There’s No Place Like Home: Part One

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

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

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Home! 🏡

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Deej had their chicken sliders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Feels like home <3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAN. YOU. STAND. IT.

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

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

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

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

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Clair had their delectable cedar plank salmon.

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

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

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

xo <3

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Cozumel & Daze at Sea!!!

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

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

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

Not a bad way to spend a Monday, eh?

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

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

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Puerta Maya here we come!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Perfect little peach!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And cheesecake for dessert 😉

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dawwww, how dang cute.

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

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

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This night was my favoritedinner of the entire week!

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

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

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

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

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

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Rach tried their ribeye!

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

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

Time for Punchliner!

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

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

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

It was worth it! So much beauty!

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

xo <3

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Easter Sunday on a Cruise!

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

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

And we made it!!!

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

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

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

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We made it to our room!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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I adore this picture <3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And somebunny was veryy hungry!!!

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

SO . DANG. DELICIOUS.

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

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Rach loved their steak & eggs..!

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

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

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

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

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Everyone thought we were sisters, I mean we basically are <3 Was not mad about the assumptions!

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Like I said, our fair share of pictures!

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

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

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

xo <3

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New Orleans, LA!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I decided to make the first stop Garden District!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Do Pirates count as sketchy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I even spotted our Cruise Ship on the way!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rach had their refreshing grapefruit mimosa!

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

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

xo <3

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