There’s No Place Like Home: Part Two

Here we goooo, Part Dos! This one is a bit shorter, gotta give y’all some breathing room, hehe.

We left off the night of Monday the 2nd. In the morning of Tuesday the 3rd I met my friend Rachel at First Watch– my all time FAVORITE breakfast spot. It’s something we don’t have here in the West, so I was salivating as I walked through the door.

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And I guess you can take the girl out of California, but you can’t take the California out of the girl…. naturally I went for their avocado toast. (I also love their coffee). My other favorites here are their tri-athlete and their massive pancakes!

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Rach ordered their famous pesto chicken quinoa bowl with protein-packed quinoa mixed with kale, shredded carrots and house-roasted tomatoes topped with grilled all-natural lemon chicken breast, basil pesto sauce, feta crumbles and fresh herbs.

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After breakfast, I snuck in a workout at the local gym then decided to go to Earth Fare- my main reason for coming home (jk jk … kinda)…. My last meal would include the taters from Burntwood and tofu nuggets from EarthFare. This is one of the food items I miss the absolute most and a must when I go home.

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They didn’t have them in the main display and I started to panic. I asked the lady if she had any and she said none were made but she would be happy to whip some up. It was so kind, and I was willing to wait the extra twenty minutes to get some nuggs.

img_7274img_7275I grabbed some big salads for me and Clair before going to her childhood home to visit her mom and sister.

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This is a picture of their gorgeous backyard. Countless of my own memories growing up were held here too.

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For dinner I met with another close friend from high school, Kylie, at Pub Bricco. I hadn’t been here in forever, and forgot how doggone delicious their food was.

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Kylie had their salmon sandwich and I tried a bite- heaven. Anything with sun-dried tomatoes is pure gold.

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I savored every single bite of their veggie burger with tzatziki sauce.

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We talked, barely stopping to take a breath for almost three hours, and yet it never seems like enough time! We have been sending cards back and forth this past year though which has been such a great way to stay in touch. Who doesn’t love still getting snail mail nowadays?!

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In the morning of the fourth I woke up super early and headed to Lakeside, OH to join DJ’s family for a day on the lake!

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This place is very dear to DJ and I. DJ grew up here in the summers and this was actually where he told me he loved me for the first time (fun facts all around). When you are here it feels like all is right in the world.

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The girls! (Although we missed Amy- DJ’s twin).

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A ceremony was held to dedicate the Park to DJ’s Grandma and Grandpa- it was a beautiful and wonderful ceremony. Truly an unforgettable day. Love this family and honored to call myself part of it <3

After the ceremony I zoomed back to Cleveland to return the rental car. I was stuck in some serious bouts of rain- I do NOT miss that!!! Rain rain go away, come back when I am on my plane….. back to CA.. where there is a whole lot less precipitation.

BUT fighting the H2O was so worth it because I was able to attend my family’s fourth of July barbecue! My brother and his amazing wife Maura picked me up from the rental place and we drove to my cousin’s home for the evening.

I seriously hope I am half the parents they are!

This is Baby Kate- can’t handle her cuteness. Our little all American girl!

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And this is Jack- my nephew who literally melts my heart and soul every time he says, “Aunt Kenzie”.

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Kate loooved my sunnies.

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And my shoes! She got into those on her own. We just turned around and she was standing there in them with a big smile on her face. It was so stinking cute.

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Time for sparklers!!!

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BE STILL MY SOUL. This face <3

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Jack loved the sparklers and really loved the pop-its! Fearless little man.

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After an incredible family day, I tried to catch some serious snoozes before having to get up at 4 am for my flight (which would be 1 am Pacific time). Eek! I was surprisingly hungry when I got to the airport, so I found a yummy chia seed pudding with berries and nuts and had a coffee before boarding.

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And now that brings us back to good ole’ Northern Cali. Thanks for letting me share my home with you all- such a special place with such special people. Where is your home home?

xo <3

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There’s No Place Like Home: Part One

Heyyyya!!! I am splitting my Ohio trip into two parts so I don’t crash Rossy’s laptop, lol 😉 We took off for Ohio last Friday the 29th. I woke up around 4:45 am to squeeze in a few miles on the tready. Our flight was around 11: 45 am, and I had worked up quite the appetite by the time we had to go. I quickly grabbed a three bean salad and mixed green salad from Klein’s on the airport and ate a No Cow bar on the plane too for some extra protein. (still bitter they changed their formula, but they still keep me nice and full).

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Oh and of course had to snag a Cafe au Lait with almond milk from Dog Patch!

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Home! 🏡

We caught up with DJ’s mom at the kitchen table like we always have since high school <3 One of the best parts of coming home! We ended the night by watching the latest Bachelorette all together.

In the morning I got up early pearly to get ready for the wedding. The time change always messes with me and after getting up at 4:45 am the day before, I was gonna need a lot of coffee! Mom B even stocked up my favorite Dave’s Killer bread and had some perfectly ripe avocados. She knows me well! That avocado toast tasted so good. Food and coffee alwayyys tase better at this house.

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I brought my press on, jankey nails since mine are so darn short and I didn’t want to paint them. Welp, epic fail when I was short two nails! Haha.

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I whipped into the nearest CVS and grabbed a new pack. They are so long, but I didn’t want to mess with clipping them because I’d do a horrible job. Gotta just let the claws live sometimes, ya know?

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I deliberated which dress to wear and settled on this one (you can catch my options on my MIL’s new website and App Wear This One– I will explain more about this soon!).

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We went to a beautiful wedding after picking up my girl Rachel. Remember our cruise together?! We never got to say goodbye after accidentally separating at the airport so when we saw each other it was like “Goodbye! Hello!”.

On the car ride over we imagined worst case scenarios for if one of my nails were to pop off (the little press ons aren’t necessarily the strongest little suckers). We decided it would either be when shaking someone’s hand or at the reception and then the bride slipping on it. Totally normal convos to have on the way to a wedding, right?

As the send off, we all let off balloons outside the church. In San Francisco you would be beheaded if you dared let off balloons into the environment, haha. DJ and I were like, “Is this really happening?!”

In between the wedding, we picked up my sister from a local subway where she was meeting with a friend. Her poor car wasn’t starting, but my brother was able to come in the clutch for a repair. (Y’all it’s like the olden days- fam and friends within arms reach when ya need them, just loved it!).

We went to lunch at Burntwood Tavern, the favorite spot in town.

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Deej had their chicken sliders

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Rachel had their tater tots- and HOLY CANNOLI RAVIOLI, these are the best darn tater tots I have ever had. If I had to create a last meal these would be included.

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I went for their hummus and pita platter. It was a fantastic tide-me-over!

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So nice to see these two below. I haven’t seen Hal, my sister (In the middle) in over a year. I was ecstatic when I heard she was going to be in town for a couple days (She lives in Cincy).

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The food at the wedding was some of the best wedding food I have ever had!!! I had the macadamia salmon and DJ had their filet. Everyone raved about how wonderful the filet was (it’s hard to get a great meat cut at a wedding too!). And those potatoes- goodness gracious alive- I could live on those things.

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My two besties in one picture. Rachel in the middle, Clair on the right. Ya might remember Clair from her own wedding last November <3

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We all danced our little hearts out all together. DJ cut a rug!

Here is the gorgeous bride, Ali. Ali and I were SUPER close in high school. It’s one of those relationships where we can easily just pick up where we left off.

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Here is a video I grabbed of us dancing, but the sound isn’t working for some reason?!!! Ugh, snapchat, come n’!

Late in the evening they had pizza, is there anything better?! Rach and I were quite excited.

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In the morning of the 30th, DJ had to return to Cali for work around 7 am.

I went for a nice sixish mile jog and then Rach, Rachel’s Mom, MC, and I went to Cuyahoga Valley Church. This was the church we used to go to when we lived in Ohio. It was SO nice, gosh I miss that place.

I miss the simplicity of living in Ohio badly. When talking to my mom I was telling her how much I missed certain parts of living in OH (I wrote about some differences in my last post). She made a valid point- she said she was homesick the most when she was home. So true.

After church, we went for a scrumptious brunch in Cleveland. Since we are older now, I would like to go back and actually explore Cleveland. We never did growing up- we just stayed in our little town. DJ and I vowed we would do some more exploring next time we are there together!

anyway- I digress…the three of us decided on the Market Garden Brewery for brunchy perfection.

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I loved the decor- it’s industrial chic if I’ve ever seen it!

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MC tried their Bloody Mary (I snagged a sip! Mmmm mmm!).

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Rach and I savored their very generous in size mimosa flight! The flavors were fantastic- white peach, passion fruit, blood orange, & blackberry.

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I enjoyed their yummy avocado toast. I had a size of their potatoes and a poached egg to plop on top of it.

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MC and Rach split their Brisket Omelette with adobo braised short rib, fingerling potato, fresh avocado, queso fresco, fried pickled onions, cilantro. They said it needed a bit more umph of flavor, but the potatoes were awesome!

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They preferred the carnitas Benedict with 2 scratch english muffin, MGB progress pilsner braised pork carnitas, 2 soft poached eggs, salsa verde hollandaise, pickled red onions, cotija cheese, cilantro served with breakfast potatoes.

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After rolling ourselves out of the restaurant, we headed over to West Side Market. In alll my years of living in Ohio, I had never been here. Can ya believe it?!

It was HUGE- with seriously anything you can imagine. If when we move back here one day I am going to live at this place.

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Feels like home <3

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When I say they have everything, I mean everything..

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After purchasing some fudge and continuing to nurse our food comas, we went to a friend of Rachel’s who had a sweet little new puppy. Cutest little puppy ever!!

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In the afternoon, I headed over to my brother’s house to spend some time with my niece and nephew <3 <3 Gosh I miss them. I hate that I’m the “far away” Aunt- but it makes me treasure truly every single second. They amaze me and I can’t believe I have the honor to call myself their Aunt.

This here is little Miss Baby Kate. Jack, my nephew, was running around and I didn’t have a chance to snag a picture, but next post I have some cute ones of him <3 (I know I need to chill on the heart usage but I can’t help myself).

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The Aunts with their girl! Can ya tell we’re all related?

Maura, my sister in law, made these TASTY vegan buddha bowls. I recreated them immediately when I came home the best I could because they were so doggone delicious!!!

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After chillin’ with my family, giving the kids a bath and reading a bedtime story, we all hit the hay. Those little moments make my heart beat. I couldn’t love those two more than I already do.

In the morning I had the honor of putting little pigtails on this one and then seeing where the kiddos go for summer daycare/school.

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After, I drove to the local gym I used to attend and cranked out a few miles. I then went to Clair’s house for more baby snuggles with her little one, Jacob. He turned one this past week!

CAN. YOU. STAND. IT.

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We hung out, caught up, and kept a close eye on the rambunctious little booger above. We were going to do something outside, but it was in the nineties and promising rain. We ended up going to Target to try to find some clothes for Clair. It felt like middle school again….. except a baby in tow, tehe. It’s strange when you move away and then return how much feels the same, but so different all at once.

Once Clair’s husband Robby came home we went out for a nice dinner at …. guess where? Burntwood Tavern 😉

Clair opted for their Moscow Mule and I had a glass of Cab. Shocker, huh?

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Naturally, we had to split their taters again. I’m telling you— best darn tots I’ve ever tried. Napoleon Dynamite would have a field day.

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Clair had their delectable cedar plank salmon.

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With it being scorching hot out I decided on their salmon salad. I could eat this for every meal.

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We settled in for the evening with some wine to watch Bachelorette. It was a perfect day <3

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I will do part 2 soon with all our 4th of July Festivities & lotsa great grub!

xo <3

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Celebrations & A Half Moon Bay Day Trip :)

Hello all mack-mareaders (see what I did there?!). Right off the bat I want to say a heartfelt thank you for your response to my last post. I can’t tell you how encouraging this community is- you all have lifted my spirits through this grueling past year, and I am deeply thankful for each of you <3

Once again I have left myself with a good deal of catch up! Starting with us arriving back from Portland. You may remember the travel map DJ gifted me for Christmas…. we were able to add a Portland pin to it! Cause if you liked it then you shoulda put a pin on it. 

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When we returned, we worked hard through the rest of the week then into that weekend (May 26-27), my last weekend on this unit :(. While I am SO excited to finally have my Sundays back with my Church family- I had developed another family. Our weekend crew was the same every weekend so we all grew super close. I especially had a special bond with my work moms. There were two ladies who took me under their wing, mentored me unofficially, and helped me figure out the next step when I thought I was at a dead end. I didn’t expect to get too emotional until the very last day, but as I was telling one of my work moms- Mia (I called her Momma Mia) we both started crying. Ah, I will miss them, I already do. We had a cute little weekend potluck that Sunday.

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I spent the next few days catching up on house chores, laundry, etc. from our Portland trip and recapping the trip on the blog. On Wednesday I went to Trader Joe’s to stock up on goodies for my last day to take in to thank everyone for all their help this year. I seriously wish I had known about the magic of TJ for all these years….. they just have EVERYTHING. And we have cut down significantly on our shopping budget since shopping there!

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And then June 1st… my last day came… <3 It was hard to believe this was the last time (for now) that I’d be walking through these doors.

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When I came home, DJ was still at work, but this was waiting for me on the counter..

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It warmed my heart- so thoughtful! He left the sweetest card and a compass path candle. He’s a good one, I’ll tell ya what….

Saturday, June 2nd, I woke up early to get some hair did. Guys.. my roots were SO bad. They have never been this bad before. I’d include a picture of the before but I think I’d scare you.

Needless to say… I was pretty excited once those sons of a guns were touched up. (For my blondies out there- I started doing balayage last year instead of highlights. It lasts way longer and looks more natural. Well, the last time I had my hair done before the cruise, my regular stylist wasn’t available so I took whoever was available- she insisted on re-highlighting my hair, but I recognized the roots way sooner and missed the natural balayage feel. <– That sentence was about as long of a run on as my roots were). What is your preference? Highlights? Balayage?

 

 

In the evening, my friend Sara came over to celebrate my completion of the program and starting this new journey with school. We pulled out all. the. snacks.

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We watched a new show and paused intermittently to chat at times. Love girl time!

On Sunday the 3rd, we had an eventful day! DJ had a busy morning at the stadium and then we whipped down to Oracle for Game 2 of the Finals!

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Goooo Cavs!!!! Our blatant support of the Cavs caused quite the ruckus. No worries friends & fam- we held down the fort.

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After, we crossed over the Bay bridge into SF to get dinner with a couple of our friends.

I can’t actually remember crossing the Bay Bridge before, and oh myyyy was it ever beautiful all lit up!

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The sun set added such a warmth to the evening. I had never been in SF on a weekday night (well, going into a weekday night), and the quietness of the city mixed with the setting sun and twinkling lights was almost romantic. It gave me a new appreciation for my already favorite city <3

It was an unforgettable day with great memories and friends.

On the following Monday the 4th, I was running errands near DJ’s stadium, and he said he was heading to lunch if I wanted to join. It was fun to have the freedom to pop in and even though I’d already eaten it was fun to just sit and recount the game with him spur of the moment.

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DJ loved the habit burger and says their chocolate malts are one of his favorites.

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In the evening, we watched Bachelorette together. Anyone watch? Any thoughts? I was excited for this season, but so far I feel like it’s a bit of a snooze fest (I guess they always are in the beginning, aren’t they?).

Tuesday the morning of the 5th,  I grabbed breakfast with my friend Danielle whom I haven’t seen in FOREVER.

We met in downtown San Jose on South First at Social Policy.

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As I walked around, I found a new appreciation for downtown San Jose… it was looking extra colorful and bright this morning. It’s funny how sometimes we can forget to be a tourist in our own town. I’m going to make a more concerted effort to explore SJ this summer.

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The line for SoPo was out the door even on a Tuesday morning. It was well worth the wait!

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I had a cafe au lait with their house-made almond milk and their avocado smash (best avocado toast I’ve ever had).

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I’m on an strong avocado kick right now.

The rest of the day I spent cleaning up my e-mails, making a giant to-do list for the summer, enjoying a nice run outside, then meal prepping.

Wednesday, oh our dear Wednesday, the 6th, we watched the Cavs lose in the Finals 🙁 But we had some spicy sriracha green beans from The Habit to help mitigate the pain.

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Thursday, the 7th, I spent the day running, reading, blogging and sipping a cafe au lait at Peet’s while watching some Hulu… I may have also taken the popcorn with me in a ziplock container to Peet’s… people probably were slightly confused, but Peet’s is my second home after all.

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Friday the 8th, I pulled the trigger on an idea I’ve had for a while. OK, this is so silly, but I have so many food pictures from this blog that I wanted to compile into one place. I figured why not create an Instagram where I can just store them (and use puns to my heart’s content)? I always want to post them on my personal insta, but I feel like I would just be spamming all my friends and fam.. This is going to be my little creative outlet (besides this blog of course).

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Please leave your Instagram handle below so I can follow you there!

Saturday, the 9th, we went to Half Moon Bay for my first time (DJ had been once before).

It was chilly out- in the low 60s- and for me that’s winter, hence the winter jacket. Yes, I know, we have grown soft. Our midwest skins would be disappointed in us.

Half Moon Bay is a sleepy little beach town, so quiet, serene, and surprisingly full of history.

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We walked along the beach for a while, then the coastal trail.

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We wondered along downtown hand in hand, soaking up the lazy afternoon, peeking into family owned shops, and letting our conversations wonder aimlessly as we were.

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With the bitter chill in the air (lol, I’m so dramatic), I was craving a hot coffee. We stopped by The Cafe Society, a quaint little coffee shop/jazz bar- how fun is that?! I grabbed an americano with steamed almond milk, then we headed back into the tundra. Baha.

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The colors just popped, each storefront was lovingly decorated with intricate details.

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We passed a Tom & Pete’s- I realized I’d seen this place before but couldn’t remember where exactly… then it hit me! It was the truck located at the pumpkin patch we went to a couple years ago.

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We also noticed this Jail that was built in 1911. It looked like there was a tour going on. The jail pushed up against the mountains looked like something out of a storybook.

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Before heading back, we were not about to miss an opportunity to go to Sam’s Chowder House!

 

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I saw they had a seaweed salad on the menu, and it sounded just perfectly refreshing! Love my seaweed.

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I opted to try their raw oyster bar- with 2 oysters, 2 clams, and 2 shrimp. When I ordered it DJ goes, “You don’t even like oysters”… and I longingly said, “But I wannnnt to like them”. And guess what! I really enjoyed these oysters! I actually enjoyed them even more then the clams, which says something, cause I love clams.

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DJ of course had their lobster roll (their go-to menu item that is just insanely delicious), and I snuck more than a few bites.

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Still convinced this is one of the best restaurants the Bay has to offer. If you want ridiculously fresh seafood- this is it.

Yesterday I was able to go back to Church for the first time in a while, and it was soooo nice. I then caught up with my friend Tammy after at Cafe San Jose.

I’m putting together a master summer bucket list for the SJ/SF/Oakland area- so if you have been PLEASE share with me your favorite place to eat, things to do, etc. (No worries, Kate, Capo’s is on the list hehe!).

Have a fabulous week, everyone 🙂

xo <3

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Eating Our Way Through Portland Part Three!

Hey y’all!! Oh man, I am getting these posts up at a snail’s pace. Ever since we’ve came back from Portland things have just been go go go! But alas, I finally bring us to our last installment of our Portland trip. Here are part one and part two.

We started out the last day of our trip venturing into Blue Star Donuts. Now, most people have heard that Voodoo donuts is the place to go when in Portland- but there is an ongoing debate among locals whether Blue Star or Voodoo is better. Jay insisted that we had to try Blue Star, and we were not about to argue with a local Portland donut savant.

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The flavors to choose from are the most unusual donut flavors I have ever seen….

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Donut you just want to try them all?!

I sampled the blueberry bourbon basil, lemon poppyseed, and the peanut butter and jelly.

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My favorite was either the lemon poppyseed- best lemon poppy ever, but the stellar unique deliciousness of the blueberry bourbon basil was unlike any donut I’ve ever had. It is a MUST try. The PB & J was excellent too- but I did prefer the other two more.

Deej tried the chocolate, blueberry cake, and glazed original. Not on bite was left! Jay had a maple bacon, one of their staples.

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But the ultimate question is- did you even go to Portland if you didn’t get a picture of the Keep Portland Weird sign?! Voodoo donuts is located right across the street, and it looked like a zoo. The line was wrapped entirely around the building, and we all agreed me made the right choice by hitting up Blue Star instead. (Next time we will try Voodoo to compare 😉 ).

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PAUL BUNYAN ALL!

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While stopping by the PB statue, I noticed a bunch of tents popping up and my farmer’s market senses were tingling. I cannot resist a Farmer’s market walk by. The boys graciously stopped by with me.

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CHANNEL THE FLANNEL Y’ALL! There was a local school parade we happened to watch going through the Farmer’s market. We laughed because we were probably the only one’s there that early in the morning that didn’t know a single person in the parade.

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I won this Yerba Mate at one of the cute little stands with a spin the wheel for a prize.

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After, we decided to head to Cascade Brewing House– the House of Sour! Sour Beer is my and DJ’s favorite- so naturally we had to try this place.

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After the yum of the pretzel from Deschutes, we all agreed we were up to split another!

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It wasn’t on the same level as Deschutes, and we didn’t prefer many of the beers. Maybe we didn’t get the right ones, but definitely would suggest going to Deschutes before Cascade.

We walked around downtown after near the Pioneer Courthouse and some side streets.

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We were pretty hungry again so we went to the ultimate food truck destination! Here is the address: 1207 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214. It’s a non-negosh if you go to Portland– you have to try one of these food trucks!

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They had asian fusion, Egyptian, BBQ, pizza, Mexican, and the one we opted for…

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Drummmmroolllll

Potato champion! An actual meal served over fries.

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So, I didn’t realize every single thing on the menu was over fries. I ordered the palak paneer fries and then the veggie korma thinking the korma was a wrap for some reason. In reality I had just walked up and confidently ordered two large orders of fries. The guy was probably like, “oook you do you boo booo…” The guys ordered the poutine fries and a burger to split from a nearby truck.

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Fries on fries on the sun’s in my eyeeees. This was the first time the sun came out, and I think it was a sign. The beams of light came through the clouds, illuminating this meal like it was sacred. Amen amen. (ok that’s a bit dramatic, but you can’t judge until you’ve tried this heavenly goodness).

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Gosh, did I mention these fries were good 😉 It was one of those times that I was like, no way I’m gonna make a dent in all this… but it was addictively delicious “Just one last bite” for about fifty more bites. Tehe.

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Now this burger, from Bottle Rocket, was burger perfection, simply amoozing. Wow, I am in rare form today. 😉  DJ was raving so much about it that I had to try it. Holy. stinking. smokes. I don’t know if I’ve ever tried a better burger. With the sun shinin’, the awesome energy, the upbeat yet relaxed atmosphere…this little pitstop is a great place to Ketchup with some friends.

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We went back to the hotel, took a long nap, then got ready for dinner.

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Diva Shot.

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DJ and I had a bit of time to kill before dinner and if we opted for the “Green clean” (so no housekeeping), we received a 15 dollar credit to use for room service or at Urban Farmer, the other restaurant within our hotel.

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These are pictures from the gorgeous sitting area you pass through to get to Urban Farmer.

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I absolutely adored the decor at Urban Farmer. It was rustic, chic, and soft. It was the perfect ambiance. To my CLE fam- there is one in Cleveland!! There are also locations in Philly and Denver.

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DJ and I tried Oysters one time and weren’t huge fans. But like with anything- you have to give something a few goes before you make a final decision on whether you like them. We decided to order a few. They were fine, but we both agreed we would just rather have a shrimp cocktail or another appetizer over oysters.

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We walked a couple blocks to meet up with Jay and Carly (Jay’s girlfriend) for dinner at Portland City Grill!

Gotta Keep Portland Weird, ya know!?

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Portland City Grill is on the 30th floor (chant with me.. views, views, views!!!)

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It was a beautiful evening, so we were able to see the mountains clearly!

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Portland City Grill is pretty darn expensive, but on Sundays they have a happy hour menu alll day. This means we were able to try a few dishes at half the price- they were just exquisite.

We started with some house salads and then the crab cakes. *insert drooling emoji here*.

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Then the asian spring rolls…mmm! I haven’t had these in a while. I used to make them all the time, and this inspired me to whip out my personal recipe to start making them this summer.

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Next on deck, fish n’ chips. Best . fish n’ chips. ever.

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We didn’t skip out on desserts. And we had a sweeet tooth! This beauty below is a lemon chiffon cake with layers of Lemon Chiffon Cake & Raspberry Gelée, Candied Almonds, Limoncello & Poppy Seed Ice Cream.

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And this magic morsel… the marbled black forest cheesecake with poached cherries, a chocolate cookie crust, and whipped cream. I don’t even need to mention how fantastic this was.

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The crew! (and a photo bomber)

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In the morning we headed straight to the airport, saying goodbye to an unforgettable few days filled with amazing memories.

Really quick… for travel posts I like to give super honest reviews of where we stay. If we had to recommend The Nines to someone we agreed we probably would not recommend it. I know this is shocking considering how beautiful and centrally located it is. It was very nice, but a few things fell a bit subpar for the cost. There was no coffee in the room- only out in the lobby (coffee in the room is a must for me, that darn mini coffee maker in most hotels is usually my favorite part of a stay, lol), the bartender at Urban Farmer was the rudest human being we have ever interacted with (we were flabbergasted at the interaction we had, absurdity at its finest), we never ended up getting that $15 dollar comp that we were promised (And never received housekeeping because of that, which is fine- but we were looking forward to getting the oysters comped), there is no pool/hot-tub, we were awoken by our neighbors at three in the morning and had a hard time sleeping with how loud they were, and the cost for what it is just wasn’t worth it in our opinion. We have had just as great if not better stays at places that cost way less. If you visit Portland, I’d recommend visiting the hotel, maybe going to Departure for some great views or Urban Farmer for the ambiance (just don’t sit at the bar in case you get that bartender haha), but don’t stay.

When we arrived at the airport I had to try the famous Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Their coffee was so strong, a bit bitter, a bit too much for me but I see how people would like it!

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Byyyyyeeee Portland <3 Thanks for the memories! Until next time!

xo <3

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Eating Our Way Through Portland Part Two!

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

SO let’s get to it, eh?!

Part One Portland is here in case you missed it.

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

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

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

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

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

One path closes, another one opens!

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The boyssss.

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

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

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These views!

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Contemplative…

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But not for long!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And again.. the art never ceased to amuse!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Best. Sushi. Of. Our. Lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xo <3

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Eating our Way Through Portland Part One!

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

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

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You knowww it!

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While waiting in the airport I decided to read.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So fun!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

img_4464DJ and I scanned it over and after taking in the conglomerate of different fruits, spices, and flowers (yes flowers) I looked at DJ and said, “I have no idea what any of this will taste like”.

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

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

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

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Purple asparagus, fermented sunflower, and basil cream 

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Pickled sun choke with leek scape

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Cauliflower soup & Oregon Murtle

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Adirondack potato with wild watercress and herb juice

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Zucchini, romesco, and puffed quinoa

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

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Portobello, young carrot, snow peas, and savory sauce

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Kefir Refresher 

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Vegan flower water and candies

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Strawberry spruce yogurt and wild flowers

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

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

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

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Oh, and the views at night were stunning!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And thank you to all those who have served, are serving, and family and friends who have and have had loved ones in the service. Today we acknowledge and remember your sacrifice and dedication to our country, and remember those who bravely lost their lives for our freedom. <3

xo <3

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Cozumel & Daze at Sea!!!

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

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

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

Not a bad way to spend a Monday, eh?

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

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

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Puerta Maya here we come!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Perfect little peach!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And cheesecake for dessert 😉

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dawwww, how dang cute.

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When returning to our room we had a nice little heart <3

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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 <3

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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 <3

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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 <3 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 <3

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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 <3

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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 <3

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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 <3

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 <3

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