Cleveland, Ohio- A Perfect Christmas

HAPPPPPYYYY NEW YEAR! Here we are the end of 2016, and before it crosses into 2017, I am going to do my best to recap our Christmas!!! Excuse the spelling and grammatical errors, because I’m sure there will be plenty considering I’m trying to whip this out in like 20 minutes.

So, CHRISTMAS!

On December 23rd, I arrived in Cleveland, Ohio. I was picked up by one of my best friend’s from childhood. We were able to sneak in a quick dinner together at BJ’s in Montrose, OH, my old stomping grounds.

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I wished we snagged a picture together, but we were so busy talking and catching up it didn’t cross my mind (but yes, taking a picture of my cherry-chipotle salmon still did cross my mind).

The rest of the evening was so nice, relaxing, and needed after a full day of travel. I spent it chatting with DJ’s mom in the kitchen while wrapping all the gifts I had shipped to their house so I didn’t have to lug them on the plane. She was so kind to let them stockpile over there for the last couple months! Sitting around and just talking away in her kitchen is one of my ALL TIME favorite things to do in the world. Since I have dated DJ since high school, that kitchen island has hosted countless laughs, discussions, decisions, and family time at it’s finest.

DJ came in on a red-eye in the morning of the 24th, Christmas Eve. Before he came home from the airport, I went out for a run. This view below defines home for me. Ya’ll have essentially seen me as a ‘Cali girl’, but Farmer’s markets, the giant swing at Szalay’s, cornfields, washed-out red barns, and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are nearly as innate as my genetic makeup. The miles of running trails that I’m able to circumnavigate through sheer muscle memory, or rather soul memory, hold onto my secrets from years and years past. The actual footprints of my running shoes may weather away, but the memories of the struggles, trials, elations, and joy that have soaked this part of northeast Ohio is indelibly there forever. I relished every second of that cold run that brought an inner warmth nearly incomparable to much else.

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One of my friends, Annie, said to me yesterday- “Your blog cracks me up. One second you are like, guys, here is something really serious and then BAM, here’s a picture of some food!” Ha! She’s so right and that is exactly what I’m doing right now.

BAM. Here is a pic of some DELICIOUS homemade cinnamon sugar donuts that my mother- in-law made! Seriously some of the best tasting donuts ever. She should open a bakery.

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On the night of Christmas Eve, some REALLY exciting things happened. I FINALLY MET MY NIECE, Kate!!!!!!!! The feeling of holding this gem in my arms brought me so.much.joy. She is perfect. As an Aunt to my niece and nephew, the feeling of love is just truly overwhelming- I can’t imagine possibly being able to  love them more than I do, but that also provides for me a small glimpse of what a parent’s love must feel like. I also see how my own Aunt loves us like her own, and I totally get it in a new way now.

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Here’s my amazing nephew, Jack. He is one of the most intelligent, spunky, and inquisitive little two-years- olds I have ever met. I am blessed. The only way I could be more blessed is if I could have had him sit still for a picture. But I’ll take what I can get 😉

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We went to Mass at my brother and sister in law’s church. It is a breathtakingly beautiful Church in downtown Cleveland.

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My brother and his wife are some of the greatest parents I know. When my dad passed away, my brother became the rock of the family. He has constantly emphasized the importance of family, prioritizing us, encouraging us, and being there to offer wisdom and a hand no matter what. My sister-in-law is also one of the most gracious, loving, and just fun individuals to be around. I am thankful I have them as role models for when it DJ and I have kids one day.

When we got back to my brother’s house we had a scrumptious traditional lasagna, meat or veggie option, with salad and rolls. SO YUMMY! There were a good number of people here this year that we had to split into two rooms for dinner. It fills my heart to have a full house on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve has traditionally always been the night that we spend with my dad’s side of the family, but for a few years it felt that there were fewer and fewer people each year. Even my sister, Andrea, was gone for a couple years living in China. I missed her so much, and it makes me so happy to see the family growing again <3

We spent the night playing games, laughing, and exchanging gifts. It’s super fun opening them up with my nephew now that he sort of has a handle of what is going on. Except the wrapping paper and boxes seem to be his favorite part!

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Christmas morning I did Insanity and then DJ and I got in our Christmas garb on to go downstairs!

Drumrollllll……..

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Yes- we jumped on that onesie train! We had breakfast all together and then headed over to visit some of DJ’s extended family. It was just a great day with amazing family, friends, food, and the cutest pups you’ve ever seen.

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This is DJ’s twin sister Amy’s corgi named Pool Noodle. Is that not the best name you have ever heard for a corgi, and is he not the cutest corgi you have ever seen?!?!

He is also pretty insta-famous: poolnoodlethecorgi

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The evening was filled with a Christmas dinner nothing short of holiday food deliciousness, and the desserts to follow …. well, the picture speaks for itself… perfection. I crave my mother-in-law’s pumpkin pie all year long. She is one of the BEST baker’s I have ever known. It’s not a holiday without her desserts!

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On the 26th I squeezed in another run. I would occasionally find myself on the lookout for mountain lions! It’s weird that I didn’t have to be concerned about them. DJ and I also had a bit of culture shock with the amount of space, land, and lack of people! We kept feeling like, “Where is everyone?!”. Welcome to the midwest!

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The rest of the day was super chill for us. The best kind of day. I love how being home, whether in Texas or Ohio, forces me to just veg-out a bit.

On the 27th, I had dinner with a good friend I’ve known since 6th grade. She’s one of those people that it’s incredibly easy to just pick right back up where we left off. We went to Mustard Seed Market & Cafe at Highland Square. This has always been one of my ALL TIME favorite restaurants. They have an incredible selection of vegetarian and vegan options that blow me away every time.

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I had the vegan Rueben sandwich with their antioxidant salad with turmeric dressing and coconut bacon. I could eat this for every single of my whole life, not joking.

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We spent the rest of the night with the family playing words with friends, watching Secret life of Pets and hottubbing! Also Hot tubbing NEVER gets old.

On the morning of the 28th I had breakfast with Rachel! A few of you that have followed me for a couple months may remember when she visited San Fran. You can read about it here and here 🙂 I was beyond excited to see her; I was missing her mucho.

We went to First Watch which is a must-go-to place when I go back to Richfield. It’s a chain, so a few of you may have heard of it?!? Anything on their menu is fantastic. They are notorious for their massive pancakes- banana nut or carrot cake are my favorites.

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I had their triathlete egg white omelette with house-roasted crimini mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and green chilies. It’s served with housemade salsa, a dry english muffin, and fresh fruit. This is my go to easily! I also love their power wrap (minus the turkey) and their Energy bowl.

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Rach ordered their pesto chicken quinoa bowl with protein-packed quinoa mixed with kale, shredded carrots, and house-roasted tomatoes topped with grilled all-natural lemon chicken breast, basil pesto sauce, feta crumbles, and fresh herbs. This is a favorite of a lot of people I know! Rachel loved it too.

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She also ordered their daily juice selections, it was simply revivifying. You cannot go wrong with a First Watch juice- they are fantastic.

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Rach and I hung out at her house after for a bit. Her house is like my second home to me. I always miss her and her family tons being so far away, but I was thankful that I could at least see her for that small amount of time! <3 <3

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Also she wins best gift giver of the century award. For any occasion, she thinks of the MOST creative, thoughtful gifts. For example, for our wedding, Rach had cornhole boards with our last name and the date of our wedding personalized in our wedding colors made. That’s just one of many,many examples, and this Christmas she once again blew me away!!!!! We have an inside joke of “just read the blog” when I either run out of time to tell her something, or I have a long story- I’ll always just say “just read the blog”. We occasionally throw out #ontheblog or #justreadtheblog as sorta a joke now. So look what she made me…..!!!!!

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She even had my sign-off! GUYS! Is she the best or what?!?!? She MADE this herself. I can’t get over it. She is starting to get a business off the ground so when she does, I’ll share her info with you all!

That evening we went to Burntwood Tavern in Fairlawn with DJ’s side of the family. It was such a rustic, and yet elegant, place to enjoy some great American cuisine.

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After dinner we packed up our bags (cue the tears), hot-tubbed one more time, ate as much of the desserts that we could for one last night, and then tried to snag a couple hours of sleep. At 3 AM we hit the airport and were on our way back to California.

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I am so thankful for the time to get together with our family and friends. We definitely missed those that couldn’t make it, but we treasured dearly the time with the ones that could. Nursing may consume my holidays in the future, but I’m grateful for at least this last one. More than anything too, I’m thankful for what Christmas means. It’s easy to get caught up in the hum-hum of holiday festivities, but the message behind Christmas is what is most important <3

I cannot wait to read about how everything is going for all of YOU! I am so behind on reading, but I am truly looking forward to catching up this week. Getting those blogger cravings. Anyone else?

Currently DJ and I are on our way to SF to celebrate NYE!!!!!!

Happy New Year to everyone! I am thankful for all of you, for everyone I have met this year through blogging, and I wish you all nothing but joy, love, and blessings in this year to come!

xo <3

Mack

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Home Sweet Home. Richfield, OH!

As I have been going back and forth recapping trips from this summer with recent updates, I have been quite excited for this particular recap, although it is a bit out of order! Before our big trip to Maryland and New York we spent a few days at home in Richfield, OH at the end of May. Even though this short trip home was brief it was packed with memories I love to reflect upon. In the evening after a delicious homemade dinner, we all walked on the towpath, which is part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP).

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I wish I could described the views of cascading foliage that enveloped us as we walked along the path. The rainfall was more than usual this year, and while annoying to many people, the greenery did not seem to mind. We kept our eyes peeled for wildlife especially around the Beaver Marsh. Without fail, we saw a turtle and a beaver as well (may have been a muskrat?).

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This park has a special place in my heart. I grew up on it, running and hiking the trails from a young age with my cross country team, family, friends, and many times alone to contemplate on many aspects of life and enjoy the serene outdoors. While physical growth occurred over the years, the true visceral growth was a journey of maturity and endurance. I never realized how much the dirt and muddy paths shaped my perspective and encouraged epiphanies. It was my own form of therapy. I now am taking this love of the CVNP and hopefully will find somewhere like it here, my new home. This is wayyy sappy, but here is a poem I wrote inspired by running in the CVNP.

I am an artist.

I strive for neither glory nor perfection, but to just create. I hear doubts of those around me who think I cannot succeed. I hear the cheers of those who think I can and choose to listen to them.

I am an artist.

I create a skyline filled with dust that swirls and breathes the space I have disrupted. I cause a perfect stillness in the winter frost to swirl in beautiful chaos that leads the way through a winter storm. I sculpt my mind, a perfect struggle as a burn quakes through my legs and my lungs. The morning beckons and I answer understanding that I can create footprints on an unadulterated backdrop before the sun dries the dew.

I am an artist.

I create a melody of dissonance, a beat of my own. The rhythm so insistent and one I cannot decide upon. I get lost in my work, feeling there is no better place but there. I create this art for those around me, and they admire the work, but a passion of an artist causes fullfillment that cannot be explained. I feel I can do anything when I am painting the earth with my pain, struggles, and sweat.

I am an artist who rejoices in the Ultimate Artist.

My art glorifies the one who sculpted me. His art gives my art meaning. I am an artist and I am a runner and creation is my canvas.

In order to symbolize the surrender of our prayers and worries to God, our parents take rocks on their towpath walks and toss them into the river. As the river carries the rock away, out of their hands, it truly allows them to feel a sense of letting go and surrendering that request to God. It is one of the most beautiful, symbolic ways I have ever seen prayer done. We all took turns throwing our hand-picked rocks into the rapids below. We then decided to take them to one of our favorite trails. This is called Oak Hill Trail, one of the CVNP’s most hidden gems. The best part of the trail is the Pineway Alley (pictured at the top). It is one of those places that you just can’t help but stop and marvel at for a few minutes before passing through. There also is a gorgeous lake tucked in the depths of the woods.

Also- if you are interested in understanding the essence of the CVNP there is none who captures it better than Rob Blair. Here is a link to his photography.  Below is one of my favorite samples of his work.

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We ended the evening eating delicious rhubarb crisp (my mother in law is the greatest baker) and prepared for my early morning race! I am a strong believer of eating all the bad-GOOD stuff the night before a race ;). I aways have a great race when I have the carbs from sweets like pies or donuts the night before. Guarantee many people would disagree, but hey- it works for me! Anyways, I decided a few months back that it would be fun to run a half this summer. I have done two fulls and a few halves, but in my last year of nursing school I didn’t train for anything, and I was having the itch to race! I found out the Medina half was going to be the same time we were home. This race was quaint. Can you call a race quaint? Well downtown Medina is so gosh darn quaint, and that is where the start and finish was located. It was not terribly hilly, and I finished with a pretty decent time (1:40:49). My dream is to qualify for the Boston marathon, but I certainly have some work to put in. My favorite part of the race was seeing everyone at the finish and walking around the Farmer’s market.

Later that day our parents treated us to an Orioles vs. Indians game. I felt like such a traitor, but I had on my black to support the O’s. After the game we had a fantastic dinner at fishbone grill.

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Fast forwarding through the Baltimore, NY trip, after the Broadway show we drove through the evening and finally arrived back in Richfield at 5 am. We rested up for the next twenty four hours and then took a flight to our next destination. Stay tuned to find out where our next adventure took us!

Wishing you lots of rhubarb crisp (or your flavor of choice),

xo <3

Mack