The Famous Sleeping Bear Dunes. TC Part II!

Hey hey! Okay, so this may be one of my favorite blog posts ever. I am absolutely thrilled to share one of my favorite places on the entire planet with you guys- the Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan! In 2011, it was voted the #1 Most Beautiful Places in America and then last year voted one of the 25 most beautiful beaches on earth.

The Dunes growing up were our treat of the whole year- we loved (and still love) running down them at full force, getting air as we jump, and taking in the vast views. There is something about them- an energy, yet calmness, in the air that is unlike anywhere I have ever experienced.

We took my Aunt and Uncle’s RV so we could all hang together during the 50-ish minute drive from Sutton’s Bay to the Dunes. Time for pics!

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Aunt Terry with Stout, her Portuguese water dog <3

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Restin’ up for the dune climb, lol.

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The girlies in front of the dunes!!

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Here they are! *All heart eyes*

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They overlook serene Lake Michigan too

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Climb, climb, climb

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Hanging at the top of our first stop!

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Time to frolic alllll the way down! The best part!

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After, we drove to THE large Dune! It’s a famous large Dune with a 450 foot drop. It is the ultimate climb and test of your grit. I couldn’t even capture the bottom from standing at the top — it’s that steep! It takes about 5-10 minutes to run down, and can take upwards two hours to hike up (per the sign). When we were younger it would take us about an hour, now it takes us half the time.

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It’s so so picturesque here. I cannot even describe, and these pictures do not do it justice.img_0913img_0886img_0891img_0887img_0889img_0908img_0890

At the bottom!

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Cuties!

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Time to climb back up!!

((25 minutes later)) *said in Spongebob voice* come n’ you know you were thinking it.

We made it! We joked that it should be initiation in the family to climb the dune. (Deej had to do it too when we were dating 😉 ).

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Also, we totally didn’t plan to match. WHOOPS.

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Momma bear and Pete

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Time to eat! We headed into the heart of Glen Arbor to get some grub.

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Pop? Soda? Soda Pop? Which do you say?!

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The little shops and boutiques along the way were so doggone cute!

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At the Boone Docks, my mom and I split some fish n’ chips and a yummy salad with the best dried cherries you will ever find.

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They also had burgers that the others grabbed!

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We went back to Aunt Terry & Uncle Pat’s to shower, then headed over to Grandma and Grandpa’s again for dinner.

Cocktail hour first, ya know the drill! My grandma and grandpa make the best Texas Caviar (kind of like salsa with some sweetness), and I dream about this when I get home. *peep the cute Christmas napkins*. Eating this food is seriously like Christmas.

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Their backyard is gorgeous and they maintain it so beautifully!

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We had dinner full of grandpa’s famous chicken wings (my mom and I had our leftover seitan and tofu), coleslaw, rolls, bean salad (yummmmo), and grandma’s potato salad. Not sure my mouth could water any more right now!

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Had to snag a pic with my Grandpa. <3

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To conclude the evening we went to Bardon’s, a classic ice cream shop that actually my Aunt even worked at growing up.

Look how cute these two are deciding what to order!!!

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I couldn’t decide between soft serve or the cherry ice cream. Kevin told me I could have some of his cherry so I ordered the soft serve. Oh. my. GOSH. If you never read my blog ever again- let me leave you with these words of wisdom: GET YO’SELF SOME CHERRY ICE CREAM FROM BARDON’S. This was the BEST ice cream I have EVER had. EVER EVER EVER EVER. So yeah, uh… it was pretty good..

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This was the best soft serve ice cream I have ever had too. All around Bardon’s is where . it . is. at. okur?

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Happy Fam <3

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Anddd a pretty sunset for a cherry on top. You can see the traces of a rainbow trying to make an appearance too)

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In the morning of July 23rd, my mom and I grabbed Aroma’s Coffee & Tea. I actually loved this coffee shop from the last time we were here and remember spending a few hours here studying for my NCLEX!

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We drove to my Gma and Gpa’s in TC and said our goodbyes to our Uncle who had to head back to NC.

My sister and I went for a nice run, one of my favorite parts of the trip. It was like old times being able to just jog & chat together. Love love loved it.

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We then went with my Aunt, Mom, Hal & Kevin into downtown TC to window shop and hangout.

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I just love this downtown. It’s the definition of quaint.

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Moomers is another famous ice cream spot too! It was a bit chilly- so we didn’t get any (and nothing tops Bardon’s anyway), but gosh it’s also a must! Either this or Kilwin’s if you are in town! And if you like fudge, Kilwin’s has some of the tastiest. My grandparents actually call tourists “Fudgies” because you can spot them based on their box of fudge from Kilwin’s walking around. Haha.

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And my favorite store in downtown…… Cherry Republic!

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They have a sundry of free samples in their shop- you could make a meal out of them.. and trust me.. we do!

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Before Kevin and Hal had to get on the road to head back to Cincinnati, OH, we popped into Espresso Bay… one of the other famous coffee shops in downtown.

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Worst part of the trip: Dropping my sunglasses into the Espresso Bay toilet. I was bending over to put the paper lining on the toilet and “plop”. Gosh darnit. Good thing they were like $5… so I just tossed them, and then thoroughly scrubbed my hands for like 10 minutes. Sheesh, none of you are gonna wanna shake my hand if we meet based on these posts. Bahah. I swear I’m not that much of a train wreck… just a small train wreck…

Late in the afternoon we came back to Aunt Terry’s where we split some of the MOST INCREDIBLE wine from Napa, munched on crackers & cheese (and vegan cheese- but I bet you can’t spot the difference!), and soaked up these last moments together before heading out in the morning.

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Aunt Terry also made calamari from SCRATCH. I have never ever had home prepared calamari- it’s always been from a restaurant. Well, this surpassed any restaurant calamari. This was tremendous, and it was fun to watch her prepare it too!

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I craveeee this stuff.

Also how cute are these?!

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#TRUTHBOMBS

But that’s not all! We’re talking three course meal here. We were even treated to dinner out on their deck overlooking the Bay <3

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We split some avocado corn salad & perfectly cooked whitefish.

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Aunt Terry & Bocci boy!

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Can you tell these two apart? This is Bocci..

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And this is Stout!

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We ended the quintessential summer day & stupendous weekend by watching Bachelor (Thanks for being such a trooper, Uncle Pat 😉 ). I have never laughed so hard during a Bachelorette viewing. The commentary from the peanut gallery had me rolling.

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This wraps up a memory for all time. Thanks for sharing in it with me .

Question for you:

  • Do you say Pop or Soda?

xo <3

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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 <3

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An Emotional RoLleR-coAsTer of a Week and So.Many.Updates.

Hey guys! I hope you all had a wonderful and safe Halloween weekend and start to your week! This past week has had so much good with a side of a bit of bad.

Shall we?

Wednesday– I had a rough day. Ya know- one of those hump days- where Wednesday disguises itself as Monday. I couldn’t shake the cobwebs from my head and I felt like I was moving like a snail. Three cups of coffee and counting were NOT doing the trick.

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But once dinner rolled around I got to sample out another Blue Apron meal! If I am having a bad day, usually cooking and having a solid dinner can turn it around for the evening. 

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This was so simple. I think it’s probably the easiest meal I have made yet from this company, and I will definitely be recreating it. The homemade tartar sauce was too good, and I never knew endives could be so tasty?!

Wednesday after dinner we went to our first session of the Winter group meetings through the church. You all know how thankful I am for the people we have met through this church, and if you live in the Bay area and need somewhere to call home PLEASE contact me! God was tugging on my heart to share during one part of the discussion. I was NOT intending to “get deep” on the first night with mostly strangers. But naturally, like He always does, He pushed me out of my darn comfort zone. May I get an Amen?! I know this group is going to be such a blessing, it already is, and I can’t wait to see where it goes!

Thursday– Chores & Such. Totally necessary to waste your time by writing that- huh? OH, I did find out that I passed my nursing exam on this day and received my license in the mail! Thank you a million for all the sweet words on the last post. They seriously touched me <3 <3

Friday– I wanted to Fall. It. UP. Since I had been studying most of October, I didn’t get to go into full on fall mode besides eating massive amounts of candy corn. Which is fine, it’s probably the best part, but regardless, my pumpkin-laced-female-DNA was screaming “get yo self to a pumpkin patch!”

We started the day in San Pedro Square at the Farmer’s Market. I love Farmers’ markets, and every time we pass this one I say I want to go. Finally! I love all the fresh food, produce, unique gift ideas, and general atmosphere of a good Farmers’ market. This isn’t necessarily DJ’s idea of fun, but one of those things he will do with me because he knows it makes me happy. San Pedro Square is a happenin’ place and a foodie’s paradise. We wouldn’t know any foodies, now would we? 😉 DJ and I have exhausted Main Street Cupertino and Santana Row, so I think this will may be our new Friday Night date place for a while!

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That afternoon we saw a vibrantly contrasting rainbow against a gray backdrop outside the window of our apartment. I haven’t seen a rainbow in a while, so naturally, I had to snag a picture of it.

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We also headed to pickup our box springs for our bed for the master bedroom! It’s coming along! While we were waiting for the pickup we messed around on Snapchat.

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** Side note: DJ gave me permission to announce he is no longer doing law school. He was originally doing the JD-MBA combined track, but now is just sticking to the MBA which starts this Spring. I am truly proud of him for doing what he knows is best for him. Plus it means I get to see my man more often!

Friday night I got out all my pumpkin patch wiggles. This place had abounding options for the average pumpkin picker. There were pumpkins here like I have never seen before!

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Fun fact: My step dad’s name is Pete, and his best friend is Tom… Mom- can you show him this? I bet he will get a kick out of it. So cute, so corny. Had to share. I tried picture messaging it, but my service is  glitchy- as you know.

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Friday night we decided to take it easy. I whipped up some Blue Apron meals. For myself I had Roasted Acorn Squash with Couscous Salad and Dressed Pea shoots. This and the coconut curry catfish are my two favorite meals so far from Blue Apron.

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For DJ, I made the Spiced Pork Burgers with a “side” of coleslaw. The “side” took two leftover large Tupperware to fit it all. But I don’t mind- we love us some ‘slaw!

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After dinner I received a call from the credit card company that my purse had been found at the pumpkin patch. I went into full on panic mode. While carrying my pumpkin from the patch, I must have dropped my purse on the way out. I called the cell number of the people who had found it (and currently had it). They were the SWEETEST couple in the world. I thanked them profusely for their integrity and kindness. I heard a little, young voice in the background go, “Is that Mackenzieee?!”. “I want to talk to Mackenzieee!”. The mother put the cutest little girl on the phone and she innocently, but matter-of-factly, inquires, “Hi Mackenzie- why did you leave your purse at a pumpkin patch?” Through nearly previous tears I started laughing and replied, “Great question! I think I was just too excited to carry my pumpkin and get home to carve it, so I dropped it without noticing!”.

We planned on a public meeting spot (Peet’s because where else?!), and I ran out the door with DJ. We tried offering them compensation for their troubles, but they refused. They said they just wanted to do the right thing. Then the husband asked, surprising us, “Are you believers?”. We quickly exchanged information about which churches we attend and a bit more small talk. Then we parted, perhaps never to see them again (well not never again 😉 ). What started as a traumatizing, panic ridden moment turned into an heart-warming experience. I still have no idea what led them to ask us if we were also believers, but how stinking cool. She messaged me that night to let me know her sweet daughter had prayed that I wouldn’t leave my purse at the pumpkin patch next time! Lol.

After this crazy day, DJ and I decided one thing was necessary: Cookies.

Break and bakes to be specific: What is your favorite brand/type?!? DJ loves the Pillsbury Chocolate chip ones and I love the Pillsbury S’mores (but they are hard to find). I firmly believe in cooking 1 minute under the recommended cooking time. We decided to save the Pumpkin Carving for another day.

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DJ is the chocolate milk KING. Like he knowwws his chocolate milk. One time we had a blind taste test of about six different brands of milk. He nailed each one of them. He has a list of tiers on his phone where he rates the best of the best. Shamrock Farms is at the top! DJ probably would be embarrassed if he knew I wrote this… so quick read it before he makes me delete it!  Anyone else love a certain brand? Milk and cookie discussions are paramount to life.

NOW: Here is the meat and potatoes of this post!!!! To celebrate the NCLEX, I wanted to do something CRAYYY! So I looked up “Haunted places in the Bay area”. I don’t believe in “haunted”, but still in lieu of this time of year I thought this would just be interesting… I want to say “fun” or “festive”, but when you hear what happened to lead to this story, those words do not seem to fit. We contemplated touring the Winchester house, but I recently went through it, and it takes a while for the tour. We decided to save that for another time. I found a haunted road, Marsh Rd., and a haunted restaurant, The GrandView, that were within twenty minutes of one another. I made reservations at the restaurant and planned out so we would have enough time to explore the road.

Time for the spooOOooky stories:

Marsh Rd: “It’s become almost a rite of passage for Milpitas high school kids to seek out the ghost of murder victim Marcy Conrad, who was killed by her boyfriend on Marsh Road. Unlike the back stories of most urban legends, this murder was real and well-documented.” – SanJose.com

They actually had to close the road for a while because it was getting a bit out of hand with people going to the bridge and ravine where the ghost supposedly wanders.

While DJ and I were driving down this road, all we could talk about was how stunning the mountains and scenery were. It was probably one of the most charming places I have been since living in California. And yet, still it felt strangely unsettling. Now, knowing the background of the story and what actually occurred here, my heart was beating a tad faster than it should have been. I think the fact that we felt so isolated was what made the drive eerie more than anything. There was no one in sight. Nothing in sight. Then all of a sudden something stepped out into the road. My breath caught in my throat. A big pitbull-terrier mix type dog was giving us an ominous stare down with eyes outlined by dark circles. DJ slammed on the brakes, and we waited for it to get out the way. My breath started coming back to me slowly and my heart rate slowed. I calmed myself down. DJ laughed at my reaction, and we kept going, further and further down the road. Finally we came to the bridge and ravine… My stomach knotted thinking about the story surrounding this place. We turned the car around after taking a quick look around and began driving back up the road.

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As we drove back up the road, DJ made some quick remark about the puppy coming after us. As soon as he said this, the same dog ran out into the road again, way further along than where we originally saw the beast. He stopped and stared at us just like before with large, dark knowing eyes. I was like, “Ok that’s it, let’s get out of here!”

Next stop: GrandView Restaurant.

The GrandView: “The lights have been known to flicker or even come on by themselves at this restaurant, even when no one is in the building. Also, the ghost of a young girl has been reported standing on the balcony that looks out over Silicon Valley.” – Hauntedplaces.org

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Okay, despite the stories, and the alleged “haunting” of this venue, I felt like it was nothing but magical. Even the bartender that greeted us laughed at the notion of it being haunted. The view of Silicon Valley was ….. well even now… it’s leaving me speechless. We came at the perfect time to witness one of the most incredible sunsets. It was beyond romantic and DJ and I dined over delectable halibut and lobster carbonara. I probably do not even need to describe the flavor. Ya’ll need to come and experience it yourself.

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I felt like we were dining in heaven. It was surreal. I could not have imagined celebrating any differently. Also–I begin applying for jobs next week- YEEK! 🙂

Sunday was a bit of a whirlwind, in the best way! We have have begun volunteering at church in the mornings, so we get there around 7:15 (DJ) and 8:00 (myself). It has only enhanced my whole feeling of belonging, relationship with Christ, and perspective of the body of Christ. Right before the first service, I received a message from a friend I went to college with. DJ and I have been wanting to get together him and his wife for a while, and I suggested they come to our church sometime. They have plans to move back to Indiana, but I recommended they swing before they did! Sure enough, they said they were on their way for the 11:30 service! I was both shocked that they were coming, but also thrilled. They drove two hours to us from Modesto and we grabbed lunch at the Farmer’s Union together afterwards. It was fantastic to catch up with them and see how God is moving in their lives. They said they felt like the message was tailored for them- it even led them to make some pretty big life decisions.

Because my blog tends to just run on food fuel as much as we do, and this post is a lengthy one, it needs a snack! A smoked Mozzarella & Cabbage Pizza with a Romaine and Apple Salad should do the trick… (And ya’ll didn’t think I could get any dorkier).

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Monday was a SAD day. DJ gently woke me up to tell me that our dear, beloved Spanky had died. Guys- I was a mess. I loved that freaking fish so much. And it was just a fish?! How could such a little guy take up such a big piece of my heart?! DJ was also certainly upset himself. We were both pretty down the entire day. Cyranny certainly helped me feel better with her helpful blog counseling, hehe. She is a GEM. Anyway, we just kept busy, as you will see. We don’t have any idea how this happened, but we hypothesize it had to do with the water. We followed what the people at the pet store told us to a T, but I think they very clearly missed some instructions (no I’m not pointing the finger, OK maybe I am, I am a mother in mourning!). When we looked online they said they should have at least a 5 gallon tank, it should be 1/3rd original water, and it should be 78-82 degrees. They told us it was fine with the tank I bought and recommended to keep the water at room temp.

Our other guess precipitating the tragic event is Clinton or Trump took him out because they caught onto our #SpankyTomforPresident hashtag. I don’t know which it was, but gosh dangggg it was rough. People with beta fish- care to share some tips?! Anyways, I was going to do an update post about Spanky- how he was becoming more brave and spending less time in his barrel, how he loved me more than DJ (but DJ says Spanky was warming up to him), how we joked that he was too good for us….Perhaps he was and that’s why he went to fishy heaven.

We may get another in the future… but for now.. we are certainly not emotionally ready </3. (yes, I have a fancy for the melodramatic).

Naturally, I did what any normal girl would do to feel better: Retail therapy. Usually I don’t care for shopping all that much, only when the shopping bug really bites, but I always loooove thrifting. I went to a thrift store on Monday and went in for sweaters, but came out instead with this gem. I actually do not have a big purse, so this was great and had a Kate Spade-esque look to it! It was only $22 and it’s a Kenneth Cole Reaction. I think that’s a good deal?! I know I have some fashionistas out there- is this a good deal?

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Had to share this beet hummus because it’s super unique and you just can’t beet it!

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Once again, I attempted my pumpkin cheesecake with an oatmeal crust. I seriously love it, but it’s not quite perfect yet to share. No worries- third time is a charm. I am determined to per-fect this little boogar. I also plan on making my Pumpkin French Toast this weekend- and so stay posted for that sometime next week!

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Monday night DJ and I decided to carve pumpkins. Keeping with theme of the night, I made a pumpkin pie. *The crowd all groans*.

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I also tribed, I mean tried, my hand at chief Wahoo. Please don’t remind me how that one ended 🙁

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DJ’s pumpkin was being stubborn. We won’t talk about it. 😉

Pumpkin seeds are always a must. I made cinnamon sugar, ranch, barbecue, and plain salt and pepper.

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Tuesday morning I went running on my favorite trail- San Antonio Open Preserve. Due to the recent rainfall in this area, Thank Jesus, the trails have such whimsical beauty about them. Moss climbs the trees, the rivers are purring again, and the dampness of the mud adds a little spring to each step. It was an incredible run. Each breath was deliciously filled with the taste of nature and it reminded me greatly of Ohio.

Ohio:

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California:

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Tuesday night I whipped up a grilled cheese with mild cheddar&muenster cheese for DJ with tomato soup and cilantro (I try to make things “normal” but it’s just so hard when there are so many herbs- OK?!), and then I made a giant garden salad for myself to finish up the produce.

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Today (Wednesday), I met with a friend for Lunch and we had the MOST wonderful conversation. Later, DJ and I watched the game with the fam. 🙁 🙁 :(. If you are a Cubs fan, I am glad that billy goat curse is broken, just not at our expense!

Also- did you guys see that tweet?

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Like come on. That’s freaking crazy. We were losing our minds over it!!!! It predicted exactly what happened… Minus the apocalypse. Lol.

On another note, it’s November already- can you believe it?! We have family coming in town tomorrow, and we are PUMPED!!!! Hope you all are doing so well. I’m thankful for this community and although I began this blog to update fam and friends and have a place to write down our memories, I treasure each one of you here and the friendships that are forming along the way <3

Wishing you a weekend CARVED with joy

xo <3

Mack

Big News!

Guys!! I just cannot wait until the recap to share this news! I did it. I passed my nursing boards. After 4 years of intensive studies, long clinical hours, tears and laughter, life changing moments, 7 months of waiting for approval and studying, I FINALLY AM A NURSE! All glory to God! Thank you family, friends, all of you, and my incredible husband for the ENDLESS support.

Explanation for the picture above: I received this mug when I graduated, but said I wouldn’t drink anything out of it until I was officially a nurse. I have never been so excited to use a coffee cup in my life. My first thought when I received my license was “YES! I can finally drink out that darn mug now!!!!” 💊💉

I feel so blessed for each beautiful human I will have the privilage to care for, building relationships, and being a part of the extended hand of healing.

I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend, and I can’t wait to catch up on blogging this week 💕

Xo

Mack

PS: This may be my only post ever without an absurd amount of food pics and that is shorter than a billion words 😂

Halloween Festivities and a little bit of everything else

Long time, no see!!! I have been so busy studying the last couple weeks that I haven’t been able to do a recap post. I am finally snagging a couple minutes now to draft something out before bed. And you may just get the rough draft because I don’t think I have time to edit- so in advance I apologize for the misspellings, the grammatical errors, run-ons, and fragments.

First things first per usual: Thank you to everyone for those sweet, sweet thoughts and words on my last post. As I told many I didn’t want to write it (or at least parts of it), but I knew I needed to. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning with all those words on my heart, and knew that I needed to share ultimately to bring glory to God for what He has done. Thank you again for everyone who shared your own thoughts, experiences, and encouragement.

Also thank you to Shawna  for her nomination for the Black Cat Blue Sea Award. I loved reading your responses, hun! I wish I could take the time to respond, but time is thin lately! However, if you guys get a chance, check out this wonderful girl’s place on the web <3

ANDDDDD Guess what?! I finally took my nursing boards (yesterday morning), and can officially put the books away, at least for a bit. I actually received my approval right after my last update post and cried tears of joy. FINALLY. After seven months, seven long months, I could finally take this stinking test. But, really, who gets that excited to take a test?! Pathetic I tell ya. I won’t find out if I officially passed them for a while, but I’m feeling okay about it. This could be really mortifying if I didn’t pass and I have to publicly announce it to about five hundred people- oh well! We will see. Positive thinking right?!

Time to rewind to October 6th. Yes it has been that long. No worries, guys, I have all the food pics. Because, like the last couple posts, all I have done is eat and study.

For DJ’s birthday dinner he wanted to do something relaxing that didn’t involve getting dressed up and didn’t involve facing traffic. We decided to try out Eureka, a place on Main Street that people rave about. Worth the rave- it was maybe my favorite place we tried on the strip.

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For an appetizer we split some bruschetta. It was yumm. Anything with a good goat cheese and a good balsamic vinegar is destined to satisfy ya.

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DJ ordered these insane little boogers. These are lobster tacos with cabbage, saffron crema, watermelon radish, and signature handcut fries. I feel like he inevitably chooses the better dish. Don’t get me wrong, I always love my meals, but I always tend to like his a touch better than what I order. The grass is always greener on the other side of the dinner table. Or maybe less green, because I tend to get a lot of salads. Anyways ..

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I did make a good move by getting these sweet potato fries. UGH they were perfection. I ordered the veggie beet burger over greens. It just sounded so strange; I had to get it. It was super delicious and filling. Them fries though….

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Friday and Saturday was the women’s conference through my church. The theme was “Wisdom”. Lord knows I need more of it. I can’t even describe how much I admire the leaders of our church. It would take me dayyys to write out all that I gleaned from just those two days. I met so many lovely new women and was inspired more than I could have ever anticipated. When I came home from the conference Saturday night DJ surprised me and had cleaned the whole apartment. This made my life. He is the best.

Back to the conference real quick: the bracelet I am wearing in the picture below is made by girls at She Rescue Home. Please check out their site if you have a chance, well worth it. They rescue girls in Cambodia from the sex trade and provide them with shelter, food, education, occupational tools and skills to provide for their family in other ways, medical care, counseling, and reintegrate them into society. That is a terse synopsis of the immense impact they are making and the expansion of what they do. The stories of these girls brought me to tears. Here are some quotes from the founder, Leigh Ramsey, that describe the situation better than I can:

“There are complex issues that contribute to a girl being vulnerable to trafficking – factors such as poverty, abuse, trickery and deception, unemployment and addiction often leading to desperation in the family.”

“But once trapped in this world of unspeakable evil, they are held captive against their will, and threatened with violence, are soon imprisoned in a world of unimaginable pain and degradation … as we say repeatedly IT’S NOT OK!”

They hand-made these bracelets for our conference, one of the tools the skills they learned through She Rescue Home, and every time I wear it I think of and pray for these precious, valuable humans that deserve so much more than the evil of this life.

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It almost feels silly to go on to talk about anything else after that, but life is a mosaic of the good, bad, deep, beautiful, exciting, mundane, simple, and silly. It keeps us balanced and keeps us sane. Can you imagine spending too much time in any of those areas? The mundane makes us appreciate excitement, and the ugly makes us appreciate the beautiful.

Saturday I was craving french toast. I have a healthy high pumpkin french toast I make every fall. It is incredibly easy and tastes like heaven. I can’t wait to share this recipe with you guys.

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While I was doing errands one of these days (lost track, not sure which day), I found some darlin’ little pumpkins. I would have gone alllll out on the fall decor but the studying made it so I couldn’t go out and buy all the fall things. Good thing too, I tend to go a bit overboard with the decorating when given the chance.

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Sunday after church (10/9), we went to brunch. I was craving a good brunch. It’s probably my favorite meal, and I was hitting a serious wall with studying. Brunch is always a cure all’ for the study wall. We went to a highly recommended place called Hash House. It even sounds like a good brunch place. I stepped inside and smelled the buttery toast, eggs, and roasting coffee- the intoxicating, small town, diner breakfast smell. It takes me back to Saturday mornings with my dad and my Papa at local spots in little Parma, Ohio <3 My siblings know exactly what I’m talking about. Hello, Luna’s, Mimi’s, Demetrio’s, and My Place! My family knew the waiters and waitresses by name. I miss those days. All the nostalgic feels right now..

Now back to present day… DJ ordered a Western Hash and I ordered a Tofu Benedict, because where else have you ever heard of a Tofu Benedict?!?! It hit the spot. We also had to try an order of their pancakes- we ordered the short stack. A short stack. We thought they messed up our order and brought us a large stack. Nope. That is their short stack (it’s bigger than the picture does justice). I’d be interested to see the large! Verdict on the cakes: DJ’s mama’s are better. Besides her perfect pancakes, DJ swears the Bellagio in Las Vegas has some of the best he has ever tasted. Anyone concur?

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The rest of the week we had leftovers, and just random easy things here and there. I haven’t cooked as much as I like usually since I have been studying so hard and just have been making easy things like garden salads, pizza, grilled cheese… yada yada yada.

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However, one night (I think last Friday?) we went to Oren’s. I wrote all about how marvelous this Israeli food is in one of my posts. DJ and I crave this place. We like trying new places as a general rule, but man, we both were just itching to get our hands on some of their hummus and pita.

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Let us talk coffee. Lately after dinner I have been loving some decaf chai tea with a little almond milk and a Graze Chia Coconut Cookie. It is the perfect treat to help relax me to get back into study mode for the night. The Mrs. Right cup was dirty, obvi.

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I have been continuing to go to Peet’s everyday. They are truly friends at this point. They bring me out samples here and there of their latest blends, and I know longer have to tell the cashier my order. I just say, “the usual”. YES, I am one of those! I am going to miss the study “grind” simply for this reason. I will probably use blogging as an excuse to park it in Peet’s for a couple hours instead now and again 😉

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I always have either a quest bar or no cow bar on me for quick fuel. When my blood sugar drops I turn hangry real quick. DJ can attest to this. I particularly like dipping the bars in my coffee. I realize I probably look like a weirdo doing it, but that’s never stopped me. I used to lick the foam off the cup sides too, but I put my big girl pants on and stopped doing that… in public.

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Now to the highlight of our last couple weeks!!!!! Last saturday our family had a Halloween party! I can’t begin to explain how fun this was, but I’ll try. I think my cheeks still hurt from laughing. I was using this party as motivation all week long to crank out the last chunk of studying I had. It was such a nice night and helped refuel me for the last few days of cramming before the big exam. Also- it could have been a hosted Pinterest Halloween party. Every single thing was incredibly creative. Ideas galore! Our sisters that I always talk about presented us with the coolest little gift bags with our names on them and personally picked out chocolate we would love. They are incredibly creative and thoughtful, and put so much time into making this the greatest Halloween party of all time. I hope we are invited next year 😉  And, naturally, we all wore costumes, and every single one was fantastic.

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DJ and I were a play on words: I was Holy Gaucamole and he was The Second Amendment. “The right to bear arms”

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Hubby being way helpful- I was knee deep in the books so he glued on my avocados for me 🙂

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This game is a blast. No matter what age you are- this is a winner! You simply wear a  mouthpiece like the ones they use at the dentist office and have to speak a phrase that you are given. Everyone else has to guess what you are trying to say. It is hilarious. We were rolling.

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Monday night I got a text from my younger sister that there was a shooter on her college campus. They received a text from the Administration that he was heading toward the baseball fields, and she was currently in the baseball field at the time. She texted me from inside a shed in the field where she was sitting with the rest of her team. Scared me out of my mind. She was okay and hasn’t heard much about the situation since… But scary stuff. 😥

I took my exam yesterday (Tuesday), and I already explained the down low on that. Here is my obligatory “I just took my nursing boards” goofy, overly excited, why am I smiling like that selfie.

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Definitely will keep you all posted on those results.

When I got home I spent about an hour freaking out convincing myself I didn’t pass, and then DJ spent the next hour convincing me that I did pass. I told him I don’t count my chickens before they hatch, and he said he counted one nurse chicken hatching. I found it hilarious. And then I had candy corn and felt much better about life.

Random small talk note about the weather: It has been getting more fall-ish, and I am loving that. It rained a few times last week, and it was perfect study weather. I love that the seasons still have a sort of rhythm here in Northern California. I was mistaken that it was 75 and sunny everyday. While I never complain when it is 75 and sunny, the respite of rain is a nice change every now and again.

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We are going to a gala for our church this Friday, and I have few fancy dresses in my closet to choose from. To be honest, I am not really a big shopping fan. It overwhelms me a bit. It also seems to take forever to make sure I am making the right decision and getting the best deal. I do love me some good thrift shopping though.

DJ and I hit up the mall after the test yesterday and I actually found a dress relatively quickly. The lady checking us out was so jovial. She told us she wanted to adopt us and came around and gave us hugs after the purchase. I think it was the friendliest customer service experience I have ever had. It may have made DJ a bit uncomfortable, but I loved it! After that was off the list I was in a better mood. I don’t know if I was more anxious about taking my NCLEX or finding a dress, but regardless we conquered both (hopefully!).

After that we went to lunch at True Food Kitchen. This place just opened at Stanford shopping center in Palo Alto. I think this place was made for us. The vegan options were endless. DJ actually opted for a vegan option, although there were meat options. Once again, he chose the better meal, but he is always so kind to let me take a little big bite of whatever he orders.

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To start DJ ordered a honey lemonade. We also split a charred cauliflower dish with harissa tahini, medjool date, dill, mint, and pistachio. I actually have most of these ingredients right now and would love to replicate it. The combination of flavors was addictive.

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For my main dish I tried the seasonal ingredient salad with tofu. This included brussel sprouts, butternut squash, cauliflower, white beans, pomegranate, and toasted mulberry with a horseradish vinaigrette. I would never think to combine those items, but it worked soo well!

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DJ’s meal was the bomb.com. He had a T.L.T. Which is smoked tempeh, butter lettuce, tomato, avocado, and vegan mayonnaise. We are definitely going back to this place! I want to try everything on their menu.

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The whole day, Tuesday, reminded me that I have the greatest family and friends in the world. Before my test I woke up to the sweetest, most encouraging texts. When I came home with DJ after shopping I was greeted by a beautiful  Williams- Sonoma spiced pumpkin bread mix baking box.The silver pumpkins in the picture is the bottom of an actual pan to bake the bread in and it came with a delicious pumpkin butter spread! Also waiting for me was the most beautiful, exotic, and ME bouquet of flowers I have ever seen. They smell amazing and every time I look at them my heart melts. I was not expecting any of this, but I was touched beyond words!

Let’s talk in-laws for a hot tic… If I had to hand pick a family to marry into it would be the DJ’s. I thank God constantly for giving me a second family that showers me with unconditional love, support, and encouragement. I can’t imagine my life without them, and they truly make me feel like one of their own. Oh no, here come the water works. Someone get me a tissue! Nothin’ like an NCLEX to make a girl emotionally unstable!

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This morning I allowed myself to sleep in until 8:30! That is a BIG deal for me, ya’ll! I also was able to go for a super relaxing ten-miler in the sun. I haven’t done that in ages. It felt so good to have the music blasting a little louder than it should, the adrenaline rushing through my veins, and feeling like I could conquer the world. I haven’t had that exhilarating of a run in so long. Lately I’ve been running on the treadmill so I can study my notes and read my review book while running. You should see my books from trying to highlight while running- it’s comical. Also- I only fell once during those ten miles! That’s success in my book. You all know my inclination for the ground.

Anywho, we have my Aunt and Uncle coming in town tomorrow- YAHOOOOO! The rest of the day was groceries, cleaning, shipping boxes, catching up on a zillion emails, all that jazz that was put on the back burner while I studied. It feels good to currently be sitting in a clean house. Oh, and I didn’t forget dinner. Now that I can cook again I made a crispy coconut curry catfish from Blue Apron. I knew this week would be busy so I figured Blue Apron would be good to have on hand for a quick meal with all the ingredients already included!

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Last things last, we can’t forget politics. Let’s just say our household is still #SpankyTomforPresident. Nough’ said.

BUT WAIT how about them WINDIANS?!!? LETS GO CLE. World Series, baby!!!!!

Wishing you a thrilling Thursday,

xo <3

Mack

Happy Birdd-Day

This day is a big deal day. I mean a BIGGGGGGGG deal! It is DJ’s Birthday!!!! This truly is one of my favorite “holidays” because it means my favorite person was born on this day! Thank you DJ for gracing the world with your presence, but also for allowing me to have dibs on you for my hubby. We love birthdays because it is an excuse to say “Happy Birrrrdday” over and over again. Who can spot the reference? Also- Happy Birthday to Amy (his twin sister!). Today DJ is happily spending his day meeting with friends and getting a few tasks done, while I am taking a tiny respite from studying to record some fun stuff from this past week!

We received this amazing Cheesecake Factory sampler from djs mom on Thursday! holy yum.


We made quite a dent! The caramel de leche was our favorite!

Thursday night I whipped up, yet another, Indian-fusion-esque type dinner. Who really knows what it is. But it was edible! It included okra, cauliflower, shrimp, a tikki masala sauce, every spice that I thought could possible compliment it, and some siggis yogurt. I accompanied it with some naan bread and a gigantic salad. This my friends, I call “everything but the kitchen sink”.

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Friday we went to Lazy Dog on Main Street Cupertino. We were feeling tired after a long week of studying and what could sound better than going to a place called Lazy Dog? It was super relaxing and nice to just spend a nice long dinner together rather than the rushed ones that usually take place during the week. It’s hard to truly enjoy your food when you have six hours of studying still staring you in the face for the night!

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I ordered their Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna. This was one of the  most original dishes of ahi I have ever tried. It makes my mouth water just reminiscing about it. It was served medium-rare on house-made cauliflower mash with roasted vegetables and a coconut curry cream sauce. It was also topped with some fresh cilantro. I tried to recreate the cauliflower mash, which I share later on! This dish was fish-alicious.

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DJ went for their signature burger for which they are known for! He ravenously ate it up. Now, I don’t know if the boy was just really hungry, or if that was a sign that he hasn’t had something that good in that long! I may have been too afraid to inquire.

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Also! I pulled out my first sweater for the season! This is one of my favorite fall colors- anything dark purple or maroon. The weather here is surprisingly perfect for the sweater life. I think I expected it to feel warm year round, but it still has a fall feel with the leaves falling and a crispness to the air.

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Saturday I got up at the butt-crack of dawn to go on one last BIG hike with my hiking group. I absolutely love this group of people. If you wanna get to know people, go on a hike with them. Within seven miles hiking up a mountain you end up talking about pretty much anything and everything. One thing that surprised me was one guy who grew up here (in California) could not understand why someone could possibly enjoy a thunderstorm. Me and one other girl from the midwest tried to explain the ominous excitement, smells, and wonder of an awesome midwest thunderstorm. It was interesting to me that he had never experienced something like that.  We also came past the most beautiful dog I may have ever seen. It was a bright white husky with sky-blue eyes. I am not always one to run up and ask to pet a random dog, but I could not help myself with this one. The owner even let me get a picture with it. I told DJ that we need to get this type of dog and a Beans soon (three-legged dream dog from the pound). He personally prefers French Pitbulls and Chocolate Labs. We both also love Vishlas! We had a friend who had one and fell in love. Anyone own any of these types of dogs?

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After an amazing hike, that my hips are still recovering from, we went to the Vine in Niles. This cute little town is quite a hike from our place in Cupertino. OH MY WORD- I did not intend that pun, I swear. I know I usually do intend allll the puns, but that one was not intended. Anyway, Niles is just the most darling little town with the strips full of unique boutiques, food trucks, and the luminous mountains cradling the whole surrounding area.

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After that hike I needed a big ole cup of joe! I think my favorite part of this whole place was the fact that I had my coffee served in this mug.

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HELLO to the most delicious sweet potato tots I ever did taste. They were served with a garam masala aioli. SO GOOD. I got them “for DJ” but ate half of them (or more than half) before I made it home. Like I said, it was a hike back- a good 50 minute drive is long enough to get hungry again.

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I had a tasty, filling salmon salad with craisins, goat cheese, walnuts, and a honey curry vinaigrette over arugula.

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SUNDAY! Oh Sunday was a much needed day. We are currently re-evaluating some choices and direction in our lives, but Sunday was just what we needed for some ease and clarity. I think right now DJ and I are realizing more than ever that our life “plans” on paper do not, and will not, always reflect reality. But that is okay. We are both at this point where we just want to be used by God, love others, and see how we can make a difference in the SV area each day. God has shut a lot of doors on our plans, but we are watching something unfold that we could not have designed ourselves. In the past, we have always filled our schedules and days with commitments and do not make ourselves available for anything that we have not designated important ourselves. But God, in His sovereignty, has shut many doors and we are finding ourselves available to do His work in a way we never have been. We are ecstatic to see what unravels, where this time of our lives takes us, and how he will use us. Our current situation can be described as this (….). The big ole’ dot, dot, dot. We have no idea how the next few years will unfold, but I think both of us could not be more excited to see how it will look.

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So why was Sunday so great? First we attended Church, and if that can’t rejuvenate ya, I don’t know what can. After, we met with the Pastors from our church for lunch as this rustic, yet modern, place in San Jose called The Farmer’s Union. They provided a great deal of encouragement to us. They gave us soo much to think about as well and sparked some thought-provoking conversation between DJ and I throughout the week leading to some of the open-ended conclusions (oxymoron?) I mentioned above.

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I have been fighting something of a cold this week and this Echinacea and Cranberry tea has been a lifesaver. I am a FIRM believer in herbal and vitamin supplements to prevent a cold. Load up the vitamin C, Echinacea, and Zinc to halt that nasty tickle in the throat from becoming a full on monster. But always talk to your healthcare provider before taking them 😉

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Here are the Cauliflower mashed potatoes that I tried to recreate (inspiration from the Lazy Dog!). These were sooo simple and I have a feeling that I may be entering into a new food craze stage.

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I also made these little Cauliflower wings with the leftover half of a head. I have the recipe posted here if you missed it 😉

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The next night I used the leftover cauliflower mash and combined it with some curry hummus to try to achieve that Indian cauliflower taste. I added a Morningstar Garlic and Quinoa burger with some fresh basil for a super easy and delicious meal.

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I had some kale that was about to go bad too, so I whipped up some kale chips to dip in the buffalo sauce too! Snacks for dayzzz.

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Throughout the week I have been studying at Peet’s nearly everyday.

I have loved studying at this little coffee shop and am beginning to develop friendships with the baristas. They are the kindest folk. One day they came up to me and gave me a coupon for a free coffee. They also told me that I am overstudying. Now when essentially strangers are telling you this, it makes you wonder!

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This is what “leave me alone I’m watching the game ” looks like One night during dinner I realized I had forgotten a couple things at the store. DJ, the sweet husband he is, ran out to grab them for me. He returned with this gem- edible cookie dough. Yes, all of your dreams have now come true. You can bake it or eat it straight out of the container if you wish. It is dairy and egg free too. We love our Pillsbury break-and-bakes, but I think we have a new favorite.

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Yesterday I had a bit of a stomach ache. I think I have just had so much rolling around in this head of mine and have been drained by the studying. I stopped by and picked this up from the store. GOODBYE tummy-ache! Ginger is one of the greatest things to help with nausea and aid in digestion. Kombucha also has some terrific probiotics too. I am really going full blown nurse on ya’ll, this post aren’t I?

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You didn’t think I wasn’t going forget a Fine Cooking recipe now did you?! This week I wanted to make something with meat. I make a lot of seafood naturally being pescatarian, but I felt that I haven’t tried my hand at a good meat dish in a while. I whipped up a Pork Tenderloin Provencal Tuesday night. I have never made pork, but was pleased with how it turned out. I accompanied it with rosemary roasted veggies and wild rice. It was surprisingly easy, and DJ said it was one of the best meals I have ever made. I think it would be an excellent meal for a Christmas eve dinner or special occasion! Tastes fancy without all the work 😉 .

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Now for birthday festivities. I maybe should not post this, but I seriously can’t help myself. I LOVE the goofy cards for birthdays (or any occasion). I spend wayyy too much time looking at all of them and take more pride in the card than the gift usually. We have tons of fun with them in my family. I stay away from anything with the actual age on it though… One time I got my brother a “Happy 30th” birthday card, ready to make a big deal about the big 3-0. He actually was turning 31. They never let me live that one down. In fact the next year, I received the same card from him and he crossed out the thirty and wrote 20 (the age I was turning). Anywho, DJ LOVES animals, so I always make sure to get an animal one. This was this years pick. Like I said, maybe this is inappropriate? But I promise this is as PG-13 it will get around here.

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We were planning on going out for a momentous pancake breakfast for his birthday, but he was meeting with a friend at 10 am, and decided last night he wanted to sleep in. I woke up early to figure something out, because everyone has to have a delicious birthday breakfast! I had some 90 calorie reduced fat pillsbury crescent rolls in the fridge and decided to try to make apple roll-ups. These are way healthier than a breakfast pastry and just as tasty. DJ couldn’t believe how relatively healthy they were.

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Last night I was having a moment of I NEED TO BAKE. Anyone else get that? The baking bug hits me hard in the fall. I load up on cans of pumpkin filling and end up just trying to create whatever I can, whenever I can. Baking is very therapeutic for me and since we were just eating leftovers last night, I decided to bake instead during my usual dinner prep time. I made a healthy pumpkin cheesecake with an oatmeal crust. This little guy is about 150 calories a slice and about 10 grams of protein. I am working on getting the recipe absolutely perfect, and then I will share it.

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Tonight we are going to take it easy per DJ’s request. I think we are going to grab dinner somewhere local and then relax at home. I am going to try to squeeze in a bit more studying before the day wraps up. I am also attending a women’s conference this weekend and am incredibly excited for that!!!! DJ will be taking the weekend pretty easy. Sunday night is when we are actually celebrating his birthday with a nice night out.

Lastly, but most importantly, our thoughts and prayers fervently go out to all those affected by hurricane Matthew .

Wishing you an icing on the cake kind of day,

xo <3

Mack

“That’s Okay, I make Lamb”

Happy Monday to you!! The past couple weeks are kind of a blur. DJ and I are deep into the routine of early alarms (him more than myself- I end up snoozing for two extra hours honestly), studying all day long, and then studying late into the night. DJ is doing exceptionally well and staying motivated, but I can tell that law school is as stressful as it’s hyped up to be. It makes dinner time and our Friday Date nights an anticipated reprieve that come and go far too quickly each week. I remember in nursing school the month of September and early October always seemed extra overwhelming. I think it’s due to the fact that you haven’t quite done enough to feel accomplished or secure in your endeavors, and yet you are drained. The next “break”- fall break- is still a month away, and the holidays seem like an intangible event that is more of a nice idea than a future reality. I speculate this is the phase DJ is currently experiencing : burned out, stressed out, and bummed out. What got me through that time? Candy corn, but DJ doesn’t like candy corn, so I’m at a loss on how to help him. After mid-terms, which will be here in about a week, if my diagnosis is correct, he should turn the corner and get a second wind as there will be a huge something he has accomplished. Many times accomplishments can give us that second wind to keep pushing forward. I always feel this way, even just on day-to-day things. If I have a to-do list ten pages long, which all too often is the case, I feel exhausted before even beginning. It’s like a defense mechanism- “No don’t deal with all that, just go to sleep!”. But once things are all completed, I get a burst of energy.

Anyway, there has not been too much going on besides this “Git r’ done, get up and grind” life. However, I have cooked up a few meals I’d love to share, and we visited some fun places to eat too. Naturally this post is just going to be littered with food pictures, because really, which of my posts aren’t?

After Rachel and Amy left, we still had some ingredients leftover to make more pizzas. Homemade flat-out pizzas are one of my favorite treats. They are healthy and versatile, and each person can easily make their own. They are also a blast to make. I always like making a mediterranean one with shrimp, vegan daiya mozzarella cheese, pesto, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and caramelized onions and mushrooms. I also like to make a pineapple one- check out the Marco Island post to see a picture of that 🙂 DJ likes a more basic pizza with crumbled sausage (I used Boca because we ran out of regular- he couldn’t tell the difference 😉 ), mozzarella cheese, oregano, sun-dried and fresh tomatoes.

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We had our headboard delivered last week for our bed, which we had waited four weeks for. I was so excited because that meant I could finally hang the canvas I got for above the bed and start with more decorating. No such luck, Chuck. After the delivery men set it up, I walk in to see it and the actual headboard is a different color entirely than the base. They said it was a manufacturing error, so now we have another good four weeks to wait for the replacement. Oh well, we aren’t in a rush, but it definitely was a “are you kidding me?” type mistake (after we have had countless other issues with this store). All in all, it looks so funny. I can’t help but laugh at it. I will have to post a picture of it soon.

Our Friday night date night (9/9) consisted of Oren’s Hummus shop on Main Street Cupertino. I have been eagerly awaiting the opening of this place. It serves Israeli food, and I have heard from several people that the food is fantastic. Oh… It is.

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Can we talk about this chandelier for quick tic?! Love, love loveeee.

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They start the meal with complimentary coleslaw. If you know me, you know I LOVEEEEEEE coleslaw. This place hardcore won brownie points for giving it out at the beginning of the meal for free. It was super good coleslaw too- not too drenched in the sauce, crunchy veggies, all the flavour. (Flavour with the u- you know it’s good).

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They are called Oren’s HUMMUS shop for a reason. Their hummus is the BOMB. The BEST hummus I have ever had besides my mama’s homemade of course 😉 Sorry Sabra, I think I’m leaving you in the dust.

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I ordered the vegetable skewer with falafel and babaganoush. Baba is similar to hummus, but it is made with a smoked eggplant base. I can never decide if I like Baba or hummus better. I like saying babaganoush more, so maybe that makes me bias toward it.

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DJ ordered the Shakshuka. This had organic eggs, poached over easy in a spiced tomato sauce. Their wheat pita served with this is bursting with flavor. It was served fresh and warm and need I say more?

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Their motto is “Rip, Scoop, Eat”. Their motto happens to be my life motto. If there is ever any chance to dip something with bread, pita, naan, etc., I am alllll over that. At the end of any meal if there is sauce on the plate, you bet I’m getting it with a piece of bread. DJ always laughed at me when we first started dating about this habit, but he does it too now so I must have had it right 😉 I always make sure I save a piece from the starter bread basket to use at the end. When DJ got his meal he said, “How am I supposed to eat this?!” I looked at him, and said- “you’ve gotta rip, scoop, eat- DUH”. And then he rolled his eyes at my not-funny, but I think I’m funny, remark.

Saturday we actually did double-dipping nights out. Granted, after Oren’s we studied the rest of the night. DJ and I met one of his law school friend’s at Orchard City Kitchen in Campbell. He is super familiar with the area and knows all the good stops. I have never been anywhere like this before, and I certainly intend to go back. All their dishes are meant to be shared and the plates, while considered “small plates” are pretty decent sizes to split. Put your seatbelt on, or loosen your belt, one or the other, because we went all out for this meal! I wasn’t planning on taking pictures, but DJ’s friend said he was going to snap a few, and I probably got a little too excited that he shared in the food photography fettish. I know it’s ridiculous, and I’m okay with it.

We started with the shaved radishes. These radishes with fried goat cheese, pink pearl apples, serpent cucumbers, sunflowers, lemon vin, and herbs. Guuuuuys, this was so good. Plus it was maybe the most beautiful thing I’ve ever ate.

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Next we tried the legumes. This included sprouted lentils, butter beans, haricot vert, limas, charred avocado, peanuts, cardamon cream, and lemon. So far the meal has BEAN delicious.

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Deej was especially itching to try the Triple B. This consisted of biscuits, bacon, and honey butter. I didn’t have the bacon, but DJ said it was insanely good. It smelled like it too. I can attest that the rolls and butter were out of this world.

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Next we tried the grilled quail with carrot-anise puree, pickled onions, alium ash, and pistachio crumble. I had never had quail (besides the quail eggs from eat-drink San Fran, and felt I couldn’t miss the opportunity. I haven’t had meat in a long time and I took the tiniest nibble. I can see how others would like it, but I just have no appetite for meat since I gave it up. BUT if you do, which most people do, I bet ya would like this. The puree and all that razzle-dazzle was super delicious too.

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Moving onto the bigeye Tuna Crudo. CRUDOS to you Orchard City Kitchen- (too much?). This was fantastic. It included watermelon (yellow watermelon, mind you), scallions, edamame, radish, daikon sprouts, and soy tahini. It was simply delicious. It is the kind of dish I think I could probably recreate at home too, unlike most of the dishes of the night. The red/pink pieces on the dish are the fish and the yellow is the watermelon. Trippy, right?!

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We also ordered the crab and corn dumplings. The words DUNGENESS CRAB tend to just pop off the page to me and DJ, and so inevitably we had to get that dish too. It would be wrong if we didn’t. It came with corn broth, parm, serrano chile, and cilantro, and maybe some magic because it tasted like it? Also I was too entranced that I forgot to take a picture of that one.

Last, but not least, certainly not least, was the roasted bone marrow radiator with gremolata, toasted bread crumbs, shiitake, pancetta, and parm. Once again, certainly not vegetarian, but it was bone marrow. I had to try it. When else am I going to have bone marrow? Truly one of the greatest things ever. They actually carve the bone marrow right out of the bone into the pasta. I know, I know, sounds a bit unsettling, but it is amazing. Here is my grainy picture trying to get him in the process of carving out the marrow.

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It was super rich, but super delicious. One bite satisfied me and the flavor delicately lingered.

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Throughout the week I whipped up a few staple meals. I was craving my big-ole’ salads. In college people would look at my wide-eyed when they saw the size of my salads in the cafeteria. Look, I like garden salads, and sometimes I put the entire garden in my salads. I love adding chik’n, morningstar burgers, grilled tofu, shrimp, or salmon to them with some guacamole and roasted edamame seeds; depends on my mood, which changes daily hourly, so who knows what the little red bowl will contain by the end of the food prep. **Side note: I have an emotional attachment to the red bowl below, it is my deemed salad bowl. I have a green one at my mom’s house- right mom? They are meant to be used for larger side dishes or even main dishes, but heck, I can’t use some little normal bowl for these monstrous rabbit dinners.

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I haven’t made spaghetti since we have been married. Yes, I realize it is like a staple newlywed meal. I had some angel hair pasta sitting in the cupboard and kind of wanted to get rid of it, so DJ happily obliged to eating a normal meal. I did add turkey meatballs for him… and sundried tomatoes, and maybe a little oregano and italian seasoning, and crumbled parmesan, but I did my best to keep it “normal”. L-O-L. img_0472

Ya’ll know how I try to make one thing from my cooking magazines, once a week? Well this week I present to you blue cheese, basil, lambburgers. I mainly wanted to make lambburgers, just to say lambburgers. It also seemed like a good cooking challenge. I have a long way to go in the meat-cooking department. Oh, I also wanted to be able to quote this the whole time I made them…

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I loved making rosemary fingerling potatoes from my Blue Apron trial, and thought they would be a perfect accompaniment to this meal. The topping for the lambburger is a basil, mayo, and blue cheese dressing. This whole meal was surprisingly easy, and we had leftovers for days- which allows me to get innovative. I loved caramelizing the onions because it makes the kitchen smell incredible, and may have snatched a few myself in the process 😉

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DJ enjoyed the meal even though he isn’t the biggest blue cheese fan. The basil and blue cheese were perfect compliments. Who woulda thought? I tried the cheesy concoction just to make sure it was edible- and it was delicious! I had my salad above round two and some of the fingerling potatoes.

With the leftovers I made zucchini boats. I improvised by adding caramelized onions and mushrooms, and roasted the blue cheese mixture in the oven with the lamb crumbles. I made some garlic bread on the side. DJ said he liked this better than the original burgers even. I can post a recipe for that soon (soon is a relative term).

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For my studying throughout the week I tried different coffee shops to get a change of scenery. My favorite place is Peet’s Coffee and Tea. I’m actually currently sitting at one. Their coffee is amazing, and they aren’t terribly overpriced, plus they are playing Smokey Robinson so it’s a good day. One of my friends works at one in Santa Clara and I went to visit her one day. I, naturally, went to the wrong one, and it’s kind of uncomfortable saying “Just kidding- going to another Pete’s!” to the cashier when I realized she didn’t work there. She worked at the one 4 miles south down the road. 😂  Ahh, only in Cali. I also tried Philz, but it was hard to get much done there. It was a bit chaotic and loud. But they had the most profound sign hanging in their bathroom…

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Thursday night I went for a hike with my hiking group. The moon was INSANE. Any one see the harvest moon? We ended up doing our hike later than usual and the sun is setting earlier. I could tell my group leader was a bit on edge, eager to get back. She divulged to me (at the end of our hike) that she heard someone had been attacked by a mountain lion on that trail, so she was ancy to get back before it was too dark. The views were so worth it. I can’t wait to do this trail again.

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On one of my walks to a coffee shop I saw this little cute box that is a place to leave your leftover food. How cool is this? I was too excited to not take a picture, although the cars passing probably were confused. But especially when leaving for trips and what-not, if there are any food items that might go bad I’d love to know they are not going to be wasted. I need to do more research into how this works exactly. I also need to make sure that’s what this is actually for, and it’s not just a “go green” campaign on some large appliance. AWKWARD if that’s all it is. Oh gosh it probably is. 🙈Hahaha.

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The trees are just beautiful and I had to share.

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DJ played basketball with some guys after school Friday afternoon. I was so glad he could take the break and do something where he felt in his element. For our Friday date night this past friday (9/16), we were both craving sushi (or snoooshi as we call it). I found a Groupon for a place in cupertino we have had our eye on. We rubbed the study daze out of our eyes and spent a quick hour out on the town. The place was pretty tucked away, but super eclectic, played some of the best music, and served some yummy rolls.

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Seaweed salad is a must. This is one of my favorite sushi accompaniments. My aunt loves seaweed salad too, and she tried to make it at home one time. She bought legit raw seaweed-like the algae kind. She said she ended up throwing it right back where it came from (they live on the water). I laughed so hard when she told me this story and I saw the picture of her attempted “seaweed salad”.

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Saturday DJ tucked himself away in the library at school. Main Street Cupertino was having their grand opening (Although we have basically tried everything already *hair flip*). I decided to check it out for a study break in the afternoon. They had all kinds of fun stuff going down like the opportunity to throw a football with Jerry Rice, a giant raffle, locals doing karate and such, and all the food vendors out giving out samples. It was open to the general public too. The lines were nuts, but it was a nice break to be out in the sunshine and among people.

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Back to studying with a third cup of coffee for the day.

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Last night I could tell it was a much-needed cookie night. Nothing some cookies can’t solve.

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The two of us just studied away all day after church.  I have been listening to a podcast called Serial while I long-hand my notes. Anyone heard of it? I am addicted. DJ’s friend we had dinner with the other night actually told us about it. It currently has two law cases that are subject to much speculation and uncertainty about the discretion of the law. I flew through the first case and am now listening to the second. He also suggested watching the documentary The Jinx. I watched through that too while writing out my labs, meds, etc.  I am dying to converse about them, so if anyone has seen them, please let’s chat. I have so many questions and opinions.

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I use a little syringe highlighter that my mother-in-law gave me as a graduation present. I love them!!

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Representing the Orioles today. GO O’s!!!!!

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Wishing you a Monday that has been anything but Mundane,

xo <3

Mack

 

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

 

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

The Cherry Capitol- TC, MI!

I am about to blog about one of my favorite places ever, and there is no way I can possibly do it justice, but you bet I will do my best! The first trip DJ and I took after graduation in April was to Traverse City, MI. I have taken a while to blog about this trip which severely throws off the order of events, but that’s okay because I want to make sure that I hit all the highlights and articulate accurately what a wonderful place this destination is.

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I have gone to Traverse City since I was a little girl. From hunting for the coveted Petoskey stones in the unusually cold water to sampling cherries from family friends’ cherry farms to soaking up the fresh michigan air in my lungs as I skied along the  most breathtaking views, my memories of this spectacular place are numerous. My mom is originally from this area, and I am lucky to have my grandparents live on one side of the notorious peninsula and my Aunt and Uncle right across the bay. **FUN FACT: DJ and I actually got engaged at my Aunt and Uncles’ beautiful waterfront home. I will have to share that story sometime ;). When planning our summer, Traverse City was at the top of the list.

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Why not do the most peaceful exercise in the most peaceful place?

The first night we arrived my aunt and uncle prepared us the most fabulous dinner. They are the type of people that seem to just excel at anything and everything they set their minds to. Cooking is no exception. My uncle prepared some of the most delectable salmon we have ever had followed by perfectly cooked veggies from my aunt and an absolutely refreshing salad. We still talk about “Uncle Pat’s Salmon” now. We have been to several restaurants for salmon and said, “Well- still not as good as Uncle Pat’s!”. The next day I was supposed to run the “run michigan cheap” half marathon. I may have forgone that race considering it was 30 degrees, snowing, and at 7 am. I decided to do instead ten miles on the treadmill and watch Flashpoint on Netflix. That show will keep you on the end of your seat (or on the end of the treadmill?). If you have Netflix, I highly recommend it. It made the ten miles fly by. We had a yummy parfait for breakfast and headed out on the town.

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At this point in time I was studying hard for my NCLEX (nursing boards), so DJ and I went to this delicious coffee shop called Aroma’s. It was the BEST almond milk latte I have had in my entire life. Look, I used to be a barista so I know this stuff ;). We studied for a few hours, I think DJ watched some games on his phone (or something sport related- who knows), then went back to get ready for lunch.

This is going to be a food post isn’t it? Yes, very much.

What was for lunch?! Well let me tell you… everything organic you could dream of. My Aunt and Uncle shop at multiple grocery stores and farmers markets to only buy the most organic and clean ingredients. I love staying at their house to eat all their food (…and hanging out with them is a major bonus, hehe). This little booger was the most delicious salad I may have ever had with multicolored carrots, tons of root vegetables, hummus, etc. etc.

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After lunch, I continued to study a bit and then relax. My Aunt and Uncle are super easy-going people; I feel that I can just veg-out and not worry about a thing when I’m in their home. DJ always jokes that I am going to be my Aunt when I’m older; we have very similar personalities, and I take that as quite the compliment. That night they treated us to a wonderful dinner at the restaurant Blu in Glen Arbor. I have never been anywhere like this. It has fine dining cuisine, but the most relaxing environment. You enjoy your meal overlooking the gorgeous water and are surrounded by only about ten other tables. It is the most quaint fine-dining experience I have ever had the privilege of enjoying. The staff was incredibly hospitable and knew many patrons by name. Ohhhh, and the food was insane. The menu isn’t super large, but anything you order will be fantastic. We tried a vast array of blue crab puffs with a sweet chili sauce, escargot with parsley and garlic butter, foie graus in a cherry sauce, and mixed greens with sherry vinaigrette. That’s a lot you say? Well those are just the apps. For our entrees we sampled (meaning devoured in their entirety) the walleye and a trout dish that was cooked to absolute perfection. I can’t give too much away because you just have to make your way there yourself. (HINT: order their flourless chocolate cake and myer’s rum soaked pineapple cake for dessert)! We wined and dined over amazing conversation, nonstop laughter, the most calming views, and exquisite cuisine.

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Are pant-suits back in style yet?

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I thought the pant suit was cute and all until I had to use the restroom. Then I realized what a struggle that would be-trying to unzip that thing! I held it all night, believe it or not…most would not.We all went back home with full stomachs and happy hearts. Nothing beats time with family.  And nothing beats access to the restroom after you have held it for three hours.

The next morning the two chefs went to work and made us huevos rancheros. Uhm, hello, how have I gone my whole life without these?! They made mine with vegan sausage (which tastes no different than regular- I am telling you!). We were stuffed like turkeys on thanksgiving, said our goodbyes, and headed off across the bay to see my grandparents (aka the coolest g-rents that ever lived).

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On our way to the other side of the Peninsula, we stopped at the cutest little winery. I told DJ I had to pop in. It looked like a mom-and-pop shop from the outside. On the inside it was a modern, sleek-looking wine tasting bar- I didn’t see any touristy little giftshop (you know- the ones with the spinning keychain holders that never spell your name right). So at 11 am on a Tuesday we are the only ones standing in this wine cellar. The girl that was working was super friendly, and we got to chatting for a while. I did end up sampling just a few sips of a couple wines because A. I felt weird if we just left without buying anything after chatting for that extended period of time and B. Wine.

Next, we went to the real touristy side of the city in downtown Traverse City. Downtown TC is my type of paradise. It has the cutest bakeries, gift shops, antique shops, unique family owned stores you can imagine. Despite the fact that I have been there a million times it never gets old! I usually spend hours upon hours just gallivanting through the numerous stores- especially Cherry Republic. *CUE DRAMATIC MUSIC*. This little shop is always packed because they offer cherry jams, cherry covered espresso beans, cherry salsa, cherry malted milk balls- need I go on? They allow samplings of many of the items and also offer a diverse menu of food choices. DJ and I ordered some soup to warm up while we were there. We also stopped in a coffee shop called Espresso Bay so I could squeeze in a little studying.

The trip in town would not be complete without visiting the olive oil store, Fustinis. I stocked up on their basil olive oil, 18 year old balsamic vinegar, and espresso balsamic (which is palatable on vanilla ice cream). I have tried my fair share of salad dressings but nothing tops combining some Fustini’s  basil olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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My favorite discovery of the day was the bakery called Morsels. You know how sometimes you just need “a little something sweet”? Well that’s me all the time, and this place does the trick. It has a bunch of different delicious flavored “Morsels” you can choose from. Some of the best included: Brownie points (our personal favorite), Nuts and Berries (the TC award winning favorite), and Seventh Heaven which had graham cracker, coconut, and butterscotch chips. We went back right before we left (to go back to Indiana) and stocked up on a few more for our road trip home.

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I just loved this sign
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After exploring the great down town, we headed over to our Grandma and Grandpa’s for some quality time. We caught up on all the happenings while enjoying one of those home cooked meals only a grandma can whip up. They are two of the coolest individuals I have ever met. They have been together since they were teenagers and have the most incredible stories. As I get older the stories become more and more  fascinating. They also are incredibly sage; I call my Grandma often for advice and just to chat. She is a no-mess-around kind of lady and will give it to you straight coupled with the warmest heart and a generous spirit. My Grandpa is simply the kindest person you will ever meet (and the most hilarious). His famous line to anyone who walks through the doors is, “Me Casa es Su Casa“, and he means it. We are beyond thankful for them and treasure each and every second together.

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The next day DJ and I headed off to one of our all-time favorite locations- The Sleeping Bear Dunes. Our family would always make fun of us for how often we would visit the sandy hills during TC family get-togethers. When you experience the Dunes, you will understand why they are such a big deal!

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The two of us just turn into a couple of big kids when you put us in some sand. We could frolic all day in those parts. The sand dunes have a MASSIVE dune that you can go down and climb back up (the one we are playing on above). It takes about five to seven minutes to get down, but it can be anywhere from a thirty-minute to a two-hour hike back up depending on your condition. The dunes extend for what seems like miles, and there are multiple different starting locations you can go to in order to access the park. One year we did the strenuous four mile hike to Lake Michigan. Make sure to take water and a fresh set of legs if you ever do that one ;). DJ and I went to a couple of the side trails we have never been to before and saw a porcupine up in the tree. I’m not sure where I thought porcupines lived, but I did not expect to see one in Michigan.

On our way home we made a very necessary stop in the downtown area for Kilwin’s ice cream. This is at the top of my ice cream shop list. As soon as I am in the TC area, I begin craving the stuff like a Pavlovian dog. They also serve extraordinary truffles, toffee, fudge, candied apples, and many other goodies. I love sampling all the different fudge places on the strip too. DJ always laughs at me because I get grossly excited when I see a fudge store, but never actually buy any fudge. I think I like the concept of the tremendous amounts of flavors, the smell, and the feel of a fudge store more than the actual fudge. But I always try the samples *Guilty face*.

My grandma and grandpa are big on the traditional cocktail hour. As a kid my grandpa would make me Shirley Cocktails with a little cherry. That was the only time I ever had shirley cocktails (at Grandpa’s), so it was an absolute treat. This night we had an earlier reservation, so we skipped cocktail hour (in very Bachelorette-like fashion, all you bachelorette junkies know what I mean). However, when I was getting ready to go Grandpa knocked on my door and brought me a small glass of wine and big hug. He explained he gives Grandma wine to help her get ready. Those simple, special moments are memories I will treasure.

Wednesday night we went to an amazing restaurant called Apache Trout grill. This is a tourist and locals’ favorite in the TC area, and you best make reservations in advance to grab a table! The entire meal was beyond tasty. I am convinced their smoked whitefish dip was sent straight down from heaven. I was obsessed with the stuff and think it should be mandatory that everyone try it once in their lives. You also cannot go wrong with any of the seafood entrees. However, may I suggest the walleye with the caper beurre blanc sauce. I am a bit caper-crazy, so when I saw that the walleye came with them I jumped on board (or jumped ship- pick your pun). It exceeded my expectations!

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The next day it was time to head home. Though, we did dabble in a fantastic lunch at Poppycocks in TC before! DJ and I ran there along the Peninsula and met up with everyone (Uncle Pat, Aunt Terry, G+G). I ordered the falafel waffle. If that is not only fun to say, it was also super fun to eat! We also said our emotional goodbyes, and left with memories that forever will hold a place in our heart.

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Hope you guys find time in your lives to visit this magical place. Thanks for reading!

Wishing you more falafel waffles than you can handle,

xo <3

Mack