Eating, Learning, and Growing in 2018


I’m sure you have read a lot of blogs this week with New Years lists and resolutions and I guess I’m not much different with my Eating, Learning, and Growing in 2018 list, but I hope you enjoy this read nonetheless.

Another day and before you know it another year has passed us by. Today is the “First” official Monday of the New Year and probably the “Monday-est Monday” of them all.

I don’t know about y’all but this year seems to have gone by faster than a pint of Nada Moo’s VANILLA…AHHH “ice cream” in the hands of our 6-year-old.

Personally, I have had a LOT of not so great experiences this year, topped by the unexpected loss of my Father. That’s not to say I haven’t had some delicious and fun experiences sprinkled with new friendships and personal growth, but this year has been tough y’all. For ALL of this, I still find myself filled with so much gratitude. If you’ve spent any amount of time with me or read this blog, you know I fully believe that ANYTHING & EVERYTHING that happens in our lives happens to us and for us for a reason, whether that be to grow us, strengthen us, or stretch us, and for that reason I am grateful.

With that said shall we get into some “Eating, Learning, and Growing in 2018” I have a list of 18 of my favorite food experiences in 2018 and 18 things I have learned and grown in, in 2018

A True Dining Experience at Soto Contemporary Japanese Dining
Soto South Lamar

18 Of My Favorite Restaurant Experiences In 2018:(in no particular order)

  1. Soto, EVERYTHING. If we could afford to eat at Soto every week, we would! Ps. THE BEST oysters I have EVER had came from Soto Austin. Thank you to Chef Andy and his team for existing!
  2. Treaty Oak’s Alice’ Restaurant, Tomahawk. This Tomahawk and truly everything we had at Alice’ was amazing!
  3. Arlo Grey, Rigatoni. Order it! It’s pasta heaven
  4. Siete Foods invited some of us over for an amazing dinner experience on their property and I now would love to make them my “forever ” family and home 🙂 #juntosesmejor
  5. Austin Daily Press, Brunch, Torta’s, Taco’s, Beer Dinner’s, The addition of Bellow’s Bakery, you really can’t go wrong with ADP.
  6. Bird Bird Biscuit, aka. The Biscuit whisperers offer up some of the most delicious biscuit sandwiches ever.
  7. Republic Donuts, BEST small Batch Donuts EVERRRRR
  8. Il Brutto, Brunch, Pizza, Octopus, Lamb….and the service staff is spot on!
  9. Foreign & Domestic, EVERYTHING, Chef Heard is a talent!
  10. TLC, The ability to personalize your “boils” is like no-where I’ve ever known. TLC is also the home to my favorite “atomic” cocktail sauce! TLC is very much kid friendly and offers up a fun environment to watch any sporting event on the many flat screen tv’s located around the entire dining room along with a kid-friendly area with games and a chalkboard wall for the little artists.
  11. Dean’s One Trick Pony, The “Pony Boy” Cheeseburger. This cheeseburger may not photograph too well but man oh man, is it ever so delicious!
  12. Killa Wasi Food Truck, This food truck is magical. If you’re looking for amazing Peruvian food or just something different than the norm, you MUST check out this flavor-filled food truck.
  13. Walton’s Fancy and Staple, THIS Cheeseboard y’all.
  14. J. Leonardi’s, Does a great job at BBQ but my favorite thing to order is by far the Frito Pie.
  15. NadaMoo’s “Ice cream” shop, the most delicious dairy free “ice cream” EVER made!
  16. Forthright, They offer an awesome Brunch and are still going strong even after a fire has had them temporarily re-located to Trinity Hall.
  17. Chef Vanessa Musi’s baking classes. If you’re looking to spread your wings in the kitchen and learn about vegan and/or gluten-free baking you MUST check out these classes. There are different classes offered and are so much fun. These classes would also make for a perfect gift for a special someone.
  18. Louie’s BBQ, Get the Baked potato! Everything is delicious but the baked potato is incredible!

Because I couldn’t narrow down 18!: Sauce Odyssey, The New Homeslice Pizza location on East 53rd, Cisco’s, Gabriela’s, Gravy ATX, Flyrite, Cyclone Anaya’s, Bento PicNic, Launderette, The Peach Tortilla Milkshakes, Burgers, and Bubbles Brunch series, 68 degrees, We Are Ranch Hands, Andiamo’s


What I’ve Learned And Grown In, In 2018:

Nic and June
Our Little and I <3
  1. Being a Step-Parent is NO JOKE and Adult bullying is REAL, it NEEDS to STOP: Adult bullying or any kind of bullying is such a sad thing to exist but it does and it needs to stop! I am bullied constantly for being a Step-mom by our Littles bio-mom, by other mothers, by some of our daughter’s school staff, ect., all because I’m not our Little’s “REAL” mom. I guess being a STEP-mom makes me somehow “less than”, or somehow “not good enough”, or maybe “they” think I am somehow less capable of caring and loving a child that’s not of my own blood. Whatever the case may be these bullies judge me and my husband, treating us as though we’ve done “something wrong” because of the lies and rumors that have been told to them by an insecure and jealous person, by a “mother” whose choices have put us all in this position. We/our Little actually don’t get invited to some of our daughters’ classmates “playdates”, “social events”, and even birthdays because of these parents relationship with bio-mom. Our daughter is missing out on things because of ADULT BULLIES!! That is so heartbreaking for us. When the truth is she is a “mother” who cheated in her relationship, manipulated and lied which caused her relationship to fail with my now husband and ended long before (years) I existed in his life. She is a “mother” who has threatened me and brought our daughter to tears because of her own insecurities of me being in our daughters’ life. The sad fact is there are support groups upon support groups for step-parents (like me) who are disrespected and treated as less than all over the world because this is a REAL PROBLEM and in my opinion a ding dang shame brought on by prideful, jealous, and immature people. I can have empathy that it can be difficult or sting a little to see your child being cared for by another person, to hear your child call their step-parent “mom” or “dad”, to hear your child loves and is cared for by another person other than you, but let’s be real, once you set your pride aside, how is it a negative for your child/children to be loved by more people than just you? to be cared for by a loving person? If your child/children are being provided with a safe, secure, and loving home in which they are thriving then WHY would you show hate, disrespect, and just plain childish vindictive behavior towards a person that has never done anything to you? a person that has CHOSEN to be a part of your child’s life and to love them as their own? I don’t think that everyone appreciates what goes into being a step-parent; being a step-parent means you have chosen (<<<key word right there) not just to marry your partner but to marry their child/children and their ex aka: “baby momma” or “baby daddy” and all the drama that goes along with their “breakup”. Does any of that sound appealing or easy to any of you?? I can promise you that if someone is making a decision to marry into THAT, you better believe it is LOVE and treat them with that grace and respect. The only thing that should matter to any of the parties involved is that the child/children are safe, loved, and cared for…. any ones past (rumors or otherwise) is nobodies business and does not impact you in any way soooo, let that ish go and make it about the kid/s! (I wrote a blog about being a step-parent, click here to read)

2. Just because I’m a step-mom doesn’t make me LESS of a MOM: See #1 as well 😉 Developing in some way a peaceful and working relationship with our Littles bio-mom used to be a goal of mine. I used to want to help be a bridge between my husband, her, and our daughter but this woman shattered that desire in me with her lies, manipulation, and volatile actions. She has made our lives an actual living hell with her narcissistic and volatile actions towards us. I love our Little as if she is my own. My life is hers and everything that my husband and I do is for her betterment. I would lay my life down for her if I had to without thought or pause. THAT love makes me a MOTHER in every way!

3. Cliques and the “Rumor Mill” exist even in the “adult” world: Y’all I thought cliques were just a thing of childhood much like bullying, but nope it’s everywhere. It’s never been more apparent to me than now living in this “influencer” life. I go to different media events and there are the “cool influencers”, the “lifestyle influencers”, the “lesser-known influencers” the “new influencers”, the “food influencers”, it’s really just funny to stand back and watch. Don’t even get me started on the rumor mill Y’all, (said in a “Mean Girl’s” voice) “This influencer must pay for followers or likes because_______” or “Oh I heard he/she does________to get followers…”. It’s all so high school! I may not agree with how some people choose to get followers or likes or do things but if they’re nice to me and a good person then who the heck cares?! It is frankly nobodies business except for his/hers and/or who they decide to share that information with. I do however want to make it clear that if we are friends, as in you and I, IRL, I believe part of being friends truly means that we are called to hold each other accountable and that includes with the information you decide to share with me. This means I will, in love, tell you whether I believe what you are doing is right, wrong, black, white, or even a little gray 😉 but I will ALWAYS have your back and fully support you in everything because THAT’S what REAL friends do. The fact that we as adults think that gossiping and spreading rumors is acceptable is just WRONG. Spreading rumors and gossiping is part of bullying, it’s hurtful, and again, it’s just plain wrong. Most of the time people are busy spreading rumors when they have no idea what’s fact or truth but even if you think what you know is fact, it’s not YOUR truth to share so zip it. We’re adults people, act accordingly. Save the drama for your momma! and keep it away from me! speaking of mom’s what’s that mom saying? “if you don’t have anything nice to say…..” Which leads me to number 4…


4. EVERYONE is hurting: WE ARE ALL HURTING. Repeat after me, WE ARE ALL HURTING! That’s right folks, this isn’t a news flash, we’ve ALL been hurt at one point or another. We are all just broken people trying to get by one day at a time, so why don’t we just try and place our selfish points of pride aside and be kind to one another. If we all show each other GRACE I promise you this world would be infinitely better. (Are you letting your past baggage impact your present? Click here)

5. Everyone’s loss is different: This year I unexpectedly lost my Father. I have been and felt so many things the last few months that I can’t really explain them in words. My loss has made me lose focus on my blog and so many other things. My father was a teacher and I actually entirely stopped writing because I felt like it hurt too much, it just reminded me of my loss. I find myself crying during the days when I’m alone out of nowhere because I miss my dad, or I’m mad at my dad for not being here with me, or I’m mad at myself for not getting to say goodbye, knowing full well that I couldn’t have known. I hear other people’s stories of loss with almost a deaf ear. I hear them and I empathize but in my own “daddy’s girl” grief I think inside, but you didn’t lose MY DAD, He was the smartest most patient kind man in the world, I lost him, YOU didn’t. That may sound absolutely horrible to you and you know what, that’s ok. I’m sharing my vulnerability with you because it’s MY TRUTH and I want you to know this is a safe space, I am a safe space for you. I won’t judge you and I hope you chose to not judge me.
(I wrote a blog about the loss of my father, click here to read)


6. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable: There is so much strength in being vulnerable. I wrote an extremely personal blog a while back about my life including past abuse and rapes (click this link if you missed it) and the amount of support I received was unreal. The prayers and love I received from people were not expected. It didn’t stop there, since I posted other survivors of rape or abuse have reached out telling me their stories, asking for prayer, or just a listening ear. It’s so clear that in showing our vulnerabilities and hurts you could be helping someone else. For me, there was also a sense of freedom in my sharing. There was a feeling of release. My therapist once told me that when we hold on to these hurts we are giving them power when we make the conscious decision to let them go, we take that power away and give it back to ourselves. The scars are always going to be there but day by day the hurt behind the hurt dissipates.

“Bathed in her brokenness…Without your past, you could never have arrived so wondrously and brutally by design or some violent exquisite happenstance…. here” Taylor Swift

7. GRACE upon GRACE: Let’s take it back up to #4 shall we? I think my biggest struggle with grace is giving it to myself. I can freely offer grace up to pretty much anyone. That person who just cut me off and almost caused an accident? Yea, maybe they are having an emergency or maybe someone in the car is having a baby? Or how about that server at a restaurant that had more attitude than you knew what to do with? Well, maybe they just got broken up with or cheated on, maybe they’re just having a horrible day… I don’t know what is happening in other people’s lives but I think that’s my point, I don’t know. You don’t know. That’s where grace comes in. I’m not sure why I can easily offer up grace to anyone BUT myself but I have made a promise to make this a daily practice. Grace is not just for others, we must show ourselves grace. We all need grace to fail, grace to forgive, grace to be different, grace to love… Grace upon Grace! Will you work on this with me?

8. Love those in front of you NOW and HARD: This may just be one of the hardest things on this list I have been working thru. After losing my father I have had some pretty dark moments in my head. I have been so angry at him for leaving me so suddenly. Real Real talk here **I’ve actually thought about the peace I would feel if I were to die in a crash or some sort of an accident so that I could be with my father in heaven.** Please don’t get that vulnerability twisted I would never take my own life EVER, I love myself and my family way too much for that. I’ve realized how much I take for granted. It’s so clear that I had become stagnant in the “there’s always tomorrow” way of thinking, NEWS FLASH, TOMORROW IS NOT GUARANTEED! It may sound cliche but after losing someone I think we all go through a realization of our lack of control and how finite life is. Sadly, I didn’t get to say goodbye to my father but I hope that he knew how much I loved him, how much he means to me, and how grateful I am for him choosing to raise me as his daughter even though I was a complete pain in the arse. Now I want to make sure that those I love know without a doubt they are loved. I want you all to feel appreciated and cared for by me. I want you to know you are not alone. I am here for you.

9. We cannot change what we will not name: A few weeks ago I was listening to The Jamie Ivey Podcast (if you haven’t listened to Jaime before, do it, she’s such a light to listen to. Click here) and her guest Nicole Zasowski said the words, “We cannot change what we will not name” and my mind was blown! Such a simple phrase floored me. We need to know and name what we need to face (take off) in order to actually face it, based on Ephesians 4:22, Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life…put on your new self, created after the likeness of God…” I mean Y’all I started creating this list of 18 Things I’ve Learned Or Realized This Year, a few weeks ago in my Google Notes just for myself not thinking I would post it. I didn’t realize that in creating this list I was, in fact, putting names to things I am working thru. Doing this was allowing me to see the physical words laid out in front of me which truly has helped. Most of this list has come from me showing myself grace in my grieving. By actually naming these feelings I am having inside I am beginning the process of working thru them. I truly needed to hear this message and I plan on practicing naming issues and feelings I am holding onto so that I am able to face them and break them down. I think we could all use this practice in our daily lives. What do you think? Will you give it a try?

10. It’s ok to have emotions and be emotional. Your feelings are just that YOURS! don’t let anyone take that away from you. You don’t need other peoples approval or acceptance. Now imagine me screaming this at myself in the mirror, hahaha! Let’s be honest with ourselves and each other, emotions are tough. It doesn’t matter what our pain is or what’s going on, the truth is we can all relate. So feel your feelings, feel your truth!

“You are just as valuable in your pain as you are in your joy and celebrating. Your identity does not change, God does not love me any less, which sounds so cliche but can be really hard to own in the moment, He doesn’t love you any less when you’re in your grief or when you’re in these feelings we like to label as “negative” feelings…All feeling can usher us into God’s love” Nicole Zasowski

11. YOU are the YOU-EST you there is and that is Perfect: I am about 6 months away from turning 40 Y’all!! I mean geesh I remember being young and thinking 30 was old. I’m not implying that I think 40 is old now by any means but man, it sure is a milestone. As I am reaching the end of my 30’s I have never felt more comfortable in who I am. I have never felt more comfortable in my beliefs. I have never been more ok with my own weaknesses and the strengths in each of those weaknesses.

Image result for you're the youest you

I used to care about what people thought or said, I cared so much it would keep me up at night. I used to care so much about my reputation and what other people were saying about me whether it was true or not, I let it impact me in such a way that I was losing mass amounts of weight and not eating because of the anxiety of it all. I was letting “outsiders” who really don’t know me or what makes me who I am impact my everyday life. Come’on Y’all, I know we’re all guilty of listening to the “noise”. I’m not saying that I don’t have moments when people’s comments or actions impact me. I promise you I have to work on this daily, but practice makes perfect right?! I have every confidence that everything, the good, the bad, and the oh soooo ugly that has happened to me, has happened for a reason. I believe that His will be done! I believe that I am a Daughter of The King! I believe that we are ALL image bearers and that makes us Fearfully and Wonderfully made (PS139:14). It is clearer to me now more than ever that the people that choose to be bullies, gossipers, or “negative nellies”, are really just unhappy with themselves. Their unhappiness has absolutely nothing to do with me or you! In the words of Dr. Suess “Today, you are YOU, that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you!”


12. I’m turning into my dad and I married my mother: I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard people say women tend to marry men who are like their father’s. Well, in my case I truly believe that I have married my MOTHER! Hahaha! So weird to think and I joke with my husband about it pretty often and I actually think he may take it as a negative but little does he know it truly is a special thing to me (sooometimes not all the time 😉 ) my mom is such a beautifully strong woman. My mother had me in high school but didn’t let herself become a statistic. My mother graduated, went on to college, went on to medical school, and has since held on to an awesome career in medicine all while raising my brother and me, being a wife, a caregiver to my grandpa and since passed grandma and father, on top of facing every day struggles that life brings with her head held high. My mother represents strength in every way to me. The funny part in that strength is it comes with seemingly infinite stubbornness, a short temper, and an at times butthead (excuse the 😉 language) sense of humor. ALL of these traits also represent my husband and much like when my mother and I buttheads over certain subjects, my husband I do as well. How on earth did this happen?! That said my husband is one of the strongest, resilient, loving men I have ever been blessed to know. He holds his head up high and even when the outside is attacking us he is strong and never stops trying for our family. I love you Bean! (Are you interested in how my husband and I met? click here)

13. I have NO IDEA what I’m doing: Truly Y’all I think I am beginning to appreciate when my daddy used to say “Meija, the day you stop learning is the day you die” maybe a little morbid but I took it as we are so blessed to get to learn something new every day. Thanks Dad! I happen to believe the not knowing of it all is a gift that allows our life adventures to be filled with so much beauty! Whether it be in learning, growing or being stretched. So I stand proudly and say I have no idea what I am doing and that’s OK, no one else does either.

14. Adult friendships are hard and exhausting: It’s true, adult friendships are hard but soooo worth it. Do you remember how easy it was when you were young? maybe out on the playground or something, “Hey there, wanna swing?” “yea, ok” and then you’re BFF’s 😉 As an adult it is most definitely not that easy! Now as adults we all seem so concerned with the differences in each other and instead of celebrating those differences we shun them. As adults we put up walls and barriers to keep the “weird people” out, but why? Don’t we teach our children to stand out and be different? Don’t we glorify people on social media and other outlets for being so “different” then when it comes to ourselves what are we so afraid of when it comes to making friends different than us? I know for me personally people, in general, can be scary for me, I do the whole “stranger danger” voice in my head every.single.time I meet a new person, no joke! Once I allow myself to get past that though there’s so much room for really awesome people to come into my life. The past couple of years I have had the pleasure of meeting so many beautiful people especially women that have fed me spiritually and spoken their truth into me. These friendships have led me to be a better stronger more inspired person than I was yesterday. So why not try this year to put yourself out there? You never know you just may meet your new best friend. Leading me to the next thing #15!

15. Community is so important: Life is hard Y’all and we don’t need to go at it alone! God calls us to have community. There is verse after verse telling us this, just to name a few… 1 Corinthians 1:10
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 Thessalonians 5:14
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
Colossians 3:13
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Galatians 6:2
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.

These verses are so sweet to me in that it shows not only did our Father love us so much He sent His Son down to us to be persecuted, judged and ultimately sacrificed, He did this all to show us what true love is and that we are called to give this love to one another. His sacrifice showed us the true ugliness that we have inside us and that we have a choice, we can choose the ugliness or we can choose love. Here’s the deal: It’s important to spend time alone with God, soaking up His Word, but He doesn’t intend for us to live alone. He specifically designed our hearts to crave and thrive in relationship with others. We’re made into our best selves when we’re experiencing life’s highs and lows with other believers. This means everyone, whether you’re single or married, needs community.

16. Our 6-year-old daughters’ opinion and respect of me means more to me than most anyone else: It’s weird to me to think that our 6-year-old has the ability to directly impact my mood, but she does. I have had some of the most genuine love-filled moments of my life with her. I have experienced some of the most frustrating moments with her and I can say she has also made me feel so much hurt in defeat too. I know this is all a part of parenting but I had no idea how much her opinion of me would actually mean to me. I want to be not just a great mother for her but a great person. I want to be a light for her, someone she can aspire to, someone she can learn from. Even when she is not with us I want to carry myself in such a way that she would be proud, though TBH she’s 6 and probably doesn’t care 😉 or even notice yet. I want our marriage to be a solid, loving, and secure foundation for her to grow up with and build on. Ok, now I think we all need to call our parents and tell them how awesome they are!?! hahaha!

17. Restaurants need to offer more NON-spicy choices! Allergies ARE REAL: Being an influencer, I eat a lot of food and nowadays most restaurants are extremely accommodating to food allergies, vegans, vegetarians, celiacs, and people with gluten sensitivities or allergies. Then there are people like me, I have an allergy to capsicum which essentially means I’m allergic to any foods using chile′s or peppers. That means no salsas, no cajun spices, no spicy margaritas, no blackened anything, and sadly no to most queso’s **BOOOOO** I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this and there are a lot of people around that aren’t allergic to spicy but have what I call an “aversion” to eating spicy or just don’t like it, so it’s not just me dealing with this, and yet a lot of restaurants don’t offer “Non-spicy” items, some menus literally have a chile′ component in every single ding dang dish. I didn’t notice how bad it has gotten here in Austin until getting into this influencer game and having to either decline an invitation to a restaurant or get to a restaurant and have to leave or just “happily” enjoy a liquid diet. This year has definitely been my most frustrating to deal with, with this allergy and I just wanted to share my frustration so you can commiserate 🙂

18. I LOVE YOU and ALL Of The Things!: Did you make it this far down this long list??! Well, you deserve a gold star friend! I truly love getting to do and be a part of this crazy influencer life. For the first time in a long time I’m having fun and being challenged. I am so grateful for you all along with me on this ride but I am most of all grateful to my husband and partner for giving me the support, space, and push to keep doing this. If you follow along on my Instagram you have no doubt gotten used to my foodie ways. This year I will be challenging myself to be a little more vulnerable and transparent with you, and I plan on sharing a lot more about our lives in general. I hope you enjoyed reading about my Eating, Learning, and Growing in 2018. I hope you continue to stick with me but most of all I THANK YOU so much for being you and CHEERS TO 2019!

Thank you for reading! Don’t forget to like, comment, and share!
Until next time Lovers!