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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Sizzling eats, the Super Bowl, & Star Struck memories

HEY!!! Life truly feels like it’s been going > 100 mph this past two weeks. So. much. good., but SO much busy. I am coming to the realization that this may be the beginning of not blogging as frequently 🙁 Currently all my energy is being directed into memorizing the information in this little fellow…

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But whenever I do have the time, you can bet I will be catching up with ya’ll! I’ll still try to at least do update posts for the rents’ back in Ohio and Texas 😉 No worries, Mom(s), I’m not throwing in the towel yet!

So going waaAAaaaAAAyy back to February 1st! The night of my interview we met up with my brother in San Francisco. He lives in Ohio, but visits occasionally for work. It was much needed, especially to keep my mind occupied with awaiting “the decision” (barely more nail-biting than Bron Bron’s in 2010).. My sports junkies know what I’m talking about. Anyway, we met up at Osso in SF. It supposedly is the “greatest steakhouse” in the US. We justified the dinner by saying it would be a combination of getting the interview over with/potentially getting the job/belated birthday/”my bro’s in town” celebration. It was wonderful getting to catch up with my brother, even if briefly. We tend to see each other during the holidays or when I would stop by his house briefly in college, so having a quiet dinner just the three of us was a treat! Also, I think I can finally explain his complicated job title with confidence. The best part was hearing about the milestones my sweet niece is making and about how my nephew is becoming more and more engaged with the world around him brings me joy upon joy.

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Fun fact: I think I have a dress that matches this floor. Let me see if I can pull it from the archives.

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There it is! Who wore it better? Me or the floor? (This picture is from a cruise my mom, sister, and I went on together a few years ago).

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Now let’ s talk food…

Bread. Their bread costs 0.99. Yep, ninety-nine cents. We couldn’t figure this one out- but hey, if they want to nickel and dime us, that’s their business (literally). Worth every single cent.

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MUSSELS! The butter madeeee these suckers. Get in mah bellyyyy.

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Their “famous” asparagus soup. If you like asparagus, you will like this- super creamy and savory, but strong on the asparagus flavor.

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Scallops– melt in your mouth. BUT I will say I like Farallon’s better!

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I didn’t bother the boys for a picture of their steak. They said it was tasty, but a Fleming’s or Ruth’s Chris cut was better.

Conclusion: Come for the swanky, Gatsby ambiance, and great food- but don’t expect the absolute BEST steak of your life.

Thursday we went over another couple’s for dinner. My friend, Danielle, is known for her superb home baked bread. I am actually salivating thinking about it right now.

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She also made us lamb! I don’t usually eat meat, but I definitely had to try a bite of this. It was some of the most tender meat I have tasted. I haven’t had a real bite of meat in years, and if I was going to have some, I’m glad it was her cooking! The couscous and vegetables were cooked to absolute perfection. We had such a great time just chatting and are hoping to take a trip to Napa all together soon in the future!

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Friday I played catch up. I didn’t sleep at all that week and the house reflected my chaotic, non-focused state of mind. I did laundry, cleaned, responded to e-mails, and just tried to get a list together of everything I had to do. Deej and I went to Barnes and Noble AGAIN in the evening. Second time in like a month that we spent our Friday night looking through books. But gosh, we LOVE it. He found one he is already almost finished up with, and I scoured the shelves for a Neurosurgical Nursing book.(I didn’t end up finding any great ones, but Amazon came to the rescue 😉 ).

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Saturday morning I made Deej some chocolate chip pancakes and I made my banana oatmeal ones!

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I squeezed in a nice long run and then and then we went to one of our FAVES- Cheesecake Factory! One of the guys DJ works with got us a gift-card as a congratulations. It was the nicest thing. I was blown away. We couldn’t let that burn a hole in our pocket for long! AMIRITE?

Naturally— BREAD on BREAD on BREAD on WINE

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I love love love their tuna tataki salad. I usually like to try different entrees at restaurants, but I have a hard time veering from this one. Their vegan burger is amazing though too!

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DJ ordered their Mac n’ Cheese Burger- uh yeah… New levels

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Meal #2. We each ordered a slice of Oreo Dream X’treme. Our absolute favorite.

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We ordered the Salted Caramel and Vanilla Bean to-go. HOLY SMOKES. SOOO good!

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I definitely underestimated the vanilla bean. DJ and I both couldn’t get over how scrumptious it was. Several of you commented on one of my posts saying it was your favorite, and I was insistent that we had to get this. Jennifer in particular sold me on this gem! You guys did not lead us wrong! Another fun fact: I prefer my pieces of cheesecake frozen.When freezing the vanilla bean, the crust and cheesecake combo reminded me of cookie dough. MMM mmm mmm.

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After Cheesecake factory we walked around the mall for a little bit. They have a store called LoveSac. They have overly massive bean bag chairs basically and “sactionals” . Lol. The play on words.

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Sunday- C H U R C H. I’ve never really mentioned it before, but our church has it’s own brew of coffee called Apostle Coffee. So even if you’re not a church person, come on in for a great cup of joe (newcomers get theirs for free!) 😉

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In the afternoon I prepped for the Super Bowl! I’m sure many of you saw my loaded nachos recipe last week! I also made a margarita pizza for DJ for lunch, took beers and also Boom Chica Pop to the party. No one knew the difference! I’m telling ya- Boom Chica Pop is bae. <3 It’s better for you, but is absolutely delicious!

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I went to the Super Bowl party of a married couple friends of ours (Tammy & Ben). (DJ went immediately to his family’s, but I did halvsies in both places!)

Are they not the most amazing hosts ever?

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Also this turkey….

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And this beef… I told our host, Ben, that I don’t eat meat but this was making me rethink my decision!

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Catching Tammy in action!

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Monday and Tuesday I had to prep a ton of documents for the new job and start planning for orientation (all that jazzy jazz). Wednesday night I went with a few girlfriends Blue Mango for some sushiiiiiii!

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I liked the ambiance of this place. Service was horrendous, and they automatically include your tip on the bill (which explains the service). It took us probably a half an hour to even order then another 40 mins to get our food. BUT sushi is always worth the wait, isn’t it?

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Have you guys ever seen a sushi roll like this?! It was a fried dragon roll. I’ve never had “warm” sushi before, but it was insanely good. I need to take DJ to try this sometime!

Here’s another look up close in case you missed it 😉

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We then headed to Club Rodeo in SJ for a country concert!!! Chris Lane was the main performer proceeded by Russel Dickerson.

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​I can’t emphasize enough how much fun we had. It was a blast. I am thankful to have found an awesome group of girls that I click well with too.

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Best part? Running into Ben Zorn from the Bachelor. HOLLAAAAAA. Night made. Also Clare was there (from Juan Pablo’s season), but she took off before the concert was over.


Blog Birthdays:

I’m a bit late but.. BIG Happy Birthday to

Jena C. Henry at Jenna Books– 2/6

Michael at F3foranswers 2/7

JL at JLstanding 2/9

Let me know if I missed ya, I’ll add you to the list. YOU deserve to be celebrated!

What are you all up to this weekend? Any big plans?

xo <3

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Whirlwind of a Week

Well, ya’ll! I just want to take a moment and thank everyone for their sweet and kind words from our anniversary and wedding posts. (Also- I will finish the road trip eventually, promise!) RECAP time!

Thursday 8/4:

Thursday morning we came back from Monterey and spent the day unpacking, cleaning, and ordering DJ’s books for school. Thursday night I went hiking with one of the community groups I joined from church. It was a beautiful hike at Montavlo Arts Center in Saratoga. There is a gorgeous Renaissance style mansion that has a pavilion for concerts, plays, etc., but the surrounding mountain makes for excellent hiking. Out of all my hikes here so far, I have not gone out at dusk. From now on this is when I am going to do them. The cool, dusky air and the way the sunlight pierces the trees with the vibrant oranges and reds surrounding the mountains is enchanting. I did have one minor mishap though. This was my first time meeting any of the other hikers; I didn’t know anyone. Our conversation was smoothly flowing; I was meshing well, having a ball, and then WHAM. In typical Mackenzie-style (ew, third person), I fell (not gracefully whatsoever) and slid down part of the hiking hill. Score. It was easily the hardest fall I have ever had on a hike. (That says a lot considering falling is sort of my forte). Everyone was so sweet though and I was able to laugh it off. At least I made a memorable first impression 😉

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Friday:

Now that the house is stocked with groceries, I am like a kid in the candy store. There are so many recipes I have been saving, ideas I have, and new foods I want to try. It felt SO GOOD to be cooking again. I also think it made our apartment officially feel like home. Every time I go to the store I try to feed off of what we already have in the pantry to try and make sure nothing goes to waste. I know that those canned goods are fine until like 2090, but still, it feels good to use something up that’s just been sitting there! Lately I have been craving mussels. I saw in our pantry we had sundried tomatoes, tomato sauce, and artichoke hearts. I thought a Mediterranean mussel dish sounded just amazing with some garlic bread on the side- mmm mm. DJ is always up to try an original of mine, but I can never be 100% confident how it will turn out. It was delectable!

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Saturday:

DJ delved into his books most of the day and I volunteered in San Jose with another community group. It was one of those times that I was not obligated to go; part of me just wanted to stay at home and be lazy all day, but the other part of me nudged, nudged, nudged and said, “get up lazy butt”. I prayed about it and then realized it was sort of funny praying about if I should serve others- HELLOOO. Once I got there I was so glad that I did. I met a girl from the church and we instantly hit it off as friends. We were assigned to a water/pop station to hand out drinks, and for those four hours we talked, laughed, and served the most adorable kids in all the land. She is also in a very similar stage of life as I am. She recently left her job and does not know what she is doing next. I was able to share with her some of the things I have been learning, and she offered me encouragement as well. We made plans to go hiking and foodie-up Silicon Valley together. What perfect timing too considering that DJ is starting up school. GUYS! I HAVE A FRIEND :)! I have met a lot of great people through church, but this is the first person I have plans with outside of the church events. I left the service project feeling energized and excited. It reminded me of when I was in grade school and made a friend for the first time. Here I am at 22 years old, really going on 5. Nice to meet ya.

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For dinner we had leftover mussels and these yummy shrimp rice rolls with a homemade thai peanut sauce. Seafood for dayyyyyz.

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Sunday- Sunday we went back to the same church we have been going to. Starting off the day worshipping with other believers is the greatest thing. We then went to Living Spaces in Fremont to pick up our TV console for the bedroom and a headboard. I am itching to post photos, but I will hold off until it’s all done. I started to get hangry on the way home, so DJ told me to eat my “emergency Quest bar”. I always have either a Quest or No-Cow bar on hand because no one likes the wrath of a hungry stomach. After a nice run, I whipped up some delicious stiryfry. Stirfry is so easy, filling, and tasty. I made DJ’s with some chicken, and mine vegan with Boca crumbles. I decided to wrap them in some Nori Seaweed wraps. Sometimes cooking for two can be a challenge, especially with the improvisations, but I always like to find something creative to do with anything leftover. I used about three small chicken tenders for DJ’s stir-fry and then baked the rest to make simple shredded chicken for lunch sandwiches or a quick snack for a protein boost.

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I gave DJ a haircut for his back-to-school look. Cue the awwwws. Not sure why he let’s me touch his hair, I have way too much fun with it and get a little razor happy. But it ended up looking pretty good. This is how our typical haircuts go initially:


Monday- This was our actual anniversary, but as you know we celebrated it last Wednesday. With DJ’s orientation starting Tuesday we spent most of the day making sure everything was set to go. We went to Target and stood next to all the cute little mamas doing back to school shopping for their little tikes. I offered DJ my syringe highlighters, but he refused, so we got him some “normal” ones. (Syringe highlighter definition: highlighters that look like syringes. As an almost-nurse I think they are pretty dang awesome). For dinner we did –drum roll please- BLUE APRON!

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Have any of you done this? It’s pretty stinking fun. Basically they deliver you a box with tons of fresh ingredients, “knick knacks” that include any small dashes of things you may need, and an instructional sheet to make everything step by step with pictures. This is great for anyone that is beginning to cook as well because they are thoroughly descriptive in each step. Also- I think it would make an awesome date night idea. It has ideas for wine pairing with each meal too. In a few posts back I mentioned how we received all these coupons when we first arrived and one of them was for this food delivery service. I always have wanted to try it, but it seemed like a lot of money for just three meals. But with our first order, we received $40 off, how could I resist? The first recipe we tried was the Spicy Peperonata Pasta. I thought it seemed pretty romantic for an anniversary dinner ;). It was out of this world, and I’m not even a big pasta person (I know, sin). DJ said it tasted so “fancy”. I would go into an in-depth description of this, but I think you just have to try it for yourself! We have yet to try the curried catfish and quinoa bowls, so stay tuned! Sadly, we didn’t have our one-year cake topper, but my mom sent us a cheesecake factory giftcard to get some cheesecake in place of it. She knows us well, I do say! Anyone have a favorite there? I can never decide, Oreo is probably ours.

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Tuesday- Orientation day!!! I had a list up to my ears with things to do, but first and foremost, we had to get the hubs off for the day. I made him a parfait with Greek yogurt and then we said our goodbyes.

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It was so strange saying “bye” to him. Since we have been here we have done the majority of things together. Even when I would make trips to the store or what-not it wasn’t for extended periods. I am realizing that I am about to see my husband a whole lot less, and it’s hard! However, I am so thankful for the memories we shared this summer and know that the time we do have will be treasured. When he came home, I was an Anxious Anna to hear about the big first day! He said that it went well! I could tell he felt relieved just having that initial first day over with. I spent the day assembling our end tables for the guest room, running errands for things we forgot to pick up on our runs over the weekend, and making several returns. We did watch Bachelor in Paradise, ugh I really feel quite ashamed to admit it. Horrible show, terribly addictive. Don’t recommend it; we love it.

IMG_8194Wednesday- You know the book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? That was my Wednesday. Nothing went right.

  1. I woke up with a tremendous headache. It went away after chugging some water and coffee, but it always had that dull ache throughout the day.
  2. I missed my annual doctor’s appointment. I thought it was next Wednesday, but when I double-checked my calendar, I had that “oh no!” moment. It was an easy reschedule, but I hate doing that to anyone. I know that doctors have a tight schedule, and I never want to be the person to just not show up. I apologized profusely, and they were understanding about it.
  3. The sewage line in our apartment’s car garage broke. I went through four years of nursing school and nothing smelled worse than that. Nothing.
  4. DJ said he would like to get a bookshelf for all his law books soon. I thought it would be fun to surprise him and have one ready for him when he came home. I went to Target and spent a good chunk of time surveying my options and then chose one I thought would be perfect. It was the last one too- don’t you love it when that happens?! I lugged that incredibly heavy piece of furniture through the parking garage, up the elevator and into my house myself *wipes dirt off the shoulder*. I was pretty dang proud that I could do that considering my lack of upper arm strength. I excitedly got to work. I almost put it on my Snapchat story, but then I thought, “Nah, bookshelves are the easiest things to assemble, that would be silly”. What happens then? I break it. In the middle of assembling it, I had the weight distributed probably incorrectly and the whole thing collapsed. We are talking wood splinters flying across the room. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry.
  5. I stubbed my toe. That’s enough to make a day bad in and of itself- can I get an AMEN?
  6. I called the nursing licensing board to see where my application was in the process of being approved. Long story short, after calling thirteen times and being on hold for twenty minutes, the lady talked to me more condescendingly and with more ambiguity than anyone I have ever met. I know that’s an extreme statement, but I have never felt more belittled. At this point in the day I just broke down. There I was sitting in the Target parking lot with my pathetically broken bookshelf that mirrored my emotions so perfectly in the backseat and sobbing. I say this not for pity, but because reflecting back it is HILARIOUS. I called my friend, Rachel, as I was running errands and as I recounted the day she laughed harder at each event I rattled off. That’s when I knew that it was just one of those comically bad days. Also, I know that in the grand scheme of things, the day wasn’t really that horrible. It simply is one that could have been worse, could have been better, and I count my blessings.

On a bright note, I whipped up one of the most refreshing lunch dishes! I am dying to share this because it is something that everyone will love with no scary ingredients 😉 I had leftover quinoa from a dish I made last week and through in some mango, pistachio, lime juice, and threw it on a bed of kale. (Wait, kale might be scary?) I missed DJ during the day and was glad to hear that he still is feeling pretty confident about the year to come. For dinner I took the leftovers from lunch and tossed it in some chicken for the carnivore hubby. He said it reminded him of ceviche, which is quite the compliment considering that is one of his favorite apps to order. All the fruit here is absolutely amazing. It just bursts with flavor. I’m not sure if it’s just because it’s summer or if it is always like that out here? In the midwest, the fruit only tastes extremely fresh in the summer. I just bought a pineapple that I cannot wait to carve up! For myself, I wanted some comfort food. I made my “famous refried dip” as we call it with lots of veggies.

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I ended the night with a Dreyer’s light mint chocolate chip ice cream cone. I have this theory that nothing tastes better after a good cry than mint chocolate chip ice cream. Next time you have a good tear drippin’, try it! (Not that I wish that on any of you?!).

Wishing you lots of stable furniture,

xo <3

Mack