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Best Eats Virginia : Part 1

I had a few people request some of my favorite restaurants in Virgina and DC, so I thought I would share a few. I've been putting off working on this because I knew it would make me miss all the food there so bad! But, here we go, I will torture myself to share with you the best places. I have so many favorites, so this will probably end up being a 2 or 3 part series. This list is going to start from west to east, so these first locations will be rather far from DC, but worth a road trip if you are up to it! 

BBQ Exchange

102 Martinsburg Avenue Gordonsville, Virginia 22942

This place was voted #1 BBQ in Virginia. It's way out in the middle of nowhere, in a little town called Gordonsville, 2 hours from DC, but guys, it's so good! And the drive is so pretty! I never had anything I didn't like. But I recommend their brisket or their ribs. Since you made the drive all the way out there, get ALL THE SIDES. Everything is so good! Their slaw was simple but so yummy, tasty mac and cheese, perfect hushpuppies, and I was obsessed with their french fries! Seriously, so good. Check out what desserts they have too! They are always different, but always yummy.

The Brick at Black Bear Bistro
32 Main St, Warrenton, VA 20186

Warrenton was one of my all time favorite towns in Virginia. It's such a cute, quaint little town, and their main street has so many cute old shops and restaurants. Our favorite was The Brick at Black Bear Bistro. The Bistro is supposed to be really good, but we never tried it. The Brick is in the basement, and has the most amazing gourmet pizza! So good! Their BBQ chicken was our ultimate favorite. Their BBQ sauce is house made and has the most amazing smokey flavor. It tastes like it waas made over a campfire. Make sure to check out their seasonal stuff too. Some of the best things we had were from their seasonal menu. Everything is farm to table, and locally sourced. The best! 

Tony's Pizza

5361 Merchants View Sq HaymarketVA 20169

This place is a little hidden. It's right near a gated community and golf club, and if you didn't live there, chances are, driving by, you would have no idea it was there. But hands down, this is the place I have craved the most since moving away from Virgina. We lived really close, so we went just about once a week. The food is cheap and the portions are huge! I don't think I ever had something I didn't like. It seems to all be run by one family who yell orders at each other in Italian. If you think you love Italian and that Olive Garden is the best it gets, let me tell you, you are so wrong! You have to come here and be blown away. 

My go-to order was a slice of Caprese. Funny story, the other night Dave was talking in his sleep and said, "Can I get a slice of Caprese, and um..." And then he trailed off and was quiet. Haha, but really guys, Caprese is the pizza of our dreams! And if I was hungry enough I would order their ravioli with rosé sauce. I don't think it's even on the menu, I've looked and I can never find it. But order it, and they will know what you are talking about. I usually do not like ravioli, but theirs is so fresh and yummy, and their rosé sauce, OMG that stuff... I took some friends there and made them try it and they literally were scraping their plate clean, I'm not kidding. It's basically a mix of alfredo and marinara. So good. It must be a family recipe of theirs, because I can't find any recipes online that look even remotely close. The hunt for a copycat recipe continues... Their ravioli also comes with a side of garlic bread, and a salad. Ask, instead of the garlic bread, for cheese bread on focaccia. Trust me. Seriously, I can't rave about this place enough.

The Bone
8045 Stonewall Shops Sq GainesvilleVA 20155

This place is again, a little hidden in a strip mall, but is so worth checking out. Amazing BBQ; my favorites were their honey bourbon wings (OMG I'm obsessed with anything bourbon, cooked off, obviously.) Their mac and cheese is oh so creamy and so amazing. Dave doesn't normally like mac and cheese but he likes theirs. It's heaven. And lastly, their pulled pork nachos. Oh nelly. Those things are so good. Topped with their amazing pulled pork, queso, pico, sour cream, and guacamole. SO GOOD. Certainly check this place out if you are in the area. And be sure to check out Wegmans while you are there since it's in the shopping area. Wegmans is the most amazing grocery store, I miss it so much! Just go, if you are foodie, or love cooking like me, you will love it. Check their bakery to see if they have coconut danishes (they sell out quick though, sometimes they are gone by 10am!)

MOD Pizza
13941 Promenade Commons St, Gainesville, VA 20155

I usually avoid chains, but this one is the exception. They are originally from Seattle, and I am so excited, they are opening two in San Antonio, one just 15 minutes from my house! This was another place we would go to just about once a week, from the day they opened! They are really so good. I haven't ever had anything there that I didn't like. This place is similar to Chipotle, or Cafe Rio, where you go down an assembly line, and tell them exactly what you want on your pizza, any toppings, as many as you want! You can order off their menu, I recommend being brave and trying something off their seasonal menu, which you can always customize, or you can create your own.  My favorites are the Caspian (BBQ pizza), add bacon and ask for a side of ranch! Or their Dillion James (Margarita), add chicken, mushrooms, and artichokes. The Dominic (Alfredo) is really good too. Honestly, everything is good!  

Katerina's Greek Cuisine 
9212 Center St ManassasVA 20110

Lots of people think Manassas is sketchy. Some call it Manassty. But old town Manassas is downright adorable. There is maybe 4 or 5 blocks of cute shops and restaurants. Our favorite of which is Katerina's. This is another family owned placed. The place is TINY. The seating is snug. And if you come on a Saturday for dinner, there is a good chance you will have to wait 30-45 minutes for a table. But guys, it's so good. Hands down the best bruschetta I have ever had, so flavorful and tasty. My favorite main course is their Tour of Greece; three mini pitas with chicken, lamb and gyro meat. So yummy, and so filling! Also, every time we go we ask if they have Ekmek Kataifi. They had it our first time we went there, and told us they rarely make it. I don't know why, maybe it's hard to make? But it was AMAZING. It is a Greek dessert made with layers of kataifi dough baked until crispy and golden, bathed in lemon syrup, topped with creamy thick custard, whipped cream and garnished with cinnamon and pistachios or almonds… So good. One day I will try to make it.

Well, I'm sure I've made you hungry enough. I have many other places to share, but I will save them for another post! Check back soon! 

Apps for Peace and Productivity

I've been a proud owner of an iPhone for quite a while now, and I use it all the time. Sure, I waste plenty of time on it between apps like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, but there are a lot of really good apps on there too. When I talk about these apps, usually no one has heard of them. But dare I say, some of these apps are actually life changing! I hope you check them out, and let me know what you think!


"The Five Minute Journal is your secret weapon to focus on the good in your life, become more mindful, and live with intention. With a simple structured format based on positive psychology research, you will start and end each day with gratitude. Side effects may include: increased happiness, better relationships, and becoming more optimistic."

I am a big fan of the You Tuber Mimi Ikonn. Her and her husband are some of the most positive people. They created the 5 Minute Journal, and I'm so in love with it! You can buy a hard copy, or download their app. I wish I was better, but I am really bad about sitting down and writing in a journal, so for me, the app is perfect. Each morning you write what you are grateful for and ask what you will do to make the day great. At the end of the day, it asks how your day went, and what you could have done to make the day better. I love that the app also allows you to add a photo. It's a great way to reflect, find things to be grateful for, and look toward improving each day.

The physical journal;

The app;



"The Stop, Breathe and Think app is a free mindfulness, meditation and compassion-building tool that is simple, fun and easy to use. Check in to how you are thinking and feeling, and select emotions that guide you to recommended meditations. "

I think it was Dave who introduced me to this app. It walks you through 4-10 minute meditation sessions, catered to your emotions and how you are feeling that day. In both the morning and the evening I pray and read my scriptures, but I have found that this app helps me take a moment to recharge halfway through the day. At times, I wonder how much it helps, and if it is just in my head, and maybe it is just in my head, taking a moment each day to reflect, and channel my thoughts and feelings towards peace and positivity. But it works. (And there's lots of scientific research to prove of it's benefits.) I only wish it was the voice of Don Draper talking my through the mediation, but still, I can't complain.




“Gospel Library is the gospel study app of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The library includes the scriptures, general conference addresses, music, learning and teaching manuals, Church magazines, videos, audio recordings, gospel art, and more. Study, search, mark, and share this vast collection.”

Speaking of scripture study, another app I use daily is the LDS Gospel Library. It is exactly what it says it is; a library. You can access just about everything via this app, scriptures, church magazines, lesson manuals, hymns, general conference talks, and much more. It's amazing how much rich information can be packed into a tiny handheld device. Can you imagine how much space all of that would take up if I had hard copies of it all instead? Lots of times, you can't beat the feel and smell of a physical book, but there would be no possible way to carry as much information that is contained in that app around with me in my pocket. You can even access conference talks all the way back to 1971! That's a lot of conference talks! I love being able to just pull out my phone anytime, anywhere, and read a talk, or lesson, or scriptures. It helps me incorporate continued study, throughout my day, so easily.



Okay, I don’t know how much this app actually helps my productivity, but if you take a lot of photos or videos with your phone, backing them up is vital, and from what I’ve have found so far, this is the best way to do that, and a huge bonus being completely free. It automatically backs up your photos when you are connected to wifi. Through it, you can also create albums, collages, animations, and movies. Their search system is also pretty impressive. You can search by person, place, or thing. Their system actually recognizes faces and puts them together in specified albums. It’s not perfect, but still impressive.

You can also easily access the photos online via your desktop, from which you can back up even more photos. You all probably know how important photos are to me, first, you ought to be printing them, don’t let them just live on your phone or on your computer, but backing them up is so important and can prevent so much heartache. You never know when an accident could happen, a lost or damaged phone, resulting in lost files. Back them up! And thankfully, with this app, you don’t even have to think about it, it just does it for you!




This app is worth every penny. Again, it’s not exactly a productivity app, but this is easily one my favorite apps. I've talked about it so many times, but I think everyone should be using it! It allows you to input 1 second of video footage each day, easily compiled into a fun video of the month or year. You can also use photos instead if you didn't take video for that day, but video captures something so different that (and I can't believe I am admitting this) I am almost starting to prefer video. You can also make a compilation of clips of a trip, or event. I am in my second year now, and could see myself using this app for years and years to come.

Here is my video from 2015 ~

And so far from 2016 ~


If you use any of these apps, let me know! If you don't, I hope you check them out and let me know what you think! What are some apps that you feel like you can't live without?


I felt a little overwhelmed in preparing this talk. We were given the topic of the Plan of Salvation and told we only needed to speak 7 minutes. I wondered how I was supposed to teach about something so huge and important in just 7 minutes. And honestly, I can’t. I can’t really convey how important it is in the time given. So, I’m going to assume that most of us have a basic knowledge and understanding of The Plan of Salvation. If you don’t, then I would encourage you to do a few things. First, read the scriptures, pray, and read Preach My Gospel. In our last ward I was called as a ward missionary. It made me realize that there was a lot I didn’t understand about this religion that I profess to be part of. So I began to study from Preach My Gospel, which I never had before. And I learned a lot, and my testimony grew a lot. I'm so grateful for that calling and how much it helped strengthen my testimony. If there is something you don’t quite understand, or want to improve your ability to teach others, add studying from Preach My Gospel to your routine.

There is a reason The Plan of Salvation, or the Plan of Happiness, is usually the second lesson missionaries teach. Most of us, spend our lives looking for something to hold on to, something that will last. Trying to understand where we came from, who we are, and where we are going. The Plan of Happiness, provides us with the answers so many of us desperately search for.

Understanding the plan clarifies our spiritual vision and allows us to see things as they really are. God has had a plan for our lives a divine path the Lord wishes to lead us down—a plan that, if we can understand, will provide comfort and guidance now, as well as salvation and eternal happiness in our postmortal life.

Robert D Hales once said;

"By understanding and obediently following God’s plan, we keep ourselves from wandering off the path that leads back to our Heavenly Father. Then, and only then, can we live the kind of life He leads, which is “eternal life, … the greatest of all the gifts of God."

How empowering it is to know the plan! The plan of salvation is one of the greatest treasures of knowledge ever given to mankind because it explains the eternal purpose of life. Without it, we are truly wandering in the dark. This is why God’s pattern is to give commandments to His children “after having made known unto them the plan of redemption.”

Alma 24:14
And the great God has had mercy on us, and made these things known unto us that we might not perish; yea, and he has made these things known unto us beforehand, because he loveth our souls as well as he loveth our children; therefore, in his mercy he doth visit us by his angels, that the plan of salvation might be made known unto us as well as unto future generations.

It really is such a TREASURE of knowledge. How lucky are we to know of this plan of happiness. I can personally attest to the stark difference in life with, and without Gods guidance. While no matter what, he always loves us and is ready and willing to help us, he can only guide us if we are worthy of that guidance. Even if we are worthy of his guidance, we need to ask for it, search out his help and be willing to listen. You will feel so much more peace and happiness with his guidance. We certainly won't know everything, no one knows what the future holds, but he is the only one able to provide us the peace to help us carry on.

I never pictured ourselves living in Texas, but we felt directed to come here. We considered lots of other places, Arizona, Florida, Norfolk, Virginia, we really wanted to be close to family in Utah, but we felt pulled to Texas. It's been amazing the peace I have felt in knowing this is where we are supposed to be at this moment. I have seen his hand in so many instances, helping us along the way, the move here going so smoothly. We didn't have time to come and pick a place out prior, so we packed our little car full, had a list of places we wanted to look at and booked a hotel for a couple days, hoping and praying we would be able to find a place quick. And we did. The morning after we had arrived, we found a great place and were able to move in the very next day. We are so grateful to be here and to have felt so welcomed by everyone here.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is by Matthew S. Holland from a devotional address, “The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon,” delivered at the Provo MTC;

You have a Brother who watches over you, ready to rescue you and advance your service with arms far stronger than your arms--far stronger, in fact, than all other arms of the flesh combined. Those arms are there to sustain and bless you, “in every time of trouble” (D&C 3:8), no matter how alone and discouraged you may feel. Therefore, as you move forward with your life, trust in those arms and “be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid … for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

The Plan of Salvation provides us with one thing that we can find nowhere else; Peace. In lots of ways, the world we live in is scary. The news is scary. The upcoming election is scary. Crime, illness, disease, it’s all scary. And while the Plan of Salvation doesn’t promise that we won’t go through hardships, it promises us that despite those, we can feel peace, and know that we are not alone and that we are being watched over. And even death doesn’t need to be scary.

Alma 12:25
Now, if it had not been for the plan of redemption, which was laid from the foundation of the world, there could have been no resurrection of the dead; but there was a plan of redemption laid, which shall bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, of which has been spoken.

This may be odd for me to say, but death is not usually a sad thing for me. Certainly when someone is lost before their time, accident, or illness, that really is heartbreaking, and we certainly miss those who pass on, but I have a great comfort in knowing that they are at peace, we certainly will see them again, and that they are with us in spirit.

My last remaining grandparents, on my moms side, both passed away within the last year. My grandma was struggling with dementia and Alzheimer's, and seeing her in such a state was so painful for the family, but particularly grandpa. My heart broke for him, and my aunts who frequently had to come to the rescue. Her health had been deteriorating for quite some time, but the last couple years were particularly hard. It brings me such peace to know that she doesn't have to struggle with that illness anymore. And I know how much grandpa dearly missed her. And know he can be with her again, without the terrible hardship of her illness, often times preventing her from even remembering who he was. I can only imagine how sweet their reunion together was. My heart aches for those who do not know what comes after death. How scary that would be. That aspect of the Plan of Salvation alone, to know that there is life after this, is something we should want to shout from the rooftops, and share with every single person we meet.

If you feel hungry, like something is missing and you're not sure what it is, if you feel lost, if you feel alone, if you feel overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, I hope you take a chance on the Lord. Do what we have always been told to do. Read the scriptures and pray. But feast on those scriptures, and kneel when you pray, and give your whole heart in sincere prayer. I know the Lord has so many blessings for us. I know He has a designed path for each of us that He wants so badly to lead us down. But we have to be as sincere to Him as He is sincere to us.

Mission San José

We live so close to downtown, it makes it easy to explore it bit by bit without it taking up the entire day. That was one thing that was so difficult about DC. Even though we lived really quite close, the traffic and parking made it an all day event! Sometimes I wish we had gone and done more, but honestly, I crossed off my most important item, the cherry blossoms, twice! So I think I'm okay.

Downtown San Antonio is pretty small and mellow, it almost reminds me of Salt Lake. It doesn't feel like a huge busy city. Granted, I haven't been on a Friday or Saturday night, but that's fine by me.

We decided to visit some of the Missions around San Antonio. I love the Spanish influence in San Antonio! Visiting these missions almost feel like you are in Spain! The church there was built in 1768! So much history! Such beautiful architecture and woodwork!

We ended the outing with a trip to In-N-Out. Texas really has the best of everything! 

Jackfruit BBQ Sandwiches

If you are new to the blog, you may not know we are exploring vegan and vegetarian eating. We haven't been perfect, but we can definitely tell we feel so much better with eating more plant-based! It is a hard adjustment, almost entirely rethinking how we view a standard meal, but it's been really fun to explore new ways of eating and find and create new recipes that we love!

One of our favorites so far is pulled jackfruit sandwiches. Honestly, you would think you are eating pulled pork! It has a very similar texture. And it's very quick to cook and WAY cheaper than buying meat! 

We bought canned jackfruit. Some grocery stores will carry it in their Asian section. But you want to make sure it's jackfruit in water or in brine, NOT IN SYRUP! Our favorite grocery store had it in syrup, which I failed to pay attention to, and we bought two cans. I suppose I could have given the recipe a shot with it, but out of all the reading I did online, everyone said it would be far too sweet. So we returned it, and luckily we were able to find it in brine at a little Asian store that was hidden really close to our house! I think it was only $1.60 a can, so very cheap! (1 can makes about 4 sandwiches)

Here is what you need;

Serves 4

4 Hamburger Buns

1 can of jackfruit in water or brine
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup BBQ sauce of your choice (make sure it's vegetarian)

Rinse and drain jackfruit.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook garlic and onion until browned. Once browned add jackfruit and BBQ sauce of your choice and stir to coat jackfruit in sauce.

Now, I think finding an amazing BBQ sauce is key here. We are lucky enough to live in Texas and we bought our BBQ sauce from a popular local restaurant, Rudy's. Their sauce is incredible! Definitely hunt around for the perfect sauce! Or make your own!

Simmer on low for 15 minutes, covered. Shred the jackfruit to appear like pulled pork. Cover and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
Toast buns (I used LOTS of butter here…..)
Remove lid and continue to cook on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. This will help it develop a more pork like texture.
Serve over slaw (my recipe for homemade slaw coming soon!) on toasted buns.

Enjoy! I hope you love them as much as we do!

Now obviously this is not a vegan recipe, but it could easily be adjusted to be so. Make sure the BBQ sauce you are using is vegan, leave off the butter when toasting the buns, and make your own homemade slaw with vegan mayo.

Either way, I hope you try this recipe, even if you aren't that interested in eating vegetarian. I think it will surprise you how yummy and easy it is! Let me know what you think!