Kels and Kenz Take on the Bay Part 2: Wine Country!

Happy Sunday! I’m actually writing this late Saturday night, but let’s be real, this will not be published till Sunday (or Monday) by the time I write, re-read, edit, re-re-read, edit edit, re-re-re-read, then publish (and still find countless errors after the publication-tehe).

In Part One, we left off ending Friday night on the Row with one of my best friend’s, Kelsey from Illinois. On July 28th, I woke up at the wee hours to squeeze in a run, then at 730 am we left the apartment, drove an hour into the city, lucked out with some great parking in Union Square, walked about a mile to the Ferry Building, and arrived right on time to start the journey to wine country!!!

Upon walking to the Embarcadero, we saw this fun little massive waterfall art piece that I’ve never noticed before. I’ve been to the city probably at least fifteen times, but how have I missed this giant thing?

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We signed up for a trip through wine country via Platypus Tours. For those deciding how to visit Napa/Sonoma I want to give great detail about this tour so you can decide if this is a way you would like to tackle wine country! When I found this tour I happily astounded by the price. It was only $110 per person for the entire day, including four wineries, lunch, and discounted tastings and wine tours. (Each winery tasting ended up being about $15 including the winery tour at the first winery, and Kels and I split a couple tastings which also cut down on the cost). The reviews were terrific so we decided to give it a go! This tour required us to be in front of the Ferry Building at 8:45 am to jump on the tour bus that would take us to the wineries.

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The morning went seamlessly- no traffic, easy parking, and it was a breeze finding our tour bus for the day.

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Before getting on the bus, we went to the guest services area in the Ferry Building to grab our tickets to take the Ferry back from Vallejo after our tastings (only $14 per person).

We then walked around enjoying the Ferry Market with a few minutes to spare (yes – minutes to spare in the morning! Can ya believe it?!)

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We were the first to arrive, so we tested out the seats. The bus was comfortable, a good size for the number of people, and stocked with plenty of water.

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I had read online that you can request which wineries to visit or make a request to try different wineries than you have already visited. Our wine tour guide, Bob, already had a set agenda for the day- but it worked out because the wineries were VERY unique and none of us had been to any of them before. Bob was knowledgable and worked hard to make sure we had a great day.

Our first stop was Nicholson Ranch.  This is one of the first wineries you encounter when driving into the southern foothills of Sonoma. I remembered passing it when going to wine country for the first time in March with my Mom & Pete!

We all shuffled into the tasting room, and had a glass awaiting us of their Chardonnay.

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I usually do not like Chardonnays (it’s the oaky finish that I tend to have an aversion to I’ve discovered), but every time I have sampled one in wine country, I have enjoyed them!

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I love watching their beautiful pours!

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This is the winery we were given a full tour of the winery… it’s originally $40 a person, but with our tour, it was included in the tasting price of $15. We initially went up a mountain along their vineyard and were greeted with tremendous views and a pretty awesome dumpster. (Never thought I’d ever say that sentence).

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We then walked down into the actual factory and saw the wine vat. We were given a fantastic educational session that blew our minds with how wine is actually made. I guess you will have to go yourself to find out 😉 Ok, or google. I guess google would work too. But this is way more fun! Lol.

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We then all took the elevator into the basement. We walked around in the surprisingly humid cellar. I was amazed by the number of barrels. But I was even more shocked by the price of each barrel. Anyone have any guesses?

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Answer: Each barrel costs $2000, and must be replaced every 5 years. Can you imagine?!?! Sheesh!

After our fabulous cellar session, we went to another hidden cellar room containing the oldest wines in the winery. The wine in the forefront of the photo is the VERY first wine ever made by the owner of Nicholson ranch (which was originally started in a garage).

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And finally, we moved into a gorgeous dining room for our final tasting.

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Kels and I pulled out our vegan cheese, crackers, sun-dried tomatoes, and hummus that we had packed for the day (it was about 11:30 am at this point and the hunger was starting to kick in!). I love packing cheese and crackers for winery tours, it enhances the experience and helps bring out flavors in the wines (especially the heavier ones). We shared our grub with our new friends we had made on the tour, and they couldn’t believe the cheese was vegan (I’ll share it in a Friday Favorites!).

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How freaking beautiful is she?!!

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After Nicholson ranch, we headed to Kieu Hoang winery. This is actually a winery that was originally a Mondavi winery (which is a pretty popular wine you may recognize in your local grocery store). I love the Robert Mondavi Cabernet you can just buy at Target!

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This winery was absolutely the most contemporary designed winery I have ever seen. Everything was immaculate and punctiliously designed. Yet, it clings onto the traditional Napa ambiance when you step onto their quaint porch.

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And these were the views..

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The woman serving was slow & less than knowledgable about the wine, but when we tried the zin we knew we had stumbled upon something special. Goodness. It was soooo good- the only Zin I have had that maybe is better is the one from Rombauer (to this day, I am still convinced Rombauer has the best wines!). Anyways, if you buy a bottle, they waive the tasting fee, so this bottle was essentially $10. How can you pass that up?! We grabbed a bottle to take home and enjoyed a small tasting with our lunch!

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This was one of the first wineries we have been able to actually go the actual vineyards. It was charming, delightful, scenic and all things “vineyard”. We decided to do a little photo shoot because wine not?!

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Winery numero tres, Bouchaine Vineyards! This one probably left the least impression of all four, but was wonderful nonetheless.

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This winery was much tinier than the other two we had visited, but was quiet, relaxing, and had phenomenal wines.

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Surrounded by their gorgeous gardens (Somewhat reminding me of Frog’s Leap) we enjoyed perhaps the best Chardonnary we have ever had- although I did LOVE the one we tried at Ledson. It left a  buttery note. I finally understood what people meant by “buttery” by trying this wine. I should have taken a picture of the list so I could tell you which it was, but I failed! I should know butter by now! 😉

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anddd maybe the most FUN of the whole trip- we ventured to our fourth winery… The Runway- Trending Wine Bar.

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Initially when they said our fourth winery was at an airport I was skeptical. An airport? Really? That doesn’t exactly scream “Wine Country” to me. Did another winery fall through? I was soooo cynical going into it, but not rightly so. Ohhh so not rightly so! It may have been our favorite part of the day.

We arrived at the winery and were greeted by Jason, the ultimate wine entrepreneur. He created a brand of wine around the hashtag, and actually owns the #besties, #bromance, and #selfie. (yes, the actual #). All millennials are #impressed right now.

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Everything is centered around the #… down to the logo on the wine glasses! Tell me you have never seen a more brilliant marketing idea!

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Every single wine was delicious, and Jason had us rolling- the whole time we were laughing and enjoying the very Grammy-esque backdrop for a photo shoot!

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I was flattered when this was posted on Trending Wine’s Instagram! Taking a selfie with the #selfie wine.

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Never have I ever been more basic, errrr, I mean awesome, right?

After, we went our to the tarmac to witness the planes taking off & coming in, waiting for a celebrity to disembark one. Celebrities frequent this airport, and we were keeping our eyes peeled for Matthew McConaughey sightings. (no such luck, but regardless we had a great time).

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We ended the fab trip by getting a photo all together.

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Time for the Ferry ride back!!

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Just keeping baby Zin nice and safe <3

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And we back!!! The ride back was about 45 minutes. It was so relaxing, but unfortunately the fog was so thick (dangit, Karl!) that we didn’t get the best of views.

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Annnnd that caps our day until about 6 pm. I will pick up in our next post to recap our evening. It will definitely require a post of it’s own!

And to quickly give a synopsis on pros/cons for those that are considering this tour!

Pros: This was a very friendly & accommodating company- immediately when I booked they called us to clarify our dietary preferences to make sure lunch had options for both of us. Price is phenomenal for included transportation, four wineries, a delicious lunch included. You get to see & do wineries you may not venture out to do on your own. Water bottles are included. You make friends and meet people from all over the world. It’s stress free, ya just show up and have a great time!

Cons: Limited flexibility in choosing of the wineries. If you are a newbie, this is a great way to do it because you have no expectations of what to expect/nothing to compare it to. We did feel rushed at times because we were on a specific time schedule to catch the Ferry back. When you go on your own, you can take your good ole’ time at each winery as you please. There is a $15/$20 tasting fee at each winery if you choose to do that (but with the tour we were given the lowest possible price).

Let me know if you have any questions or need recommendations for wine country! I have a bunch.

Questions for you!

  • Have you ever been to Wine Country? Any all time favorites or must do wineries?
  • If you like wine, which type is your favorite?

xo <3

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Napa & Sonoma Part One …. And Some Big News (finally!) :)

Hello, All!!! Wow, so much has happened in just a couple weeks… I’m not sure even where to begin!!! I am coming off working nearly every darn day this past week and weekend, so bear with me as I type as a victim of far too much caffeine consumption on this lazy afternoon. It took exactly three cups of coffee to nurse that nursing hangover (which is such a thing, I promise).

I have debated whether to share my final grad school decision in this post or in the next one. Let’s be real, I don’t have that type of patience to wait….. so I’ll just share right here, right now… You know that last school I was waiting to here from?! Well verdict is in….I WAS ACCEPTED! I was accepted into my #1 choice program for MSN- Duke School of Nursing! My DNP portion (Doctorate of Nursing Practice) is still under review, but that affects me more in a couple years (from MSN into DNP).

What does this mean?! 

Well, DJ and I will be staying in California! I am so relieved because neither of us felt like it was quite time to fly the Cali coop just yet. He is loving his job more and more by day, and I’ve grown pretty attached to our new lives we have built. We know it’s not forever, but it just feels so premature to leave now- DJ’s sister JUST moved out here, we love our Church, and….. Peet’s. I mean Peet’s… come n’ now. How can I leave my love just yet? I have been having serious chats with God saying if we are supposed to stay please make this a possibility with Duke. Nashville was terribly tempting, but we always say, “Hey if we wanna move there one day, then we will make it happen!”. I’ll be doing their distance based program which means I will be flying to NC every now and again for on campus intensives, but my clinicals will be at a local hospital and classwork online.

I probably won’t make a formal announcement anywhere else until I officially send back the acceptance letter, but I couldn’t wait any longer to tell y’all. Thank you for allll your prayers, words of encouragement, and pep talks since OCTOBER. From the GRE to the exhaustive applications to the interviews, to the waiting, waiting, waiting… it’s meant so much that y’all have had my back.

Now, back to our main course. Sooo guess what? We did the whole “wine country” thing last weekend! I worked hard into Friday March 9th so that I could have the whole weekend off and Monday as well. On Saturday, the 10th, I poured an extra cup o jo’ and dodged off to Sonoma to meet my mom and stepdad, Pete, in the quaint area of Glen Ellen.

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They rented this SUPER adorable Air BnB for the weekend. We kept saying we could live there! If you want specifics on this place, I’d be happy to share with you…. highly recommend if you need somewhere to stay in Sonoma for a couple nights at an affordable price!

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We wasted not one beat and headed to our first stop (well my first stop- my Mom & Pete had a whole day of ‘splorin’ already under their belt). This gorgeous, serene place below is Ledson Winery.

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Downton Abbey vibes? Yeah, me too.

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I’m going to include quite a bit of detail about the wines for my own reference next time we go and for any other fellow oeniphiles (lovers of wine). If you don’t care, then just feel free to skip over all the wordiness 😆

We did a fantastic tasting and found our favorites from this winery included their Bordeaux blend (Good lawd, so tasty) & their steel barrel Chardonnay. I don’t like Chardonnay usually at all, but I relished in the flavor of the steel barrel one. It’s lighter on the tongue, more like a pinot grigio, and leaves out the oakiness. (bahahaha, like how I act like I know what I’m talking about from a couple days in wine country?! Feel free to correct my amateur knowledge). The Bordeaux wasn’t on the tasting list, but the very knowledgable and passionate sommelier gave us a sample off the menu. This sample translated into one of the greatest sips of wine we have ever tried. The flavor just lingered and lingered. Since at this point I know I am officially starting grad school this fall, I asked DJ if my reward for graduating grad school could be a bottle of Bordeaux. Only two years away, y’all! (Maybe 3.5 years if I get into the DNP program).

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The two cutest Texans in all of Wine Country!

img_0415We then zipped over to Jacuzzi winery, a famous stop in Sonoma with a cute gift-shop, oil tasting store, and winery all in one (AKA all you need… it’s like the 7-11 of all wineries… although I have a feeling they may feel offended by that comparison).

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Half way through the tasting, DJ waltzed through the door! (PS. when he reads this later he’s gonna say… “Why did you use the word waltz? I didn’t waltz!” Just like he doesn’t like when I use the word frolic for verbiage. LOL).  Thennnn he’s gonna say I always make him look like a grump in my blog posts… Babe, we all know you are the life of the party, okurrrrr?

He had to work Saturday, so we left at different times, but we were stoked he was able to join in!

Review of Jacuzzi- To be honest, none of their wines “wowed” us like Ledson’s did. Plus their server was a bit more aloof (we discovered the person serving can make or break the experience!). I think we had more fun trying out their oils than their wines.

Directly across the street from Jacuzzi winery is the famous Cline Family Cellars. It feels as though you step onto the grounds of Charleston. Sheep graze along the drive in and willows cascade the entire property.

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I wish I was half as photogenic as she is!

We actually ended up buying bottles here because they were decently priced and absolutely superb. They also waive the tasting fee if you purchase, so it made sense. We loved both the Cashmere white and red blends. The red blend reminded me of a nice smooth cab.

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For dinner, we headed back to Jack London Village and decided to try their promisingly authentic Indian restaurant.

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Yeti is a tiny little unassuming Indian and Nepalese restaurant overlooking the vast Sonoma landscape. The hot (hot as in knock ya dead spicy- just how we like it) food was a perfect contrast to the new cool briskness that started taking over the evening.

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We started with our favorite appetizers, Samosas, with a few chutney options. (Mmmm). Watch out for the red one though- it’ll get ya!

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My mom and I split a couple entrees. We typically do this when we go out because there are always two that we can’t decide between. First we tried the Shahi Prawn Tandoori that was presented sizzlin’ sizzlin’ away.

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We also split the Began Bharta (eggplant). I couldn’t decide which I liked better. They both were phenomenal.

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The men both ordered the classic, never fails ya, Chicken Tikka Masala.

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We ordered everything with a side of perhaps the best naan I have ever had, white rice, and brown rice.

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After, we stopped by the near grocery store to pick up some sweet treats. My mom and I still can’t shake how bomb the grocery store soft homemade sea salt caramels were. Dang, I really should have packed a bunch for the road. First stop when we go back to wine country: The local Glen Allen grocery store for some caramels!!!

Unfortunately, something didn’t agree with Pete that night and he was out for the count through the next day 🙁 What we all did agree on is that it’s a perfect excuse for them to make another trip out sometime soon to make up for that lost time!

In the morning of Sunday March 11th, momma Jill and I did a hard workout in the little sunroom for about an hour. We were going to run together, but it was far too bitter. She did yoga and I did a youtube cardio workout. I just love love love working out with her! She motivates me.

After, my mom made a delicious spread of cheeses, crackers, berries, eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee. My mom and I made our favorite avocado toast with egg whites, sea salt, pepper, and some paprika and cumin on top. Since it’s getting warmer out again I have been loving this in the mornings.

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We packed up the rest of the cheese and crackers (and beyond satiable fig jam) with us to our wineries for the day!

The drive alone made us all giddy with excitement. The views are truly breathtaking with fog resting on the tree tops and vast miles of forest. The closest beauty I have ever seen was probably  Big Sur or Tahoe (well if we are talking US.. obviously Bora Bora wins the gold medal). Wait, Grand Canyon too. But that’s like next level. Ugh, I don’t know. It’s all so pretty!

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We were in for a treat. Feeling as though we were trespassing, we snaked in through a metal gate, by a few gargoyles, and onto a long drive that led straight to a castle. Yes, a castle.

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This unique winery is none other than Castello Di Amorosa.  In this moment I realized wine country is not simply vineyards lined up with exorbitantly priced bottles of vino. It is matter of fact, adult Disneyland. I know I said Trader Joe’s held that title a few weeks ago. I recant that statement. It’s wine country. Trader Joe’s is like Cedar Point…. Wine Country is Disneyland. Each winery has it’s own history, ambiance, specific wine it’s known for, and grounds to explore.

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The fog from the morning lifted, the sun started warming the grounds, and the peacocks came out to play.

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How’s about I just let these pictures speak for themselves?!

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We did the general admission and headed down to their actual cellar for the tastings. We were greeted by an enthusiastic Italian man. His thick accent and the cellar lined with wines and pasta could easily trick one into thinking they are in the heart of Italy.

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We ended up buying their La Fantasia. This is a late harvest dessert wine, and me oh my is it everrrr delicious. DJ and I both loved it (and I’m not even a fan of dessert wine). We decided we would open it up on the premiere of the Bachelorette (LOL). Seriously though, can you think of a better occasion?!

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Next we headed to a winery that was pretty modest aesthetically compared to the other wineries we had been to. It was not a stone mansion, nor a grand estate. It almost had more of an office feel when you walked in the door. We discovered quickly that they didn’t need anything to stand out, simply because their views and wines did. We all agreed Rombauer had the hands down, glasses up, best wines of any we had tried (and even after the next couple wineries we went to we still stand by that).

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Every single one we tried, wine after wine, was a wine-ner. I’m not a fan of Zinfandels, but I loved Rombauer’s. It was absolutely magical. I still am not sure why we didn’t purchase it (yet another reason to go back).

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Even their walls are educational- how bough dat’

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The aficionado showed us 3D maps of wine country, gave us an explanation of where the grapes grow, and helped explain which foods would pair best with what we were having.

When we got to the dessert wines, he explained blue cheese was the perfect compliment. My mom and I exchanged knowing looks and both said, “We have some in the car!”. He said it was totally fine to bring it in, so we whipped out our cheese and crackers, had that delicious dessert wine with blue cheese, and made some new friends from Nevada who helped us munch it all down.

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I guess I’ll stop here for now. I have to say, I’m even more excited for the next post. I already have all the pictures uploaded, but wanted to avoid crashing your tablet again, Rossy. Hahah. Hopefully this is somewhat short enough to not mess with anyone’s technology, but looking back I have to admit to myself it’s still pretty stinking long. Oh well! All’s well that ends … with wine.

xo <3

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A Super Quick Update!

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HEY YA’LL!

Long time no seeeeee.

I have a sweet & short post about what we have been up to lately (well, relative to my other posts) . I received a text from my mom yesterday saying she was concerned since I haven’t made much contact with anyone the last week or so. NO WORRIES- all is well & good just busy, busy.

It reminded me that I haven’t updated the good ole’ blog baby in a while. I need to write an entirely separate post soon about what I have learned this past month in regards to nursing, faith, and dealing with some intense emotional battles. It’s been nothing short of a glorious, ferocious, awful, and beautiful rollercoaster.

That will come soon… I travel to Pittsburgh this weekend so I’m thinking the flight may be a good time to unravel that one.

But for now, for all our friends and family that are all, “How the heck are ya, where the heck are ya, and what the heck are ya up to?!” … this is my response!

I graduated from the FACC series class last week (Foundations of Acute and Critical Care Training). That means wayyy less online work, aka less free time sucked up, and more consistent 36 hour weeks in the hospital rather than sporadic classes mixed with shifts. HALLELUJAH! I learned so much through this series and while it was a major time leach, I am incredibly grateful for all I learned.

Alsoooo..come on now- this cake..

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. Hahahahha. I know it’s bad, but I couldn’t help but share. Our FACC leaders definitely have a good sense of humor (which I have learned is entirely necessary in nursing).

DJ’s doing amazing at his job working with the SJ Giants in marketing. I admire him beyond words with the way he has handled this job and the integrity with which he also handles the challenges. He has been an outstanding leader in our small group through church as well. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to our small group because of work, but DJ has been leading a good deal of the sessions. I am just thankful I have him as my rock as we go through this hard, hard year.

We both are in such similar places of navigating the season of NEW. New jobs, new coworkers, new schedules, new responsibilities, new frustrations, and new memories! We still hardly see each other but soak up every second when we do.

Many evenings I get home and go straight to sleep after a 12 hour shift, and can’t do much the night before a shift considering I have to get up at 4/4:30. But some nights when I don’t have to go back the next day I try to just soak up that alone time.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy those quiet evenings are in my feng shui hangout eating sushi, drinking some wine, and reading or watching a reality show. Call me basic if you wish, but these sushi rolls are ANYTHING but basic.

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A place near our apartment called Azuma can be delivered through GrubHub. I oscillate between the 49ers roll (eel, avocado, and other assorted fish), and the sunshine roll (lemon, tuna, eel, green onion, and avocado)…. with brooownn rice. Brown rice adds a texture and heartiness to the roll that I love.

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It’s all so delish. Probably the two best sushi rolls of my life. But I have a problem. When DJ and I went through the budget/spending this month I embarrassingly replied “Sushi” when he asked what each purchase on my card was from. Whoops. Girl’s gotta eat. #sorrynotsorry. #sushinotsorry.

Speaking of eats! Here are our other recent ones..

I have been LOVING my turmeric cauliflower mashed potatoes with black bean burgers, hummus, and parmesan asparagus. You know I get on kicks, and this is the most recent! I also love topping it with basil.

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Flat-out pizzas are always a good go-to. If you’ve never tried a good flat-out pizza, it’s definitely worth a try- especially if you are a lover of thin crust pizzas! Each flatbread is only 100 calories, and then I top with vegan cheese, tomatoes, basil, and oregano to make a mean vegan margarita.

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It’s also been a while since I’ve made Indian. When we lived in our Toho in Indiana this was one of my favorite meals to make! DJ loves it too. For myself I make a vegetarian version with dosa, idli, and tons of curry laden veggies. For DJ I make chicken tikki masala with jasmine rice and naan. Who doesn’t love naan?! If you don’t know what naan is, you don’t know what life is, so please stop reading this and go try some naan.

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Did you try the naan?!?

I’m serious.

Try it.

Now.

Since I am leaving this weekend, I made DJ tons of BBQ chicken, parmesan rosemary fingerling potatoes, fried okra, and wild rice.

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Alsooo, I may have casually ordered a jillion gallons of PB2 on Groupon. It was a steal!!!! Pb2 is so dang expensive, so when I saw this Betty bargain steal I had to jump.

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Ok, ok you caught me. When going through the budget and spending it goes like this … Sushi, sushi, PB2, sushi, overage data fees while blogging about sushi and PB2, sushi.

I’ve also been running a ton to deal with my stress. Lately I’ve been listening to podcasts rather than music. Just wait for the next Friday Faves, folks, and I will divulge some of my loooves. Anyone have favorites out there?!

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Last Thursday I got my hair did! Wooohoo!!!! The roots were so bad. I am in the wedding Saturday, so I felt like I had to be somewhat presentable for someone else’s forever wedding photos.

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After getting the roots all touched up and a nice (MUCH NEEDED) trim, I was craving me some boba. Luckily, next to the Aveda salon on Santana row there is an amazing Boba shop It hit.the. spot. Especially because it was way too hot that day. Raise your hand if you love boba?!

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FINALLY one of DJ and I’s days aligned for a day off last Friday. We started our day off by sleeping in until the cows came home.

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Then I was craving boba, … so… boba.

We also decided to try out Game of Thrones. Holy maloly- it’s entralling! Does anyone watch? Yes, it’s pretty dang explicit, but I know most shows are out of the gate to get more ratings. The story line is just insanely good. Any thoughts?! We love it.

For dinner we tried the newest addition to our little Cupertino downtown- Stein’s Beer Garden.

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It was one of those places that just has pizzazz.

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I loved the feel. It was beery unique! There is a literal wall lined with faux foliage in a modern, industrial environment.

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The staff was super friendly off the bat. While there was a bit of a wait, it was worth it.

We started with complementary pickled veggies in a jar. I don’t know why more places don’t do this! It was such a great mini app. I didn’t even miss the typical starter bread (GASSSSPPPP!).

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I’m not big on beer, but felt like I should at least try one, considering it’s in the restaurant’s name. The only kind I really like that I’ve tried are Sours. Their Mango Gose was surprisingly refreshing with the meal I had!

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I tried the roasted beet & smoked salmon salad with arugula, chevre goat cheese, and spiced pecans. It was fantastic! (Also- PS. I just have to tell my Aunt that she would LOVE this place, it’s so up her alley, so ya’ll need to come back soon!).

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DJ tried the Yucatan Pulled Pork Sliders with chili paste marinated pork shoulder with chipotle aoili chicharon, cilantro slaw, jalapeno, and roasted tomato salsa.

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The rest of the night we flew through a couple episodes of GOT, then we both worked all weekend.

Fast forward…

It is currently Wednesday evening, I’m on the heels of 4- 12 shifts nearly in a row. I’m not sure my mind is all here and this post probably has a million errors haha. I’m haphazardly watching bachelorette and realizing I have a million things do before 10 am tomorrow. Oh well. It will get done, it always does.

I leave tomorrow for Pittsburgh and don’t return until Sunday. I plan during that time to catch up on blog comments and your blogs too (although, I’m not sure the 7 hour traveling day in the air will have wifi?!)..

Monday is back to work and then I won’t see DJ again until Tuesday, but he works most of the time too. Also- my best friend’s baby is due this week, and I can hardly stand it. This time of life is wild, and hard, fun, challenging, and rewarding. I know we will look back on this year and see it as one of the most transformative for the both of us.
What are you all up to this weekend?!

xo <3

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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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a BIG celeb, a BIG Cinnamon Roll, and a BIG Interview!

Hey friends! This morning (Wednesday while I’m writing this), I had “the” interview. I think it went well! Yesterday was officially the longest day of my life; waiting is probably the hardest part of it all. But this morning listening to worship music, reciting scripture, and receive a tremendous influx of encouraging texts made me feel so at peace. Thank you ALL for your love and support and encouragement. It has made all the difference! Regardless of what happens, I have confidence that the Lord was with me in that room, guiding me what to say, and ultimately guiding me to the best position to glorify Him- rather that’s with this hospital or another.

Anyways, this last week I have been dropping the ball on blogging. And once again the blog-cravings are STRONG as ever. Like I am getting mega-anxiety that it’s been a hot tic since I’ve been able to go over to your sites (my girl, JJ, knows what I’m talking about), AND I am so behind on comments which is definitely not okay.

However before it gets too far past,  I’ll do a little (Lol, just kidding it’s not little) recap of our past week!

But first, I will do blog awards! You guys know I am the actual worst at responding, but they mean the the world to me, and I still want to say a massive thank you. I honestly do have intentions to respond to these, it just might have to be in a slightly unconventional way or a bit late. BUT even if I don’t get around to that soon, please still check out these LOVELY people’s blog!!!!!!! Seriously some of my faves here!

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

One Lovely Blog Award from my brunch beauty  Chrissey and the journalist fashionista  Ciarra Lorren!

The sweetest makeup goddess McKenz, fabulous Miranda, genuine and lovely Terri, my dose of Florida sunshine Jenna, & the sweetest southern beauty at the Whimsical Pineapple for the Blogger Recognition Award.

& lastly, the Versatile blogger award from the ambitious, articulate, and thought provoking Diwakar Kumar!

 Wednesday (1/25)

On Tuesday night DJ and I decided we had a massive donut craving. We looked up some spots in the area that we could go to in the AM and found this super hole in the wall donut shop that had glowing reviews on YELP.

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I swear, the voice changers on snapchat never get old

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Our review: Overall we like Happy Donuts better (for me their maple was just not cutting it), but their sprinkle cake donuts were AMAZING. So, if you are going maple or glazed go to either Stan’s or Happy’s, if you are going sprinkle/cake, go to Donut Wheel. Still the best donuts we’ve had to date are Krispy Kreme and Patio’s at Lakeside’s (Lakeside is a community of cottages on the lake- one of our favorite places in the world). Just in case you missed our last donut spiel, I have to ask again- FAVORITE DONUT?!

Later that day I went to Tea Annie’s with a friend. Man, oh, man it was so needed in the thick of the stress I’ve been feeling. She is one of those people I just clicked with right from the get-go, and she encourages my heart every time I see her. So thankful for you, Jenny!

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Tea Annie’s is known for their tea (particularly bubble tea- which is SO yum), and their massive crepes. Like tell me that’s not the most delicious looking thing you’ve ever seen?! Also, who here is a bubble tea fan? Tapioca pearls- aye or nay?!

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Wednesday night DJ and I had an opportunity to lead our Bible Study group – actually I prefer the word “facilitate”. Everyone was super interactive and the conversation was phenomenal, it basically led itself. I am continually reminded how blessed we are to be surrounded by such genuine, loving, and Christ-seeking individuals. Something I absolutely love about being apart of a small group is that it’s a safe place where we all discuss the good/bad/beautiful/sad going on in our lives without judgement. We don’t expect perfection from each other and we don’t have to put on a facade when we are with one other. It’s refreshing. It’s an atmosphere of acceptance, and exactly opposite of what Christianity can often be portrayed as- hypocritical. Some of my deepest relationships since we have moved here have blossomed from these groups. If you need a community in the SV area- I can get you the hookups 😉 I promise that was not intended to be a shameless plug, even if it is!

Now Thursday. This was a serious finish-up day of prep for me. Just reviewing everything, coming to a place where I felt confident in speaking without my notes and guidelines, and just taking some deep breaths.

For dinner, I needed some therapeutic cooking (meaning attempting something kinda gourmet). I looked at all we had in our fridge and decided to make creamed spinach with bacon wrapped scallops over wild rice. I had the same, just minus the bacon. DJ said, and I quote, “This is out of this world.” I think I almost choked on my spinach. I have never received an “out of this world”. Like I don’t even care if I get this job anymore- I got an “out of this world” referring to my cooking. I don’t know if DJ realizes how much that made my life right there!

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Friday

We didn’t have any particular plans set Friday night, but our parents gave us their tickets to go to Bob Saget at SJ Improv!!! Uh yeah… THE Bob Saget! Thanks again guys (if you happen to read this). Right before we decided to grab dinner at an Italian Restaurant. We haven’t had Italian in a blue moon and were both craving it.

We found this little treasure called Il Fornaio. It wasn’t horribly pricey like many of the other italian restaurants we were seeing. The waiting staff was some of the friendliest I have ever encountered at any restaurant. Them Italian folk-gotta love them. I sometimes wish that I was born Italian, or Greek. Greek seems fun too.

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Naturally, we filled up on way too much bread before. Where my carb junkies at? HOLLA!

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I had the rustichella which is flatbread topped with goat cheese, mozzarella, tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olive, basil and oregano and baked in the oven. It HIT the spot. I don’t usually drink white wine, but it sounded like it would pair well with this- it definitely did!

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DJ ordered the Pennoni Alla Vodka with large pasta tubes with bacon, vodka-cream-tomato sauce, and Grana Padano.

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Then it was off to see Bobby in Improv!!! Ok- I have got to say- it was quite raunchy. By quite I mean really really raunchy. Don’t expect Danny Tanner up on that stage. He actually mentioned that. He said, “People wonder why I’m not more like Danny Tanner, what would I do- clean your glasses and mop the floor?” Lol. That was one of his cleaner jokes 😉

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Technically we couldn’t take pictures, but I needed just one for proof and all that jazzz.

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Saturday morning I had some errands to run while DJ went to play basketball. In the afternoon we watched his little sister play in her All-Star game. I have had so much fun attending theses games, I don’t want them to end!

In the afternoon I did some marathon training! I randomly signed up for one on the 11th of February  yesterday so I decided I should make sure I could actually go thirteen miles. I also am signed up for the Big Sur marathon, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to race that due to the job uncertainties.

**When I get stressed out I sign up for races like people do retail therapy- is that normal? Anyone else do that?**

By the time I was finishing up my run the sun was setting. It was gorgeous out and I soaked up every second of that run. The picturesque landscape continues to take my breath away (or maybe that was the running?)

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SUNDAY! 

Wow. Sunday was one for the books! It was another beautiful day. I don’t know what this thing called “sunshine” is that decided to come back to California, but it made an appearance and I wasn’t even upset about it.

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Below is one of my dear friends named Kim. She is pretty much the cutest human on planet earth. Love her so much!

It was one of my favorite Sundays of ALL TIME. Our church presented for the first time VIVE people. Miracles do still exist. I’m telling you- they do, and this story is proof of that!

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If you don’t read the rest of my post please check out that video. But grab tissues first!

After Church I went and had brunch with my friend, Sara. She grew up in Los Gatos and knows ALL the good spots. (She’s who I went to Santa Cruz with a couple months ago).

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Allow me to present… the most epic cinnamon roll of all time. She told me this was necessary to get if you go to Los Gatos Cafe. I understand why. I’m not a big cinnamon roll person, but this blew my socks off. I took a bundle of pictures because this is too insanely incredible not to share.

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The lesson is… if you come to Northern California, stop by Los Gatos, particularly Los Gatos cafe and order there cinnamon roll. Before this the only cinnamon roll I really loved were Cinnabon’s. Now I am convinced that these are better. DJ says it is a contender when I brought him home some leftovers. That’s huge!

Oh and that’s not all…

We also ordered actual meals because one giant cinnamon roll is just not enough on a Sunday Brunch. I had their seafood benedict with scrambled egg whites (instead of eggs), served over an english muffin with avocado and hollaindaise (on the side). This was fantastic, but my favorite part may have even been the potatoes. Such great breakfast potatoes. Not sure what they use, but good heavens.

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After, we went on a quick walk around the neighborhood. The surrounding area is super eccentric, so it was fun to see the houses and decor. It also was a lot quieter than where we live so it was nice walking around a suburb like that- it felt a little bit like Ohio to me!

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Love her <3

Monday and Tuesday were filled with trying to stay calm, coffee, trashy reality shows, and the Bible… which do not go hand in hand, but I’m just being honest with ya’ll.

Now today and tomorrow and probably a good chunk of this weekend I am going to try and catch up on some blogging! We also have dinner plans with my brother tonight in the city and tomorrow night we are going to some friend’s for dinner. I should hear tomorrow or Friday if I got the job!!!! I will certainly let you all know!

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Blog Birthdays:

No birthdays this week BUT we do have some big ones coming up next week that I am very excited about!

xo <3

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Cranberry & Pistachio & Quinoa Stuffed Squash

Mouth watering yet?! I’m excited to share the ultimate healthy comfort-food dish for the holidays with you!! And if you have vegetarians or vegans coming to your holiday party, I’ve got you covered! Although, this is a crowd pleaser regardless of diet preference. Plus, it’s pretty darn nice to look at 😉 The savory sweetness of the squash, the crunch of the quinoa and pistachios, and tartness of the cranberries create a combination to die for.

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Grocery List

  • 4 Acorn Squash
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry Red Quinoa
  • 1/2 cup dry White Quinoa
  • 2 Cups of Vegetable Broth
  • 2 TBSP Sage
  • 1 TBSP Thyme
  • 1 8 oz. mixed package of Baby Bella & Crimini mushrooms (coarsely chopped)
  • 1/2 package (about 1 cup) of LightLife Smart Ground original crumbles (or vegan crumble of choice)
  • 2 TBSP Sherry Cooking Wine
  • 3/4 Cup Reduced Sugar Dried Craisins
  • 1/2 Cup Pistachios (deshelled)
  • Fresh Cranberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Trim off the each end of the squash
  3. Stand the squash upright and halve lengthwise
  4. Scoop out the pulp and the seeds, discard
  5. Brush each squash half with 1 tsp olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper
  6. Arrange cut sides down on a parchment paper covered baking sheet
  7. Roast the squash until tender (test with a fork) and the edges are golden brown, appx. 30-35 minutes
  8. While the squash roasts, in a medium saucepan add Quinoa and Vegetable Broth
  9. Bring to boil then cover and reduce heat to low, cooking for 15-20 minutes
  10. Place the sage and thyme in a food processor until minced
  11. When the quinoa continues cooking, heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan
  12. Add mushrooms, sage, thyme to sauté pan
  13. Cook until mushrooms are softened
  14. Stir in the meatless crumbles and sherry wine, stir occasionally for about 2 minutes
  15. Remove pan from heat
  16. Add the quinoa, craisins,  pistachios, and a sprinkle of fresh cranberries
  17. Remove cooked squash from oven and flip over so cut side is up
  18. Fill the roasted squash halves with about 1/2 cup of stuffing and bake again for another 10 minutes
  19. Top with fresh cranberries for decor, and serve while warm!

Nutrition per 1 stuffed squash half:

Calories: 308

Fat: 10.6g

Carbs: 46.5g

Fiber: 7.5g

Sugar: 4.2g

Protein: 11g

**If you aren’t a fan of squash, the stuffing can be a great dish all on it’s own!

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**I must say the stuffing is even better day two, so don’t be shy about digging into the leftovers (if there are any!)

Bon Appetite!!!

xo <3

Mack

A Weekend for the Win: A Recap!

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Hello all! I promised my Mama that I would whip out a post by the end of today. She is antsy to hear about all the different events with family in town! This weekend was one to remember. Going through these pictures made me smile the entire time. I am trying to focus… but uh.. the Indians are in the World Series so writing this and watching the game may cause this post to take a bit longer than normal! If you are in a rush and want the summary of our weekend it goes like this: FOOD, amazing family time with my Aunt and Uncle, FOOD, get dressed up, hike, FOOD, and maybe a bit more food?

Let’s get to it!

My Aunt and Uncle visited from Thursday to Monday from Michigan. One of my first posts from when I started this blog was from a visit to their home in Sutton’s Bay/ Traverse City, Michigan area. It was a blast, but now it feels as though too much time has passed since we’ve seen them. We have had this visit planned for months, and I have been counting down the days. It was my motivation to get my test over and done with so we could just celebrate!!!

Thursday

I love, love, LOVE hosting people. It’s an excuse for trying different appetizers, talking and laughing over cheese and crackers, and catching up on each others’ lives over some good wine (aka the cheapest bottles of wine I can find- but no one can tell, right? 😉 ). Last week I saw the beautiful Samantha Wharton posted a Shishito pepper recipe. It looked so delicious! It inspired this appetizer for my the night. First I blistered the peppers in the a sauce pan with olive oil. Then I stuffed about half of the peppers with goat cheese and drizzled them with thick balsamic glaze.  I put them in the oven at 425 until the cheese was nice and melted. They were a hit! The other half we just ate plain with salt and pepper and they were still fantastic.

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For dinner I had Munchery  delivered. I wanted to cook, but I was gone most of the day and wouldn’t have time to do anything beyond the apps. I know my Aunt and Uncle’s taste pretty well and knew they would love this dish. It included a salmon with pesto on top of a mediterranean quinoa. I don’t think I would ever get sick of this dish. I wish I could take credit for it, but props to you Munchery!

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I can’t begin to explain how much I love spending time with my Aunt and Uncle. They are some of the easiest people to be around, they’ll keep you laughing, and you can talk about anything with them. They are go-getters and just beginning “retirement” which means they are traveling all over the US, mountain biking, planning multiple ski trips, volunteering out the wah-zoo, and wearing me out trying to keep up with them. Retirement my butt.

On a more serious note, my Aunt is an “everything” person to me. She is my Aunt (duh), but also one of my best friends, one of my biggest cheerleaders, a mom figure (she is not afraid to put me in my place), and my role model. God blessed me with the greatest mom in the world AND  essentially a second mom with the greatest Aunt?! I can’t figure it out, but I’m betting it’s because He knew that my sister and I would be a handful, and my mom would need some extra strong moral support. Oh, also, she is me projected a few years into the future. DJ says it’s uncanny how much alike we are. Annnd she is the only other person in the world that maybe likes candy corn as much as I do.

Saturday

The four of us had breakfast and then took off for the best hiking spot in all the land. It’s the same one I took my mom and sister-in-law to in other posts: Tony Look Trail! I love the change in scenery along the trail and it’s an excellent challenge. Once we finished the hike it was about 1 pm.

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We ran to the store to pick up some last minute essentials for the gala (Thank you TJ Maxx for having a pair of black earrings). We had a hosh-posh lunch of whatever was in the fridge and I ran around like a mad woman trying to get ready. “Yes I realize that the gala isn’t for five hours, and I will need every second of that five hours, DJ.”

After I bought my dress I realized I got rid of my only pair of dress black heels before our move (and apparently my earrings as I was frantically looking for a pair in TJ’s). I had been meaning to get a new pair and this forced me to finally go through with it. I am posting a picture of them below because A. I got these for a steal and B. I know my mother in law will love them 🙂

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My handsome hubs <3

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💕💕

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The gala took place at Levi Stadium. I have never been there, and it was one gorgeous stadium. OHH- for those of you that haven’t read the last post, the gala is an annual event with our Church to discuss the direction we are going in the upcoming year. It’s also a time to just stop and praise God for all He has done this past year. It quickly became a night that I will never forget. The community and the heart for God is like nothing I have ever experienced. Every time I am with my Church I just thank Him profusely for leading us to this group of people.

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We started the evening with a cocktail hour overlooking the pristine stadium. We then started dinner with a delicious goat cheese salad, a dinner of filet mignon (for DJ) and a veggie polenta for myself, and  finished it with a chocolate mousse and raspberry drizzle that makes you want to savor every. single. bite. By the end of the evening I had cried, laughed, felt refreshed, and beyond excited about the year to come.

Saturday

Saturday my Uncle suggested we tailgate at Stanford while their homecoming game was going on! I have never been and DJ loves going to the campus. First we walked around the academia wonderland, and then we parked the truck for delicious snacking, drinks, and perfect weather.

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My Aunt and I are related to Herbert Hoover (through my Grandmother’s sister side). When we were in the Museum we decided to take a picture next to the fella for a family pic.

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Getting our midwest on. I dare you to find another pickup truck in this parking lot.

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After tailgating we decided to head back home. My Aunt took a nap, I went for a run (my aunt and uncle were early birds and ran before we left for Stanford- overachievers), and the boys parked in front of the TV for some …. you guessed it… football. It was a perfect fall day, and I soaked up the changing of the leaves and the golden fall sun on my run.

You didn’t think you would get through a post without sushi did ya? We had to take my Aunt and Uncle out to Yuki for sushi. They have the best around. My two favorite rolls in the Cupertino area are Yuki’s Da Kine with spicy kani, avocado, cucumber topped with maguro, seaweed salad, crunch, and spicy sauce and Kula’s Kula roll. DJ loves the Tetsu roll from Yuki which has shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, and kani wrapped in avocado and topped with spicy sauce, crunch, and green onion.

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We had our fill but still had room for a glass of wine. My Uncle likes a good scotch and the R/R (Roots and Rye) on Santana Row has almost anything you are craving, food and drink alike.

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This place is quite unique. It has a modern lounge feel with a heavy emphasis on small bites and cocktails.

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We sat around this dancing fire inside the restaurant which provided the perfect temperature and ambiance on a chilly autumn evening.

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I inevitably always have the red eyes.

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We had way too much fun with Snapchat throughout the weekend.

Sunday

Sunday morning DJ and I went to Church and my Aunt and Uncle found a Catholic church for mass. We met back up after and headed to Mountain View. DJ and I went here when we first moved to the area. We walked along Castro street with the endless options of restaurants and naturally ended up going here… because… FOOTBALL.

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We ordered some good bar food (and my Aunt and I may have snuck some salmon and caper bites in the order too). Ever since I had the smoked salmon on a bagel at a San Francisco hotel, if it’s on the menu in any form I begin to salivate.

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After watching football and relaxing we went to the movie The Accountant. It received less than promising reviews by the critics, but we all loved it. It definitely is a movie with a lot going. I don’t typically like watching movies twice, but I would watch this again because there was such a deep, multifaceted plot.

We had a late dinner of rosemary cider chicken and butternut squash with apples from Home Chef. I had the $30 off my first order and ordered the family plan package for the weekend since my Aunt and Uncle were here. I substituted a veggie burger or fish instead of the meat for myself in the dishes. I made the squash before we left for the movie so all we had to do when we returned was prepare the chicken and the sauce.

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Monday

Sadly, they left us Monday 🙁 I was depressed the whole day but kept myself busy with meal prepping, cleaning, laundry, etc. etc.). It was a weekend for the books.

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My conclusion after using home chef: 7 out of 10 stars. The meals were tasty- we especially loved the squash recipe. But I was missing four entire chicken breasts (I had to replace myself), and there were parts of the meals that were just ‘so-so’ like the macaroni salad. However, it’s excellent for people beginning to cook. It gives amazingly thorough directions on why you do certain steps in cooking or why you use certain ingredients. For example, we use Kosher Salt because it has bigger grains and is easier to pinch than table salt. This allows more control over the flavor. I still prefer Blue Apron or Green Chef, but it was certainly a decent service! (I bet the missing chicken was a fluke, right?).

When I was running into the store to pick up some lotion today I saw this (below)- SAY WHAT. I am already obsessed with Boom Chicka Pop, but BOOM CHICKA POP CANDY CORN FLAVORED KETTLE CORN. Obviously I couldn’t wait when I got home to try it. I have a new addiction. I could cry.

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I am planning on finishing the master bedroom this week, do a couple fall-ish activities this weekend with DJ, next week is super busy already, and then I’ll be trying to figure out more on the job front.  DJ says I should rest after the NCLEX, but we all know I have a hard time doing that 😉 Also- I’m in a pickle about what to do in the job arena. My #1 choice nursing job doesn’t begin until March/April, but I’m worried a job now would jeopardize seeing my parents in Texas and Ohio over the holiday season. I know this is going to be my last year of flexibility for a while since once nursing starts I’ll work all the holidays.

Now that I have finished this post the Indians have officially won the first game! 3 more to go, baby. Let’s go CLE! This is just all too exciting to handle!!!!!

Wishing you a WINDIAN Wednesday,

xo <3

Mack

In the Best City with the Best Friend- Part One

This post is going to be emotional to write because I know it will make me miss my dear friend, Rachel, more than I already do!

A little back story: We have been friends since sixth grade. The way it happened was certainly a funny series of events. First, I moved to her school that year and noticed a cute boy. I had no idea that he was dating Rachel and through the grapevine he heard that the “new girl” liked him. He broke up with Rachel to “date” me (“Going out” with someone in 6th grade means you bashfully smile at each other in the hallway and write their name on your notebook without any actual meaningful interaction). Also let’s take a moment to laugh at how many quote-on-quotes are necessary for middle school romances. Well, when I heard that I was a home-wrecker I told him I didn’t want to date anymore. Hence, my first relationship lasted a total of two days. During this time, Rachel and I shared a mutual friend. She told me that there was no way Rachel would ever like me. “Once Rachel decides she doesn’t like someone, there is no going back from that,” she said. I was determined to make a mends. And gosh darn it, look at where we are today! Thanks for letting that go, Rach ;). We have thanked that boy for helping spark such a great friendship. Fun fact: She actually just went to his wedding a few weeks ago! Look how full circle we all have come.

Fast forward to today: Rach just recently passed her Child Life Specialist exam and officially has a big girl job!!! When she called me with the exciting news we both said how badly we wished we could have sushi together to celebrate (Sushi is our spirit animal). The next day she sent me a screenshot of flight dates she could fly out here (from Ohio to California). I thought she was kidding at first- but no she booked that glorious flight! So the day after my mom left I was driving to the airport to pick up Rach so we could actually have sushi together in real life. We also said we are celebrating our “11th friendiversary” 🙂 She arrived last Monday- August 29th, and the week that followed was one of my favorites.

Monday

This was a super chill day since she came in the afternoon. We went to the grocery store to stock up on food for the week. Then I showed her around Main Street Cupertino and then walked down Stevens Creek to show her the main shops and restaurants. We stopped into the bakery I mentioned in my last post, and saw “white fungus with dates” among their items. Do you ever have one of those moments where you feel like you “dare” yourself to do something? Like you feel a strange compulsion to try it even if you truly don’t want to? Maybe for some it’s riding a roller coaster, walking on hot coals, or skydiving. I tend to get it in more of a fear-factor-food form. I bought the darn fungus, and Rach and I sat at my counter in my apartment while I tried the mysterious floating wonder. (Is this the weirdest anecdote ever, or what?!). It surprisingly was not that bad! It reminded me of one of those dole fruit cups that we use to all pack when we were in grade school. Probably will never get it again- but truly not bad. For dinner we naturally went to KULA!!! Sushi time! This would not be the last trip there for the week 😉

Tuesday

Tuesday was a blast, well I guess everyday was, but I’ve got two words for ya- SANTA CRUZ. I am getting a bit ahead of myself because first we went on a hike in Saratoga. So we will start with these two words- HIKING TIME!

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It was a perfect way to start the day. We were able to bypass the rush-hour traffic and leave a little later in the day. We kept saying how unbelievably smooth the week was with driving! We hardly had any traffic. We were a couple of beach bums and the two of us love to read so we devoured books and our packed snacks on the beach all day.

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Around four we were pretty hungry for something besides the “munchie” food we packed, but didn’t want to spend top dollar for the food on the pier. We decided to get a couple happy hour appetizers to tide us over at Stagnaro Bros. I have now ate at three places on the pier and this was by far, hands-down, no questions asked THE BEST.

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First we split the Blackened Sliced Ahi over mixed greens with a creamy wasabi dressing. We easily could have ate the whole thing, but we wanted to leave room for a place we had in mind for dinner. This “appetizer” definitely provided us yummy leftovers for lunch the next day!

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We also tried Chili Lime Prawn Tacos. These are prawns sautéed in a chili lime and cilantro sauce, topped with pickled cabbage and Mozzarella cheese. I PRAWNISE, these were delicious 😉 #prawnpun

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We would like to introduce you to our dear friend, Buffy. Buffy was our pal that sat next to us for most of the meal and he was quite the spit-fire. If another seagull even thought about sitting on his pier, he squawked them away with the ferocity of a lion. Don’t mess with Buffy, boys and girls.

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We had about an hour drive home and leisurely took our time to get ready for dinner. We walked to Arya, a Persian restaurant in Cupertino. Guys- this is truly probably my favorite I have tried since being in Cupertino. I know I always say that, but the flavors were overwhelmingly delicious. Like each bite I savored so carefully, I didn’t want it to end! The best part was we had a Groupon for it as well, so we got a great deal for a fantastic meal. We also ate outside on their quaint patio. We got to watch the most gorgeous sunset with our scrumptious array of Persian cuisine.

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I had the veggie tower for my meal. It was mushroom, spinach, eggplant, tomato, and rice in a saffron yogurt sauce. I WANT THE RECIPE. The saffron yogurt sauce was absolute perfection. I crave this meal.

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Rach ordered shrimp scampi. It came in a lemon caper sauce and easily the best shrimp scampi I have ever tried! I definitely stole a few bites.

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So you may be wondering- what about our poor Deej?! Well- you know how I love trying these different food delivery services since they usually have a deal as first users? The newest one we found is called Munchery. Munchery is different from Blue Apron and Green Chef because you do absolutely no preparation. It is almost like a restaurant on wheels. You see what is cooking in “their kitchen” online, and they deliver it to your door at the time that you clarify. So we chose DJ’s meals for the week and so they would be delivered for him right when he got home from school. The best part was there was a giant discount for being a first time user. We have held out trying it for a busy week since you only get the discount once, and this week was the perfect one to try it out! DJ loved all the meals.

Wednesday

Wednesday was deemed San Francisco day! We went into full on tourist mode and did everything. Rach has never been to SanFran so I was determined to make sure she got the full experience. First we went to the painted ladies homes. As a couple of typical 90s children, we were in absolute heaven standing in front of those homes. Currently have the song running through my head- “Everywhere you look (everywhere you go) There’s a heart (there’s a heart) a hand to hold onto!”. Okay- I’m getting far too nostalgic about this.

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We found a good parking spot and walked the pier toward one of the highlights of the entire week. Rach wanted to make sure to do a wine tasting while she was out here (because it’s basically a must if you come to wine country), and what better way to do it than on a boat that goes under the Golden Gate, close to the Bay Bridge, and around Alcatraz?! We were shocked at how little it cost for how intimate the setting was and how absolutely wonderful the experience was.

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They had all kinds of delicious cheeses, grapes, crackers, bread, and chocolate. Truly ANYTHING you could want to enhance the different tannins. Lolz, I’m pretending to wine speak. Not sure that even made sense?

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One of our favorite parts of the wine tour was the people we met. We conversed with all kinds of people from all over the US. We met a mother and daughter who were traveling cross country, a few friendly couples of all ages, and an absolutely jovial staff. It was the sweetest group of people.

After, we still agreed we had to actually go to the Golden Gate even thought we did go under it. Rachel kept saying, “It’s just water under the bridge!” cracking herself up. 😉

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Ya’ll know how I love my puns- I call the one above a “Bridge next to a bridge”.

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We did a quick jump over to Lombard Street. The famous windiest road in the world!

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Naturally we had to pop into Ghiradelli square! Our Uber driver was one of the most fascinating people we have ever met. He is traveling the world with his son and takes him out of school every year a few months before it is technically over to go to a new destination for several months. I didn’t even know that was legal?! Their next stop is Tawaiian.

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After exploring Ghiradelli square we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf and PIER 39. We just walked around, and I had to stop in to one of the candy shops to get salt water taffy. I was craving it a lemon meringue piece. Rach actually introduced me to the yummy land of lemon flavored desserts a few years back. She had a lemon bundt cake at her 18th birthday and from that point on I was (and still am) obsessed with all things lemon. My mother-in-law brought me the BEST lemon curd cake in the whole world from a local bakery in Ohio for my birthdays while I was in college! <3 Thanks again for all those, mom! Best part of my birthday fo real dough. Anyway, I digress. But the taffy was spot on.

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Rach is a lefty. This picture was essential!

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We once again were pretty hungry, but we didn’t want to spend the pier prices for dinner. We decided to once again split some appetizers, but in reality they ended up being our dinner. The portions were huge- and delicious! We both love clam chowder and rumor had it that Fog Harbor Fish House had the best around. It did not disappoint! If you are ever on the pier, please do yourself a favor and get you some of it (in a bread bowl, of course).

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We also had the steamed clams. These were clams with roasted peppers, corn and chorizo butter served with garlic toast.

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Later that night we scrounged up our leftovers from the last couple days and had a late night smorgasbord. We set up our TV out on the balcony, grabbed a few blankets and watched Gabrielle Iglesias the comedian. Anyone ever seen him?! He is HILARIOUS. He is pretty clean for the most part too which is hard to come by. It was super refreshing sitting out in the late night cool air and I wondered why I don’t do that more often!

I am going to make a separate post for the rest of the week. Currently have to go set up a lamp, run to the store, and hang up some more pictures!

Wishing you a golden afternoon,

xo <3

Mack

Family, Friends, and Food: A Recipe for a Perfect Weekend

Wow! I have taken quite the hiatus from blogging the last couple weeks and it simply is because I have been busy making some incredible memories <3. Sometimes when such wonderful events occur I feel like I can’t get them written down fast enough. I’m afraid they will leave me if I don’t record the small details. It’s the small details that seem to sneak out of the memory the quickest, but also the small details that make each memory personal and unique. Hence, I want to make every effort to hang onto them.

My mom came on Friday August 26th. DJ and I picked her up from the San Francisco airport and headed straight into the city! As I mentioned in my last San Francisco post, I spent time with my dear friend, Annie, who lived with us in high school. My mom was an eager beaver to see her. Friday night we had tickets to Eat/Drink SanFran (get ready for picture overload!). It started at 7:30 pm, which is an awkward time for “dinner”, so we decided to lightly graze at the Slanted Door to tide us over. Yes, “lightly” is a subjective term. Naturally while waiting for a table we had to do a photo shoot…

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What is this “Slanted Door” you ask? It is a modern Vietnamese fusion restaurant experience that guarantees to take your taste buds on an adventure like never before. No, they did not ask me to promote them, but while I’m waiting for my nursing license to get approved maybe I could work for their marketing department? Hehe.

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First up on the menu for the evening was Vegetarian Spring Rolls. But, oh, they are not just your typical vegetarian spring rolls (which are fantastic in themselves); these are the BEST. They contain tofu, shiitake, cabbage, mint, and a peanut sauce that will blow your mind. Would you judge me if I just drank it? Right out of the bowl? Would you judge me if I told you I’m not kidding?!

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Next up on the menu was the vegetarian Banh bot loc- aka mung bean tapioca dumplings, scallion oil, and thai chile soy sauce.

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BRB, need to get a napkin for the puddle of drool I have on my laptop after thinking about them…

Next on the list was Crispy Imperial Rolls. These included gulf shrimp, pork shoulder, vermicelli noodles, and roasted peanut. The meat eaters at the table gobbled them up like it was their last supper. You use the lettuce leaves to make a wrap with the crispy rolls and noodles and then dip in the sauce. It took us a moment to figure that one out 😉

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Last, these barbecued willis ranch pork spareribs were the fan-fave. I didn’t try them, but they smelled heavenly and in the time they left the plate I could tell they were darn tasty!

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They even gave us some hot washcloths for the ribs (or was it for the beverage spill? whoopsies!) Now- that’s some service! img_9423

After this “appetizer” (aka first dinner), we decided to walk to the venue and take our time sight seeing the bay. This never gets old for me, even if it was my third weekend in a row there!

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Below is a picture from “Off the Grid”. This was taking place the same night as Eat/Drink SanFran and definitely something I will want to do in the future! It is a gathering of a bunch of food trucks from the area with music and a big carnival feel!

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The building on the right at Fort Mason is where Eat/Drink took place.

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I was so glad DJ decided to take a break from studying to have a night out for some fun. He works so hard every. single. day.

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Walking up to the doors I felt like a giddy child again. I feel like those “giddy” feelings bubble up less and less the older you grow, but when they do sneak up on ya, you know you are doing life right.

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Just a little overview about Eat/Drink SF: It is organized by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and represents the best of the Bay Area’s  cuisine. It goes on for four days at the Fort Mason pavilion (Thursday to Sunday). You pay a flat fee for one of the days (we did Friday) and then have unlimited access to over 36 food vendors and over 70 beer, wine, and spirits makers once in the building. They also have a VIP option as well. I am not sure exactly what that entails, but you do get early access to the building and more exclusive options. Here is the formal description of the whole event:

“Enjoy unlimited pours of wine, beer, and cocktails and tastes from the Bay Area’s top restaurants. Mingle with the personalities that make this a world-class dining destination. Watch cooking demonstrations and learn in classes taught by renown tastemakers”

We did not sit in any classes this time because we were too busy eating, duh. We agreed we would make this an annual thing and next time partake in one of the classes.

When you enter, you receive a glass that you keep with you throughout the entire tasting.

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Every venue has a unique set up that quickly allows the consumer to know what their cuisine is all about! There were corn hole games set up near the Straus Family Creamery Ice Cream and Super Duper Burger stand. It felt like you were at a barbecue, but then two steps over you entered an Italian oasis with Pizza Antica. It was intoxicating (no pun intended).

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The Morning Star pizza was one of my favorite flavors of the night. It was a vegan barbecue pizza and they even handed out recipe cards to make it at home. I will be making it- no doubt!

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The Glenlivet Dram Room was a hard liquor tasting room. None of us were interested in actually trying any of the liquor, but the room itself was really neat!

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Here you could sniff different scents that were used in the production of their products. I loved that!

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They certainly had some unique food to try- and you know I was all about that! For example, I have heard quail eggs are tasty but never have actually had the chance to try one. It was- all together now…- AMAZING!.

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Hehe- got to love the candids.

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The displays were truly enticing. It was exciting to be feet away from such incredible talent as well.

For example, below is Emporio Rulli with Gary Rulli. The dessert I have posted was one of the greatest desserts I have ever tried. The three of us were drowning in all good things sugar. It was a pistachio creme brulee. I am not a huge creme brulee fan, so I probably would have never ordered this on a menu. However, if when I go to Emporio Rulli, this is a MUST.

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The smoked salmon mousse above was one of my favorite things of the evening. It was tediously intricate the way they made them too- Each one was given the utmost attention. I have never seen an appetizer so doted over!

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One of the strangest tries of the night was foie gras ice cream. I know this is probably not vegetarian, but hey, when you are somewhere like this go big or go home. This was from Hudson Valley Foie Gras. We have tried foie gras in the past and weren’t particularly blown away. However, this foie gras ice cream was surprisingly delicious. If you like salty and sweet combos, this little treat had the pair perfected! Unfortunately, I have no picture of this little nibble!

After we walked rolled home, we slept soundly with dreams of all SanFran food. My recommendations based on the evening:

Everything was absolutely fantastic, but those are just some of our favorites.

The next day my mama and I had some homemade parfaits with dried apple chips out on the balcony. We love sitting out there in the fresh cool morning air and enjoying our hot coffee and reading our Bibles.

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We then did the big walk to the store to pick up some necessities for the day. We stopped by a chinese bakery on the way back and saw the most interesting “sweets”. Chinese dessert is not knowing for being super sweet, but they certainly are creative!

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We jump started the next part of the day with an insanity workout, and I was impressed by this tough little cookie! She killed it. I was so proud. She has been working hard over the last few months to get into shape and it is showing.

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During the day we had one task: Hang up some living room curtains. I saved this task for my mom because I honestly do not have the first clue on how to hang rods, use a drill, etc. My mom is a pro at all this and even makes her own curtains. Well we ran into a little hiccup with where the studs were in the wall. Long story short we had a very frustrating afternoon and could not figure the darn thing out. After covering up the gaping nail holes we decided we needed a break and met DJ for sushi. He studied the entire day in the library and suggested a sushi place he went to with a friend. He claimed it was the best sushi he has ever had (which says a lot considering the sushi in Bora Bora was out of this world). It lived up to the hype. Oh shoot, now I’m craving it again.

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We headed back to the house and decided that we would give the curtains one more go of it. We found a little loop behind the paneling and were able to use canvas wire to hang the pole. We did it! Despite how frustrating the project was, it felt awesome to conquer it.

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We topped off the night with a visit to Cupervino. Cupervino is located super close to our apartment and I have wanted to give it a go ever since we moved here. The atmosphere is fantastic. We decided to split a wine flight and a glass. The pours were supposed to be three-oz. flights. I am doubtful that this was accurate. These were full on glasses.

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In the morning we headed to church. Gosh, I was so ecstatic for my mom to meet all the new incredible friends of ours and experience the most authentic worship. She loved it!

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After church we went to Santana Row while DJ went to study land 🙁 He is doing so well, but never stops studying.

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We walked around the row and stopped by a cute little band of youngsters playing in the square. It was adorable! They were probably in their early teens and the girl had a beautiful voice.

For brunch we stopped at left bank . The craziest thing was it hit my mom that the last time she was in the area this was the restaurant she went to with a friend. Kind ironic considering just how many restaurants there are in the area!

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We tried the salmon hash with red onions, tomatoes, parsley, yukon gold potatoes, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauced. We paired it with a delectable goat cheese salad. It was THE quintessential brunch.

After walking around Santana Row for a while, we decided to take advantage of the gorgeous day (Oh wait- everyday is gorgeous here?!), and go for a hike. This was the Tony Look trail that opens up into Fremont Older Nature preserve.

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This was one of our favorite parts of the whole weekend. Such great conversation is sparked during hikes, and we had seven miles to just chat. It was so nice to enjoy the views and talk about life.

For dinner we whipped up some green chef meals! Green Chef is just like Blue Apron! We had two meals left from the first package (I made the first meal in my last post 😉 ). It was a blast cooking together and DJ came home just in time to enjoy the meal with us. My mom and I shared the Tuna Burger and DJ had the Steak over orzo. We left out the walnuts and walnut pesto and just used regular pesto because DJ is allergic. I probably should have looked closer at that before ordering it! There have been several times in the past where I have almost accidentally “poisoned” DJ as he calls it. Exhibit A is posted below: I packed a trailmix in his lunch that had walnuts. Big WHOOPS.

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Sadly, my momma had to say goodbye Sunday night. But we were all so thankful for the time we had. It worked out that she was taking a red-eye that Sunday so we had the whole day to enjoy!

I have about a week of additional blogging to do that I will be working on the next couple days! There is a TON of fun stuff that went down while my best friend was in town, so stay tuned!!!! I hope you all had a wonderful and restful labor day weekend.

Wishing you a wonderful week,

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