Decade Favorites! (And a couple throwback pics).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My one and only <3

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

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

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

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

xo <3

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

Family, Friends, and Food: A Recipe for a Perfect Weekend

Wow! I have taken quite the hiatus from blogging the last couple weeks and it simply is because I have been busy making some incredible memories <3. Sometimes when such wonderful events occur I feel like I can’t get them written down fast enough. I’m afraid they will leave me if I don’t record the small details. It’s the small details that seem to sneak out of the memory the quickest, but also the small details that make each memory personal and unique. Hence, I want to make every effort to hang onto them.

My mom came on Friday August 26th. DJ and I picked her up from the San Francisco airport and headed straight into the city! As I mentioned in my last San Francisco post, I spent time with my dear friend, Annie, who lived with us in high school. My mom was an eager beaver to see her. Friday night we had tickets to Eat/Drink SanFran (get ready for picture overload!). It started at 7:30 pm, which is an awkward time for “dinner”, so we decided to lightly graze at the Slanted Door to tide us over. Yes, “lightly” is a subjective term. Naturally while waiting for a table we had to do a photo shoot…

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What is this “Slanted Door” you ask? It is a modern Vietnamese fusion restaurant experience that guarantees to take your taste buds on an adventure like never before. No, they did not ask me to promote them, but while I’m waiting for my nursing license to get approved maybe I could work for their marketing department? Hehe.

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First up on the menu for the evening was Vegetarian Spring Rolls. But, oh, they are not just your typical vegetarian spring rolls (which are fantastic in themselves); these are the BEST. They contain tofu, shiitake, cabbage, mint, and a peanut sauce that will blow your mind. Would you judge me if I just drank it? Right out of the bowl? Would you judge me if I told you I’m not kidding?!

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Next up on the menu was the vegetarian Banh bot loc- aka mung bean tapioca dumplings, scallion oil, and thai chile soy sauce.

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BRB, need to get a napkin for the puddle of drool I have on my laptop after thinking about them…

Next on the list was Crispy Imperial Rolls. These included gulf shrimp, pork shoulder, vermicelli noodles, and roasted peanut. The meat eaters at the table gobbled them up like it was their last supper. You use the lettuce leaves to make a wrap with the crispy rolls and noodles and then dip in the sauce. It took us a moment to figure that one out 😉

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Last, these barbecued willis ranch pork spareribs were the fan-fave. I didn’t try them, but they smelled heavenly and in the time they left the plate I could tell they were darn tasty!

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They even gave us some hot washcloths for the ribs (or was it for the beverage spill? whoopsies!) Now- that’s some service! img_9423

After this “appetizer” (aka first dinner), we decided to walk to the venue and take our time sight seeing the bay. This never gets old for me, even if it was my third weekend in a row there!

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Below is a picture from “Off the Grid”. This was taking place the same night as Eat/Drink SanFran and definitely something I will want to do in the future! It is a gathering of a bunch of food trucks from the area with music and a big carnival feel!

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The building on the right at Fort Mason is where Eat/Drink took place.

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I was so glad DJ decided to take a break from studying to have a night out for some fun. He works so hard every. single. day.

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Walking up to the doors I felt like a giddy child again. I feel like those “giddy” feelings bubble up less and less the older you grow, but when they do sneak up on ya, you know you are doing life right.

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Just a little overview about Eat/Drink SF: It is organized by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and represents the best of the Bay Area’s  cuisine. It goes on for four days at the Fort Mason pavilion (Thursday to Sunday). You pay a flat fee for one of the days (we did Friday) and then have unlimited access to over 36 food vendors and over 70 beer, wine, and spirits makers once in the building. They also have a VIP option as well. I am not sure exactly what that entails, but you do get early access to the building and more exclusive options. Here is the formal description of the whole event:

“Enjoy unlimited pours of wine, beer, and cocktails and tastes from the Bay Area’s top restaurants. Mingle with the personalities that make this a world-class dining destination. Watch cooking demonstrations and learn in classes taught by renown tastemakers”

We did not sit in any classes this time because we were too busy eating, duh. We agreed we would make this an annual thing and next time partake in one of the classes.

When you enter, you receive a glass that you keep with you throughout the entire tasting.

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Every venue has a unique set up that quickly allows the consumer to know what their cuisine is all about! There were corn hole games set up near the Straus Family Creamery Ice Cream and Super Duper Burger stand. It felt like you were at a barbecue, but then two steps over you entered an Italian oasis with Pizza Antica. It was intoxicating (no pun intended).

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The Morning Star pizza was one of my favorite flavors of the night. It was a vegan barbecue pizza and they even handed out recipe cards to make it at home. I will be making it- no doubt!

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The Glenlivet Dram Room was a hard liquor tasting room. None of us were interested in actually trying any of the liquor, but the room itself was really neat!

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Here you could sniff different scents that were used in the production of their products. I loved that!

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They certainly had some unique food to try- and you know I was all about that! For example, I have heard quail eggs are tasty but never have actually had the chance to try one. It was- all together now…- AMAZING!.

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Hehe- got to love the candids.

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The displays were truly enticing. It was exciting to be feet away from such incredible talent as well.

For example, below is Emporio Rulli with Gary Rulli. The dessert I have posted was one of the greatest desserts I have ever tried. The three of us were drowning in all good things sugar. It was a pistachio creme brulee. I am not a huge creme brulee fan, so I probably would have never ordered this on a menu. However, if when I go to Emporio Rulli, this is a MUST.

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The smoked salmon mousse above was one of my favorite things of the evening. It was tediously intricate the way they made them too- Each one was given the utmost attention. I have never seen an appetizer so doted over!

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One of the strangest tries of the night was foie gras ice cream. I know this is probably not vegetarian, but hey, when you are somewhere like this go big or go home. This was from Hudson Valley Foie Gras. We have tried foie gras in the past and weren’t particularly blown away. However, this foie gras ice cream was surprisingly delicious. If you like salty and sweet combos, this little treat had the pair perfected! Unfortunately, I have no picture of this little nibble!

After we walked rolled home, we slept soundly with dreams of all SanFran food. My recommendations based on the evening:

Everything was absolutely fantastic, but those are just some of our favorites.

The next day my mama and I had some homemade parfaits with dried apple chips out on the balcony. We love sitting out there in the fresh cool morning air and enjoying our hot coffee and reading our Bibles.

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We then did the big walk to the store to pick up some necessities for the day. We stopped by a chinese bakery on the way back and saw the most interesting “sweets”. Chinese dessert is not knowing for being super sweet, but they certainly are creative!

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We jump started the next part of the day with an insanity workout, and I was impressed by this tough little cookie! She killed it. I was so proud. She has been working hard over the last few months to get into shape and it is showing.

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During the day we had one task: Hang up some living room curtains. I saved this task for my mom because I honestly do not have the first clue on how to hang rods, use a drill, etc. My mom is a pro at all this and even makes her own curtains. Well we ran into a little hiccup with where the studs were in the wall. Long story short we had a very frustrating afternoon and could not figure the darn thing out. After covering up the gaping nail holes we decided we needed a break and met DJ for sushi. He studied the entire day in the library and suggested a sushi place he went to with a friend. He claimed it was the best sushi he has ever had (which says a lot considering the sushi in Bora Bora was out of this world). It lived up to the hype. Oh shoot, now I’m craving it again.

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We headed back to the house and decided that we would give the curtains one more go of it. We found a little loop behind the paneling and were able to use canvas wire to hang the pole. We did it! Despite how frustrating the project was, it felt awesome to conquer it.

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We topped off the night with a visit to Cupervino. Cupervino is located super close to our apartment and I have wanted to give it a go ever since we moved here. The atmosphere is fantastic. We decided to split a wine flight and a glass. The pours were supposed to be three-oz. flights. I am doubtful that this was accurate. These were full on glasses.

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In the morning we headed to church. Gosh, I was so ecstatic for my mom to meet all the new incredible friends of ours and experience the most authentic worship. She loved it!

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After church we went to Santana Row while DJ went to study land 🙁 He is doing so well, but never stops studying.

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We walked around the row and stopped by a cute little band of youngsters playing in the square. It was adorable! They were probably in their early teens and the girl had a beautiful voice.

For brunch we stopped at left bank . The craziest thing was it hit my mom that the last time she was in the area this was the restaurant she went to with a friend. Kind ironic considering just how many restaurants there are in the area!

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We tried the salmon hash with red onions, tomatoes, parsley, yukon gold potatoes, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauced. We paired it with a delectable goat cheese salad. It was THE quintessential brunch.

After walking around Santana Row for a while, we decided to take advantage of the gorgeous day (Oh wait- everyday is gorgeous here?!), and go for a hike. This was the Tony Look trail that opens up into Fremont Older Nature preserve.

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This was one of our favorite parts of the whole weekend. Such great conversation is sparked during hikes, and we had seven miles to just chat. It was so nice to enjoy the views and talk about life.

For dinner we whipped up some green chef meals! Green Chef is just like Blue Apron! We had two meals left from the first package (I made the first meal in my last post 😉 ). It was a blast cooking together and DJ came home just in time to enjoy the meal with us. My mom and I shared the Tuna Burger and DJ had the Steak over orzo. We left out the walnuts and walnut pesto and just used regular pesto because DJ is allergic. I probably should have looked closer at that before ordering it! There have been several times in the past where I have almost accidentally “poisoned” DJ as he calls it. Exhibit A is posted below: I packed a trailmix in his lunch that had walnuts. Big WHOOPS.

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Sadly, my momma had to say goodbye Sunday night. But we were all so thankful for the time we had. It worked out that she was taking a red-eye that Sunday so we had the whole day to enjoy!

I have about a week of additional blogging to do that I will be working on the next couple days! There is a TON of fun stuff that went down while my best friend was in town, so stay tuned!!!! I hope you all had a wonderful and restful labor day weekend.

Wishing you a wonderful week,

xo <3

Mack

Bora, Bora, Bora

Anyone know the title’s reference? Gosh, I’m such a Netflix junkie. I really need to cool it. Anyways, I thought there would be no better time to do a recap post from our honeymoon than now considering we were there this time last year! We stayed at Four Seasons Bora Bora. Just saying the name makes my heart hurt a little because I miss it so badly! DJ and I both agree that every second of the trip was nothing short of magical. It was the perfect honeymoon. Dutch goes the photo has challenged us to submit something around the color “Blue”. I have to say there was nowhere in the world that I saw more beautiful blues. Here is my submission for the challenge. I think this photo captures so many different shades of gorgeous blues from a deep indigo to bright aqua.

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Traveling to the island was a fabulous adventure in itself. Tahitian airlines is highly recommended- the food is not your typical airplane food. We stayed one night in Tahiti before actually taking a smaller flight onto the island of Bora Bora.

** Side note: in the collage above I couldn’t decide if I wanted the food or our wedding rings to be the large picture. Shows where my priorities lay (lay or lie?! Ugh! IDK!). I digress.

When we first arrived they treated us like royalty. The staff offered us the most delicious mango juice we have ever had. I can still taste it. “La Orana” is a popular saying there for hello. You catch on quickly that you use this phrase frequently. The staff was incredibly friendly and we would always exchange the greeting in passing. DJ and I still joke around and say it to each other. It makes us miss this place something fierce!

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We then proceeded to our little bungalow. Bungalow, bungalow, bungalow. Just a super fun word to say, don’t you think? Looking back through these pictures I crack up at the number of ring pics I took. Such a typical newlywed girl! It was also sorta a big deal that my nails were done because I have them painted like .00005% of the time due to nursing and also just because I’m too impatient to let them dry.

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Generally, our days were pretty relaxed. I will hit on a few essential highlights.

First, we were greeted with the most exquisite champagne set-up. The coconut contained a delicious array of fruit and a jam for dippin’. Coconut strips are big in BB. They would hand them out casually to us when we were on the beach getting ready to go jet skiing or shark diving (more about this soon, no worries 😉 ) . IMG_8273

Next, one word: Breakfast. We would get up in the morning and go to the breakfast buffet. This is not your typical breakfast buffet, this is like blow-your-mind gourmet cuisine. It was so good that even Jimmy Kimmel ate there with his family! Nope, not kidding, JimKim and the Jennifer Aniston clan were all there post her wedding with Justin Theroux at the same time as us. One day DJ and I were passing Jimmy (first name basis here) and his wife. He smiled and said HI (H-I) to us! HI. Ya’ll don’t understand. Star stinking struck. But, back to the good stuff (food), we sampled everything under the sun. They had a ridiculous amount of fresh fruit, french crepes, parfaits, an omelette station, and fantastic coffee. DJ loved getting their juice of the day. I thought their french toast was out of this world. The jams were not just your typical Smucker’s jams either (& I love my Smucker’s!). They were so good that I took a few of the mini jars home with me and still have them in my fridge. They are too cute, so I don’t want to eat them!

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…THE VIEWS! Oh how gorgeous this island is. I do not even need to say much- I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Although, the pictures cannot even do justice!

Most days, we loved just lounging on the beach. I read The Girl on the Train, highly recommended, and DJ stayed in tune with the sports world reading ESPN articles. We loved ordering lunch on the beach or at a beach bar. There is something delightful about digging your toes in the sand while munching on a nice juicy burger (a tuna burger in my case).

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We decided we wanted to try a couple excursions, but not go crazy. Before my last arduous year of nursing, we wanted to make sure we relaxed as much as possible! We went jet skiing one day and then went swimming with sharks the next. One of the most insane things I have ever seen was an eel that snaked its ferocious head out of it’s cave as we swam by. image

Our guide played the ukelele for us as we floated along the blissful water. We stopped at different locations and the leader of the trip would give us fresh mango, starfruit, and of course, coconut! The fresh air, golden sun, and rocking of the boat made us sleepy between stops but then we would get a new rush as we saw the sharks circling the boat- the sharks that we soon would be swimming side-by side-with. Cue the jaws theme song!imageimageimageimageimage

Dinners were … as you might predict… fantastic. I can’t even describe in words the incredible amount of seafood available. Some nights we opted to do room service while looking over the pristinely blue water, and other times we tried the restaurants. **Of course, we had to get the pineapple pizza at one point 😉

What would a good vacation be without embarrassing moments? One night I tried to take a picture of the new Mrs. Aniston when she was only tables away from us. We were dining at Sunset Grille surrounded by fire tiki poles that lit up the dark sky and the sound of the waves softly crashing around us. I probably ruined her perfectly romantic dinner as my camera flash lit up the entire area. I wanted to bury myself in a hole. I was mortified. If she noticed, she was sweet enough not to say anything. Also, while on the treadmill, Jason Bateman came in. Jason-freaking-Bateman. He started running a couple treadmills down from me, and we were the only two in the room. I tried to think of anything to say, and nothing came to mind. I truly understand the meaning of speechless now. I could not think of a single word. He asked if I would mind if he turned the music down. I said, “yes, of course” probably a bit too excitedly, but hey whatevs. He gets it, he’s him. I continued to try to think of any kind of conversation starter but felt so overwhelmed, like I might have a stroke, so I left. I LEFT. Who just leaves when a movie star is within conversational distance?! HELLO. I still want to smack myself to this day. My Aniston picture ended up being a picture of my kneecap as I quickly turned the camera with the flash away, so we won’t share that… However, I asked the waitress to take a picture of us one night hoping she would capture our friends (Jimmy Kimmel, Jason Bateman, and their two wives) in the background, and sure enough she did!!! This is one of my favorite little grainy pictures from the whole trip.

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I loved doing yoga, handstands, and sunbathing on our back deck. We would watch for stingreys and angel rays off the back too.

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Luckily, there was only one day where it rained the entire trip. The rest of the time it was bright blue, sunny skies. However, I didn’t mind the refreshing tropical storm. I love storms in general. This picture was taken before it hit. The photo captures the mood, which was quite ominous, but strikingly beautiful as well.

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At one point during the week we received a couple’s massage. It was maybe the most relaxing hour of my entire life. The spa location was just breathtaking. The hot tub faces out into the foliage of palm trees, tropical plants, and the characteristically blue water. It was truly paradise.

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We awoke from our Polynesian dream and had to head back to reality. La Orana!!!!

Wishing you rest and relaxation this weekend,

xo <3

Mack