A Sun Basket Review & A Fox Dog!

Hey hey heyyyy!! How’s it kicking?

First things first- sometimes I feel slightly unsettled posting some superficial, light hearted posts when such tragic events are occurring all over our world, ya know? Especially right now with all the events that occurred in Charlottesville, the flooding and the storm in Texas, things in Syria, etc. etc……it’s just heart wrenching. Unfathomable. I know there are always tragic happenings; it’s inevitable. But my heart just breaks at it all, and I feel almost silly taking pictures of food and being so grossly removed from it all. I was talking with a friend about it and they made a good point that if we never took time to celebrate the little things in life and only focused on the bad, what type of existence would that be? It’s true. It’s important to acknowledge, be aware, and help however and wherever we can in this broken world. But it’s ok to also take time and celebrate beauty. The good, the bad, the terrible, the beautiful, the painful, the uplifting, the fun, the heart wrenching, the hilarity, the ugly, the superficial, the deep, and even the mundane makes up all things we call life, and it should all be acknowledged. Blogging is such a great escape for ourselves to write, to celebrate with others the beauty in their lives, and to  encourage one another too. ❤ If other bloggers have ever felt similarly or have any thoughts please share them with me. ❤

I have a few fun happenings that have occurred over the past month or so, but with the traveling to Texas, and work in between, I haven’t done a recap! This post is incredibly saturated with edible items- just FYI. Sending all ya’ll fair warnings if you get the tummy grumbles easy-I highly encourage you grab a snack now! Nurse’s orders.

On Wednesday, August 9th, One of DJ’s best friends from growing up, Grant, (also best man in our wedding) and his girlfriend came to California for work, and we had a nice dinner at the Counter one night. This is easily one of DJ and I’s favorites since we discovered it in NYC. You see this list below? You literally build your own burger with whatever protein/bun/cheese/sauces/toppings/etc., and the options are endless. It’s both a foodie dream, but an indecisive foodie’s nightmare. But the dream trumps the nightmare, I promise 😉

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I usually make a vegan veggie burger with a multigrain or ciabatta bun with nearly all the veggies, smoked gouda cheese, and coleslaw with a side of sweet potato fries. This day was scorching hot, so I was fancying salad and put it over greens with a side of balsamic vinaigrette.

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The next day, I had to work, but DJ gave them the grand tour of the area and took them up Mt. Hamilton for the gorgeous views.

Now, I am not proud of this, but I am a hard core fan of the show Vanderpump Rules on Bravo. One of the cast members, Stassi, has a podcast and her show had a promo code for Sun Basket. I decided to give it a try and it was a great decision!

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It comes with an actual little cookbook instead of individual sheets like Blue Apron or Green Chef. It keeps it all condensed in one place, so that’s pretty nice! Plus you get recipes even for the boxes you may not have bought (the entire summer series is in one cookbook).

Quality: In terms of the produce, it is non-GMO, organic, and healthy. However, because of it’s organic nature, the ingredients started going bad within a couple days. I had to make sure to make all the meals right away. But it was all immensely flavorful and fresh.

The first meal we made was the New Orleans style Shrimp Creole. I gobbled this one right up! I think it was my favorite of the three.

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Quantity: In terms of quantity, the servings were fantastic. Since these delivery systems aren’t exactly cheap, you want to make sure to get enough for leftovers if possible. This did not skimp of quantity and we all know leftovers can sometimes be ever more delicious than the first go around.

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The second meal we made were the steak tacos with zucchini-scallion salsa and lime-yogurt. This was DJ’s favorite. I obviously didn’t have the tacos, but I loved the zucchini-scallion salsa!

Health: By health standards, these are winners. All the meals are approved by a nutritionist that works for the company, and the emphasis is on spices, dynamic flavor pairing, and enhancement of natural flavors without adding sugars and added fats.

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And last, but certainly not least, we had the penne with moroccan spiced chickpeas and tomatoes. I liked this more than DJ, but I love love love the blend of cinnamon, cardamom, and garlic together.

Speed: These meals were easily the quickest to make of any that I have tried from Blue Apron to Green Chef to Hello Fresh. I was in and out of the kitchen within about twenty minutes with these ones. I was shocked at how little effort was put forth to get a healthy, scrumptious, and satisfying meal.

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Overall impression: 8/10. I will certainly be trying Sun Basket again! The only real con was the fact that the vegetables need to be used almost immediately upon arrival. Besides that I was super impressed with the service. Blue Apron meals are heartier and have more of a “comfort meal” factor, but they aren’t quite as health focused.

Anyone else use it and want to give their experience?!

Now fast forward past the Texas trip….vrrrroooooommmmm.

On August 21st, DJ and I both had the day off! We went to Stein’s, the new restaurant near our apartment. It’s one of those places that I crave. It’s ridiculously yumm.img_0778-1

I ordered the quinoa & butternut squash salad with napa cabbage / jicama / cilantro / avocado relish / pumpkin seeds / chili lime vinaigrette. I was craving something crunchy, cold, light, and sweet! It hit the spot!

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DJ tried their cornmeal battered cage-free Petaluma fried chicken with slaw and three sauces: The Green Goblin, Wings of Fire, and Sweet Samui. They have a long list of options to choose from with sauces.

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August 22nd, my good friend Sara came by to celebrate her getting a job! Woohoo! We watched the show The Sinner, with Jessica Biel (a psychological thriller- gripping as can be!), and nommed on tons of snacks while playing with the cutest little puppy in the whole world. She was dog sitting and brought this little Foxy lady over.

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Naturally had to whip up a batch of the cookies too 😉

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One Wednesday, August 23rd, I spent the morning lounging for the first time in a while. It was so nice to unwind and take a few deep breaths. I had the house clean, the laundry done, and the groceries stocked for the rest of the week.

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In the afternoon, I went on a hike with DJ’s stepmom! It was much needed chit-chat time. We went to San Antonio Nature Preserve and hiked about seven miles. Quick insane story though- remember last year when I had that scare with the mountain lion (probably a bob cat?). Well, when we were hiking up that same trail, a man came down running past us and told us there had been a mountain lion attack near the top of the hill on the trail (a poor little deer). The unnerving thing was it was in the exact.same.spot I had heard the snarl. I had a hard time sleeping that night- it just didn’t sit well with me. I had convinced myself that it was a bobcat all this time, but the truth is it very well may have been a mountain lion that I had heard.

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After braving the hike (on a different path, of course) and seeing tons of wildlife from deer to turkeys and colorful birds, we went back to our apartment and fueled back up with avocado smoothies, protein cookies, and tons of laughs. Since I was heading back to work the next day, this really helped get me into better spirits and calmed my nerves a great deal.

I worked on the 24th and 25th. BUT- we had a pizza party because we beat our unit record of no patient falls on the unit! WOOHOOOOO!!!!!!!

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Also, a coworker brought in fresh figs. I’ve never had figs before, but I think I have a new addiction. They are so delicious and sweet. If you haven’t tried them- doooo ittttt! SO TASTY!

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DJ has been extra busy with his job lately, and is currently running the marketing department (GO DEEJ!). I’m so proud of him; he’s working ridiculously hard right now. We don’t see each other much, but hopefully when the season settles down we will more!

On Saturday, August 26th, I could barely bring myself out of bed. That’s when I decided to get my creative juices flowing and made the running post. I also caught up a bit on blogging, went for a nice long run, and watched movies (yep, can you believe it?!). Usually after a couple days in a row of working, I need a day with near zero human interaction. It’s hard to be “on” and at the whim of four human beings for nearly 24 hours straight (with about 9 hours in between shifts). I know hospitals aren’t hotels, but I really do think patients think they are sometimes, lol. I feel like I play waitress/maid/person jus’ tryna’ keep you alive all at the same time. (Hmmm, sounds like motherhood? I think I am getting a little taste, haha). I don’t mind though- I really do love my patients. Even the extra-needy ones 😉 But on that first day off, even DJ knows to just not say a word to me.

Sunday, August 27th,  I accidentally overslept through church, but watched Case for Christ on Amazon! SO GOOD! I squeezed in an excellent insanity workout, went to get my bridesmaid dress fitted from David’s bridal, did some groceries, and had a hankerin’ for MOD Pizza for dinner. It was a much more productive day than Saturday, and kept my mind preoccupied for the next couple days of work. (If I sit around, I really tend to work myself up about it).

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On this past Monday and Tuesday, I was assigned to NCOR (neuro close observation room). I always get super-extra nervous when I’m in that room because it’s the sickest patients on the floor that require 24-hour, eyes on, observation. The first day left me sobbing in the bathroom, but the second day was much better, and I walked away feeling elated. ‘Tis nursing.

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I now am resting up a bit before working this weekend, and have a couple fun things planned these next couple days before heading back (I’ll recap in the next post).

Who’s ready for fall?!?!!?

Blog Birthdays:

Happy Happy Happy Happy Birthday to my girl, JJ, from Sitbackandjustlive on August 24th! Girl- I am SO thankful for you. You speak such encouragement and love into my life and sooo many others! You inspire everyone with your zest for life, and thank goodness for all your makeup tips & vicarious Boston adventures! LOVE YOU,  beautiful!!! Hope FL is treating you, real well. XOXO

xo ❤

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Nursing: Peace in the Chaos.

Do you ever have an endless stream of thoughts that you want to share but are not sure where to even begin?

That’s me right now.

In my last post I mentioned that I wanted to divulge about the past couple months, my journey with nursing, about how I’ve both regressed and then grown in my faith, and how I have learned more in just a couple months than I do in a typical year…

I have a lot to unravel, it may take the full seven hours of traveling honestly. I’m treating this like a diary post, and I know it will be long. I will not hold it against any of you, even my loyal readers if you skip it.

But today I just need to write.

I need to write and record the transformative period that is my existence right now, and share the tremendous ways God has been moving in what seems impossibly bleak circumstances. I also know some friends and family that are going through this similar transition, so I hope to offer some encouragement to those individuals as well.

So, nursing. Nursing, nursing, nursing. I always compare this to an emotional rollercoaster, and all I can say is what. a. ride. While I may start off kind of explaining the gargantuan obstacles, it’s amazing what I have learned through it! This is not a venting session, but rather the most raw, honest insight into the life of a new nurse, and how I am slowly, but surely, learning to cope with the hardest year of my life.

Neurosurgical nursing is notoriously difficult, and our floor is no exception. I deal with a number of critically ill patients. For example, a patient’s nausea can be a simple side effect of their pain medication, or it can mean they are developing increased intracranial pressure; if I don’t assess it correctly, they truly could die on my watch. We have patients that have drains coming out of their brain’s ventricles and spinal cords. If they sit up without letting me know they are repositioning, they could drain out their own cerebral spinal fluid, and have dire consequences. I’ve had patients that seize, and I watch as the oxygen saturation plummets, while I hold them on their side. They sometimes go still and for a second, I panic- thinking for they are dying right there in my arms before their oxygen creeps back up. Fear gnaws at me, an unwanted tumor that relentlessly impedes on my emotional well-being and my life. I give so many medications constantly, so even when I triple check before giving anything, I am always afraid of making an error. In nursing, there is infinite room for error, countless scenarios that could potentially go wrong. It leaves me, a brand new nurse, perpetually terrified.

Every day I wake up to go to work I know I will make a mistake or have some type of failure. I was not prepared for this when graduating nursing school. I knew that I would have a massive learning curve, but I didn’t realize that making mistakes was part of the job. No worries- nothing that has compromised my patients’ well-being, but I always fail in some way. This isn’t some pessimistic self-fulfilling prophecy, but the reality of being a new nurse.

Do you ever have those dreams where you can’t run or talk or scream and feel stuck in quicksand? That’s how I feel majority of days on my shift. I know exactly what I need to do but one thing after another impedes me from moving at the pace I would like. Say I have my morning meds to give to four different patients. I have a one hour window to give those meds. A realistic, typical day goes like this- I step into my first patient’s room to do assessments and give medications. My phone rings, another patient wants their blood glucose checked and their insulin because their meal tray has arrived. I glance down wide-eyed at the twenty pills sitting on my workstation on wheels and can’t leave until I give these meds. Hence, my patient down the hall will have to wait at least fifteen minutes before they can start to eat. Overwhelmed. I go down to see the patient and give them their insulin, and then they ask for their food to be microwaved (understandably so). They also want to use the toilet, but it takes twenty minutes to get them out of bed, to the bathroom, and back. I wasn’t assigned a nurse assistant to said patient because they are technically mobile. They also want a bed-bath, their teeth brushed, and me to fill them in on the “plan” for the day- which is all totally understandable, but at this point I have to explain that I will come back as soon as I finish up with the other patients. Frustration. As I leave they ask for their pain med, so I have to go back out down the hall to the Pyxis, grab their pain med, and come back. I get a page from the front desk, “your patient in room#__ is de-sating” (an emergent situation). Panic. I explain I must leave although I have their pain med in hand and run down the hall to make sure my other patient is getting oxygen. I look at the watch. It’s 0830. I still haven’t seen my last patient and rounds with the doctors are at 0845. I dive into my last patient’s room and quickly grab a set of vitals because our sepsis screens are due by 0900. Overwhelmed. As I hand my patient their med, I get a call from a patient’s family member wanting an update on how their loved one did overnight, but I can’t remember all the facts pertained to which patient in report. Confused. By the time I get back to the other patient to give them their pain med their pain has spiked from a 5 to a 9 on that 0 to 10 scale. Incompetent. It’s one big game of whack-a-mole, and I feel like the weak little four-year-old that keeps fumbling with the hammer in an arcade. Except I have ten hours left in this arcade.

I have so many moments like this that I freeze like a deer in the headlights. I start to go into a panic, I can’t see straight, I can’t breathe, I wait for my knees to buckle out from under me. I can’t stop the tears from coming. I duck into the break room and let the attack pass. I suck it up and step back outside. I’m supposed to smile and act like I have it all together in front of my patients. Nothing is supposed to rattle me, but everything does. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, so this is quite difficult for me. A colleague asks if I am ok. I wish they hadn’t asked because that question gets me. I can’t respond because if I do the tears will start again. I failed. I let my emotions show. The rest of the shift is one thing after another. I don’t sit down until 2 pm for a 30-minute lunch.

At 1730 the float offers me a break. We aren’t allowed to chart off the clock, but my charting isn’t done. I use my last fifteen-minute break to frantically chart. Exhaustion.

At 1830 I still have a list of things to get done, but change of shift is at 1845. I’m in my patient’s room in a hot sweat trying to get their antibiotics hung, their last meds given, and their lumbar drain checked as the night shift nurse anxiously waits for me to give them report. The family members asks, “rough day”? I failed again. I failed miserably. I let my feelings show in front of a patient. No one told me how much acting is involved in nursing.

I go home filled with guilt that I was so busy I didn’t connect with one of my patients. I replay the things I did wrong over and over. I can’t turn my mind off. Guilt. Fear. I wake up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat. Panic. I think I’m supposed to be charting, DJ reassures me I’m at home and not at work. I get texts from friends asking to hang out on my day off and feel guilt saying no because all I want to do is sleep. Guilt. Failure. I’m drowning. Exhaustion. I slip into a dark place, the depression that I experienced in high school is creeping back, suffocating me. Darkness.

This is the reality. I am not able to handle this on my own. And about two weeks ago, I realized it. I came to the conclusion that I would not be able to make it through the rest of this year unless something changed. I gave myself a hard look in the mirror and realized what was starkly missing- time with the Lord.

Since I’ve started this program I haven’t opened the Bible or prayed much at all. I don’t know what it is about stressful periods of life that I just stop actively seeking God.. it’s weird. I think it’s possibly this selfish defense mechanism, or maybe I just want to be numb and engaging with the Creator of the universe kind of doesn’t allow that. I think I also feel as though I don’t have the energy to invest or something, but it’s so ironic because all God does is renew and refresh when you devote that time to Him. I decided that I would recommit my mornings to Him, and it has transformed everything for me.

I decided to read 1 Peter. I have no idea why. I never spend much time there. I don’t even remember consciously choosing it. I read it once, then read it again, and again. God knew exactly what I needed right when I needed it. There were certain verses that blew me away; the Holy Spirit undeniably was directly speaking into my circumstance. This happens every time I spend time in the Word, but it nevertheless continues to amaze me each time. It is the living Word for a reason.

The first verse that jumped out was verse 5, “This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power”. The idea that I am shielded, guarded, and protected by God’s power each day I step foot onto that nursing floor gave me a great sense of peace. I felt like I could take a deep breath. I actually had a conversation with my sister Andrea (who always brings the wisdom) and when telling her my fears she said, “Kenz they aren’t just your patients”. At first I thought she meant they have a team of doctors and other nurses on the other shifts that care for them. I quickly went to the defense “but they are my sole responsibility in that moment”, but she jumped in saying, “No- you are not alone, they are in God’s hands too.” Woah. So true, but why hadn’t I thought of that? I’m not alone. It really hit home for me when I read this verse. I am shielded by God’s power. He has called me to this place. I can’t do this in my strength, but I can in His strength (Philippians 4:13). And what a relief that I don’t have to live in intense fear. (2 Timothy 1:7). That fear is not in line with walking with the Lord.

Then verse 6 and 7 continued speaking into my circumstance.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” 

Um, hi. This is the greatest trial of my life! Grief has become quite the familiar acquaintance. So naturally this verse grabbed my attention. Why does God have me here going through this painfully difficult time? Why did he call me to this profession? Why does it have to be so hard? I could have chose from plenty of other directions or majors, why this?

Those questions were answered by the second part of the verse.

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

This verse woke me up. These trials that I’m experiencing will only strengthen my faith- which I can say, without a doubt, is true. If I wasn’t going through this time, I wouldn’t see how much I need Christ daily. I wouldn’t feel that I was hitting rock bottom with only Him to lean on. But then there is a responsibility attached to this- we are to bring praise, glory, and honor to Christ through it. The whole reason I went into nursing was because I believed it was my place of calling and ministry. In the two and a half months of working, I haven’t been ministering in any type of way. I haven’t been looking for ways to have conversations with patients about Christ, I haven’t been offering to pray over them, and I haven’t been praying myself asking the Lord to give me His eyes and heart and courage to offer to make a difference for Him. But when I read this verse, I realized my perspective has been all wrong. I haven’t surrendered this career to Him, and I haven’t surrendered this blessing to Him that He brought me, that I begged Him for. This career is not about me, but I was making it about me for the first couple months. That changed with reading this scripture.

The last couple verses in the first chapter that I underlined many times was verse 22 “… so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” And then verse 24, “For all people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

This last verse might sound a bit off-putting in our human nature. But I found such great relief in it. The fact that this life is not about me, about my accomplishments, about my success relieved such a great weight. All I am called to do is love fiercely in Jesus’ name and bring Him glory through sharing this love with others.

The last verse I want to share (although there are countless others that really spoke to me) is 1 Peter 3: 13, “Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good?”. Since beginning this job I have had this strange mindset of waiting for the next shoe to drop (my irrational fear of getting sued or fired). I may not be perfect, but I can say I am tremendously eager to do good. This brought me peace- God knows my heart, He is my strength, and He will protect me with His shield of power. Wow. My perspective shifted. I felt like I could breathe.

On the way into work that morning after reading these chapters, I was ready and even eager to get to get started so that I could approach the day with courage be this love to my patients and my coworkers.

Here’s what happened…

I arrived at work and glanced at my assignment. I did a double take, convinced they made a mistake. I was assigned to the NCOR room (neuro close observation room). This room is where the patients require eyes on them literally 24-7, the most unstable patients on our floor. The nurse is isn’t allowed to leave the room, and if she/he does, then she must be replaced by another nurse, even to use the restroom. I didn’t think we would be placed there until further along with more experience, although we technically oriented for a couple weeks in the room.

A week prior, or even a day prior, I would have seen that assignment and immediately been thrown into a full blown panic attack. Rather, I looked at it and felt excited because I knew this was just an opportunity to rely on Christ, to love people in a scary point in their lives, and to grow my faith.

It ended up being one of my favorite shifts. I grew close to nearly all the patients and families, I took initiative, I kept a smile on my face, but I wasn’t faking it, even in the midst of the craziness.

Every shift since I have grown deeper with my patients. The best moments are the moments I get to pray with my patients. I had one patient who was not exactly kind toward me and wearing me down a bit emotionally. At one point at the height of my frustration I just offered to pray for him. He seemed stunned and allowed me to. This opened up the door to a great conversation about church and faith.

Another patient expressed to me her doubts about God’s existence. I shared with her how just a year ago I was in her shoes. I assured her that God would make himself known to her, and I would be praying for her. Tears rolled down her face and began welling in mine as we shared this moment together. That shift ended up being one of the most chaotic, one where I didn’t get my meds done on time, one where I felt like I was drowning, possibly the worst shift I’ve had yet. But even if I did many things wrong, I know I loved right.

The opportunity to love deeper had been there, I just hadn’t seen it in my selfishness, my distorted perspective. The shift loads are the same, maybe even worse, but I see each challenge as an opportunity, not an obstacle. My purpose for being where I am is clear now. My purpose in this life, this career, is simple, but I was blind it. It is simply to love. Not to be perfect, not to start flawless IVs, and especially not to be comfortable- because God very clearly calls us out of our comfort zones, and nursing is the furthest thing from comfortable. Additionally, no one has changed the world or a life while being in their comfort zone. So, I don’t wish for that. I will embrace the exhaustion, I will learn to forgive myself and look at each mistake as an opportunity to learn, I will be eager for constructive criticism and invest in a heart of humility. I will see this year through, even when I want to quit, I will not. I know I can make it because I have someone omnipotent holding me through those twelve-hour days, I have someone omniscient that can help me think clearly, I have someone omnipresent who will continually wrap me with peace in the chaos. I will fail at times, but I am following the One who never does.

Thank you all for your prayers and support through this time. I am thankful beyond words, truly beyond what I can express, for all of you. All Glory to God.

Friday Faveeees #5- A Day Late

Happy Friday numero dos- AKA Saturday. Yes, yes, my Friday Faves post is most certainly a day late. But that is like the mantra of my life right now. Just doing things when I can, giving myself grace, and accepting far less than perfection from myself on the daily. Woah, that got deep quick. BUT I am super pumped to share these Friday faves with you!!!

  1. The number one spot goes to meeting one of my all time fave bloggers and friends, JJ from sitbackandjustlive, for the first time. We have been friends on WP for a bit under a  year and FINALLY had the chance to meet. I can’t tell ya’ll how surreal, but amazing it was to meet this beauty. She is as kind, loving, gorgeous, and fun in person as you gather from her incredible posts. I even got the chance to meet Andrew briefly too. They are gems, and truly just kind souls. I hope we all live  in Dallas together one day! (We may have mapped out exactly how far our dream cities to live in are from one another). We also mayyyy have gone overboard, no not over, properly-board, on the snap filters. Who knows when we will get another picture together?!

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2. PB2– Oh my lanta. PB2 has my heart. People are usually timid about powdered peanut butter, but I’m sold on it. I love doing 2 or 3 TBSP mixed with about 1 TBSP of water and letting it sit in the freezer for a couple minutes. It’s one of my favorite snacks after a run.

3. This Father’s Day Card– Found where else than tar-jayyyyyy?! I am hoping my step-dad doesn’t read this post before he gets this in the mail. Lol.

4. Stress Relief Eucalyptus Soap from Bath & Body Works. Herbs are magical for stress relief. This and anything lavender are a must have for my sanity right now.

5. Serial the Podcast. I was addicted to Serial last fall, but I wasn’t doing the Friday faves series then. But it deserves a spot on the list, even now. I also just finished up “S-town” The second “Serial”. Serial was way better than S-town, but both are fascinating and hard to put down!

6. Sprout’s Sun-dried Tomatoes! I am a zealot for sun-dried tomatoes. In fact I drove to the  store after a hard day at work last week just because I was craving them. Honestly, who craves sun-dried tomatoes? They are just so fresh right now at Sprout’s and oh man, oh man, delishh. I particularly am obsessed with eating these with hummus, cheese, and crackers. We watched Finals at our family’s last night and I couldn’t resist throwing some of these little guys on the tray! PS. GO CAVS!

7. Oh and those crackers- Crunchmaster’s Multiseed Crackers. They are ridiculously yum. They are also gluten free!

8. Noww guesssss- the- heck- whatttt?! We finally have bedside lamps! It has been a long time coming, nearly a year, but we FINALLY have them! Our family gave them to us when we moved and they work way better than any of the millions I tried from the store before. Now on to finding throw pillows…Maybe I’ll have it all together by the time we decide to move again. ha!

9. These flowers from my love. I came home to these after a long weekend at work. I was at my emotional breaking point, and he had cleaned the whole house and had these flowers for me. ❤ Melted my lil’ heart!

10. TACO BOOTIES! One of my greatest friends back in Ohio is having her little babe in a couple weeks (Maybe sooner!). I found these taco booties on Uncommongoods.com and could not resist!

Blog Birthdays:

My classy & lovely lady Miranda over at pinot&peeptoes on June 3rd. I am so sorry I’m a whole week late- but I hope your birthday was FABULOUS, just like you ❤

The sweet, wise, and ultimate linguistic goddess, my sister Kiran over at Kiranmag on June 10th. Her writing takes my breath away every single time. Go check it out now!

Love you both!

And I love you all as well! Sending big summer hugs.

Xo ❤

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Friday Favorites #4!

It’s FRIYAY, FRIYAY, Gotta get down on FRIYAY!!!

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It is 9:00 pm, I am home from work and happy to report this week was SO MUCH BETTER!!!!! I can’t tell you how IMMENSELY encouraging all your comments and texts were from my last post. It truly changed my whole disposition. I went in with a determination to face it all head on, learn what I could, and forgive myself (I think that was pivotal). And although I have endless learning and experience to be gained, I felt like I wasn’t totally lost. One HUGE thing I was reminded of that stuck with me was just the the Lord wouldn’t bring me to this point to leave me hanging. That gave me a whole new wave of confidence.

I also see now how no matter how rough the day is, that ONE moment sincerely makes it all worth it. Today that moment for me was making my patient laugh. Even if I’m not the best nurse in the world yet, don’t they say laughter is the best medicine? 😉 Tomorrow (it’s Thursday while I’m writing this) might be different, but for now, I’m basking in the giddiness of success not horribly, epically failing.

NOW, before I go to bed I want to whip up a quick post. I have been collecting pictures for a Friday Favorites post all week and can’t wait to share!

  1. Peets Coffee. I’m not sure that I have given Peet’s a proper shout-out in my Friday Favorites. Due time! My go-to is an almond milk cafe au lait. YURM. Also, my friends that I made while I was studying for my NCLEX still work there, and when I had to do some module work online this week I went back in. It was great to catch up with them!

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2. Cereal Quest Bars! I’ve been sitting here for a minute trying to conjure up a description that does these little devils justice- but nothing will. They are beyond delicious. If you don’t believe me I guess you will just have to try for yourself!!! I’m OBSESSED. I love the chocolate flavor most, but all the flavors are terrific.

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3. Safeway Monopoly. Our local grocery store has a monopoly game (like the McDonald’s one) that I have been participating in! They have tons of free products you can win by simply shopping at their store! Without boring you to tears, basically you get a board, you earn little “game pieces” when you shop, and then you enter codes online to win or get instant winning tickets for free products. So far I have won a cooking class, Shutterfly photo books, and all the stuff in the pictures below. FREE. Free as a bee!!!!! Now if I can only get those last few game pieces to win one of the big kahunas! DJ isn’t too upset about the free donut I seem to get each time 😉 And who doesn’t want a free 5 lb. bag of flour?! (I do have to say though, I was actually wayyy too pumped about the aluminum foil, because we were out, so perfect timing!)

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4. Sprout’s Bags. My “Every Day I’m Brusselin” bag- which was discovered in my very, very first post from Sprout’s grocery store), now has a new friend named, “Turnip For What”. If you know me, you can imagine my minor, massive joyous freakout in the store that maybe borderline, definitely embarrassed DJ when I saw this bag. I was like the needy five-year-old begging their parent for candy at the cash register.

Me: “DJ, I NEED IT! I NEED IT! I REALLY, REALLY DO!”

DJ: “We have so many bags at home, I think you’ll survive.”

Me: NO, I NEEEEEEED IT.

DJ: **Handing over the extra $2.00 to the cashier for my bag of happiness**.

The heart wants what it wants.

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5. Dear Mom. Our apartment building has this new vending machine that is basically a grocery store vending machine in our lobby. Plus it has these recipes that hang on the wall next to it saying how to make different meals with the ingredients they provide. I think it’s one of the most ingenious ideas. It has all your basics as well as desserts. Yup, they even have cheesecake (which is a food group of its own). And if I forget anything that I was supposed to get at the store, I always check to see if they carry it before I have to make a second trip!

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6. 13 Reasons Why. This is a heavy one. Has anyone watched it or read the books? It’s a Netflix original series. While I was doing some marathon training, cooking, and working on modules, I had this playing and finished the series in about three days. It’s addictive- start to finish. It’s only 13 episodes, but every single one is gripping. But, like I said, it’s heavy. It makes you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts if anyone has seen this.

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7. PackIt Freezable Lunch Box. This is the best lunchbox on planet earth. It has built in freezer packs, so you just throw it into the freezer, and when you are ready to go you just toss your food in it. No messing with those awkwardly shaped freezer packs!! It’s super portable, lightweight, and basically I could talk about how much I love this thing all doggone’ day. Like, I have to get up in 6.5 hours, and all I’m doing is typing about a lunchbox. Ummm, #priorities.

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8. 100 Calorie Pack Emerald Almonds. MMMM mmm MMMM. These are one of my favorite snacks when I’m on my shifts. I only have 15 minute breaks (and one 30), so these are a lifesaver for super fast energy. I usually pair it with a cereal Quest bar or No Cow bar and am good to go at least for a couple hours!!!!

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9. Blogilates. Cassey Ho is the bomb.com. I’m telling you- if you want an insane ab workout, she is your girl. Even DJ is amazed at how hard her workouts are. I DARE you to try one. I think my favorites are

This one, this one, and this one.

She also has targeted workouts for all other areas too! And they are pretty short, but guarantee you will feel the BURN.

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10. Dis’ bag. I know I have tons of pictures of this little guy sprinkled around my blog already- but I can’t help but give it a little love! It’s from Target and it’s HUGE and I don’t know how I went my whole life without this bag. I see the light.

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I am horribly behind on reading and responding to comments in classic Mack-form (ew. is that third person? Wait, I’m too tired to care)- BUT I will be catching up this weekend. Orientation ends next Wednesday which means my days off are actual days off when I could do things like catch up on your blogs!😏 🤗🎉AH! LOVE YOU ALL. Have a wonderful Easter weekend 💕

XO ❤

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Adventures of a Weekend; Memories of a Lifetime

I truly do not even know where to begin!!!! Since Thursday, there have been memories made that I will treasure for my entire life. So, without further adieu, welcome to one of the greatest weekends for the books!

It all began Thursday morning. I woke up bright and early and zipped to SF to meet one amazing individual….

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….KM from Ankhor You! I can’t tell you how surreal it was to meet this beautiful lady in person!!! She is such a gem, and truly the energy, love, and kindness that she shares through her blog she radiates in person equally. This is the first time I’ve met someone that I initially met through blogging, and I can’t stop talking about how nice it was to sit down and have a cup of coffee with her! (And of course, we met at Peet’s 😉 ).

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I also had the pleasure of meeting her lovely friend, Sarah! Ugh I wish we all lived closer so we could hangout!

Please come back soon, dear. SF loved having you guys here!  It was SUCH a joy to spend time with these two- have I made that clear?! Ok- good! I’m just glad I didn’t scare them away! Hahah.

JJ- we’re coming for you next!

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The rest of Thursday I went grocery shopping, cleaned a bit, finished up laundry, and napped (GASP!!!).

Friday, DJ’s mom (whom I’ll call Mom L for the purpose of the blog), and Gordie (Step dad!) flew into SF! They arrived at our place around 11:30 in the morning. I was giddy all morning to see them. It felt far too long since Christmas!

I have been ecstatic to show them around our stomping grounds. The last time they were here was to move us in- a time reminiscent of a giant Uhaul, an empty apartment complex, and zero food in the fridge.

BUT this time, I was able to show them the transformation of the empty walls into a livable home, and we all shared some good snacks to tide us over until dinner that night!

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You can never go wrong with cheese and crackers, can I get an AMEN?!

DJ came home from work early at about 2:00, and I had to go back to the dentist to get my final cap put on my “yellow tooth” at 2:30 (hallelujah that is over with)! Also— you know I can’t go on without pointing out the irony that I went to the dentist at 2:30—- GET IT?!

For the weekend, they said they wanted to experience all our favorite restaurants/spots since we have been here. Mom L is a loyal follower of the blog, so she knew I would have great foodie spots for us to go to 😉

Orchard City Kitchen was our first on the list!

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The first time we went here was in September of last year with a friend of DJ’s. It quickly made it’s way to the top of our favorites due to it’s rustic yet modern ambiance, it’s unique menu, and of course, it’s phenomenal food!!! The way this works is you order about four of five small dishes and share them with the table. Each bite is jam packed with flavors unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

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We started with their famous triple B (biscuits, bacon, and honey butter). I don’t know what it is about this, but it’s the kind of thing that just sticks in your memory (PUN INTENDED). The biscuits were perfection, the butter was some of the best honey butter EVER, and the bacon (I observed) was tremendous. This little dish was talked about almost every day after for the rest of the weekend.

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Next we tried the lobster dumplings. These had karashi su miso, black vinegar, fennel, and kizami nori… yeah yeah none of us really know what any of that is- but we do know they were a winner!

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Next was the rainbow cauliflower salad. This had ricotta-yogurt, beets, radish, romanesco, and curried tenkasu. It was decent, but in light of everything else at the table, it may have been a bit underwhelming. Although, I will say the mix of the ricotta yogurt and curried tenkasu was a wonderful combination! The spices of the tenkasu and the coolness of the yogurt was the perfect balance.

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Ready for your mouth to really start watering? This is the spaghetti & calamari dish with bolognese, fried calamari, and parm. I tried a small bite of the calamari and the spaghetti- Wowzers Mctrowsers. So yum.

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We also tried the adobo pork shanks. This was accompanied by pickled green papaya relish, li hing mui, puffed rice, and cilantro. I did not try the pork- but everyone seemed to love it. I can attest, however, that the accompanying salad was mangifico.

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The last thing we tried was the torn salmon with charred avocado, cucumber, kumquats, black pepper sauce, and tzatziki. This was terrific! Quite possibly some of the greatest salmon I have ever tasted.

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We came home and watched some of the OJ Simpson documentary on Hulu while our food digested. It’s long, but captivating beginning to end. Anyone seen it?!

Once we had a bit more room, we headed to …. *drumroll*.. CREAM! (They said they wanted to sample the best, so no judging for us being here twice in less than a week 😉 ).

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And just to prove to you all how cool my in-laws are, guess what they ordered?! The formidable Sundae of Champions!!!!

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SO proud ❤

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DJ ordered an ice cream sandwich, so I nibbled a bit on his.

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My phone went ballistic when we got home and wouldn’t turn back on. Especially with this new job starting I tossed and turned all night worrying about my phone.

On Saturday morning, I went for a nice long run to work out the nerves. DJ had to work for a few hours, and Mom L recommended that we could go in and get a new phone. I didn’t want them to have to go to the store with me on their time here, but they were incredibly gracious standing with me as I figured out the new phone situation. It all was for the best because it allowed me to grab some crisp photos for the rest of the weekend!

After working up an appetite figuring out the new phone, we headed to Bill’s Cafe! (This one probably looks super familiar as well). I knew this place would not disappoint. DJ finished up his morning shift and met us just in time to order!

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We started with yummy coffee and Bill’s Famous Mimosas!

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Mom L ordered their Bread Pudding French Toast. This is their famous bread pudding baked with walnuts and raisins, dipped in a rich batter and grilled to perfection, topped with fried banana and a special bread pudding sauce. They have a disclaimer next to it- “Only served at Bill’s”. Mom L raved about how good it was, and when I took a bite, I understood why. Ohhhhhh my lanta. Even if they do serve bread pudding elsewhere, this one, I guarantee, is the best.

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Gordie ordered their Parisienne French toast which was a croissant baked fresh daily in their oven, dipped in egg batter and grilled, sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. (This is what Danielle ordered when I went with her after the hike!). I raved about it in the last post! Gordie concurred that it was rave-worthy and worth the hype.

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DJ ordered their chocolate chip pancakes! Cannot go wrong with a classic!

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I ordered their French Garden Omelette again with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and avocado. I usually try to order different items each time I go to a restaurant, but I couldn’t resist. It was just too delish last time and it was hitting my “crave” buttons. I ordered the dish with egg whites this time and they were just as tasty as the regular eggs from last time. I also tried the potatoes, and although I loved their hash-browns, these potatoes were on a different level!!!

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After our beyond satisfying breakfast we made the gorgeous drive down the 280 into SF. (In California highways are referred to as “The”, which I’m having a hard time adapting, but I’m giving it my darndest!).

Once we found parking (which is always a feat), we headed to the Ferry building. I was showing Mom L the different shops and pointed out the Peet’s where I met KM. Two seconds later guess who I spotted?!

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Her and Sarah! SO crazy! It was a wonderful unexpected treat to see these two beauties again! They were about to travel home for the evening, but I was glad they had such a great time in the city. Naturally, K and I grabbed one more picture together for the road. I cannot wait to read her posts!

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While walking around, we couldn’t believe the weather was actually this perfect. It’s been a record breaking rainy season, so we just kept saying Mom and Gordie brought the good weather with them and would have to move here so it stayed this nice!

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We enjoyed the brilliant sunshine and energy that it brought out to the pier. Everyone seemed to be in a fabulous mood, and the pier was filled with artists, musicians, painters, and street vendors who filled the roads with creativity and scents of delicious wafting food.

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And of course we had to peruze the notable Pier 39.

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DJ’ favorite part of the pier is viewing the sea lions. They are hilarious to watch. Free entertainment right there!

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Ok- are these two not the cutest ever?! Ah, I just love em’.

For the evening, DJ suggested we do a twilight cruise! It’s impossible to pick a favorite part of the weekend- but this cruise was undeniably a glowing highlight!

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Our photogenic little bird friend

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Selfie with the photogenic little bird friend

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The views from this cruise coupled with the stupendous day created an experience nothing short of magical. We passed under the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, AT & T park, and The Bay Bridge!

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I love these pictures below so much 😂 if you can’t tell it was a bit windy!

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Once we watched the sunset, we headed down to the main floor to grab hor dourves and drinks. They had us under the impression that light snacks were being served- but we easily made a scrumptious dinner of their fruit and cheese board, hummus, crackers, sandwiches, spinach pastries, and wraps.

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The view of the city transformed from a glowing reflection of the oranges and reds of the sun into twinkling lights of the skyline. The Bay Bridge lit up and majestically provided a gleaming point of reference as we sailed on the moonlit Pacific water.

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After the cruise and discussing how this would be a night to remember forever, we braved our way through the cold (50s) to Ghiradelli square. You could follow the scent of chocolate (and use your GPS just a little) and find your way!

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After peaking around the plethora of cutesy shops and boutiques, we somehow found ourselves in line for their World Famous Hot Fudge sundae. Imagine that! 😉

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The picture I think speaks for itself. If you are a hot fudge sundae fan, add this to your food bucket list!

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We ubered back to where we parked and all slept like babies that evening.

Sunday morning we went to Church all together. DJ and I were thrilled that we could share our church with them. It’s a huge part of our lives living out here and it was a blast introducing them to all our friends, worship beside them, and discuss the message afterwards. When we would all go to church together in Ohio we would usually get brunch out or at home after and have great conversation over what we all gleaned from the preaching. It felt so good to do that again, only this time on the other side of the country!

This brunch included none other than Los Gatos cafe! Home of the epic, mammoth, insanely delicious cinnamon roll!

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This place has an extensive Benedict’s menu. Mom L and I each ordered one, and the guys ordered crepes!

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Poached eggs FTW!

After another memorable foodie experience we made our way down Palm drive to Stanford University. We showed them around the gorgeous campus, stopped in the bookstore, and then zoomed past the building I’ll be working in a nurse nearby. It made me feel better to see the actual place- it’s less intimidating when you can tangibly see something and it’s not some vague idea in your mind! (Vague ideas and unknowns become monsters very quickly in my mind when they aren’t put in their place!).

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The last time we were at Stanford’s campus like that was with my Aunt and Uncle– made me miss them lots!!

Anyway, as though this day wasn’t fun filled enough, we had one of the greatest adventures to come right around the corner.

Back in October when I was looking up Halloween festivities, GrandView restaurant  on Mt. Hamilton came up as a haunted place. (I don’t actually believe it’s haunted- just all to be festive)!

It ended up being one of our all time favorite dinners and memories. This is a hidden gem that I tell everyone they must experience at least once if they come out here!

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We came right on time to witness a spectacular sunset.

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One of my prayers is to look half as good as my momma-in-law when I’m her age!

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I also played with my camera a ton while being here!

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We were then seated for dinner. We had the most fabulous shrimp cocktail, a refreshing caprese salad, lobster carbonara for Mom L and Gordie, crab stuffed salmon for myself, and a pasta dish for DJ. Us girls were given the “good view” side of the table overlooking the Silicon Valley. The waiter said it was because the guys already had a good view 😉

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We finished off this unbelievably savory meal with a slice of cheesecake to share. I loved the addition of the dark chocolate chips on top! It complemented the sweetness of the cheesecake perfectly.

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We snaked down the long mountain and hit the hay. The next morning they headed back to Ohio ): I’m thankful for these memories created in such a short span of time that will last a lifetime.

Love you Mom and Gordie and so thankful for you!

Monday night DJ and I watched bachelor and gawked at the awkwardness that occurred on after the final rose. Anyone watch?! OH my goodness- poor Rachel.. she handled it like a champ though (the whole meeting the men early situation).

The rest of this week I am gearing up to start my new job Monday!!!  I could use prayers- the nerves are real! I can’t wait to give you all and update on how orientation goes. Thank you always for your love and support.

xo ❤

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Los Angeles- WEHO Part Two

I thought my traveling/exploring was done for the year, and yet I have one of my ALL-TIME favorite ever travel posts to share with you! This reminds me you just never know what adventure lies around the corner. The first part was a joy to write, but I’m especially excited to share part two!!! (You can check out that first part here).

Sunday morning, I woke up and went for another nine-miler. I turned up my worship music and listened to it the entire time I ran. My favorite worship song is “In Christ Alone”. What’s your favorite? We wanted to try out a church in the area like Hillsong or C3 LA, but with the driving/activity we had planned for the day it would have been hard to do it all. Next time for sure!!!

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We had been looking forward all weekend to trying out Jessica Biel’s restaurant Au Fudge. This is designed for couples/parents with kids, but we couldn’t resist. Everything about it screamed “Basic girl’s paradise”.

Basically how it works- you can choose to drop your kids off for the duration of your meal and au pairs watch them in the cutest little daycare center. They have tons of activities year round and if you want to dine with your kiddos, there is a precious list of delicious choices for them too. The menu options  for adults (especially the drinks) are hilariously witty & cute. Go check out that link above to see their adorable list of momma friendly options!

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The food was fabulous as well. And incredibly photogenic!

  • Bacon Breakfast Sandwhich: Cheddar, avocado, rosemary digonaise, fried egg, brioche bun served with breakfast potatoes & melon
  • Chicken and Waffles: Buttermilk Waffles & Crispy fried chicken nuggets, spicy maple syrup
  • Vegan Hash: Potatoes, spinach, avocado, & fennel “sausage”

For drinks: Dani tried their bloody mary, I tried the grapefruit mimosa and coffee, and Tammy and Dani tried their green tea matcha latte!

For dessert: We couldn’t resist the vanilla birthday cake milkshake. Tell me that is not just the most darling dessert you have ever seen! They even gave us a couple pieces of complimentary fudge after which I found to be the sweetest thing ever (PUN TOTALLY INTENDED!).

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After Brunch, Tammy took us to Runyon Canyon Park. This is where a lot of celebs will go hiking. See, this is why it’s great to go with someone who knows the area, because I would have never known this place even existed!!!!

* We didn’t actually spot anyone, but we speculated those covered with scarves, hats, and sunglasses on a cloudy day were probably “someone”.

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It was an AWESOME hike. The views of LA were insane. The clearness of the skyline was apparently a rare sight. Even though we were a bit unlucky with the rain, it meant we were able to see this beautiful overlook! But HINT: go to the bathroom before because there are not many options (meaning none) on the hike. I was doing the potty dance the whole way down the mountain.

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The pups we saw were SO. CUTE. I had serious puppy fever after the hike. I’m pretty sure Tammy was considering kidnapping a french bulldog at one point too 😜hahaha.

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After our hike, we went back to the Air bnb and got ready for the rest of the day. I am a neat freak right before I go to bed (like all dishes must be done, all rooms must be clean and picked up), but throughout the day the rooms in our home look like this- especially the bedroom/closet/and bathroom. DJ says, “Tornado Mack went through” . Dani kindly snagged this picture for her snap story- HA. I swear it was clean 20 minutes before she took this!

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Once we were ready for the day we headed to Melrose Place!!! We saw Fred Segal’s (the original department store), and tons of other infamous shopping locations!

We had to stop in Magnolia Bakery, just because it’s too darn cute. Tammy grabbed an ice coffee while we were in there, and we just snagged a whole bunch of pictures! I hear their cupcakes are divine, and I’d love to try them sometime!

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And of course…. we couldn’t leave West Hollywood without getting pictures by these famous  walls…

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Or stopping in D A S H! (prices were not quite as bad as I had expected!!)

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It was a bit chilly and I was craving a coffee or a pick-me-up by this point in the afternoon. All the coffee shops were out the door so we stumbled across Alfred’s Tea. This is apparently a super famous place, but we just wanted some coffee or tea gosh darnit. It was a long line, but Tammy had stopped in another store and said to take our time getting something to drink. Dani had her first bubble tea and I tried the kamboucha! By the time I got up to the cash register, I was feeling the cold drink more than the hot. It was crowded in there!

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Such a sassy little tea shop!

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For dinner, we had reservations at PUMP (another of Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurants). We didn’t hit Villa Rosa- the third and last, but maybe next time! I can’t describe truly in words how spectacular PUMP was. I swear, it was easily the most stunningly decorated restaurant I have ever been to. Think- garden oasis, chandeliers, fairytale all wrapped up in one place. Plus, the menu wasn’t outrageously expensive. (Yes- expensive, but not like you would expect somewhere like this to cost!). The food was divine.

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AND GUESS WHO WE BUMPED INTO!?!?!? That’s right- Conrad Ricamora (Oliver from How to Get Away With Murder). I think I freaked out more about seeing him than the Bachelor contestants. Ok, it’s a toss up. But he was SO sweet about getting a picture with us. I always hate to be that person, but come on, CONRAD RICAMORA!

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For dinner, they start you off with artisan bread with salted butter and chives with olive pieces in the bread. I’m such a big olive fan, so anything with olives…send it my way! I think I ate half the bread myself (thanks for helping a little, Dani). Tammy- next time, I’m making you try it. 😜

ALSO… SALTED BUTTER! See! **If you didn’t hear my rant in a previous post, basically I think salting your bread and butter is the BEST and only way to eat it, and apparently Farallon and PUMP agree 😉

While waiting for our table, they offered us drinks from the bar, but I didn’t finish mine and had to resort back to good ole’ red wine. This place and the ambiance demanded it!

Tammy and I had the Tiger Prawn and Farro Salad. This included tiger prawns tossed with farro grains, baby arugula, dried fruits, scallions, cucumbers, micro cilantro, and candied pecans in a light lemon citronette. This may be one of my favorite meals I’ve ever had. I am definitely going to try to recreate it at home.

I also ordered a side of the wasabi cauliflower mashed potatoes. Not gonna brag, but I think the ones I make are a bit better 😎

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Dani tried the chicken milanese with lightly breaded chicken breast, pan-fried with fresh lemon, served with Lisa’s homemade potato salad with scallions and turkey bacon and a small arugula salad with pine nuts, tomatoes, and red onion.

I have to say- Lisa’s homemade potato salad may be the best potato salad I have ever had!😋

On Monday morning, I ran about six miles at 6:30 AM then we scrambled to get the air b n’ b clean before getting on the road. We stopped into Urth Caffe one last time to grab some quick on-the-go fuel.

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I tried their green tea matcha muffin  with their green tea match latte (JJ, I know you’re freaking out, girl- yes, it was the muffin was as good as it sounds!). Like I said in my last post, it would be DANGEROUS if this place was nearby. I would probably live here!

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At 9 am we were on the road and heading to Warner Bros. studio!

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Lucky for you, I’m going to take you on the tour with us! We were able to see the back and front set of the studio- and it was MAMMOTH! I had no idea this studio was so huge. You see the staircase at the very back of the alley? That’s where the famous spiderman kiss was filmed!

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Look familiar?? Luke’s Diner!

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How about this one? Miss Patty’s dance studio! 

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Mona’s House from Pretty Little Liars

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THE GILMORE GIRLS’ HOUSE!

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The famous Gazebo from Gilmore Girl’s is below too!

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This is the ladder autographed that Lady Gaga jumped off of from the Super Bowl this year!

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I loved seeing the Dexter chair and the Full House “house”. Although, we have the real painted ladies right here in SF!

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We were able to see where they stored all the bat mobiles!

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Dani and I did the green screen for Harry Potter and were incorporated into a video- it was so much fun and the nerd was just oozing out of us!

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Here is my imitation of Phoebe’s famous run right where she did it!

And our favorite- getting this picture on the Friend’s set ❤

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It was about a three hour tour, and so worth it. I can’t begin to even cover all the epic knowledge you learn about the pure magic of creating a movie/TV show. My mind was blown! Hands-down worth your time!

We were super hungry after but didn’t want to take too long to get lunch. Tammy found this darling cafe called Olive & Thyme, and we ordered food to go! Tammy said it may have been the best tuna sandwich of her life and the avocado toast with poached eggs that I had was absolutely superb. The coffee was not so great though. If you go, get a latte instead of just plain ole’ joe!

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On our way out we spotted Katie Holmes. We walked right by them and I took about a million photos secretly and to my elation (and surprise) a couple turned out!

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We then headed back, leaving behind the marvelous City of Angels, but taking some unforgettable memories home with us.

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We hit some horrible weather on the way home and it reminded me of gripping the steering wheel as I did so many times in Ohio. I was under the impression this didn’t happen in California? We looked on the news the next morning and the route we had taken home was impassable and entirely flooded. We got out of the thick of it just in time! (We also made it home for Bachelor just in time).

Truly I could not have asked for a better first experience of LA! I can’t wait to go back. Thanks for sharing in our adventure with us!!!

xo ❤

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Sizzling eats, the Super Bowl, & Star Struck memories

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

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

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

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

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

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Now let’ s talk food…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally— BREAD on BREAD on BREAD on WINE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are they not the most amazing hosts ever?

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Also this turkey….

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

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Catching Tammy in action!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Blog Birthdays:

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

Jena C. Henry at Jenna Books– 2/6

Michael at F3foranswers 2/7

JL at JLstanding 2/9

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

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

xo ❤

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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 ❤

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! ❤ ❤

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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 ❤

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 ❤

Mack

Fort Worth, TX Recap!

Hey Ya’ll! Long time no chat! I am so behind on these posts, comments, everyyything- so I apologize but I will get caught up very soon 🙂 I have so many good memories to record and share. I am taking us wayyy back in time to December 15th when I arrived in Fort Worth, Texas. My mom and step dad, Pete, live there and my sister, Halston, flew in as well. DJ had to stay in Cali for work! I already recapped San Antonio, which was a weekend trip, so this post is the bookends of that weekend!

Thursday (12/15)

I woke up in the morning sick as a dog. I definitely caught whatever had been going around. DJ took me to the airport, and we realized this would be the longest we would be apart since we got married. Anyway, I comically lugged my three suitcases through the airport, unable to keep them stacked in a way that I could physically move them in unison. I’d go five steps then *flop* the one would topple over, another five steps then *flop*- I continued dropping the luggage every few feet and certainly was someone’s entertainment for the day. I honestly didn’t care, I just wanted to get through security to my darn gate. I handed off my checked luggage and was finally free from the luggage juggling circus act. Once through security, I started craving soup more than I can ever remember in my whole life. The chills were pretty bad. I walked through the airport strip and had about given up on finding soup and instead started hunting down my gate. When I was close to my gate I saw the San Francisco Soup Company and was never so ecstatic to see a soup place in all my years.

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I ordered their summer corn chowder and it hit.the. spot. It took that achy chill out of my bones and made the rest of the wait bearable!

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On the flight I read the latest issue of the American Journal of Nursing, wrote some Christmas cards, and used the tray table as a pillow. What do you guys do on flights?

After I landed, my family and I exchanged hugs and “Ah! I don’t want to get you sick”(s) and “I don’t care!”(s), then hit the road to head to Keller (a suburb of Fort Worth). On the way we stopped by the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX. My sister’s boyfriend, Kevin, was there for one more night and we said he couldn’t leave without seeing this place. It’s quite the spectacle! It’s one large hotel, but they deck it all out for Christmas. You know the saying, “Everything is bigger in Texas”? I’m pretty sure that originated with this hotel. It’s worth a quick walk through if you are ever in the area!

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Cuties!!!! (I was out of commission for pictures; I basically looked like a walking zombie).

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They have an imitation San Antonio Riverwalk on the lower level. It’s even completed with Mexican restaurants all around it. How cool is that!??!

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Once home, I was greeted by my puppy, Jade, that I haven’t seen in so long.

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On Friday (12/16) Kevin left (sad day!), and I had my hair did (insert hand flip emoji) at a Lemongrass Salon by Aveda while my mom and sister shopped. I accidentally missed my appointment that I had scheduled in California (I thought it was 1 but it was 11), so my mom graciously helped me schedule this one. I still was not feeling 100%, so it was a good day to knock this out. Getting your head massaged and roots covered is a sure fire way to make a girl feel better 😉 I swear by Aveda salons for a good blonde!

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Friday night mama Jill whipped up a delicious dinner!!! It was cauliflower Arancini via GreenChef, and we loved it! However, we both agree after using both services that Blue Apron is still the better of the two.

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I liked using the leftover cauliflower bites to dip in hummus. They were even better the next day.

That night we went to the movies. I LOVE the movie theaters with the Cafe and Bar areas. We watched Collateral Beauty. I thought it was just OK, but the rest of my family loved it. Either way it was great family time and sparked good conversation. I won’t give a full synopsis- but if anyone has seen it I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Saturday morning (12/17) We left first thing in the morning for San Antonio!!!!!!!! You can read all about our Saturday morning to Sunday evening here.

Monday (12/18) was a chilllllllll day filled with sleeping in, a workout at the local recreation center with my mama, baking Christmas cookies, and sushi for dinner. A perfect day if there ever was any! The last couple times we have been in Fort Worth have been pretty tourist packed, so we decided to take it easy this round and just relax- a word that isn’t really in my vocab too often.

At breakfast, the little stinker put on her sweet begging face. Sorry, Charlie, I like my toast too doggone much to share.

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Christmas Bakin’! I wish I could take credit for any of this, but Mama Jill was the baking wizard all the way. Her coconut macaroons are the BOMB (they are the white morsels). And there is truly something about homemade rice krispy treats!

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Tons of sushi from Kroger with seaweed salad and asian thai salad was on the agenda for dinner. (I know grocery store sushi may not sound super appealing, but I have never been disappointed!).

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After sushi, we went over some family friends’. I met them last spring when I was in town and had a ball with them. I couldn’t wait to hang out again. Their house is the most festively decorated home I have ever seen. I think the said they have eighteen Christmas trees total? Each one is decorated with a specific ornament theme. For example, they have a Christmas tree with only shoe ornaments, another with only wine bottle ornaments, another with only santa ornaments, etc.; it was an actual winter wonderland.

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She has no idea I snapped this, but I snuck a picture of this classy lady!

Also we had carolers stop by, and they were the most precious two little girls in the world.

Tuesday (12/20)

This was lounge day round two! We watched Netflix, home videos, Hulu, and grazed all day long.

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My family hasn’t let me live this clip down for years. This is Halston and I. I was NOT a nice big sister!!! Sorry, Hal!!! Thanks for not holding this against me. Love u!

Here is a picture of my mama’s homemade guac that I mentioned in the San Antonio post!

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For dinner she made roasted onion, butternut squash, brussel sprouts, and cranberries with a maple glaze. YUM!

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Every single night us three girls hot-tubbed, chatted, and sipped on wine. It was perfection. Pete was so sweet to encourage us to have our girl time.

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The neighbors next-door just had a baby, so we dog-sat a couple times in the evenings for them to lighten their load. This video makes me belly laugh every time I watch it. It is of one of the dogs (the most lovable Pitbull in the world) thoroughly enjoying a tummy rub. Yes- that is a dog making that noise. My mom at the end of the video goes, “Why are you crying, Buster?!” *That’s the dog’s name 😉

Wednesday (12/21)

Halston, my mom, and I woke up and did Insanity in the living room. All ya’ gotta do is move a few couches out of the way and you’ve got a nice gym!!

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Followed by shenanigans.

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Jadey baby didn’t feel up for the workout. Also- what a stinking diva. She literally has her bed on the bed. Spoiled pup, I tell ya what.

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After our big family workout, we went to brunch at Another Broken Egg Cafe per my stepdad’s suggestion. I think I thanked him at least ten times for suggesting this place, because it was one of the BEST brunchy places ever. Ugh, I say that every time, but I do mean it!

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They had such a uniquely delicious selection of food, and their coffee was served in handcrafted stone mugs. Doesn’t get much better than that.

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My mom and Pete said we needed to try the Beignet doughnuts. These are like the best-donuts-you’ve-ever-had and then some. SO. GOOOD. And they are served with a honey marmalade. I donut know how I have gone my whole life without them. And I donut know how I have gone so long without making an awful pun. You’re welcome.

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Us girlies tried the skinny omelette which had herbed egg whites with blanched asparagus, roasted red peppers, green onions, goat cheese and roasted garlic cloves with an english muffin and a fruit dish. They seasoned it with the most palatable herbs!!!! My mom and I placed our bets on what they were, and we actually nailed it! Thyme, rosemary, and parsley. If you’ve never tried that on an omelette, DO IT! It’s extraordinary, or shall I say “Egg-straordinary”! Ok, ok, I’m done now 😉

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Pete chose the lemon ricotta pancakes. He graciously offered us all a bite, and obviously I graciously accepted a big ole’ one. My sister gets mad because she says when I “try” something, I end up eating half of it. But, hey, tomat-oh, tomah-toe. You say “try”, I hear “sample half the plate”. Anyways, these were lemony ricotta-ey pancakey perfection.

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Wednesday night we had the Candlelight celebration at church. It worked out perfectly because this was our “faux” Christmas Eve. Although we couldn’t celebrate actual Christmas day all together, the fact that we could go to this candlelight service definitely made it feel like a true Christmas Eve celebration. It was moving, and I love seeing the sanctuary lit up by candlelight.

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When we came home we had apps while we finished up cooking dinner! The cheese was a mix of vegan and regular. I truly could not tell the difference between which one was vegan and which one was not. Usually good vegan cheeses are hard to come by, but this stuff was a facsimile; it blew my mind! We could not get enough!

Fun tip: If you need a fancy, yet incredibly easy, appetizer- try doing pita crackers + hummus + roasted red pepper + roasted onion + a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

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Although DJ wasn’t able to actually be with us, we still hung his stocking!!!

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It was nice to sit around and enjoy our apps around the gorgeous tree. It’s these moments that define the word “content” for me.

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Dinner started with goat cheese “croutons” atop a salad with pears, pecans, and mixed greens. THIS. This is going to be a tradition.

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Momma made ribs for Pete… yes, that whole thing was for Pete considering none of us eat meat. LOL. The girls had a sesame crusted tuna. I forgot to take a picture because I was a bit ravenous!

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Dessert followed with my mom’s marveeeeelous Christmas cookies and my step dad’s famous pumpkin crunch which I am beyond bummed that I don’t have a picture of. We gobbled that thing up so quick! It’s one of our favorite parts of Christmas. It’s truly something I look forward to year round.

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We ended the night with a dip in the hot-tub per usual.

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On Thursday (11/22) we had our “faux” Christmas Day!!!!! It was a magical morning followed by a breakfast of eggs, toast, and BEER JELLY! I found these on UncommonGoods for Pete. We had fun sampling all of them! Uncommon Goods is an AMAZING site for unique gifts for the family. I find most of my gifts here each year!

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Annnnnd my stocking, as well as Halston’s, was stocked with five gum, NO COW bars (lemon meringue- the best), and Quest bars. We may have a bit of an obsession to say the least…

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After opening gifts and having breakfast, I went for a nice long run. Unfortunately, the sun didn’t want to peak through too much, but it was still enjoyable. I lived in Texas in the Summer of 2015 before traveling to India, so the familiarity feels like home, even down to the running trails.

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In the afternoon I ran a couple errands with Mama Jill

You know you are in Texas when…

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That afternoon we had apps round two!

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For our “Christmas day” dinner, we started with pear salads with goat cheese, toasted almonds, cranberries, and mixed greens. I made my cauliflower mashed potatoes! I promise I will post those at some point! They were a big hit.

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We also had stuffed vegan acorn squash with fresh cranberries!

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My mom also made regular meatballs for Pete

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And we cannot forget my most favorite dish of the season: Sweet potato praline . YUHHHHMMM.

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And what is any holiday meal without green bean casserole? She made it healthier too by substituting the cream of mushroom for light and low sodium. We could not even tell the difference!

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This perfect Christmas dinner was followed by more hot tub & wine!

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Friday (11/23) I woke up early to go to the local recreation center in Keller to get a workout in before getting ready to head to the airport. My sister had a different flight than me (a much earlier one), so she was landing in Ohio as I was taking off. This is how I caught up on reading everyone else’s blogs from the week! People probably think I’m such a crazy ellipticallyng (spelling?) with a laptop, but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do!

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When my mom got back from the airport, I finished packing up and then we decided we had time for one last lunch before heading out. She recommended a favorite of her’s and Pete’s in town, Devivo Bros. Eatery. It is considered rustic comfort food, but has an Italian flare! So essentially all the good things..

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We split the Kale salad with fresh kale, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, crispy tortilla strips and candied almonds tossed in a jalapeño ranch dressing as well as the white bean tomato basil soup.

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It all hit the spot perfectly, and I was so thankful for this small chunk of time we could treasure before my flight.

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Isn’t she darling?!

Time to head back to OH-IO.
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I will recap that soon! Since DJ couldn’t join us on our fort worth adventures this year I figured why not include a few from last year?!? 🙂

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This is from when we visited the Fort Worth Stockyards. Such a fun place if you ever get the chance! Next time I go back to Fort Worth I am going to do a travel post about them.

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And a trip wouldn’t have been complete without absurd amounts of sushi.

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Thanks for hanging in there with me through this crazy long post!

I will do a quick holiday post recap once I am back 🙂 DJ and I have are currently waiting for our 6 am flight and have been up since 3 am! EEEK!

Wishing you a very Happy New Year,

xo ❤

Mack

Family, Friends, and Food: A Recipe for a Perfect Weekend

Wow! I have taken quite the hiatus from blogging the last couple weeks and it simply is because I have been busy making some incredible memories <3. Sometimes when such wonderful events occur I feel like I can’t get them written down fast enough. I’m afraid they will leave me if I don’t record the small details. It’s the small details that seem to sneak out of the memory the quickest, but also the small details that make each memory personal and unique. Hence, I want to make every effort to hang onto them.

My mom came on Friday August 26th. DJ and I picked her up from the San Francisco airport and headed straight into the city! As I mentioned in my last San Francisco post, I spent time with my dear friend, Annie, who lived with us in high school. My mom was an eager beaver to see her. Friday night we had tickets to Eat/Drink SanFran (get ready for picture overload!). It started at 7:30 pm, which is an awkward time for “dinner”, so we decided to lightly graze at the Slanted Door to tide us over. Yes, “lightly” is a subjective term. Naturally while waiting for a table we had to do a photo shoot…

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What is this “Slanted Door” you ask? It is a modern Vietnamese fusion restaurant experience that guarantees to take your taste buds on an adventure like never before. No, they did not ask me to promote them, but while I’m waiting for my nursing license to get approved maybe I could work for their marketing department? Hehe.

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First up on the menu for the evening was Vegetarian Spring Rolls. But, oh, they are not just your typical vegetarian spring rolls (which are fantastic in themselves); these are the BEST. They contain tofu, shiitake, cabbage, mint, and a peanut sauce that will blow your mind. Would you judge me if I just drank it? Right out of the bowl? Would you judge me if I told you I’m not kidding?!

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Next up on the menu was the vegetarian Banh bot loc- aka mung bean tapioca dumplings, scallion oil, and thai chile soy sauce.

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BRB, need to get a napkin for the puddle of drool I have on my laptop after thinking about them…

Next on the list was Crispy Imperial Rolls. These included gulf shrimp, pork shoulder, vermicelli noodles, and roasted peanut. The meat eaters at the table gobbled them up like it was their last supper. You use the lettuce leaves to make a wrap with the crispy rolls and noodles and then dip in the sauce. It took us a moment to figure that one out 😉

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Last, these barbecued willis ranch pork spareribs were the fan-fave. I didn’t try them, but they smelled heavenly and in the time they left the plate I could tell they were darn tasty!

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They even gave us some hot washcloths for the ribs (or was it for the beverage spill? whoopsies!) Now- that’s some service! img_9423

After this “appetizer” (aka first dinner), we decided to walk to the venue and take our time sight seeing the bay. This never gets old for me, even if it was my third weekend in a row there!

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Below is a picture from “Off the Grid”. This was taking place the same night as Eat/Drink SanFran and definitely something I will want to do in the future! It is a gathering of a bunch of food trucks from the area with music and a big carnival feel!

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The building on the right at Fort Mason is where Eat/Drink took place.

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I was so glad DJ decided to take a break from studying to have a night out for some fun. He works so hard every. single. day.

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Walking up to the doors I felt like a giddy child again. I feel like those “giddy” feelings bubble up less and less the older you grow, but when they do sneak up on ya, you know you are doing life right.

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Just a little overview about Eat/Drink SF: It is organized by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and represents the best of the Bay Area’s  cuisine. It goes on for four days at the Fort Mason pavilion (Thursday to Sunday). You pay a flat fee for one of the days (we did Friday) and then have unlimited access to over 36 food vendors and over 70 beer, wine, and spirits makers once in the building. They also have a VIP option as well. I am not sure exactly what that entails, but you do get early access to the building and more exclusive options. Here is the formal description of the whole event:

“Enjoy unlimited pours of wine, beer, and cocktails and tastes from the Bay Area’s top restaurants. Mingle with the personalities that make this a world-class dining destination. Watch cooking demonstrations and learn in classes taught by renown tastemakers”

We did not sit in any classes this time because we were too busy eating, duh. We agreed we would make this an annual thing and next time partake in one of the classes.

When you enter, you receive a glass that you keep with you throughout the entire tasting.

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Every venue has a unique set up that quickly allows the consumer to know what their cuisine is all about! There were corn hole games set up near the Straus Family Creamery Ice Cream and Super Duper Burger stand. It felt like you were at a barbecue, but then two steps over you entered an Italian oasis with Pizza Antica. It was intoxicating (no pun intended).

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The Morning Star pizza was one of my favorite flavors of the night. It was a vegan barbecue pizza and they even handed out recipe cards to make it at home. I will be making it- no doubt!

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The Glenlivet Dram Room was a hard liquor tasting room. None of us were interested in actually trying any of the liquor, but the room itself was really neat!

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Here you could sniff different scents that were used in the production of their products. I loved that!

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They certainly had some unique food to try- and you know I was all about that! For example, I have heard quail eggs are tasty but never have actually had the chance to try one. It was- all together now…- AMAZING!.

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Hehe- got to love the candids.

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The displays were truly enticing. It was exciting to be feet away from such incredible talent as well.

For example, below is Emporio Rulli with Gary Rulli. The dessert I have posted was one of the greatest desserts I have ever tried. The three of us were drowning in all good things sugar. It was a pistachio creme brulee. I am not a huge creme brulee fan, so I probably would have never ordered this on a menu. However, if when I go to Emporio Rulli, this is a MUST.

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The smoked salmon mousse above was one of my favorite things of the evening. It was tediously intricate the way they made them too- Each one was given the utmost attention. I have never seen an appetizer so doted over!

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One of the strangest tries of the night was foie gras ice cream. I know this is probably not vegetarian, but hey, when you are somewhere like this go big or go home. This was from Hudson Valley Foie Gras. We have tried foie gras in the past and weren’t particularly blown away. However, this foie gras ice cream was surprisingly delicious. If you like salty and sweet combos, this little treat had the pair perfected! Unfortunately, I have no picture of this little nibble!

After we walked rolled home, we slept soundly with dreams of all SanFran food. My recommendations based on the evening:

Everything was absolutely fantastic, but those are just some of our favorites.

The next day my mama and I had some homemade parfaits with dried apple chips out on the balcony. We love sitting out there in the fresh cool morning air and enjoying our hot coffee and reading our Bibles.

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We then did the big walk to the store to pick up some necessities for the day. We stopped by a chinese bakery on the way back and saw the most interesting “sweets”. Chinese dessert is not knowing for being super sweet, but they certainly are creative!