Holy Ground: Joe’s Real BBQ

Everyone has family traditions that never seem to go away, no matter how many differences + changes occur. A location that has grown to hold a place in our family’s hearts is Joe’s Real BBQ in Downtown Gilbert.

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Joe’s Real BBQ officially opened on January 20, 1998, when we were just four years old. We couldn’t tell you about our very first time experiencing their tasty BBQ sandwich + fresh homemade applesauce, but from what we remember, we’ve been eating BBQ there our entire lives. We would visit after basketball tournaments with our club teams, call it dinner for an ordinary Tuesday night + most importantly, share memories with both sides of our families, as we rely on it to be a common meeting place.

This BBQ joint holds a very special spot in our hearts because it was the memorial spot where we gathered to remember our Grandpa Rudd after he passed in December 2015.  All of our Dad’s side of the family came to Arizona (stayed in our house actually) for Christmas that year, although Grandpa Rudd didn’t get to make it to see everyone. Since there was no funeral planned, we shared a special moment at the place where we all felt closer to him + to each other.

We continue to eat here very often, + enjoy the memories that we have created + continue to create. Joe’s Real BBQ is a place where we gather as family, no matter how long it’s been, or how far we live. This BBQ joint is delicious, but it holds a lot more than just the amazing pulled pork sandwich + homemade Root Beer (which we highly recommend).

What are some of your family traditions that you resort to?

California Livin’

Living in California for a little over four years gives you a certain perspective. Expect to drive 20 minutes to go 3 miles. Yes, the freeway is always like that. Don’t worry, that road construction is almost done, it’s only been 2 years. Will there be parking? Probably not, expect to walk 17 blocks away from your destination and pay $25 to park half the day. California has its issues, don’t get me wrong. But there’s something about just sitting on the sand and listening to the waves hit the earth.   The sun setting right on the water is the most beautiful sight. Once you smell the sea water + feel the sand in your toes, all the stress in your life somewhat washes away with the waves. Although I am an Arizona girl at heart, California is a beautiful state to call home for a little while longer.

For living here for as long as I have, I don’t take advantage of the beach as much as I should. I do try to go as often as I can, but life somehow gets in the way of things at times (everyone is pretty familiar with that). But I always enjoy a trip down to the beach with friends or even by myself to clear my mind. Here’s a list of my top 3 favorite beaches in Southern California.

Laguna Beach

  • Location—Small coastal city in Orange County
  • Amenities—Popular surf spot, basketball court, volleyball courts, hotels
  • Food + Shops—Many upscale restaurants + boutiques
  • Known for—Art galleries, beautiful cliffs + gardens surrounding the Main Beach.



Victoria Beach

  • Location—  Victoria Beach, Newport Beach
  • Amenities— Scenic views, hidden lighthouse tower
  • Food + Shops—None near this spot (surrounded by beach houses)
  • Known For— Quiet + relaxing space with a tide pool, hidden lighthouse tower.



Mission Beach

  • Location—San Diego
  • Amenities—Belmont Park on the pier, volleyball courts, beach houses for rent
  • Food + Shops—So many! Ranging from Mom + Pop businesses to worldwide chain establishments.
  • Known For— Large ocean front for biking + walking, various hotels, Belmont Park and carnival games + rides.



Happy Beachin’! Tell us your favorite beach spot on the west coast in the comments below!

The Breakfast Club

“You ought to spend a little more time trying to make something of yourself + a little less time trying to impress people.”—Vernon, The Breakfast Club 

These are words to live by. Although the film, “The Breakfast Club”, is a classic, it’s not what I am going to discuss today. I had a lovely lunch date with our dad + wanted to highlight our experience with a local breakfast joint we have grown to love + visit quite often during the agonizing workweek.  

Located in Old Town Scottsdale, The Breakfast Club is minutes from my dad’s office, and just a couple blocks from mine, so we tend to meet up here for easy access and delicious brunch options. Just being in Old Town gives me the fancy + sophisticated feels. With the contemporary + clean layout, Old Town Scottsdale is a great place for happy hour with the girls, or a midday stroll window-shopping with the rents.


The Breakfast Club is a place that continues to cater to our needs with great modern + classy vibes, friendly service, + yummy food. They have the dining area, bar, + patio seating offered to enjoy your meal. Their breakfast options consist of fluffy pancakes, cinnamon-swirl french toast, stuffed-omelets, right-out-of-the-oven skillets, + hearty oatmeal. If you’re looking for more of a lunch choice, they also serve roasted hot sandwiches, easy-to-eat wraps, + leafy salads.



My heart wanted to order the BC Signature French Toast, aka “heart attack on a plate”, but my mind and body wanted something less destructive for my arteries. So, today I ordered the turkey club wrap with a side salad. The wrap had roasted turkey breast, crispy bacon, fresh lettuce, tomato, avocado, pepper jack cheese + chipotle mayo all wrapped up in a warm chipotle tortilla. My side salad was simple with balsamic vinaigrette. To drink, I usually just get water (sorry to disappoint). Everything I have ordered there has been so natural + yummy, and today was no different. My wrap was warm, yet the veggies were still cold + garden-fresh (magic?), and my salad was a perfect compliment.


My dad ordered the lean + green omelette, which contained eggs, spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, onion, bell peppers + swiss cheese with a side of EXTRA CRISPY bacon, complimented with a glass of green tea. He finished his meal within minutes, and he will agree that everything he’s had here in the past has been delicious.


Usually at these lunch dates, it’s just me ranting about all the so-called “struggles” I’ve been going through since the last time I saw him (like 2 days ago, I try to see my parents pretty often). But I will defend myself + say that he makes me do it. He’s the one always asking the questions! I love having lunch dates with both my parents. Being the last of their children to officially move-out of their house, we are still their princesses (no shame).

Together, we recommend The Breakfast Club for your next brunch date. Thank you for lunch, Dad! Let’s do it again sometime.

The Do’s + Don’ts of Traveling By Cruise Ship

I have only been on two cruise vacations, so I am no expert. But both times I traveled with my in-laws, who are experts. Derek + his family grew up going on cruise vacations (6, at least), and I am so lucky to have had the privilege of joining his family on a couple of cruises in the five years Derek + I have been together.

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Both trips, we went to the Caribbean for 7-8 days, and I was a sea-cruising mess both times. The first cruise was with Carnival, when I was 19 years old, and the second cruise was a couple years later with Norwegian. I kind of had a little more of my shit together for the second cruise, but there’s still lots of room for improvement.

Yes, I stressed on my first cruise. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t pack correctly, I lost a lot of important information + items (which I eventually found, thank goodness), but I did not enjoy my first cruise the way I wanted to.

To avoid disrupting your cruise vacation, I am going to share with you my do’s + don’ts of traveling by cruise ship based on my personal experience + mistakes.


#1. Pack light outfits. There’s nothing worse than wearing heavy clothes on a ship. Packing light + airy clothing, such as cotton tank tops + shorts, will allow you to be more comfortable and enjoy your time on deck. I struggled my first trip because I brought some “normal” clothes, meaning denim shorts, and thick + stiff dresses. I ended up wearing the same cotton shorts + 3 tanks tops the whole week because I was in + out of the pool, the buffet, and the room. I might as well just brought one dress and worn it all week (but I don’t recommend that, see Don’t #2).

#2. Bring a lanyard. I know it sounds strange, but holy crap, your stress + worry will vanish with this tip. It is amazing how many times you will go in + out of your cabin in a day at sea (almost 16 times). So it is important to have easy access to your room key for whenever you need it. I didn’t do this trick my first cruise, and I about lost my key 18 times. On my second cruise, my future mother-in-law offered me a lanyard. The people at the front desk had a hole-punch machine for room keys, and they punched it for me to attached to me lanyard. I simply wore the key around my neck and never took it off the whole trip. This way I could go back and forth from the deck to my room without worrying whether I had my key or not! Genius.

#3. Have cash + card. Always bring your credit or debit card on a cruise, and also some extra cash. The first time around, I didn’t know any of this, and struggled to pay for stuff + buy what I wanted. The cruise line puts your room expenses (tax, cleaning fee, room service fee, etc.) on your card. This makes it so you just tell the person what room you’re in on the ship and they will charge the room card. Food + most drink packages are included in the cruise price, so you do not have to worry about that. However, the spa, speciality restaurants + additional expenses are not. I would recommend bringing extra cash for the days you’re at port. These are the days you are off the ship and get to travel the islands + cities on foot. Most ports take American cash, however, most do NOT take credit cards. So if you are wanting to purchase items at port, it’s nice to have cash available.


#1. Get “shwasted” on the first night. I know that you’re probably excited to be on vacation, but try not to over do it on your very first night on board. The ship will have special events going on to stir up your night, but I recommend not getting too carried away. There’s nothing worse than having your first full day at sea with a major hangover. Seawater + hangovers do not mix well, just ask Derek. I recommend taking your time with the free drinks. You don’t have to drink all the alcohol on the ship in one sitting, there will still be some tomorrow.

#2. Forget dressy attire. Most cruise ships have dinner restaurants that require a dress code. This was my favorite part, because we would get all dressed up, then go eat unlimited fancy dinners! One night I ordered three lobsters, don’t judge me. But if I haven’t packed an outfit that wasn’t a tank top + shorts, they would not have let me eat. I am not saying you need your former prom dress, or wedding gown, but something that you would wear to a nice + casual cocktail party (is there such a thing?). Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on those fancy nights.

#3. Lay out without sunscreen. For the love of God, please take my advice! I am white, not like pasty white, but pretty close. My skin does not handle direct sunlight very well, but I always want to be tan! So both trips (didn’t learn my lesson the first time, I guess), I got SUPER sunburned. The first time was just me being stupid, by laying out on a raft in Tortola for 4 hours without a lick of sunscreen on. Obviously, I turned into a lobster by lunchtime. However, the second time (with my luck) on our first day at sea, my chest developed a heat rash. So I was miserable for 3 days trying to get rid of that (I recommend itch cream, it really works). I managed to stay in the spa for most of the days to heal, which I highly recommend (mostly because they give out oranges… ). I have definitely learned my lesson to just put the damn sunscreen on! I promise you will get tan no matter what, just make sure you protect your skin, or you will ruin some of your vacation. 

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Although I have learned A LOT about traveling by cruise ship through my experiences + mistakes, they were still amazing vacations that Derek + I got to share together.

Which cruise should we take next and to where?