Meeting another Blogger, Golden Boy Pizza & The Emporium!

Hi, everyone! I hope you had a nice weekend!

Jumping straight on into the recap…On May 29th and 30th, it was just study study, ya know the drill by now- but also, ya can’t get started without breakfast, right?! Breakfast time is one of my favorite parts of the whole day & I have been eating this one on repeat the last few weeks: an Avocado smoothie with PB toast & honey.

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On May 30th I went to the local coffee shop to grab a cafe au lait and studied with Smalls in our apartment community office/study room. In the afternoon was Boys and Girls club. The kids are done for the summer & it’s been a bit emotional coming to that realization. I can’t wait to get plugged back in once we’re settled in Austin!

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On May 31st I had a very lovely morning! I met up with a local blogger, Kalpana, from surreyfarms.net at Great Bear Coffee in Los Gatos.

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We have been friends in the blog-o-sphere for years but have never met up before. It was absolutely wonderful to meet her and have such deeply rich conversation for a couple hours- I felt like we could have talked all day! And the coffee was fantastic as a nice bonus 🙂 It was certainly the highlight of my week. If you want some mouth-wateringly, beautifully prepared and delicious recipes, gorgeous garden pictures, and heart-warming family adventures I highly recommend heading over to her blog! She is a true inspiration of mine <3

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In the afternoon I enjoyed a purple sweet potato with beets, artichoke hearts, hummus, and Fage.

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I studied all the rest of the day and then while walking through our complex I realized there was something going down…. A hoe-down to be exact!

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The management team had an entire western themed party going on for the complex complete with a petting zoo for the kiddos. I texted DJ to see if he wanted any food, but he had already had BBQ at the stadium for lunch. Still, so fun and a nice gesture for the apartment crew to put this on!

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DJ finally had an evening to breathe from work, and I hustled on school work so we could enjoy a Saturday evening together the following day.

On Saturday June 1st we both were productive during the day and then around 5:00 pm we headed to San Francisco. I read Smalls in the car on the way down up (I always want to say down for some reason?!) and actually made a huge dent in my chapter- it makes me optimistic that I’ll be productive on our road-trip to TX. So where was our foodie adventure for the evening you ask? Welllll, lemme telll youuuu! I’ve been on a serious pizza kick lately and have been on a mission to find the best!

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People swear by Golden Boy Pizza as the best in the city. The wait was about forty-five minutes, but finally we made it to the front to order. It’s a casual spot- you can technically eat inside, but it’s mostly standing room. People usually just take their pies to go.

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They are famous for their clam and garlic pizza, so we tried that and a few other flavors: DJ had their pepperoni and sausage, and I had their cheese and clam/garlic.

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We took our slices back to the car and blasted the heat while chowing down. This pizza was very good. DJ and I both prefer thin crusts, and this is more of a focaccia, but it worked! It wasn’t too dense or doughy- it was light, airy, and had a lovely crunch. The flavor of the clam and garlic was pretty tremendous and unique, but DJ preferred their meat-based slices. I don’t know that I would wait that long again for it- but I am so glad we finally tried it! I see why it has its popularity, but at the same time I’m not sure it’s 100% worth the hype.

After, we headed over to The Emporium to continue our date night. The Emporium is a massive arcade for adults. They have a live DJ, play a giant movie, and have countless of games that will make you nostalgic for the 80s and 90s.

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It was a blast!!! Probably one of my favorite things we have done in SF yet.

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DJ beat me at the basketball game, of course (hello, two time national basketball champion 😉 )…. but I held my own in ski ball, hehe.

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When I was going through our pics on the way home I realized we were photo bombed by a cartoon painting who weirdly had similar eyes to mine?!

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On June 2nd it was back to it! Smalls is almost too big for the treadmill reading/walking routine, but if the chapter is somewhere in the middle of the book I can balance him, ha!

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June 3rd, same same, mixed up with my new favorite snack of a purple sweet potato, artichoke hearts, hummus, and Fage– can ya tell I’m on a kick?

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I decided to make some homemade hummus with leftover tahini that evening. This is the best batch of homemade hummus I’ve made thus far, but I stilll don’t like it better than TJ’s quartet.

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I also made Shakshuka from TJ’s. I heard about Shakshuka from Kori’s blog, and when I saw TJ’s had an easy throw-together one I figured it’d be a great way to start it out!

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I served it with a couple eggs, brown rice, and naan bread. It was so stinkin’ yummy. This will be added to the lineup!

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On June 4th I started the day with the uszh, yoozh? usz? (however you spell the short of usual).

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In the afternoon, I threw together a little snack that I quite enjoyed of cauliflower mashed potatoes, tzatziki, artichoke hearts, beets, and chik’n tenders from Lightlife.

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My sister was flying in that night! Before she arrived I had some errands to quickly run at Santana Row. I marveled at this cozy sunset before heading to the stores.

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After a happy reunion with my sissy, we went back home, I whipped up some stuffed sweet potatoes with tofu, hummus, roasted veggies, and green goddess dressing for us both, and we caught up while eating out on the patio.

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I was initially planning on doing more school work, but I was so excited about my sister being here that I couldn’t think about focusing. Instead, I made DJ a big batch of his favorite chicken curry and naan that would be good for about three meals for the week.

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This feels like a good stopping point.

Questions for you:

  • Are you having any food cravings/stages right now?
  • Have you watched Chernobyl on HBO? I hear it’s the new GOT, and DJ and I both are considering starting it after we finish The OA.

xo <3

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Falafel’s Drive In & Mystery Spot!

Hey, everyone! I am writing this on absolutely zero brain power, so please excuse the typos (I’m sure there will be plenty). Imma be real– this last week or so has been a doozy. We officially move at the end of this month, and the pressure of school, the move, and trying to get everything aligned for my sister’s wedding is putting my body in a state of fight-or-flight. My heart is racing out of my chest every day, I’m not sleeping, my appetite is pretty suppressed.. I know everything will get done… it always does. I usually thrive off this type of stress, but I think the sleep-deprivation mixed with anticipation of receiving feedback for my first quiz and exam are just weighing on me. Once I get those back (they make up 20% of my entire grade) and have some (hopefully good?) grades under my belt I bet I’ll feel very relieved. So, yes, if you have any extra sanity lying around, please send it right my way 🥴

I just hit a wall tonight while reading my textbook, so I’ve decided since I won’t be able to sleep anyways, maybe some writing/reflection is just what I need to calm down. When I started blogging I realized the power of choosing to focus on all the positive. Also, everything that is happening is good great stress- I have to keep that in perspective. I wouldn’t change a thing that’s happening! And this stress does not even pale in comparison to what I was going through about a year ago- so I’ll take this ANY day over that phase of life! PLUS, I don’t have clinicals this summer- so this timing could not be more perfect. I’m very thankful. So let’s get on with the highlights, shall we?!

Let’s see, so May 13th one of the highlights of the day was enjoying this tofu curry with basmati rice and some whole wheat pita. I could eat this meal every day! It’s sooo satisfying.

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I went on a nice walk in the evening after dinner. I am soaking up every moment of my walk route lately. It’s definitely going to be one of the things I miss the most. I have been living for that daily walk to clear my head and shake off the mental cobwebs! Even just a mile or two can really be just what I need to refocus.

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On May 14th I finished getting everything together to start my semester. May 15th my term officially started. I will say I prefer the format of this semester over last’s, even though it’s going to be the most challenging yet, content-wise and workload. It’s less paper-based and more exam-based- which means less busy work through week, but overall way more time studying. I do love what I’m learning, which makes all the difference. This is my textbook that will basically become my third arm this summer. I put my fist in for reference, hah. How this will all be read in less than three months time is beyond me, but we’re gonna give it our best shot!

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I worked most of the day on reading through orientation lectures, organizing my planner and starting on the first Module. Before making dinner I went for a walk and quite literally stopped to smell the roses 🙂

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For dinner I decided to have a massive salad out of my trough with hummus, all the veggies, and some Lightlife “chicken” since I had my Indian meal for lunch.

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On May 16th I studied all morning but had a nice afternoon respite by going to Boys and Girls Club. The rest of the day I read, read, and read some more! That’s basically been every day since I started the semester.

For dinner I made DJ some BBQ chicken with corn & rice. Such an easy midweek meal.

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May 17th- Read. All. The. Pages. & Leftovers.

The 18th I started the day with some delicious oats, chocolate chips & an avocado smoothie. I joked when I posted this on my insta-story that all these competing patterns are quite dizzying.

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May 19th– Lotsa reading and lectures. Oh! I do want to say I am so thankful for my professor I was assigned. He is easily one of the best profs I think I have ever had undergrad/grad school combined. These concepts are immensely challenging, but he explains them in a way that makes them much easier to understand and digest.

In the evening we watched GOT finale. I wasn’t thrilled with it along with most of the general population, but I am eager to watch the documentary! I think the fact that people were signing petitions is absurd and offensive- you can’t protest someone’s “art”, ya know? But I do wish it had ended differently.

May 20th–  I changed up my breakfast a bit and started the day with Crunchy PB toast with a touch of honey, grapefruit and coffee. 

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May 21st I spotted these beauties while out on my walk.

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And now, for some fun- DJ and I had a little impromptu date!

I am actually getting kind of sleepy now.. it’s about 11:30 pm.. I think I might try to finish this post in the morning and sleep now! Wish me luck!

7: 00 am: Ok, I am back… I actually slept! I knew blogging would help 🙂

Jumping right back in! I love Falafel, and in SJ there is a place called “Falafel’s Drive In“. It has raving reviews on YELP & has been on my bucket list for ages. Finally time to try it out!

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It’s a fast-casual little joint where you order at the stand and then eat under the scaffolding.

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We each ordered their two famous offerings: a falafel pita sandwich and a banana milkshake to split. And, of course, some hummus on the side for good measure.

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It was easier to see the inside of the falafel after I took a few big bites in. d22a4972-807a-4aa7-800b-c94f09150944

Verdict: It was absolutely delicious! The flavor combo of the sweet, cool banana milkshake with the soft, spiced and flavorful falafel was epic. I probably wouldn’t order the shake on its own- it was more of an “icy” milkshake than creamy- but it was still a pretty tremendous combo. Their hot sauce is some of my favorite I’ve ever tried! It’s not super spicy (which usually would be a no-go for me), but the unique, sweet/spicy synergistic flavor blew me away! The hummus was fine- butttt I wouldn’t order it again with Oren’s right down the road!

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On May 22nd, DJ had a day off so we decided to go to the beach in Santa Cruz to get some fresh air & get me out of the house. I still had to study most of the day, but I just read in the car and on the beach!

On our way to Santa Cruz we stopped at The Mystery Spot, a spot we have wanted to go for a while. Since we’ve moved here we’ve seen people with a bumper sticker proudly announcing they have, indeed, been to this popular spot. We knew we had to go before moving. And I wanted a bumper sticker too, darnit! Oops, My FOMO is showing.

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So what is Mystery Spot? The description from their website sums it up very well:

The Mystery Spot is a gravitational anomaly located in the redwood forests just outside of Santa Cruz, California. It is a circular area of effect around 150 feet or 46 meters in diameter. Within the Mystery Spot you will be stunned as your perceptions of the laws of physics and gravity are questioned. But don’t take our word for it, come and decide for yourself!

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It was wild! I know there is probably some explanation, but it was pretty trippy! For example, one of the things she did was roll a ball in what appeared downward on a plank, but it rolled back up (and she “proved” how the ball wasn’t altered or there weren’t any other gimmicks- although I’m pretty sure the entire thing is one large gimmick, lol). Definitely a fun thing for kids- it will blow their mind- but also fun for adults too!

For instance, in this picture, DJ feels like he is standing straight up, but it appears as though he’s leaning forward.

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And here it looks like we should fall right off the table, but we didn’t feel unstable at all. Had to take the opportunity for the Titanic pose, of course.

5965f2f7-ea7b-4e01-b70e-9643671e75b7It was a fun experience, and only took about 45 mins total.59282dd6-d1d4-427f-9927-3971ef1f68d5

Also! Banana Slugs!!! These are the mascot of SC & it’s always exciting when you spot one.

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PS. This place was Dad Jokes galore, so naturally that made me appreciate it all the more.

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And we finally got our sticker!!! Woot woot.

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Next up: The Beach!

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I forgot our towels at home (where is my mind), so we swung into Walgreens and grabbed some. I did remember all the snacks though- you can bet I wouldn’t forget those 😉

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It was too chilly to actually lie out, but even lying down in the sun on the sand all bundled up was still soooo relaxing. It was a great change of pace to knock out some reading.

Also, I decided to name my massive book “Smalls”…. 1. Because I love irony. 2. Because now I can say, “You’re killing me, Smalls” all summer long.

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As we were leaving Santa Cruz I had a nostalgic moment thinking about how this was the first place we visited when we moved here. It was also one of the first places I fell in love with in California and has been our getaway when life gets stressful. It also has been where we have made amazing memories with our little sisters, Kelsey, Rachel, and Halston and Kevin. It felt all of a sudden full circle, and I was overcome by such thick emotion as we drove away for the last time.

Time to get back to reading. Thank you for taking time out of your day to stop in 🙂

Questions for you:

  • What is one positive thing going on in your life right now?

xo <3

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Lotsa munchin’ & brunchin’!

Hey hey! How are you? I spent all day long reading countless pages in pathophysiology and watching lectures so I am treating myself to some writing late this evening 🙂 This semester is already kicking my butt. I am gonna have such little free time .. so it’ll be interesting doing an entire move in the middle of it. Even my prof said, “I hope this course is behind you before the move!”… whoops… guess we’ll see how it goes, haha. (It’s an online course for those that are confused about how that will work).

After returning from Hal’s bridal shower, on May 7th, I paid my speeding ticket, unpacked and did laundry. For dinner I made us this curried seafood mix of calamari, shrimp, and scallops with jasmine rice and naan bread.

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On May 8th I started the morning with oatmeal, a Cutie clementine, Shakeology protein powder, and Fage with my coffee.

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For lunch, we didn’t have much in the way of groceries but I whipped up my new favorite omelette combo: egg whites, artichoke hearts, vegan mozzarella cheese, and garlic powder with pink Himalayan sea salt & hummus on the side. YUM!

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And guess what?! Remember how Alexandra and I wanted to go to that Italian restaurant in SF, but they had no openings the evenings we were there? Well— our calendars aligned so we made reservations for that afternoon! Around 2:30 pm we met at my apartment, and I drove us into the city to (finally) try out Cotogna.

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I absolutely loved the interior- it was so warm & cozy and you could see the whole wood fire burning stove.

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So the item on my bucket list was the Raviolo with farm egg & brown butter.

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^^ Yes, that beauty!!! This ravioli was massive & sooo stinkin’ amazing. Did you all ever make buttered Cheerios as a kid? They were the ultimate treat for us growing up! This dish was reminiscent of that in flavor… but the cheese and quality of pasta took that nostalgic flavor to spectacular and exquisite heights. I had to leave a nibble for DJ, so I took a little home for him to try along with a dish of his own- the Agnolotti del plin. He said he preferred the Raviolo, but that both dishes were incredible.

Afterwards, we had to satisfy our sweet tooth. We headed to Mitchell’s, a place on the bucket list. They are known as one of the best places for ice cream in the entire Bay Area!

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I ordered a combo of chocolate caramel crackle per Alexandra’s suggestion & Ube.

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The Chocolate caramel crackle is some of the best darn ice cream flavors I have ever had!!! Gosh. I get why it’s known for being famous- & I was soo glad Alexandra suggested it. The Ube was fine- I haven’t been a huge fan of Ube the couple of times I have tried it– it’s just too plain Jane for me.

I always so love my time with Alexandra. Can’t wait for her and her hubby to join us in Austin- right, girlfran?! 😉

On the morning of May 9th, I rummaged through the freezer to find a frozen banana, a dragonfruit pack and then threw on some PB and chocolate chips.

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I caught up on e-mails, etc. that I missed over the weekend and got around to some other to-do list items.

For dinner I made us BBQ’d tempeh, peppers, corn, & white rice. It was pretty delish & high in proteins, so very filling!

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In the evening I took a bath to just veg out after such a busy few days.

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on May 10th DJ and I had a fun day leading into a full weekend of us just hanging out! I went for a run in the morning, caught up on some blogging, and then we headed to Shake Shack.

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Neither of us had been before, but we were so pleased with the whole experience!

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You order via an electronic system- introverts rejoice.

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It took a loooooong time for our food to be ready, but they were super busy.

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DJ tried their burger- his thoughts: It is a good, solid burger, but he still way prefers In-n-Out’s.

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I could not resist their limited time Game of Thrones milkshake! It was a peppermint shake with candied toffee that made up “dragon glass”- soooo yummy.

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DJ also loved their chocolate shake. Next time we want to try their mixers- we loved our Culver’s concrete mixers when we lived in IN. The fries were decent- good to dip in the shakes of course- but the best fries are forever from Steak & Shake. In the evening I did some grocery shopping and we finished up Ozark (the second season kinda dragged in my opinion-but still excited for the third).

May 11th, I whipped up some black bean brownies to have for the week. I just finished the last of them today. I actually have been having them with my oatmeal, smoothies, or toast for breakfast to get my little chocolate fix!

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After a morning run, DJ and I headed into the city to try out Nopa in the early afternoon. We lucked out with parking right on the corner!

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This place’s menu changes each month- but they always have one famous item on their menu- the Custard French Toast.

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We ordered that and the brioche cinnamon roll with strawberries, kumquats, and guava cream cheese frosting and a pomegranate mimosa to pair with them.

After ordering, we sat back to enjoy the ambiance of the place- it had almost an industrial feel with a wide open space and two floors, but somehow maintained a warm energy about it.

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First up- the cinnamon roll! The flavor burst in each bite of this was real. The guava cream cheese frosting is something I could eat by the spoonfuls- it was outstanding.

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Now, time for custard french toast! Y’all this lived up to every bit of the hype. I could not get over how delicious this was.

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I tried to get some syrup pouring pics, but the distance of the food on my portrait mode messed with my spatial perception, and I ended up pouring it on the table instead. We had a good laugh at it after my initial embarrassment.

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In the evening, we were craving Mexican, but nowhere around us serves crunchy tacos (the kind DJ prefers)- so I whipped us up a whole spread! I haven’t done this since my mom and Pete were here back in August, although you know I make the tacos alone all time.

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I put out salsa con queso and regular salsa with hint of lime tortilla chips and plantain chips, DJ’s regular tacos, and my vegan tacos (in the bowl) with lettuce wraps (I LOVE the refreshing crunch of a lettuce wraps for tacos topped with tons of Tabasco and Fage as “sour cream”). I also made my mom’s marg. recipe. Such a winning meal.

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On the morning of May 12th, we brunched round 2 at Stein’s! This was my last free weekend before being buried in school work, so we took full advantage, can ya tell?

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I ordered their vegan hash with mushrooms, tofu, tons of seasoning, and potatoes. It definitely needed salt- but with salt & enough hot sauce it was pretty good. Don’t think I’d order it again because I could probably make this at home, but it was worth the try. The little baguette pieces were yummy- but they could have maybe given a couple more.

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Now, this was the star of brunch! This stack of pancakes consisted of blueberry pancakes with mascarpone cheese & some delicious syrup.

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Aaaand I got that syrup pour picture to redeem myself from the prior day’s fiasco 😉

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Personally, these are my favorite pancakes I have ever tried in the area. The mascarpone cheese cuts the sweetness perfectly. They were the perfect balance of fluffy without being too dense and heavy.

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After doing some chores in the afternoon, we decided to take a late afternoon hike at one of our BL hike places- Sanborn County Park.

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^ Take note. hahah.

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This is such a little gem of a spot. There were so many families enjoying the sunny afternoon and campers galore.

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The forest was so quiet and serene.

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Going into my most intense semester yet, this was the perfect type of balanced weekend to explore, rest, eat fantastic foods and spend some great quality time with DJ.

Question for you:

  • Where do you go to get your favorite burger/fries?

xo <3

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Halston’s Bridal Shower Festivities!

Hi, All! Happy Monday to you. I am actually putting the finishing touches on this on Sunday– I have a couple posts in my drafts that I wrote before starting school. This semester is going to be a true doozy…the free time is going to be basically nil with the move & traveling for the wedding on top of it all. Sooo, I may be somewhat MIA for a few months. Although, blogging is incredibly therapeutic for me, and it gives me something to look forward to… so hopefully I can prioritize it in some way even if it is not as frequent.

Also, I published my sister’s Graduation post, but WP didn’t release it on on the main Reader for some reason. In case your interested I have it linked here 🙂

After we arrived back in Cleveland, I picked up a rental car at the airport since I would be buzzing around like a bee all weekend separate from my Mom and Pete.

My first stop was my friend Rachel’s to pick up some supplies I had shipped in for the shower. I only very briefly got to see her since I had a long to-do list, but we had plans Sunday together to look forward to.

Next up was Staples (do you believe it? hehe). I ordered the bridal shower sign for pick-up in OH while I was sitting in CA, which was a bit odd, but it went off without a hitch. I walked in and was able to pick it right up!

Right after, I went about a half mile down the road to Aldi. A few of you know I was obsessed with Aldi when I lived in Indiana. I have missed it, and I can’t tell ya how stoked I was to return! I had to pick up all the groceries for the shower and this was the best and most affordable way to do it.

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I put my quarter in the slot (Thanks, Pete! He lent me a quarter because I realized I didn’t have one on me before we left the rental car lot) and was off to get my groceries. I got tons of fruit, veggies, chips, salsa, etc. etc. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t just casually grocery shopping for DJ and me. There was way more I could have bought if I was actually loading up on a regular food haul!

I spent the evening with one of my best friend’s, Clair, and her beautiful little family. She has the sweetest little boy, Jacob, and a newborn angel named Layla.

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I mean- can you handle his cuteness?! I already miss him oh so much. I spent probably half of my time there playing tag with him around the dining room table, haha.

I food prepped all evening while we gabbed away. I relish my time with her & I’m just so proud of her and the beautiful life she has built.

In the morning around 7:00 am we went to Planet Fitness. I had a great run & did a little weight workout. Perfect start to the day. The vibe at Planet Fitness is really great. If you are looking for a gym membership, their’s is super affordable & the whole experience genuinely makes you wanna go to the gym!

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While driving to my brother’s house to set up (My sister-in-law and bro graciously lended their home for the shower!), I got a gosh darn speeding ticket. My first ever. I was soo upset. I was going a teeeny bit fast, but I was A. in a rental car and B. going down hill on C. An open country road (where the speed limit was way lower than I thought) when I was clocked. Also, the officer was driving when they clocked me with the radar- I have never heard of that, but I guess they can do that? I thought they had to be stationary. Anyways, I know I deserved a ticket- I know there are truly no excuses- but it definitely set back my timeline and is an annoying expense. HUM-BUG.

Now putting that ticket out of mind, onto allll the good stuff 🙂 Once I finally arrived I had to get into set up mode fast. I unloaded my separate suitcase filled with decorations that I checked on my flight and got to work.

First up, the “Staples” sign! The download from Etsy was only $5, so I only had to pay for the printing and foam board.

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Then I set up decor around the home with my sweet niece and nephew helping me out. I wish I could have spent more time with them directly that weekend, but the little time I did get to see them was treasured <3

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And now, the fooooood!!!! First up, an anchor with the veggies…

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A palm tree with fruit….

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And since it was Cinco de Mayo, we had to add a little Mexican flair! My mom made her famous corn and avocado salad and we served them in little margarita cups I ordered from Oriental Trading company.

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I was going to make Taco pizza from scratch, but I was pretty exhausted Saturday and on top of everything else to prep, I figured an ordered pizza would probably turn out better anyways! I found a place a quarter mile away, called A Slice Above, that delivered a pizza called “South of the Border”— (perfect for the 5th!)–it included Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese with diced onions, green peppers, black olives, and seasoned ground beef, all covered with a zesty salsa sauce. They had a vegetarian option I opted for too. Since the shower started at 1 pm, I had them delivered at 12:30 and just hid the boxes 😉

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My mom also made some absolutely scrumptious crab nachos!!! A couple of her good friends came to help with food setup too- sooo appreciated!

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Oh, and you can’t forget sweets 🙂 The little blue and white sour circles reminded me of life rafts (and sour gummy candy is my sister’s favorite). I also included cookie sandwiches, raspberry cheesecake bites, Hersey kisses, and cake pops. I ordered the cake pops from Etsy- they were delivered to my SIL’s house a couple days before the shower & were in perfect shape. Everyone raved about how good they were too (they were red velvet- one of my sister’s favorite flavors). I tried to stick to her colors of nautical blue and I thought the gold dusted ones looked like sand.

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For drinks my mom made her famous margaritas in two different flavors & we also had Virgin margaritas, diet coke, coke, and water.

All the guests started arriving! We chit-chatted and caught up with people we hadn’t seen in years! After, we all ate lots of food & then sat around to open up gifts! Kate, our niece, was adamant that she wanted to help open the gifts with Hal. Too cute– although we did have to make sure she didn’t cut herself on any pizza cutters! We played bridal bingo and a true/false game about her and Kevin (her fiancé). The games went really well! I chose not to do the charades because we spent a good chunk of time mingling (just as I was hoping 🙂 ). We had one tie with the true/false game, so I was glad I packed an extra gift bag !

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Everyone watching Hal open her gifts!

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After the gift opening we made sure to grab some pics. Can’t believe my baby Sis is getting married. So happy for her. I could not think of anyone more perfect for her either! PS. I threw a color on for the shower. Are you proud? In the Bay area we only really wear neutrals, so going back to the Midwest I figured I’d spice it up a bit..

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And I just loveee this picture of my Aunt, Sister, and Grandma.

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Sistas sistas!! This is my sister Andrea on the far right. I’ve mentioned her several times on the blog before, but she lives in Colorado so I don’t see her often. I call her my therapist because she’s so wise & we always have the best of “life” chats. That day, she helped me a tremendous amount. I don’t think everything would have been ready on time without her.

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We also couldn’t help but snag a quick selfie with one of my little sis by proxy (and also a bridesmaid!), Marissa. She is moving to NorCal in June! I wish we were staying, but since Hal is visiting in June hopefully the three of us can hangout more then too 🙂

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My Dad’s side of the family <3 Well, females anyway 🙂

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After everyone left we said our goodbyes, and I took some leftover pizza, veggies, and fruit back to Clair’s. Rach joined us!!! She brought my all time favorite dessert from back in OH- Gasoline Alley’s Carrot Cake (I mentioned a couple posts ago!). It was as stinkin’ delicious as ever!

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It was also so good to have some girl time. We all have been friends since sixth grade & it’s so easy to pick back up where we left off always.

Oh, and of course I had to include a picture of sweet Layla. I keep joking I might steal her. But am I joking? Be stillll my heart.

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My flight on the 6th was at 6 pm, so I had some time in the morning to sleep in, relax and get ready to go! I did run along the beautiful country roads before kicking it into pack-up mode.

Clair lives right next to horses. I felt so at home, since we lived somewhere similar when I lived there. Going back there grounds me, reminds me of what’s important in life & to find joy in the little things.

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O-H-…..!

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Once returning from my run I nibbled on some yogurt, fruit, and granola… and had two hefty cups of coffee to fuel up for my travel day!

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After returning my rental car, I flew out of CLE Hopkins with allll my snacks for the evening in tow.

Here is a small fraction of what I nibbled on on my flights. The combo of the cranberry almond KIND bar and greek yogurt was oh so satisfyin’!

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Aaand with that I landed back in CA late in the evening (around 11:30 pm). DJ picked me up & I was just elated to see him! I started missing OH as soon as I stepped down, but was happy to be back. We talk all the time how we think we’ll end up back there someday. I would bet we do one more move after Austin and then end up settling in OH. Just a prediction, of course will be determined greatly by DJ’s job, but we shall seeee!

Questions for you:

  • Favorite travel snacks?
  • Can y’all believe it’s almost SUMMER- where is this year going? Any vacation plans coming up?

xo <3

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Halston’s Graduation!

I am so excited to share this post!! A couple weekends ago, my baby sister, Halston, graduated from University of Cincinnati & I was so thankful I was able to watch her walk across the stage!!

Starting from the beginning…

On May 2nd, I ran six-ish miles before heading to the airport at 10 am to fly into OH for her graduation and also her bridal shower. DJ had to work all weekend, unfortunately, so couldn’t come along. He was missed somethin’ fierce <3 Anyway- I packed all my food for the travel day so I wouldn’t have to pay the exorbitant prices at the terminal. Since realizing you can take real food through security, it has been such a game changer! I just use my insulated lunch box and load it up with all the noms. Occasionally I do get stopped through security with it, but they always give the green light once they know what it is.

My go-to for the travels is a sweet potato, black bean burger, hummus, Fage, and whatever veggies might go bad that I can roast up and then throw in.

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They also had a See’s Candy kiosk that you know I could not resist. I also didn’t know what flavor I’d be in the mood later, so I just decided to get one of each (totally justified buying these since I packed the rest of my food). 😉

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On the plane itself I got hungry again so ate a Fage yogurt with PB2 (my neighbors were so confused what powdery substance I was pouring in there, haha). It is super high in protein so helps keep me full for a couple hours. I also nibbled on some popcorn and protein bars as well as raw veggies I had packed later on in the trip.

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I had a layover in Chicago (got delayed by about an hour as we always do there), and then finally arrived in Cincy around 9:30 pm. My mom picked up me and Pete- who arrived exact same time I did since he was delayed too- (love when that works out) & we headed to the cutest little Airbnb. Even after the long day of travel, I felt so wired. No matter what, I can never sleep the first night I change time zones. I read my book most of the night while occasionally thinking just mayyyybe I could fall asleep, but then 20 mins later of trying to snooze I’d just started reading again. I think I finally fell asleep around 6:30 am and maybe got an hour or hour and half of sleep total. Hello, insomnia. When I was in India I don’t think I slept for three days straight- time change and jet lag just really messes me the heck up.

On the morning of May 3rd, my mom so kindly went out and got us all coffee (BLESS HER). And y’allll this joe from Deeper Roots Coffee (a non for profit coffee company), was one of the best cafe au laits I’ve ever had. You know that super smooth first sip that just hits your soul? Every sip of this was just like that 😍 After chugging that down I felt like I was ready to face the day!

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Here is me, the beautiful smarty pants, and my momma! We got a picture before the humidity attacked. (And man did it attack! Lol).

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Aaaand guess where we were able to go to breakfast before graduation?! First Watch!!! This was my favorite breakfast spot before moving to CA, and I stinkin’ miss it! I was stoked when Hal suggested we go. Also, we saw this sign driving in– best billboard ever!

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We deemed it our Mother’s Day brunch since we wouldn’t be able to celebrate on the day of. We have grown so flexible with holidays over the years and it’s become fun to celebrate on our own watch! When you don’t have expectations, you can’t become frustrated- so we never set expectations and learn to “be like Gumby” as my mom has always reminded us growing up. The idea is to go with the flow when you can’t control things or make them fit into a certain peg & you’ll avoid a lot of frustration. The best of memories sometimes come in spontaneity and the originality of an experience (such as celebrating holidays on “non” holiday days 😉 ).

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Coming out of my contemplative dialogue- I see First Watch has added dairy free creamer! That’s fun!

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The boys split a platter of their million dollar bacon. I couldn’t help but capture the beautifully plated strips.

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Although the menu has an abundance of new items I would like to try, my stomach was off from the lack of sleep and travel, so I stuck to my tri-ed and true Tri-athlete–It hit the spot! Next time I’m orderin’ their salmon tzatziki toast and lemon blueberry quinoa pancakes. For now, I’ll continue to live through Kori’s awesome pics of her visits. Although, they do have them in Austin which makes me oh so happy!

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The graduation was held at Fifth Third Arena. I have never been to a graduation this massive before! Ha, I say that like going to graduations is like going to the movies. I’ve only been to maybe three other graduations in my life.

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We had a hard time finding a place, but Kevin, her fiancé, scoped out the room and found us the best seats in the house.

There were soo many graduates! There is truly something about the energy at a graduation that is thick with emotion, pride and hope. It’s like an inspiring, nostalgic, and bittersweet electric current is rippling through the entire room.

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Ahhh here she comes!!! You can easily spot her with her colorful sash for Latinos en acción.

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Cue the tears- no seriously, I’m tearing up again writing this, hah.. I’m soooooo stinking proud of her.

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She elegantly walked across the stage and didn’t fall! Woohoo! Go Sis!

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After we walked around the campus for pics. I love her cap- it totally embodies what she is all about. Oh, and for those wondering she graduated with two majors (NBD!)- International Business and Finance-and a minor in Spanish. She also got a full ride for law school and aspires become an immigration lawyer. Yes, she is a bossss lady, and I am ecstatic to see the way she continues to change lives in the best way.

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^^ The gorgeous couple! Gosh, I love um’!

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^The fam bam.

After we went to celebrate at Halston’s Favorite restaurant- The Cheesecake Factory! Ya can never have a bad meal here. The rest of Kevin’s family joined us too!

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My mom and I split their beet and avocado salad with glazed beets, avocado, fresh orange, arugula, and honey yogurt sauce and their salmon. Both were so scrumptious- the beet & avocado in particular was just such a lovely conglomeration of flavors. I wanna try to make this at home sometime!

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They even brought Hal her cheesecake with a “Congrats” on it. So sweet! We all enjoyed bites of various cheesecakes before heading out.

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On our way out we spotted this Cincinnati Bearcat and of course had to get a pic with Hal next to it!

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The whole familyyy! (Minus Deej). My hair was flat-out done by this point- flat being the operative word, haha.

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We all went back to the AirBnb and sat around the fire while listening to fascinating stories from Kevin’s parents from living in Peru, discussed the upcoming wedding,  laughed a lot, and even learned Bachata (a type of dance) from Kevin’s mom. I gotta practice a bit more before the wedding !

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That evening I slept so much better than the one before. I fell asleep listening to the audiobook of Where The Crawdads Sing. I love it so far!

In the morning of May 4th I went for a nice run around the area of Hyde Park. It was one of those runs that I think will stay with me. So much joy and excitement surrounded this weekend, and that run cemented those adrenaline filled emotions into my memory. The area was captivating and picturesque too. I especially adored the way the morning dew drops clung to these purple blooms.

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I had to stop several times to take in the seemingly illustrious home fronts and historic schools.

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Once we all returned and got ready for the day we were ready for some coffee & breakfast. We walked across the street to The BonBonerie Cafe- the cutest little french cafe I ever did see! They have a garden entrance for their main cafe and also an adjacent bakery. We had to stop in both, naturally.

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There is a special little area for tea time too. I saw moms coming in with their daughters all dressed up. It was adorable.

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Of course I got a cafe au lait. It was perfect. The two cafe au laits I had that weekend were two of the most memorably delicious– Cincy knows how to do their coffee!

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Next stop: Bridal shower!

The Bridal Shower took place in Strongsville, OH (close to Cleveland), so we drove that afternoon from Cincy to CLE (about three and a half hours).

Question for you:

  • Favorite Cheesecake Factory cheesecake flavor? Mine is probably their Oreo Dream X’treme. I love their tiramisu & vanilla bean too (I am usually anti-vanilla anything, but their vanilla is so creamy and delicious!).

xo <3

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Kaya Toast & Angel Island!

**I wrote this last Thursday and forgot to publish it- so here it is now!**

Hey friends! I am writing this post from about a million miles in the air. I’m not going to try to estimate exactly how many miles…I have a weirdly comical inability to estimate distance/measurement of any kind. One time I ordered wedding portraits our first year of marriage for a Christmas gift for my in-laws and accidentally ordered a portrait the size of a fireplace. Not. Exaggerating. It was the same size as the fireplace. I cannot be trusted when it comes to numbers.

So, yeah, I’m in an airplane and on Cloud 9- quite literally! I have everything checked off my what seemed endless “to-do” list leading up to this weekend & just caught up on reading posts! A little behind the scenes: I opened up all the new posts to read while I had WIFI on the ground and then am writing my comments in a Word document. When I land & have WIFI again I’ll just copy and paste um’ to the comment section. My favorite way to pass the time on flights 🙂

I downloaded episodes of The OA to get started on, but am in the mood to write at the moment. Traveling makes me extremely productive. I love that there is nothing else vying for your attention- especially when you’re in the air and disconnected from the world- you literally cannot do anything else except what you have right in front of you! And on this flight where I’m squeezed in the middle of two strangers I literally hope I don’t sneeze because I will elbow the person next to me on accident. Also, I hope they aren’t reading this because that’d be awkward?! Oh well!

So after our wonderful Easter (the last one in SF- hard to believe!), the following Monday April 22nd I reset for the week. Since my semester was officially done I had to get to those “back burner” items … you know, the ones that can wait but need to be done at some point: I called our prospective apartment complex to get on a wait-list, worked on stuff for the shower, made lists of what we need to do before moving, cleaned out my car, tried to sign up for the Boston Marathon (I’m having such an issue figuring out the application process- if someone has done it please let me know! It’s so confusing & I can’t seem to actually find a formal registration place or someone I can get in touch with—their customer service line doesn’t lead anywhere and I only get automated e-mails back)… anyways you get the picture.

In the afternoon of the 22nd I went on a little walk (my favorite way to just clear my head as of late- maybe even more than running *gasps from the crowd in the back*). I just loved these beautiful truly vibrant blooms!

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These ones are practically neon!

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Let’s see.. On Tuesday April 23rd, I made DJ some pepper jack stuffed chicken with jasmine rice and corn. I made some vegetarian Indian for myself with jasmine rice and tandoori naan from TJs. DJ had some, but said he preferred his chicken (fine– more veggie curry for me 🙂 ). He also is used to my chicken curry I make for him, so I promised I’d make it sometime soon!

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Wednesday April 24th …. well, I have no pictures, so either I was busy with hum- drum things or I disappeared into a black hole. Who knows.

Thursday April 25th was eventful though!! I woke up around 8, ran outside (it was a glorious morning). Then around 10:30 am my friend Alexandra from my nursing cohort met at our apartment. We took my car into the City (ya know I love driving into the City like a real weirdo)… First stop was BreadBelly. They have a few menu items I discovered through the ol’ I-G that I was itchin’ to try.

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We walked in and to our surprise there was no line, even though it was close to lunch time when we arrived. The place was immaculate. I’m trying to get that YELP elite status, so I wrote a review and will just share it here to give ya the low down. Definitely am going back ASAP!

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I couldn’t finish all the Kaya Toast so I saved it to have again in the morning (and had a cooler with me like I do every time I do when I go into the city so nothing goes to waste)!

We took the Ferry over on the Blue & Gold Fleet located at Pier 41. It was easy-peasy lemon squeezy finding it all. Important note: they do have a specific departure schedule, so it’s important to plan out your day rather than try to catch a Ferry last minute. I was glad we did a bit of research before rather than just winging it.

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The ride over was a bit bumpy, but the views were sooo incredible along the way. We saw some huge homes perched onto an Island in the distance and tried to figure out how they would get their groceries there or what they would do if they ran out of toilet paper.

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When we arrived we could not stop talking about how absolutely gorgeous this island was!! I honestly had no idea what to expect with it; I only knew it was a place on the bucket list I made months ago that we decided would be a fun spot to cross out for the day. Mainly this island is known for its nod to history & awesome hiking.

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Being a couple of nurses, something we both found incredibly fascinating was the fact that it was used to quarantine those with contagious diseases like smallpox, plague, and cholera.

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We went inside the tourist area and read up on some more history. All so interesante!

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Then we took off for our hike! It’s so nice because the hiking begins as soon as you step foot off the Ferry. You don’t have to take a cab or taxi to any spots- you just choose your path and get going!

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The views, the views, the views! This might be one of the most beautiful places you could go in the Bay. We couldn’t stop talking about how breathtaking it was at every turn. Of course, the pictures cannot do justice.

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As we walked along we noticed a little path that lead to some homes. We took it down and realized they were the homes we saw from the Ferry!! They were actually not homes at all, but abandoned barracks. So I guess no one was too concerned how they were gonna get that roll of Cottonelle. There was a baking house too that had literal smoke coming from the chimney! We stepped inside to check it out and walked right into a guided tour- WHOOPS! They were nice about it though and let us snoop around, haha.

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The Ferry ride back was much more smooth, but took longer since we stopped to drop people off at Sausalito and Tiburon.

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Peek of Alcatraz on the way back!

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We had SUCH a blast exploring Angel Island. It’s easily one of my favorite things I have ever done in the city. It’s a cheap activity too- all you have to do is pay for the Ferry. It’d be fun to pack a lunch and take the earlier Ferry out to make a day out of it! But the time we spent there for our festivities was just perfect–We got our history and our hike!

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So you know I don’t do a trip to the city without a food stop 😉 We were going to go to Cotogna, one of Alexandra’s favorites and a place I’ve been dyin’ to try (they have a famous giant ravioli). When we walked in they said the wait was at least 1.5 hours to sit at the bar or would be over three for a table. Thank you, next. We walked along Little Italy and Alexandra got a front row to my indecisiveness in full force, lol. There are SO many good restaurants in Little Italy. We finally settled on Tony’s Pizza… a place some consider the best pizza joint in the City.

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We told our hubs that we’d bring them home dinner, so we ordered three pies that we knew they’d enjoy too! The first was a marg, the second a New Yorker, and the third the Diavola. First up, the Margherita.. this is not just any marg… it  is a world-renowned, award-winning margarita pizza. I gotta say, we were both incredibly underwhelmed. It was extremely doughy and kinda luke-warm (we were sitting out in the freezing cold – the temp dropped quickly, so that may have been part of it!). I asked the waiter if that was normal for it to be like that… he explained the “soupy” doughy nature is a sign of a very authentic marg. Interesting. I absolutely prefer Pizza Antica’s  marg over this ANY day. But different strokes for different folks!

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The second famous one I saw all over the place was their New Yorker. This is one I knew DJ would love cause he loves a meat lovers pizza. I tried one bite with the meat so I could give an objective review before taking the rest of the meat off.. it was great! The crust was nice and crispy on this one. Still don’t prefer meat on my ‘za, but this was DJ’s favorite when I took it home for him.

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Last up was the Diavola. Both Alexandra and I agreed this was the best one of the three!! I tried a bite, and it was tremendous. Their hot sauce is already added to the Diavola, which I think is the main reason it’s such a winner in our books. I’m surprised it didn’t win any actual awards though. After our three slices a piece we tapped out and took the rest to go for our guys.

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And that wraps up one of my favorite days ever in the city. It was soo much fun hanging with Alexandra- we get each other on a kindred level. We’ve been through a lot of similar challenges in life & that first year of nursing bonded us in such a way where she feels like a sister to me. I’m gonna miss this one something fierce. Trying to convince her to move to Austin too 😉

I know this one was wordy,  but I just don’t wanna forget these special details. Thanks for reading!!

Question for you:

  • Do you prefer your pizza crust crispy or doughy?

xo <3

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Abstract Table & Easter in SF!

Hey hey!! I have one more day to catch up on posts before taking off for Ohio! I’ll be MIA till probably mid next week, but can’t wait to catch up on all your happenings then 🙂

After our hike, DJ and I blasted the heat in the car (it was freezin’ out there!) and then headed home to get ready. I was invited to Abstract Table in Oakland to try out their “Atolls” menu complimentarily. I was ecstatic and honored to try it out & really excited DJ could go with me. We made a little date night out of it!

I have never actually drove through downtown Oakland before. I was taking in all the buildings & noting restaurant names as we drove along. “Ohhh, I wanna try that place out sometime!” I probably said five times as we drove along the main drag.

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Abstract Table is located in The Gastropig and has seatings on Friday and Saturday at 6:30 pm/8 pm.

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We opted for the earlier time slot since we live about an hour from Oakland (and so I could get some natural lighting for pics if we’re being real 😉 ).

I love the purpose and inspiration of their menu. Their mission is to bring awareness to the fragility of the coral reefs by bringing innovative, vibrant, and piquantly beautiful flavors and plated dishes to the Bay! You can read about it in detail in the description below.

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The ambiance was super relaxed. It felt rustically casual, yet was clean and bright. They pride themselves on being fine dining, without the pretense and definitely nailed it! Also the menus are cheaper than most fine dining around. It is $50 for the five course or $70 for the seven course.

First, the waiter came out and offered us wines for the evening. Since it was mostly going to be seafood, we opted to try their white wines. I loved it- so crisp, great with the dishes. They served in little mini mason jars- so cute!!

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The first course was an oyster, scallop, squid, leek, citrus and starfruit.

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This is probably one of the most exquisite things I have ever eaten. It was a refreshing beginning to the meal!

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Second Course: Shrimp & scallop dumplings with seaweed caviar, avocado powder, and dashi. They were good, but the best was yet to come!

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Third course: Sea bean, guava, pineapple, black sesame wafer, and chili-yuzu vinaigrette. This was very sweet, but delicious.

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Fourth course: Ashen octopus, chicharron, passion fruit, coconut pearls, and octopus jus. This was yummy! It was incredibly unique with the flavor, but I loved the boldness of the dish.

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Fifth course: Wild boar belly with mango nectar poached carrot, jackfruit kimchi, and plantain puree. I was nervous to eat this whole dish since I don’t regularly eat meat- but I definitely had a few bites to try it out. It was tremendous!!! This was our favorite of the night. I don’t like the taste of meat, but this was so savory, without any dryness at all.

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Sixth Course: Braised goat, pigeon peas, baby greens, kabocha curry, and smoked chili. DJ loved this one! I didn’t care for the goat, but I loveeed the curry and pigeon pea mix.

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Seventh Course: Hawaiian cinnamon buckwheat cake with white chocolate-lime mousse, finger lime, chili sesame sand. Wow oh wow oh wow this dessert was magical!!! We were blown away.

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We are so thankful have tried out this phenomenally constructed and executed menu! Thank you, Abstract Table and Chef Andrew David Greene, for having us!

On the morning of April 21st (Easter), I started the day with some avocado toast with hummus and everything but the bagel seasoning from TJ’s.

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Easter outfit! Deej and I had to drive separately to church because he had to work a bit after.

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We attended a lovely Easter church service and then DJ headed to work for a few hours. When he came home around 1 pm, we zipped up to SF.

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I made us reservations at The Saratoga– A spot I’ve had my eye on for ages!!

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It had a gorgeous industrial interior!

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We started with some mimosa like drinks- both deliciously light, fruity, and not too overwhelmingly sweet.

We mainly wanted to try their Jenga Tots! These were truly tots with cream cheese, smoked salmon, cucumber, capers, and red onion. They were phe-nom-en-al!!! I am obsessed!!! This is a brunch dish at its finest. The actual tots had a wonderfully done crispy exterior with a savory, heavenly potato-ey pillow on the inside. I will dream of this.

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We also tried their mimosa donut. This was a donut with a blood orange glaze and pop rocks. I didn’t notice any pop rock poppin’, but it was still absolutely delicious. I would love to enjoy one of these with coffee in the morning. In most pictures I’ve seen it usually has a more bright red/pink color, so I’m wondering if they did something to change the color for Easter? hmmm. Either way – fantastic donut!

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After our scrumptious brunch, we headed to Ghirardelli square. Deej was having a little itch for one of their famous sundaes. The weather was as wonderful as it comes in the city– Bright, sunny, 70s, and even with the wind, not too cold- but also not too hot.

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It sure was windy though! hehe.

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But where there is wind– might as well take advantage of it for that wind-blown selfie, riiight? 😉

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We made it!

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The line was insanely long. Probably didn’t help that it was a holiday and a weekend. We decided we’d come back on another day.

Instead, we decided to go to the Palace of Fine Arts since I have never been before & it was within walking distance. DJ has been once and said it was definitely worth visiting!

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It was one aesthetically magnificent building. We also saw this little guy swimming around.

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It was much bigger than I expected! I have passed it in the distance many times while driving, but actually seeing it in person was a majestic experience.

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At this point my dogs were barkin’!!! After allll my trips to SF you’d think I’d know which shoes to wear to take on the hills & miles of walking. Well, I completely over-estimated the comfort of the gray booties (my “most comfortable” pair of non-athletic shoes). Fashion or pain? Hard decision, ya know. But next time, I am totally sticking to the Adidas. Learned my lesson!

Since DJ had to work Monday (and we wanted to make sure to make it back on time to see Game of Thrones) we decided to take dinner to go and then just heat it up when we were hungry later. Of course, we had to hit somewhere on the bucket list! Barzotto here we come!

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This is a cute little fast casual Italian restaurant located in the Mission. I have been stalking this specific dish, the snail shells with marinara, ricotta, lemon zest and pepper, for a few months now. We put in our GrubHub order, and it was ready just in time for when we pulled up.

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Even though we took it to go, I told DJ we had to try at least one bite in the car so we could give it a fair evaluation of it fresh from the kitchen. It was soo yummy & actually even better than I expected considering I’m not a huge marinara pasta fan. The lemon zest combined with the soft, creamy ricotta was the most pleasant combination. We finished the rest up that night with other leftovers from the fridge.

When we got home I realized I had a bit of time before Game of Thrones. I did a mini fill-in grocery trip of essentials.

So, little tidbit- DJ doesn’t love going into the city as much as I do (actually… he doesn’t really prefer it), so the fact that he took the whole afternoon after working on one of his only days off (and the day before) to go with me meant a ton <3 As I was driving home I passed by CREAM and decided to surprise DJ with some as a little thank you! (And because I felt bad the line was soo long at Ghirardelli).

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Chocolate on Oreo on Chocolate! Not exactly a Ghirardelli Sundae, but a close second 🙂

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And that wraps up our Easter!

Question for you:

  • Ok, so T-Swift dropped her new song last week. Would love to hear your thoughts. I thought it was ‘aight. Very happy, upbeat- definitely a “bop”. The “Spelling is fun” part took me aback a bit (it sounded like a movie soundtrack for a kids movie IMO). The actual music video was mesmerizing! I loveeeed that she collaborated with Brendon Urie. Their voices together was pure magic.

xo <3

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Ramen Nagi & Castle Rock!

Hi All!!! I am stilll SHOOKETH from the Game of Thrones episode last night. *Spoiler alert* –There was one point where I was saying to DJ, “There is NO possible resolution from this- they are all deeeaad”! And then Arya jumped in and saved the freaking day, my giiiiirl.

What a phenomenally done episode.

Anyway– Jumping straight into these highlights from the last couple weeks because I have got to hustle to get these recaps done before leaving Thursday for OH for my sister’s graduation and bridal shower. Woohooo! I cannot wait.

April 15th I went to Nosh to work on school assignments and plan out the next couple months.

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In the afternoon I went on a walk to shake off the cobwebs from staring at a screen all morning.

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Lately, I have been trying to diligently use up everything in our fridge and pantry before going back to the store (as I’ve said about five hundred times; don’t mind my broken record self). Since we don’t want to lug a bunch of dry goods to Austin with us, we’ve been having the dressings/dry goods inspire our meals. It’s been pretty successful and a fun challenge! However, once the fridge started looking like this I bit the bullet and went to the store.

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A girl can only eat frosting and chocolate milk for breakfast so many days in a row…I kid, I kid 😉 But I was craving a raw vegetable.

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It was a pretty large trip! The guy at Trader Joe’s said, “You having a party?” as he scanned my three large hummus quartets. I said, no I just really like hummus, haha.

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While at TJs, I saw the Tomato & Olive Focaccia and couldn’t resist.

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I made a Margherita pizza on it with some fresh basil straight from the plant. Mmm mm! It was delicious- although I still prefer thin crust at the end of the day.

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I also ate up soo many large salads that week- I was craving them somfin’ fierce and was ecstatic to enjoy so many fresh veggies.

On the morning of April 16th, I woke up to a beautiful, sunny morning!

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I went to pick up my bridesmaid dress from David’s Bridal and to get it fitted. You know what’s wild?! My alterations were more than the dress itself! Anyone else have tips for the future on what to do about more affordable alterations? Is it better to go elsewhere? Is David’s Bridal known for having pricy alterations or is that how it is everywhere?

Once I was home, I decided to meal prep for DJ for the week. I made these fajita steak bowls with cilantro lime rice from Diane’s blog served with some Chimichurri sauce I’ve had sitting in the pantry begging to be used. He liked them a lot & they made for a great dinner through the week.

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April 17th was the official last day of the semester (before finals- but I lucked out with not having any this semester?! I don’t know how, but I won’t argue with it!). In the afternoon I whipped together one of my favorite lunches of late with purple sweet potato, Fage, tzatziki, green goddess dressing, boca crumbles and almond mozzarella cheese.

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I ran in the afternoon & lifted some weights. It was a great workout- fueled by the elation of surviving another semester of grad school.

On April 18th, I snap-shotted my meal that I’ve had on repeat for breakfast the last couple months: Avocado smoothie with oatmeal + stevia and some vegan chocolate chips. This is kind of odd, but I actually like pouring the smoothie onto the oatmeal before eating it– it kind of has that cold overnight oat effect.

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In the afternoon I worked on some templates for Bridal Shower games. The last thing I have on my list is figuring out gifts for winners of the games- any ideas?

On April 19th we received the sweetest little Easter surprise in the mail from my MIL <3 <3

See the pretzels below? They are the best pretzels I have e’errrrr tried. They are MAGIC. They are cinnamon greek yogurt covered pretzels. They are flavor explosions in the mouth! I put them in the freezer and treat myself to a little handful here and there. SO stinking good.

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In the evening we went to Ramen Nagi for a long overdue double date with our friends Tammy and Ben. Ramen Nagi is a super authentic Ramen spot that people have been raving about for months. The line is always at least 45 minutes long!

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First, you choose which Ramen Flavor you’d like and then choose your soup “setting” (saltiness, oil, garlic), toppings, spice, noodles and then any extras.

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The wait went by quickly for us since we had soo much to catch up on.

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I loved all the fixin’s in the middle of the table, especially the little rice noodles.

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We tried a couple appetizers- the rice and edamame. Both scrumptious!

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Whatever seasoning they put on the edamame is out of this woooorld.

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Tam ordered the Red King- I think their most popular dish— “A striking blend of garlic, chili oil, and cayenne pepper in a velvety broth; topped by a tempting ball of miso-infused minced pork and select Nagi cayenne,with tender Cha-shu”. I tried some of the broth and me oh my was it delish!

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DJ ordered their Original King with “award-winning tonkotsu pork-broth prepared in the traditional method, mouth-wateringly rich, fresh, and aromatic; special handcrafted noodles and classic Nagi pork Cha-shu”.

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He loved it- I liked it- but my personal fav was the Veggie King!! “Savory Japanese soup stock expertly blended with cauliflower purée, featuring hashed potato “chashu” and accented with shiitake mushrooms and spinach; Nagi’s amazing vegetarian ramen”.

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I could not get over how insanely yummy this was…. I expected to like this place, but this is one of the most savory, comforting, satisfying meals I have ever enjoyed. To say it surpassed my expectations would actually be an understatement. It blew my expectations out of the water. Or should I say out of the Ramen! I ordered it extra spicy. One of the workers suggested I not get it as spicy as I put on my paper, so I took his opinion and changed my number down. I kinda wish I had kept it at my original spice (a 7)… but the 5 still had a nice kick! I also added extra dried mushrooms + cabbage. Also, whatever the hash potato cakes were may have been my favorite part of the whole dish!! They were so crisp and held up well absorbing the broth but maintaining their crunch! **all these exclamation points are entirely warranted**.

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It was such a fun double date! Love hanging with Ben + Tammy.

On Saturday, April 20th, DJ had to work the whole morning, but in the afternoon we went to Castle Rock State Park for a hike. This was a place on my bucket list. DJ is a bit skeptical that I can hit everything on the bucket list before we leave. I am blindly optimistic though. hahah. Meaning….

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In all seriousness, I know some of the food places will have to wait probably years, especially the fine dining- but I’m hoping to make a serious dent in the fast casual spots and hiking.

Anywho… where were we? Oh yes yes, Castle Rock–

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They have boulders you can climb on- soo much fun. It reminded me of a place called Whips Ledges that we used to go all the time growing up in OH.

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There is a peak and also waterfalls, but we were a bit low on time because I had a food shoot in the evening to attend. It was a blast just climbing all over the rocks. Hiking is one of my alll time favorite things to do and when climbing is thrown in- nothing better!

Questions for you:

  • Have you tried authentic Ramen? Do you like it?
  • Are you on the GOT bandwagon? Who do you think ends up on the throne?

xo <3

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The Best Brunch in SF & Flor De Cafe!

I gotta tell ya what. Spring has not always been my favorite time of year. For years, I have had some pretty intense SAD. So usually by the time Spring rolls around I’m not in the best state, and I feel like I’m mentally/emotionally “defrosting” from a long winter. It is the time of year I usually associate with energy depletion, apathy in full force, and stunted motivation. It traditionally isn’t until Summer that I feel I have my full mojo back. However, since moving to CA, I have grown to just love & relish in the spring time. I love the blooms, the sunshine, and the hope/renewed excitement that accompanies this time of the year. This might be my favorite spring so far too… I am soaking up every last second of living here, and really just trying to be ever present, finding the beauty in every single moment.

I’m still catching up on the recap, but I’m closing in on only being a week behind. We’re making strides here, people, making strides. On Saturday April 13th, I spent the day catching up on blogs/finishing up some school assignments for the semester- same ol’ same ol’. In the evening I made a mix of mixed veggies, lots of Morningstar vegan crumbles, and green goddess dressing. Mmm!

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As I have been trying to use up all our dry goods, I decided to use up a gargantuan bag of black beans that have been sitting in the pantry for a while. I made these black beans brownies from Chocolate Covered Katie and love them!!! You’d never know they were made with black beans. They are also vegan and gluten free! I actually have been eating these some days in the morning with my avocado smoothie instead of my oats. I have such a sweet tooth in the morning some days.

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On April 14th, I woke up around 5:45 am, ran about 7 miles, then headed to Nosh to grab a coffee since I was out of coffee at home.

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Time to drive into the city!!!

This ring I’m wearing below is one of my favorites because it belonged to my Nana. It has such special sentimental value & she had such a spectacular eye for fash-un. It makes me feel close to her whenever I wear her gems <3

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First stop was Brenda’s French Soul Food for some brekky. My SIL and foodie/exploration partner in crime, Amy, joined me. What am I gonna do without her when we move?! I’m seriously trying to convince her to move to Austin with us.

Anywho, Brenda’s is the most frequently reviewed place on YELP in SF and has been one of those places that I “MUST” try before we move.

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I appreciate how they so clearly lay out the “House Rules”. I dropped Amy off to put our name on the list before finding parking, but as I drove around I realized we were in the Tenderloin- probably the most dangerous area in SF. After she put our name on the wait list, I called her and then picked her back up so we could find parking together.

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The wait was not bad at all! Rumor has it that you will wait at least 45 minutes no matter when you come, but we waited maybe 20? It was not bad!

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The interior was amazing. I expected it to be more grungy- but it was clean, fun, upbeat, polished. I forgot to get a pic, but one of the walls were entirely made up of mirrors (you can see them on the YELP page if interested).

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The way they put the silverware in the coffee canister reminded me of Cafe Du Monde! 

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Amy ordered their famous Molasses-Black Walnut Iced Coffee with Whipped Cream!

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To start we ordered beignets.

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Okay y’all. These were out. of. this. world. I am adding these to my list of “must try” dishes in San Francisco. The flight includes one plain, one apple, one Ghirardelli chocolate filled, and one crawfish.

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The Ghirardelli was DJ’s favorite (I brought him back some to try!). I liked it for sure- but it was more of a rich dessert than breakfast item for me.

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My favorite was the crawfish. Not even exaggerating- this is easily one of the best things I have ever eaten.

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My second favorite were the Granny Apple Smith. Oh my gosh, these were phenomenal.

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And even the plain ones held my attention. These were, without any question, the best beignets I have ever had. They were even better than Cafe Du Monde’s in New Orleans (which I did not think lived up to the hype).

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Oh, and you bet we ordered more! Amy tried their Croque Monsieur with baked ham and swiss with bechamel sauce on sliced sourdough. I tried the cheese with the bread and that alone- holllly smoke-a-roonies. I cannot handle- so yummy.

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I ordered the shrimp & grits to take home for DJ. I knew this was a dish he’d enjoy! I tried a little nibble before packaging them up & they were just WOW. Mind blowingly good- although Patty O’s may have them beat!

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I ordered their shrimp & goat cheese omelette with caramelized onions and a tomato relish. I don’t know what the heck made this so good, but it was one of my favorite omelettes I’ve had in my entire life. Also, their potatoes are uniquely delicious & the biscuit was warm, doughy, obnoxiously good.

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They even have a homemade strawberry jam on the table with whole strawberries and a perfect jam on the biscuit.

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One of … no no no, THE best brunch I have had in the Bay. If you have to eat at one place for breakfast while visiting SF, this is your spot!