Napa & Sonoma Part Two… & Graduation Day!

Annnnd here we are! Round two!!! Welcome welcome to perhaps one of my favorite recaps of all time. I am going to conclude our incredible time in wine country (if you missed part one, peep it here) then recap the rest of last week. I’ve just caught up with my favorite Peet’s barista while holding up the line (apologies to my fellow coffee addicts), have a cup in hand, and am situated in my favorite spot looking out the rain sprinkled window for the next couple hours. I don’t have any studying, applications, projects, or any other big “must dos” on my to-do list for the first time in years. I feel like I am breathing, really truly breathing. And this oxygen is quite nice. Inhale, exhale, sip some cafe au lait, repeat. Join me?

After we finished up at the brilliant Castle, we headed over to Frog’s Leap winery. I would say if you only have limited time in Wine Country Rambauer and Frog’s leap are the two I would recommend. Also, Kalpana, a friend that lives in Los Gatos, shared some amazing tips as well in the comments of the last post, so definitely take time to read those over too if you are looking for suggestions!


Frog’s Leap is what I would equivocate to heaven on Earth. It is a floral oasis with winding gardens in the middle of a quiet cozy valley. Reflecting on it almost feels like a dream, the warmth of the sun and the wine as we walked around the Switzerland remnant abode nearly left me half expecting Julie Andrews to start serenading the visitors with Sound of Music.


Halfway through our exploration of the majestic vineyard, I remember telling my mom no amount of pictures could do this place justice. And now I will say it again! Darn, guess you’ll just have to visit it yourself!


Maybe I should put those sunglasses to use? Just an idea?


We reluctantly left this ethereal destination only to follow a path just as beautiful onto our next destination. At one point we had to stop just to take in the most stunning natural spring of flowers we have ever seen!


Adoring God’s creation can really work up an appetite. We headed to Mustards Grill upon my Uncle Pat’s recommendation. Good thing I just had a snack because even looking at these pictures my stomach is growling again! O my lanta, if you need a place to eat in Wine Country, I’ll tell ya, your decision is made- GO here!


We started with the BEST calamari dish ever… crispy calamari with curried slaw and fresno chili. Yumayumayummm.


Deej had their half Pound niman Ranch Hamburger or Cheeseburger, house-made pickles, french fries. I love how everything has a little touch of Mustard too on their dishes.


My mom and I of course split their special Halibut. And we also split a glass of their recommended pinot grigio for the halibut. I am not even kidding, this halibut was some of the best of all time. And for it being split, they gave us such a generous serving. We didn’t leave one nibble to be consumed. It was tremendous. It was so good that momma Jill decided to purchase a cookbook to take home. Her and Pete like to collect books from places as souvenirs. Such a fun idea!


We then headed to our last stop for the day- Domaine Carneros.


This chateau is the oldest sparkling wine house in all of Napa.


It’s pristine winding staircases leading up to a mammoth mansion overlooking the miles of vineyards, mountains, and rolling hills was a picturesque site to behold..


We tried their sampler of sparkling wines with some roasted almonds. Once again, hate to be the bearer of bad bubbly, but we all agreed we preferred our Almond sparkling wine from Trader Joe’s.. Maybe we just didn’t try the right ones?! Certainly worth the experience though!

DJ had to head back that evening to work the next day, but my mom, Pete, and I watched Fixer Upper and ate our leftover desserts. Pete was feeling much better by this point!

That evening my mom handed me a big thick envelope. I had no idea what it could be. Inside were pages on pages of prayers she has wrote out for me through this year . I have cried reading her cards in the past, but this just pulled the heart strings next level. This was one of the most special gifts I have ever, EVER received. I still haven’t finished them all yet, it may take a while, but I cry every single time I read one. She has always set such a great example for us of what it looks like to be in true relationship with Christ and how prayer is not just about requests or bringing struggles, it’s about the conversation. The prayers are so real, honest, and raw. I truly believe the only reason I made it through this year was because of her and others’ prayers. I did not make it through on my own strength, there is no way. Thank you again, Mom<3

In the morning of Monday the 12th, I headed back a bit before my mom and Pete did to get my speech finished up for the next day, to run a couple errands, and do a quick couple loads of laundry. I was just following my GPS and lo’ and behold, stumbled right on through the Golden Gate. Don’t you love it when that happens?


In the evening, we all met at Willard Hicks in Campbell. DJ and I have wanted to try this place out for a while, but it’s near impossible to get a reservations.

Time to put this place to the test! DJ’s mom, Laura, who hasn’t been here in a YEAR (you may remember this epic weekend), was able to come for graduation! It meant the world that she wanted to come in the first place. She has been one of my main shoulders to lean on and always an ear to listen through this wild ride of a year <3


So with the WH— LOVED the ambiance. I was expecting a pretty fancy steakhouse, based on the menu and wait, but it had a more casual sports bar feel, yet with a touch of pizzazz.


We started with the exquisitely exotic willard hick’s baked brie. It came with phyllo wrapped baked brie with roasted veggies, whole roasted garlic (like still in the bulbs), dried fruit, chutney, and crostini. I probably do not need to even rave about how fantastic this was.


We also had to try their iron skillet poblano cornbread. This may have been my favorite part of the whole meal. The sweet creamed corn was perfectly moist (sorry moist haters). We savored every single nibble.


For entrees (everyone in my family is a saint for letting me be “That” person snapping pictures of their food)… anyway, Pete tried their awesome short ribs!


Of course, my mom and I split the scallops with some of the most delectable mushroom risotto to ever grace our taste buds. The scallops were cooked to savory perfection and the small little critters carried the most divine flavor!


Both DJ and my mom in law had the swordfish. Of course I snuck a nibble- it was mmm mmm mmm good!


Sides- Butternut squash, Horseradish mashed potatoes, & Brussels. Can’t go wrong with those!


I love these people more than words can say!


The next day, March 13th, was graduation time!!!! I have yet to do a one year reflection post, and I will save most of my thoughts for that. But this was a HUGE day. HUGE. I honestly didn’t think I would make it to this point. I presented my research project that I have poured endless hours into, gave my speech (which went very well- thank you for your prayers & encouragement about that!), and lastly was given a certificate that I prize more than my high school or college diploma. This certificate states that I completed the Residency program, but to me, it symbolizes surviving the hardest year of my life.


Also, I am so excited to share I was nominated Employee of the Month! When I saw the announcement in a staff e-mail I thought it was a mistake, or that there was perhaps another Mackenzie on our unit I was unaware of. Surely, it couldn’t be me?! This warmed my heart more than I can express. I feel like I fail and am incompetent on a daily basis, but it was beyond affirming that others think otherwise. I do not at all feel deserving, but it just motivates me to live up to the honor! Within a couple weeks I was accepted into my first choice for grad school, graduated from my residency program, had the most tremendous memories with my family, and then this?! Too much to handle. God is good and He is faithful. I was able to show my family the unit I work on, and of course my mom whipped out her phone for the picture below as I started blushing and quickly walking away. lol. It was great to finally show them where I work though after endless  conversations over this past year about it all!


To celebrate, I was having a hankering for True Food kitchen which is nearby the hospital. Subconsciously, I think there is a reason I was craving this. After I took my NCLEX nearly a year and a half ago, DJ and I celebrated by going to True Food. I think it has officially become the place to go after super high stress events?!?


I love that all the food is organic and wholesome, but it’s also annoyingly delicious (annoying meaning I crave it allll the time, but can’t get it enough to satisfy my craving).  Anyone else get that? All the girls tried the thai grapefruit martini… absolutely refreshing and not too terribly sweet.  Pete had their bloody! Can’t go wrong with a good bloody.


Meals! Boy, can we eat. Us girls tried variations of their ancient grains bowl, which is my favorite thing I have had here yet (although their fall butternut squash and ricotta pizza is pretty flame- wood fired to be exact). This included miso glazed sweet potato, turmeric, charred onion, snow peas, grilled portobello, avocado, and hemp seed. Definitely something that could be recreated (although I probably could never make it taste quite as yummy). You can add shrimp, tofu, chicken, or steak too!


DJ had their TLT again (tempeh, lettuce, and tomato). SO GOOD. You would never know the bacon wasn’t bacon.


Pete had their spicy panang curry with organic potato, long bean, bok choy, carrot, thai basil, and coconut shrimp broth with chicken! I’m telling ya, their menu is super diverse- something for everyone!


After the amazing lunch, DJ had to go to work, and Pete decided to take a little nap back at home. However, the ladies of the group were not about to turn down a stroll through a mall. We waltzed and frolicked (inside blog joke, anyone?) through the mall. It was a blast. Even the next day we were talking about how much fun it was to just peruse the mall together.


Last, I just want to share something pretty special. When we were at Casillo Di Amorosa, my mom suggested we both get bracelets as a sweet way to remember our trip. We both picked out our own special color, and usually I would go for a neutral tone, but I couldn’t get over how pretty the periwinkle-like purple was. A couple days later I opened up a gift from my mother-in-law. I was blown away by the thoughtfulness of the gifts (I’m saving a couple for a Friday Faves), but I want to share one. This gorgeous necklace is Amethyst. She explained the amethyst represents healing powers and that this is what I give my patients. I cried when I read this. So beyond thoughtful, and something I will forever treasure <3

I also realized both the Castillo di Amorosa stone matched the amethyst and loved how well the two go together. Wearing this jewelry will always remind me of the strong, prayer warrior women that have been my rocks to stand on, my source of wisdom, and my encouragers.


I have never been so emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted as I have been this past year. And yet, in this moment I have never been so utterly fulfilled. Thank you for coming on this journey with us. Love to you all.

xo <3


33 thoughts on “Napa & Sonoma Part Two… & Graduation Day!

  1. Happy graduation! I knew you would kill the speech Mackenzie 🙂 So happy to hear it all went well. That is so increibly thoughtful for you mom, Pete and DJ’s mom to come and celebrate with you. Plus the gifts basically matching makes it that much more special.

    Once again, your post has me drooling! And I was slightly hungry before so I’m definitely getting a snack once this comment is posted. I swear I’m making a trip to your area solely for the food. It all looks so good!

    Congrats on being employee of the month. You deserve it 🙂

    1. THANK YOU, Maureen! <3 <3 I am so thankful it's over! I didn't expect them to come all the way out here for that, but was touched that they wanted to and seriously some of the best memories were created! Hahah I was making myself drool! DJ and I don't quite do our weekly date nights like we used to, so I guess we were kind of making up for it with some good food! And if you ever come out here I would LOVE to give you recommendations and even give you a personal tour if you want. I know how to do SF in about a day at this point 🙂 Have a great evening, love! XO

  2. Congratulations on being Employee of the Month!! I have mentioned it before but I will say it again, you are doing God’s work in the hospital!! Seriously, nurses are angels from heaven when one is in the hospital! Keep up the great work ❤️!! We love Frog’s Leap wine but can you belive it We have never been to their winery, Now that you mention beautiful gardens, I’ll HAVE to go next time!. I am guessing the mall you were at is Stanford Shopping Center?? I love that mall!! I recognized it just from the flowers 😃. I trek up there all the way from Los Gatos just to see their flowers!! They have the most amazing landscaping! Have you been to Terrain Cafe inside Anthropologie there? Its awesome.
    Congratulations on your graduation!!

    1. Thank you sooo much, Kalpana!!! Your encouragement truly means more than you know! AND YES! You guessed it! Stanford mall!! I didn’t realize their flowers were SO gorgeous until this year. I feel like all of a sudden it’s spring, and I’m not upset about it one bit 🙂 I had NO idea anthropologie had a cafe inside?!? Ok, I will be checking that out ASAP! XO

  3. Once again you have put a big smile on my face this morning! So much congratulations on being Employee of the Month & on your graduation!! It’s been really exciting following you on this journey. Your family is so very sweet & fun; such beautiful people inside & out! Those flowers, the food – everything looks magical! Yesterday was rough. My attitude was horrible. Like so much negativity came from my mouth, but I have two dietetic interns working with me. They’ve been with me last week & through this week. I’m a preceptor for a total of five this spring. Your post has given me some motivation to “clean up my act” today. Hoping I can be more positive. Dialysis patients can take the patience right out of ya. 😉 Have a fabulous day, sweet girl! XO

    1. Awwww!!!! I am so glad this encouraged you!!! <3 Thank you, thank you! The blogging community has been such a blessing…. I remember last year at this time sitting down at a Starbucks before one of my classes for the residency program catching up on your blog. It's so cool that you truly have gone through this whole journey with me. Thank you for alll your encouragement through it <3 And we alll have those types of days, I definitely lose patients with my patients at times too. It's only human, but just like you INSPIRE me to have a more positive outlook, I'm thankful I could do the same. I send so much love! Thank you for making my evening <3

      1. Yes, I just love the blogging community!! I’m beyond thankful I’ve been able to follow along on your amazing journey.

  4. I don’t know which gift was more precious – the jewelry or the prayer letters. And I love the book idea from different places. I am a huge bibliophile, so that I right up my alley. Waltz and frolic…*snort*. Also, I have had amazing nurse experiences, you guys are superheroes in my book! And this journey you have shared only supports how amazing you all are. Congrats on graduating and all of the accolades you have received!

    1. Hi Katy! Aw, I agree. They both mean so much to me <3 Yesssss, so glad you understand that reference 😉 Thank you SOOOO much for the kind words. To be acknowledged as a nurse means more than most know <3 Just a simple thank you goes the longest way. This was so encouraging- sending so much love your way!

  5. Gosh all the food from WH & True Food look so dang yummy! So much congrats on graduating & being employee of the month!! 🍾🥂

  6. What a beautiful post. I love seeing new places through your eyes… You describe everything so well and have such beautiful pictures.
    Congratulations on your graduation!!!!
    And I love that your mom wrote down prayers for you. How powerful and sweet at the same time. I`m tucking this idea away for the future for my own children… 🙂

  7. Girl I am über jealous of you drinking Peets right now. BUT this recap has made my sick day brighter!
    Girl your pictures! YOU are a supermodel! And so is your madre! Frog Leap looks perfect to take ALL the pictures! I love it! And that picture of you squinting is just so darn cute! also I feel you not he stunting. Sometimes you ave to bare the sun for those pictures;p Lol.
    Oh Mack, I am crying at the gift your mom gave you. That is so sweet and so incredibly special! I love that! Mom’s are the absolute best!
    Ahhh Golden gate bridge!
    And oh my lanta girl your make-up is on fleek!
    Ahhh GIRL HUGE HUGE HUGE CONGRATS! Happy Graduation! I Am so flipping proud of you!
    AND CONGRATS on being names employee of the month! You’d deserve it girl! Ahh seriously I am so proud of you and in absolute awe of all you have accomplished. Ahhh I have all the feels for you girl!
    And that mall is gorgeous with those flowers! Frolicking (ahem..) through flowers is the bets thing ever! (sorry DJ)
    those gifts are the sweetest! And so true you are a healer! Seriously beauty I can not tell you how much of a rockstar and super woman you are! You made it!!! I Am SO flipping proud of you! <3

    1. Hi! OH my gooooodness you are tooooo sweeeet to me ******tears on tears on tears**** . You have seen this journey from the beginning and I am SO thankful for you. Your encouragement this past year has meant more than I could ever put into words. You are an amazing friend, and I am lucky to have you as one <3 LOVE YOU!!!

      1. Girl YOU are the sweetest! Seriously SO proud of you and grateful to you! You have been an inspiration! Awe YOU are an amazing friend! Seriously this is giving me all the feels I love you mucho beauty! <3 <3 <3

  8. Employee of the month AND graduation! Wow! What an amazing and blessed time in your life, Mackenzie! I am so, so happy for you! Also, you are making me want to visit California ASAP!

  9. Congratulations, Mackenzie, this is so wonderful!! You have truly ROCKED this year and persevered. You’ve really been an inspiration of leaning on God and His strength through the hardest times. Way to go, girl!! <3

    1. Oh my gosh, Tialla!!!! Thank you, beauty! Wow , this comment just put the biggest smile on my face! This just motivated me to keep on keeping on top. Hope you are SO well. I truly appreciate you taking the time to stop by and leave the sweetest words ❤️

  10. HI Mackenzie, it is great to go into your local coffee shop with no weight on your shoulders and sit , relax , people watch , whatever!! Of course I would love to join you! The frogs leap winery photos are amazing. I love all the scenery and the people in them. The one of you smelling the cherry blossoms on the tree with wine glass in hand is just so feminine ! I like you and Dj having fin too , and of course the cute Mom pics! What a wonderful flower patch you found, God’s creation is truly awesome, alleluia! Domaine Ceneros is another beautiful place. How wonderful that your Mom created prayers for you!! She is truly amazing and looking out for you always. Congratulations on graduating and getting the prized certificate! You had a tough year but reap the rewards now. Also employee of the month? You are appreciated and loved by your colleagues! I am sure it was nice going to the mall just having Mom and Me time! These are days we all look back on with fondness. I love the bracelets , another reminder of the special time you spent . Sending love back to you Dear, hugs, Terri xo.

    1. Hi Terri!!! Your comments are such a treat for me this morning! Thank you for the kindness toward all our pictures- it was a photography wonderland! And you are so right- God’s creation never ceases to take my breath away time and time again <3 Sending so many hugs. Thank you for sharing in such a special time in our lives. Hope you had an amazing Easter and are doing very well!

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