Crazy Wildfires & DJ’s Birthday Celebrations!

Happy Thursday, ya’ll (well, Thursday by the time anyone reads this- although it is currently Wednesday evening)! How’s it kickin’?

We said goodbye to one of my favorite charge nurses last week; I was super sad to see her go 🙁 (This send off banner was too funny not to share though!)

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DJ’s birthday was October 6th!!! I can’t believe I am just shooting this post up now. Sheesh! Anywho, we had a gift card to Open Table that was put to phenomenal use at the local Forbes Mill in Los Gatos!

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This sweet man.. I would usually not pull my phone out at places this nice to snap food pics, but he convinced me that it was just us two and it wasn’t a big deal…. I obliged pretty easily 😉

We started with the giant prawn cocktail. There is nothing better than a fresh shrimp/prawn appetizer. It’s easily our go-to!

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We also tried their crab cakes! They were tasty, no denying it…yet a far cry from the cakes we had in Baltimore.

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I also had their generously sized beets and macadamia crusted goat cheese salad. It was one of the best I have ever had,  and it’s so simple to throw together! I definitely will be recreating this at home.

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DJ tried the ULTIMATE surf and turf with a combo of waygu and lobster tail. I sampled the waygu because it’s supposed to be the highest quality of meat, and I couldn’t let the opportunity pass….. butttt I had an aversion to the flavor. After not eating meat for about four years it didn’t do anything for me.

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We also dabbled in a side of creamed spinach.. if it’s on the menu you know we are jumping on it! We absolutely loved it. I still think the creamed spinach from Ben and Jack’s in New York is the best of all time, but this is not far behind.

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And I couldn’t pass up the epic, rave-worthy, award-winning scallops….. I think the only ones that contest are Farallon’s in San Francisco. Gosh, just the thought is making my mouth water all over the darn laptop. They were served over forbidden rice- a new obsession of mine officially. Has anyone had this magical grain?! It’s ah-may-zin!

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I could go on for days and days about how amazing DJ is. He is a man of God, handsome, humble, hilarious, loyal as they come, my rock, courageous, intelligent, witty, intuitive, hard working, dedicated, and genuine. Those qualities just scratch the surface. I don’t know why God blessed me with such an incredible man, but I won’t argue with His provision 😉

The days are all kind of blurring together from the rest of the last few weeks. I do want to share of my favorite snap shots from random runs and of course, even more random pics of all the foooooodddd we’ve been scarfin’!

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The fall blooms are just as gorgeous as the spring blooms!!! Even though we don’t have the leaves change like back in the good ol’ midwest, we still have the beautiful array of flowers to admire in this season.

Unfortunately, my autumn runs had to come to a quick halt when the wildfires started last week. It smelled pungent with smoke in the hospital (which is closer to the fires than our apartment is), and then eventually the air around our home was saturated with the unescapable burning scent. In the morning when we woke up our eyes itched, our throats scratched.. it was surreal. We just keep praying for everyone affected by these horrible fires. I truly hope the madness stops soon and mother earth cools her jets.

If you would like to help, please visit this link with multiple options you can contribute!

Back to the random food mess… I’m still on the egg kick for suure. (I put some of the leftover creamed spinach on a piece of toast and then the egg on top, good heavens).

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I also have been CRAVING a Whole Foods trip. Since they have always been ugly pricey, I usually only go every once in a while. However, now that they are bought by Amazon their prices have gone down tremendously!

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Using many of the ingredients from whole foods, I made a fall salad that I’m ridiculously obsessed now. I was inspired by Stein’s Beer Garden’s salad. It contains jicama, roasted butternut squash, quinoa, light craisins, and I use a homemade apple cider vinaigrette (with some apple cider, a touch of oil, and a touch of sugar).

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I think ya’ll get the point. Haha.

Another thing I, and the rest of everyone, has been loving is spaghetti squash! Ugh, it is SO good. I have been mixing it with vegan butter, vegan meatless crumbles, and a touch of parmesan on top. So easy, so scrumptious. I know many of you out there have tremendous recipes for the spag-squa, please share em’ with me!

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And I’ve been whipping up a lot of capreses for DJ. This is one of his favorite snacks and the heirloom tomatoes were on sale at Whole fuuds and, oh man, were they ever fresh!

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I’ve been decompressing from the studying with lots and lots of running. I have been mixing in Insanity workouts, but as soon as the smoke settled and the air cleared I booked it back outside.

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I’ll just slide in another picture of morning toast with dried apricots, chia seeds, oats, high protein plain greek yogurt, and stevia.

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Something else I’ve been devouring lately is smoked salmon on pita with caramelized onions and a fried or poached egg. This has been hitting the spot and has been a great high protein/healthy “comfort food” during this super stressful time.

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I took my GRE yesterday …

I crammed for about two and a half weeks in my time off work for the exam, and just didn’t score as well as I would have liked on the quantitative. Algebra and me do not exactly tango in the moonlight. Ask me to tell you the symptoms of Moya Moya or the proper medication to treat tuberculosis..we can chat. But I don’ t have the faintest idea what in the Westeros math has to do with it. It’s not even real math. Like I get 1+1=2… or me +math= disaster….. but I will be the first to admit I do not know how to solve “If Tommy had five oranges and Shelly had 12 and 2 were taken away and thrown at a cactus, why is the square root of the Eiffel tower a bag of potatoes?!”

*Deep breaths, deep breaths*

*It’s not about the problem, it’s about the procccessss*

I get that people study for a looong time for this, but only one of the schools I’m applying to out of five require it. I just don’t think it’s worth it to slave over the study material when majority of MSN-FNP admissions don’t require it, and the app deadline for the one that does is November 1st. (Which is actually great because then I don’t even have the option to retake it for now). Now I’m rambling. *clearing throat*. Oh well, que sera sera.

HOW ARE YOU?!?  I am jumping off the crazy train now, and heading to bed before an early morning wake up call. Muah!

Blog Birthdays:

Cassie at Cassie’s Cookery on October 17th. Sweet girl, Happy birthday. You have changed my life more than you know, and you inspire me every single day. I am SO beyond thankful for ya, sweet thang. You are strong, loyal, empathetic, lovely, beautiful, and full of God’s grace and goodness. You exude His love more than most I know. Our conversations are always close to my heart, and I love you to absolute pieces, sista! <3 I hope your birthday was beyond perfect and you know what a treasure and gift you are to this earth.

PS. Cassie has an amazing cookbook out! If you wanna check it out go HERE. I know I am getting my copy ASAP! 🙂

xo <3

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Our Engagement (12-22-14)

On December 22, 2014 my life changed forever. This day holds within it a joy that surpasses even some of my most fondly reflected upon moments in life. It was the day DJ asked me to be his wife.

He was in Puerto Rico when the sun rose that day with his college basketball team. They had traveled there for a tournament, and I hadn’t seen him for a couple weeks. I was missing him fiercely. He was coming back that very day, and I was thrilled that we would just be able to talk again.

My family and I were in Traverse City, Michigan at this time for the holidays- the place that formed me and molded me through my life, created some of my most treasured memories, and was a home and safe haven if I could identify any. My beloved and I had also fostered great memories there from climbing the world-renowned Great Bear Dunes to whipping our way through the ice cold waters in various water sports to strolling downtown with ice cream cones in hand to placing our own footprints in the beached sand of generations before.

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It was our special place with endlessly treasured memories.

I knew we were going over to my Aunt and Uncle’s for dinner that night. I looked forward to spending time with my family in their beautiful home that overlooked the bay.

On our way there I was texting DJ. He told me he was back in the U.S., and I was nothing short of ecstatic. I longed to see him, but I knew that it would still be a few days. I asked him what he was doing on this first night back and he responded, “Just having dinner with my family.” I didn’t think much of it.

We arrived at my Aunt and Uncle’s. I walked up to the door and stepped inside. Music filled the air that tugged on a string on my heart. Our song. DJ and I’s song. Then I saw the candles and the framed pictures of him and I from five years ago when we started dating that littered the foyer.

I soaked it up, mouth agape. Slowly everything started coming into focus more clearly. My heart raced with a mix of bewilderment and exhilaration.

DJ stepped out from behind a corner. I was elated to see my love. My family was all smiles, all knowing. He took my hand and led me down their stairs that winded into a beautiful open living room.

The pictures of us that lined the walkway showed us growing up together in a pictorial timeline as we walked along, hand in hand. From teenage kids to young adults, the pictures told stories, and those stories told stories, and those stories brought us to the place we stood today.

He led me outside the basement door, down their mesmerizing stone walkway lined by candle votives to a trellis. Next to the trellis was the bay. The bay that held petoskey stones, my feet in their infancy, and my favorite memories from childhood. Next to the water’s edge was the most recent picture of us on the table, the culmination of our current journey, soon to lead into a future that neither of those people in the propped frame could have foresaw the true beauty of.

He told me many sweet things. Oh so many sweet things that I cannot recollect. Then he was on one knee and in a whirlwind, in a moment, my heart cried a definite “yes” so uncharacteristic of my indecisive nature.

He placed the ring on my finger. Physically gorgeous, yes, but the symbolism was more profoundly beautiful than anything I could express. My love grew in that moment. Words truly cannot describe those depths of the heart.

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We were engaged.

That night he did have dinner with his family, his soon to be family. We chatted about how he drove seven hours from the airport that day, about his trip, and about our future. 

Nine months later  we were married and two years after him getting some dust on his knee we are happier than we have ever been. 

I love you DJ. Thank you for asking me to be yours and demonstrating unconditional love to me each day.

Here are our engagement pictures from the next April 🙂 All photography to follow is by Julina Marie Photography .

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 Thank you all for being supportive of our relationship, and thank you to our Lord and Savior for guiding our steps and directing them toward one another.

xo <3

Mack

 

Deck the Halls & A Special Announcement!

Hey everyone! First I just want to send a HUGE thank you to everyone who read and left the sweetest words on my last post. I truly just felt overwhelmed with encouragement and love. It’s amazing the connection and conversation that has been made through this blog and yours, and I am incredibly thankful for it.

Thank you also to Michael for his nomination for the Sunshine Blogger’s Award! I absolutely love his writing- It’s so genuine and full of truth. Check it out if you get a chance!

Today is Thursday. The awkward middle child of “FriYAY” and “HUMP DAY!”. Soooo I think you all can relate to this “poem” right about now. My mom sent this to me a few days ago and I had to share.

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And this was another one of my favorite things I saw all week..

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Anywayyyyy, I think for the update we left off right before Thanksgiving! I didn’t get many pictures of actual Thanksgiving day, but it was a good one! Just great family time, conversation, and happy bellies. I was on salad and fruit duty! I love that the holidays are an extra special excuse to make extra festive foods 😉

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This little guy had apple slices/farro/pomegranate/goat cheese/craisins/mixed greens. Pairs well with a nice balsamic or champagne vinaigrette.

Friday, I had a to-do list ten pages long. I conquered the errands for the day with a No Cow Bar in hand. These are my FAVORITE. I am a notorious Quest bar addict, but I like these even more. The lemon meringue flavor is by far the best, but I am a sucker for anything lemon. The dark raspberry truffle is really good too. The macros here are terrific, and they are vegan!

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I didn’t do any Black Friday shopping. OK. That’s a lie. I did jump into TJ’s real quick, but they weren’t having any sales “technically” because that place is always like one big Black Friday sale, and I love it.

I feel like the winter is birthday season central!! I love picking out the perfect card — and in my search I think I found the best card of all time. It’s 3-D sushi. I should have stock piled them.  

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Saturday during the day DJ went to a friend’s basketball game and caught up with a good friend that he hasn’t seen for years. That night we finished up The Office series. I cried like a baby when *spoiler* Michael came back for Dwight’s wedding. *ALL THE FEELS*. We have moved on to my choice series, which is Dexter. Good so far! Parks & Rec is next on the list after this. Also I need to catch up on Gilmore Girls so I can jump into that chit-chat.

We had Thanksgiving leftovers most of the weekend and into the beginning of the week. I swear Thanksgiving food is always better round dos. Saturday for dinner we decided to take a break from the bird & sweet potato mash and picked up some Oren’s. You guys know how much we love our Oren’s!

Also, Main street Cupertino is looking GORGEOUS. One of my favorite things this time of year is the way the Christmas lights suddenly appear in shopping centers and line the roads! Funny story though…. when I was driving on Main Street this past week a cop went through a stop sign and almost hit me (no lights flashing). The IRONY. He did wave in apology, but what is up with my run-ins with the po-po lately?!

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Sunday-FUNDAY! It was baptism Sunday at church. Everybody who participated was such a trooper considering it was in the 50s outside and the water was ice cold! There is something so powerful and exciting about watching others make a public declaration of their faith!

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Sunday afternoon we went tree picking!!!!!! I was havin’ serious FOMO when I saw everyone setting up their trees all over Insta & Fbook. We were planning on going Saturday, but by the time DJ was back it was nearly dark out! It gets dark so gosh dang early nowadays. It makes me all sleepy and hungry for dinner at like 4 o’ clock. Anywho- it was so fun looking for our own little piece of nature to bring into our home.

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Time to set it up! We named it Bow-Bow (Pronounced like “boe-boe”). Yes it’s silly & a bit strange to name your tree, but also more fun. No judging. We are hoping that Bow Bow stays alive longer than Spanky Tom did… RIP little guy.

Yes I know I am being I’m being such a type of girl in these next few pictures. Being basic isn’t a choice, I swear, I can’t help it.

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DJ wouldn’t let me get lone pictures of him by the tree. Party pooper.

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Yes, Aunt Terry, you best believe we are rocking the mugs you got us last year!

Confession: I made nine trips to Target in two days for various reasons. NINE. The first five were for the Christmas tree lights/decor. We kept getting the wrong kinds of lights (one of my friends said “HOW, they are Christmas lights?!”) and we still cannot find a good star topper that will actually stay up there. I think Bow Bow is a bit flimsy. I still have one more trip to make back to return a few things, but I’ll wait till we have to do a grocery trip. 

I had so much fun pulling out our Christmas decor. The stuff collects dust all year, so when it’s even kind of remotely socially acceptable these decorations come out to play.

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Monday DJ started a new job!! Wooohoo! He is working with the Church, but still getting his MBA next year. This is the perfect job in the meantime. He absolutely loves it so far!

On Tuesday morning I made this little guy because DJ wanted bacon and eggs. I couldn’t help myself and made a face. I couldn’t get the egg “eye” right on the left, but I just said it was because he was winking 😉 For some reason I think you would enjoy this, Cyranny. Hahah.

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I squeezed in a run outside on Tuesday to take a break from Shaun T kicking my rump (Insanity).

The trees are finally changing!!! It’s nothing like gorgeous Ohio in the fall, but I had an added pep in my step seeing a few bright colors here and there <3

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Yesterday I went to Peet’s (which I have been spelling wrong forever, along with pescetarian, which is really embarrassing) and caught up on e-mails and last minute organization for holiday shenanigans!

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I have had to get creative this week to use up random leftovers. Last night for dinner I made sautéed scallops over farro root with roasted root carrots and sautéed almonds with orange zest and basil. It turned out pretty good!

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Another meal I have been making this week is this omelette. I can’t get enough. I had a ton of left over stuffing from my stuffed acorn squash as well as goat cheese. I just threw in 1/2 cup egg beaters, 1/2 cup of the stuffing, a sprinkle of goat cheese and some sprigs of rosemary. All the stuffing is gone now, but I have got to make more soon so I can do this again. It was so tasty!

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Wednesday night we had our Bible study group. Someone brought CRONUTS! (AKA: Croissant + Donut). I am not even kidding, one of the best pastries of my life. We were going crayyyy for our cronuts.

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This morning I woke up at 6 to meet with a friend for coffee @ 7. I love getting up early and soaking up the mornings. We went to Philz coffee. They make every single cup over drip. It’s really great, but SUPER strong. I am so jittery after. We had such great conversation, and my heart just bursts with love for the amazing individuals we have met since moving here in July.

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Quick side note: the reason I changed my name to “Mackenzie” from “Mack” for the profile is a lot of people thought I was a guy. LOLZ.

OK- now I am super excited to announce…….drum roll…… I am going to be hosting my first blogging Meet & Greet, BUT it is going to be called “Mingle & Jingle” in light of the holiday season!!!!

For those who don’t know what a Meet & Greet is, it is essentially a post where you can come in and talk about your blog a bit, leave your link to either a favorite post of yours, or your site in general and find other blogs you may enjoy too! It will be some time next week- stay tuned! 🙂 I am so excited!!! Hope to see you there!!!

I must ask one very important question before I go: What is your favorite kind of Christmas cookie/dessert/holiday treat?! Feel free to leave recipe links!

Stay warm everyone!

xo <3

Mack … or Mackenzie….. or a million other options…oh shoot, identity crisis!

How God Answered My Impossible Prayer

This is the most intimidating story of my life for me to share yet. There are many reasons for this- I know it will uncover emotions that I have learned to keep at arms length, it may be a challenge to condense many interplaying factors into one single comprehensible post, and I am afraid that sharing this story will in turn somehow destroy a sacred cherished memory I hold dear. I am afraid it will offend people, confuse others, or cause me apprehension and regret on sharing it in the first place. However, when I started writing on this platform I promised God that I would be obedient to His prompting. I am writing this without any idea on who it may give hope, encourage, or touch, if anyone at all… But at the end of the day I am choosing to place these fears in God’s hands and allow this story to bring Him glory because there was a day He answered my impossible prayer. 

On November 28, 2009 my dad passed away unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism. I remember the moment I found out clearly. There is a door in my mind that accesses the room I house that memory. Rarely do I go near it to look inside, but sometimes I do, inevitably feeling like a train has bouldered into my heart. Sometimes I don’t choose to look, but the memory works it’s way through the corridors of  my mind, forcing itself to the forefront of my thoughts. Regardless, that moment has a way of replaying itself occasionally like a reoccurring nightmare.

The phone ringing, my older sister sounding on edge on the other end of the line, asking to talk to my mom, not wishing to chat or make small talk. My mother sitting across me as I was just casually unwinding from a day at basketball practice. A plate of cheese and crackers next to me as I watched some mindless television. The characteristically cloudy November day. The look on her face.

I knew. I just knew.

Screaming “No” over and over again as I felt that I was spiraling into the ground. I begged myself to wake up as I embarked onto my first stage of grief, the shock and numbness manifesting in both denial and hysteria. The realization. This is not a dream. My heart breaking more minute by minute, realizing this would soon be my younger sister’s nightmare too. She’s only thirteen. Thirteen. The millions of questions in my head, far too clouded and confused to even articulate one. 

Yes. That moment I will forever remember- branded into my brain and onto my heart, an indelible mark. The events in the months to come thereafter were not so clear. I remember parts and pieces of that time like a bystander, rather than a partaker. I barely remember the Calling Hours, but I do remember a few conversations from that day. People would say, “You will see him again”, and “He is watching over you!”. I never grew angry at anyone’s attempt to empathize, I greatly appreciated all the compassion and could not have made it through that time without it. But those phrases… those words. I couldn’t come to peace with them. Here is where this gets tricky to explain. But I will do my best.

My father was a remarkable man. He had the kindest heart. He loved people and above all else family. At the end of the day, he would always ask my siblings and me, “Did we make a good memory, guys?” He is the reason I understand the value in making and treasuring the memories in our lives. He saw no one as a stranger, but as a potential friend. He was one of the funniest people I have ever known, and could put a smile on anyone’s face. He was a math wizard, a gene I did not inherit. He was the best listener, my protector, and the one with whom I had the most inside jokes.

But there was something I had great unrest about. There are many factors here, far too complicated to explain for the sake of this, but overall I just didn’t know for sure if my father had a personal relationship with Jesus. We had never talked about it, about what he believed personally. I could assume that he did, sure, he supported my siblings and I in our involvement in church growing up, would pray rehearsed prayers with us before meals and before bed, and referenced God occasionally. I just didn’t have an assurance that outside of those things he believed. I hope this doesn’t come across harsh or condemning. I know that we cannot truly know the state of someone’s heart. I know God is just, and He is the only one that can judge. I just wished so badly I could go back in time and ask him if he believed all this too, for himself- that the motions of religion weren’t just a way to raise us “right” or appease my mom, but something he wanted personally.

So I prayed for peace and assurance. I wanted to be able to say with confidence that I would see him again, but I just couldn’t. I just didn’t know. It felt like such an empty prayer, because how could God possibly give me this rest in my soul I so desired. I couldn’t go back in time. I couldn’t ask him.

Three years went by and healing did take place, slowly. For a long while I didn’t want to admit that anything good could come out of losing one of the people I loved the most. But upon reflecting, I see how God turned elements of the pain into blessings. It has taken me a long time to admit that.  And yet, despite the tremendous healing that time allowed, I still longed for peace about the wearisome question mark in the back of my mind.

The  summer before my freshman year of college my grandfather on my dad’s side, whom we called Papa, received the diagnosis of cancer. Since my  dad’s death, my siblings and I had become especially close to my papa. That summer, my sisters and I sat with him and read the Bible, prayed with him, and just talked with him. He never gave much feedback during those times of scripture and prayer. I couldn’t read how he felt about all of it.

In Autumn of 2012 that followed, we knew things were taking a turn for the worse with Papa’s health. Before heading back to school on my fall break I made sure to visit him. I remember that he wasn’t “all there” anymore mentally. My heart broke as I watched him slip away, and I knew this was likely my last time with him. As I said my goodbye and walked out of the nursing home, I felt a nudge in my heart, turn around and ask. I ignored it and walked to the car. TURN AROUND. I started the car and started driving. I became nauseous and the words of my soul screamed incessantly turn around now! The tears started and right when I was about to turn onto the highway entrance I turned around. A great part of me protested within myself, I don’t want to ask him. What if it makes him angry. He won’t even know what I’m saying. I don’t know how he will respond. I want to leave on a good note! 

But I pulled back into that nursing home, and jogged through the halls with a sudden urgency. I opened his door and started sobbing. I could barely calm myself down enough to ask. But regardless of the trepidation, I had to ask, I had to know. I blurted out before I could second guess what I was doing, “Papa- do you love Jesus?”.

He looked at me, as though a switch had been flipped, and lucidly said, “I sure do, Honey, I sure do” with a weighted confidence.

On that drive back to school I felt overwhelmingly thankful that I heard those precious words from my papa. I didn’t want to deal with the questioning that forever would be on my mind about my dad.

A few weeks later, my papa passed away. I drove straight from school to the funeral home. Although it was a painful time, I was thankful he was no longer in pain, and even more thankful for our last conversation. I remember standing over the casket with my older sister’s hand on my back. I said to her, “Andi- I know we will see Papa again, but I don’t know if we will see Daddy”. This is the first time I had said these words to anyone like this. She looked at me, without saying anything for few seconds, and then took me into the lobby of the funeral home.

She handed me her phone and had a voicemail playing she had saved. I listened. It was my dad’s voice, my dad’s beautiful voice, saying such sweet things to my sister and concluding with “Thank you Andi, for getting your old man ready for when his time comes”. I stood there in shock and awe. Andrea explained that they had been reading the Bible on the phone for the last few months leading up to his death. She said with undeniable certainty that we would see him again. I heard it in my father’s own voice, three years later. He was ready, he was prepared.

I will see him again.

So while November 28th is a day that brings with it memories that harbor tremendous pain, on the other side of that pain is a prayer. An impossible prayer. And on the other side of this impossible prayer is a limitless God.

And He answered my impossible prayer.

To Him forever be the glory. 

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img_3660 See ya later alligator… <3  

A little Update for the Road

Hey guys! I just bombarded  your feed with recipes… which is fine and dandy, but let’s mix it up and throw in an update post for the road 😉 I have to get this one done because if I don’t then the next one is going to be impossibly long!

I had to share these beautiful flowers with you that a sweet friend from Church gave me for passing my nursing boards. It was one of those things I just never saw coming, and it touched me deeply!

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During the day on Wednesday I went to Peet’s Coffee Shop to organize my life, which is no small feat. On the way I was chatting with my mom on the phone and was pulled over. This was my first ever ticket because apparently you can’t talk on the phone in California? News to me, but I learned my lesson. Hands free ya’ll- HANDS FREE. I was sobbing in Peet’s parking lot. Yes, I am that girl. That girl who get’s in trouble and then cries about it an unnecessary amount. 😜

Thursday DJ and I made an impromptu trip to Sacramento, CA to see the Lakers vs. Kings. Not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I feel like in California I show up to everything under-dressed. Everything! Including this basketball game. It’s a basketball for Golly John sakes. This means tennis shoes, jeans, t-shirt, pony tail acceptable…. RIGHT?! Obviously not. At least not in California. These ladies were dressed to the nines . Ok that’s an exaggeration, but I still felt out of place. I couldn’t believe I forgot to to wear my little black dress to the B-ball game, because everyone else got the memo?! Excuse my while I go polish my high-heels to watch a bunch of seven-foot men drip with sweat and exchange profanities. JK JK, I’m being dramatic, I love the game and I was happy to represent Nike.

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This couple below are the cutest I have seen in my whole life. Their 40th anniversary was the same day as the game, and they renewed their vows on the court. It was so sweet. Melted my heart!

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Also

in California, they sell Komboucha on draft at games. Just when I don’t think this place can get any better…

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I may not have the Cali outfit, but I will drink up all that Cali Kamboucha!

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After we met up with a friend and chatted for a good chunk of time.

We didn’t end up getting home until 3 am. It was worth every second. When seeing our exit road sign I felt a sense of exhausted relief, and hearing nothing but asphalt under the tires when turning onto that exit ramp, I realized this is home. This is truly our home. Rather than seeing that road sign as another directional tool on the GPS system, I saw it as our treasured destination, our oasis. We have memories that flood this place already, and I realized that at this point after five months here, this has become home not only physically but in my heart. Oh gosh, getting all cheesy now. But really- from knowing the little repairs that need done that we keep forgetting to submit a maintenance request for, to the way the wall creaks about three seconds after you flush the toilet, to the way the guest room is always cooler than the master, to our fire alarms going off every five seconds (not my cooking-system malfunction 😉 ), to knowing how to make the proper u-turns at which times and which routes to take to avoid traffic, and knowing our neighbors probably will show up tomorrow to ask for cilantro….This has become our home. And I love it so dearly.

Back to a less sappy tempo!…

On Friday I applied for jobs- I will not officially start my nursing job until February/March, which is an awkward “in between” time after the holidays. So I will be looking for a temporary something or another in the meantime!

Saturday we did our Christmas shopping!!! I LOVE Christmas shopping. I know it can usually be considered stressful, especially when finances come into play, but it’s such an exhilarating feeling when you find something that is perfect for someone. How do you all feel about it? We had a blast at Stanford shopping center.

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Subliminal message ^^^

Seeing the Christmas trees popping up all over make my heart happy.

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Does the below restaurant look familiar?! In one of my recap posts we went to True Food Kitchen. We usually like to try new places when presented the option, but this time we both agreed we had to go back to try more of their menu. It did NOT disappoint.

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We ordered the Edamame Dumplings with the dashi, white truffle oil, and asian herbs. We both agreed that they were worth every little nibble. Truly one of the best appetizers we have ever had. DJ ordered the grass fed steak tacos with avocado, greek yogurt, cilantro, pickled onion, anasazi bean, and cojita cheese. I ordered the Butternut Squash Pizza with smoked onion, organic kale, vegan almond ricotta, and dried cranberry. As usual, we were blown away! Plus, they are all recipes that I think would be pretty easy to recreate! OK- who am I fooling. I probably cannot get la comida this good.

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Sunday was incredibly busy, but wonderful nonetheless. We had Sunday services and then had a wonderful dinner with friends from Church. I didn’t snag any pictures but you have to take my word for it that the food was Friendsgiving perfection.

Something happened Monday that made wonder if pigs were flying. DJ said he wanted to learn to cook. I think my eyeballs looked like they were going to come out of my head. I just thought it was too good to be true. Immediately we cooked up a recipe right then and there. Better believe I took advantage of this rare has-never-occurred occasion while it was there. If anyone sees my husband and wants to return him, that’s fine. But for now this imposter will do.

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First we made garlic cauliflower mashed potatoes. I absolutely will be posting a recipe for this soon! I am overloading ya’ll with recipes though, so I’ll hold off on posting that one. Build up the anticipation and all that jazz.

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Then we made for dinner our vegan tacos, which may be found here.

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Tuesday morning we rolled ourselves out of bed at 6 am to get donuts from a supposedly famous Donut place called Stan’s. I think we agreed that, unfortunately, they weren’t quite up to the hype. Donut snobs we are. However DJ said their plain glazed were spectacular. I’m nutty about my Maple Bars though, and I definitely liked Happy Donuts better from the last post! HOWEVER, if you like super doughy donuts compared to the light and fluffy, you would probably like these. What is your favorite type of donut? ‘Says a lot about person in my opinion 😉

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In the afternoon I went for a long run. It was a brilliantly gorgeous day. At one of the intersections I heard a couple debating if brown rice or quinoa was better. Welcome to California, ladies and gents.😎

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DJ and I have also been doing Insanity together (workout program). Anyone else?

Wednesday, oh our dear Wednesday. Wednesday was a GREAT day, but also a bit of an emotional one. Currently we have some BIG (but good) decisions ahead of us. Hopefully more to come on that. Why not build some more suspense ?! 😝

Anyways, during the day I got pedicures with a girl I just met at church Sunday! It was relaxing as could be, and we connected so well. Also, I haven’t had my toesies done in a LONG time, so this was a great treat.

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I tried to go for a deep maroon, but they definitely turned out looking black. It’s fine. Just in time for post- Halloween season, yah? This happened with my hair once too. We won’t talk about it 😜

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Wednesday night we needed to get out, just the two of us with no distractions. This weekend is insanely busy so we are treasuring this one-on-one time now. I also was exhausted and had zero energy to cook anything. Panino Giusto opened up recently near us on Main Street so we decided to give it a go after walking around town. This place is well known for their paninis, and I certainly see why! DJ opted for their famous Prociutto Cotto Savoy- cooked ham, mozzarella, EVOO, and arugula. I ordered their smoked salmon panini. Oh my lanta, I could live on the stuff.

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My olive oil and balsamic looked like a face with a little top-hat, so I had to snap a picture. 🙃

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Now the absolute best part of this post- Wednesday our niece was born!! She is absolutely perfect, and I can’t wait to meet her <3 We will see her over Christmas! We love you dearly from afar baby Kate. Love Aunt Kenzie and Uncle DJ <3 <3

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Today we went to our sister’s (DJs side) volleyball game! She is a champion!!!! Woohoo! I should have snagged pictures, but there was too excitement in the moment to even think of it. After we were going to head straight home but the traffic was going to be insane. We decided to grab dinner somewhere in Palo Alto. Sam’s Chowder house has an award winning lobster roll and was voted the best seafood restaurant in the Bay area by the San Francisco A list, so, naturally……..

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I tried the Seafood Risotto. It has bay scallops, calamari, bay shrimp, mussels, Manila clams, pumpkin puréed risotto, lobster broth, and tomato. I have leftover sitting in the fridge and I cannot wait to dig in tomorrow for lunch.

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DJ had the lobster roll, and you better believe I had a big bite. Yep, this made all our lobster roll dreams come true until the end of time.

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Oh me. Oh my. I could eat this till I die. It was just pure lobstery bliss.

That’s all I have folks. Not a super eventful week (besides my niece being born, which is the greatest thing ever), but anyway a lot of processing… figuring things out.. trying to see where this whole thing called life is going.

I am thankful for the adventure. Thanks for sharing in it with us.

xo <3

Mack

A Mountain Lion Scare and Food with Flare

****** WARNING: An asinine amount of food pictures to follow. Ya’ll have your snacks ready? Ok, good. Let’s goooo!**********

Woah now, put on the breaks there! Getting ahead of myself..First,  I want to thank TheHangryRunner for the nomination for the Mystery Blogger award. It’s so hard for me to find time to write a post to respond, but the nomination means so much!

Okay, off we go now 🙂

Our Aunt and Uncle on DJ’s side came in town Thursday. My side was here a couple weeks ago! Just in case anyone was momentarily confused. We have been excited to see them as they live in Ohio and the last time we saw them was in April! Fun side note: Our Aunt actually published a humorous, high-energy book series. I know I have a few writers that follow this blog, so I’ve provided the link to her blog page to check them out if interested 🙂 Highly entertaining and relatable!

When they arrived they gave us an incredible gift. This is one of those times that I was reminded that, yes, we live in the twenty-first century where technology is just INSANE. Allow me to present a smart pan called Pantelligent. Yes- you heard me right. A SMART PAN. It has a temperature sensor in the actual pan body and connects to an app on your phone. You tell the app what you are cooking, and it reads the pan, telling you what temperature to set the pan to, when to flip the food, when to turn up the heat or turn it down, etc. Mind blown.

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We had some champagne, toasting to family and new adventures. We showed them around our place and Main Street and noticed it was just about dinner time. Naturally, whenever we have visitors who are sushi fans we have to take them to Yuki. It’s such a hole in the wall place, but the fact that you have to wait so long for a table even on a week night exemplifies this is the best sushi around. Yes- to all my girlfrans who are sushi lovers, come visit me here and we WILL go to this place.

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After dinner, we parted ways for the evening. Around 9:45 we got a knock on the door. I had met our neighbors that just moved in the day before and we did the casual “Come by if you need anything!” I definitely meant it, but was surprised how quickly they took us up on it! Sure enough, 9:45 pm on a Thursday night, stopping by to “borrow” lettuce… when we have a grocery target across the street that’s open till midnight. We happily gave them lettuce, but it was hilarious. Last night they came by for cilantro. We are taking bets on what they are gonna swing by for next!

Now for a wild story. Allow me to tell you about one of the scariest moments in my ENTIRE life…And I thought Halloween was over.

Friday I decided I wanted to run to the top of my favorite trail running mountain. It seemed like a great challenge. It’s about four miles inclined up, and at certain points you can feel pretty isolated, especially in the woods. I have been running on my own since I was like two years old, so I usually don’t usually feel too nervous on tucked away trails. I can certainly be naive… I realize. I trotted happily ? exhaustively ? happily exhaustively taking in the spectacular view, the inviting winding path. My legs burned something fierce trudging up that incline, but I wanted to make it to the top with every ounce of my being.  I was running through the last section of forest and foliage, then the top of the mountain came into view. I felt a renewed energy and pushed to get to the top.

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The beginning of the last stretch
When I was only maybe 100 feet from my destination, I heard the most terrifying noise. A big ole’ angry cat snarl. . The kind of sound you would hear on the Animal Planet. It sounded like the creature was up the hill next to me and close. I didn’t want to look.  I had one of those moments where I just froze. The fright turned to flight, hello sympathetic nervous system! I turned around and booked it down the mountain. (Which is the exact opposite of what you are supposed to do if you encounter a mountain lion, mind you). I have never run so fast in my entire life.

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Another thing about mountain lions is they stalk their prey. So even when I felt I was away from the area I heard the snarl, I still didn’t feel at ease. I was praying incessantly and imaging the headlines in tomorrows paper, “Woman, Only Twenty-Two, became Mountain Lion’s Dinner” “Never run away from a Mountain Lion: Deadly Attack when Woman loses her Common Sense and Her Life”. I would be featured on the TV show 1000 Ways to Die, and I would forever go down on the Wiki page of the handful of recorded mountain lion attacks in North America.

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You guys know I’m one for the dram’, and to be honest none of that was going through my head, besides begging God to get me back to safety and to make my legs go faster. 

A little over a half mile down I saw a woman hiking up the path. Hallelujah, praise Him above. I have never been so relieved to see another human being. I ran up to her out of breath and shaking tremendously. I didn’t realize just how scared I was until I tried to speak and nothing came out. Finally, I calmed down and just repeated, “Mountain lion” over and over and pointed up the hill. First she asked if I actually saw it and I shook my head. Then she calmly explained that she has lived in this area for 47 years and has hiked this trail for 16 without ever seeing a mountain lion. She assured me that it was probably a harmless bobcat.

I explained how I was so frustrated I was that close to the top but just didn’t quite make it. She helped convince me that I had nothing to worry about if I wanted to attempt the mission again. Well now, I certainly didn’t want to call it quits. She continued to assure me that I was safe and that she was right behind me if anything were to happen. I know it’s crazy that I even contemplated going back, but in the moment my pride was blinding me. K? I ran without thinking, to the top, snagged a few pictures, and then descended that mountain quicker than I probably would have in any other situation. I don’t think I will ever do that trail alone again, at least not without some kind of bear spray (works for the lions too).

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Here is proof that the mountain-lion-bob-cat didn’t get me. Also, I never have a good hair and makeup day at the same time. I had to record the anomaly.

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 Since our Aunt and Uncle were still in town on Friday, we planned to have dinner at the GREATEST RESTAURANT in San Francisco. Say Whaa? The best in all of SanFran? What is this place? It is called *dramatic hand twirl* Farallon. Located in Union Square, it’s known for featuring exquisite costal cuisine; aka this pesca’s dream come true. DJ and I (and mama bear) sampled food from Farallon when we went to the Eat Drink SanFran event, and knew this was a place we would have to venture to at some point. I was ecstatic when our Aunt and Uncle suggested it.

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This was easily the most unique and impressively themed restaurant I have ever seen. Like I said, it’s known for it’s seafood, and everything about the restaurant created the illusion that you were in an underwater oasis. There were actual jellyfish fixtures that hung from the ceiling. JELLYFISH CHANDELIERS, GUYS. The seats were designed so you felt like you were sitting in a pink velvet shell. The walls were a marine teal and lined to illustrate coral in certain areas. The restaurant mastered the art of creating a high-end, luxurious and classy underwater sanctuary.

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Our Aunt and Uncle encouraged me to take pictures, I obliged without a fuss, because ya’ll know I like those food pics 😉

First we started with caviar. I have never had it, and neither had DJ (or at least it’s been a while). It was so full of bursting umami flavor and the chives, onions, and light cream sauce just caused a flavor explosion in my mouth. I understand why people revere caviar as such a treat!

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We decided to do the tasting menu because what better way to make your way around the delicacies?!

We started with a local halibut crudo with basil oil, serrano chili & crisp shallots over grilled moon drop grapes. We raved about how the flavors complimented each other perfectly.

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Next we had pan roasted sole with brussel sprouts, beurre rouge & dungeness crab. Holy Moly. This was definitely a crowd favorite for the evening. This dish rode the line between delicate and savory perfectly.

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Next up was the Gnocchi & Cayucos Abalone with rosemary butter, smoked trout roe, & aged balsamic. This. Thissss. I can’t even begin to describe the flavor. I will do it injustice no matter what I say!

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Next we had the Reichardt Farm Duck with cinderella pumpkin & chestnut chai. By this point we were getting pretty full, but had to try it. Even though I don’t eat meat, when something like this is placed in front of me there ain’t no way I’m passing it up. I tried a little bite and decided it tasted like steak. If you like steak, you would love this! My favorite part was the pumpkin. It reminded me of sweet potato puree and the chai butter was the perfect sweet touch.

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What?! There is more? You betchya. Below is a baked pear with vanilla ice cream, pomegranate seeds, and a delicious macadamia nut cookie. Move over Betty Crocker!

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The best part of the night wasn’t even the food. It was the treasured quality time with family and conversation about everything and anything. I send a big thanks to our Aunt and Uncle for allowing me to document this evening, and for making this unforgettable night happen. You guys spoiled us!!! xo

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DJ and I woke up with a craving for two things: Donuts and The Office. We started this Office/Donut tradition back in Indiana in our little townhouse. We would occasionally just spend a morning binging the office and eating delicious donuts from Poppy’s (the ONLY donut shop for miles). Now we have about ten fantastic options within a ten mile radius. Thank you, California. We always get a healthy amount, and I freeze whatever donuts we don’t eat. Not kidding- just throw them in the freezer, then when you get that craving, microwave um’ and they are good as new whenever you want! I like the Maple donuts, DJ likes plain glazed or cinnamon sugar. What are your favorites?

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Like I said, there are tons of highly rated donut shops near us, so we will definitely be making our ROUNDS, because they bring us a HOLE lot of joy. Just a little SPRINKLE of humor for ya.

Saturday night we met with friends from Church to try some authentic Ethiopian food. This place was about as authentic as it gets. I was so giddy when I stepped in and saw this little tikki hut. Anything tikki can put one in a good mood, Amirite?!

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We started with Sambusa, which reminded me of a Samosa from India. I would describe it like a spinach pie with lentils. DELISH, especially with whatever barbecue sauce this was.

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We had our food served to us on a silver platter. Literally. How great is that. We tried the meat and veggie sampler. Ethiopian food is the kind of thing you definitely do NOT want to try on a first date and no- you are NOT given silverware for the main course. They took away our forks. HA! You use the spongy Injera (pancake like substance) to scoop the food.

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We left so stuffed. The food was delicious and like nothing I have ever had. The injera was actually painless to use and scooped the food super easily. I would highly recommend it!

This place just opened up near us and we gave it a go Monday. I was planning on cooking, but I applied for my first nursing job Monday and had a massive headache after slaving over the application for about four hours. DJ suggested we try it out. Conclusion: We will be back!

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After completing that application I felt the need for some Halo Top. My two favorite flavors are the strawberry and birthday cake.. MMM mmm. This stuff has the health factor and taste factor dowwwn- low calorie (280 for the pint), high protein, and low fat. It is probably the best replica out there of real ice cream.

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Tuesday- I did something I have never done before! I made Tacos. Go ahead and laugh. I know it’s pretty unbelievable that I’ve never made them. I basically only cook bizarre things, remember?! I’ve made taco salad, “taco-like” options, and vegetarian wraps but never just plain Jane tacos. No worries, I did garnish it with cilantro to stay true to myself. #TACOTUESDAY, ya’ll. DJ has been craving them and I decided to try my hand at the little guys. I was shocked at how easy they were to make, and they made the house smell delicious. He said I nailed them. If you know me, there are very few compliments you can give me that are better than complimenting my cooking. For my meal, I made a garden salad with tons of veggies, pickled onions, pickled beets, beet hummus, vegan chicken strips, and balsamic vinegar.

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I won’t get all political because I know you guys have enough of that, but I hope you were all able to make it to the polls!

OHHH! Last thing- I finally posted my Healthy French Toast recipe. 🙂

Hope you guys are all doing well! Can’t wait to see my Ohio and Dallas fam in about a month! Counting down!

Wishing you a toasty week,

xo <3

Mack

A Weekend for the Win: A Recap!

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Hello all! I promised my Mama that I would whip out a post by the end of today. She is antsy to hear about all the different events with family in town! This weekend was one to remember. Going through these pictures made me smile the entire time. I am trying to focus… but uh.. the Indians are in the World Series so writing this and watching the game may cause this post to take a bit longer than normal! If you are in a rush and want the summary of our weekend it goes like this: FOOD, amazing family time with my Aunt and Uncle, FOOD, get dressed up, hike, FOOD, and maybe a bit more food?

Let’s get to it!

My Aunt and Uncle visited from Thursday to Monday from Michigan. One of my first posts from when I started this blog was from a visit to their home in Sutton’s Bay/ Traverse City, Michigan area. It was a blast, but now it feels as though too much time has passed since we’ve seen them. We have had this visit planned for months, and I have been counting down the days. It was my motivation to get my test over and done with so we could just celebrate!!!

Thursday

I love, love, LOVE hosting people. It’s an excuse for trying different appetizers, talking and laughing over cheese and crackers, and catching up on each others’ lives over some good wine (aka the cheapest bottles of wine I can find- but no one can tell, right? 😉 ). Last week I saw the beautiful Samantha Wharton posted a Shishito pepper recipe. It looked so delicious! It inspired this appetizer for my the night. First I blistered the peppers in the a sauce pan with olive oil. Then I stuffed about half of the peppers with goat cheese and drizzled them with thick balsamic glaze.  I put them in the oven at 425 until the cheese was nice and melted. They were a hit! The other half we just ate plain with salt and pepper and they were still fantastic.

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For dinner I had Munchery  delivered. I wanted to cook, but I was gone most of the day and wouldn’t have time to do anything beyond the apps. I know my Aunt and Uncle’s taste pretty well and knew they would love this dish. It included a salmon with pesto on top of a mediterranean quinoa. I don’t think I would ever get sick of this dish. I wish I could take credit for it, but props to you Munchery!

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I can’t begin to explain how much I love spending time with my Aunt and Uncle. They are some of the easiest people to be around, they’ll keep you laughing, and you can talk about anything with them. They are go-getters and just beginning “retirement” which means they are traveling all over the US, mountain biking, planning multiple ski trips, volunteering out the wah-zoo, and wearing me out trying to keep up with them. Retirement my butt.

On a more serious note, my Aunt is an “everything” person to me. She is my Aunt (duh), but also one of my best friends, one of my biggest cheerleaders, a mom figure (she is not afraid to put me in my place), and my role model. God blessed me with the greatest mom in the world AND  essentially a second mom with the greatest Aunt?! I can’t figure it out, but I’m betting it’s because He knew that my sister and I would be a handful, and my mom would need some extra strong moral support. Oh, also, she is me projected a few years into the future. DJ says it’s uncanny how much alike we are. Annnd she is the only other person in the world that maybe likes candy corn as much as I do.

Saturday

The four of us had breakfast and then took off for the best hiking spot in all the land. It’s the same one I took my mom and sister-in-law to in other posts: Tony Look Trail! I love the change in scenery along the trail and it’s an excellent challenge. Once we finished the hike it was about 1 pm.

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We ran to the store to pick up some last minute essentials for the gala (Thank you TJ Maxx for having a pair of black earrings). We had a hosh-posh lunch of whatever was in the fridge and I ran around like a mad woman trying to get ready. “Yes I realize that the gala isn’t for five hours, and I will need every second of that five hours, DJ.”

After I bought my dress I realized I got rid of my only pair of dress black heels before our move (and apparently my earrings as I was frantically looking for a pair in TJ’s). I had been meaning to get a new pair and this forced me to finally go through with it. I am posting a picture of them below because A. I got these for a steal and B. I know my mother in law will love them 🙂

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My handsome hubs <3

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💕💕

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The gala took place at Levi Stadium. I have never been there, and it was one gorgeous stadium. OHH- for those of you that haven’t read the last post, the gala is an annual event with our Church to discuss the direction we are going in the upcoming year. It’s also a time to just stop and praise God for all He has done this past year. It quickly became a night that I will never forget. The community and the heart for God is like nothing I have ever experienced. Every time I am with my Church I just thank Him profusely for leading us to this group of people.

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We started the evening with a cocktail hour overlooking the pristine stadium. We then started dinner with a delicious goat cheese salad, a dinner of filet mignon (for DJ) and a veggie polenta for myself, and  finished it with a chocolate mousse and raspberry drizzle that makes you want to savor every. single. bite. By the end of the evening I had cried, laughed, felt refreshed, and beyond excited about the year to come.

Saturday

Saturday my Uncle suggested we tailgate at Stanford while their homecoming game was going on! I have never been and DJ loves going to the campus. First we walked around the academia wonderland, and then we parked the truck for delicious snacking, drinks, and perfect weather.

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My Aunt and I are related to Herbert Hoover (through my Grandmother’s sister side). When we were in the Museum we decided to take a picture next to the fella for a family pic.

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Getting our midwest on. I dare you to find another pickup truck in this parking lot.

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After tailgating we decided to head back home. My Aunt took a nap, I went for a run (my aunt and uncle were early birds and ran before we left for Stanford- overachievers), and the boys parked in front of the TV for some …. you guessed it… football. It was a perfect fall day, and I soaked up the changing of the leaves and the golden fall sun on my run.

You didn’t think you would get through a post without sushi did ya? We had to take my Aunt and Uncle out to Yuki for sushi. They have the best around. My two favorite rolls in the Cupertino area are Yuki’s Da Kine with spicy kani, avocado, cucumber topped with maguro, seaweed salad, crunch, and spicy sauce and Kula’s Kula roll. DJ loves the Tetsu roll from Yuki which has shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, and kani wrapped in avocado and topped with spicy sauce, crunch, and green onion.

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We had our fill but still had room for a glass of wine. My Uncle likes a good scotch and the R/R (Roots and Rye) on Santana Row has almost anything you are craving, food and drink alike.

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This place is quite unique. It has a modern lounge feel with a heavy emphasis on small bites and cocktails.

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We sat around this dancing fire inside the restaurant which provided the perfect temperature and ambiance on a chilly autumn evening.

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I inevitably always have the red eyes.

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We had way too much fun with Snapchat throughout the weekend.

Sunday

Sunday morning DJ and I went to Church and my Aunt and Uncle found a Catholic church for mass. We met back up after and headed to Mountain View. DJ and I went here when we first moved to the area. We walked along Castro street with the endless options of restaurants and naturally ended up going here… because… FOOTBALL.

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We ordered some good bar food (and my Aunt and I may have snuck some salmon and caper bites in the order too). Ever since I had the smoked salmon on a bagel at a San Francisco hotel, if it’s on the menu in any form I begin to salivate.

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After watching football and relaxing we went to the movie The Accountant. It received less than promising reviews by the critics, but we all loved it. It definitely is a movie with a lot going. I don’t typically like watching movies twice, but I would watch this again because there was such a deep, multifaceted plot.

We had a late dinner of rosemary cider chicken and butternut squash with apples from Home Chef. I had the $30 off my first order and ordered the family plan package for the weekend since my Aunt and Uncle were here. I substituted a veggie burger or fish instead of the meat for myself in the dishes. I made the squash before we left for the movie so all we had to do when we returned was prepare the chicken and the sauce.

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Monday

Sadly, they left us Monday 🙁 I was depressed the whole day but kept myself busy with meal prepping, cleaning, laundry, etc. etc.). It was a weekend for the books.

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My conclusion after using home chef: 7 out of 10 stars. The meals were tasty- we especially loved the squash recipe. But I was missing four entire chicken breasts (I had to replace myself), and there were parts of the meals that were just ‘so-so’ like the macaroni salad. However, it’s excellent for people beginning to cook. It gives amazingly thorough directions on why you do certain steps in cooking or why you use certain ingredients. For example, we use Kosher Salt because it has bigger grains and is easier to pinch than table salt. This allows more control over the flavor. I still prefer Blue Apron or Green Chef, but it was certainly a decent service! (I bet the missing chicken was a fluke, right?).

When I was running into the store to pick up some lotion today I saw this (below)- SAY WHAT. I am already obsessed with Boom Chicka Pop, but BOOM CHICKA POP CANDY CORN FLAVORED KETTLE CORN. Obviously I couldn’t wait when I got home to try it. I have a new addiction. I could cry.

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I am planning on finishing the master bedroom this week, do a couple fall-ish activities this weekend with DJ, next week is super busy already, and then I’ll be trying to figure out more on the job front.  DJ says I should rest after the NCLEX, but we all know I have a hard time doing that 😉 Also- I’m in a pickle about what to do in the job arena. My #1 choice nursing job doesn’t begin until March/April, but I’m worried a job now would jeopardize seeing my parents in Texas and Ohio over the holiday season. I know this is going to be my last year of flexibility for a while since once nursing starts I’ll work all the holidays.

Now that I have finished this post the Indians have officially won the first game! 3 more to go, baby. Let’s go CLE! This is just all too exciting to handle!!!!!

Wishing you a WINDIAN Wednesday,

xo <3

Mack

Halloween Festivities and a little bit of everything else

Long time, no see!!! I have been so busy studying the last couple weeks that I haven’t been able to do a recap post. I am finally snagging a couple minutes now to draft something out before bed. And you may just get the rough draft because I don’t think I have time to edit- so in advance I apologize for the misspellings, the grammatical errors, run-ons, and fragments.

First things first per usual: Thank you to everyone for those sweet, sweet thoughts and words on my last post. As I told many I didn’t want to write it (or at least parts of it), but I knew I needed to. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning with all those words on my heart, and knew that I needed to share ultimately to bring glory to God for what He has done. Thank you again for everyone who shared your own thoughts, experiences, and encouragement.

Also thank you to Shawna  for her nomination for the Black Cat Blue Sea Award. I loved reading your responses, hun! I wish I could take the time to respond, but time is thin lately! However, if you guys get a chance, check out this wonderful girl’s place on the web <3

ANDDDDD Guess what?! I finally took my nursing boards (yesterday morning), and can officially put the books away, at least for a bit. I actually received my approval right after my last update post and cried tears of joy. FINALLY. After seven months, seven long months, I could finally take this stinking test. But, really, who gets that excited to take a test?! Pathetic I tell ya. I won’t find out if I officially passed them for a while, but I’m feeling okay about it. This could be really mortifying if I didn’t pass and I have to publicly announce it to about five hundred people- oh well! We will see. Positive thinking right?!

Time to rewind to October 6th. Yes it has been that long. No worries, guys, I have all the food pics. Because, like the last couple posts, all I have done is eat and study.

For DJ’s birthday dinner he wanted to do something relaxing that didn’t involve getting dressed up and didn’t involve facing traffic. We decided to try out Eureka, a place on Main Street that people rave about. Worth the rave- it was maybe my favorite place we tried on the strip.

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For an appetizer we split some bruschetta. It was yumm. Anything with a good goat cheese and a good balsamic vinegar is destined to satisfy ya.

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DJ ordered these insane little boogers. These are lobster tacos with cabbage, saffron crema, watermelon radish, and signature handcut fries. I feel like he inevitably chooses the better dish. Don’t get me wrong, I always love my meals, but I always tend to like his a touch better than what I order. The grass is always greener on the other side of the dinner table. Or maybe less green, because I tend to get a lot of salads. Anyways ..

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I did make a good move by getting these sweet potato fries. UGH they were perfection. I ordered the veggie beet burger over greens. It just sounded so strange; I had to get it. It was super delicious and filling. Them fries though….

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Friday and Saturday was the women’s conference through my church. The theme was “Wisdom”. Lord knows I need more of it. I can’t even describe how much I admire the leaders of our church. It would take me dayyys to write out all that I gleaned from just those two days. I met so many lovely new women and was inspired more than I could have ever anticipated. When I came home from the conference Saturday night DJ surprised me and had cleaned the whole apartment. This made my life. He is the best.

Back to the conference real quick: the bracelet I am wearing in the picture below is made by girls at She Rescue Home. Please check out their site if you have a chance, well worth it. They rescue girls in Cambodia from the sex trade and provide them with shelter, food, education, occupational tools and skills to provide for their family in other ways, medical care, counseling, and reintegrate them into society. That is a terse synopsis of the immense impact they are making and the expansion of what they do. The stories of these girls brought me to tears. Here are some quotes from the founder, Leigh Ramsey, that describe the situation better than I can:

“There are complex issues that contribute to a girl being vulnerable to trafficking – factors such as poverty, abuse, trickery and deception, unemployment and addiction often leading to desperation in the family.”

“But once trapped in this world of unspeakable evil, they are held captive against their will, and threatened with violence, are soon imprisoned in a world of unimaginable pain and degradation … as we say repeatedly IT’S NOT OK!”

They hand-made these bracelets for our conference, one of the tools the skills they learned through She Rescue Home, and every time I wear it I think of and pray for these precious, valuable humans that deserve so much more than the evil of this life.

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It almost feels silly to go on to talk about anything else after that, but life is a mosaic of the good, bad, deep, beautiful, exciting, mundane, simple, and silly. It keeps us balanced and keeps us sane. Can you imagine spending too much time in any of those areas? The mundane makes us appreciate excitement, and the ugly makes us appreciate the beautiful.

Saturday I was craving french toast. I have a healthy high pumpkin french toast I make every fall. It is incredibly easy and tastes like heaven. I can’t wait to share this recipe with you guys.

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While I was doing errands one of these days (lost track, not sure which day), I found some darlin’ little pumpkins. I would have gone alllll out on the fall decor but the studying made it so I couldn’t go out and buy all the fall things. Good thing too, I tend to go a bit overboard with the decorating when given the chance.

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Sunday after church (10/9), we went to brunch. I was craving a good brunch. It’s probably my favorite meal, and I was hitting a serious wall with studying. Brunch is always a cure all’ for the study wall. We went to a highly recommended place called Hash House. It even sounds like a good brunch place. I stepped inside and smelled the buttery toast, eggs, and roasting coffee- the intoxicating, small town, diner breakfast smell. It takes me back to Saturday mornings with my dad and my Papa at local spots in little Parma, Ohio <3 My siblings know exactly what I’m talking about. Hello, Luna’s, Mimi’s, Demetrio’s, and My Place! My family knew the waiters and waitresses by name. I miss those days. All the nostalgic feels right now..

Now back to present day… DJ ordered a Western Hash and I ordered a Tofu Benedict, because where else have you ever heard of a Tofu Benedict?!?! It hit the spot. We also had to try an order of their pancakes- we ordered the short stack. A short stack. We thought they messed up our order and brought us a large stack. Nope. That is their short stack (it’s bigger than the picture does justice). I’d be interested to see the large! Verdict on the cakes: DJ’s mama’s are better. Besides her perfect pancakes, DJ swears the Bellagio in Las Vegas has some of the best he has ever tasted. Anyone concur?

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The rest of the week we had leftovers, and just random easy things here and there. I haven’t cooked as much as I like usually since I have been studying so hard and just have been making easy things like garden salads, pizza, grilled cheese… yada yada yada.

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However, one night (I think last Friday?) we went to Oren’s. I wrote all about how marvelous this Israeli food is in one of my posts. DJ and I crave this place. We like trying new places as a general rule, but man, we both were just itching to get our hands on some of their hummus and pita.

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Let us talk coffee. Lately after dinner I have been loving some decaf chai tea with a little almond milk and a Graze Chia Coconut Cookie. It is the perfect treat to help relax me to get back into study mode for the night. The Mrs. Right cup was dirty, obvi.

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I have been continuing to go to Peet’s everyday. They are truly friends at this point. They bring me out samples here and there of their latest blends, and I know longer have to tell the cashier my order. I just say, “the usual”. YES, I am one of those! I am going to miss the study “grind” simply for this reason. I will probably use blogging as an excuse to park it in Peet’s for a couple hours instead now and again 😉

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I always have either a quest bar or no cow bar on me for quick fuel. When my blood sugar drops I turn hangry real quick. DJ can attest to this. I particularly like dipping the bars in my coffee. I realize I probably look like a weirdo doing it, but that’s never stopped me. I used to lick the foam off the cup sides too, but I put my big girl pants on and stopped doing that… in public.

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Now to the highlight of our last couple weeks!!!!! Last saturday our family had a Halloween party! I can’t begin to explain how fun this was, but I’ll try. I think my cheeks still hurt from laughing. I was using this party as motivation all week long to crank out the last chunk of studying I had. It was such a nice night and helped refuel me for the last few days of cramming before the big exam. Also- it could have been a hosted Pinterest Halloween party. Every single thing was incredibly creative. Ideas galore! Our sisters that I always talk about presented us with the coolest little gift bags with our names on them and personally picked out chocolate we would love. They are incredibly creative and thoughtful, and put so much time into making this the greatest Halloween party of all time. I hope we are invited next year 😉  And, naturally, we all wore costumes, and every single one was fantastic.

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DJ and I were a play on words: I was Holy Gaucamole and he was The Second Amendment. “The right to bear arms”

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Hubby being way helpful- I was knee deep in the books so he glued on my avocados for me 🙂

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This game is a blast. No matter what age you are- this is a winner! You simply wear a  mouthpiece like the ones they use at the dentist office and have to speak a phrase that you are given. Everyone else has to guess what you are trying to say. It is hilarious. We were rolling.

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Monday night I got a text from my younger sister that there was a shooter on her college campus. They received a text from the Administration that he was heading toward the baseball fields, and she was currently in the baseball field at the time. She texted me from inside a shed in the field where she was sitting with the rest of her team. Scared me out of my mind. She was okay and hasn’t heard much about the situation since… But scary stuff. 😥

I took my exam yesterday (Tuesday), and I already explained the down low on that. Here is my obligatory “I just took my nursing boards” goofy, overly excited, why am I smiling like that selfie.

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Definitely will keep you all posted on those results.

When I got home I spent about an hour freaking out convincing myself I didn’t pass, and then DJ spent the next hour convincing me that I did pass. I told him I don’t count my chickens before they hatch, and he said he counted one nurse chicken hatching. I found it hilarious. And then I had candy corn and felt much better about life.

Random small talk note about the weather: It has been getting more fall-ish, and I am loving that. It rained a few times last week, and it was perfect study weather. I love that the seasons still have a sort of rhythm here in Northern California. I was mistaken that it was 75 and sunny everyday. While I never complain when it is 75 and sunny, the respite of rain is a nice change every now and again.

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We are going to a gala for our church this Friday, and I have few fancy dresses in my closet to choose from. To be honest, I am not really a big shopping fan. It overwhelms me a bit. It also seems to take forever to make sure I am making the right decision and getting the best deal. I do love me some good thrift shopping though.

DJ and I hit up the mall after the test yesterday and I actually found a dress relatively quickly. The lady checking us out was so jovial. She told us she wanted to adopt us and came around and gave us hugs after the purchase. I think it was the friendliest customer service experience I have ever had. It may have made DJ a bit uncomfortable, but I loved it! After that was off the list I was in a better mood. I don’t know if I was more anxious about taking my NCLEX or finding a dress, but regardless we conquered both (hopefully!).

After that we went to lunch at True Food Kitchen. This place just opened at Stanford shopping center in Palo Alto. I think this place was made for us. The vegan options were endless. DJ actually opted for a vegan option, although there were meat options. Once again, he chose the better meal, but he is always so kind to let me take a little big bite of whatever he orders.

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To start DJ ordered a honey lemonade. We also split a charred cauliflower dish with harissa tahini, medjool date, dill, mint, and pistachio. I actually have most of these ingredients right now and would love to replicate it. The combination of flavors was addictive.

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For my main dish I tried the seasonal ingredient salad with tofu. This included brussel sprouts, butternut squash, cauliflower, white beans, pomegranate, and toasted mulberry with a horseradish vinaigrette. I would never think to combine those items, but it worked soo well!

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DJ’s meal was the bomb.com. He had a T.L.T. Which is smoked tempeh, butter lettuce, tomato, avocado, and vegan mayonnaise. We are definitely going back to this place! I want to try everything on their menu.

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The whole day, Tuesday, reminded me that I have the greatest family and friends in the world. Before my test I woke up to the sweetest, most encouraging texts. When I came home with DJ after shopping I was greeted by a beautiful  Williams- Sonoma spiced pumpkin bread mix baking box.The silver pumpkins in the picture is the bottom of an actual pan to bake the bread in and it came with a delicious pumpkin butter spread! Also waiting for me was the most beautiful, exotic, and ME bouquet of flowers I have ever seen. They smell amazing and every time I look at them my heart melts. I was not expecting any of this, but I was touched beyond words!

Let’s talk in-laws for a hot tic… If I had to hand pick a family to marry into it would be the DJ’s. I thank God constantly for giving me a second family that showers me with unconditional love, support, and encouragement. I can’t imagine my life without them, and they truly make me feel like one of their own. Oh no, here come the water works. Someone get me a tissue! Nothin’ like an NCLEX to make a girl emotionally unstable!

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This morning I allowed myself to sleep in until 8:30! That is a BIG deal for me, ya’ll! I also was able to go for a super relaxing ten-miler in the sun. I haven’t done that in ages. It felt so good to have the music blasting a little louder than it should, the adrenaline rushing through my veins, and feeling like I could conquer the world. I haven’t had that exhilarating of a run in so long. Lately I’ve been running on the treadmill so I can study my notes and read my review book while running. You should see my books from trying to highlight while running- it’s comical. Also- I only fell once during those ten miles! That’s success in my book. You all know my inclination for the ground.

Anywho, we have my Aunt and Uncle coming in town tomorrow- YAHOOOOO! The rest of the day was groceries, cleaning, shipping boxes, catching up on a zillion emails, all that jazz that was put on the back burner while I studied. It feels good to currently be sitting in a clean house. Oh, and I didn’t forget dinner. Now that I can cook again I made a crispy coconut curry catfish from Blue Apron. I knew this week would be busy so I figured Blue Apron would be good to have on hand for a quick meal with all the ingredients already included!

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Last things last, we can’t forget politics. Let’s just say our household is still #SpankyTomforPresident. Nough’ said.

BUT WAIT how about them WINDIANS?!!? LETS GO CLE. World Series, baby!!!!!

Wishing you a thrilling Thursday,

xo <3

Mack

Doubt.

This post is a bit different than my usuals, but I feel something on my heart that I want to share. I am about to get vulnerable with you all, but I am learning more and more that sometimes the most freedom in life can come from a place of vulnerability. I also want to make the disclaimer that no matter what you believe, what religion you are, where you are from, I do not disregard you- I’d love to hear your thoughts. I additionally truly hold firmly to loving everyone, no.matter.what.

The keyboard in front of me daunts me. I have so much going on in my head that it intimidates me. I am afraid that my simple words will not do justice to the joy that now consumes me. This past season of my life has been one of growth that compares to none other. Before I begin attempting to articulate in my own human capacity, I pray that the hand of the Lord guides and directs these words to speak to what He wants to say. This is my current story, my current testimony, and it has been seven years in the making, and continuing…

Let’s back up. I was raised in the church and surrounded by mostly believers. I accepted Jesus as my Lord at a young age and was living zealously for Him for most of my life.

But at a certain point there was something I was lacking- an essential element: Faith.

The first time I recall experiencing my first wave of doubt about Christianity and what I believed was my sophomore year of high school. I have a skeptical mind, and I like proof. Then proof behind the proof. I like the “whys” and the “hows” behind every single little thing. But sometimes this yearning for proof can leave little room for faith and a lot of room for doubt. This phase of doubt, however, was short-lived- I talked with people I trusted and respected about these questions and felt settled and at ease with the answers they had given me. For now, at this time, I was satisfied. I believed.

Shortly after wrestling those first doubts, my dad passed away. The first words I barely choked out when I was told of his passing were, “I just need God.” My mom handed me a Bible and I just held it. Not absorbing the words, but just holding it. Surprisingly, this moment further corroborated God’s existence to me. In that desperate of a moment, how could God be what I reached for, almost instinctively, if He wasn’t there?

I didn’t struggle with any additional doubts until I went to college, a Christian university nonetheless. This is not at all a reflection of the University itself, but of my personal circumstances. Slowly, and I can pinpoint just a couple instances, I had become so jaded toward the Church. By the Church I mean by the very people of God. I became resentful. I resented the people that were supposed to be my brothers and sisters in Christ. I resented the atmosphere of a worship service. I resented basically anything that had to do with Christ. If I were to see what I am writing right now I probably would have rolled my eyes and stopped the minute I knew it dealt with Christianity. Everything and anything that once touched me as perfect and awe-inspiring began to morph into something superficial, hypocritical, and false. I am not blaming others for this- I myself stopped pursuing God. I put too much stock in my experience of religion rather than focusing on my relationship with Christ. People fail, Christ never does.

Here is the crazy part. During this time others probably perceived me as the quintessential “Christian girl” for the most part- fitting the outward mold of “that type” to a “T”. I knew how to talk the talk. I told people I would pray for them, but rarely ever did. I encouraged people that “God had a plan”. I said the right things; I had been trained well. I slept walk through the motions, I did religion, and I did it well. That is not to sound cocky, and I am not bragging. Quite the opposite actually. I became the very facade that I so severely resented in others.

This place of resentment allowed the doubts to creep in stronger than ever. As I promised to pray for others, as I said the “right things”, as I worshipped in Church, in the back of my mind I thought, If there is a God, If He is even real, If I even truly believe this over and over again.

The Ifs consumed me, my mind, my everyday. That is a very uncomfortable place to be; it terrified me to my core.

I have heard all the arguments for Christianity- and let me tell you, they are strong. Lest we not forget at the root of any belief is an element of faith- even those who choose to believe nothing exists. My mother encouraged us to explore other religions because she was so sure of our beliefs. I took a class in high school looking in depth to each major world religion (and other streams of existential thought) back to Zoroastrianism. I was given historical, logical, natural, scientific data even pointing to a Creator and Jesus being Lord. This is not to mention my own personal experiences that supported the evidence. I found myself multiple times throughout life thinking, This practically proves it, how can anyone deny this evidence? Yet I did, in the face of the best of it.

It was not about a lack of evidence, but a lack of faith.

My heart fiercely wrestled the “ifs”. I was so engrossed in the uncertainty. These were some serious doubts as I mentioned above. I wondered if we were truly just animals with nowhere we were going, only destined to live our lives for a few years on a wasting planet. I pondered upon these doubts in my mind; only consuming a small part of my thinking at a time, but soon becoming monsters that overcame me. I realized, if none of it was true, if Jesus was not the One true God and if there is no such thing as “God”, then what the heck was I doing with my life?

I would have no identity. No hope. No purpose. No future. No promise. No life. I would have nothing. I would be nothing. And just because I desired for this to not be the case, it became a possibility before my eyes, before my soul.

I begged. I begged God on my knees for removal of that doubt. I begged the Lord to take it from me and allow me to believe with unwavering belief I used to have. I begged for days. I begged for months. I begged in utter desperation for over a year.

But then I begged less. Instead, I busied myself with my studies, with my responsibilities, my job. I prayed less. I sought out God’s Word less. I’ll deal with it another day, became my everyday. I was on the spiritual “tomorrow diet”. I was putting the most fundamental aspect of life on hold for anything fleeting. I worshipped anything but the One whom deserves our worship: my to-do list, my responsibilities, my day-to-day superficial desires, myself

Silence. Doubt.

The further I distanced myself the more doubt because a part of me, and apathy manifested as a result. I told hardly anyone of these doubts I was facing, but I did tell my husband. He was beyond encouraging. He responded to everything perfectly. These doubts of mine didn’t scare him or cause him to even blink- He knew that God would be faithful. But still, the questions made themselves at home in the back of my mind, and the uncertainty caused my heart to ache with a chronic pain that I had become so familiar with. At this point, after living with these doubts for nearly two years, they didn’t shock me or shake me like they used to. I had grown numb, apathetic, and lifeless in my soul. I told my husband that I was fearful of moving somewhere that I was wrongly convinced hardly anyone had a relationship with Christ. I was fearful that I would be further pulled into the depths of these doubts and completely turn away from whatever speck of faith I was haphazardly clinging to, if any at all.

The time for our move came this past summer. We packed up and began our road trip toward the place that would become our new home. Every second of that trip was filled with awesome memories that I will treasure forever, however, two specific stops stand out to me. The first was the Grand Canyon- seeing that majesty, the beauty, the awe-inspiring tapestry- it stirred something within me. Driving up Highway One and Big Sur had the same impact. I began to have that thirst again, I wanted to rejoice God in my soul for whom He is, I wanted to believe it in my soul, and not just have a longing for Him to exist; I wanted a longing for Him. The doubt was still there, but I had a rekindled urgency to face it.

The second Sunday that we were here my husband announced that we were going to Church. I agreed verbally, maybe even with a faux excitement, but I put up slight protest in my heart. I didn’t want to put on a show. I didn’t want to be surrounded by hypocrisy. I didn’t want to be the hypocrite.

The first Church service we attended shook me. I remember leaving thinking how can they worship like this if it isn’t all real? God was working on me, but I had no idea the monumental changes that were about to occur.

We began attending groups within the church- Bible study groups, hiking groups, community service groups, etc. I clearly began to see the way these individuals live. It is not a superficial knowledge that drives them. It is not a duty or obligation. It is a relationship. These people are in deep, undeniable relationships with Christ. They have zero judgment toward others. They are not brain-washed. They are intelligent, wise, and beautiful individuals who know the real thing when they see it. They aren’t “Bible thumpers” with their heads in the clouds. They are some of the most authentic individuals I have ever met. They do not claim perfection, and they only boast in Christ. The seed of resentment began to disappear from my heart. From these relationships I was motivated to repair relationships from the past, and dig out the root of bitterness that had entangled me so deeply. I began to crave the fellowship of other believers. I began to desire that freedom that comes with worship. The doubt began to wither away.

Sunday after Sunday we went back to this Church. Each time, my heart was softened. Each time I opened my Bible I grew more and more enamored with Him. I began praying again, thanking God. I thanked him for his faithfulness, for his future faithfulness too; I knew that He was going to be faithful, even if the doubts were still there, He was greater than them.

During a particular worship service, I found myself overwhelmed in the best way. I felt surrounded by the Holy Spirit in a way that is nearly indescribable. This moment literally took my breath away. In the middle of worship that still, small voice in my heart that I had not heard for so long said, I’m here, I’ve got you. It was not my emotions speaking- This was undeniably something greater.

Whatever doubt had been there was replaced. It was replaced with a fire, love, passion, desire, yearning, and an assurance of the One True Living God.

I know many would say that this was perhaps an emotional connection to the desires I had- grabbing onto the first illumination of something to believe in. But it was not that. For every second of doubt I had, it was as though a confidence now overwhelmed my soul, washing away those uncertainties. And ever since then, He has continued to confirm again and again His presence in my life. I just had to seek Him. He has always been there.

Romans 8:38-39 declares, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Nothing can separate us when we are in Christ. Nothing. Not our doubts, not our fears, not even ourselves.

He never left me. He was with me through every single step of this painful process. He did answer my prayer, in His time, better than I could have ever pictured. I don’t know why He didn’t help resolve these doubts earlier. This is not a stance on Calvinism vs. Arminianism, but I do think He was waiting for me to seek after Him fervently, to give up the resentful, hateful seed that had been planted so deeply into my heart. And if I ever face this again throughout my walk, I know I can face it with the assurance of knowing Christ will see me through. I also will not stop in my pursuit of objective truth- I just have a confidence now that it will point back to Christ. After all, He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

Moreover, I know despite my flawed human imperfection, His timing is perfect. My heart is set ablaze as I enter this new stage of life, a stage where I am more available to do whatever He calls me to than ever. I have confidence far surpassing what I had even early in my walk before the doubts set in. I have a fire and passion to share this love with others. I realize the selfish life I have been living for so long and have a desire to truly turn away from it. Everything that seemed so important of this world seems so foolish now. I have a thirst for more. I have a thirst for something real.

From this time I have also taken away this: Doubt is okay, it’s natural. Doubt is not something to be ashamed of, in fact it can be so good. It is a season, that most, if not all, people do face. God uses all seasons to sharpen us, to mold us, and to grow us. It’s nearly a cousin of faith, but tackling our doubt deepens our faith. He doesn’t want blind followers. He wants us to pursue Him and praise Him with a confidence and assurance.

Isaiah 41: 10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my right hand.”

So to any brothers or sisters struggling through the tangles of doubt, I just want to whisper this piece of truth from my heart to yours..

He’s got you. He is real. He loves you more than you can imagine. He is with you, and He will be victorious over this season.

Happy Birdd-Day

This day is a big deal day. I mean a BIGGGGGGGG deal! It is DJ’s Birthday!!!! This truly is one of my favorite “holidays” because it means my favorite person was born on this day! Thank you DJ for gracing the world with your presence, but also for allowing me to have dibs on you for my hubby. We love birthdays because it is an excuse to say “Happy Birrrrdday” over and over again. Who can spot the reference? Also- Happy Birthday to Amy (his twin sister!). Today DJ is happily spending his day meeting with friends and getting a few tasks done, while I am taking a tiny respite from studying to record some fun stuff from this past week!

We received this amazing Cheesecake Factory sampler from djs mom on Thursday! holy yum.


We made quite a dent! The caramel de leche was our favorite!

Thursday night I whipped up, yet another, Indian-fusion-esque type dinner. Who really knows what it is. But it was edible! It included okra, cauliflower, shrimp, a tikki masala sauce, every spice that I thought could possible compliment it, and some siggis yogurt. I accompanied it with some naan bread and a gigantic salad. This my friends, I call “everything but the kitchen sink”.

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Friday we went to Lazy Dog on Main Street Cupertino. We were feeling tired after a long week of studying and what could sound better than going to a place called Lazy Dog? It was super relaxing and nice to just spend a nice long dinner together rather than the rushed ones that usually take place during the week. It’s hard to truly enjoy your food when you have six hours of studying still staring you in the face for the night!

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I ordered their Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna. This was one of the  most original dishes of ahi I have ever tried. It makes my mouth water just reminiscing about it. It was served medium-rare on house-made cauliflower mash with roasted vegetables and a coconut curry cream sauce. It was also topped with some fresh cilantro. I tried to recreate the cauliflower mash, which I share later on! This dish was fish-alicious.

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DJ went for their signature burger for which they are known for! He ravenously ate it up. Now, I don’t know if the boy was just really hungry, or if that was a sign that he hasn’t had something that good in that long! I may have been too afraid to inquire.

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Also! I pulled out my first sweater for the season! This is one of my favorite fall colors- anything dark purple or maroon. The weather here is surprisingly perfect for the sweater life. I think I expected it to feel warm year round, but it still has a fall feel with the leaves falling and a crispness to the air.

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Saturday I got up at the butt-crack of dawn to go on one last BIG hike with my hiking group. I absolutely love this group of people. If you wanna get to know people, go on a hike with them. Within seven miles hiking up a mountain you end up talking about pretty much anything and everything. One thing that surprised me was one guy who grew up here (in California) could not understand why someone could possibly enjoy a thunderstorm. Me and one other girl from the midwest tried to explain the ominous excitement, smells, and wonder of an awesome midwest thunderstorm. It was interesting to me that he had never experienced something like that.  We also came past the most beautiful dog I may have ever seen. It was a bright white husky with sky-blue eyes. I am not always one to run up and ask to pet a random dog, but I could not help myself with this one. The owner even let me get a picture with it. I told DJ that we need to get this type of dog and a Beans soon (three-legged dream dog from the pound). He personally prefers French Pitbulls and Chocolate Labs. We both also love Vishlas! We had a friend who had one and fell in love. Anyone own any of these types of dogs?

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After an amazing hike, that my hips are still recovering from, we went to the Vine in Niles. This cute little town is quite a hike from our place in Cupertino. OH MY WORD- I did not intend that pun, I swear. I know I usually do intend allll the puns, but that one was not intended. Anyway, Niles is just the most darling little town with the strips full of unique boutiques, food trucks, and the luminous mountains cradling the whole surrounding area.

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After that hike I needed a big ole cup of joe! I think my favorite part of this whole place was the fact that I had my coffee served in this mug.

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HELLO to the most delicious sweet potato tots I ever did taste. They were served with a garam masala aioli. SO GOOD. I got them “for DJ” but ate half of them (or more than half) before I made it home. Like I said, it was a hike back- a good 50 minute drive is long enough to get hungry again.

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I had a tasty, filling salmon salad with craisins, goat cheese, walnuts, and a honey curry vinaigrette over arugula.

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SUNDAY! Oh Sunday was a much needed day. We are currently re-evaluating some choices and direction in our lives, but Sunday was just what we needed for some ease and clarity. I think right now DJ and I are realizing more than ever that our life “plans” on paper do not, and will not, always reflect reality. But that is okay. We are both at this point where we just want to be used by God, love others, and see how we can make a difference in the SV area each day. God has shut a lot of doors on our plans, but we are watching something unfold that we could not have designed ourselves. In the past, we have always filled our schedules and days with commitments and do not make ourselves available for anything that we have not designated important ourselves. But God, in His sovereignty, has shut many doors and we are finding ourselves available to do His work in a way we never have been. We are ecstatic to see what unravels, where this time of our lives takes us, and how he will use us. Our current situation can be described as this (….). The big ole’ dot, dot, dot. We have no idea how the next few years will unfold, but I think both of us could not be more excited to see how it will look.

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So why was Sunday so great? First we attended Church, and if that can’t rejuvenate ya, I don’t know what can. After, we met with the Pastors from our church for lunch as this rustic, yet modern, place in San Jose called The Farmer’s Union. They provided a great deal of encouragement to us. They gave us soo much to think about as well and sparked some thought-provoking conversation between DJ and I throughout the week leading to some of the open-ended conclusions (oxymoron?) I mentioned above.

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I have been fighting something of a cold this week and this Echinacea and Cranberry tea has been a lifesaver. I am a FIRM believer in herbal and vitamin supplements to prevent a cold. Load up the vitamin C, Echinacea, and Zinc to halt that nasty tickle in the throat from becoming a full on monster. But always talk to your healthcare provider before taking them 😉

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Here are the Cauliflower mashed potatoes that I tried to recreate (inspiration from the Lazy Dog!). These were sooo simple and I have a feeling that I may be entering into a new food craze stage.

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I also made these little Cauliflower wings with the leftover half of a head. I have the recipe posted here if you missed it 😉

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The next night I used the leftover cauliflower mash and combined it with some curry hummus to try to achieve that Indian cauliflower taste. I added a Morningstar Garlic and Quinoa burger with some fresh basil for a super easy and delicious meal.

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I had some kale that was about to go bad too, so I whipped up some kale chips to dip in the buffalo sauce too! Snacks for dayzzz.

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Throughout the week I have been studying at Peet’s nearly everyday.

I have loved studying at this little coffee shop and am beginning to develop friendships with the baristas. They are the kindest folk. One day they came up to me and gave me a coupon for a free coffee. They also told me that I am overstudying. Now when essentially strangers are telling you this, it makes you wonder!

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This is what “leave me alone I’m watching the game ” looks like One night during dinner I realized I had forgotten a couple things at the store. DJ, the sweet husband he is, ran out to grab them for me. He returned with this gem- edible cookie dough. Yes, all of your dreams have now come true. You can bake it or eat it straight out of the container if you wish. It is dairy and egg free too. We love our Pillsbury break-and-bakes, but I think we have a new favorite.

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Yesterday I had a bit of a stomach ache. I think I have just had so much rolling around in this head of mine and have been drained by the studying. I stopped by and picked this up from the store. GOODBYE tummy-ache! Ginger is one of the greatest things to help with nausea and aid in digestion. Kombucha also has some terrific probiotics too. I am really going full blown nurse on ya’ll, this post aren’t I?

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You didn’t think I wasn’t going forget a Fine Cooking recipe now did you?! This week I wanted to make something with meat. I make a lot of seafood naturally being pescatarian, but I felt that I haven’t tried my hand at a good meat dish in a while. I whipped up a Pork Tenderloin Provencal Tuesday night. I have never made pork, but was pleased with how it turned out. I accompanied it with rosemary roasted veggies and wild rice. It was surprisingly easy, and DJ said it was one of the best meals I have ever made. I think it would be an excellent meal for a Christmas eve dinner or special occasion! Tastes fancy without all the work 😉 .

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Now for birthday festivities. I maybe should not post this, but I seriously can’t help myself. I LOVE the goofy cards for birthdays (or any occasion). I spend wayyy too much time looking at all of them and take more pride in the card than the gift usually. We have tons of fun with them in my family. I stay away from anything with the actual age on it though… One time I got my brother a “Happy 30th” birthday card, ready to make a big deal about the big 3-0. He actually was turning 31. They never let me live that one down. In fact the next year, I received the same card from him and he crossed out the thirty and wrote 20 (the age I was turning). Anywho, DJ LOVES animals, so I always make sure to get an animal one. This was this years pick. Like I said, maybe this is inappropriate? But I promise this is as PG-13 it will get around here.

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We were planning on going out for a momentous pancake breakfast for his birthday, but he was meeting with a friend at 10 am, and decided last night he wanted to sleep in. I woke up early to figure something out, because everyone has to have a delicious birthday breakfast! I had some 90 calorie reduced fat pillsbury crescent rolls in the fridge and decided to try to make apple roll-ups. These are way healthier than a breakfast pastry and just as tasty. DJ couldn’t believe how relatively healthy they were.

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Last night I was having a moment of I NEED TO BAKE. Anyone else get that? The baking bug hits me hard in the fall. I load up on cans of pumpkin filling and end up just trying to create whatever I can, whenever I can. Baking is very therapeutic for me and since we were just eating leftovers last night, I decided to bake instead during my usual dinner prep time. I made a healthy pumpkin cheesecake with an oatmeal crust. This little guy is about 150 calories a slice and about 10 grams of protein. I am working on getting the recipe absolutely perfect, and then I will share it.

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Tonight we are going to take it easy per DJ’s request. I think we are going to grab dinner somewhere local and then relax at home. I am going to try to squeeze in a bit more studying before the day wraps up. I am also attending a women’s conference this weekend and am incredibly excited for that!!!! DJ will be taking the weekend pretty easy. Sunday night is when we are actually celebrating his birthday with a nice night out.

Lastly, but most importantly, our thoughts and prayers fervently go out to all those affected by hurricane Matthew .

Wishing you an icing on the cake kind of day,

xo <3

Mack