Texas born, Midwest blood

One of the first things people ask me when I say I’m from Texas is, “Why Iowa?!” They think I’m crazy for moving here and wonder why in the heck I love snow so much. For one, both of my parents are from the Midwest, so I think that’s where my love of it comes from and why I don’t mind the cold.

Maybe it’s because we don’t get as much snow down in Texas- it’s more ice down there- but this weekend was wonderful because I got to see the beautiful snow fall. I also can say that I don’t mind the cold. Maybe it’s because my mom and dad are from the Midwest and naturally I am drawn into it. This reminds me of one of the reasons why I love Iowa so much- there’s actually seasons here.

A picture I took in the fall of all the beautiful leaves that had fallen.
A screenshot of a Snapchat I posted. I tried to get my cat to play in the snow- she wasn’t having it.

During the winter I get to see snow, during the spring I get to see everything blossom, during the summer I get to see the beautiful green fields filled with corn and soy beans, and in the fall I get to see the absolutely astonishing colors of the leaves change. This isn’t something you see in Texas. One day it’s 110 degrees out and the next it’s freezing. The weather seems to be a little more bipolar there.

Another reason I love Iowa so much is because the people here are truly friendly. Almost everywhere you go someone gives you a friendly smile or is willing to help you out. All my friends that I have met here have always had my back, and I know they would be there for me in a heartbeat.

One of my best friends, Austin, and me.
Some good friends and I out for a night on the town in downtown Cedar Rapids.
My good girlfriends Brittany and Caitlin whom I met through volleyball.

So whether it be the seasons or the people that draws me into Iowa, I can tell you one thing, I absolutely love it. Maybe the Midwest blood that runs through me also has something to do with it. I’m not sure where my next adventure will be, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was somewhere in the Midwest.

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Big Grove has big taste

I’ve been to many restaurants around the Cedar Rapids area, but none of them have quite stuck out like Big Grove Brewery in Solon. Only about a 25 minute drive away from Cedar Rapids, it’s a guaranteed good time.

This weekend, my girlfriends and I went out to Big Grove to get some food and drinks. I absolutely love Big Grove’s atmosphere! It’s got a modern, country feel to it and their patio is awesome! Unfortunately it was pretty packed, so we didn’t get a seat outside.

Typically when I go, I like to try one of their beers, but this time I was feeling a Moscow Mule, which at Big Grove they call “The Mule.” Typically Moscow Mules are made with vodka, but there they make it with a whiskey, and that’s mixed with ginger beer and fresh-squeezed lime and orange juice. It’s amazing!

The Mule at Big Grove Brewery. I would recommend this drink to anyone!

After we ordered our drinks, we decided to split some pretzel bites that’s served with beer cheese and a homemade mustard that has a hint of horseradish in it. While the beer cheese could’ve been a little thicker, their pretzels were phenomenal! Typically when I go I always get their Korean BBQ wings (seriously the BEST wings I’ve ever had). However, we decided to venture out with the pretzels, but their wings is one of the reasons why I got hooked on them so much. They’re huge, full of wonderful flavor, and have the perfect amount of spice!

After we looked over the menu we decided to split one of their pizzas, roasted mushroom to be exact. It was awesome!! It had so much flavor for such simple ingredients: locally grown mushrooms, garlic confit, fontina cheese, and arugula. On top of that the crust was crisp and had a wonderful wood-fire taste to it. Let’s just say it won’t be the last time I get that pizza! I would definitely recommend that you split it though because it’s pretty big.

After we ate our pizza we sat around and chatted some more. But for anyone looking to go somewhere different than places around Cedar Rapids, this is the first place I would recommend. With everything freshly made, and on top of that made from scratch, there’s no way you can go wrong!

Me, Brittany, and Caitlin after we got done having dinner and drinks at Big Grove.

falling for fall foliage in the Midwest

Being from Texas you never really get to experience fall like you do here in Iowa. I remember the first time seeing all the leaves change; I was drawn into their beauty as if I were being hypnotized. The bright oranges and yellows, the deep reds really take your breath away.

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A beautiful bright yellow and orange tree I saw on my walk around Cedar Rapids.

One place I hope to go to during the fall is Dubuque. I’ve been there a couple of times, and I’ve taken the elevator railway up to the peak and looked out over the Mississippi. I could only imagine what it looks like during the fall. Seeing all those beautiful colors painted across the Mississippi has got to be pretty easy on the eye, and I hope some day I get to experience that.

Sometimes when I’m driving I get lost in the tunnel of trees that surround the roads, and I have to remind myself that I am driving and need to keep an eye on the road. It’s just so hard though because when you see all these colors together, it’s hard not to stare. We have nothing like that in Texas, so still being pretty new to Iowa it always catches my attention.

Going on walks are probably my favorite thing to do during the fall. The temperature is just right, and I can really take in the beauty of it all without having to worry about getting into a car wreck. My favorite are the bright colored ones– I’m typically more drawn into those.

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I was going on a walk around a friend’s neighborhood, and I saw this in one of the front yards.

I only wish the fall foliage would last longer. I feel like one week I’m looking at all these wonderful and colorful trees and the next they are bare. That’s why every time fall comes around I try and take pictures of my favorite trees. I also love walking through all the colorful leaves that have fallen to the ground and throwing them up in the air. If I end up moving away after I graduate, I know one thing I’m going to miss for sure and that’s the magnificent fall colors that nature brings.

a mother’s love

A mother’s love is like no other, and this especially goes for mine. Even though we’ve had some tough times (definitely on my part) she has stuck by my side through it all. She is willing to drop everything not only for me, but for anyone else as well. She is the one true person I can look up to, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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My mom and me, Christmas 2015.

My mother can do it all. I always remember when I was younger her being at every single game I had, and I played a lot of sports. Whether it was basketball, soccer, softball, gymnastics, volleyball, or track and field, she was there to cheer me on. Breakfast was on the table every morning, my lunch was made, and most nights she had dinner ready. Even with her extremely busy work schedule, she still made all these things possible. All with a smile on her face.

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Me and my mom, when I was younger, on Halloween (she always got us matching holiday sweatshirts).

We went through a pretty rough patch in high school. I was one of those rebellious teenagers who thought she knew everything and could be very disrespectful towards my mother at times. But even through everything that we went through, she ALWAYS stuck by my side and NEVER gave up on me. It takes a true love in order to stick by someone’s side who is acting this way. Shoot, I guarantee some parents would have given up on their child, but not her. Even with her having restless nights, she still stood by me and in the end it made us even more stronger.

I love my mom so incredibly much; more than she’ll ever know. I value the relationship I have with her and her willingness to do anything for the people she loves. She is the rock in our family and keeps us all sane. I commend her for her work ethic she had all those years and still has today. I love her wanderlust and her fun spirit. There is nothing that I wouldn’t do for this woman. She is the one and only person that I look up to, and I wouldn’t trade the love we have for the world.

enough is enough

I’ve never been one to vent on social media, but in light of recent events and situations, I feel like it’s best for me to get everything off my chest. As well as getting it all off my chest, I feel the need to let women know who are dealing with the same thing that I am, that you are strong enough to get out and move on to a better life.

My ex and I dated for a little over a year, and I moved in with him about six months in. Everything seemed fine in the beginning, but there were signs of his controlling, manipulative, jealousy ways. In a way, I thought maybe he would  change these ways for me, but in the end it ended up turning into a total nightmare and catastrophe.

There were nights he would come home on his drunken rampages and say the worst things to me anyone has ever said. He called me fat, told me I was ugly, he made fun of what I wanted to do for a career, and called me names that are inappropriate to even post. I knew I had to get out, but then he would just manipulate me into staying and told me he would change and that he never meant any of those things.

BUT YOU SAID THEM.

And I will NEVER forget those hurtful and awful things you said to me.

We would be out, rather it be at a company party or just hanging with friends, and if I talked to a guy a certain way, or he thought I looked at them a certain way, I immediately wanted them and was disrespecting him and “acting like a whore.” I will never forget the night when he came home furious because I didn’t answer the phone (I was in bed watching a movie with my phone on silent) and he accused me of having another guy there and ripped the lamps out of the wall and threw them across the room. There would be nights where I would drive around, tears in my eyes, because he had kicked me out and told me to “move on.”

Well guess what, I have. I had ENOUGH!

A part of me wishes that I had never met the guy… A part of me is kicking myself in the ass for sticking around as long as I did. But what is done is done, and in the end it’s only going to make me a stronger person.

So, to all my women out there who have ever dealt with or are dealing with something similar to my situation– you ARE beautiful, you ARE smart, you CAN achieve your goals, and don’t you ever let someone else’s insecurities tell you otherwise. People who treat other people that way and have to bring them down, are fighting demons within themselves and need serious help. NO ONE no matter what the circumstances are, should EVER talk to or treat anyone this way. It’s disgusting and no one deserves it, and you CAN get out of it!

I’m so thankful that I had my wonderful family and friends there to support me through all of this. While he hasn’t seemed to let go of it all, I have finally escaped and know that it will only get better here on out.

The love of a best friend

Moving away from a best friend is hard, but having that best friend move to the other side of the world is even harder. After being inseparable for years, it’s so hard to imagine the thought of not seeing them for possible years. However, in the end you know that no matter where you left off, you will always pick up at the same place.

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Taylor and I at her second apartment, when she attended the University of North Texas.

Taylor and I have been best friends for 20 years. We have done everything together from playing sports to going on 20+ hour road trips. On Sept. 19 she will be moving to the northern part of Thailand with her boyfriend, Jordan. While I am so excited for her, there is a piece of me that I know will be missing. Fortunately for us, with technology being so advanced nowadays, we will be able to Facetime and message each other nonstop and stay in constant communication.

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A collage I made for Taylor on her birthday. Pictures are from elementary school to now.

I will always cherish the memories we’ve had together and look forward for more to come when she returns to the states. I remember on the same night my first cat passed away, she was having problems with her boyfriend. She drove 35 minutes to my house, brought over Taco Cabana, and we sat there crying to each other and confining in each other and talking the night away. While we were so distraught that night, we both look back at it and laugh about how silly it sounds, however, both know that in hard times we are always there for each other.

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On the airplane to our first trip, of many, we took to Las Vegas.

Although things haven’t always been golden, we got through tough times and came out on the other side.I love her family and think of them as one of my own, and I know she feels the same way about mine. She is one of the smartest people I know, as well as one of the strongest. I love her wanderlust and her passion for traveling.

About two years ago she embarked on a three-month adventure in Europe. She packed a bag and left and stayed at all sorts of hostels, met new friends, and traveled to countries she had never been to. For someone to do that takes so much courage and strength. There is no one else that I know who would have the guts to do something like that. Hell, I find myself sociable and independent and couldn’t even imagine lasting that long away from family and friends.

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In the backyard of a friend’s house in Iowa. Taylor came up for the 4th of July weekend.

But more than anything, I love her loyalty and honesty to me as a best friend. Even through my darkest times, she has always been there for me. I know that if I ever need anything, she would drop everything to be there for me and talk me through anything. I know that she is someone that will be with me for the rest of my life and will always have my back. To me, that is what a best friend is, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Cherishing the moments with family

Since moving to Iowa, I’ve been able to spend more time with my family that lives in Kansas City, Missouri. Instead of seeing them once a year, I now see them anywhere from 5-8 times a year since the drive is only five hours. This past weekend was one of those times. With my cousin graduating from Columbia College, my cousin’s wife getting her master’s and Mother’s Day on Sunday, this weekend was a special time with my family.

The five hour drive for me is nothing now that I drive it 5-8 times a year. Every time I go to visit my family it gets easier and easier. This time what made it easier though was that I downloaded podcasts to listen to, and from now on I will listen to them because it helps the time go by faster and I’m learning something new.

When I got down there I got in the shower and got ready for my mom’s pre-planning 50th reunion meeting. Here I got to meet all of her classmates that she graduated high school with and spend quality time with her. One may think that a 26-year-old hanging out with a bunch of 66-year-olds wouldn’t sound fun or entertaining, but it actually was. Her friends were so kind and outgoing. They made me laugh and I got to hear stories of their high school days and all the memories they made together.

The next day my cousin Hank had his graduation ceremony in Columbia, Missouri. I road down there with my grandma, uncle, aunt and mom. When we got there we met up with my other cousins and waited for the ceremony to start. Typically graduations are boring and long, but this graduation actually went by fast and the speakers had good stories to tell. After the ceremony we all went to Texas Roadhouse for lunch (yum-steak is my favorite!!) and then went back to the college to take pictures.

After we drove back we went back to my aunt’s house and hung out there. My cousin, his wife and I went to Chick fil La and got dinner for all of us. After we got dinner we just went back and talked and watched the Kansas City Royals. We were all so exhausted from the day we called it an early night. We had a long morning ahead of us.

When we all woke up we immediately started prepping for our Mother’s Day meal. We made ham, spicy corn casserole, scalloped potatoes, Red Lobster cheesy biscuits, deviled eggs and these amazing lettuce wraps! After everything was prepped my cousins and I went upstairs to watch the second Captain America. We didn’t get to finish it because the food was ready before it ended. We all went down and set the table and organized the food. I loved sitting down with my family laughing and talking and eating some delicious food! After the food coma we put ourselves into, we hung out downstairs and spent time together.

A few hours later, I headed back up to Iowa to get ready for the upcoming week.

Although it was for a short amount of time, I’m so lucky I got to spend time with my family. I enjoy every minute being with them because they make me laugh and make the time down there extremely enjoyable. I love that I get to spend more time with my family in Kansas City more than I ever have! My grandmother is 91, my aunt just beat breast cancer, my uncle is living a healthier lifestyle, all my cousins have graduated college (some have their master’s and working on their doctorates) and my mom is having the time of her life being retired. I’m so blessed to be apart of such a hard-working family who loves and cherishes each other- I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bicycles & Baseball: Hopping on the bandwagon

Ever since I’ve moved to Iowa I’ve noticed one big thing: bicycles, bicycles, bicycles. Almost everywhere you look when it’s a beautiful day outside you see someone or a group of people riding. On a different note, I’ve never been that much into baseball, but my boyfriend is a huge fan and loves to go to baseball games. This past weekend the theme was baseball and bikes and I have to tell you- I’m glad I’m hopping on those bandwagons.

On Saturday we went to go see the Cedar Rapid Kernels take on the Clinton LumberKings. With my boyfriend being from Clinton, Iowa, this was an especially fun game for him. I’ve only been to one other baseball game in my life when I was younger, but now I’m wishing I had been to more. Just the atmosphere itself was wonderful; the smell of ballpark food, families sitting together, kids running around, the crack of a bat, fans cheering and ice cold beer.

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Sitting on the lawn at the Kernels game with my boyfriend.

The game is affordable and the fans are great. Everyone was so friendly and the tickets were super cheap! We got lawn seats for $8 a piece, and the view was awesome! You could see the whole field and got your own section in the lawn (I’ll remember to bring a small blanket next time). It was so fun to watch all the kids run up the hill and fight to get the ball- it reminded me of how fish swarm in an aquarium when they’re being fed. Needless to say that won’t be my last game to go to.

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A view of the game from our seats.

The next day we woke up to yet another beautiful day, and we were not about to let it go to waste. Since I’ve moved to Cedar Rapids, I’ve heard of so many bike trails and have seen so many people ride. And if I’m being honest- I really had no idea there were bikes made for the street and such (I figured my mountain bike was good enough for the road). I have always thought a bike was just a bike. My boyfriend and I have always wanted to hop on this bike bandwagon, if you please, and really start riding around town more often. Living right by a bike path in North Liberty, it’s always been calling us to go for a ride on.

So we got in the car and headed to Walmart to take a look at bikes. Before you say, “Walmart?! Why would you buy a bike from there?!” I want you to know that this is a starter bike for the both of us, and we’re not trying to spend $800-$1,000. Once I get more advanced, and have the money to do so, then I can look into purchasing a better bike. When we finally found the bikes we wanted, we headed to the car to mount the bike rack (took about 45 minutes to put on- pretty comical) and headed back home.

All in all we ended up putting in 12 miles and rode around most of North Liberty. We stopped at a few places to get some beers and enjoyed the scenery around us. My butt was sore the next day and I had a wicked sunburn, but it was all worth it. Feeling the breeze against your face and flying down the path is such a freeing feeling.

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A beautiful tree I spotted by a pond on our route.

I really believe I’m going to enjoy this bike and take full advantage of it, and I look forward to more adventures on my bike! I can’t wait to ride down to Iowa City and explore what all they have to offer down there. I also look forward to going to more baseball games; Iowa Cubs, Chicago Cubs, and Kernels. I’m excited to have jumped on the bicycle and baseball bandwagon and look forward to more memories!

The evolution of my spring break

In the past, spring break has always consisted of late nights or long days on the beach for me. However, the older I get the more I realize that spring break is more than just a party-filled week. This spring break I was productive, I appreciated nature, and I traveled to a city where I’ve been wanting to go  ever since I moved to Iowa- and let me tell you, it felt damn good.

Although tedious, my boyfriend and I installed backsplash in our kitchen during the beginning of spring break. Now our kitchen looks brighter and has a new upgrade to it. It took two days, four electric shocks, and countless trips to Lowe’s, but in the end it was all worth it and we have something to boast about when guests come into our home. A couple days later we decided to take it easy and have a game night. Monopoly was played as well as UNO, and even though I lost both games I still had an absolute blast!

The day after our game night, my boyfriend and I decided to visit the waterfall in Lake Macbride State Park in Solon. We parked our car and walked through a mini park and over the dam to where the waterfall was. Just hearing the falls put you at ease, and as you follow them down their path they run into the lake that goes out into the distance. We climbed up the falls and the giant hill next to them. This is a place we will definitely be visiting again. Even though the trees were still touched by winter and the sun was hiding behind the clouds it was a beautiful sight to see, and I can’t even imagine what it’s like in the summer and fall!

A few relaxing days after our waterfall trip, my boyfriend and I headed to a city I’ve always wanted to go to since I moved to Iowa- Des Moines. Even though it was only for one day and one night I feel as if we got a lot done. We started off by going to Zombie Burger which I’ve been wanting to try forever (it didn’t disappoint). Then we headed to Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden which was breathtaking. I love flowers, plants, and trees so this was the place for me! It even inspired me to start my own garden some day when I have a backyard to do so. Next, we visited the Science Center of Iowa. We went through every room they had there interacting with all they had to offer; we even got a chance to watch a 30 minute show about the universe. After all that we headed to our hotel to relax for a bit by the fire pit they had outside. We then headed to a sports bar for dinner and walked around town where we eventually ended up at Voodoo, a martini bar. We enjoyed ourselves so much that this summer we plan on going back to go through the Capitol, see an Iowa Cubs game, and visit the Iowa State Fair.

With spring break coming to an end, I look back at all the memories I got to make with my boyfriend. We each got to do something we’ve been wanting to do for a while and were productive in the process. So maybe it is with age that I’ve come to realize that there is more to spring break than just partying. To me now, it’s about being with the ones you love and cherishing those memories that will last a lifetime.

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My boyfriend and I standing behind the waterfall at Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.

Cabo on my mind

With the nice weather that has come our way, I can’t help but think of my most recent vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. During Thanksgiving break my mother and I took a vacation here and stayed at Riu Palace, which is an all-inclusive resort right on the beach. With endless opportunities for activities, all the food you could ever want, and some of the most delicious drinks you could ask for, this trip was one of the best ones my mom and I have been on.

My mom and I at Misaki Japanese restaurant in Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas.

When we first arrived at our resort, we were greeted with fresh squeezed watermelon juice; it was amazing! The entire lobby is an outdoor covered area that truly makes you feel as if you have just walked into paradise. The staff was so friendly and accommodating, and everyone there always gave you a warm smile. With everything being open in the resort, you always had a view of the beach. When we were walking to our room, we were in awe by our surroundings and the way the resort was set up. We immediately got to our rooms, changed into our bathing suits, and head to the pools/beach with a drink in our hand.

 Pictures of the pool areas and beach in Riu Palace Cabo San Lucas.

Our first day there was a relaxing one, and we just hung out by the pool and drank our delicious drinks. Earlier that day we made reservations to their Mexican restaurant, San Jose, they had on the property and ate dinner there. We got there early so we could be seated right next to the beach. Our table was up on a deck, and we were so close to the ocean that you could hear the waves hitting the shore while enjoying your all-inclusive dinner and margaritas (which were AMAZING!).

The next day we woke up and headed to their breakfast buffet, which in my opinion was my favorite food during the trip. They had endless amounts of fresh squeezed juice, fresh fruits, meats and cheeses, and an omelette bar, which I took advantage of! After eating breakfast we headed back to our room  and changed into our bathing suits. On this day we hung out by the pool again, walked around the resort, and took a stroll on the beach. For our dinner the second night we went to Misaki Japanese restaurant. Although it was amazing, I do have to admit that it wasn’t my favorite meal or the best sushi I’ve ever had, but the atmosphere is what made it so great! We sat under an open rooftop with a garden area in the middle with a pond. After dinner we walked around and observed the night-life they had to offer, which included music and entertainment. We decided to call it a night shortly after since the next day was a big day for us.

Besides the last day, this day had to have been my favorite because we got to swim with the dolphins. While I was excited, I was also extremely nervous at the same time. The last time I was this close to dolphins I was at SeaWorld San Antonio, but I only got to feed them and don’t really remember the size they were. But these mammals were huge and so powerful! We got to sit and watch them do tricks and flips before we got to swim with them. Once it was our turn we decided how we wanted to swim with them; you could ride on top, they could flip over and you ride on their belly, or you had a choice to actually have them take you under water and swim with you. I chose the option to swim on their back which, in my opinion, was the best way to do it. The other two choices looked a little awkward or too short. Once we got done swimming with the dolphins, we waited for our pictures to be downloaded and got to take pictures with parrots! Luckily, some of the pictures turned out great and we ordered a few!

 Me getting kisses from the dolphin I got to swim with in Cabo, and my mom and I holding the parrots.

After the dolphins we headed back to the resort and sat on the beach with our delicious drinks in our hand. We noticed in front of us that they were doing massages on the beach, so we signed up for one the following morning. After the beach, we headed back to our room and got ready for dinner. This time we had reservations at their grill and steakhouse restaurant Mar de Cortes. We ordered a steak and a lobster, and it was  divine! After we walked around again and enjoyed the outdoors nightlife, we headed back to our room.

The next morning we went to our massages which were wonderful. There truly is nothing as wonderful as getting a massage on the beach and getting to hear the ocean currents hit the shore. It was also early enough to where there weren’t so many people out so it was nice and quiet. This day we headed into the downtown area of Cabo San Lucas. We were so excited about taking a water taxi to the downtown area because it was something we’ve never done or that we’ll ever do again! Not only was it a hassle to get onto the boat, but we had to wait 30 or so minutes for it to get there when we were told it would be there right away (I tend to get extremely impatient when I’m outside waiting and it’s hot). However once we got on the boat, it was a nice experience.

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                                A picture I took of the beach at one of the stops in our water taxi.

Once we got to the downtown area we walked around for a couple hours and stopped at different stores. It is amazing how many things they have there to sell! We each bought souvenirs to bring back to our friends and family, and then we headed to Cabo Wabo for a drink and appetizer, or what we thought would be a drink and appetizer. They ended up having a live band that was absolutely amazing, so we stayed for a couple hours while they performed! The 2 for 1 margaritas were a great deal too, so how could we pass that up?! After our little downtown escapade, we headed back to the hotel to get some more sun and rest up. That night we just ended up ordering room service and relaxing on the balcony watching the sun set and reading.

 An extra-dirty martini and the view from our resort, and the live band at Cabo Wabo along with our drinks.

The next morning we were sad to leave, but also happy to get back home to our loved ones. This was one of the best vacations my mom and I have ever been on! Not only did we get to share all these neat and wonderful experiences, but we also got to bond and make memories which I will cherish forever. The one thing that’ll I’ll always remember is just sitting on our balcony watching the beautiful sun set in the distance and laughing and reminiscing on everything. There is no one I’d rather spend with on a vacation like that than my mother. I am so blessed to have a loving mother who can take me to different parts of the world and make these memories and bonds that will stay with me forever.

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                                                         A view of the sunset from our balcony.