Race Recap – Run/Walk to Fight Lymphedema & Lymphatic Diseases

Race Recap – Run/Walk to Fight Lymphedema & Lymphatic Diseases

I didn’t expect things to be so slow and calm these past two weeks, but they surprisingly have been! With people gone on vacation, things have also been pretty slow and steady at work in lab. Of course I’ve been making sure to get what I need to get done each day done, but the demands have eased a bit compared to how things were last month!

And with that, racing on the weekends was a possibility again. Two weekends ago, it was a Father’s Day Half, but this past weekend, it was a 5K for a very worthy cause.

At the time I registered for the race, I knew that I would be in the middle of a running challenge (that I voluntarily got myself into…more on that in an upcoming post!), so I paid my dues knowing that I would have to allot some time on race morning to get a “warm-up” in before the actual 5K.

To account for all this, I woke up on Sunday morning around 5AM, and got my things together. I was on the train an hour later, and ran from Culver City Station all the way to Crescent Bay Park. The distance was a little over 7 miles, and certainly overqualified as a warm-up ;)

IMG_0306
Gazebo at Crescent Bay Park

I found the registration area set-up below from where I was standing, and carefully walked down the steps. I didn’t want to risk getting an ankle sprain before the actual run!

IMG_0305

Once I got down to ground level, I signed-in, grabbed my bib and goody bag, and then hung around near the refreshments. It may have been a small turn-out and a tiny 5K, relatively speaking, but the goodies spread out for the taking were beyond awesome.

Fancy water bottles...
Fancy water bottles…
Bars galore...including Quest Bars! My dream come true!
Bars galore…including Quest Bars! My dream come true!

As for the vendors at the race, they stayed consistent with the theme of the race. Since the 5K was all about Lymphedema and Lymphatic Disease awareness, many of the vendors were compression materials/medical companies specializing in lymphedema treatment.

IMG_0311

Since I came super early, I took the time to scope my surroundings, despite it only being a small area to begin with. I also snacked on a few bars while doing so.

 Finish line/Start line in the distance
Finish line/Start line in the distance

As time went on, more people showed up and started sitting down near the portable stage. Before the race began, there were speeches, testimonials, etc.

 Seating area.
Seating area.

The speeches began around 8:30AM, and were presented by speakers representing the Lymphatic Education & Research Network (LE&RN) and BSN Medical. Apparently this race was the first of its kind being held on the West Coast, and its goal was to spread awareness of lymphedema, since ~10 million Americans suffer from it. It can be genetic, a side effect of cancer treatment (due to the removal of lymph nodes), or brought upon by trauma to the lymphatic system. Whatever the cause, it is obviously a very painful, challenging disease to deal with, and the speakers kept emphasizing the fact that it is often a disease that is “hidden” by those that silently suffer from it.

We were introduced to a seven-year old boy who suffers from primary lymphedema in his left leg, and an elderly WWII veteran named Julius who had been suffering from the disease for years. Seeing what they had to go through on a daily basis—and realizing that there was no cure yet, just therapies for managing the condition—made the fact that our participation in this small 5K actually meant something.

 Listening loud and clear.
Listening loud and clear.

Kathy Bates, the national spokesperson for LE&RN, attended the pre-race ceremonies and gave a not-so-silent speech herself. She told her story—after a double mastectomy, she had lymph nodes removed and lymphedema occurred as a result. Since then, she’s been an avid supporter and fighter for lymphedema awareness.

After hearing all of the speeches, we were ushered to the starting line where a ribbon was being rolled out.

Once the ribbon was cut, a blow horn sounded and we were allowed to run! Even though it was a 5K, my legs felt dead at that point since I had already run 7 miles just an hour earlier. Despite this, I reminded myself it was “just another three miles”. The fact that it was a 1.5 mile out-and-back mentally helped push me through.

I managed to lock in and finish at an average pace of 9:23/mi, and though this wasn’t top female finisher material, I was proud of my pace on sore quads. I was also grateful for have the ability to run day in and day out, and to find the time to run for a worthy and necessary cause.

Before heading home, I grabbed enough Quest bars to last me a full week (saving me almost $30 bucks!!!), as well as some other bar goodies I had not tried before.

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Yup, I’d say this was a worth 5K from all angles ;)

Do you or someone you know suffer from lymphedema or lymphatic disease? *This post wasn’t sponsored, but if you are interested in learning more about LE&RN, click here.

Bread in Beverly Hills

Bread in Beverly Hills

Disclaimer: I was compensated with a gift card for this review, but all opinions (as always) are my own.

When Panera Bread first opened a location in my hometown a couple years ago, my family and I had never heard of the restaurant chain, but we were fascinated by it. I mean, a fast casual restaurant that offered high-quality soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta—and obviously, bread? It was certainly a game-changer in the restaurant scene of my suburban community, which was already flooded with too many restaurants serving that “all-American” burger and diner fare…

It’s hard to believe that they’ve been around since 1987, and already have 1,900+ bakery-cafes in almost every state in the country, as well as some locations in Canada, but I guess that shows that they’re doing all the right things to stay afloat in the ever-changing food industry.

One thing I always admired about Panera Bread was their commitment to community. I was able to see this first-hand with my hometown location, since in my high school days, I often practiced with a music group that used a local church’s kitchen space for our weekend rehearsals. We’d often see tables full of loaves of bread that were donated to the church by our local Panera Bread, and every week, they would be distributed to whoever needed them.

Since moving to LA however, I’ve paid more attention to trying out local restaurants, and places that I couldn’t find anywhere else. I didn’t consider paying a visit to restaurant chains as a “unique experience” since I thought I could visit the same restaurant in another city and the ambience, service, and food would be the same…

But I soon learned that Panera was opening up a new location in Beverly Hills—-which caught me by surprise since we all know that neighborhood has some strict polices about what it considers is worthy for its borders ;)

busy in BH

It recently opened this past Thursday, and while I missed out on the opportunity to snag a coffee tumbler or enter for a chance to win free bread for a year, I visited the new location over the weekend to see how this location stood against its competitive Beverly Hills neighbors.

entrance

This Panera Bread location was able to secure the former Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce building as its home, and as a result, many of the building’s features were worked into the design of the restaurant. This was certainly evident when I walked in.

panera bread front

For only being open three days, everything was in full swing. I was able to easily place my order for a Soba Noodle Bowl with Edamame and a French Baguette on the side. I chose to sit in the back, where there was ample seating, dim lighting, and an exposed brick wall that brought a cozy feeling into the room.

interior__

And even though the design has kept many traditional features dating back to 1940s Beverly Hills, this location has added Panera 2.0 Enhancements, with the most prominent enhancement being the Rapid Pick-Up area.

pick-up shelf

As I was getting my water, I saw this area in action—customers waiting for their orders were able to sit across from the shelving unit, and were able to monitor the status of their order on a screen next to the shelves. I’m sure anyone who comes in hangry and desiring food ASAP would appreciate the real-time information about their order!

Fortunately, I did not come in during one of my hangry episodes. Even so, I didn’t have to wait long for my dine-in broth bowl.

edamame broth bowl

The noodle bowl was comprised of soba noodles and a medley of vegetables including spinach, napa cabbage, mushrooms, onions, fire-roasted edamame, all of which was marinating in a miso broth.

brothbowl&bread

And of course, letting the side bread roll soak up the miso broth was mandatory after finishing up the noodles and veggies!

bread with noodles yeaaaay

Overall, I found this Panera Bread location to be quite cozy and welcoming. The brick walls may play a large part in that, but the feeling of the entire restaurant was upbeat and customer-friendly. Calling the busy Beverly Dr. home will definitely be a perk for this location going forward, since the rich and famous sometimes need the comfort of familiarity, and a warm broth bowl on the occasional cloudy day.

Have you visited a Panera Bread outlet?

Race Recap – Father’s Day Run

Race Recap – Father’s Day Run

Summer had always been a tough season for me to find races. Triathalons, no problem, but running races are a different story. So Cal races have been especially hard to pin down…that is if I just stick to the main LA area.

There are plenty more options if I look further out of the metropolitan perimeter though, and that’s how I found out about and registered for the Father’s Day Run in Van Nuys.

On race morning, I had to wake up a little after 4:00AM in order to have enough time to pack my running essentials, and to catch the earliest bus heading up north on a Sunday. Since it is summer, the sun came out pretty quickly during my journey, so I didn’t have any issues with waiting alone in the dark for too long.

The commute took almost 1 ½ hours, and by the time I got to Woodley Park (where the race was being held), the sun was taking a steady position in the sky, and things were beginning to roll. By how things appeared and felt, I knew that it was going to be a hot run.

 Heading towards the race start.
Heading towards the race start.

I was able to pick up my bib, but since it was a locally run race and very low budget, there were no free shirts. They were only being sold, which was somewhat of a disappointment. One good thing about the organization though was that even though there wasn’t a designated bag check area, the race organizers were willing to let runners leave their belongings at the registration table for the duration of the run.

 Stretching & packet pick-up before the run!
Stretching & packet pick-up before the run!

After a few static stretches, I followed some other runners down and through a pedestrian tunnel that led to a gravel path. We ended up walking ~0.3 miles to the “actual” start line, which was simply scratched on the gravel path with colorful chalk.

The turnout of people appeared to look like a large group run rather than a race, but I was glad for the change of scenery from my urban runs, and for being able to run in a new-to-me park set aside for outdoor recreation (in other words, no worries about inhaling car exhaust!).

The race included distances from 5k all the way to marathon, but I chose to run the half marathon and treated it as my long run for the week. All of the distances ended up being loops, with turnarounds at different points. For the half marathon, it was more like two loops since the first loop was ~6.5 miles, and so after crossing the “start” line the second time, it was just one more loop and then we were allowed to dash back to the registration table area where the finish line was.

 The finish line---why so dry?!
The finish line—why so dry?!

Overall, the race did not have the “vibe” of most running races, but at least with this one, you could bet that the majority of the runners who turned up for this race were serious about the sport. There were quite a few marathon runners, even though it really was just four loops around the park!

For me, the first loop was easy to tolerate when compared to the second loop. By the time the first hour of the run passed, I was trying to spot the shady areas and take cover from the bright, burning rays of the sun. I was also more than ready to guzzle down a tank of water. Fortunately, there was an aid station at the halfway point, and I was able to rehydrate myself at some point during the race :)

The race itself was small, but we were given medals, and there were some samples up for grabs.

 Free bags, and I totally dived into the strawberry carton!!
Free bags, and I totally dived into the strawberry carton!!

One cool thing was the Skinny Pasta truck parked nearby. Free low carb pasta? Don’t mind if I do!

 Low carb pasta sample with marinara sauce :3
Low carb pasta sample with marinara sauce :3

After the race, I found a large tree with plenty of shade underneath it. I rested for about an hour before heading towards the direction of the bus stop. Once my tummy began to rumble, I knew it was time for some post-race fuel! And with the heat starting to intensify, I knew I needed to get home soon and crash—a mid-afternoon nap was necessary now more than ever!

 It was another race without my best friend---Dad---but I definitely though about him that day!
It was another race without my best friend—Dad—but I definitely though about him that day!

Do you like racing in the summer, or do you take a break from running to do other summer sports?

Summer Solstice Eats & Treats

Summer Solstice Eats & Treats

Last weekend finally felt like summer here in LA! Prior to this weekend, it had been surprisingly overcast and cloudy, but I can’t complain since it made for great running conditions ;)

I woke up on Saturday around 7AM, and made some coffee for the first time in what seems like forever! I usually grab a free cup courtesy of my apartment complex each morning to save time, so being able to have coffee in a real mug while watching the Saturday morning news was a nice change.

After stopping by the lab later in the day, I bused over to the Grove to grab my Q-Bars for the week, and then spent another hour darting in and out of stores. Nothing really caught my eye, even though I’ve been on the look-out for some cute summer clothes to replenish and refresh my wardrobe. But I have to admit…I’ve been a “lazy” shopper and have resorted to the world of online shopping. Oh well, I’ve always believed the deals
are better online anyways.

Later in the afternoon, I headed towards downtown and managed to get off at the right transfer stop despite feeling my eyes start to droop during the middle of the bus ride. I ended up missing the bus I had to transfer to, and caught a bus that was heading in the same direction, but stopped halfway from where my destination was.

I ended up walking a block down 6th St. before being able to board the bus I was originally supposed to take, and it was quite a change in landscape when compared to the heart of downtown. The roads were dry, and tents were pitched up side-by-side for what seemed like miles. The LA Mission is the biggest establishment in this area, and it was here to serve the incredible amount of homeless people that lined the streets. It reminded me of the race I ran back in April, and it made me connect the purpose of that run, and what the proceeds from it were going towards.

When the bus arrived towards Mateo St., I got off, and immediately saw the difference in landscape once again.

 Before going over the bridge.
Before going over the bridge.

As the bus kept going straight over the bridge in the distance, I made my way towards Zinc Cafe.

 Zinc Cafe exterior
Zinc Cafe exterior

Valet parking? Hah. One thing I always remind myself on days I feel frustrated with public transit is no car = no $$-guzzling hassles…parking, gas, insurance, etc. ;)

I had about 15 minutes until the scheduled meeting with my fellow diner, so I waited outside the cafe until she arrived.

 Zinc Cafe interior.
Zinc Cafe interior.

It was a little after 5 when Jeannie arrived, and when I met her, I immediately knew that our meeting would be a great one.

Jeannie had reached out to me a few weeks back regarding the aquisition of Urbanspoon by Zomato. I’ve used Urbanspoon many times to link back my restraunt review posts, so when I learned that some new, exciting changes were coming up and in the works, and that Jeannie wanted to fill me in about these details over a cup of coffee and snacks, I couldn’t say no to the opportunity :) !

When offered a choice on where to sit, we elected to sit outside in the patio area since it was was still so sunny and gorgeous outside.

zinc cafe patio

There was quite a selection to choose from—drinks, snacks, meals—but we kept things simple with water and an order of crispy, puffed chips with fresh guacamole.

zinc cafe chips and guacamole

While we munched, Jeannie filled me in on the Zomato app, as well as information about upcoming events, and features that would be adopted and upgraded from Urbanspoon. I also told her how I ended up in blogging, when I fell into the world of running, and my current life as a student! She was super sweet and easy-going, so there was no problem keeping the conversation going. In a way, it was my first “blogger” meet-up, in the sense that I was meeting someone for the first time “in real life” because of my blog.

She graciously picked up the tab, and before leaving, gave me a hug. After saying our good-byes, I took the bus back to downtown, but got off pre-maturely just to walk for a few blocks while the sun was still out.

DTLA is mighty gorgeous on a summery Saturday evening!

downtown is pretty on a saturday sunset evening

When I got home, I quickly got into my PJs and treated myself to a Saturday night pint! Cinnamon Buns was the featured flavor…

cinnamon buns

100% Caramel ice cream, with cinnamon streusal swirls and cinnamon bun dough pieces…what was not to love? It was the sweetest nightcap, and as soon as I finished it, I immediately felt like hitting the pillow and resting up for my half marathon the next day!

 I always get impatient when I take these pictures---I just want to dive in and eat right away, haha!
I always get impatient when I take these pictures—I just want to dive in and eat right away, haha!

On Sunday morning, I woke up bright and early at 4:30AM so that I would have ample time to get to the race location all the way north in the San Fernando Valley. More on this in an upcoming race recap post, but I will say that being able to have a long run in a different location from DTLA was exciting :)

Since I was in the valley and close to Encino, I was in the mood for some Mediterranean cuisine, and so I took advantage of the opportunity to sample Aroma’s second location. I was such a fan of the Sabich plate I had a while back at their Sunset location.

aroma cafe encino

It was packed at 11AM, but surprisingly the crowds died down around noon, when you’d think that would be any restaurant’s busiest hour!

aroma interior

I was able to get a table inside after signaling a waitress’ attention, and took a quick look at the menu I was already familiar with.

ordering eggplant baladi, served olive bread

I decided to get the Eggplant Baladi, which was described as being a whole braised eggplant covered in tahini sauce. As an appetizer, I was brought some olive bread, which I lightly munched on until my real meal arrived.

Eggplant Baladi

I used the bread to mop up any excess sauce, as well as top it with the eggplant itself. The side salad was fresh and in a way, served as a “palate-cleanser”.

close up of meal

I certainly had no problem finishing this wholesome and flavorful meal ;)

I made it back to my apartment a little after 2PM, and the exhaustion from the day’s events began to kick in. Before indulging in a Sunday nap however, I indulged in a pint of B&J’s that I picked up from Target on the way home—the limited edition Save Our Swirled flavor!

save our swirled

By the time I was ready to dig in, the ice cream had softened to the right texture, and upon opening the pint, I couldn’t wait to taste the flavors of raspberry and chewy marshmallow mixed together! (Technically speaking, this pint didn’t really have marshmallows, but rather pectin—meaning it was gelatin-free, and suitable for vegetarians)!

sos close-up

At first I thought the “white and dark chocolate ice cream cones” was referring to broken cone pieces mixed into the ice cream, but it literally was ice cream cone-shaped chocolate pieces. Even though it didn’t match up with what I was thinking, they were still cute and delicious!

I soon fell into a glorious nap after eating (part running-exhaustion, part sugar coma), and when I woke up, did some cleaning around the apartment/watching TV before calling it a night.

It definitely was another weekend well-spent, and overall, a wonderful way to celebrate Summer Solstice!

Click to add a blog post for Zinc Cafe on Zomato

A Fine Summer Weekend

A Fine Summer Weekend

My favorite kind of weekend is the kind that makes you feel like you’ve been on a week-long vacation come Sunday night. This past weekend had me feel just that, even though taking Friday off helped ;)

I left for the airport in Long Beach after taking care of things in lab during the day. I ended up having an hour to finish up packing, and rode the train down to the farthest stop it would go in Long Beach. Even though there was an accident on the railroad tracks by the time I boarded, the delay only took an extra half hour, and so I wasn’t panicking about missing my flight. I actually ended up making it to my gate with a good twenty minutes to spare!

We didn’t depart until ~8:30PM, which meant take-off took place when the sky just turned dark. Needless to say, the view was awesome from my window seat ;) . I was able to sit back, listen to my MP3, and enjoy flying through the night sky. I landed close to 10PM, and my Dad was able to pick me up from the airport. I had no energy once arriving at the house, and promptly crashed into a pleasant night’s sleep.

The next morning, I went out for a 6 mile run along old routes. I was quickly reminded of how hot it gets in the summer, even at 8AM up in my part of Nor Cal, but I was still able to run at a fast-for-me pace despite this.

After the run, I kept things lazy with a nap at noon. Since my sister was also visiting this weekend, we decided to head out to the mall later in the afternoon with our friend who was at home with her family for the summer. We ended up doing some clothes shopping, and stopped at Barnes & Noble for some coffee and reading time (I appropriately read the issues of Runner’s World that I needed to catch up on ;) ).

 Sbux and magazine reading at B&N // Stats from run earlier in the day!
Sbux and magazine reading at B&N // Stats from run earlier in the day!

For the rest of the evening, I sat down to a home-cooked meal and eventually went to sleep after some couch & TV time…it was the best :)

On Saturday, my Dad and I went to the gym, where I was able to fit in an upper-body workout followed by a soak in the spa. After running some errands, I had lunch followed by a glorious nap. Funny thing is, when I woke up from that nap, I felt like taking another one! I was certainly taking advantage of the hours of sleep I lost from my busy days in May!!

 Tried on the free tank I got in the mail a few days ago!
Tried on the free tank I got in the mail a few days ago!

I think I ended up napping the day away looking back at it now…but I have zero regrets about that. Upon waking up, I was able to convince my sister  (though it didn’t take much convincing…) to join me in a pint party. She treated herself to a chocolate-exploding flavor from Ben & Jerry’s, while I finally got my hands on and dug into a pint of The Tonight Dough!

thetonightdough!

I was expecting this flavor to be a lot more tastier than it ended up being, but found it to be heavy in the chocolate ice cream when compared to what was available caramel-wise. And the ‘gobs of cookie dough’ were really lacking, just sayin’

 Too much chocolate, not enough caramel, and is that a peanut butter cookie dough gob I see...or just my imagination??
Too much chocolate, not enough caramel, and is that a peanut butter cookie dough gob I see…or just my imagination??

We paired our ice cream party with a Netflix movie, specifically Mary & Max. Our thought was that claymation = a potentially cute and endearing movie, and while it was a good movie from the aspect of storytelling, it was interesting to see “certain themes” imaged through a medium primarily used for younger audiences….yeah, but what else can you expect from Netflix?

— 

On Sunday, I was able to “sleep in” until 7, and immediately got ready for my 12-mile long run after sharing coffee with my Dad. I went out for a 6 mile out-and-back with no music, and felt incredibly refreshed after my workout. I was even more elated to find out that my Dad made chocolate chip pancakes for my sister and I, and I topped mine with some cherry greek yogurt because greek yogurt >>> syrup. Again, just sayin’ ;)

 Homemade post-run brekkie fuel (aka, the best).
Homemade post-run brekkie fuel (aka, the best).

The morning fun continued with a stop at the gym, and a quick lunch before heading out for my first ever pedicure!

spa day

I initially went in with hopes of getting rid of two tough calluses that had formed on the sides of the balls of my feet (oh, the side effects of running…), but unfortunately the pedicurist didn’t do such a great job. It did feel nice to have my legs and feet pampered though…especially soon after a long run! 

And to continue my state of R&R bliss, I had another pint–#2 for the weekend!

thatsmyjam

The That’s My Jam Core was calling out my name—Ben & Jerry surely did want to redeem themselves for the sub-par flavor that was The Tonight Dough :P . And this core certainly did just that—it had just the right balance of chocolate and raspberry flavors, and the chocolate chunks were appropriately mixed in with the raspberry side of things ;) 

 Okay, so chocolate is finally giving some room for another flavor ;) . Raspberry ice cream and a raspberry jam core isn't such a bad flavor to share the spotlight with though!
Okay, so chocolate is finally giving some room for another flavor ;) . Raspberry ice cream and a raspberry jam core isn’t such a bad flavor to share the spotlight with though!

Unlike on Saturday though, this pint served as my “nap cap”, and I fell into another deep, cozy nap. I accompanied my Dad to the grocery store when I woke up, and after returning, had dinner while watching The Next Food Network Star with the sister. Before going to bed, I finished packing up and before I knew it, I was awake again (though not due to my choosing…) and the blissful, relaxing weekend as I knew it had come to an end. 

This short trip was especially bittersweet for me this time around, since my parents are setting up to move out-of-state by the time summer ends. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it up again before the big move, so it may as well be the final time I stayed in the house that I grew up in for 14 years of my life…I still have ties to my hometown though, at least through my close, childhood friends, but not having a personal “home” in the place I lived most of my life will definitely be something that I’ll need to get used to.

What are your ingredients for a fine summer weekend?

Runners, how do you get rid of calluses? 

June’s Jumpin’ Start

June’s Jumpin’ Start

This past weekend was one of those weekends that went from being unplanned to booked! I was already looking forward to being able to wake up when I wanted to on Saturday—without having to worry about rushing to lab—but other than that, I didn’t have much planned other than checking out a cafe in the area I was grocery shopping, and then just relaxing at home.

But when one of my friends texted me Friday morning about her birthday celebrations the next day, and how she would be glad if I could make it, I couldn’t deny the opportunity to connect with my class friends over some birthday dinner. After all, it had been a month since we last met up at our professor’s end-of-the-year gathering!

I continued on with my Friday doing some low-key data analysis in lab. Before heading home, I stopped by Ralph’s and happened to stumble across the Arctic Zero flavor I thought I would never come across…

artic zero key lime pie

The Key Lime Pie Chunky Pint! Though, to be honest, this flavor didn’t meet my high-to-the-sky expectations. I found the lime flavor to be a bit too tangy, and the graham cracker pieces to not have much flavor. I guess after sampling all of those Ben & Jerry’s Core Pints as of late, my standards for the perfect pint of ice cream have risen to a higher standard. But to be fair, Arctic Zero is technically a “frozen dessert”, and for being only 300 calories, it’s certainly not something to brush off..

On Saturday morning, I tried another new-to-me product that I’ve been waiting ages to try—Chobani’s Salted Caramel Crunch flip yogurt!

chobani salted caramel crunch

I actually sort of liked this flavor, though it was mostly due to the candied pecans more than anything else. Promptly after having this snack, I went back to sleep for two more hours. It was glorious…

After waking up again, I got ready quite slowly, and left the apartment in the late morning to buy my friend a gift for her birthday. I then hopped on the train to Pasadena to grab my Quest bars for the week from Vitamin Shoppe before heading over to Alhambra. At first I thought I would have to walk an extra half an hour from Vitamin Shopped to downtown Pasadena in the hot sun (and was not looking forward to that…), but since a music festival was happening in the heart of Old Pasadena, the local bus system was offering a free shuttle for the day! I took advantage of this, and used it to get to the bus stop that would take me straight to downtown Alhambra.

The bus ride was about an hour long, and I could feel myself drift in and out of sleep. Fortunately I did not sleep through my stop, and got off on Main St.

on main st.

I had half an hour to spare once I arrived at the restaurant.

gen K

I used that time to quickly freshen up in the restroom, and then rested in the front waiting area until my friends and the birthday girl arrived.

inner decor

Once the gang was all together, we were taken to booth seats near the back center of the restaurant, and divided ourselves so there was 5 people for each of the two grills. I wasn’t the only vegetarian fortunately, and I was able to share some of the grilled veggie goodness with another girl. I also didn’t feel too guilty about having the carnivores wait when they changed out our grill to cook the veggies ;)

 Starting out with oils, seasoning salt, chopstick, and a too-empty plate!
Starting out with oils, seasoning salt, chopstick, and a too-empty plate!

To start off, we were able to help ourselves to different kinds of kimchi, potato salad that looked like vanilla ice cream scoops, and salad dressed in a sweet-n-spicy type vinaigrette. Then the meats came and my friends got to work. My veggie pal and I sat patiently, using our chopsticks to pick at the little pieces of kimchi left until our veggie plates arrived.

Once our veggie plates did arrive, our server switched out the grill, got us some new tongs, and we were free to pack on as many peppers, onions, pineapples, and mushrooms our veggie-lovin’ hearts desired. We also helped ourselves to some glass noodles and rice cakes shaped like cylinders and topped with hot sauce.

 Some of the samplings from dinner -
Some of the samplings from dinner – Kimchi and dollop of potao salad -> more kimchi and salad -> raw mushrooms and rice cakes -> spread of grilled veggies and some glass noodles

Despite “only having vegetables”, I got full pretty quickly. Fibrous, spicy food can do that to ya, and it’s a lesson I’ll never learn! But I can’t imagine how STUFFED my carnivorous friends were feeling…we had a 2-hour limit, but we were all had our fill before the first hour struck! And despite feeling full, most of the party was still up for bar hopping…

I however, was ready to head back home. It would take me another hour after all, and drinking away the night isn’t exactly “my thing”. Ironically, the birthday girl was feeling tired herself, but she had to keep on going for the sake of her guests ;)

After giving my friend her gift, she waited with me at the bus stop until my bus arrived. It was nice catching up with her since we’ve both been busy with lab and other things…it’s hard to believe that just a little over six months ago, we were rotating in labs that shared lab meetings, and that we used to take a little too many coffee breaks over those eight weeks :P !

Once I got back to the apartment, my sweet tooth kicked in, and I decided to have my B&J’s pint that evening as a nightcap/pre-long run fuel ;)

ben and jerry's salted caramel core

Oh yes…I managed to include another core sampling in this “unplanned” weekend. Two things won me over with this pint: A) 100% of the ice cream was one flavor (sweet cream), and while I do love variety, I don’t find myself a fan of B&J’s chocolate, and have found that flavor to be somewhat of a “nuissance” when paired with another flavor in a pint & B) the caramel core that surprisingly kept its sticky consistency. How this core filling manages to avoid getting frozen/damp is a mystery to me, but whatever it is eems to work!

The next morning, I woke up and went out for a 12 mile long run an hour later than usual! While I enjoyed getting up leisurely, I realized that the benefit of running at 6AM on a Sunday—not having to stop for traffic while running on city streets—should not be taken for granted! I ended up finishing close to 10AM due to my later start, and the inevitable stop lights I had to take heed to :/

After my run, I cleaned up around the apartment before heading out for a late lunch. I initially thought about checking out a donut shop near Eagle Rock in honor of (late) National Donut Day, but decided that the trip out and back wasn’t worth the voracious hunger I was starting to feel…I needed a substantial meal!

So that’s how I ended up walking alongside the railroad tracks in sunny Glendale.

walking rail road

The bus ride was another sleep-inducing, hour-long one, so taking a walk to the restaurant from the bus stop was quite refreshing—especially with the sun out!

My destination that day was Golden Road Brew, a pub/restaurant that was nestled close to the railroad tracks, and off the beaten path.

the bright outside

I didn’t come for the alcohol like some though…

LA beer hop lol

I came for the vegan food. It took me a while to find a seat though, since the restaurant was packed both indoors and outdoors! I ended up sitting in the middle of a long table outside, and surprisingly was able to garner the attention of a waitress as soon as I sat down.

soaking in that sun

I wasn’t sure what to order first–whether to go with a vegan appetizer and hearty salad, or bet it all on a carb-o-licious sandwich and fries—but I chose to try the Fried ALT to start off with, since fried avocado sandwiched between a baguette lathered with sun-dried tomato aioli sounded appetizing enough!

fried altttt

Um, yeah. The appearance surely made an impression.

fried ALT

BUUUUT…it just wasn’t enough for this runner girl. I was craving more carbs, and so when the waitress came around to me again and asked if I needed anything else, I replied with, “Can I get the pub pretzel?” and did not feel an ounce of guilt/embarrassment for placing an order just after having my “meal” :P .

When the pretzel arrived, I knew there was no question about this being enough to fill me up…

oh yeah pretzzzzzel

It was a grand vegan pretzel, with the perfect outside crunch and soft, chewy texture on the inside. The saltiness was spot on, and came with two small cups of vegan pimento-cheese-like sauce and a solo cup of spicy Dijon mustard.

Even though it was meant to be an appetizer item, it worked as great way to complete my meal. I had a renewed sense of energy, and enjoyed soaking in the sun’s June rays while walking back to bus stop. I made it home close to 7pm, and went to sleep soundly that night. 

Just one weekend seems to have done the trick—I’m ready to take on the rest of June, and the start of summer!

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Charmed by Veggies

Charmed by Veggies

So even though I almost fell into a sugar coma on Sunday, I survived and managed to eat a little bit more “wholesome” in the days following (but I do think treating yourself to oreo pancakes once in a while is indeed part of a balanced and wholesome lifestyle ;) ).

After spending a few days with my Dad early last month, I didn’t think I’d see him again until my upcoming weekend trip to Nor Cal, but his job changed things up so that he was able to be in town again sooner—even if only for two days!

I met him after I was finished with my data analysis for the day in lab, and we were both feeling pretty beat from the day’s events. It was a mostly silent car ride due to us being so tired, but since we were on our way to dinner, we knew we’d both be in better, more energetic moods once out of traffic and when food was in our bellies.

Not having truly explored South Pasadena to its extent, I suggested we check out Charm Vegan there since our hotel was close by.

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We came in around 6PM, and were greeted by a friendly hostess who immediately handed us menus.

charm vegan

I was used to seeing the similar asian/vegan-fusion options, and worked harder to find the “unique” dish from the many choices listed.

charm vegan interior

To start off with, we had two avocado rolls wrapped with rice paper and stuffed with guac, green leaves, lettuce, and carrots.

My Dad ended up sticking with something tried and true (even though he was the one who suggested I find “something different” off the menu). ‘Pumpkin, Eggplant and Tofu’ is a trusty choice for a reason—-when you’ve got sauteed eggplant, pumpkin, and tofu smothered in garlic chili sauce, paired with some rice on the side, how can you go wrong ;) ?

fooooood

I did end up picking something different as my entree choice, looking at the Chef’s Specials for some guidance. I got the Sizzling Spare Ribs, made with soy protein and sauteed in a black bean sauce with onion, bell peppers, and carrots.

Since we ate family-style, my portions were quite the mix:

portioning it out

We were able to have a better conversation during dinner (when we weren’t stuffing our faces) and our energy levels were soon back up again. When we were about to leave after receiving our check, the hostess asked how we found out about their restaurant. My Dad just pointed to me, and I ended up saying “oh, online…”. The awkward moments of a foodie blogger :P

At the hotel, we found more time to relax and recharge, and with my Dad’s help, I finally got my new phone to work! I “celebrated” with a pint of cookie dough Arctic Zero, and after showering, called it a day and went to sleep knowing that the next day would be another productive and exhausting one. 

The next day was a bit rushed all-around—I ended up starting in lab an hour later than usual, and didn’t finish my duties until late afternoon. I met my Dad again near campus, and we made our way to Sprouts so that I could pick up some produce for the rest of my week. We then parked at a Pavillions parking lot, where my Dad took a nap and I found a new-to-me pint to try and hold me over until dinner.

halo top vanilla bean

I couldn’t wait to dig in, and so since I was eating it in the parking lot, an older guy who was parked next to us and unloading groceries noticed my frozen treat and commented with a “that looks good!”. At least I wasn’t in the middle of taking a picture, but still…so awkward :P !

But to be fair, the guy was right because this Vanilla Bean flavor of Halo Top Creamery’s ice cream pints was insanely delicious. And with 24 grams of protein in the entire pint, I’d say it was an appropriate dessert snack to consume before dinner. 

For dinner, we headed over to Veggie Grill since it was the last day to try their spring specials (at least according to an email I received). The one in Westwood was close by, but not in terms of traffic…

Even though it was only six miles away at the time, that doesn’t mean anything in LA during rush hour. We still went through with our dinner plans though, even though my Dad was now in a time crunch to make his flight!

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The inside looked relatively smaller compared to other Veggie Grills I’ve visited, but it made sense since it was nestled in a college-busy villa.

veggie grill westwood

I knew what to order right away, and asked for the banh mi salad at the counter. My Dad was pre-occupied with trying to figure out how to get to the airport on time, but his quick decision to get the bombay bowl was still a good one.

The wait seemed longer than usual due to the anxiety my Dad was feeling, but our dishes came within a time frame that allowed us to still dine in.

My banh mi salad was a beautiful mix of vegetables that included chargrilled eggplants, carrots, cabbage, jalapenos, and kale—topped with crispy cubes of organic tofu.

banh mih salad

I am a veggie lover for life, but the tofu pieces truly won me over this time around.

The Bombay Bowl my Dad took anxious bites out of was chock full of colorful herb-roasted veggies—something they left out when I first tried it a year ago. It was a shame that he couldn’t finish it due to time :(

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In the end, he made his flight, and I didn’t have to take public transit home in order for him to do so. We also didn’t have to part with a goodbye since we would be seeing each other again soon enough—within days as a matter of fact ;)

Do you find it hard to eat when you’re anxious/stressed, or does it make you hungrier?

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Sugar Fuel

Sugar Fuel

Wow, I am so glad May is over! For it being the “start of summer”, it was quite an exhausting one. This past week alone has been one of my most busiest yet, and so I inevitably had some strong sugar cravings by the time the weekend rolled around!

My featured pint for the weekend was this Ben & Jerry’s Hazed and Confused Core. Even after an exhausting Saturday morning in lab, I managed to walk over to the grocery store and pick this up. I intended to have it on Sunday evening, but my craving was so strong that I ended up having it on Saturday night. I mean, how can that be a bad choice when paired with a movie to watch on TV ;) ?

hazed&confusedcore

The hazelnut ice cream won me over more so than the chocolate, but the chocolate side had a good deal of chocolate chip chunks. And of course, there was the irresistible fudge core!

On Sunday morning, I woke up to misty and foggy air while going out for my long run. In other words, it was the perfect time to run—the weather was just cool enough, and no traffic on the LA streets to contend with at such an early time either.

After my run, I made a mad dash to lab so I could start early/end early, and have enough time to head on over to a not-so-secret cafe in Hollywood.

griddle

When I first arrived on Sunset Boulevard, I saw hordes of people outside the humble cafe, and had doubts if I would get a seat. Fortunately since I was on my own, I was able to get a seat at the counter.

inside

I knew from looking at the menu beforehand that pancakes or french toast was what I wanted, but their selection was overwhelming! But, probably not as much as my sugar cravings :P

I decided to go with an order of oreo-stuffed pancakes known by the name of ‘Black Magic’. Little did I know that it would be a BIG plate of magic…

It was somewhat awkward sitting on my own at the counter with a couple on one side and another lone diner on the other. At least they were finishing up, so it wouldn’t be too strange to whip out my phone and start taking pictures of my food :P

I did notice that the couple next to me wasted this beautiful latte of sorts loaded with whipped cream…the poor beverage.

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But to be fair, I had a hard time demolishing this beastly beauty when it came to me.

 From menu -> "Black Magic disbelief will possess you as you’re pulled under the spell of our crushed oreo-filled flapjacks topped with whipped cream and oreo cookie pieces. (reality or illusion)"
From menu -> “Black Magic disbelief will possess you as you’re pulled under the spell of our crushed oreo-filled flapjacks topped with whipped cream and oreo cookie pieces. (reality or illusion)”

Don’t let the top view fool you—this had four thick layers of flapjacks mixed with chunks of oreo and generously topped with whipped cream.

close-up

It was hard to capture the quantity of oreo chunks this stack had, but trust me, it was a skewed ratio of oreo to pancake :P

 Arrow pointing to an example of oreo chunk!
Arrow pointing to an example of oreo chunk!

The first couple bites were pure bliss, but then things shifted to feelings of  habituation and being stuffed. It got to the point where I felt like the sweetness was too much, and I couldn’t take in another bite without feeling sick—even with water by my side.

 At least I tried.
At least I tried.

What I did manage to consume though was phenomenal. Who would have thought oreos work well in a pancake stack? :)

Have you ever ordered a dish you enjoyed but just couldn’t finish?

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Memorial Day Weekend ’15

Memorial Day Weekend ’15

Memorial Day Weekend was such a blast!  Having company over twice this month has made time fly by so quickly, which is great since that means I’m almost done with the specific set of experiments that have been requiring so much time from me as of late…

My weekend started off with a productive Friday in lab, and before heading home, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some essentials so I wouldn’t have to worry about it when my friend arrived. I also “had” to get my pint for the night—Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Froyo! Can you believe that it was my first time trying this?!

ben and jerry's half baked froyo

The mix of chocolate and vanilla frozen yogurt was perfect, and how can you go wrong with moist, chewy bite-size pieces of brownies mixed with cookie dough?! I can see why it’s so popular. In fact, I witnessed a girl clean out a local Fresh & Easy of all the pints they had of this flavor one night, stating to her friends that it’s so hard for her to find, haha. 

On Saturday, my friend drove down to visit me for the weekend! Since she wasn’t expecting to arrive in the city before 2PM, that gave me plenty of time to take of my lab duties in the morning. The timing actually worked out quite precisely since I had enough time to finish, make it back to the apartment, change into some flip flops, and meet my friend to let her into the parking garage.

She was able to also stop by my parents’ house before driving down, so she brought plenty of goods from home for me to unpack (discount yogurts, oh yeah!).  We also spent an hour chatting it up and catching up, since the last time I saw her was back in December/January! 

Once we took care of unpacking, we decided to walk around DTLA and have dinner near Little Tokyo. The weather was overcast—not too cold, not too warm—and so it made so much sense to go out for some fresh air by going for a refreshing walk. 

We eventually made our way to the Little Tokyo Mall, and stopped in Daiso just to browse around. We spotted so many cute things, like miniature silverware, coffee mugs, and happy trashcans.

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For dinner, we actually ended up eating at Shojin, the vegan sushi place I reviewed three years ago on an old blog of mine. 

shojin

And while there were some minor changes I noticed in this visit when compared to my intial one, the dim lighting was unfortunately not one of them…the menu was though!

the new shojin menu

It was now more sophisticated, simply printed on cardstock in a professional font. Long gone are the days of  anime-style animals and characters on the cover of a laminated folding menu. 

The bathroom was just as cute, pink, and adorable as before…

shojin_

Even though this place is known for their all-vegan sushi rolls, my friend and I chose to get non-roll menu items. Specifically, I went for the Marinated Seitan Steak while my friend feasted on the gluten-free Avocado Tempura Salad.

The marinated seitan steak was comprised of grilled seitan cutlets (with grill marks too!), topped with butter, and served with brown rice and three humble pieces of veggies on the side. The salad had tempura avocado, greens, almonds, wasabi mayo, and sweet tomato dressing.

shojin food

Even though our table was set with chopsticks, I was given a knife and fork to attack my seitan cutlets, haha.

silverware

We walked off dinner by taking a long walk home, and then spent the rest of the evening chillin’ in the apartment before going to sleep around 10PM.

On Sunday, I checked off my usual to-do items such as a long run, and lab duties, but was free once again in the afternoon. We stopped by a local grocery store so my friend could pick up an ice cream pint for our ‘ice cream party’ later in the evening.

Soon after that, we were off on the bus for a late, late lunch/early dinner at Urban Garden near the Grove.

urban-garden

It was an hour-long commute, so we were starving by the time we arrived. We spent a good amount of time staring at the menu. Even though the main offerings were predominantly plates and wraps, there was a wide variety of possible combinations—so it was hard to come to a final decision!

I eventually went with a vegetable hearty plate with spicy falafel, babaganoush, and golden cous cous. My friend also got a plate with hummus and cucumber salad as the ‘main stars’.

 The intricate mural on the wall was so beautiful, it was hard to peel your eyes away from it!
The intricate mural on the wall was so beautiful, it was hard to peel your eyes away from it!
 My hearty veggie plate with spicy falafel, rice, cous cous, sesame oil, babaganoush, sumac paste, and complimentary pita.
My hearty veggie plate with spicy falafel, rice, cous cous, sesame oil, babaganoush, sumac paste, and complimentary pita.

Apparently this establishment takes pride in having serving the best hummus in LA, and my friend was a sure fan. I wouldn’t say they made the best babaganoush I’ve ever tasted, but it was certainly up there, and quite nourishing.

Between the two of us, we did a pretty good job.

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Needless to say, we left with full bellies and content hearts. We walked over to Vitamin Shoppe, and then stopped inside Sur La Table before continuing our walk down 3rd St. We walked through the park next to the Grove, and stopped to take a look at the Holocaust Memorial.

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Our super long walk eventually got us to Wilshire, where we decided to call it a day and head back home—ice cream was waiting for us, after all!

We were able to take the train home, and after taking showers and changing into our jammies, we busted open our ice cream pints!

ben and jerry's peanut buttah cookie core

I found the Peanut Buttah Cookie Core the same day I found the Half Baked Froyo pint, and saved it just for this occasion. I was on cloud nine eating through this peanut butter ice cream mixed with crystallized peanut butter cookie bits and a cookie butter core. Swoon!

I couldn’t have asked for a better evening with my friend—eating our ice cream pints while watching 500 Questions may have been the most simplest thing to do, but it felt just right. Sometimes the most unappreciated things we do on a daily basis are much more meaningful when you have company to do them with :)

What was your Memorial Day Weekend like this year?

Shojin Organic & Natural on Urbanspoon Urban Garden on Urbanspoon

Wink Frozen Desserts Review

Wink Frozen Desserts Review

Disclaimer: I was not monetarily paid nor given complimentary product by the company to write this review. This review is based on the products I personally ordered from Wink Frozen Desserts. All opinions are my own.

A couple weeks ago, I splurged and made an order for a variety pack of  a new-to-me frozen treat that I’ve only seen and heard about, but never tasted. Of course, that all changed when a bulky box of dry ice and six frozen pints arrived from Wink Frozen Desserts (and the box was most certainly bulky, as I had to carry it all the way to my apartment on the seventh floor…)

THE SET

But the products I received were well worth the price. Six pints of unique flavors, 100 calories each, were all sitting eagerly in my freezer waiting to be eaten!

From the flavors I had to choose from, picking which pint to try out first was a tough decision, but ultimately I went with Cake Batter since I’m a cake + frosting girl at heart. 

Cake Batter

Looking at the pint, it was hard to believe that these desserts were “free” of so many things, and still able to hold up in texture and actually have flavor

cake batter (2)

I was able to taste a slight vanilla frosting-like flavor that was reminiscent of what a frozen birthday cake would taste like, but half way through the pint, the flavor sort of plateaued. 

The next day, I tried Cocoa Dough, which also had that spark of flavor at the beginning, but then plateaued as well. 

Cocoa Dough

With Cinnamon Bun, the spicy hint of cinnamon made its presence known from the beginning and lingered to the bottom of the pint. I would have loved to have topped this with some yogurt or chocolate pieces for extra texture, but it was a missed opportunity.

Cinnamon Bun

At least the missed opportunity was a lesson learned! I was able to mix things up with Choco-mint and Iced Latte, with which I topped each with a generous mix of yogurt, coconut flour, and/or Cadbury’s chocolate.

Choco-mint

I first thawed the Choco-mint pint in the fridge while having dinner, ate through the top and was reminded of those Andes mints, and then added my yogurt mix to the top for a heartier treat!

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I had the best outcome with Iced Latte—a foodie’s dream!

Iced Latte flavor topped with strawberry greek yogurt mixed with coconut flour & Cadbury's Oreo milk chocolate bar pieces.
Iced Latte flavor topped with strawberry greek yogurt mixed with coconut flour & Cadbury’s Oreo milk chocolate bar pieces.

My favorite flavor from the six was hands down VANILLA BEAN.

vanilla__bean

I could see actual vanilla bean specks (or assumed that’s what the miniscule black dots were!), and the flavor was derived from organic madagascar vanilla extract. I almost mixed with this proyo {protein yogurt} beauty…

Coconut Flour Proyo mixed with blackberry yumberry yogurt and peanut butter and would have had with vanilla bean

…but ended up consuming both separately. Which in the end was a wise desicision, because the vanilla bean flavor—after being thawed—was creamy, flavorful, and perfect all on its own!

Have you tried Wink Frozen Desserts?

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