever seen!

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We also tried their truffle mac as a side and ya know, we thought it was pretty subpar. It needed more salt (luckily we still had our handy dandy sea salt on hand). I’d suggest trying a different side, everything else was phenomenal, but the mac and cheese we could have done without (shocker, I knowww).

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We ended the exquisite edible extravaganza with decaf coffee (for me), a sweet complimentary slice of carrot cake (YAASSSS) & their chocolate royale with dark and white chocolate mousse, caramel ganache, and praline crunch (highly recommend).

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Sometimes my eyebrows have a life of their own, but gotta let them live, ya know?

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The views did not disappoint. It was a perfect end to the evening.

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We waddled back to the hotel with a “no regrets” food coma and had plans to visit Gaslamp. I even got dressed up in something a little more versatile to walk through the historic district….but the minute I sat down I realized I couldn’t do it. I ‘d hit my limit for the day and needed to go to sleep. We decided to explore and rally into the night the next day!

In the morning of the 14th I was feeling tremendously better. I even was able to squeeze in a few miles before hitting the town. I LOVE working out on vacation. I feel like I always am more motivated to get up at the butt crack of dawn and crank it out. Plus, it was very important to create an extra stomach for this trip!

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While some people say breakfast is the most important meal of the day (which I would usually concur), if brunch is in the running it may have my vote. According to the Internet (the most reputable source), Hotel Del Coronado hosts the best brunch in all the land in their Crown Room. We made reservations on Open Table and woke up two eager beavers to see what all the hullabaloo was about.

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First, Hotel Del Coronado was more gorgeous and breathtaking in person than one could fathom. It was simply captivating, a historic landmark that inspired not only awe, but wonder. We agreed that one day we would have to actually stay there.

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The Crown Room was spectacular. It was much larger than I envisioned from the pictures. I feel like I am writing about something sacred while describing this experience. It was easily one of the BEST meals we have ever had. We agreed that if you are going to be in San Diego on a Sunday, it is worth every single cent and more. It is an experience of a lifetime and everyone needs to add this to their bucket list ASAP. There is no amount of pictures, words, or BOLD TYPING that can do this justice. It was a few hours in time that will forever be reminisced between the two of us.

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This brunch had EVERYTHING you can imagine. EVERYTHING. I took a bajillion pictures and probably didn’t even snap half of it. We are talking endless lobster, crab legs, sushi, a make-your-own-donut bar, make-your-own smoked salmon bagel bar, endless unique drinks, a Bloody Mary bar, desserts on desserts on desserts to your heart’s delight, waffles, pancakes, prime rib, beef, veggies upon veggies, cheese from every sector of the world and fruit, parfaits, a candy bar, NYC cheesecake……. I’m not kidding.. I haven’t even covered the half of it.

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At the make your own donut bar, they even had a flamer that toasted the marshmallows on top of the donut if you wanted to make a “S’mores” donut!

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THERE WAS A LOBSTER TAIL IN MY BLOODY MARY. WHAT IS HAPPENING.

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And guess the heck what- DJ said he finally found some all-star pancakes that rate up at the top. (If you follow, we have an ongoing hunt for the best pancakes for DJ).

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Below is a donut DJ made, too cute not to snap a shot.

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There were crown chandeliers hanging all over… you know I couldn’t resist..
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Highlights from the brunch included- the crab legs, biscuits and gravy, smoked salmon, pancakes, mimosas (I didn’t actually prefer the Bloody Mary although it was their signature drink), the NYC Cheesecake, and their shrimp… good lawd, it was the freshest doggone shrimp I have had. I also have to say our waitress was perhaps the sweetest lady of all time. She was such a doll and made the whole experience even that much more terrific.

***Cue the food coma***

I questioned if I would ever be able to eat again quite honestly.

After that experience of a lifetime, we made our way back to the car to change into some beachy gear!

Gotta still represent the SJ in the SD!!!!

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We perused their shops and views.

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Finally we made our way to the beach, greeted by the most terrific sand castle I have ever seen.

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We breathed in the fresh salty air, sunk our feet into the soft sand, and let the sound of the waves overwhelm our senses, saturating our lungs with calm.

We laughed watching the sea gulls fly high into the air and drop a shell from many feet up, hoping to discover an edible gem inside. We mainly laughed at how close the shells came to plopping on people’s heads half the time.

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After the amazing time frolicking on the beach (DJ HATES when I use the word frolick), we headed to our next destination: Belmont Park at Mission Beach.

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Oh how this screamed Santa Cruz to us!!! It is truly the Santa Cruz of San Diego.

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We had to ride the historic Giant Dipper! This one and the one at Santa Cruz are the considered National Historic Landmarks.

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It was actually way more fun than I expected for being such an old coaster!!! But I think it can also guarantee a headache after a few rounds 😉

We walked along Mission Beach, definitely a more boisterous beach than Coronado’s. I’d suggest Mission or Pacific if you are looking for more a party, upbeat, and laid back crowd. Coronado is more calm, quiet, and sophisticated.

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We then headed to La Jolla for an epic sunset. I will include that in my next post! I may have to break this into three parts because there is just far too much. It will probably take another post to just finish the 14th, and we were there till the 17th. Oh boy, haha.

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I am still stuck on the couch after working all weekend long and never really recuperating too much, but that means I’ll have a couple days to catch up on here. I haven’t opened WordPress for a few weeks and am excited to sit down and respond to y’all soon and see what you are up to!

PS. If you have any San Diego posts, please feel free to leave in the comments below! I’d love to explore yours too!

xo ❤

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ALL. THE. FUN. In Fort Worth, TX.

HEYYY YAAAA’LLLLL! This past weekend was nuthin’ but good, Texan fun. It’s actually one of those posts that I’m nervous to write because I feel like I won’t do the weekend justice! Also, fair warning that there are about a million pictures on this post- I had zilch chill when it came to the snapshots. We all know I break about every rule in the blogging book: My posts are too long, I share too many pictures, I make horrible jokes, and I ramble like a middle school girl on the phone. BUTTTTT at least I’m honest about it, right? RIGHT?!

I only find out my schedule about four weeks before, so impromptu planning has forcibly become a newly acquired skill. It worked out that I had four days off in a row, and I had to make the most of it. DJ couldn’t make it with the uncertainty of work, so he was surely missed.

I haven’t seen my mom since the marathon and my step dad, Pete, since Christmas, so I though this would be a perfect time to pay them and my fave lil’ town a visit!

Real quick: If you want to read other posts about the fort worth travels you can check it here or here!

Last Friday (8/11), I worked all day, came home, scarfed down some food and then went to the airport to catch a red eye at 1 am.

I sat down to catch up a little bit on blogging while there. I thoroughly enjoy my “me time” while traveling alone, but man oh man, I was so tired it was hard to even keep my eyes open. I hate being tired- growing up I used to say sleeping is such a waste of time, and I never have really enjoyed it. But this was one of the top five moments of exhaustion in my lifeeeee. My body was like, “whyyy must you torture me like this, go.to.sleeeeep”. Needless to say- I have never longed for or appreciate sleep so much as I do now with this nursing gig.

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I slept nearly every second on the plane ride. I didn’t even wake up for the snacks- yup, that’s how tired I was.

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I had a short layover in Houston. When I arrived in Fort Worth at 8 am on Saturday, I grabbed my suitcase from baggage claim and felt such a great excitement/relief when I saw my mom pull up. I was ecstatic to see her, and also pretty darn excited to find a real live bed with a pillow instead of an airplane tray table. As soon as we arrived, I exchanged a hug with Pete and cuddles with my puppy.

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I decided to take a “quick nap”. I ended up sleeping until one. I never do that. It reminded me of the days of coming back from nursing school and zonking out for hours on end. There is just something about being at your parent’s house that you feel like you can actually relax 100%.

Once I woke up, we went to The Keller Pointe– the local workout facility.

After working out, my mom and I chatted in the hottub (It’s actually so nice after those workout chills set in!)

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And of course, what’s a mother daughter hangout without some sushi!

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We then got ready for our family night out!!

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Dallas/Ft. Worth was having it’s BIG restaurant week! It’d be a crime if we didn’t attend as self-proclaimed foodies. During restaurant week different restaurants create a menu that usually has a three or four course meal with a flat rate, which is way more reasonable than what you would typically spend. You get to sample several options from the menu, pair it with a wine, and get the experience for a decent price! We all haven’t been together since Christmas, so we joked that this was a combined birthday, Father’s Day, new job, and almost making it to the six month mark celebration! Any excuse to celebrate 😉

My mom blew up my e-mail with suggestions to view while waiting for my plane, which is perfect because one of my favorite past times happens to be researching the best local food spots in town. Eddie V’s caught my eye. Not only were they voted the BEST seafood restaurant in the US of A, they also are known for their wine selection– so there’s that.

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The whole restaurant was nothing but class and elegance. The description on their site describes them perfectly:

Eddie V’s charismatic vibe draws you in and holds you close, invites you to be seen, or sit back and just savor. The finest seafood and steaks. World-class wine and service. And live jazz in the V lounge. Eddie V’s can be found across the country. While each location is unique in its setting, artwork and décor, they all share an unmistakable elegance.

If you have a special occasion to celebrate and need a great night out- this is your place. They have several locations in the US- you can see if there is one near you here.

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Of course, for anywhere to be top notch, they served delicious warm bread and butter. The butter was topped with chives and paprika- I’m saving this combo for a rainy day.

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We started with the Maine Lobster Bisque. It was flame. We thought it could have used a bit more actual lobster, but it was still fantastic.

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My mom and I also split their season salad. It came with full parmasean slices and an olive brushetta marinade. It was the best compliment to the heavy lobster bisque.

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Now to get to the main course… I had the salmon with young vegetables and a mustard vinaigrette. I feel like the picture just speaks for itself. It was phenomenal.

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My mom ordered the swordfish with lemon, olive oil, sea salt, and asparagus. It was pretty simple, but absolutely fantastic. I honestly don’t know if I preferred the salmon or swordfish. Both were scrumptious beyond description. They were not lying about good seafood.

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No worries to those carnivores out there….Pete ordered the filet. It was cooked to PERFECTION.

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And just when we didn’t think the meal could get better… then we had the au gratin potatoes…. it was consensus that this was the best part of the meal. Until…

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…..we had dessert!!!!! Wow oh wow. I’m not even exaggerating when I say this was some of the most mouth-watering dessert I have ever tasted.

First, we tried the butterscotch panna cotta. This had salted caramel, walnut pralines, and biscotti. Not sure what it was about this dessert, but it was seriously some of the greatest flavor I have ever experienced. It was smooth, creamy, and full of such intensely pleasant sweetness with a light finish.

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And last, but ooooh certainly not least, we tried the Hot bananas foster butter cake: flambeed table-side and served with small batch butter pecan ice cream. It was easily the tastiest bananas foster I have ever devoured.

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On Sunday morning, we headed to church. Everyone is so friendly in Texas. It was a great service and nostalgically pleasant to attend Church together like the ole’ days!

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When we got back from Church, I downed a piece of toast with better n’ peanut butter PB & honey. We then went to Keller Pointe to workout!

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In the afternoon we went to one of our favorite places in Fort Worth, TX- the Stockyards!

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The Stockyards has a rich western history, and still to this day has the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive! People line the roads like they are getting ready for the Macy’s Day Parade.

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We didn’t actually attend the drive this time, but I’ve seen it before and it’s pretty neat!

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There is a little gem of history with every step you take, a new story to be uncovered, a piece of the past to be explored. The boutiques and locally owned shoppes are part of what I love about it most too- #shoplocal.

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My momma and I headed to Cowtown Winery to try a couple flights before heading to the premier event for the evening.

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The people next to us were so friendly and immediately struck up a conversation with us. I miss the friendliness….. In California you’re lucky if the cashier at the grocery store acknowledges your presence…. ok ok it’s not that bad, but people just keep more to themselves around here!

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And thennn for the main event of the evening….

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We hit up the nationally renowned Billy Bob’s Texas. This is basically like a right of passage if you claim to know anything about the Fort Worth area.

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This place is considered the world’s largest Honkey Tonk. Check that off my bucket list.

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It’s MASSIVE. It is truly hard to describe. There are about four bars alone in the one massive room, a ring for actual bull riding (not even a mechanical one, a real one), and an energy that fills the whole arena.

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We realized we were pretty hungry, and decided to split the portobello mushroom sandwich and sweet potato waffle fries. They were both so good. There was actually cole slaw on the sandwich, whichhh may be the best thing eva. If you go to Billy Bob’s do yourself a favor and try their sweet potato fries!

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What was this epic event occurring for the evening?! The World’s Largest Karaoke Competition! This was the finals of three rounds. It was such a memorable night- my mom and I realized we were probably the only two attending that didn’t have any personal emotional investment in any of the contestants, but we soaked up every second. The tunes were amazing, the talent was incredible, and did I mention the sweet potato fries?

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Also I had such a surreal moment where I actually put my hand in one of the actual cast members of the The Temptations. SWOON.

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When we got home, we spent time chatting in the hottub, listening to the quiet, quiet night only with the gentle soundtrack of chirping crickets and basking in the warm embrace of sleepy, nocturnal wind. That moment reminded me so much of Ohio. I needed it – especially now… just the peace and solitude, the feeling that nothing exists except the trees swaying above you, the hum of creatures in the grass, and the quiet- the utter hush and white noise of nature, a symphony in it’s own right.

I slept so deeply that night. The next day, Monday, we headed to Seven Mile Cafe– a staple brunch spot in Keller!

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They have a giant chess board outdoors… I mean… come on..

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Plus, it’s basic as me, so naturally, it drew me in…..

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The food is boss here. The service not so much, but I guess they can afford to be slow considering the food is worth the wait. Pete ordered their California burger, I ordered their create your own omelette, and momma Jill ordered their Vigas. The Vigas is hands down the thing to order!

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This is the vigas below- it has seasoned tofu scrambled with tortilla strips, jalapeños, soyrizo, onions, tomatoes, avocado, and served with black beans and a side of tortillas. It was veryyy vigalicious.

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And of course we had to finish with one of their homemade cinnamon rolls. Can’t go wrong with that!

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When we got home, my mom whipped up us iced lemonade and basil for the road! Time for the beach!

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We went to a new spot my mom had been wanting to check out- Little Elm Beach. The City of Little Elm is darling, and the fact that they have probably one of the only little beaches in the state of TX makes it a perfect getaway spot.

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Recently obsessed with La Croix- any one have a favorite flavor?! I love them all- but I think the coconut may be the best!

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We walked the beach and took a swim in the comfortably tepid water. I love swimming, but haven’t in a while. It felt tremendously refreshing to be in the water again, especially in that Texas heat!

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After we dried off a bit we went to the Little Elm Lakeside Trails to scope them out.

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They actually reminded me a bit of the trails in Ohio, ohhhhh how I miss the CVNP!

When got back from our sun & fun filled day, I whipped up my stuffed sweet potatoes for my momma to try! We devoured these suckers then headed to, sadly, the last adventure on the weekend agenda..

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PAINTING WITH A TWIST! I have wanted to do this for ages, and there was one basically right in my parent’s backyard in Keller!

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If you don’t know what Painting with A Twist is, lemme inform yaaas. Basically, it’s a painting class, but the “twist” is you can bring in a bottle of wine, snacks, etc. and you paint while sipping!

You just register online and they have everything set up for you- the canvas, the paint, the water, the brushes- all you need to bring is yourself…. oh and your beverage of choice, ohhh and your chocolate of choice 😉

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We also won the “selfie competition”- yes, so slightly cheesy (literally and figuratively- womp womp), but we won and got two painting with a twist tumblers so 100% worth it!

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Priorities….

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They have plenty of photo ops all over the place!