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 – 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

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…


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

Repeat of 2016?

Repeat of 2016?

I returned to California early last week, and I was in a deep funk for a couple days. My two weeks off from lab, spent with family, was JUST what I needed and my only regret was that it wasn’t longer!

At least I had a surprise package waiting for me…I tried Enlightened Roasted Broad Bean Crisps for the first time thanks to a little box with some fun-flavored goods:

Enlightened saved me from the doldrums!

They were the dessert flavors: Cocoa Dusted and Sweet Cinnamon.

Cocoa Dusted description

I had both flavors straight out of the bag. Out of the two, I loved the cinnamon-flavored ones the most since they reminded me of those churro twists from Taco Bell I had long ago…

Sweet Cinnamon

Cocoa Dusted was good too, I just preferred cinnamon over chocolate coating 😛

Cocoa Dusted up close & personal

I decided to keep close to West LA since I knew DTLA would be abuzz with the LA Fit Expo going on. I also had to go into lab, which would have cut into any day plans if I had scheduled any. So after lab, I came back to Culver City and had lunch literally across the street from the train station…at Sweetgreen! I find it hilarious that my first outing to a restaurant for 2017 is Sweetgreen once again…I dined at a Sweetgreen in Mid-City last year as my first outing in 2016! I wonder if it will become tradition…

Sweetgreen’s newest—Culver City

They recently opened up shop here in a complex called The Platform. It was already in full swing with customers eating outside even though it was cloudy out.

Order at the counter

The seating arrangements inside were too small, and if everyone in line had decided to dine in, there would have been no way. I did get a seat however, by the window. It was just a table that wasn’t wiped clean since the last customer, and only had one chair so I had to sit with my bag on my lap, haha!

Lot’s to choose from!

When it was my turn to order, I decided to get a warm bowl. The Shroomami sounded amazing, with glazed tofu, rice, kale, …, and it was vegan so even more of a plus!

My Shroomami bowl [vegan] ~ organic wild rice, shredded kale, raw beets, bean sprouts, basil, spicy sunflower seeds, roasted sesame tofu, warm portobello mix, miso sesame ginger dressing
I also got a slice of bread on the side, and enjoyed the bowl while people/train watching through the window.

Slice of bread, and look at that tofu!

After eating lunch, I got grocery shopping done at Sprouts. I love it when restaurants/grocery stores are all in one area since it makes running weekend errands so much easier.

While picking up staples for the week, I came across another RX Bar flavor I have yet to try—Peanut Butter! When I was checking out in line, there was a guy in front of me who noticed my purchase-to-be, and asked where he could find them. As soon as I told him, he dashed over to the bar aisle while the cashier began to check out his items!

RX Peanut Butter bar…has exactly 14 peanuts?

I tried the bar as I was waiting for the train to go home. I like the smooth texture of the bar, and it kind of made me think of the Chocolate Coconut flavor without coconut, and with a mild peanut scent reminiscent of how the maple scent defined the Maple Sea Salt flavor. I guess I could understand why that guy at Sprouts was in such a mad dash to get those bars for himself?

Have you eaten out since the new year began?

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

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