Lotsa munchin’ & brunchin’!

Hey hey! How are you? I spent all day long reading countless pages in pathophysiology and watching lectures so I am treating myself to some writing late this evening 🙂 This semester is already kicking my butt. I am gonna have such little free time .. so it’ll be interesting doing an entire move in the middle of it. Even my prof said, “I hope this course is behind you before the move!”… whoops… guess we’ll see how it goes, haha. (It’s an online course for those that are confused about how that will work).

After returning from Hal’s bridal shower, on May 7th, I paid my speeding ticket, unpacked and did laundry. For dinner I made us this curried seafood mix of calamari, shrimp, and scallops with jasmine rice and naan bread.

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On May 8th I started the morning with oatmeal, a Cutie clementine, Shakeology protein powder, and Fage with my coffee.

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For lunch, we didn’t have much in the way of groceries but I whipped up my new favorite omelette combo: egg whites, artichoke hearts, vegan mozzarella cheese, and garlic powder with pink Himalayan sea salt & hummus on the side. YUM!

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And guess what?! Remember how Alexandra and I wanted to go to that Italian restaurant in SF, but they had no openings the evenings we were there? Well— our calendars aligned so we made reservations for that afternoon! Around 2:30 pm we met at my apartment, and I drove us into the city to (finally) try out Cotogna.

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I absolutely loved the interior- it was so warm & cozy and you could see the whole wood fire burning stove.

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So the item on my bucket list was the Raviolo with farm egg & brown butter.

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^^ Yes, that beauty!!! This ravioli was massive & sooo stinkin’ amazing. Did you all ever make buttered Cheerios as a kid? They were the ultimate treat for us growing up! This dish was reminiscent of that in flavor… but the cheese and quality of pasta took that nostalgic flavor to spectacular and exquisite heights. I had to leave a nibble for DJ, so I took a little home for him to try along with a dish of his own- the Agnolotti del plin. He said he preferred the Raviolo, but that both dishes were incredible.

Afterwards, we had to satisfy our sweet tooth. We headed to Mitchell’s, a place on the bucket list. They are known as one of the best places for ice cream in the entire Bay Area!

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I ordered a combo of chocolate caramel crackle per Alexandra’s suggestion & Ube.

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The Chocolate caramel crackle is some of the best darn ice cream flavors I have ever had!!! Gosh. I get why it’s known for being famous- & I was soo glad Alexandra suggested it. The Ube was fine- I haven’t been a huge fan of Ube the couple of times I have tried it– it’s just too plain Jane for me.

I always so love my time with Alexandra. Can’t wait for her and her hubby to join us in Austin- right, girlfran?! 😉

On the morning of May 9th, I rummaged through the freezer to find a frozen banana, a dragonfruit pack and then threw on some PB and chocolate chips.

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I caught up on e-mails, etc. that I missed over the weekend and got around to some other to-do list items.

For dinner I made us BBQ’d tempeh, peppers, corn, & white rice. It was pretty delish & high in proteins, so very filling!

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In the evening I took a bath to just veg out after such a busy few days.

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on May 10th DJ and I had a fun day leading into a full weekend of us just hanging out! I went for a run in the morning, caught up on some blogging, and then we headed to Shake Shack.

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Neither of us had been before, but we were so pleased with the whole experience!

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You order via an electronic system- introverts rejoice.

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It took a loooooong time for our food to be ready, but they were super busy.

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DJ tried their burger- his thoughts: It is a good, solid burger, but he still way prefers In-n-Out’s.

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I could not resist their limited time Game of Thrones milkshake! It was a peppermint shake with candied toffee that made up “dragon glass”- soooo yummy.

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DJ also loved their chocolate shake. Next time we want to try their mixers- we loved our Culver’s concrete mixers when we lived in IN. The fries were decent- good to dip in the shakes of course- but the best fries are forever from Steak & Shake. In the evening I did some grocery shopping and we finished up Ozark (the second season kinda dragged in my opinion-but still excited for the third).

May 11th, I whipped up some black bean brownies to have for the week. I just finished the last of them today. I actually have been having them with my oatmeal, smoothies, or toast for breakfast to get my little chocolate fix!

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After a morning run, DJ and I headed into the city to try out Nopa in the early afternoon. We lucked out with parking right on the corner!

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This place’s menu changes each month- but they always have one famous item on their menu- the Custard French Toast.

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We ordered that and the brioche cinnamon roll with strawberries, kumquats, and guava cream cheese frosting and a pomegranate mimosa to pair with them.

After ordering, we sat back to enjoy the ambiance of the place- it had almost an industrial feel with a wide open space and two floors, but somehow maintained a warm energy about it.

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First up- the cinnamon roll! The flavor burst in each bite of this was real. The guava cream cheese frosting is something I could eat by the spoonfuls- it was outstanding.

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Now, time for custard french toast! Y’all this lived up to every bit of the hype. I could not get over how delicious this was.

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I tried to get some syrup pouring pics, but the distance of the food on my portrait mode messed with my spatial perception, and I ended up pouring it on the table instead. We had a good laugh at it after my initial embarrassment.

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In the evening, we were craving Mexican, but nowhere around us serves crunchy tacos (the kind DJ prefers)- so I whipped us up a whole spread! I haven’t done this since my mom and Pete were here back in August, although you know I make the tacos alone all time.

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I put out salsa con queso and regular salsa with hint of lime tortilla chips and plantain chips, DJ’s regular tacos, and my vegan tacos (in the bowl) with lettuce wraps (I LOVE the refreshing crunch of a lettuce wraps for tacos topped with tons of Tabasco and Fage as “sour cream”). I also made my mom’s marg. recipe. Such a winning meal.

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On the morning of May 12th, we brunched round 2 at Stein’s! This was my last free weekend before being buried in school work, so we took full advantage, can ya tell?

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I ordered their vegan hash with mushrooms, tofu, tons of seasoning, and potatoes. It definitely needed salt- but with salt & enough hot sauce it was pretty good. Don’t think I’d order it again because I could probably make this at home, but it was worth the try. The little baguette pieces were yummy- but they could have maybe given a couple more.

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Now, this was the star of brunch! This stack of pancakes consisted of blueberry pancakes with mascarpone cheese & some delicious syrup.

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Aaaand I got that syrup pour picture to redeem myself from the prior day’s fiasco 😉

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Personally, these are my favorite pancakes I have ever tried in the area. The mascarpone cheese cuts the sweetness perfectly. They were the perfect balance of fluffy without being too dense and heavy.

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After doing some chores in the afternoon, we decided to take a late afternoon hike at one of our BL hike places- Sanborn County Park.

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^ Take note. hahah.

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This is such a little gem of a spot. There were so many families enjoying the sunny afternoon and campers galore.

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The forest was so quiet and serene.

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Going into my most intense semester yet, this was the perfect type of balanced weekend to explore, rest, eat fantastic foods and spend some great quality time with DJ.

Question for you:

  • Where do you go to get your favorite burger/fries?

xo <3

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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