Engagement Gift Ideas

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We have received an amazing amount of love & support from our friends & family regarding our engagement. It was a weekend full of festivities that we were lucky enough to share with our parents & closest friends.

Lucky for me, a few of my girlfriends are in the same boat as I am, getting engaged & beginning the wedding planning process so we are able to bounce ideas off one another, talk flowers with each other, & celebrate one of the most exciting times of our lives together. Unfortunately for me, my oldest & closest girlfriends live 3,000 miles away. So while a lot of our California friends were able to spend the weekend with us, my girlfriends on the east coast were unable to travel out for the weekend.

Instead a few weeks later I received a beautiful package in the mail with some of the most amazing engagement gifts. Engagement gifts are something that not everyone does anymore. We aren’t having a traditional engagement party so I wasn’t really expecting any gifts, but it was so nice to be able to hear from my girlfriends. And now I have precious little reminders of them throughout me & Chris’s home.

Here is a little list of some great heartwarming & practical engagement gifts that any bride to be would love & adore.

1. Anything monogrammed
Okay maybe it’s the New Englander inside of me but I love me a good monogram. We have M & C’s all around our apartment so when I opened a gift from my sister & my best friend of a beautiful letter adorning my future last name I was in awe. Anyway to remind the happy couple that they will soon be one is fantastic.

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2. Personalized jewelry
An amazing friend of mine designs jewelry & I am lucky enough to have a few of her pieces which I wear all of the time. But after Chris asked me to marry him, Annie gave me a beautiful necklace with our engagement date engraved in it. It was the second best piece of jewelry I got that night! Check out here stuff on her Etsy page. She is amazing!

3. Picture Frames
My girlfriends somehow seemed to find the most perfect pictures frames I have ever see to display some of our engagement photos in. I love, love, love having photos throughout our home & being able to display our photos in brand new frames was a perfect gift.

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4. Artwork of Something Meaningful for the Couple
Like I said earlier, Chris & I grew up 3,000 miles away from each other. My cousin found us the cutest graphic on Etsy of maps of our two hometowns & a map of our current home, kind of like this one here. It was so thoughtful & a perfect gift for two people from opposite sides of the country. It is something I will truly cherish forever.

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Pinch of Yum’s Crockpot Mexican Chicken

Summer time for me usually means I am staying out of the kitchen as much as possible. I hate being hot while I cook & when it pushing 90 like it is this week in SoCal, the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven or the grill.

When we moved in May, we moved into a big apartment, with a small kitchen, so I am still trying to figure out my flow in the new place with a different stove & oven. Our meals have been leaning toward taking advantage of the food truck at the apartment & grilling as much as possible.

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But this crock pot recipe from Pinch of Yum is one of the best recipes I have tried in a long time. Best part, it’s like she knows me! She gave options on how to modify the recipe to your liking, & anyone who knows me knows it’s hard for me to follow a recipe so it was perfect. Instead of using dry beans, I used canned. I added a cup of frozen corn, & used a little less salsa than suggested. It came out amazing. Here is the recipe on Pinch of Yum & below is how I made it.

Signature DSC00621 1 can pinto beans
1 cup frozen corn
½ cup water
½ jar of salsa
1 lb chicken breast
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup Monterey Jack cheese

1. Add beans, corn, water and salsa into crock pot. Top with chicken breast and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours.
2. A half hour before serving shred chicken breasts and top with cheese. Cover and let sit for another half hour.
3. Drain well as excess water will be at the bottom of the crock. Serve in tortilla as a burrito.

Seven Magic Mountains

DSC00505 A childhood legend, for both Chris & I, was Garth Brooks. Both of us grew up on 90s country music & you can’t really talk about 90s country without bringing up Garth. Since I moved to California, Garth had been in Las Vegas performing regularly at his residency at the Wynn. But in 2013, when he left the Wynn to “retire” I didn’t think I’d ever be able to see him perform. So two years ago when he and wife Trisha Yearwood announced their plans for a world tour, we began checking the tour’s website religiously.

So after months of waiting, the last week in June we headed out to Las Vegas with Chris’s dad & his wife to finally see the great Garth. On our trip out there, Chris & I were just about 10 miles outside of the strip when we saw seven neon-painted rock towers, right in the middle of the desert & I knew we had to stop. So Sunday, on our way home, we took a little pit stop in Jean, NV at Seven Magic Mountains.

Seven Magic Mountains is an art instillation that opened back in May, 2016. It’s an absolutely stunning configuration of seven 30-35 foot tall, local boulders. Besides the beauty of the mountains, the meaning behind them is what totally drew me in. The rocks sit between the amazing man-made Las Vegas Strip, along the ever busy I-15, & the natural desert & mountain landscape of Southern Nevada.

It was definitely a site worth seeing up close. We exited the freeway which runs between Los Angeles & Las Vegas, hoped on Las Vegas Blvd. & drove for about 5 miles until there was nothing but huge, neon totems to the left of us with a small dirt parking lot. Even in 118 degrees, these beauties brought out a crowd. Check them out for yourself, & next time you’re in Vegas, make time to stop. Just being able to stand next to them is absolutely amazing.

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A Day at Santa Barbara Zoo

DSC00102I haven’t been to an actual zoo in years. Last year while we were in West Palm Beach, FL we spent two days at Lion Country Safari & it was absolutely amazing. We had beautiful, massive giraffes, ostriches, & a bunch of other species of African born animals walked right past our car. So when Chris’s mom suggested we stop at the Santa Barbara Zoo on our way to El Capitan Canyon last month I was game.

After stopping for breakfast in Santa Barbara, we got to the zoo around noon. It was the perfect time for most of the animals to be out for their feedings. There were snow leopards, African tigers, about every type of bird you could think of, & my personal favorite two beautiful Asian elephants.

Sujatha & Little Mac are 46 year old sisters who have lived at the Santa Barbara Zoo for the past 44 years. The elephant sisters are between 800 & 920 lbs each. Each!! They’re huge!! And so cute. They were eating while we visiting them so we were able to talk to their trainer & find out a ton of information about them. They actually have to be separated during feedings because one will eat the other’s food.

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The zoo was perfect size for a half day trip. We were able to get to almost the entire zoo by 3pm but definitely could have spent more time. The only part of the zoo we missed was taking the train ride around the perimeter of the zoo. It is a great place to spend time with your family, have lunch, & enjoy the animal exhibits.

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El Capitan Canyon Glamping

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If you follow me on my Instagram, you know we have been all over the place last weekend. We started Thursday night up in LA at Chris’s family’s house. Then Friday morning we headed up to the Santa Barbara area to have a weekend full of glamping & exploring. We spent Friday at the Santa Barbara Zoo & I can honestly say I don’t know the last time I went to a zoo. It was so much fun! But more about the zoo next week.

I have stayed at El Capitan Canyon once before with Chris’s family, about three years ago, but they have been going to the Goleta campground for almost 20 years. When they began camping at El Cap it was a tent only campground. Since the campground has changed a ton & gone from camping to glamping.

For me, it’s perfect. I love the outdoors but I’m not really down to sleep on the ground, with bugs all around me & without a proper shower. El Capitan is a wonderful combination of wilderness living, with all of the amenities.

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Set off of the 101 freeway, just north of Santa Barbara is the entrance to a mile & a half long canyon full of canvas tents, yurts, & cabins of all sizes. This weekend we stayed in the Canyon Suite cabins which has a bedroom with a king-sized bed, full bath with stand up shower, & a good sized living room with a convertible sofa bed if needed. For this weekend, these cabins were perfect. Chris’s parents had one cabin & his sisters shared another with their friends. We had our big old cabin to ourselves which was beautiful & super comfortable.

Friday evening we got to camp around 5, unpacked our cars & began getting dinner ready. Chris’s sisters had prepared pasta at home & we warmed it up in the microwaves in the cabins. Unfortunately we had forgotten garlic bread (& how do you have pasta without garlic bread) but it was nothing a walk down to the general store didn’t fix. We headed down & purchased some prepared garlic bread to warm up on our grill back at the cabin.

Saturday morning was a little gloomy but we started our day with a guided mile long hike up to the El Capitan Canyon’s llama farm. As we tried to hide from the rain on Saturday, we stayed inside relaxing. One of my favorite parts of glamping here is the Saturday night Canyon Concert Series which runs from May through September. For just $20 you get an amazing dinner of tri-tip, BBQ chicken, garlic bread (yes, two days in a row is definitely worth it), salad, corn, & a cookie for dessert. All of which are absolutely amazing. The meats are slow cooked all day, & it was some of the tastiest tri-tip I’ve ever had. As you eat your dinner, a local band plays music & everyone is dancing, playing games, & it’s a great time.

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After a rainy Saturday, everyone was ready to get out of camp the next morning & explore the surrounding area. We went to a favorite central coast town, Solvang, where we were able to spend the day at tasting rooms, window shopping, & we ended up finding the cutest little hotel. The Landsby was gorgeous & we couldn’t help but take advantage of their happy hour that day. Yum, yum, yum! I am hoping Chris & I are able to get up there one weekend for a stay, in which case I will do a full post about this beautiful place. It definitely got our wedding wheels turning though.

We headed back to camp for delicious carne asada dinner & a great night around the camp fire. Sunday was definitely a much quieter night around the campsite which brought out a lot more animals. We saw a raccoon try to get into one of the cabins, a little fox get chased down by a baby bobcat, & a cute little skunk family that wanted nothing to do with us, as much as we wanted nothing to do with them.

What I love the most about El Capitan Canyon is there is something for everyone. It is a great place for families, young & old, to spend some quality time together, & whether you want to cook yourself or take advantage of the general store & market, you will defiantly not go hungry. During trips that the weather cooperated a little better, we were able to use the beach cruisers they have at the registration office & bike around the camp ground, or walk down to the beach (aka hop in the truck & drive down with all of our stuff) & spend the day relaxing on the sand or in the ocean. It is great for avid campers or even just little glampers like me.

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*Unfortunately just two days after we headed back home, the Santa Barbara Sherpa fire irrupted & it has had local fire officials working around the clock. Late last week photos of the campsite with flames surrounding the cabins were shown on the news. We are praying for the firemen, & all of Santa Barbara that they recover from this & continue to keep their community safe.

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