Cleveland, Ohio- A Perfect Christmas

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Siblings <3img_5691-1

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




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


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

He is also pretty insta-famous: poolnoodlethecorgi


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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

xo <3


83 thoughts on “Cleveland, Ohio- A Perfect Christmas

  1. Lovely photos especially you & DJ together …Nice to see you smiling holding Kate in your arms …from the photos I guess you really had a nice time and enjoyed it as well…wishing you DJ a happy and prosperous New year 2017

    1. Thank you, Kiran!!!!! I couldn’t stop smiling the whole night from holding Kate. It was a beautiful time with family. I hope this New Year is a beautiful one for you and yours <3

  2. Happy New Year! What a fun holiday you had! I love family, pets and food. 🙂 I can’t wait to hear about your SF adventure. I hope next year is full of even more blessings for you and yours XO 🙂

    1. Happy New Year to you, Kristin!!!!! I am going to be posting our New Years eve in the next couple days 🙂 I can’t wait to share! I am so thankful to have “met” you this past year. I hope this next one brings nothing but the biggest blessings for you and your kind soul! xo

  3. Oh my goodness! Love the pictures! Your whole family all look so happy and the food looks delish!

    Thanks for great content during 2016! I’m so thankful I was able to come across your blog this year! Can’t wait to read more about your life and journey for 2017! Good luck! xo, Stephanie

    1. Aww thank you, Stephanie!! You have been one of my most loyal (and actually one of my first!) followers. I appreciate it more than you know! Thank you for your BIG time encouragement and sweet words always <3 <3 I hope this New Year is the BEST for you! xo

      1. You’re welcome! Your blog deserves much more credit and love than it already does. You’re such a great blogger and your content is amazing! Can’t wait for more to come! ❤

  4. Hold onnn, DJ is a twin?!?! How cool! I mean I know its his sister but do they look somewhat alike? Your niece is sooo stinkin cute, and that headband shes rocking so precious! Congrats to your sister!! My absolute favorite part is the matching onsie pj set!!! You guys are killing it, and looks SO comfy! I think I know what I’m getting Andrew and me next year HA….Idk if he’d be as smiley as DJ was in it though lol I love the snapchat pictures so much, the filters are the most fun. But um Mack, I can’t even believe I don’t even have your snap name!?!?!

    xo, JJ

    1. YESSS! He does have a twin! I have a picture of her on one of my posts… let me go find it…
      there is a picture at the very end! They look somewhat alike for sure! And their “twin things” are too funny… like no one will think something is funny but they find it hilarious and will be the only two laughing (stuff like that!). I am sooo thankful to have her as a sister-in-law. And YESSSS- get yo selves some onesies!!!!! I may hold you to that next year 😉 AND I WAS JUST GOING TO SAY THE SAME THING. How are we not snap friends?!? My name is mackmarie3 ! xxoxoxo

      1. Aw just looked at the picture, I can see the resemblance although next time you guys are all together you’ll have to get a side by side lol but that’s so cool. Also, just added you- finaaally! ha xo

  5. Thanks for sharing your wonderful Christmas celebration, Mack! I loved seeing all the places you visited and the food you ate. I wish you and DJ peace and much happiness in the New Year! <3

    1. Thank you so much for reading!!!! It means so much to me that during this busy holiday season you would take the time to stop by here 🙂 I wish you the absolute best in this year to come! I look forward to staying in touch!

  6. What a fun recap! I visited Cleveland last fall for the first time and I LOVED it. I have a friend there that I met through blogging, HA!

    1. NO WAY!!!! How fun!!!! What is her blog!?? If you don’t mind sharing! I wonder if I know her? That’s too cool though. I love the blogging world for that reason. I hope you have a beautiful start to this new year, Brittany ! xoxo Thank you for stopping by here 🙂

      1. I don’t mind at all! We’re all a big family in blogland! Her name is Meghan and she is absolutely wonderful. 🤗

  7. What a wonderful way to spend your Christmas. Thanks for sharing your photos Mack! Happy New Year!! I wish you all the best and a 2017 full of happiness, love and health to you, DJ and your family! I’m glad I found your blog this year 🙂

    1. Happy New Year to you too, Samantha!!!!! Thank you for being such a light around this blogging world <3 I am sooo thankful to have "met" you here too! I can't wait to see the big things you do and people you inspire in this coming year!!!! BIG HUGS!

  8. I always love viewing your photographs! And “Pool Noodle” actually made me giggle so hard I snorted! I wish I had a bunch of the “Just Read the Blog” glasses! Friends are always asking me for recipes etc. that I’ve posted and the glasses would be perfect.
    May your 2017 be the best so far only to be surpassed by 2018!

    1. Isn’t that just the BEST name for a Corgi?!? If you have instagram, go check Pool Noodle’s out! It’s a RIOT. I will keep you updated when she gets that business off the ground. Thank you for the sweet, sweet words always, Elizabeth!! I hope this is the BEST year yet for you!

      1. I’m definitely going to check out Pool Noodle’s Instagram! Both Mr. C and are are huge dog lovers so we’ll both enjoy it.
        Do let me know when she gets it going! And I have high hopes for 2017 for all of us!

      2. There are approximately 27 million Pool Noodles on Instagram. Does he have a number or some other way to find him fast?

  9. Belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!! I missed reading all your posts during the trip but now I’m back and have some time to binge-read your blog! Lol I’m so glad you had a wonderful Christmas vacation in Ohio with all the loved ones and how exciting for you to meet your niece for the first time!! She’s beautiful! Your mother-in-law’s baking looks so delicious, those donuts look like they were baked to perfection and that pumpkin pie looks professionally made! You all can cook/bake that’s pretty awesome! Hahah you and DJ look super adorable in that onesie! I totally should just get a pair for Roman and I– I’m sure he wont be opposed to it I mean I’m sure its comfy plus it’s so cute! Lol and oh my goodness, your friend is full of talent and creativity! I love the glass and how it has your blog on it! Definitely post her business when it’s up and running, I’d love to see more of her work! Happy New Year again lovely lady and extend my greetings to DJ as well! Hope you have a blessed year filled with lots of love!

    P.s. the corgi is so darn cute!!!


    1. YOU’RE BACK!!!!! Woohoo! I know you may not be as thrilled as I am, considering where you are coming back from. I hope to see a recap soon!!!! You are so sweet to take the time to read, I know you are probably SO busy! But yes, it was such a special moment to hold my niece for the first time. I couldn’t stop smiling! And DJ’s mom is on a new level of baking… I truly do crave her food year round. PLEASE get onesies next year for you and Roman! That would be the best! Jenny (from sitbackandjustlive) said she is considering it for next year soooo maybe the three of us could start a little blogging trend 😉 Hah. And they are SO comfy. I will definitely share some info about Rachel’s business and let you know! She’s just too darn good at it to not spread the word!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR, beautiful! I can’t wait to see what blessings come you and Roman’s way in this next year <3 <3 Sending big hugs and so much love!

  10. Hello Mack!
    It looks like you had a Very Merry Christmas with your family. I really enjoyed your pictures and hearing about your adventures. I am SO impressed that you did Insanity on Christmas morning! It is also cool how to made an effort to maintain your healthy lifestyle throughout the holidays!
    I hope this New Year will be Absolutely amazing and full of many blessings for you and your family!!!
    Love, Joy, and Blessings Always,
    <3 Alana

    1. Hey, Alana!!!!!! So good to hear from you, dear! THANK YOU for the sweet, sweet words! I always try to do some kind of workout especially on holidays because it honestly makes the food taste EVEN better!! 😉 It just overall sets a positive tone for the day! Definitely not always easy to get up that early though- So thank you for that encouragement about that 🙂 And I hope this New Year is the ABSOLUTE best for you too <3

  11. Cool post! I’m from Ohio and actually graduated from the University of Akron so I’m super familiar with all these places! I loved this post!!!! Happy New Year! (I also nominated your blog for the liebster award, btw)!!!!

    1. Oh my goodness no way! Tons of my friends went to University of Akron- great school! Thank you for stopping by, Diam! So good to hear from you <3 Also- thank you SOOOOOOO much for the nomination! Oh my goodnesss— that is too kind of you!!!!!!! Makes my day! Hope you have a wonderful New Year!

  12. Your blog is just like real life though! I mean, we go through serious things and then our stomachs are like “feed me!” so then there’s food… and then back to srs business 😛

    Your matching Christmas onesies are brilliant. We usually do costumes but this year we just did matching Happy Birthday Jesus shirts 😛

    Happy New Year, girl!

    1. Hehe- right?!?!? YESSS- I have seen those Happy Bday Shirts! We considered getting some! That’s amazing! Do you have any pictures on your blog!? I might have missed them! And Happy New Year to you too girlie <3 <3

  13. Ahhhh Happy Happy New Yeaaaaar, doll!! I loved this post so much! Good eats, cute pups, ONSIES! It had it all haha! I’m glad you had such a wonderful and relaxing Christmas XOXO

    1. Happy New Year, girlfriend!!!!! I just saw you have a recap up- EEK! Can’t wait to read! I hope this holiday season was amazing for you. xoxoxo

  14. That looks like you had an amazing Christmas. So often I think that people forget that it’s really about the who and not the what as they get overloaded with stress and bills and debt instead of sitting down with folks you haven’t seen and shoving amazing food down your throat. And um that looks like some fine food there. The onesies were pretty cute too. And the little kiddies. And got out onto your old trails. Awesome!

    1. YES! In this crazy world, at the end of the day if you can stuff your face with Mom’s cooking with all the people that make your day go round, it’s a good day right ? 🙂 Hope you are having a beautiful New Year!

      1. I think we should have more face stuffing. Solve all the worlds problems that way. The first four days have been alright so far😁 I hope yours is going swimmingly as well

  15. Oh my gosh, I love the Christmas onsie pictures!!! sooo cute! And you know I am dying over the doggie pictures!! ahh I just love them!! My parents are both actually from the Cleveland area.. such a small world!! Happy New Year girlfriend!! xoxoxo

    1. Hehehe- thanks, girl! And I think I remember you saying that when CLE was against the Cubs in the World Series!!! What part of Cleveland are they from again!?!? Seriously, the world is SOO small, and I love it! Hope this New Year is off to an amazing start for you, Taylor <3 !

      1. Oh my goodness that’s right! That’s actually where we are from (well a suburb of Akron). Did they live in the city or in one of the suburbs?!

    1. You are seriously wayyyyy tooo kind to go through all these posts! MAKES MY DAY! I hope you had the best holiday season and your New Year is off to the BEST start. I can’t wait to see what crafty things you whip out next and you truly inspire me to exercise my creative side!!!! Have such a great rest of your week, Afrilly!!

      1. Yaaay : ) It’s not a problem at all! Your posts always make me smile : ) I must’ve told you this a bunch of times! And I’ll always keep saying it! : ) : ) : )

  16. Wow! I feel out of breath just reading your post, what with the jogging and keeping up with your hectic lifestyle. Thank you for sharing. It is so lovely to read and hear your genuine enjoyment and enthusiasm for life, your appreciation of family and friends (your niece is sooo cute!).
    Wishing you and your husband all God’s very best for 2017. I’m so hungry after seeing all those photos of food and reading about your meals, so I’m off to eat some supper! 🙂

    1. Hehe- we definitely feel like we are on the go most of the time! I wish you ALLLL the best in the year to come, Cee! GOD BLESS! Enjoy your dinner <3 <3

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