There’s No Place Like Home: Part Two

Here we goooo, Part Dos! This one is a bit shorter, gotta give y’all some breathing room, hehe.

We left off the night of Monday the 2nd. In the morning of Tuesday the 3rd I met my friend Rachel at First Watch– my all time FAVORITE breakfast spot. It’s something we don’t have here in the West, so I was salivating as I walked through the door.

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And I guess you can take the girl out of California, but you can’t take the California out of the girl…. naturally I went for their avocado toast. (I also love their coffee). My other favorites here are their tri-athlete and their massive pancakes!

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Rach ordered their famous pesto chicken quinoa bowl with protein-packed quinoa mixed with kale, shredded carrots and house-roasted tomatoes topped with grilled all-natural lemon chicken breast, basil pesto sauce, feta crumbles and fresh herbs.

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After breakfast, I snuck in a workout at the local gym then decided to go to Earth Fare- my main reason for coming home (jk jk … kinda)…. My last meal would include the taters from Burntwood and tofu nuggets from EarthFare. This is one of the food items I miss the absolute most and a must when I go home.

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They didn’t have them in the main display and I started to panic. I asked the lady if she had any and she said none were made but she would be happy to whip some up. It was so kind, and I was willing to wait the extra twenty minutes to get some nuggs.

img_7274img_7275I grabbed some big salads for me and Clair before going to her childhood home to visit her mom and sister.

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This is a picture of their gorgeous backyard. Countless of my own memories growing up were held here too.

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For dinner I met with another close friend from high school, Kylie, at Pub Bricco. I hadn’t been here in forever, and forgot how doggone delicious their food was.

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Kylie had their salmon sandwich and I tried a bite- heaven. Anything with sun-dried tomatoes is pure gold.

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I savored every single bite of their veggie burger with tzatziki sauce.

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We talked, barely stopping to take a breath for almost three hours, and yet it never seems like enough time! We have been sending cards back and forth this past year though which has been such a great way to stay in touch. Who doesn’t love still getting snail mail nowadays?!

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In the morning of the fourth I woke up super early and headed to Lakeside, OH to join DJ’s family for a day on the lake!

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This place is very dear to DJ and I. DJ grew up here in the summers and this was actually where he told me he loved me for the first time (fun facts all around). When you are here it feels like all is right in the world.

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The girls! (Although we missed Amy- DJ’s twin).

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A ceremony was held to dedicate the Park to DJ’s Grandma and Grandpa- it was a beautiful and wonderful ceremony. Truly an unforgettable day. Love this family and honored to call myself part of it <3

After the ceremony I zoomed back to Cleveland to return the rental car. I was stuck in some serious bouts of rain- I do NOT miss that!!! Rain rain go away, come back when I am on my plane….. back to CA.. where there is a whole lot less precipitation.

BUT fighting the H2O was so worth it because I was able to attend my family’s fourth of July barbecue! My brother and his amazing wife Maura picked me up from the rental place and we drove to my cousin’s home for the evening.

I seriously hope I am half the parents they are!

This is Baby Kate- can’t handle her cuteness. Our little all American girl!

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And this is Jack- my nephew who literally melts my heart and soul every time he says, “Aunt Kenzie”.

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Kate loooved my sunnies.

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And my shoes! She got into those on her own. We just turned around and she was standing there in them with a big smile on her face. It was so stinking cute.

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Time for sparklers!!!

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BE STILL MY SOUL. This face <3

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Jack loved the sparklers and really loved the pop-its! Fearless little man.

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After an incredible family day, I tried to catch some serious snoozes before having to get up at 4 am for my flight (which would be 1 am Pacific time). Eek! I was surprisingly hungry when I got to the airport, so I found a yummy chia seed pudding with berries and nuts and had a coffee before boarding.

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And now that brings us back to good ole’ Northern Cali. Thanks for letting me share my home with you all- such a special place with such special people. Where is your home home?

xo <3

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There’s No Place Like Home: Part One

Heyyyya!!! I am splitting my Ohio trip into two parts so I don’t crash Rossy’s laptop, lol 😉 We took off for Ohio last Friday the 29th. I woke up around 4:45 am to squeeze in a few miles on the tready. Our flight was around 11: 45 am, and I had worked up quite the appetite by the time we had to go. I quickly grabbed a three bean salad and mixed green salad from Klein’s on the airport and ate a No Cow bar on the plane too for some extra protein. (still bitter they changed their formula, but they still keep me nice and full).

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Oh and of course had to snag a Cafe au Lait with almond milk from Dog Patch!

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Home! 🏡

We caught up with DJ’s mom at the kitchen table like we always have since high school <3 One of the best parts of coming home! We ended the night by watching the latest Bachelorette all together.

In the morning I got up early pearly to get ready for the wedding. The time change always messes with me and after getting up at 4:45 am the day before, I was gonna need a lot of coffee! Mom B even stocked up my favorite Dave’s Killer bread and had some perfectly ripe avocados. She knows me well! That avocado toast tasted so good. Food and coffee alwayyys tase better at this house.

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I brought my press on, jankey nails since mine are so darn short and I didn’t want to paint them. Welp, epic fail when I was short two nails! Haha.

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I whipped into the nearest CVS and grabbed a new pack. They are so long, but I didn’t want to mess with clipping them because I’d do a horrible job. Gotta just let the claws live sometimes, ya know?

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I deliberated which dress to wear and settled on this one (you can catch my options on my MIL’s new website and App Wear This One– I will explain more about this soon!).

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We went to a beautiful wedding after picking up my girl Rachel. Remember our cruise together?! We never got to say goodbye after accidentally separating at the airport so when we saw each other it was like “Goodbye! Hello!”.

On the car ride over we imagined worst case scenarios for if one of my nails were to pop off (the little press ons aren’t necessarily the strongest little suckers). We decided it would either be when shaking someone’s hand or at the reception and then the bride slipping on it. Totally normal convos to have on the way to a wedding, right?

As the send off, we all let off balloons outside the church. In San Francisco you would be beheaded if you dared let off balloons into the environment, haha. DJ and I were like, “Is this really happening?!”

In between the wedding, we picked up my sister from a local subway where she was meeting with a friend. Her poor car wasn’t starting, but my brother was able to come in the clutch for a repair. (Y’all it’s like the olden days- fam and friends within arms reach when ya need them, just loved it!).

We went to lunch at Burntwood Tavern, the favorite spot in town.

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Deej had their chicken sliders

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Rachel had their tater tots- and HOLY CANNOLI RAVIOLI, these are the best darn tater tots I have ever had. If I had to create a last meal these would be included.

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I went for their hummus and pita platter. It was a fantastic tide-me-over!

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So nice to see these two below. I haven’t seen Hal, my sister (In the middle) in over a year. I was ecstatic when I heard she was going to be in town for a couple days (She lives in Cincy).

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The food at the wedding was some of the best wedding food I have ever had!!! I had the macadamia salmon and DJ had their filet. Everyone raved about how wonderful the filet was (it’s hard to get a great meat cut at a wedding too!). And those potatoes- goodness gracious alive- I could live on those things.

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My two besties in one picture. Rachel in the middle, Clair on the right. Ya might remember Clair from her own wedding last November <3

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We all danced our little hearts out all together. DJ cut a rug!

Here is the gorgeous bride, Ali. Ali and I were SUPER close in high school. It’s one of those relationships where we can easily just pick up where we left off.

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Here is a video I grabbed of us dancing, but the sound isn’t working for some reason?!!! Ugh, snapchat, come n’!

Late in the evening they had pizza, is there anything better?! Rach and I were quite excited.

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In the morning of the 30th, DJ had to return to Cali for work around 7 am.

I went for a nice sixish mile jog and then Rach, Rachel’s Mom, MC, and I went to Cuyahoga Valley Church. This was the church we used to go to when we lived in Ohio. It was SO nice, gosh I miss that place.

I miss the simplicity of living in Ohio badly. When talking to my mom I was telling her how much I missed certain parts of living in OH (I wrote about some differences in my last post). She made a valid point- she said she was homesick the most when she was home. So true.

After church, we went for a scrumptious brunch in Cleveland. Since we are older now, I would like to go back and actually explore Cleveland. We never did growing up- we just stayed in our little town. DJ and I vowed we would do some more exploring next time we are there together!

anyway- I digress…the three of us decided on the Market Garden Brewery for brunchy perfection.

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I loved the decor- it’s industrial chic if I’ve ever seen it!

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MC tried their Bloody Mary (I snagged a sip! Mmmm mmm!).

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Rach and I savored their very generous in size mimosa flight! The flavors were fantastic- white peach, passion fruit, blood orange, & blackberry.

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I enjoyed their yummy avocado toast. I had a size of their potatoes and a poached egg to plop on top of it.

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MC and Rach split their Brisket Omelette with adobo braised short rib, fingerling potato, fresh avocado, queso fresco, fried pickled onions, cilantro. They said it needed a bit more umph of flavor, but the potatoes were awesome!

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They preferred the carnitas Benedict with 2 scratch english muffin, MGB progress pilsner braised pork carnitas, 2 soft poached eggs, salsa verde hollandaise, pickled red onions, cotija cheese, cilantro served with breakfast potatoes.

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After rolling ourselves out of the restaurant, we headed over to West Side Market. In alll my years of living in Ohio, I had never been here. Can ya believe it?!

It was HUGE- with seriously anything you can imagine. If when we move back here one day I am going to live at this place.

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Feels like home <3

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When I say they have everything, I mean everything..

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After purchasing some fudge and continuing to nurse our food comas, we went to a friend of Rachel’s who had a sweet little new puppy. Cutest little puppy ever!!

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In the afternoon, I headed over to my brother’s house to spend some time with my niece and nephew <3 <3 Gosh I miss them. I hate that I’m the “far away” Aunt- but it makes me treasure truly every single second. They amaze me and I can’t believe I have the honor to call myself their Aunt.

This here is little Miss Baby Kate. Jack, my nephew, was running around and I didn’t have a chance to snag a picture, but next post I have some cute ones of him <3 (I know I need to chill on the heart usage but I can’t help myself).

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The Aunts with their girl! Can ya tell we’re all related?

Maura, my sister in law, made these TASTY vegan buddha bowls. I recreated them immediately when I came home the best I could because they were so doggone delicious!!!

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After chillin’ with my family, giving the kids a bath and reading a bedtime story, we all hit the hay. Those little moments make my heart beat. I couldn’t love those two more than I already do.

In the morning I had the honor of putting little pigtails on this one and then seeing where the kiddos go for summer daycare/school.

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After, I drove to the local gym I used to attend and cranked out a few miles. I then went to Clair’s house for more baby snuggles with her little one, Jacob. He turned one this past week!

CAN. YOU. STAND. IT.

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We hung out, caught up, and kept a close eye on the rambunctious little booger above. We were going to do something outside, but it was in the nineties and promising rain. We ended up going to Target to try to find some clothes for Clair. It felt like middle school again….. except a baby in tow, tehe. It’s strange when you move away and then return how much feels the same, but so different all at once.

Once Clair’s husband Robby came home we went out for a nice dinner at …. guess where? Burntwood Tavern 😉

Clair opted for their Moscow Mule and I had a glass of Cab. Shocker, huh?

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Naturally, we had to split their taters again. I’m telling you— best darn tots I’ve ever tried. Napoleon Dynamite would have a field day.

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Clair had their delectable cedar plank salmon.

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With it being scorching hot out I decided on their salmon salad. I could eat this for every meal.

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We settled in for the evening with some wine to watch Bachelorette. It was a perfect day <3

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I will do part 2 soon with all our 4th of July Festivities & lotsa great grub!

xo <3

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Cleveland, Ohio- A Perfect Christmas

HAPPPPPYYYY NEW YEAR! Here we are the end of 2016, and before it crosses into 2017, I am going to do my best to recap our Christmas!!! Excuse the spelling and grammatical errors, because I’m sure there will be plenty considering I’m trying to whip this out in like 20 minutes.

So, CHRISTMAS!

On December 23rd, I arrived in Cleveland, Ohio. I was picked up by one of my best friend’s from childhood. We were able to sneak in a quick dinner together at BJ’s in Montrose, OH, my old stomping grounds.

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I wished we snagged a picture together, but we were so busy talking and catching up it didn’t cross my mind (but yes, taking a picture of my cherry-chipotle salmon still did cross my mind).

The rest of the evening was so nice, relaxing, and needed after a full day of travel. I spent it chatting with DJ’s mom in the kitchen while wrapping all the gifts I had shipped to their house so I didn’t have to lug them on the plane. She was so kind to let them stockpile over there for the last couple months! Sitting around and just talking away in her kitchen is one of my ALL TIME favorite things to do in the world. Since I have dated DJ since high school, that kitchen island has hosted countless laughs, discussions, decisions, and family time at it’s finest.

DJ came in on a red-eye in the morning of the 24th, Christmas Eve. Before he came home from the airport, I went out for a run. This view below defines home for me. Ya’ll have essentially seen me as a ‘Cali girl’, but Farmer’s markets, the giant swing at Szalay’s, cornfields, washed-out red barns, and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are nearly as innate as my genetic makeup. The miles of running trails that I’m able to circumnavigate through sheer muscle memory, or rather soul memory, hold onto my secrets from years and years past. The actual footprints of my running shoes may weather away, but the memories of the struggles, trials, elations, and joy that have soaked this part of northeast Ohio is indelibly there forever. I relished every second of that cold run that brought an inner warmth nearly incomparable to much else.

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One of my friends, Annie, said to me yesterday- “Your blog cracks me up. One second you are like, guys, here is something really serious and then BAM, here’s a picture of some food!” Ha! She’s so right and that is exactly what I’m doing right now.

BAM. Here is a pic of some DELICIOUS homemade cinnamon sugar donuts that my mother- in-law made! Seriously some of the best tasting donuts ever. She should open a bakery.

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On the night of Christmas Eve, some REALLY exciting things happened. I FINALLY MET MY NIECE, Kate!!!!!!!! The feeling of holding this gem in my arms brought me so.much.joy. She is perfect. As an Aunt to my niece and nephew, the feeling of love is just truly overwhelming- I can’t imagine possibly being able to  love them more than I do, but that also provides for me a small glimpse of what a parent’s love must feel like. I also see how my own Aunt loves us like her own, and I totally get it in a new way now.

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Here’s my amazing nephew, Jack. He is one of the most intelligent, spunky, and inquisitive little two-years- olds I have ever met. I am blessed. The only way I could be more blessed is if I could have had him sit still for a picture. But I’ll take what I can get 😉

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We went to Mass at my brother and sister in law’s church. It is a breathtakingly beautiful Church in downtown Cleveland.

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My brother and his wife are some of the greatest parents I know. When my dad passed away, my brother became the rock of the family. He has constantly emphasized the importance of family, prioritizing us, encouraging us, and being there to offer wisdom and a hand no matter what. My sister-in-law is also one of the most gracious, loving, and just fun individuals to be around. I am thankful I have them as role models for when it DJ and I have kids one day.

When we got back to my brother’s house we had a scrumptious traditional lasagna, meat or veggie option, with salad and rolls. SO YUMMY! There were a good number of people here this year that we had to split into two rooms for dinner. It fills my heart to have a full house on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve has traditionally always been the night that we spend with my dad’s side of the family, but for a few years it felt that there were fewer and fewer people each year. Even my sister, Andrea, was gone for a couple years living in China. I missed her so much, and it makes me so happy to see the family growing again <3

We spent the night playing games, laughing, and exchanging gifts. It’s super fun opening them up with my nephew now that he sort of has a handle of what is going on. Except the wrapping paper and boxes seem to be his favorite part!

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Christmas morning I did Insanity and then DJ and I got in our Christmas garb on to go downstairs!

Drumrollllll……..

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Yes- we jumped on that onesie train! We had breakfast all together and then headed over to visit some of DJ’s extended family. It was just a great day with amazing family, friends, food, and the cutest pups you’ve ever seen.

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This is DJ’s twin sister Amy’s corgi named Pool Noodle. Is that not the best name you have ever heard for a corgi, and is he not the cutest corgi you have ever seen?!?!

He is also pretty insta-famous: poolnoodlethecorgi

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The evening was filled with a Christmas dinner nothing short of holiday food deliciousness, and the desserts to follow …. well, the picture speaks for itself… perfection. I crave my mother-in-law’s pumpkin pie all year long. She is one of the BEST baker’s I have ever known. It’s not a holiday without her desserts!

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On the 26th I squeezed in another run. I would occasionally find myself on the lookout for mountain lions! It’s weird that I didn’t have to be concerned about them. DJ and I also had a bit of culture shock with the amount of space, land, and lack of people! We kept feeling like, “Where is everyone?!”. Welcome to the midwest!

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The rest of the day was super chill for us. The best kind of day. I love how being home, whether in Texas or Ohio, forces me to just veg-out a bit.

On the 27th, I had dinner with a good friend I’ve known since 6th grade. She’s one of those people that it’s incredibly easy to just pick right back up where we left off. We went to Mustard Seed Market & Cafe at Highland Square. This has always been one of my ALL TIME favorite restaurants. They have an incredible selection of vegetarian and vegan options that blow me away every time.

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I had the vegan Rueben sandwich with their antioxidant salad with turmeric dressing and coconut bacon. I could eat this for every single of my whole life, not joking.

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We spent the rest of the night with the family playing words with friends, watching Secret life of Pets and hottubbing! Also Hot tubbing NEVER gets old.

On the morning of the 28th I had breakfast with Rachel! A few of you that have followed me for a couple months may remember when she visited San Fran. You can read about it here and here 🙂 I was beyond excited to see her; I was missing her mucho.

We went to First Watch which is a must-go-to place when I go back to Richfield. It’s a chain, so a few of you may have heard of it?!? Anything on their menu is fantastic. They are notorious for their massive pancakes- banana nut or carrot cake are my favorites.

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I had their triathlete egg white omelette with house-roasted crimini mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and green chilies. It’s served with housemade salsa, a dry english muffin, and fresh fruit. This is my go to easily! I also love their power wrap (minus the turkey) and their Energy bowl.

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Rach ordered their pesto chicken quinoa bowl with protein-packed quinoa mixed with kale, shredded carrots, and house-roasted tomatoes topped with grilled all-natural lemon chicken breast, basil pesto sauce, feta crumbles, and fresh herbs. This is a favorite of a lot of people I know! Rachel loved it too.

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She also ordered their daily juice selections, it was simply revivifying. You cannot go wrong with a First Watch juice- they are fantastic.

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Rach and I hung out at her house after for a bit. Her house is like my second home to me. I always miss her and her family tons being so far away, but I was thankful that I could at least see her for that small amount of time! <3 <3

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Also she wins best gift giver of the century award. For any occasion, she thinks of the MOST creative, thoughtful gifts. For example, for our wedding, Rach had cornhole boards with our last name and the date of our wedding personalized in our wedding colors made. That’s just one of many,many examples, and this Christmas she once again blew me away!!!!! We have an inside joke of “just read the blog” when I either run out of time to tell her something, or I have a long story- I’ll always just say “just read the blog”. We occasionally throw out #ontheblog or #justreadtheblog as sorta a joke now. So look what she made me…..!!!!!

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She even had my sign-off! GUYS! Is she the best or what?!?!? She MADE this herself. I can’t get over it. She is starting to get a business off the ground so when she does, I’ll share her info with you all!

That evening we went to Burntwood Tavern in Fairlawn with DJ’s side of the family. It was such a rustic, and yet elegant, place to enjoy some great American cuisine.

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After dinner we packed up our bags (cue the tears), hot-tubbed one more time, ate as much of the desserts that we could for one last night, and then tried to snag a couple hours of sleep. At 3 AM we hit the airport and were on our way back to California.

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I am so thankful for the time to get together with our family and friends. We definitely missed those that couldn’t make it, but we treasured dearly the time with the ones that could. Nursing may consume my holidays in the future, but I’m grateful for at least this last one. More than anything too, I’m thankful for what Christmas means. It’s easy to get caught up in the hum-hum of holiday festivities, but the message behind Christmas is what is most important <3

I cannot wait to read about how everything is going for all of YOU! I am so behind on reading, but I am truly looking forward to catching up this week. Getting those blogger cravings. Anyone else?

Currently DJ and I are on our way to SF to celebrate NYE!!!!!!

Happy New Year to everyone! I am thankful for all of you, for everyone I have met this year through blogging, and I wish you all nothing but joy, love, and blessings in this year to come!

xo <3

Mack