SURPRISE: San Antonio, TX!

HOLAAAAA!!!!! To say I’m ecstatic to share this post would be an understatement. I arrived in Texas late Thursday night, so I will share the very beginning of those festivities in my next update post. BUT for now- guess what we have?!?!?…. A TRAVEL post!!! And the best part was how unexpected this one was!

On the Thursday that I arrived, my mom handed my sister and I each envelopes with the CUTEST notes inside….

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My sister is fluent in Spanish, has lived in Dominican Republic and Honduras for brief periods of time, and has been dying to use her Spanish lately, so she was beyond excited about this “hispanic adventure”. 🙂

My mom also knows how much I love blogging about our travels, and so she thought it would be a fun place to go to take lots of pictures, experience authentic culture and cuisine, and make some amazing family memories.

DJ had to stay in Cali for work, and my stepdad (Pete) insisted that we make this a girl’s trip… hence, we had the most epic girl’s trip to San Antonio for a literal 36 hours. We left at 7:30 am Saturday and returned 7:30 pm Sunday, on the nose.

Also fun fact: the last time I was in San Antonio was with my mom and dad when I was 23 months old. Now here I am, almost 23, going back to San Antonio on the exact same weekend I did all those years ago <3

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As soon as we arrived, we took our bags up to our hotel room and hit the gym for a 30 min. run to get our energy levels up after the 4.5 hours of driving. It was exactly what we needed. The sun was just beginning to peak out too when we stepped outside, so it was perfect timing.

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We walked by the river walk, but didn’t yet explore because we had other things on our minds……. FOOD.

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My mom insisted that we eat at a restaurant in the Historic Market Square. This place is just one giant festival. The colors and decorations are multitudinous and vibrant, a nice change from the neutral tones of the Bay Area. Patrons and restaurant employees line the bricked walkway in los charros and las china poblanas (traditional hispanic garb). The atmosphere was contagiously upbeat, and the smells of food lingered through the air, enticing each passerby to consider stopping in to sample their own claim to fame.

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Mi Tierra is where my mom insisted we indulge. She never leads astray when it comes to good comida, so Halston (my sister) and I happily obliged.

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We put our names in and were told there would be about a 45 minute wait. Ya’ll think I can get hangry? You haven’t met mi hermana. She can be a wildebeast when she needs food. Sorry, Hal, it’s the truth. So 45 minutes just sounded a tad too long for us to twiddle our thumbs. Rather, we decided to go to the bar and order some drinks and apps to tide us over. Luckily we snatched the last few seats next to some locals wearing Mexican palm cowboy hats.

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Frozen margaritas for me and mother bear for starters

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I’m not the biggest fan of them, but when in Rome (Aka when in San Antonio). This one was delicious and accompanied the food super well. My favorite is the salt around the rim and I do prefer them frozen better, I must say.

& Virgin pina colada for baby sister bear. 

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We decided to split their special shrimp cocktail which uses jumbo shrimp, cocktail sauce, avocado, cilantro, and a bit of something magical to create the perfect combination. I wish so badly you could have tried this, Deej, because it was RIGHT up your alley!!!!

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And naturally- we had to taste test the salsa, avocado, and chips. My mom makes some out-of-this-world homemade guac, so that’s always the degree of comparison when we try other places’ recipes. The smoky flavored salsa was fantastic, chips were great, and the guac… on.point. No worries, Momma Jill’s still takes the lead.

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We didn’t leave a morsel of food behind… and then our buzzer paged notifying us that we had a table available. Oh shoot, we were gonna eat lunch weren’t we?! We decided we were pretty darn full and would just munch on the boardwalk when we grew hungry again.

We hopped into this bathroom before heading out and I had to take a picture. It was just darlin’!

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TIME TO EXPLORE!!!!

We finished exploring the Historic Market Square and then went to the indoor Historic Market place right next to it.

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Santa was just hangin’ around.

We stopped and watched the performances going on here for a few minutes, walked through the shops, and admired the handmade trinkets that littered the walls.

Now it was time to make our way to the River Walk!!!!

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The River Walk was absolutely like nothing I have ever experienced. It takes you to another place, and you really don’t even feel like you are in the United States anymore.

With the authentic Mexican eateries every few feet, one may assume they are in Mexico. When passing the Italian Cafe’s, one may have assumed they landed in a Venetian oasis.

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After exploring the River Walk we went to the Alamo. This holds a special place in my family’s heart. We have an Uncle who voluntarily came down from Kentucky and was killed in the battle. We found his name on the wall, took a picture, and discussed how sobering this moment was. All these years later, here are his great-great-great nieces were still coming to this place and discussing his memory because of his service.

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After exploring The Alamo, we hit the road and went to the Shops at the Rivercenter.

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I know where some of my blogging ladies would be spending their time 😉

The mall wasn’t insanely huge or anything, but it was awesome because you had a spectacular view of the river walk the entire time you shopped! We also picked up some Timberlands for my sister while we were there from Journeys!

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We did a bit more exploring around the awe-inspiring architecture and Cathedrals.

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———————-

TIME FOR A BREATHER.

We went back to the hotel and spent about 15 minutes resting our feet and recouping our energy. My mom kept saying, “Ya’ll better not fall asleep! I mean it!”.

Ok- we are good to go.

LET’S HIT IT!

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We headed back out as it started getting dark and decided to do the Riverboat Tour, because it’s like a requirement in San Antonio, honestly.We waited for a bit over an hour before we finally were able to get on the boat, but it was worth every second. The way the lights lined the gargantuan trees that loomed over the water, the jovially boisterous noise from all angles as people settled in for dinners and drinks, the music reverberating off the ancient brick, and memories being created for lifetimes all around us made the wait pleasantly bearable.

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The tour itself was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The air had a gentle breeze that was soft enough to just about put me  to sleep (coupled with the fact that we probably walked about six miles in a day). The coaxing of the boat down the water and the smooth rocking enhanced the experience of seeing the River Walk in an entirely new way. I loved the history that the guide provided about gems of San Antonio. Buildings we would pass by without a single glance now demanded a thought in space and time.

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We were able to get up close and personal to a monologue of Ebenezer Scrooge. This moment took me back to feeling like I was five years old again. The magic of Christmas was thick in the air.

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It cooled down incredibly quick, so I threw on this cardigan that I have been anxious to use for a night just like this!

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I know that you are all wondering- what about dinner?!?! I was wondering the same thing too by the time I got off that river boat! Most of the places on the River Walk are chains, and the ones that aren’t have a tremendous wait. We decided to try Yard House. This is one of my sister’s favorites. I have never been, but I will certainly be going back. The ONLY negative is they don’t serve bread, and my sister and I live for the bread at the beginning of meals.

We all basically have the same taste in food between my mom, sister, and I. We ordered a few things and then just shared them. We had the red quinoa salad bowl which included kale, parsley, brussels sprouts, roasted beets, cauliflower, pomegranate, feta, baby tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and blood orange olive oil vinaigrette. Oh my lanta. I could eat this every day for the rest of my life I’m pretty sure.

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Next we shared the Mediterranean Salmon which was za’atar crusted with spicy tahini sauce and red quinoa with cauliflower, kale, golden raisins, and pistachios. It was YUM. I have never known what to use za’atar for (I have a bunch in my cabinet), so I am so pumped to start using it to crust my salmon!!!

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Last was the INSANELY delicious BBQ “Chicken” Pizza. It included Daiya (vegan) mozzarella, cilantro, red onion, and BBQ sauce. **Usually it just comes with normal mozzarella, but we asked for the substitute. This reminded me of the pizza samples we had from Morning Star at EAT/DRINK SF in August!!! Just fantastic.

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Next, we had to face the cold. The temperature had plummeted from the time we went in for dinner to when we left. Good thing giant blankets are back in style. LOLZ.

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In the morning on Sunday, we worked out for an hour, and then hit the River Walk for brunch.

But before we actually ate, we had to commemorate little sister’s first steps in her Timberlands 😉

When Halston read this ^^^ she said “Kenz, you make it sound like I’m a two year old! Take that off your blog!” Hahah. Tough luck chuck. I like it so it’s stayin’.

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Isn’t she the cutest in all the land?

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In other news, I hit a new level of basic. Didn’t think that was possible did ya?

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And on that note…Off to brunch!!

We decided to try this amazing place called Ostra. Momma Jill went in the past with Pete and said it was the bomb dot diggity. Just not in those words. We basically skipped in there we were so hungry and excited to eat their food.

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My sister ordered a hot chocolate while my mom and I ordered mimosas and coffee. Why coffee too? Because coffee never needs a reason, but also it was PEETS!!!!! Yes they serve Peets!!!!!!!

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We decided to do the breakfast buffet. They had about four tables of delicacies to choose from and an omelette bar. It hit the spot! We tried their special Chilaquiles, jams, fruit, toast (they had Fage to put on my toast, so I was pumped), granola, etc. etc. For meat eaters, they were not lacking in options- they had a plethora of delicious and unique options like blueberry sausage!

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We ate our fill (and then some) then headed out to the Natural Bridge Caverns. My sister and I have never been to Caverns before, so we were in for a real treat.

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Everything felt prehistoric and although we were freezing our tooshes off outside, the caverns themselves were toasty warm. Also, it’s a third degree felony to touch the cavern objects, so don’t do that.

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The pictures below cannot do justice to just how mammoth these caverns were. They were breath taking. Despite how my sister and I stood with our mouths agape the entire time, my mom swore that these didn’t even compare to the Luray Caverns in Virginia. Anyone ever been?

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Just a couple of cave-dwellers.

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We headed home after thirty-six hours that we will each forever treasure <3

Thank you again, Mom!!!!

See ya’ll on the next post on my time here in Fort Worth!!! 🙂

xo <3

Mack

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Part 2 of the Best Week!

Oh my lanta, am I a slacker or what? I recently started studying again for my nursing boards because I received word that I should receive approval in the next couple weeks- WOOHOO! GUYS! This is such a big deal after waiting over 20 weeks. But in the wake of that, all I have done the last week and a half is study. Is it really strange that I actually enjoy it? I have such a fascination with anatomy, physiology, and medicine; I just want to understand everything. At the same time there are overwhelming amounts I could study, and I get caught up on such small fastidious details- definitely not the most practical way to study for a comprehensive exam. Anyway, basically anything I post from now until I take the exam will be- “Hello, DJ and I studied, and here is what we had for dinner.”

Back to this exciting post though- I have to finish up the week Rach was here. I told myself that I could write it once I finished my Endocrine review. If you have any questions about Diabetes, Cushing’s, Addison’s, or or Pheochromocytoma I am your girl! JUST KIDDING. I will probably tell you to go to the doctor. That’s what I say to 50% of my friends that come to me with health issues. The other 50% I tell to take a Tylenol. If you want to read the first part of the week I have it all in my last post! I believe we left off on ….

Thursday- September 1st

Rach and I called around to different wineries in the area because we wanted to visit an actual winery- a place with the sprawling grapes, barrels, and all that jazz. We found the PERFECT place. It is called Mountain Winery and the views- the GORGEOUS VIEWS!- were like nothing I have ever seen. Even our Lyft driver was soaking them in on our way up the mountain. The winery was located at the very top. We walked onto a quaint patio overlooking the magical mountain with everyone singing along to the songs playing on the speakers. We could tell this was the place to be. We sat in the sun and soaked in the beauty as we sipped on different blends and pretended like we knew anything about wine. Swirl, sip, and say “dry”, “would pair well with…”, or “notes” and you are good to go.

Have you guys heard of Lyft? It is such a snazzy little alternative to the famous Uber. We actually prefer it because it pays it’s drivers more and so far we feel like they are quicker to the pickup.

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The winery has a venue for concerts and performances. I told DJ we would have to come here for a concert some weekend. Wine not?!

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Anywho, after visiting this absolutely amazing location, we decided to walk along Stevens Creek Boulevard in Cupertino. There are so many buzzing, happening places along the way and we stopped at a few restaurants for nibbles. I had to take Rach to the local Counter. We also stopped at Elephant Bar. This is another chain, but it’s a must-try location! It has one of the most diverse menus I have ever seen representing foods from all over the world. If one of you are craving Chinese and the other a juicy burger, this is the place to go. After those appetizers we made homemade healthy pizzas and watched Gabrielle Iglesias on the porch- Round 2! I have a recipe for the flatout pizzas I will post soon 🙂

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Friday- September 2nd

We tried to be super well-rounded and fit in something historical on this vacay. We heard of this place on Santana Row that has a “haunted”, historical home called the Winchester Mystery House. This woman, named Sarah Winchester, learned from a psychic that in order to be reunited with her loved ones in the afterlife she would have to continue building onto her home indefinitely. It could never be considered “finished”. She took these words to heart and built a home that is littered with doors that lead to nowhere, bizzare rooms that only have one-way doors you cannot return through, encrypted quotes in stained glass, and fascinating backstories. We did the House and Grand Estate tour. I would recommend just the house, it is the most fascinating part. However you do get the chance to see the ghost that supposedly haunts the basement on the Estate tour in the basement. But ehh, no such luck for us 😉

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** Shout out to Rach for sharing some of her lovely pics!

I had been talking about Santana Row all week and we had agreed that Friday night would be the time to do it! DJ was at a family barbecue that I hated to miss, but they were understanding of the tourist packed week with Rachel here.

I love Santana Row, but it can be very pricey. I have held off trying so many places for a special occasion, and I think having a best friend in town qualifies 😉 !

First stop was El Jardin. They have the best gaucamole I have had in my entire life. I need to stop with the emphatic statements, but truly it was the best. I don’t know what it was, but it was the most fresh, vibrantly flavored guac.

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After our guac and chips, we weren’t starving, but also still could nibble. This place has caught my eye since we moved here. It is called Vintage Wine Bar located in the center of the row. It has the word vintage in it, so naturally I was pre-obsessed.

Pre-obsessed definition: Obessed prior to actually trying something or prior to having an actual valid reason to support obsession.

Example: I am preobsessed with eating french bread in France and my future three-legged dog named Beans

We decided to give it a go. This time we did the full experience. * Say in Italian Accent* We got the olives, the roasted red peppers, and allll the good cheeses and crackers. I think it was the best wine of the week (even better than the Mountain Winery- hard to believe, right?!) and it paired so well with the cheese and olives. Rachel doesn’t like olives (more for me, mwahaha), but she did feel the need to be a child and make eyes out of them. Twenty- two does not equate maturity. JK Rach, love u.

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After this we found this place in Los Gatos that had a bunch of fun older dance music playing and although we were the only twenty -somethings among middle aged folks, we had an absolute blast!
Saturday- September 3rd

Saturday we decided to squeeze in one last hike before it was time for Rach to leave 🙁 We went to Rancho San Antonio Open Nature Preserve. I will definitely be going back to this place. It seems like one of the better running trails. A lot of the hikes I have done so far are not so running friendly (tons of roots, sharp turns, awkward stepping), but this had more of that trail feel!

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At this place they do model airplane competitions. We were lucky enough to go on a day while this was going on. It was super fascinating to us, and Rachel’s grandfather actually used to compete. We stopped and watched them for a little bit and talked to a couple of the competitors.

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There was one last place that was essential to try before Rachel left. I had takeout from  Olarn Thai Cuisine , and noticed they had a place to eat authentically- shoes off and cross-legged. I have been itching to try it and Rach likes unique cuisine and exploring different culture as well. We LOVED it.

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I ordered the red curry with pumpkin. PUMPKIN! YESSS. Finally! Cue high-pitched girls squealing! It’s that time of year. Bring on the pumpkin! The red curry and pumpkin complemented eachother perfectly. Plus it was super spicy, which is right up my alley.

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Sunday- September 4th

Early Sunday morning (meaning around 5 am), I had to take Rach to the airport. It was such a hard goodbye. I couldn’t believe how quickly the week had come and gone. The sunrise above the mountains helped make the drive back a little less sad.

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Thankfully our sister-in-law was in town (DJs twin), and so the fun could continue!! We went to church, and then she said wanted to do a hike, music to my ears! We did the same six/seven-miler hike that I did with my mom a week prior.

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We had worked up an appetite after our hike and decided to split some appetizers at Rootstock on main street before getting dinner. They have an awesome selection of different bruschetta, so we sampled a few. Amy is probably the funniest person to grace this planet, and also one of the most genuine, so our afternoon was filled with nothing but laughs and good conversation.

The experience at Olarn was just so darn uniquely fun (and yummy!), so I suggested we try it again. Amy wanted to try something off the beaten path while she was here, and this was perfect! We tried the roti paratha for an appetizer with peanut sauce and it was some of the best roti. Once again with “the best”- BUT HONESTLY. I would never lie about roti!  It was so flaky and warm and crunchy. I need to learn to make this at home. I tried the Emerald Seafood in Green Curry (doggone’ tasty), and Amy had the Drunken Noodles. Drunken noodles are a favorite for many people that like Thai. They are broad rice noodles with usually a soy sauce and garlic base and then either seafood or chicken.

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After we went back home and DJ took a break from studying to play The Office Boardgame with us. THIS WAS TOO MUCH FUN!!!! I am in the last season and not quite finished, but goodness gracious, DJ and Amy are experts. I think they both have seen it like ten times, each. If you are an Office fan, GET THIS GAME NOW. I was Meredith, DJ was Creed, and Amy was Toby. I was tempted to be Dwight, because I quite honestly think that is who I am most like. But I just loved the sassy look on Meredith’s face. Who would you be?

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Monday- Labor Day, September 5th

We didn’t have any huge plans for Labor Day. As you can tell the last couple weeks were jam-packed with activity so we didn’t mind just taking it easy.

Occasionally I get a CRAVING for an Indian Dish called Idly. It is a breakfast rice cake essentially that you dip in sambar or chutneys. When I was in India I could not get enough. For my wedding shower last year my mom got me an Idly maker, woohoo!

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After this cooking endeavor, we got a bit more of a normal breakfast at Vitality Bowls. Amy has never tried the Acai bowls, so naturally I had to make sure she got her Cali fix before heading back home.

Then she hit the road (or jumped on her plane) to head back to Colorado. I NEED to visit her there soon. My other sister (older sister) lives in Colorado too. I am super anxious to go, maybe after the NCLEX?! Ohhhh- now I’m all motivated.

The rest of the week consisted of DJ’s regular routine of being a studious law slave  student, and I caught up on laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, and began studying.

Also- HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my dear friend Morgan. Love you, Mo!

Wishing you Thai-riffic Tuesday,

xo <3

Mack