A Valentine’s Day Weekend Recap!

Hello, friends!!! I am officially taking nominations for “worst blog friend ever” for the last two weeks. UGH! Life has been hectic and not only am I behind on responding to the sweetest comments in the world, but I’m soooo behind on your lives too. Just know I DO CARE. I was a bit cranky last night and told DJ it was “blog withdrawal”. Next week will be a teensy bit calmer and I am determined to catch up then.

But for now I have about an hour between getting my physical done for my job and my uniform fitting, so naturally I found a Peet’s on campus and am parked out to write a quick Valentine’s week update!

Ya’ll know DJ and I are foodies. And I’m alll about the whole “idea” and experience of a food experience. I live my life basically by a series of cliches, and I’m totally fine with it. For example, Valentine’s Day weekend… what type of food do you think of?  Italian, right?! Baci! Delizioso! Tutto finisce a taralluci e vino!!!! (yep, googled every single one of those words, the last phrase is my personal fave).

But really, what is more romantic than that? So naturally, I looked up some good Italian restaurants in SF. We found a place that was reasonably priced and still had reservations for Friday night called Bella. When we walked in, the ambiance was romantic perfection. It had a quaint “hole in the wall” type feel and aren’t those always the best? The staff was characteristically friendly and every bite of the food was purely a reminder that Italian food is one of God’s greatest gifts. (It was one of those meals where you pray before the appetizers, but then feel like you should pray again when the main course comes because…THANK YOU, JESUS!)

What we ordered:

House Red Wine: I would describe this as some type of Red Blend- not quite as dry as a Cab, more comparable to a Shiraz. Muy bien. Oh wait that’s Spanish.

Appetizer: Salmone e bruschetta: Wild smoked salmon and mascarpone bechamel over bruchetta. This was my favorite part of the meal.

Dinner: Aglio E Olio Cu Verdure for me: Garlic Confit, Peas, Roma Tomatoes, Zucchini, Asparagus, Bread Crumbs, over quinoa noodles (Yes you can substitute ANY dish for the quinoa noodles, which were fantastic!). I don’t remember what DJ had- but it was foodilicious. I liked his better than mine. The red sauce was to die for.

Dessert: They brought us out a complimentary custard dessert. We were so stuffed, but we had to try some! It was a cross between flan and cool whip, we couldn’t quite figure it out, but it topped up the meal nicely!

We decided to stay in SF for the night since I had a race in the morning in Sausalito! Hence, after dinner we went to a hotel that we found on Groupon for dirt cheap. We kept saying we don’t know how we got such a great deal on this place. I kept checking our receipt because I couldn’t believe they had a room for that low. But if you are in SF and need somewhere to stay, check out Groupon for the Fairmont .

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My favorite part of the hotel was the courtyard. It was decked out with twinkling lights and overlooked the gorgeous skyline of the city. DJ is the one between the two of us that has the directional sense, so he pointed out the different landmarks to me. We could see Coit tower providing an unique view than usual!

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We decided that pre-race desserts were necessary. I am a BIG believer in eating something sweet the night before a race. I always have my best runs when I have something sugar -laden in my system! For example, last year, DJ’s mom made this amazing rhubarb cobbler the night before my last half marathon and I swear that was the most significant contributing factor to having a great race that day! I also PR’d in high school on donuts. I experimented for ya, K? You can take my word for it!

We ended up choosing a red velvet cheesecake and a banana cream  pie to share. It was the perfect Valentine’s day dessert.

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Saturday

4:45 am-Wakeup Call!

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DJ is SUCH a trooper to always get up with me at the break of dawn for these races. He does it with such an encouraging spirit too. I am incredibly thankful for him if I don’t make that clear <3 Gonna be extra sappy because, v-tines day and all that 😉

I think he would whole heartedly agree the views were worth it. Seeing the sun rise while deep in the mountains was absolutely majestic. The waves pounded on the stone walls that lined the shore in a mesmerizing way. We couldn’t get over the beauty. And with each passing hour the sky and surrounding landscape took different forms, capturing the light in different ways, and demonstrating it’s versatile beauty profoundly.

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I ran the Coastal Train Runs Half Marathon. If anyone is considering this race, I want to give a bit of a detailed review. For those that don’t care you can totally skip this part (wait you can totally skip all of this post— but you can extra-skip this haha).

  1. When you arrive, try to carpool because you can park closer to Rodeo Beach without shuttling (and then you can wait in your car because it was freezing in the morning!).
  2. WEAR LEGGINGS! Especially if there was recent precipitation. You will be brushing up against a ton of foliage and you want to avoid getting thorns or ticks or anything like that on ya.
  3. There are two restrooms in the concrete building near the starting line. They had an additional 5 porta potties (roughly). I was able to go to the bathroom twice before the race started which is actually pretty good compared to most races.
  4. Don’t do this race as your first. (Maybe the 5k, but certainly not the half). This was the hardest half I have ever done (it’s my fifth), and I’m in some of my best shape. To give you an idea, the fastest male time was 1:33. Yeah. HARD! The first 6-7 miles feel like straight incline, so if you don’t like hills, this is NOT the one for you! (2,550 feet gained elevation). But if you want the challenge- go for it! One of my favorite things was the fact that I knew there was no way I could get my PR, so I just enjoyed it almost leisurely. I took pictures, snapchats (yes- haha), and actually tried to soak up the views around me. I have never raced leisurely like this, so it ended up being a fun, original experience!
  5. The race is not organized like most, so pay attention! When they tell you your race’s color marking strip, take note. This is not a massive race, so there are times where you may not be able to just “follow the crowd”. At times I felt super isolated in the mountains, BUT I had views of the Golden Gate to keep me company!
  6. This might be one of the most gorgeous races you will ever have the chance to run. The views are truly breathtaking. They will leave you in awe.
  7. The food stops were amazing. There were more snacks than I have ever seen (but there are only two stops the whole race- one at mile 4 (ish) and one at mile 8 (ish). There are restrooms at these two stops too, but that’s about it.
  8. There is not much cell service! If you have music you want to listen to, download the songs! I was planning on listening to Spotify, but only had about four songs downloaded. Yes- I listened to those 4 songs on repeat the entire race. HA! Needless to say, I’m not going to be listening to them again for a while.
  9. Post race- Food and snacks were ON POINT. They have alllll kinds of goodies. The fresh watermelon was my favorite. They also had beer, which I always find kind of ironic. But hey, ya earned that brewsky. (Words from a nurse- make sure you rehydrate first though!).
  10. You get to see the Golden Gate in a way you won’t be able to elsewhere. It’s incredible to run past  the notorious landmark in the mountains! Such a cool experience.

Here are some “Racy photos”. Lolololol. I can’t help myself, guys, I really can’t.

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Personal Results:

60th place out of 267 overall

3rd in my age group

Pace: 10:24 (which makes me cringe, but that’s how hard it was ya’ll!).

Final time: 2:16.

PR: 1:39.

Chelsea, I think you should take this one because you would demolish it!

Now introducing a monumental SF food update. We have officially discovered one of the BEST brunch place in SF. (Yelp confirms this!)

S W E E T  M A P L E

Where to begin? We headed here right after the race because I was bound to be garbage disposal for all things food the rest of the day. I am not usually hungry immediately after a race, but when the hunger hits, it HITS.

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It was crowded beyond belief. I suggest dropping someone off to put your name in and the finding parking. We ended up parking down the road at a meter (the meters do accept credit/debit cards!). Take my word, patience is not my strongest fruit of the spirit to be a hundo, but it’s worth the wait!

We were seated outside and they gave us blankets to help with the chill. It was a beautiful day, but I loved the gesture and the post race chills can definitely get ya!

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Post race mimosa & coffee. With it only being 10:30 in the morning, the sun shining, everyone in a jovial mood, and sitting across from my love after a great and strenuous race I had a moment of, “ahhhhh it’s a perfect day” *sip*.

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If you go to Sweet Maple, you must get their millionaire bacon. It’s sorta what they are famous for. I didn’t try it, but DJ’s expression when he tried it and his verbal expression of “this is the greatest bacon ever” affirmed it’s prized position. Here’s it’s description:

As featured on “United States of Bacon” of Discovery Network. Thick, free range bacon, baked with brown sugar, cayenne, red and black pepper. 

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DJ ordered their Swedish buttermilk pancakes. Swedish pancakes are a bit thinner than normal, which is how DJ and I both prefer ours. I’m not a huge pancake person, but WOWZA. The flavor packed into these cakes blew me away! They had almost a light cake flavor to them. And their syrup is authentic Vermont maple syrup. The whole thing- sensationally delicious.

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I ordered their athenian omelette which had mixed mushrooms, arugula, olives, and goat cheese. THe giant slice of ciabatta au levain and side potatoes that came with it was my favorite part. These were the best breakfast potatoes I have ever had (even better than Los Gatos Cafe, which is saying something!). They are a medley of sweet, colored, and white potatoes in an herbed mix. Mind-blowingly delicious.

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One of my favorite parts of the meal was their jam. Oh my lanta… I’m a sucker for a good jam and this was just top-notch.

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The rest of the day we napped, I think from like 1 to 5 pm. I ran errands in the evening and DJ and I cleaned the house a bit before vegging out to watch some Dexter.

Sunday DJ and I went to the SF location of our church for the baptism service! Our church is one church, three locations- one in Palo Alto, one in San Jose, and one in SF. Palo Alto is where the lead pastor preaches and then it is broadcasted on a screen at the other locations. The worship is live at all three locations too. Since DJ has a truck (which is not a common occurrence out here), we drove down the baptism tank. It was so nice to meet some new friends that Sunday and catch up with some old ones! The service was held at a different location than usual at the Grand Theater in Mission District (an upcoming hidden gem in SF).

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There is an amazing coffee shop next door called Grand Coffee that I couldn’t pass up to start the day.

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After service we had to drain the tank then loaded back up the tank which took some time. We finally made it back home by 5 pm, and then turned around to go to dinner with from friends at Enjoy’ Seoul at 6 pm! Sushi and seaweed salad was hitting the spot after a pretty tiring  (but great) day!

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On Monday I went with a friend to Crepevine in Willow Glen for breakfast. This was the first time I visited Willow Glen and the strip we were on was adorable. This place is definitely going to have to be revisited for date nights! We had some delicious coffee, yogurt, and crepes!

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We spent the afternoon shopping for her birthday!

In the evening, DJ and I enjoyed some DELICIOUS Shari’s Berries from DJ’s mom. YUM. They came at the perfect time for Bachelor night! This take valentine’s day treats to a new level! The truffles were divine! We savored every bite. The cheesecake was insanely good and the chocolate covered strawberries were so good it made me wanna cry. Like have you ever had something so good you just think, “Is this even legal?”. Yeah… that was Shari’s Berries. Men, take note. This is what you need to get your ladies for V-tines day next year, and it’s what they want. Take it from me!

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Tuesday was Valentine’s Day!!! DJ and I traditionally like to stay in on actual Valentine’s Day and make either pizza or pasta and celebrate the weekend before (hence Bella’s). This time we made chicken alfredo. I made a zoodle alfredo with vegan chik’n strips in mine to make it vegetarian!

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On Wednesday I had orientation for Random Acts of Flowers. This is a phenomenal organization that receives floral leftover donations from florists/Trader Joe’s/etc. They then assemble them into beautiful bouquets and deliver them to assisted living facilities and hospitals. I have wanted to volunteer with them for a while, but their orientation dates always had a conflict with my schedule. Finally, I was able to get in! It’s therapeutic making the bouquets too. They are a national organization, so if you are looking for a great way to spend your free time check them out!!!

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This is the bouquet I had the pleasure of making!

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During day Wednesday I made an appointment for a salon I had a gift card to!!! (Thank you, Aunt Terry!!!). I had the “powder” nails done, which are apparently better for nails than acrylics and actually put vitamins into your nails too. I love them!! Wednesday night we had our Bible Study group per usual.

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Today (Thursday), I am getting my uniform fitting and logistical stuff done for the job!

This weekend is going to be a BIG one. I can’t wait to give you guys an update!!!

Once again- apologies for being so MIA! I am hoping to catch up next week!!

xo <3

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Home Sweet Home. Richfield, OH!

As I have been going back and forth recapping trips from this summer with recent updates, I have been quite excited for this particular recap, although it is a bit out of order! Before our big trip to Maryland and New York we spent a few days at home in Richfield, OH at the end of May. Even though this short trip home was brief it was packed with memories I love to reflect upon. In the evening after a delicious homemade dinner, we all walked on the towpath, which is part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP).

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I wish I could described the views of cascading foliage that enveloped us as we walked along the path. The rainfall was more than usual this year, and while annoying to many people, the greenery did not seem to mind. We kept our eyes peeled for wildlife especially around the Beaver Marsh. Without fail, we saw a turtle and a beaver as well (may have been a muskrat?).

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This park has a special place in my heart. I grew up on it, running and hiking the trails from a young age with my cross country team, family, friends, and many times alone to contemplate on many aspects of life and enjoy the serene outdoors. While physical growth occurred over the years, the true visceral growth was a journey of maturity and endurance. I never realized how much the dirt and muddy paths shaped my perspective and encouraged epiphanies. It was my own form of therapy. I now am taking this love of the CVNP and hopefully will find somewhere like it here, my new home. This is wayyy sappy, but here is a poem I wrote inspired by running in the CVNP.

I am an artist.

I strive for neither glory nor perfection, but to just create. I hear doubts of those around me who think I cannot succeed. I hear the cheers of those who think I can and choose to listen to them.

I am an artist.

I create a skyline filled with dust that swirls and breathes the space I have disrupted. I cause a perfect stillness in the winter frost to swirl in beautiful chaos that leads the way through a winter storm. I sculpt my mind, a perfect struggle as a burn quakes through my legs and my lungs. The morning beckons and I answer understanding that I can create footprints on an unadulterated backdrop before the sun dries the dew.

I am an artist.

I create a melody of dissonance, a beat of my own. The rhythm so insistent and one I cannot decide upon. I get lost in my work, feeling there is no better place but there. I create this art for those around me, and they admire the work, but a passion of an artist causes fullfillment that cannot be explained. I feel I can do anything when I am painting the earth with my pain, struggles, and sweat.

I am an artist who rejoices in the Ultimate Artist.

My art glorifies the one who sculpted me. His art gives my art meaning. I am an artist and I am a runner and creation is my canvas.

In order to symbolize the surrender of our prayers and worries to God, our parents take rocks on their towpath walks and toss them into the river. As the river carries the rock away, out of their hands, it truly allows them to feel a sense of letting go and surrendering that request to God. It is one of the most beautiful, symbolic ways I have ever seen prayer done. We all took turns throwing our hand-picked rocks into the rapids below. We then decided to take them to one of our favorite trails. This is called Oak Hill Trail, one of the CVNP’s most hidden gems. The best part of the trail is the Pineway Alley (pictured at the top). It is one of those places that you just can’t help but stop and marvel at for a few minutes before passing through. There also is a gorgeous lake tucked in the depths of the woods.

Also- if you are interested in understanding the essence of the CVNP there is none who captures it better than Rob Blair. Here is a link to his photography.  Below is one of my favorite samples of his work.

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We ended the evening eating delicious rhubarb crisp (my mother in law is the greatest baker) and prepared for my early morning race! I am a strong believer of eating all the bad-GOOD stuff the night before a race ;). I aways have a great race when I have the carbs from sweets like pies or donuts the night before. Guarantee many people would disagree, but hey- it works for me! Anyways, I decided a few months back that it would be fun to run a half this summer. I have done two fulls and a few halves, but in my last year of nursing school I didn’t train for anything, and I was having the itch to race! I found out the Medina half was going to be the same time we were home. This race was quaint. Can you call a race quaint? Well downtown Medina is so gosh darn quaint, and that is where the start and finish was located. It was not terribly hilly, and I finished with a pretty decent time (1:40:49). My dream is to qualify for the Boston marathon, but I certainly have some work to put in. My favorite part of the race was seeing everyone at the finish and walking around the Farmer’s market.

Later that day our parents treated us to an Orioles vs. Indians game. I felt like such a traitor, but I had on my black to support the O’s. After the game we had a fantastic dinner at fishbone grill.

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Fast forwarding through the Baltimore, NY trip, after the Broadway show we drove through the evening and finally arrived back in Richfield at 5 am. We rested up for the next twenty four hours and then took a flight to our next destination. Stay tuned to find out where our next adventure took us!

Wishing you lots of rhubarb crisp (or your flavor of choice),

xo <3

Mack