SURPRISE: San Antonio, TX!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Frozen margaritas for me and mother bear for starters

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

& Virgin pina colada for baby sister bear. 

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

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

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

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

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TIME TO EXPLORE!!!!

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

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Santa was just hangin’ around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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———————-

TIME FOR A BREATHER.

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

Ok- we are good to go.

LET’S HIT IT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Isn’t she the cutest in all the land?

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

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And on that note…Off to brunch!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just a couple of cave-dwellers.

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

Thank you again, Mom!!!!

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

xo <3

Mack

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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