January Sunshine

January Sunshine

This past weekend turned out to be better than I expected. I didn’t have a slew of things I was planning to do to begin with, but despite just checking off mundane errands and staying close to home due to lab responsibilities, it was a pretty pleasant Saturday and Sunday.

My shins have slowly been cooperating, as I have been trying to ease back into my normal mileage while giving them recovery time between days I do running workouts. That meant doing cross-training every other day last week, and while I hate feeling like a hamster at the gym, I gritted my teeth and got through it. I also managed to get some strength training in.

When my sister was here the weekend prior, I was able to snag a bunch of great clearance deals at Sprouts, including $3 jars of soybean spread, $6 protein bar boxes, and limited edition RX bars for $0.50 a pop!

It’s funny how last year around this time, seeking out new RX bar flavors was one of the things that kept me sane when I was preparing for quals. Now, these bars aren’t really my jam anymore…

RX Bar - Iced Gingerbread
RX Bar – Iced Gingerbread

And despite everyone one the ‘gram raving about this flavor, I couldn’t get on board with the dry texture. The cinnamon and ginger spice pretty much made this a a dense slab of fruit cake. Eh, not too appetizing. But it was $0.50, so not too much of a loss 😉

My Saturday morning consisted of a short, easy run to get my blood flowing for the next day’s team long run. I eventually made my way to lab, but was too tired/hungry to venture out too far for something to eat. Despite it being early January, the sun was out and bright as ever, meaning the smoothie/juice/acai bowl craving I had was absolutely justified.

Sunlife Organics, USC Village
Sunlife Organics, USC Village

It was my first time trying Sunlife Organics. I first came across the name two Labor Day weekends ago when I made a day trip to Malibu. The one I visited in the relatively new USC Village definitely had that pretentious LA juice shop vibe, but I let it slide.

Juice shop vibes
Juice shop vibes

When it comes to visiting “chain” restaurants or restaurants with more than one location, I like to try whatever is special to that location or seasonal specials so I feel like I have a reason for going to a location that is farther out than where I need to go.

So I got the "Trojan Bowl".
So I got the “Trojan Bowl”.

So I got the Trojan Bowl, which was a coconut butter/hemp milk/whey protein/banana/mango blend base topped with granola, strawberry, peanut butter, goji berries and bee pollen. Being the nut butter fan that I am, I was enamored by the PB and goji berries alone. 

<3
♥♥♥♥♥

I ate this while people-watching and soaking in some of the sun’s rays. There were plenty of student’s already studying in the vast courtyard (the semester started about a week ago), and looking at their stressed facial expressions made me so relieved that I was no longer in that boat, haha!

 

I was slightly nervous going into Sunday since it was my first team long run in a while (since I took time off for my shin splints). I stretched as much as I could and hoped for the best. We had originally planned to drive to Pasadena for our notorious 12 miler that everyone gets lost from, but due to lack of cars, we opted for a run close to downtown LA.

To my pleasant surprise, I was able to run pain-free with my teammates! I felt pretty good for about 75% of the run, and the last 2-3 miles felt tougher than usual, but I think it’s due to the lack of consistent running over the past few weeks. I’m hoping my endurance comes back at a roaring pace, but I’m also trying to be cautious and take things at a pace comfortable for my shin recovery.

After the run, I spent the morning catching up on some work, but I made sure to get some time in to get lunch in downtown. For some reason that day, I felt like walking down those DTLA streets I’m so fond of…

Panini Kabob Grill, DTLA
Panini Kabob Grill, DTLA

I used to pass by Panini Kabob Grill all the time when I lived near DTLA and was walking between the Pico and 7th Street Metro stations. The patio seating was always full, but I got myself a seat this time around.

A seat where I was able to appreciate some views.
A seat where I was able to appreciate some views.

Their menu selections includes plenty of veggie-friendly items, and as soon as I saw the charbroiled organic tofu kabob platter, my mind was made up.

tofu-kabob

I was expecting thick blocks of baked tofu to be skewered with grilled veggies, but my plate came to me skewer-less. But there were bright orange soft squares of tofu, plenty of grilled veggies, a side salad with avocado, a lil cup of hummus (def. not enough for the food that was there to dip it in), and fluffy bulgar pilaf.

c
Charbroiled Tofu Kabob

Even though the tofu looked worthy based on its color, it was quite bland and lacked flavor. The salad was doused in a dressing with too much vinegar in my opinion, and the bulgar pilaf also lacked flavor. I will admit that the portions did make for quite a filling meal.

I felt like walking a couple blocks after my meal, and definitely felt the effects of the sunshine. I was feeling warm under the sun, but certainly very happy. It was one of those perfect, “winter” LA days.

How is the weather currently where you live?

Lady Birds

Lady Birds

I wasn’t able to hang out with my sis over the holidays, but we were quickly able to make that up last weekend! With the holiday shopping craze out of the way, she didn’t have to work and was able to spend the entire weekend with me.

We met up on Saturday and drove straight to NoHo for lunch. We had tried to eat at Black Bottom Southern Cafe over the summer, but we came on a Sunday (when they are closed), and so they were off our immediate radar for some time. Six months later isn’t too long of a wait, I’d say…

J'eet Yet?
J’eet Yet?

I wouldn’t even call BB a restaurant. The yellow building behind the “J’eet Yet?” billboard was actually a video store, and the actual “restaurant” was a small square order counter.

My sister and I were greeted immediately and were directed toward the laminated menus. We couldn’t decide what to order right away, and despite being a Southern food restaurant, they did have a couple vegetarian and vegan options that sounded delicious.

CA Veggie Bowl
CA SoulVeggie Bowl

I finally decided on the CA Soul Veggie Bowl, which had a cheesy grits base, topped with pickled black eyed peas (Texas Caviar, lol), greens, and fried okra.

Close-up!
Close-up!

My sister got the Portabello “Sliders”, and I joked that it should be in quotes since her sliders looked like a regular sandwich…it wasn’t even served on a mini hamburger bun like you’d expect.

Portabello "Sliders"...
Portabello “Sliders”…

Rather, it was a sandwich made on a Schiacciata (new word of the day!) roll filled with onion, garlic, cheese, pesto, and balsamic glaze. At least she got some crisp sweet potato fried on the side.

We took our time eating (we found seats outside near the back wall of the restaurant) and spent even more time chatting after we finished all of our food. It was weird dining in with take-out boxes, but I guess BB is primarily used to processing to-go orders, explaining the lack of washable dishwear.

After our lunch we decided to check out a movie and we agreed on Lady Bird. I was mainly intrigued by the plot because the protagonist is a high school girl living in the early 2000s in Sacramento. The movie was particularly relatable to us since my sis and I spent most of our lives growing up in Nor Cal, in a city very close to Sacramento. Actually, we unapollegetically call it Suckramento because it really was the most boring place ever, haha! But I will admit that we have a lot of good memories growing up in our small-town city.

We ended up watching the movie in an overpriced theater in Santa Monica, and getting out of the parking garage was a nightmare. Before heading home, we made a quick Target stop in Westwood to pick up some items for a care package my sis is making for her BF. She’s planning to give it to him for Valentine’s Day, basically a box containing all sorts of “care” things he may need but doesn’t have around, like first-aid kit items, cough drops, ibuprofen, etc. When she told me about it, I was literally dying from the cuteness of it all, haha!

Eventually we made it back home but I was dog-tired. Maybe it was sitting in the dark theater, but I just could not keep my eyes open. My sis was skyping her BF and told me the next day that even though she was talking pretty loudly, I was pretty much unconscious. I get serious when it comes to sleep, lol.

The next morning, we agreed to find a coffee shop close by and get some work done. She’s been doing some summer internship research and so I helped her polish off her CV.

Love Coffee Bar
Love Coffee Bar

We parked ourselves at Love Coffee Bar which was a coffee shop I’ve been wanting to check out ever since I moved to SaMo. I’ll admit it was overpriced, but I loved my spiced latte with almond milk.

Spiced Latte Love
Spiced Latte Love

And having Emmy’s Organics Lemon Ginger Coconut Cookies on the side made for a perfect pairing.

emmys_lemonginger
Cookies on the side.

My sis had yet another sandwich, but it was that cute, cafe-sized mini baguette sandwich that went well with a huge cup of coffee.

Sunday coffee mornings.
Sunday coffee mornings.

We were working right outside the coffee shop for a while, and surprisingly didn’t get too distracted by the people coming and going…when it came to well-behaved, regal-looking dogs however…that was another story.

Later on we moved inside, and then in the early afternoon decided to walk to another place close by for lunch.

We walked through Santa Monica College to get to good ol’ Pico, in order to cross another place off my foodie list—Grey Block Pizza!

Grey Block Pizza, literally in a gray building.
Grey Block Pizza, literally in a gray building.

To be honest, the interior of the restaurant was quite depressing (I mean, it was gray after all…), but our pizzas weren’t.

Pizza at its finest.
Pizza at its finest.

My sis and I got a 20″ slice each. I’m not sure exactly which veggie-friendly flavors we got, since it was whatever they had on display. Mine had cheese olives, onions, and tomatoes while my sister’s looked to be like a slice with mostly mushroom, onion, and spinach. I was a fan of the crust, which was thinly rolled but, had a sesame seed coating at the edge.

After our bites of pizza, we walked back, and my sister drove me to Sprouts for a quick grocery stop before dropping me off and heading back to the OC.

I was glad to spend the first weekend of the new year with my lady bird 🙂

Grey Block Pizza Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

NYE in LV

NYE in LV

SD to LV? Two weekends in a row of road-tripping? Shocking, I know 😛

No, it’s been awesome! Being able to spend quality time with my closest friends has been amazing, and ringing in the new year with them in LV was quite the fun experience.

On the Friday evening of New Year’s weekend, my friend J and her aunt drove over from the San Bernardino area to pick me up. I was grateful she was able to drive all the way, but I felt so sorry for my friend driving all those miles!

It took forever to get out of SaMo on a Friday night (of course), but we made it out by 7pm. We stopped in Moreno Valley to pick up J’s BF, and then from there drove into mountain town. J’s aunt offered to buy us some pizza to bring back to the abode. We reached her place close to 10pm, chowed down on some pizza purchased from a place reminiscent of a 90’s pizza parlor, and cuddled with Missy & Sissy before going to bed.
 
Missy & Sissy were my friend's aunt's cats, BTW.
Missy & Sissy were J’s aunt’s cats, BTW.

I didn’t want to rush J the next morning since she was super exhausted from driving already. As a result, we were on the road closer to 11:30am. It also took us forever to get down the mountain, but we had just finished having breakfast/coffee so we were full up on our energy reserves 😛

We came across some interesting road signs.
We came across some interesting road signs.

It took us forever to get to Las Vegas—pretty much seven hours. At least we were able to see the sunset over the desert and watch the moon appear as we drove down back roads. 

Cozy 'bnb and moonlight
Cozy ‘bnb and moonlight
 
We were extremely hungry by the time we reached Henderson, a suburb of LV where our AirBnb was located. We had a little bit of difficulty figuring out how to check in, but we were soon able to put all three of our heads together and figure it out lol. The room was super cute, cozy, and keenly decorated. It was much better than I expected! 
 
After checking in, we immediately drove out for dinner. We found a local Greek food franchise that wasn’t too far, and we were able to unanimously agree to have dinner there. 
 
The Great Greek
The Great Greek
 
J’s BF never had Greek let alone Mediterranean cuisine at a restaurant before, so I was happy to help by explaining the menu. He and J got gyro-based meals, while I was glad to find a falafel wrap option on the menu. 
 
Falafel wrap with all the fixins
Falafel wrap with all the fixin’s
 
Our food came out lightning-fast, but we didn’t question the speed since we were ravenous. My falafel had the perfect texture of a soft filling with a crisp breaded exterior. And there was the perfect amount of tzatziki and hummus. The random pepper I can’t explain…
 
We retreated back to the BNB after dinner since the three of us were exhausted from sitting in a car all day (lol). C, my friend who had moved to Vegas over the summer, was busy that night picking up her cousin and taking care of errands so we agreed to meet with her the next day. 
 
 
The following morning, we met C and her cousin for brunch. She insisted that we go to Black Bear Diner, a Nor Cal staple that has slowly made its way to the desert over the years…
 
I definitely needed some coffee, some water to stay hydrated, and went for a veggie omelette with home fries and a toasted english muffin. Everything was delicious, but I could only stomach everything but the english muffin, to my dismay. 
 
Black Bear Brunch
Black Bear Brunch

After brunch, the six of us drove beside the 15 to make a pilgrimage to some candy-colored rocks in the middle of the desert. I’m not joking…

Seven Magic Mountains
Seven Magic Mountains

Apparently it was an art piece installed sometime in 2016, and I learned about it through its random appearances on my Insta feed. The doubt on my friends’ faces about “what” we were visiting immediately disappeared as we got closer. It was a gorgeous display up close as well as afar for panoramic shots.

Inspiring smaller structures.
Inspiring smaller structures.

I saw some idiot kick the smaller rock structure, but besides that random guy, everyone else seemed genuinely happy by the art piece, which was probably the intention of its installation all along.

After that little excursion, our group hopped back into the car and drove to the BNB. My friends and I got ready for the rest of the late afternoon/evening, and then went back to C’s house for finishing touches, haha.

We took J’s car to the Strip, and miraculously found parking in the parking garage of Planet Hollywood after driving around in circles for almost an hour. I didn’t care too much since we had all night. Haha!

The Strip
The Strip

J was DD and I don’t drink, so we made the perfect sober management team for our crew :P. C and her cousin immediately went for tequila shots. Her cousin was a mess about one hour in (as expected), but C managed her inebriation better. It was also my first time walking in four inch heels because I thought when am I ever going to have the chance to do that again? Lab? LOL no…I did quickly learn that packing some flip flops is a necessity if I dare put myself through the torture of heels ever again…

Soon enough, everyone was getting hungry and I had spotted Shake Shack across the street. We slowly made our way over there trying not to get lost in the crowds. The place was packed, and I was shocked because out of ALL the places on the Strip, this one restaurant had to be crowded?

Shake Shack NYE
Shake Shack NYE

Going by how my first experience at Shake Shack was, I got the Shroom Burger but instead of the fries, I opted for a cup of vanilla soft serve. The burger didn’t taste as crisp and warm as the one I had in LA back in the summer, but it was suitable for some quick fuel to help me stay up till midnight, haha!

Ironically, we didn’t do much walking after that. In fact, C and J gave in to the pain of their heels and bought some flip flops at a gift shop. I gritted through the pain, but did not protest against sitting down at a dining hall by one of the casinos. C’s cousin was pretty drunk by the time it was 8, and despite being the oldest from all of us, he was the most immature and held us back since C felt like she had to keep an eye on him. We made the best of it though, and had fun people-watching and making jokes.

Chillin' till midnight
Chillin’ till midnight in one of the dining areas // midnight fireworks

C’s BF planned to meet up with us later that night, and when he showed up around 11, our entire group migrated to the center of the Strip to get closer to the fireworks. At this time, my feet were getting to the point of numbness and so C laid down a plastic bag on the sidewalk so I could take off my shoes. Such true friendship, haha. J wanted to leave before the fireworks started since she wasn’t particularly a fan of fireworks, and I didn’t mind taking off either since it meant we would beat traffic. Even though we did leave early, we were able to see the fireworks as we drove back to Henderson.

 
The next morning, J, J’s BF, and I met C one last time to drop off some of her things and give her a hug goodbye. Before hitting the road, we had another desert-worthy diner breakfast at Our Families’ Country Cafe.
 
Our Families' Country Cafe
Our Families’ Country Cafe

Besides having Greek our first night, my time in Vegas had been marked by eggs and burgers…at least I was getting my protein in?

Inside
Inside – classic diner setting

There wasn’t much variety in terms of vegetarian-friendly cuisine, so I got a plate of sunny side eggs with home fries, and some slices of rye bread that happened to be lightly buttered.

Eggy breakfast
Eggy breakfast

Due to the previous evening’s events, I wasn’t surprised that I scarfed everything down so quickly. We even stopped for snacks at Albertson’s before really heading out on our way.

Our trip back was less harrowing than Friday’s trek, and I made it back to LA at a decent hour. I said my goodbyes to J and her BF, and then immediately unpacked so I could get back into my routine. I did have to go back to lab the next day, but my productivity levels were at an all-time high after a fun-filled weekend of celebration 🙂

How did you ring in 2018?

Shake Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

SD with the Bestie

SD with the Bestie

E has now left the country, and while I’m going to miss her company so much, I definitely wanted to spend some stress-free time with her before she left. Hence, a weekend trip to San Diego was in order.

She’d been wanting to go there for a while, so I was glad we were able to make it happen. Since I had my sister’s car until the 26th, I was able to drive us down without having to worry about public transit.

It was about a 2.5 hour drive, and we made it into the area around noon. We tried setting our sights for the Point Loma Lighthouse, but ended up just north at a veterans’ memorial.

Views from the memorial // an old-school ship with sails in the disance
Views from the memorial // an old-school ship with sails in the distance

A local who was walking around told us that the lighthouse was actually a little bit west of our current location, so we decided to get back in the car and drive closer. We ended up the entrance to the Cabrillo National Monument, but had to turn around since their credit card machiene wasn’t working and we didn’t have cash in $5, $10, or $20 denominations. The sign outside stated they accepted cash and credit so we thought it was unfair, but we moved on.

Old Townj, San Diego
Old Town, San Diego

Instead, we drove into town from the coast, and found ourselves in Old Town SD, a huge market that housed a collection of street vendors, gift shops, and restaurants. E did some souvenir and gift shopping, but eventually we both were hungry enough to sit down to a late lunch.

Old Town SD Shopping
Old Town SD Shopping

Many of the restaurants featured Mexican cuisine, so we hopped on over to Miguel’s Cocina which was at the corner of a block we were approaching.

Miguel's
Miguel’s Cocina

After informing the waitress we were vegetarians, we were advised not to have their queso dip since it was cooked with chicken broth. As a result, we munched on complimentary chips and salsa. We even got complimentary guacamole since we couldn’t have the queso…score! Haha.

Lunch Spread
Lunch Spread

Between the two of us, we had fresh fajita veggies, veggie enchiladas, beans, and rice. It was all flavorful and delicious, but also quite filling. To-go boxes were pretty much mandatory for us.

After lunch, I asked E where to next. Most of the museums and exhibits were closing soon, so maybe something in nature (and that was free) made the most sense.

We drove back to the coast, this time to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.

Sunset Cliffs
Sunset Cliffs

Our timing was impeccable, and the views were perfect as the sun was setting.

Gorgeous views
Gorgeous views

E mentioned out loud that it would be the perfect place for a guy to propose. Someone overheard this and couldn’t help but speak out in agreement.

Rocky Shores
Rocky Shores

I was feeling super tired, so we decided to call it a day after walking around and checked in at our hotel. After getting settled in, E went to town with getting my make-up done (for fun) and we tried to watch a movie without falling asleep in the middle of it. Then we talked until we were completely exhausted and fell asleep, like the typical twelve-year-olds at a sleepover we were, haha 😉

Cozy
Cozy

We took our time getting ready the next morning, and beat the crowd to the free breakfast downstairs.

At around 10am, we took off for downtown.

Downtown SD
Downtown SD

Honestly, there’s not much to see in downtown…or in SD in general. I’ll admit that I probably wouldn’t be the best person to hire to advocate for SD, as I find it a pretty boring city to begin with. It’s like a beautiful and sunny San Francisco, and yeah, maybe a good place to work, raise a family, or retire, but to me? It’s just too boring, haha 😛 !

E did some more shopping, picked up some gift bags at CVS. and then we were off to our next location—the San Diego Botanic Garden, that was actually located in Encinitas.

San Diego Botanic Garden
San Diego Botanic Garden

Again if I’m being honest, the visit was a waste for us So Cal residents. Many of the plants featured in the garden could be seen all over the southern region of Cali, and I even recognized some from our campus! Still, it was an entertaining walk, and we found intriguing items like this Alphabet Garden:

'Stop and Smell' Alphabet Garden
‘Stop and Smell’ Alphabet Garden

P was for Pomegranate and E was for Elephant’s Foot, LOL!

After that little trek, we slowly headed back north to LA. We did make a stop in Newport Beach, I guess because we didn’t have our fill of ocean views??

Newport Beach
Newport Beach

These piers start to look the same after awhile, but the ocean views never get old. We walked for a bit and then made our way back to the car. It literally felt like a warm summer day and I had to turn on the A/C when we got back in the car…and it was Christmas Eve, what even is this weather?

After I dropped E off, all I wanted to do was sleep! I was still in active recovery mode so no runs were on the schedule. I was able to turn in early for the night, and sleep for most of Christmas Day after a long morning walk. It was definitely a sweet weekend with one of my dearest friends, and—I’ll make sure of it—many more adventures to come.

What was your Christmas weekend like?

Miguel's Cocina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

December Degustabox

December Degustabox

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Degustabox. All opinions are my own.

The last Degustabox of 2017 was a fine one:

December Degustabox
December Degustabox

I could pretty much have everything except one item in this batch, so I’d say that is a pro for this month’s box. The majority of the items were also savory, but it was a nice balance between snacks and meal prep items.

The first item I tried was the box of Good Thins, The Beet One.

The Beet One
The Beet One

These chips (more like thin wafers) had a crisp, tangy flavor, which made sense since their flavor was “balsamic vinegar and sea salt” after all. Given their size and small thickness, they packed a flavorful punch! It almost like they had a hint of tomato/ketchup flavor too. 

Another salty and savory snack/condiment item featured in this month’s box were these Suckerpunch Gourmet Pickles. 

Suckerpunch Spicy Garlic Originals
Suckerpunch Spicy Garlic Originals

The pickle slices were cut at a substantial thickness, had a distinct crunch, and were actually sweeter than I thought they’d be, given that they were supposed to be “spicy garlic originals”. Funny thing was, I only noticed one small pepper at the top, and a couple of garlic cloves at the very bottom of the jar.

I actually made it a priority to try this bottle of Brianna’s dressing, since in times past I often didn’t get to review the bottles in time for review. Lately, I’ve been adding to crockpot bowls comprised of cooked cabbage, bell pepper, and potato slices, but there was one occasion where I drizzled it over some firm tofu that I needed to use up. This dressing flavor is an exquisite combination of honey, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and grape juice—uniting savory and sweet in a creamy blend. 

Brianna's ~ New American Creamy Balsamic
Brianna’s ~ New American Creamy Balsamic // Dressed up some tofu with it. 

Ozrey Bakery provided a coupon to redeem a product for free, since their products are bread/bakery items made fresh. I often passed by their brand of items during my trips to Sprouts, eyeing the intriguing morning rounds they are well-known for. I was able to finally figure out how they tasted, and I chose the Apple Cinnamon morning rounds to try first.

Ozrey
Ozery Bakery Morning Rounds ~ Apple Cinnamon

The morning rounds were soft and chewy, and had faint hint of cinnamon spice. I tried them toasted as well as straight out of the fridge, and while it did taste less “doughy” after toasting (actually it may have brought out more of the cinnamon flavor!) I liked how it tasted in either form.

For a quick lunch in lab, Cauli Rice came in extremely handy (starting next year, they’re rebranding as Fullgreen). I was given the Original and Spicy Chicken flavors to try. I gave away the chicken flavor, but the original flavor was easy to cook up. It simply required a microwave, and after a two-minute spin, the cauli rice was hot, fresh, and ready to be flavored before devouring.

Cauli Rice + Pesto
Cauli Rice + Pesto

This month’s box included a small bottle of Barilla Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, which I mixed into the cooked cauli rice. I had a voracious appetite before consuming this plate, given that I had spent the morning doing some low-impact cardio, dropping off my sister at LAX (and getting to the Southwest drop-off zone is a nightmare, believe me), and then fighting traffic to drop-off the car before coming into lab.

Barilla actually made up quite a few of the products in this month’s collection. Along with the pesto, ready-made pasta, breadsticks, and sandwich cookies were featured. Carb heaven.

The Mulino Bianco Sfilati Breadsticks with Green and Black Olives had a crunchy texture much like the previous flavor of breadsticks I reviewed.

Mulino Bianco Sfilati Breadsticks with Green and Black Olives
Mulino Bianco Sfilati Breadsticks with Green and Black Olives

These had less of a tangy flavor however, and I could definitely detect the strong olive notes. I had them plain this time around rather than adding them as a topping or mixing them into a meal. 

I featured the Mulino Bianco Baiocchi Cookies on my instagram, noting the following: “These Baiocchi sandwich cookie rounds from Mulino Bianco, consisting of a smooth hazelnut and cocoa creme sandwiched between two buttery shortbreads, were so flavorful and made for a nice after-dinner dessert. The shortbreads were slightly dry, but it didn’t take away from the overall delicious-ness of these cookies 🍪 😋”

Mulino Bianco Baiocchi Cookies
Mulino Bianco Baiocchi Cookies

They weren’t exactly Double Stuf Oreo status, but they were satisfying as they were.

Of all the Barilla products in this month’s box, I was astounded by the Ready Pasta Gemelli. Even the name sounds cute, haha!

"A warm pasta salad 🥗 🍝 for a chilly winter night ❄️"
A warm pasta salad 🥗 🍝 for a chilly winter night ❄️

The pasta is described as “an all-natural, fully cooked pasta that’s ready in the microwave in just 60 seconds. Made with 3 simple ingredients – a dash of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and “al dente” Barilla pasta” Even though I know it’d be better to have more time to cook rather than rely on the convenience of a microwave, I can’t deny that I favor the convenience. And this pack of pasta? When I mixed it with some cooked cabbage and carrots mixed with that Brianna’s dressing I described above, it made for a quick, delicious dinner!

Which of these products would you want to try the most?

Running Break

Running Break

Last weekend, I was feeling a little anxious and glum about having to hold off on running for a week or two due to shin splints. I was trying to figure out what I could do for cross-training, and also realized that some strength training would have to be squeezed in too, even though I haven’t done any focused weight training in months

I contemplated all of this over lunch this past Saturday at Grilliant. I had to stop in lab earlier that day, and by the time I was done, I didn’t feel like venturing out too far just for lunch. #DecemberFeels

Grilliant, Culver City
Grilliant, Culver City

I had been wanting to check out Grilliant for a while now though. I mean, it boasted Mediterranean cuisine as the theme of its menu, so how could I resist?

Portabello Wrap with Eggplant Mirza
Portabello Wrap with Eggplant Mirza

I wound up getting a portabello (veggie) flatbread wrap with some eggplant mirza on the side (it was the closest thing to babaganoush, so that’s why I went for it). An unexpected serving of tzatziki and a sweet & lemony tomato sauce side came along with it. 

Up close!
Up close!

I thought the portabello pieces were slightly overcooked, but everything together made for a well-balanced and nourishing meal. 

I also stopped at Sprouts before heading home, and picked up a seasonal almond butter flavor that was much cheaper than the chocolate peanut butter I usually get, haha!

Sprouts Gingerbread Spice Almond Butter
Sprouts Gingerbread Spice Almond Butter

It definitely had a spicy kick to it, but the oil-to-almond butter ratio was pretty proportionate. It was only when I got to the bottom 0.5 inch of the jar did it start to get grainy.

On Tuesday, I woke up early enough to set aside ~2 hours to go on a 6 mile walk for active recovery. Since I’m always complaining about how Abbot Kinney is so hard to get to via public transit, I designed my walking route to include a stop at Blue Bottle Coffee at my turn-around point.

Blue Bottle Coffee
Blue Bottle Coffee

Upon entering, I could definitely sense the pretentious coffee shop vibe. The baristas were nice and helped me to pick out what they thought was a good hot coffee blend, but I felt slightly out of place even though I was wearing my stretchy Nike running capris like most athletic wear, clothing-wearing Los Angelenos, haha.

Walking back.
Walking back.

I got the “Three Africas” coffee as per their recommendation, which was described as a blend of “the radiant fruit of two coffees from Ethiopia, one washed and one natural, with the balance and authority of a washed coffee from Uganda“. I wasn’t a fan though…even after adding some cream and brown sugar, the lemon zest was slightly off-putting.

At least I had a crispy, double chocolate cookie with a hint of ginger as a back-up treat?

Yum, breakfast cookie!
Yum, breakfast cookie!

The walk was earlier in the week, so I still felt some soreness in my shins. I do think they are getting better though, at least I hope so. Since then, I’ve been cross-training with the eliptical and doing some light weight training for muscle groups I often neglect when plain running. I never thought I’d find the monotony of a still gym a refreshing break from running, and despite feeling DOMS in every muscle group except my calves right now, I found that being in the gym may be what just I needed for my mental sanity too!

Do you find it difficult to cross-train for a sport/exercise activity you predominantly do?

Grilliant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Shin Splints and Shoes

Shin Splints and Shoes

(Posterior) Shin splints are the bane of my running existence…

Currently...
Currently…
 
I had my first debilitating bout with them in the Summer of 2016. When I started using a compression bandage, they seemed to go away like magic and I had never been happier. But because I wanted to make sure I was taking all precautions that I could, I ended up purchasing this pair thinking I was overpronating. 
 
Actually, based on the wear of my shoes, I realized that I may actually meet towards the side of underpronation. When I started accumulating miles on that pair, I made the switch to Saucony
 
I wore those up until the LA Marathon earlier this year. I think the toebox was too narrow because half way through the race I had throbbing pains coming from my right big toe. When I assessed the damage after the race, I had developed a lovely, red-colored blister and my first black toenail. 
 
Not wanting to repeat that experience again, I did a brief search on minimalistic shoes and came across a brand called Ryka, which apparently aims to design shoes based on the biomechanics of how “women run”. Basically, they claim that their shoes are made with the woman’s body in mind. 
 
Ryka
Ryka
 
I started using them back in April, and found them to be light and cushy. It was like running on a firm cut of padding, and my toes didn’t feel crushed like in the Sauconys. For the duration of the summer, I alternated between these and my pink Newtons (which I initially thought propagated my shin splints back in 2016, but that turned out to be false). 
 
Fresh Ryka Pria Shoes
Fresh Ryka Pria Shoes
 
I knew I was putting in a lot of miles into this pair as Fall approached, and the forefoot part of the shoes was definitely getting worn down after I made the switch to forefoot running.
 
Back in April
Back in April
 
I wasn’t sure what should be my next pair, especially since I was in the process of changing my running form, but I knew I had to replace the Rykas soon. Before I knew it, I started to feel niggling pains in my shins. When I looked at the underside of the Rykas, they had indeed developed the signs of overuse and overwear. 
 
These babies have been through a lot...
These babies have been through a lot…
 
Based on this picture, I think the brunt of my weight was being supported by my right side. I literally drove a hole right through my shoe 😂 
 
I then thought it might be a good choice to pick another minimalistic shoe, perhaps one with even less material because I was no longer running with a hell striking form. After doing some reading, I found out about Mizuno Wave Universe 5.
 
Mizuno Wave Universe 5
Mizuno Wave Universe 5
 
Forefoot runners seemed to rave about it, so I thought I’d give it a chance as well. It fit within my budget since it was an older version, and it didn’t hurt that they looked cute too. 
 
Flashy look
Flashy look
 
When I first ran in them, I was afraid they would rip! I walked around in them like slippers because that’s how they felt, but when I started to rack up the miles in them, they stepped up to the plate and proved their worth. 
 
This was only a few months ago!
This was only a few months ago!
 
They lasted through Route 66, and after the marathon I reduced my mileage and had a week off.  When I started back up again the following week however, my shins started acting up again. Posterior shin splints had popped up again, and now I am here, three weeks later, finally out of denial and realizing that low mileage needs to be no mileage for a while until my shins recover. 
 
I think there are a number of reasons why my shin pains popped up again—there’s the fact that I changed my form, and that even though my calves have adapted, my shins may still need time to catch up to the level of my calves.  Then there’s perhaps a lack of Vitamin D, starting up too fast after the marathon, increasing intensity to quickly, etc. Even though these kinds of running injuries seem like a setback, I’m trying to have a positive attitude. 
 
Hopefully, the time I would have spent pounding my legs into the ground will not be wasted as I switch to some low-impact cardio and strength training for some time. In fact, I feel like I’ve been needing a solid mental break from running for a while, and maybe this is my  “legitimate” way out. 
 
It also buys me some time to figure out which pair is next up for me to tear up 😝
Self-Care

Self-Care

I would say that over the past six months or so, I’ve been trying to solve an enigma that is, my hormones. Women’s hormones—no, they are not “TMI”, and they shouldn’t be. If I had to pick one thing that gets on my nerves , it’s when people follow women’s health/period talk with a TMI disclaimer. Way to normalize a totally natural thing, amiright? 🙄

I’ve noticed in this time that at least 1.5-2 weeks before my monthly cycle, I’d get really bad fatigue (like, getting up after 7am was a struggle—and I’m an early bird) and breast soreness. But when I noticed that it deeply effected my running efforts, I wondered if there was a connection. As soon as my cycle began and for two weeks after, running at “faster” paces with an proportionate amount of effort seemed easier to do. But it was a different story afterwards… 
 
My “two weeks of hell” for this particular month began the week I returned from Tulsa, and seemed to subside by this past weekend. Oh, but the onset of the first week was an extreme compared to past experiences. 
 
It began with breast soreness and fatigue, as expected. But then it was mood swings…I started to feel randomly sad and depressed throughout the day, and easily frustrated by little things. All of this combined was the perfect way for me to be set-off by even the smallest of triggers…triggers that I’d be able to brush off on a “normal” day. 
 
And of course, I was in tears by the time Friday of that week rolled around. There was a conflict at work and I felt I was unfairly scolded to for something that had no basis in argument. Thankfully I had E to vent to, but I just felt ridiculously mad and was dropping F-bombs like nobody’s business. Like I said, I was mad, and I felt like my feelings needed to be released. 
 
I did sleep on it, and did my best to let my feelings play out. I did my best to treat myself to the best self-care as possible. 
 
Lunch date with the sis <3
Lunch date with the sis <3
 
This included lots of rest, thinking in solitude, and a refreshing lunch out with my sister and a movie that Sunday. We went to see Coco, and had lunch at the Tender Greens in Westfield Century City. 
 
Seasonal specials
Seasonal specials
 
It was my third time visiting a Tender Greens location, and my second time getting the Falafel Plate. The first time I had the Falafel Plate was when my plate included a side kale salad (with garlic dressing + parmesan), a green dollop of hummus that looked like guacamole, tahini sauce, and a crisp crostini bread.
 
Sister's plate on the left & mine on the right
Sister’s plate on the left & mine on the right
 
This occasion’s plate was quite different, but delicious nonetheless.
 
Um, hello there.
Um, hello there.
 
Seasoned veggies, butter lettuce , and a thin, lavash-like flatbread were included. The falafel has a nice crisp exterior, and a gorgeous green hue on the inside. The definition of a perfect falafel. 
 
Also took in some rooftop night views---I love looking over cityscapes at night :)
Also took in some rooftop night views—I love looking over city-scapes at night 🙂
 
But even with that incident now a part of the past, and having a pleasant weekend with the sis to help de-stress, I still was experiencing those PMS-like symptoms, but even stronger. In addition to the fatigue and soreness, I felt a mild loss of appetite, strong headaches that lingered throughout the day, and a cloud of un-motivation hovering over me as the following week came up. I cut down on my running mileage that week as well, due to feeling unmotivated and because shin splints were popping up again for me. Ugh, would it ever stop? 
 
After hearing me complain for days, my Dad suggested I address some potential vitamin deficiencies. He suggested I try taking a Vitamins B-12 supplement, and see if that put my energy levels back into balance. There was also the idea that Vitamin D could be something I may need to address as well, due to the demands of running and it being winter / less sunlight exposure and all. 
 
No running means waking up early anyways and heading off to lab as soon as I get up...and coming across squirrels plotting revenge...
No running means waking up early anyways and heading off to lab as soon as I get up…and coming across squirrels plotting revenge…
 
I started taking a supplement on Friday, and decided to take the weekend off from running to rest up. Saturday and Sunday were pretty relaxing, and I even went out for lunch with E at a new place at the USC Village—-Trejo’s Tacos!
 
Fresh all around
Fresh all around

I got the Cauliflower Bowl, and E got some chips and guac along with a cheese quesadilla and pink lemonade. My bowl was packed with beans, seasoned rice (almost as if it was doused in a spicy ketchup sauce?? But it tasted good…), fresh greens, pico, corn, and a cream sauce.

A feast!!!
A feast!!!

I even treated myself when I got home later in the day—to a seasonal flavor of Halo Top, Gingerbread House.

"I I had high hopes for @halotopcreamery Gingerbread House...but it had such a strong cinnamon flavor for me, and I wish the cookie pieces had a little more crunch to them 😕"
I had high hopes for @halotopcreamery Gingerbread House…but it had such a strong cinnamon flavor for me, and I wish the cookie pieces had a little more crunch to them 😕

It wasn’t a favorite of mine, but it was alright for a quick Saturday night dessert 🙂

This month so far has been a hectic and exhausting one for sure, but I’m glad that I’ve been quick to act and put my self-care first.

I’m hoping 2017 will end on a sweet and peacful note. Even though I won’t be around family, I’m hoping to spend some days with E sans work before she leaves, as well as planning to carpool with one of my friends to see my friend who lives in Vegas for New Year’s Eve. At least there are some exciting things coming up to keep me motivated 🙂

Are you aware of when you need self-care?

Enlightened Pints from Summer

Enlightened Pints from Summer

I admit, this post is extremely overdue, but as you can probably guess from how delayed my posts have been, it’s obviously because I’ve been very busy, haha! But as the year comes to a close, I seem to have a need to catch-up on a lot of things in my life, blog posts included! And writing about ice cream pints that Enlightened graciously sent me over the summer? I’m glad I finally have some time to put together a review post!

The review box I received upon my return from Europe in early June contained the following flavors: 

Butter Pecan
Chocolate Peanut Butter
Chocolate
Snickerdoodle
Toasted Almond
Vanilla 

My sister was visiting me that week, and so I was happy to share some of the flavors with her as well 🙂

Butter Pecan – This flavor had a nutty flavor, with slight maple undertones. The pecan pieces had a roasted, crunchy texture despite being mixed into soft ice cream. 

Butter Pecan
Butter Pecan

Chocolate – My sis had the privilege of trying this flavor. Of course, she was a fan. I suggested she wait a couple minutes to let the pint soften after taking it out from the freezer. She agreed that it had much creamier texture after doing so!

Chocolate
Chocolate

Toasted Almond – With Toasted Almond, the creamy ice cream with bite-size nut pieces was perfect enough as a simple treat—but then I added a mini Lenny & Larry’s chocolate chip cookie on top. A flavor explosion ensued 😛

Toppings make things better.
Toppings make things better.

Chocolate Peanut Butter – I forgot to take an “inside-the-pint” pic, but it was literally a smooth chocolate base with HUGE peanut butter chunks. It reminded me of Halo Top’s Peanut Butter Cup with the hardened peanut butter pieces, so this flavor was a winner in my book. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter
Chocolate Peanut Butter

Snickerdoodle – Ahh, I had high hopes for this one…maybe I should have added a Snickerdoodle cookie as a topping. The ice cream itself was smooth and had a light cinnamon flavor, but maybe the addition of cookie pieces or cinnamon cake pieces would have done the trick to make this flavor a stellar one. 

Snickerdoodle
Snickerdoodle

Vanilla Bean – I absolutely loved the smooth and creamy texture—literally like velvet! I even added one of my favorite bars from the summer, GoMacro’s Protein Replenishment!  I’m still on Team GoMacro, but I was obsessed over the summer, haha!

Vanilla Bean + GoMacro Protein Replenishment
Vanilla + GoMacro Protein Replenishment

I also happened to try two other flavors that I wasn’t sent, but were also new-to-me at the time. Found them at Sprouts, my all-time favorite grocery store (besides Grocery Outlet, haha):

Red Velvet – I found this to be a “dark” flavor, if that makes sense, haha! It looked like a dark chocolate, but it definitely had a lighter, milder flavor than a bitter dark chocolate (so, better than I expected!). I also liked the cream cheese swirl, and it reminded me of  Frozen Hot Cocoa without the chocolate bits. It would have been cool however, if there were cake pieces thrown in!

Red Velvet
Red Velvet

Black Cherry – This was a flavor I definitely did not expect to be a favorite of mine, but it was smooth, had a light and fruity taste, and a fair mix of small chocolate chunks and chewy cherry pieces. It’s soft lavendar color was appealing too! Another cookie topping proved useful here too!

Black Cherry topped with snickerdoodle :)
Black Cherry topped with snickerdoodle 🙂

It feels good to get caught up on this review, haha! Looking back at all these pics is making me crave some ice cream now, and seeing that it’s going to be in the mid-80’s today by afternoon, it doesn’t seem like too crazy of an idea to have some 😛

Which of these flavors would you try?

2017, and All of its Blessings ℘

2017, and All of its Blessings ℘

Is it to early to reflect on 2017?

The Saturday after my return to LA from my week in Tulsa was spent mostly sleeping, and catching up with myself emotionally. I didn’t have to go into lab, and honestly, didn’t feel like doing much since I was just feeling so exhausted.

I did manage to get some local brunch though, by finally making a trip to The OP Cafe. I could have had any of their brunch specials but I opted for nachos.

;
Just felt like eating & staying local…

It was exactly what I was craving and it hit the spot.

House-made nachos with all the cheese, beans, guac, and sour cream you could as
House-made nachos with all the cheese, beans, guac, and sour cream you could ask for…

I also found myself reflecting over a lot of things over this particular weekend, thinking about how there is literally one more month left in 2017, and despite all the crazy shenanigans and experiences this year, I can’t help but feel that this was the year I was finally able to turn over a new leaf.

Sour Cream
Sour Cream!

I saw myself grow, adapt, and change over the months…as the seasons transitioned…as I finally came into my own. If I could use three words to describe my personal journey this year, it would have to be acceptance, confidence, and self-love—three things that I never thought I could fully feel for many years…

lll
Guaccccc!

I entered January 2017 with a sense of determination (to continue with my physical and mental recovery from ED), but also a little bit of anxiety. I was anxious over having to prepare for my qualifying exam, and I know it got in the way of my recovery—I was body checking, worried about my measurements/weight, and having urges to binge on jars of Nutella or flavored nut butters. But as soon as my exam date passed and all went well, the cloud had been lifted and it was easier to tackle recovery once again.

In February I embraced the fact that I am a young, twenty-something woman who is going to feel feelings. I had a crush and I went with the flow. I felt giddy and happy for the first time, trying to hold onto this new set of feelings for dear life because it was like nothing I ever felt before.

March was more of the same…I was surprised that these feelings did hold on so long, but “the game” was getting tiring. The boy I ended up having feelings for was so hard to figure out. It was challenging, frustrating, and at times, left me with a sunken heart.

April was when I found out he had a girl already. The practical side of me tried to talk the emotional side of me out of it. But it was hard. I felt the aftermath physically…feeling a sense of fatigue you’d think could only be brought upon by a collision with a moving vehicle or a hard-ass workout. I tried to hate him, but I wanted to be nice. You know, just in case.

May was when I told myself I am perfect as I am, and I focused on me. I realized that I was able to cope with my triggers with ease, each and every passing day. I told my therapist after almost a year with her, that I felt it was time for me to move on. It was something I just felt in my gut.

I returned from an exciting, thrilling, exhausting, and blissful two weeks in Europe in June feeling refreshed, but also nervous about the tasks that lay before me at work. It was going to be another hectic summer. At least I had my sister with me for two weeks. I felt single and free and just…doing okay. But then I wondered, why did he walk alongside me to the train station? Why did it seem like he noticed me and smiled without me initiating? I started to wonder…did lab boy really have a girlfriend, or did he mean girl (insert verrrryyy long space here) friend ?

July was spent working and wondering. My feelings weren’t as intense as before, but when I saw him and we exchanged hellos or smiles, my heart would melt. I had a third party who promised to confirm his situation with me, an undergrad who wasn’t coming back until August! Until then, I worked hard, played hard (since I had my sister’s car for the month!), and shared a bunch of laughs with E. It was a pretty easy-going, chill month.

August was my birthday month, and while I couldn’t spend it with my family, my labmates E and J made my 25th day special. I went out for dinner with E at a restaurant that comped our meal in exchange for a blog post, and overall, it was just a good day. I finalized and confirmed a lot of things this month: that I would be going to Spain for a conference, that my sis would be moving to Mission Viejo, that I had another three over-nighters to pull in lab, and that, yes, he indeed meant girlfriend. Once again, I felt free. Still a bit salty about being single, but I felt (mostly) okay.

September started off in a hurried fashion. I was putting together my conference poster and finishing up those all-nighters/last minute experiments. Unlike the year before, I did not have Labor Day off…I spent the night before sleeping on the couch in my office. I put the labor in Labor Day—easy to laugh about it now! Sadly, I was even looking to my conference trip to Barcelona as something I needed to “check-off”…I didn’t have time to plan what I would do the one day there I would have for myself.

But when I flew off to Spain and arrived in Barcelona, the whole experience was refreshing and new. It was my first solo international trip and once I got past the jetlag and physical fatigue (thanks hormones…), I fell in love with Barcelona. At first I was nervous walking around, not knowing Spanish and clutching onto my purse in order to avoid pickpocket encounters. But the city was so clean, quiet, and beautiful in its own way. During the days of my conference, I was able to interact more with people, and since the conference was in a beachside town, I was surprised with the most gorgeous views of the Mediterranean. It was unlike anything I had seen before.

By the time October came around, I had a hard time getting back into my usual routine. After coming back from a place like Spain, things can never be the same, haha! And the fact that I met a guy who seemed to be smart and charming? Didn’t help at all.

We only did have one conversation while I was there, and it would have been nice to have gotten to talk to him more and get to know him better. After confiding with my friends, they encouraged me to do a daring thing and leave a note for him before I left.

Given the circumstances, I didn’t expect anything to result from this “bold move” but we did exchange messages, at least for a little while, upon my return. Again, it was a battle between my practical and emotional self in regards to how things would turn out realistically, but if anything, all of this proved I could move past my feelings for lab guy!

It also felt nice to do something that required me to be a little more confident 😉

When November rolled in, I was starting to feel mentally exhausted, but I was also starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel for one of the projects I’m working on. Of course, in the world of science, that can always take a turn, but for now I can say my efforts in that foray are coming together. I also had the chance to spend a week with my Dad, run my 5th marathon, and embrace Thanksgiving with what I would say a pretty close to a full recovery from ED kind of mind. Even my Dad noticed all of the changes he saw me in that week compared to times past, and he couldn’t have been happier.

And now as December is here, and as this year comes to a close, I can’t help but wonder how 2018 will be. This month has already gotten off to a tough start, but based on all the things that have happened this year, and the skills and life lessons I’ve acquired, I think I have the ability to make it through.

As of right now, I’m totally feeling sad over the fact that I may lose my lab bestie if she isn’t able to secure a post-doc position here by the end of the year. There’s also the work that my projects require that seem to be never-ending…

I do hope that despite what 2018 may have in store, I am able to build on all that I have gained in this year, and that it makes me a stronger woman on all fronts 💪

Was 2017 a good year for you?

The O.P. Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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