Harry Potter World!!! (mostly)

Okay all, hold on tight to the Portkey, as I am transporting us Muggles to Harry Potter world today! (and finishing up the rest of our time in Universal).

We left off in “San Francisco”. A bit past SF you will see King’s Cross– the first hint of our entrance into the fantasy land! There are a few little Harry Potter references in a crossway that leads to other side of Universal. If you directly cross through King’s Cross you will end up in HP land.

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Knight Bus, anyone?!

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I am forever convinced this is the creepiest creation below in all of HP… even above the noseless He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named.

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Before exploring HP land through King’s Cross, we decided to first explore that side of Universal Studios. We entered into Krustyland- a Simpsons Fan’s dream. I have never watched an episode of the Simpsons, but it was still fun!

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For lunch we had Moe’s, which is a big cafeteria providing many options that are odes to Simpson’s food. (sorry to all the innocent bystanders that I captured in my photos- whoops)

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I was still able to sniff out a vegetarian option. I had some hummus and pita with a veggie sandwich that was tasty & filling. I did notice that nearly everywhere we went in Universal Studios and Disney had accommodating options for people who don’t eat meat.

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But most would opt for their delectable burgers & curly fries! This is the “Clogger Burger” below. That name…. hahah.

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The big group of us also all had a try of the Lard Lad Donut!

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It was so yummy! Even better than I expected. Mmm ! I thought it would taste like straight sugar, but it actually had great flavor that came through too.

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Okay, zipping back to King’s Cross — crossing through we entered into Diagon Alley.  Even if you are an expert in Harry Potter I think it’d be impossible to absorb all the details. It’s ah-may-zing.

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First things first! Gotta grab a wand 😉 If you buy an interactive wand, you are given a map that leads you to place in the park where you can use your wand to “cast spells”, marked by a circle symbol on the ground that you step on, with a pattern for how to use your wand to activate the “spell”.

Each wand corresponds with a character from the series. Can you guess whose is whose?

img_4536-2img_4538-2img_4539-2img_4537-2img_4589img_4588img_4590img_4593facetune_14-12-2018-10-35-14Originally we all grabbed our character wands (Amy and I chose Hermione), but then we realized you could trade it in for personalized wand at Olivander’s. Basically they take your birthday and tell you what wand is specific for you. For my January birthday, I received the  “Birch” wand!

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Below is one of the spots you can use your wand I was describing earlier. In this one you can control the eyeballs. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write? haha.

Next, we rode the new Gringott’s ride which was just insanely incredible, easily one of my favorite rides we did the whole day. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Virtual reality + roller coaster= mind blowing experience. Wow oh wow- Did I mention I loved that ride?!

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Time to finally try a Butterbeer!

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The gang with our wands and butterbeers 🙂

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They were SO gooooood! It is like a cream soda, but thicker. it’s very very sweet, and typically I don’t like any drinks too sweet- but gosh, I loved that. It almost had that root beer float type of creaminess. There is actually no alcohol in Butterbeer despite the name, so it is safe for kiddos & trust me- they’ll love it!

Below is a building that you can turn the lights on and off with your interactive wand.

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Time to enter Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes!

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In order to get to the second part of HP world, you have to take it Hogwart’s Express to get to the second part of the park. But first- you have to run through platform 9 3/4, of course. 

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All aboard!! We shuffled into a cabin that perfectly resembled the ones in the movies. There is a screen that has passing images of rolling hills, a simulated invasion of dementors, and finally your arrival to Hogwarts. Too cool.

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We heeeereee! This is the Hogsmeade portion of the park.

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Breathtaking.

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It was really chilly that day, so it added to the real feel of the fake snow on the rooftops.

HoneyDukes was one of the “must-visits” for the day…

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It did not disappoint! I was blown away by everything you could try that was straight from the books. Anyone brave enough to try the Bertie Bott’s Beans?

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I opted for a chocolate frog. I mean you havee to get a chocolate frog, right? Next time I’ll be trying the pumpkin pasty. That is something in the book that always sounds so delicious too.

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It was wonderful milk chocolate! I am not even a fan of plain milk chocolate usually (I prefer dark), but this was lovely & smooth.

Oh, and you get a trading card just like they do in the books. I received Bertie Bott!

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Last, but not least, we saw THE Hogwarts. There is a ride called The Forbidden Journey inside the castle we rode too- it was a blast, but Gringotts still has it beat. Better just do both to be sure 😉 I was just wowed by the attention to detail, the magnitude, and again, the total immersion of the experience.

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Okayy, I’m off to finish up The Order of the Phoenix now! Have a magical weekend, my friends 🙂

Questions for you:

  • What is your favorite Christmas movie?
  • Anything fun happenin’ this weekend in your world?

xo <3

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A Santa Cruz Kinda Weekend

Hey ya’ll. Happy Sunday Funday to ya. I hope you all are safe in this craziness that is happening literally everywhere. I don’t know about you, but I am experiencing such tremendous unrest. I feel the heaviness of everything happening, and it is crushing me. Compounding the heaviness that is impacting our world, country, friends, fellow bloggers, and family, there is the uncertainty, fear, and confusion I am facing in my current circumstances. I will explain more on that later. However, today in Church we had a sermon that made it near impossible for me to keep the tears at bay. Our pastor offered such encouragement and truth to grasp during these times and emphasized trusting God’s sovereignty through it all (when they post it I’ll share the link). It was just what I needed to hear. Additionally, praising Jesus with fellow believers was the most peace I have felt in a couple weeks now.  My job doesn’t allow me the ability to go to Church most Sundays. But when I can it helps me find new perspective, helps reveal truth in spite of human emotion. I have grown pretty apathetic and exhausted as of late. I plan on doing a six month recap soon- September 20th is officially 6 months of being a neurosurgical RN in an IICU. My probation period ends tomorrow, and I’ll find out if they are keeping me on or not. I am just lying it at Jesus’s feet. That’s all I can do. I don’t have the strength or energy to do anything but leave it in His hands at this point in the program, at this point in life. I’ll keep you all posted. I hope this doesn’t sound melodramatic- I’m just whooped.

Anyways, on my way home from Church I had a renewed sense of energy that I needed considering tomorrow is gonna be extra-extra stressful. So for now- I just want to escape and share the most beautiful moments from the past couple weeks with you all, and of course, reminisce over all the yumz that have been devoured in that time. Bon appetite 🤗😋

On August 30th, where I left off on my last update post, I went to dinner with my good friend Tammy for some girl time and super savory eats. We hopped over to Aqui, which is basically just down the road from DJ and I. I have no idea how we haven’t gone here before, because ohhh my lanta, manna from heaven may have actually fell on my plate.🤤

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I ordered their salmon salad with organic greens-crunchy cabbage mix, feta, lemon vinaigrette, herb aioli, cherry tomatoes, garbanzo-jicama-edamame mix and cucumber. Their guac and chips is actually new level too. I mean, come on now, it’s actually glowing in the picture. Now if that doesn’t scream heaven ordained tex-mex, i just don’t know what does.

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After, we popped across the street to a dessert shop called Hechaa. Tammy suggested we try their Mochi! I have never had Mochi, but I hear it’s delicious, and I’m always down for a new foodie adventure. Anyone ever had it?! Sadly, they were sold out. No worries though, we still took pictures with their gorgeous flower wall like the couple of basics we are.

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August 31st I met up with a great family friend at Starbucks, who is also an RN. I talked about all that’s going on, my struggles, my thoughts, etc. She provided some awesome encouragement and advice moving forward. I’m excited to share sort of our tentative plans/thoughts for the future with you all (soonish)!

On September 1st, DJ had the evening off early too! We whipped up some ‘zas with Naan bread and all the fixings. He made a caprese one with tomatoes/mushrooms/sun-dried tomatoes/fresh buffalo mozzarella/garlic/olive oil/sprinkle of parmesan, and I made one with goat cheese/hummus/sun-dried tomato/spinach/kalamata olive/garlic/mushroom/balsamic glaze. His looked prettier haha.

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I worked all Saturday (9/2) and Sunday (9/3) , but luckily DJ finally got a weekend of R & R. He spent some time with family and I was able to join on the fun Monday (9/4) for labor day! We just relaxed and ate great food. The rest of labor day we cleaned the house, did some laundry, and watched some shows on HBO.

I worked Tuesday (9/5) and Wednesday (9/6). Wednesday was especially hard. I lost it during report to the oncoming shift. Luckily, the nurse was so gentle and sweet with me and helped me catch my breath. I had about eight critical lab values over the course of the day, an infiltrated IV, a patient whose wound seriously dehisced, a newly post-operative patient admit (if you’re a nurse you understand the challenge), an isolation room with double insulin checks, and about 100 other things that went wrong that I won’t bore you with. It was rough. Real rough. Quite possibly one of the most difficult days I’ve had yet- and working 12 hour shifts 4/5 days is exhausting beyond belief.

Anywho, when I went out for a run on Thursday (9/7), I saw this little note at the cross walk. I don’t know why it meant so much to me. But it was just a nice thought that someone took the time to place that there and it happened to fall in my path that day.

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And even though autumn is right around the corner, I couldn’t help but stop and admire these beauties!

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It’s the little things that really bring me joy lately.

I’ve been trying to use up all of our food the pantry/fridge before making a big trip. For a few nights I stir fried alll kinds of veggies together, tofu, and hummus. It was super filling and tasty too!

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Friday (9/8) I worked on our research project for the program, cleaned the house a smidge, and did some laundry. But I was pretty antisocial and not super in the mood to do anything after the chaotic days at work.

But finally, the highlight of my weekend (besides Church today) was yesterday (9/9). DJ and I finally, FINALLY, FINALLLY had a full day together! We wanted to get away, and where better to get away to than Santa Cruz for a beach day?! I started the morning early with a short warm up run followed by an insanity session. Shaun T. kicked my booty and I was ready to get some fuel. We threw on our baseball caps, I skipped on doing any makeup, and made an avocado smoothie. (I hope ya’ll don’t take a shot every time I mention this smoothie on this blog, ya’ll would be six sheets to the wind). I also took along a slice of Ezekiel bread and an RX bar for the road.

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When we arrived at Santa Cruz we were greeted by the comforting summer aroma of everything fried and the sound undulating screams from roller-coaster fanatics. We walked around the Boardwalk, took in the views of the crashing water, and claimed a cozy spot on the sandy strip as our own.

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We brought books along and decided to just read and lounge allll afternoon. I’m still making my way through Goblet of Fire. Every night we have been watching Game of Thrones (yes, I know, it’s horrible. I’m not endorsing it). But due to this, I haven’t been reading at night as often, and when I try to I usually conk out. I will make it through though! (I have a deal with myself and DJ that when I make it through all the books we can go to Harry Potter world).

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DJ brought a book too and we read and napped on and off for the afternoon. It was perfect. I was so thankful he suggested this for the day!

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DJ decided after a few hours he was craving a dog on a stick.

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What’s your favorite fare food? I think mine might be garlic fries, but at the time I was seriously craving some seafood!

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We hopped over to the Sock Shop on the wharf, which is my personal favorite boutique. I loveee socks, and I may have found the perfect pair for me….. 

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Of course we had to stop and see the little sea lions (that’s DJ’s favorite part).

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We had worked up a serious appetite by this point, and I, like I said, had a serious seafood hankerin’. We decided to try the famous FireFish Grill. We have tried tons of places on the Wharf (Olita’s, Gilda’s, Stagnaro Bro’s (twice here and here)), but had yet to try this pretty famous one!

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They immediately brought out this bread assortment, so naturally they won my heart.❤️

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Everyone around us was having a bloody mary, and they looked good although I’ve never had one. So I thought, what the heck, let’s try it! So DJ and I gave it a go. It was super yummmm. It had tons of spice and the rim was salted with a mixture that looked like sand (suh cute, right?). We didn’t finish the boogar though- it was huge and like a meal in and of itself, but it definitely complimented the food well!

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Rachel, one of my best friends from Ohio, loves Bloody Mary’s so I was excited to share with her that I actually tried one. She has been blowing up my phone with pictures of homemade bloody mary mixes ever since. Also Anna, I can say I had one in honor of your bday 😉

DJ’s seafood tacos didn’t photograph well. (The crowd boos). But he loved them! I tried the seafood kabob, called the FireFish Grill! This had skewered charbroiled prawns, scallops, salmon, fresh fish, bell pepper and onion. Hint, hint, when a restaurant names a dish after its name, it’s probably a solid option. I think I said “this is amazing” maybe six and a half times through the meal. The half because I’m sure a mouth full of the deliciousness cut me off at some point.

Oh, and I definitely took the leftover scallops to go- (Bach. in Paradise fans knows what I’m referencing).

img_1199After our scrumptious feast, we walked around the pier a bit more, soaked up the last bit of the beach breeze and sun, then headed home.

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^ DJ’s legs got horribly burnt. I am a nut about sunscreen, so I made sure not to let him live it down after he persisted that he didn’t need it before hand.🙆🏼😜

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I’m so thankful for him. I know I say that all the time, but I don’t think know I wouldn’t make it through this year without him.

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We jammed to oldies tunes on the way home, including a few faves You Make My Dreams by Daryl Hall & John Oates, some Uptown Girl (Billy Joel <3), Flash Light by Parliament, and Wake Me up Before You Go-Go. 🎶 If you ever need some feel good in your life, listen to those tunes. Promise you’ll feel better.

Blog Birthdays: 🎂🎉

To sweet Anna, from Actively Anna, Happy belated birthday dear on July 27th! (Soooo belated). I hope it was absolutely wonderful! Thank you for being such an amazing friend here since the beginning. I absolutely love our chats <3 So thankful for you, dear!

Lovely Lisa, from Life of an El Paso Woman, happy birthday tomorrow!!!!! Thank you for your love, encouragement, and conversations always! I hope this birthday is the best yet. This is your year! This last one is put to rest, and I believe this one will bring the best blessings for you. Sending you so much love and birthday hugs!

xo <3

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Sister’s 21st Birthday and Best of the Bay

Woooowww. Long time, no talk! HOW ARE YOU ALL?!! I am totally blog-deprived.

I know I say this repeatedly, but this is truly the most challenging and busiest time of my life. How people do this residency program with kiddos is beyond me. I finally have a day off, and I have ZERO plans but to blog, catch up on my to-do list, and eat Smoked Gouda Triscuits and gruyere cheese (hello heaven). DJ is at work, so additionally I fully intend to spend the whole day in my PJ’s, unless I go to the store for cookies for bachelorette night, but then, and ONLY THEN, will I put a bra on. Catch my drift? Ok- let’s get to it.

Since my last recap (which was about the end of April), all I have done is work, cry, meal prep, cook, cry, run, laundry, and cry…. so yes.. (I do plan on making a post about how all that is progressing soon enough, but for now let’s share ALL the gooooood!).

My sister, Halston, and her boyfriend, Kevin, came in town last week, and they left me with some awesome memories that I am one eager beaver to share!

I started out last Friday (5/19) by having my new obsession for breakfast (avocado smoothies) with homemade breakfast cookies (yeah, those recipes will be posted eventualllllly). I love sitting in my egg basket swing from Target and soaking up the sunrise with my Bible while sipping up my avocado smoothie and breakfast chocolate chip cookies. Does not get better than that, folks! My outdoor area is my “feng shui playground”.

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Since I had that Friday off, I food prepped to have at least a couple options for my sister and her boyfriend and my hubby for the week! I made roasted veggies, eggplant parmesan, tons of shredded chicken, roasted parmesan multicolored potatoes, and vegan joes (my sister is also pescetarian, but loves vegan foods too!).

I also cleaned the heck outta’ the house, which felt gloooorious!

When I picked up Kevin and Halston from the airport, they unpacked a bit, and then I had to show them around Main Street Cupertino, naturally. We had tons of avocajoes for dinner and I had to hit the hay early for work.

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While I worked the whole weekend, Kevin and Halston went to an SJ Giants game with DJ and then Church Sunday too. Even though I couldn’t participate in the weekend festivities, I’m glad they had such a blast!

Sunday night, my fave duo surprised us by also cooking some additional food for the week (we flew through all the food I made!)- Kevin whipped up some scrumptious fettuccini chicken alfredo for him and DJ, and Halston made the most delish tofu lettuce wraps for us. They spoiled us!

Monday I had off, although DJ had to work, but the three of us decided to go to Santa Cruz! This was their first time EVER in California, so I had to give them the authentic beachy town experience.

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First we stopped by a coffee shop that carried the famous Marianne’s Ice Cream to grab a cone for Kevin. DJ and I have had it before and the ice cream is velvety smooth and creamy and dreammmmyyyy.

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And I am still steadily making my way through HP, ya’ll! Just in case you are just popping in for the first time, my dream is to read through all of Harry Potter then go to HP world. Big bucket list dreams right here.

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After soaking up all the sunny rays ….and Halston aggressively avoiding getting any sand actually on her towel (or herself) — (anyone else like that? Hahaha)—….. we decided to go grab a late lunch/early dinner on the pier.

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I personally think Stagnaro Bros. is the best place for half price apps. I went here with Rachel last summer and it did not disappoint one bit.

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Halston ordered their appetizer sampler platter (clam strips, shrimp, etc.), Kevin tried their lobster quesadilla, and I jumped on their smoked salmon bites.

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It was all tremendous. I am truly salivating right now at the thought. Their tarter sauce was delish with the sampler platter, the lobster quesadilla was phenYUMenal, and the salmon bites seriously reminded us of eating hearty meat like smoked ham or steak bites. Whatever sauce they use may contain illegal substances, because they were addictive. SO GOOD.

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Halston was a bit cold on the way back to the car. I think I wear emotions on my face pretty clearly; she is a walking emoji! Ha!

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Whenever there is a crowd gathered by the edge of the pier, you can bet you will find a bunch of little sea lions providing the daily entertainment.

We zoomed back home just in time for Bachelorette to begin!!! I was stoked to have company to view the Bachelorette with. DJ and I used to have massive parties back in Indiana for bach. nights and now it’s usually just the two of us. It felt good to get ALLL the goods out, have multiple people’s input, and the hum of a full living room.

Anyone else watching? Thoughts? I just adore Rachel. This show gets goofier by the season, but I truly hope she finds her happy ending.

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Monday night at midnight Halston and Kevin went to Yardhouse on Santana Row so Halston could get her first legal drink. She got her favorite, a pina colada, and a pizza to wash it down! 😉

I had to work the rest of the week Tuesday through Thursday. Halston would get up early with me before work (yes, at 4:30), have breakfast with me, and drop me off at work so her and Kevin could use the car for the day. I just ubered home after. I treasured those mornings together and this coming week I know I will be feeling a bit sad horribly depressed without her here with me!

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Tuesday was her TWENTY FIRST birthday!!! How is my little sis this old?!

I need to take a moment and just brag on this incredible human. My sister is without debate one of the greatest individuals to grace this planet. She’s my younger sister, yet she is my role model. She doesn’t care what people think of her, yet everyone loves her. She has her priorities straight with a level head, a strong faith and a selfless love for others. She exudes a zest for life that surpasses most and embodies the most gentle spirit. She is also ridiculously fun to hangout with and is always a guarantee for the most wonderful memories with tons of laughs. She pursues adventure whenever there is a free second, but works harder than most people I know. She is the greatest listener, has wisdom beyond her years, and both an emotional and physical strength that allows her to dominate whatever life throws her way. HAPPY 21st again, seeeester. I love you more than words!!!

We started the epic birthday with avocado smoothies and while DJ and I were at work, Kevin and her spent the day exploring SJ (going to Crossfit and Bill’s Cafe- hollllaaaa!) and had a beautiful dinner at the ethereal Grandview restaurant after!

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You can read about our previous Grandview Experiences here and here. HINT:  Their cheesecake is to die for.

This restaurant is like you are sitting in a little part of Heaven. The views are indescribable. It’s all terribly romantic, stunning, and the whole experience is absolutely spectacular. I would not want anything less for Halston on her big 2-1!

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The beautiful birthday princess and her amor had the most wonderful evening. Aren’t they gorg?! I’m so thankful Kevin was able to come on this trip! He treats my sister like an absolute queen and the two are a perfect pair.

On my way home from work I ubered past Coldstone Creamery to pick up a Peanut Butter Playground cake for Hal, her fave. I fell asleep before they came home, but the missing slices in the morning told me they enjoyed it! (Also, I totally forgot to snap a picture; thank you internet for coming in in the clutch).

peanut butter playground.jpgWednesday, Halston and Kevin went into downtown SF to meet up with Kevin’s future roommate. He is attending Dental school in Pennsylvania- Hal and Kevin both went to University of Cincy where they met. Hal has one year left, but is studying abroad in Columbia this fall. After undergrad she plans to go to law school. Got it? (There is a quiz on this post after 😉 ).

They loved exploring the city, and graciously shared their pictures with me! They went to Pier 39 (essential), and then made their way to Japan town to meet the roommate. Hal had some Boba on the way. I honestly didn’t even know Japan town existed… I thought there was only China town. Hal and Kevin said the food was insanely good at this place though. DJ and I will definitely be back-pocketing the name for a date night! She didn’t get any pictures of the food though- I haven’t trained her well enough in Blogger ways, lol.

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Thursday they spent the day resting up at home and when I came back from work, we all went to Kula!!!! DJ and I used to be obsessed when we first moved here, but there is plenty else to explore, hence we haven’t been in a while. If you want to read about the conveyor-belt sushi experience, I have a pretty thorough review here.

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My personal favorite roll is the Kula roll with lemon juice sprinkled over ahi tuna.

When DJ came home from work late that night, Hal made us all pina coladas (cause now she can officially have them!), and we played Cards *mumbles* againsthumanity… I know the game is probs not something I should promote, but goodness gracious it’s too much fun. The game inevitably leaves you with inside jokes and belly laughs.

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Friday morning, Hal and I decided to go to Tony Look trail for a nice run (that heckuvah trail that I always take our guests on- here, here, and here). Usually I just hike it with people, but I convinced Halston to run it with me. Haha – she was a trooper.

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WE SURVIVED! Even though we were annihilated by overgrown weeds and were convinced we were going to be plowed over by an off-roading car at one point (long story). Once again- Halston’s face says it all! BUT— No mountain lions today! Woohoo!

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When we made it back home we scarfed down some grub and got ready to go back into SF for more bday celebrations with all four of us!

Deej took us down Lombard street and Filbert street (The steepest road in SF). You can’t even see over the car into the road below when you are on the very top. It’s trippy and feels more like a rollercoaster than a road!

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We parked near Ghiradelli square and perused around here before heading to the Golden Gate.

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I realized I had never had my second cup of joe for the day and was crashing. Luckily, Le Marais Bakery came to the rescue. It was no Peet’s, but it did the trick!

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Cuties <3 ^

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Coffee <3 ^

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Crew <3 ^

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We then ubered the bridge to the other side to grab some photos with the world renowned bridge (which just celebrated it’s 80th anniversary! Thank you, Kate, I had no idea!). Very enlightening!!!

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After enjoying our time at the Bridge we headed to the Ferry Building to explore and grab some food to tide us over.

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Halston and Kevin were dying to try the empanadas. DJ and I still haven’t tried the little guys, but they said they were tasty!

We also stopped at the SF Fish Company where we grabbed the famous chowder! It was super good- not as good as the one’s I sampled with my mom in Monterey, but dang close!

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We killed time by walking around SF and then stopping to get bandaids for a horrible blister on my foot. #heels. #beautyispain.

Our reservation was at 8:00 for Venticello Restaurant on Nob Hill. We arrived early, but got light drinks at the bar and just relaxed a bit before our table was ready.

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This restaurant is the definition of “quaint”. It is tucked away, easy to miss, but once you step inside the scents of wood oven pizza, baking Italian herbs, and romantic lighting embraces you. The service was excellent and, although a bit chilly by the windows, the warmth from the real burning wood stove was a perfect touch.

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We all agreed that wherever we went for dinner, pre-meal complimentary bread was essential.

We also ordered their margharita pizza for an appetizer. The pizza looked satiating, but no one wanted to order it for their main course, so dubbing it an appetizer worked out well. They also had other amazing options as appetizers- we will be back. The pizza was fantastic, but I and DJ prefer when the ingredients are more visible in a margharita- like the mozzarella is still obviously buffalo slices and the tomatoes are sliced. The flavor was still tremendous- it just tasted more like a basic cheese pizza!

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For my dinner I tried the scallops. Holy Italian cannoli- the flavors were out of this world! It had a pesto sauce along with artichoke heart puree. Still, Farallon’s scallops take home the W, but these were pretty doggone good!

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Taking pictures was a bit hard since the lighting was quite dim, but Halston ordered the gnocci with gorgonzola and mushroom cream sauce, Kevin ordered their spaghetti carbonara with pancetta, english peas, and farm cream sauce, and DJ tried their fettuccini with house-made spicy pork fennel sausage and tomato cream sauce (pictured below). We all loved our entrees and I don’t think there was a bite left on any of our plates!

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But you better believe we left room for dessert. After scavenging YELP to find a place that sounded like the golden ticket, we headed to SIFT which promised milkshakes, macaroons, and ice cream sandwiches. When we arrived, the options were pretty limited. Luckily, across the street was Smitten! We decided to give it a go and it was one COOL experience! It’s all organic and the flavors are uniquely delicious like brown sugar with cinnamon shortbread, dough my goodness sundaes, and almond coconut macaroon to name a few. It took us forever to decide what we wanted because it literally all ridiculously yummy.

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Halston and DJ had the dough my goodness sundae, Kevin had their vanilla with strawberry prosecco sauce, and I had their cold brrrew with cookie dough pieces pretzel pieces, and brown sugar caramel sauce on top. It was tremendous. The coffee flavor was strong, but the sweetness of everything else provided the perfect balance!

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For the evening, we decided to try out a Gatsby themed exclusive nightclub. It’s supposed to take place during the prohibition era, so all of the information is super obscure online and you receive the place the day of the event. I received an e-mail saying “Your appointment to get your watch fixed it scheduled at 11:00 pm at this location”. I was confused for a second and then realized it was all part of the underground, secretive experience. We still had time before 11, so we tried to find somewhere to go dancing. The place we tried out had hardly anyone there yet, so we got stamped and decided to go back later. When we arrived at the Gatsby location, it was a bit….. different than expected. It was a crowd quite a bit older than us, the room was pretty small, and there was no music playing as it said on the website. We didn’t stay long but it was worth the try and we also had the most interesting uber ride of all time- let’s just say SF is like a box of chocolates— you never know what you’re gonna get!

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The rest of the evening the four of us danced and then headed back home. It was overall a super fun, yet bizarre in many ways, night!

On Saturday, Halston and Kevin had a late flight back to Ohio. We had one place left on the list that was essential for them to try before leaving: In n Out. Confession: This was my first time trying it too.

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The boys ordered the burgers and animal style fries & a shake. Us girls nibbled on their fries and tried the shake. It was all good, but I still prefer Swenson’s back in Akron. If you are from Akron, you would understand.

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Halston and I were craving Boba tea as well. We jumped over to Tea Chansii on Main Street to try it out. I had their jasmine green tea with boba and Hal tried their smoothie. We ended the night by finishing up random foods in the fridge- I made Hal my loaded vegan sweet potato, the men quesadillas, and finished up the leftover tofu wraps Hal made earlier in the week (I crave them!).

We took them to the airport in the evening and said our goodbyes. I have had a hard time since they left. I was looking forward to the visit for such a long time, and I can’t believe it’s already over. I will treasure these memories forever.

I also want to take a moment to say thank you to those that have served and serve our country. I know I can fully never understand that sacrifice, but with a somber and thankful heart- thank you. And to the families and friends of those who have lost someone dearly, my thoughts and prayers are with you today.

To my WordPress fam, as always, thank you for being endlessly supportive as I swim upstream through this stage of my life. I send ya’ll all my love.

xo <3

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Week(end) recap & First Day on the Job!

Happy Mondayyyyy!!!!!!!

Maybe your Monday has been like this….

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Or, perhaps, like this…

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Based on the amount of caffeine I’ve needed to support my 2.5 hours of sleep and first day of work (hence the 2.5 hours of sleep), my Monday has been like this…

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I will recap how today went a little bit later. But for now I will give a short little recap of our week/weekend.

Last week I had to finish up last minute things on the checklist to get ready for work. On Wednesday night we met our friends (Danielle, I went on the hike with ,and her husband Matt) for sushi.

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We just love hanging out with them. Except they are forever cooler than us because they have Australian accents!

This might be my new favorite sushi place in the area. I love everything about the ambiance, and the sushi was superb!

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DJ ordered their lobster tempura roll and I may have snuck a few extra bites when he wasn’t looking… because YUM!

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I ordered a bit of a unique dish-but  I cannot wait to order it again! It is called the “Feel Free and Fresh Roll”- this is a cucumber wrapped roll with salmon, yellowtail, white fish, crab and avocado topped with creamy ponzu, apply pear, and tobiko. It was the most refreshing roll I have ever had. It is hearty too- with all the good protein from the fish. The whole thing was just a winner, and a new fave. Don’t be surprised if you see this little guy poppin’ up more around these parts 😉

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Thursday I went on a nice long run outside. I snagged this picture without realizing I was stepping in a beehive. WHOOPS! No worries- no stings, but it was a close call. I probably looked hilarious to the cars passing by as I flailed in a million directions while doing a furious pat-down to make sure no little devils were on me!

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I also went to Santana Row while running around getting last minute things for the job. H & M is a winner for business casual! I also finally found a great hair salon that doesn’t cost an arm & a leg… it only costs a hair!!! LOLOLOL. Ok- come on, that was one of my better ones, eh?!

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Thursday night I made another Blue Apron meal for DJ!! I have had SO many people ask me about Blue Apron, so I reached out to them to see if I could get a discount for my readers! If you go to my About page, I have link for $30 off your order! This service is a life saver- especially on busy days, and you will learn tons about cooking and how to use a vast array of different ingredients in the process!

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This night we made Oaxaca Plantain Tortas with sautéed shallots and red peppers. I didn’t know what to expect, and I wasn’t sure how DJ was going to respond to them, but he gobbled them right up! The combination of ingredients in BA always surprise me, but they always work!

After dinner we went on a nice walk together. Something I miss about our Indiana days were the walks we took after dinner when the weather was nice. Life is getting crazy, DJ isn’t returning home until 7:30/8 every night now (but he loves his job!), and soon I’ll be leaving before he even gets home (Get used to working that microwave, baby!). But it makes us appreciate the time we do have together, and reminds us to stop to smell the flowers 😉

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FRIYAY= ST. PATTYS DAY!

Ya’ll know I get wayyyy too worked up about any holiday. Mom L and Gordie sent us these gorgeous flowers as a thank you for the weekend, but also as a Happy St. Pat’s day. Now if that’s not permission to get into the spirit, I don’t know what is!!!

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ALSO, I am convinced that I have a sprinkle of Irish in me because I have freckles. And Mackenzie is a somewhat Irish name, right? It has an “M” and a “C” soooooo…………… I’m basically a leprechaun.

DJ rolled his eyes about 290359 times at me during the night when I said, “Kiss me, I’m Irish!”

He denies that I have even a smidgeon of Irish in my heritage.

I’m coming for ya Ancestry.com

But for real, who doesn’t get a serious case of FOMO if they aren’t Irish on St. Paddy’s?

Anywho. Ain’t gonna let the DNA keep me away from the ST. PADDYS DAY!

I had to make sure that we had our “Irish pub fix”. DJ and I have never “celebrated” this together before, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to take advantage.

Where better to go than Historic Murphy Avenue in Sunnyvale?

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We never knew this area even existed, but it has a street lined with darling lights, fabulous restaurant options, and interesting, eye-grabbing shops. We will certainly be back here to explore more!

In doing my “Yelp” research, I found that The Oxford is great for your St. P’s fix.

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To really get in the spirit, I decided to get an Oxford Mule (their main drink). I liked the ginger a lot, but I’m not gonna lie- I missed my Friday-date-night glass of red wine!

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Still good though, especially if you like Moscow Mules. Then again, this is the only one I’ve ever tried so I have nothing to compare it to.

This place is a fusion of all types- but I would say it’s retro london with a taste of modern industrial architecture (but maybes that’s just English style?).

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For dinner we were placed at their outfacing island. I loved this because we felt like we had the best of both words, half in and half out of the restaurant.

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It was challenging getting good pictures under the dim lighting, but I gave it my best Irish-girl shot. We started with the Monterey Squid with char-grilled squid, arugula, tomatoes, radish, & parsley relish. Every time a menu has octopus or squid as an app I basically have to order it. Why you say? Because the spanish octopus I had at Marco Prime in Marco Island was the greatest thing on the planet, and I will do anything to have that taste linger on my tongue once more. To have Spanish Octopus grace me with it’s presence……. Yes, I am the Shakespeare of food, how kind of you to notice. Anywho, this did not even come close to that level of flavor. On to the next squid..

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DJ ordered their Lamb Sliders. He devoured these little suckers right quick, so I’ll take it he enjoyed them. Orrrr he was trying to avoid conversation with me. We will go with the former.

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Now- I’m super bummin’ that I didn’t get a great picture of this dish because it was AH-MAY-ZING. Allow me to present chermoula eggplant with roasted eggplant, saffron rice, spiced yogurt, and cherry tomato crush. I don’t know what they put in that yogurt sauce- but good heavens, there are no words. DJ even said he couldn’t believe how good it was. I downloaded a saffron yogurt recipe and plan on trying to re-invent this in the future.

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DJ and I walked around Historic Murphy path after swearing we would be coming back in the near future. It was hopping since it is stacked with pub after pub after pub.
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Saturday, I got a nice long training run in on the treadmill while reading HP (currently on the third book, and I use it as motivation to get everything done during the day so I can read #HPaddict), did the household chores, and waited for DJ to get home from work.

At this point in the weekend I was feeling ancy mcnancy (Not making another Irish joke- I’m done, I promise, maybe). I was ridden with anxiety knowing I was starting up work on Monday. I wasn’t running to God’s truth and scripture much during the week, and naturally the anxiety was consuming me.

But I’m telling ya, God truly will renew our soul and relieve our anxiety, we just have to come to Him (1 Peter 5:7). I flipped open to John 14, the next chapter I was going to read going through the book of John, and literally the first verse said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

And then a few verses later in vs. 26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

He doesn’t give us a peace like the world gives- a peace that’s fleeting, a peace that is contingent upon circumstances, a peace that is dependent upon our emotions. The peace Christ has for us is lasting and sure. It is a peace that we can use as weapon when life isn’t comfortable (and it’s not a lot of the time). We can find joy through this peace in His name, despite anything that comes our way. My anxiety lessened when He worked on my heart and my perspective. His still, beautifully familiar voice (I haven’t made time for in my chaos) spoke to me and stopped the world from spinning off it’s axis-“I’ve got you” He said. He reminded me of His love and His promises which gave my heart utter, perfect, heavenly peace.

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DJ and I went on a walk when he came home. We went to Main Street Cupertino and then idly strolled other side streets. I savored each step, because I don’t know how this next chapter will look for us moving forward.

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DJ and I had a late snacky-type dinner of cheese and crackers (We have ate SOOO many cheese and crackers this week, it’s comical)…..but we still had a bit of room for more food around 8 pm. We decided to go to Rootstock, a place we had been wanting to go together for a while.

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They have an awesome bruschetta menu. We split the bruschetta (smoked salmon FTW), and I finally had my glass of red wine that I was sad I veered away from the day before.

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Sunday we went to church and then I finished up last minute errands. I made sure all my documents were good to go, and I even got a big girl purse to store everything from Target!

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For dinner we had salmon, edamame, and saffron rice leftover from The Oxford (There was tons).

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And today was the first day on the job!!!! I am wearing my Ann Taylor thrifted shirt that I bought a couple months ago if it looks familiar 😉

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GUYS- I LOVE THIS JOB! I love love love love love love love it. I am fatigued beyond words, but I love my colleagues (instant friends right there), I love my hospital, I love their mission, I love that I am only a couple weeks away from meeting my first patients as a real RN, and I am absolutely elated. The first day could not have gone better. Even on ZERO sleep, it was perfect.

I woke up (or more correctly, rolled out of bed) at 5:00 am- chugged a cup of coffee, a protein bar, & left the house by 6. The whole day the environment radiated non-pompous professionalism, compassion, joy, and genuine care for us as residents and for the patients of the hospital. Although it was mostly just logistical stuff, I truly think I gathered a great feel for the atmosphere, the expectations, and the type of program I am in. Lemme tell ya, I can’t wait to go back tomorrow. My fears have certainly been mitigated, and all I feel in this exhausted moment is blessed. I can’t wait to get on my floor so soon!

The rest of this week is orientation- same old, getting up at 5 getting home at 7 ish and then next week I have a similar schedule until I start 12 hour day shifts the first week of April. After that I transition into nights. I am actually excited about nights because I can’t sleep when I know I have to wake up early- I get all nutty about missing my alarm and stay awake like a raccoon. So rather than not sleeping nights & days, I just won’t be sleeping nights! As though this time difference isn’t enough already for my East coast folks, now I’m gonna go all nocturnal on ya’ll.

How is everyone doing?! Anyone out there legitimately Irish? Ya’ lucky ducks

Blog Birthdays!

Lathi at CookwithSmile on Thursday March 23rd

Myra at The Cooking Spoon on Monday March 26th

Happy Birthday to both of you! I am thankful for you both as blog friends and hope your birthday is absolutely perfect. You deserve to be spoiled and know that you are SO loved!

xo <3

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Friday Favorites #3/ Recap!

Happy Fri-yay ya’ll!!

I’m sort of combining Friday Faves and our recap into one this week!

Okay- so basically since I returned from LA  I have been sick. Not normal sick- like the wind knocked out of my sails sick. (No worries- recovering slowly). I had a viral infection and was out for the count Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. Thursday I woke up in the middle of the night, and when I stood up to go to the bathroom, I suddenly had the most excruciating ear pain of my life. I told DJ I have never been through childbirth, but I would bet it was comparable. Turns out my eardrum was on it’s way to being ruptured and was tearing on the edges (Sorry, TMI?). I’m a nurse, guys, I don’t know the “normal” bounds of conversation sometimes! …The things I and my nursing friends would talk about at dinner…. Oy vey! Anyway after 1 ER, 1 Urgent Care, and 3 different pharmacies I was finally set up with the meds needed to combat the bad boy. I still don’t have my hearing back in the infected ear, but I just finished my last day of antibiotic drops, so it should be back once the drops start to drain. Fingers crossed!

But this leads me to my first Fri-yay fave (these aren’t in order of importance, more just chronological!):

  1. Puns. Because ya’ll know I love puns, and when you are sick you can make ALL the puns and no one calls you out on it. Exhibit A:

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2. Sushi. All the sushi. & Grubhub. When I’m sick (well anything but GI sick), I crave sushi. Wait…. I always crave sushi. But I especially crave it when I’m sick. Grubhub came in the clutch last week with the magic sushi delivered to our door. Sushi, sushi, sushiiiiiii. (Still not over it). There were seriously a couple days where I could barely get off the couch, so grubhub with the sushi saved my life! My go-to is a rainbow roll, spicy tuna, or a eel roll of some type! What’s your favorite sushi? Wasabi? Ginger? I douse my soy with the wasabi and always follow a bite with some ginger!

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We also had a delicious dinner at Dj’s family’s house on Wednesday! Love that family time.

3. DJ’s Baptism!!! DJ was baptized Sunday! It was such a special event. I was not about to miss it for the world. I drug myself off the couch to make it in between services and was able to see my love make a public declaration of his faith. I felt so honored to know him during this HUGE event in his life. He is truly one of my role models, and I couldn’t be more proud of my hubs <3 His grandma was able to make it too since she was in town all the way from Ohio which was a blessing!!!

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4. Dreyer’s Limited Edition Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough!!!! AHHHHH! This stuff is the bombbbb. I have an ice cream cone almost every night (not exaggerating). I’m a big believer of at least one sweet treat a day. I’ve been on a dreyer’s light mint chocolate chip ice cream kick (with cashews mixed in), but man, this stuff is my new crave. When I showed DJ he laughed because he said it was all my favorite things in one ice cream.

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5. John Freida Full Repair. I don’t know what it is about this stuff, but it’s pure magic. All the John Freida products are my ride or die when I have blonde highlights. In the winter and change in seasons my hair gets some severe breakage. This stuff helps tremendously and keeps the brightness of the blonde without any brassiness. I can’t recommend this enough!

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6. Another BIG UPDATE!!!! I finally have permission to announce that DJ has a new employer! He finished up his internship with the church and is now employed by the SJ Giants! Wooohoooo! I know he will do a tremendous job and I am incredibly proud of him for pursuing his dreams. Plus I got a cute baseball cap to wear out of it 😉

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7. Reading. YES!!! I finally have time to go through the HP series. For like, the first time in my whole life. I know I’m ten years late to that game (I’m also reading Cutting for Stone which is incredible). But as many of you know, one bucket list dream is to read the series then go to Harry Potter World. I should be embarrassed to admit this, but I’m not? One of my favorite nights this week was when DJ and I just read our individual books, DJ reading The Power of Habit (which he says is super great), and me reading HP while sipping on red wine in the evening. Perfection.

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8. Lysol Multi-purpose cleaner. It’s laboriously difficult to find an all purpose cleaner that is powerful but not super strong on the chemicals. This stuff actually smells terrific, and it works incredibly well.

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9. Protes chips. Ahhh, I could make a post alone about how much I love these chips. I believe protein packed snacks are the best types of snacks! Protes have 120 calories per 1 oz, 15 g of protein, 7g of carbs, and 1g sugar. I say that’s a pretty well macro balanced chip to munch on!!! I’ve been enjoying these with hummus everyday. (If you have had Quest chips- these blow them out of the water. I like Quest, but these are in a different league).

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10. Bitmojis. JJ inspired me to make a bitmoji, and I am obsessed. (You may have figured that out if you follow me on snapchat). Do you all have a bitmoji?! I don’t know why it took me so long to pull the trigger on making one! Too fun!

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Blog Birthdays: Happy Birthday to you all! These are some amazing ladies, and you all should go check out their blogs now and shower them with birthday wishes (or belated wishes- my baddd).

Chiara @ ChiarasCorner on February 28th (Sorry this is so late, dear!)

Nikki @ Flyingthroughwater on March 2

H.M. Davis @ Letsruntherace in the month of March

Have such a beautiful weekend everyone!

xo,

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Majestic Monterey, CA!

This past week has been a hodge-podge of different events! We spent most of the weekend keeping it low-key. We had a few things on the agenda to knock out to get ready for law school and more house stuff. I am so excited for the house to get finished up so I can share some pictures with you all 🙂

One of the weekend nights we went to Lyfe Kitchen in Downtown Cupertino. We love this eatery. It has all organic, fresh ingredients and it’s great for vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters alike. They even have fresh herbs growing right in the lobby.

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Main Street Cupertino is a happenin’ place. There are so many new places going up all the time. I can’t wait for Oren’s Hummus Shop to open!

I had been feeling lethargic for a couple days over the weekend. I think the move is finally catching up with me! The adrenaline rush has been helping with the continual discovering, running around, and exploring, but my body wanted a down-day. After having a nice, relaxing weekend, I had an awesome insanity workout with Shaun T. Anyone else do insanity out there? I love it! I have been doing it for six years now.I went through the full schedule twice, but now I just do my favorites about two or three times a week in between running or elliptical days. I can tell when my body has running fatigue, and that’s when I wake it up with an insanity interval!

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Procrastinating with Harry Potter Snapchat filter

One of the nights we felt so lazy we didn’t even want to order takeout. I was determined to find something in our cupboard to whip up. Welp, ya’ll, I’m pretty proud of this one (this was made with all ingredients that traveled all the way from Indiana with us).

Thai Coconut Tofu Bombay soup: Made with extra firm tofu, Amy’s Thai Coconut Soup, and bombay spice chickpeas. I also added a little red curry powder, cayenne, and chili powder for some extra spice and dazzle! DJ LOVED it. I took a picture of his starkly white empty bowl below once he gobbled it all up;).

We haven’t done a ton of grocery shopping since we have been so on-the-go, but we did take a nice walk to our favorite grocery store, Sprouts, to get some essentials. It’s about a mile and a half away, but with this weather, why not walk to the store! We forgot our bags, once again, and had to to the walk of shame with our brown purchased ones.

IMG_7643Something I absolutely cannot keep to myself is this rug that came in the mail. *INSERT HEART-EYES EMOJI*. Most of our apartment is neutral tones, but I couldn’t help add a little pizzazz on our balcony. People that know me know I have always been fascinated with India and Indian culture. This pattern just drew me in and reminded me of the beautiful, bright patterns and colors I witnessed in Chennai and Madurai. Oh, how I miss it. The good news is there is a boundless amount of authentic Indian cuisine spots to choose from within a three mile radius of our apartment. There is also an Indian grocery store. I cannot wait to try cooking Indian food with all the authentic ingredients. I’ll let you all know how that goes! IMG_7717

Now comes the highlight of our week. Our anniversary is August 8th, but that is right around the date DJ begins orientation for law school. In order to avoid weekend traffic we decided to celebrate our anniversary yesterday (Wednesday).

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He knows me well!

We went to Monterey, California for dinner and to stay the night in the most darling little Inn. It is about an hour and a half drive, but we were stuck in some serious traffic making it about a two hour drive. Let me tell ya, I was starvin’ marvin’. THE HANGER WAS REAL. Here is the progression of my snapchat photos to prove it. Gotta’ love the crazy filters.

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The downtown area of Monterey was a typical tourist trap; the type of place I always have sensory-overload-excitement attacks. I loved soaking in the unique shops and window shopping as we drove through the pier.

IMG_7786All we wanted was some phenomenal seafood for our anniversary dinner. What better place to go than this?! DJ booked us a reservation at the Chart House restaurant which overlooks the whimsical bay. We had a blast watching little otters play while we ate. I had a good view across the table from me as well 😉

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For an appetizer we tried the Ssamjang Shrimp (not sure how to pronounce the double “s” there- I just used the point method for that one). This included grilled shrimp with cajun spices, asian and indian dipping sauces, herb-marinated cucumber, red onion and heirloom tomato salad. The diverse flavors made this appetizer come to life. We savored every.single.nibble.

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For dinner we both decided to try Swordfish. We have never had it, but man, was it tasty. DJ had simply grilled with avocado, jalapeño, tomato, cilantro, and lime. I ordered the citrus ginger spiced swordfish with passion fruit sauce, hearts of palm salad, and a tropical fruit salsa. Swordfish resembles chicken pretty closely! It is a thick fish compared to most, and absolutely fantastic.

What is that amazing creation in the middle you ask? Creamed spinach, of course! Ya’ll know our obsession. If a place has it, we are guaranteed to try it. This made it on our “favorites list”. My all-time favorite still to-date is Ben and Jack’s creamed spinach in New York. I also weirdly put the spinach on my rolls to eat it. It was made to go on bread, trust me. I make sure we have plenty of the carby morsels before dinner arrives, or ask for another basket!IMG_7787IMG_7794

After the meal was over, we decided to forgo dessert (although they did look pretty dang good). The ONLY reason we passed it up was because we decided splitting some Ben and Jerry’s half baked froyo in our room sounded too good to pass up. The waitress still brought out a Mississippi mudpie for our anniversary. It was too sweet! The service and foot at Chart house is phenomenal. I highly recommend it to anyone.

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This was jus’ something else. I have never tried Mississippi mudpie before, but it had a coffee flavor to it that I couldn’t resist. But don’t worry we still got our Ben and Jerry’s Froyo!

The views from the Tickle Pink Inn, where we stayed the night, were nothing short of magical. When we arrived in Monterey, there was a dark, somber gray over the water. It was so different than the last four weeks of sunshine we have been experiencing, but a pleasant change. I love gray skies. I think there is something enchanting about the green of foliage surrounded by the deep, billowy clouds. The views around us were simply majestic. I felt as though I was in a storybook.

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The inn greeted us with a lovely bottle of Champagne and a box of chocolates. It’s like they knew I was coming or something 😉 There were also two spoons placed in clear view near our complimentary coffee station; serendipitous considering we needed two spoons for our froyo??! I think so!

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This Inn was the definition of quaint. It was the most perfect place to celebrate an anniversary. (Great choice, Deej!) In the morning we had breakfast while overlooking the somber, peaceful waters.

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Greek yogurt on whole wheat toast with granola and blueberries and a fantastic view

The next week brings DJ’s orientation for law school, me finally doing a full grocery trip and getting back to cooking and studying for the NCLEX.

Wishing you lots of magical moments,

xo <3

Mack