A Spanish Reflection

A Spanish Reflection

After spending a full Saturday exploring pockets of Barcelona, I woke up the following Sunday morning thinking it would be nice to get a run in, even though I couldn’t run in the Cursa De La Mercè race. 
 
Sunday morning walk through streets
Sunday morning walk through streets
 
I ended up doing a short 3 miler, out and back, on the city streets. There weren’t too many people out, and since a race was taking place, there were actually a number of runners warming up. I actually ended up walking by the course and seeing the runners when I was on my way to coffee and chocolate con churros, haha! 
 
Forn d'en Pau , Sant Antoni neighborhood
Forn d’en Pau , Sant Antoni neighborhood
 
For my late-ish breakfast, I actually ended up having churros with just coffee. The language barrier prevented me from clarifying if the churros came with hot chocolate, so what I ended up getting was coffee to dip them in. 
 
Churros & Coffee
Churros & Coffee
 
The churros themselves were hot and crispy, but they had no sugar or cinnamon on them so they literally tasted like fried pieces of unflavored dough. But at least it was authentic unflavored Spanish dough? 
 
After spending some time in the cafe, I walked back to my Airbnb and packed up all my things slowly. I made the walk over to Sants station so that I could catch a train headed to Sitges, where my conference was taking place. 
 
Rao
Rodalies de Catalunya

The train ride to Sitges was about a half an hour, and a lot of the people that got off with me were decked out in beach gear and barely had any belongings with them. A sign that this beach town was a getaway for most people living in the city. The first thing I noticed while looking out the window on the train was how bright blue the ocean was…like, unbelievably, I’ve-never-seen-the-color-blue-until-now, blue.

The train station was a small one, and the set-up of he town was adorable. Of course I made the wrong turn when trying to navigate to my Airbnb with Google Maps, but once I was able to orient myself correctly, it was just a short walk away from the station to my Airbnb.

The cute town of Sitges
The cute town of Sitges

Later that afternoon, I walked over to where my conference was taking place, and it happened to be just around a mile in distance so it was another short walk.

Sunday afternoon views
Sunday afternoon views

The conference actually began in the late morning, so I arrived in time for some of the later talks and the reception.

After marking my attendance there, I slowly walked back so I could take in the gorgeous landscape around me.

<3

Along with stalking stray cats…

Two cats and a kitten---I died ♥
Two cats and a kitten—I died, their cuteness killed me ♥

The views were just incredible…no wonder the city folk come here so nonchalantly for a break from bustling city life.

♥

I ended up on a path that led me directly to the shores of the beach, in front of a couple of restaurants. I saved time for more exploring the next day, since I was feeling a bit tired and wanted to get back so I could just chill, haha.

I spent the majority of the day the next day at the conference, jotting down notes during the talks, sipping on cups of free coffee, and munching on finger foods and a buffet-style lunch at the hotel restaurant.

Conference views...
Conference views…

Poster session 1 also took place that day, so I was able to review and discuss the projects of other grad students and post-docs who were presenting. My poster presentation was the following day, so it was a good preview for me.

In the evening, I went out for a long walk, starting out in the opposite direction from where I started yesterday.

I stumbled upon opportunities to capture panoramic views of the gorgeous Mediterranean sea…

♥

I walked through the neighborhoods and felt like I stepped back in time…

The architecture was just...gahhh
The architecture was just…gahhh

There was so much activity and noise from people strolling about…there was so much to see.

Purposefully getting lost :P
Purposefully getting lost 😛

I walked for a while on the road parallel to the train station, walking in and out of shops until I ended up in a residential area.

Wonder how much that real estate costs...
Wonder how much that real estate costs…

I stopped to sit down at a bench facing the sand and ocean when I got closer to the beach again. The sun was setting, and the moment was just perfect to stop and reflect. I didn’t have a pen or paper to manually write thoughts onto, but I did write a personal entry into my Notes app. I was definitely feeling some feels, so jotting my thoughts down (even digitally) was something I had the urge to do.

And because it had some iconic significance, I stopped by the Iglesia de San Bartolomé y Santa Tecla (I totally copied/pasted the name from Google, haha). Just like you can’t draw the NY skyline without Lady Liberty of LA’s without the Hollywood sign peeking from the background, this church found its way into all of the coastline pictures I took.

♥

I realized my stay had been a short one the next day, after attending and presenting my work on the final day of the conference. It would have been nice to have had an extra day (rather than just two evenings) to explore the town more. The people I had been staying with were so thoughtful and engaging, and they even helped me out with getting a return train ticket back to Barcelona since my whole credit card/PIN thing was an issue at the Sitges station! I wish I could have had time to talk to them more too. I guess all of these are reasons to go back one day…

Barcelona, 6:30AM
The green side of Barcelona, 6:30AM

I took the train back to El Prat de Llobregat since I was staying at a place close to the airport. Again, because I could not purchase a metro ticket because I lacked a PIN number, I learned that being close to the airport was equivalent to ~50 minute walk. It was the first time on this trip I did not make a single wrong turn when heading out.

Literally walking to the airport...
Literally walking to the airport…

My 2.5 mile walk with luggage was enough of a reason to get a legit order of chocolate con churros. I spotted Caffe di Fiore when I entered my departing terminal, and was grateful that I had enough time to sit down and eat!

Hello, food
Hello, breakfast.

Now, this was what I imagined when I set out to find this on Sunday morning:

Yas.
Yaaaas.

The churros were crispy (not at all soft and doughy on the inside like the ones I had on Sunday were), and the hot chocolate was thicker than a generic Swiss Miss hot chocolate drink, but had a thinner consistency than say, chocolate frosting.

Whatever, it was good, and that’s all that matters.

I took Aer Lingus from Barcelona to Dublin, and even though going through three security checkpoints in Dublin felt like a total nightmare, at least I didn’t have to worry about all of that fun stuff when arriving in LA. It was like getting off a domestic flight: straight to baggage claim!

I got out of my jet-lag funk and processed a lot of thoughts post-trip—

Usually when I come back from a really good trip, I feel a longing to be back that eventually goes away with time and settling into my routine, but it’s as if the opposite happened with Spain.

I was feeling hurried and worn out before I left for Spain. I was coming off of three additional overnighters in lab, and wrapping up some time-sensitive experiments. There was no time to really plan anything. It was like I was going with a “just got to get this conference thing checked off” attitude vs. a “OMG I’m GOING to Spain on my own for the VERY FIRST TIME” one.

My feelings changed over the course of the day I spent exploring Barcelona. I felt so independent, confident, and free, going where I pleased and finding joy in everything around me. And then when I got to Sitges, it felt like I was the leading female protagonist in one of those “young woman goes abroad on her own” novels, haha.

To be honest, I did come with a sense trepidation, considering the idea of being targeted by pickpockets or being singled out because I was a young lady traveling on my own, but I actually found the people I interacted with to be very kind and thoughtful. I didn’t leave with a heavy heart, but even as I write this almost a month later, I have a longing to go back.

The experience made me realize that I want to travel, or at least live in a different country for a few years.

When I moved to LA in the fall of 2014 (time flies by so fast…I can’t repeat that often enough!), I was anxious and excited to finally be living on my own and in the city. Over the course of three years, I found a way out of my eating disorder struggles, I worked my way through the beginning stages of recovery, I established strong friendships (both old and new), and most importantly, I found (and continue to find) peace with my body. Self love and confidence were probably the things I would say I am most grateful for achieving since moving to LA.

And after this past year of travel and exponential self-growth, I am seriously considering moving outside of the country for my “next move” after getting my PhD. I feel like I would only be holding myself back if I stayed here…in my now comfort zone. I feel like I want and need to ready myself for a whole new cultural immersion and way of living. I’m excited just thinking about it…

Barcelona, will I see you again soon?
Barcelona, will I see you again soon?

I’m not setting anything in stone or making my mind up permanently, but I am comfortable with keeping my options open. After living so long with limitations, just feeling limitless is exhilarating enough.

Birthday Weekend, Day 2

Birthday Weekend, Day 2

My friend stayed Saturday night, and since she planned to leave on Monday morning, we had another full day we could put to use for our enjoyment.

I let her sleep in while I completed a long run. The coach I’m working with had me transition to a forefoot form style of running, and I was definitely feeling it in my calves! My legs were wrecked for the rest of the day, but since we had a beach visit planned, I knew relaxation was part of the agenda for the day and my legs would get some much needed R&R.

We were off to Huntington Beach around noon, and with traffic, surprisingly managed to arrive around 2pm. Before heading the the beach, we decided to get a late lunch at Vegan Nirvana because we were super hungry.

Vegan Nirvana
Vegan Nirvana

From the outside, VN looked like an unassuming strip mall restaurant…

Stepped into the blue zone...
Stepped into the blue zone…

…but on the inside, the walls were painted a deep blue and had a strong cooling effect. There wasn’t too much seating and the walkways were narrow, and I think the management was confused on whether they wanted the interior to give off a oceanic or cosmic vibe.

Spaceships…or sharks…or both?

We had to wait for about fifteen minutes before getting a table, but my friend and I were able to look at the menu beforehand and decide on what we wanted. I knew from the get-go that their Ultimate Liberation dish was their star entree. It was a vegan fish tacos dish that was described to be an entree of fish-free fillet tacos topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, cilantro, and Chipotle sauce in corn tortillas.

Menu
Menu

My friend went for the chik’n tenders and that crispy dish sounded like a good choice to me.

They were super crispy!
They were super crispy!

We shared our entrees with each other, and agreed that our veggie meats overall were top notch quality. My friend even commented that the vegan fish tacos actually tasted like fish.

These fish-free tacos were delicious..
These fish-free tacos were delicious…

After lunch, we drove a short way to Huntington Beach. Several loops around a residential area later, we found parking. We were also fully prepared with some beach towels, but the closest we got to the water that day was a foot dip. Instead, we lounged on the sand and read/napped for about an hour.

Relaxation at its finest…

Huntington Beach!
Huntington Beach!

When it was approaching early evening, we decided to head back to the car and make our was more inland towards Fountain Valley: the Mecca of all those quirky dessert foodie trends you see on Instagram.

Birthdae Cake
Birthdae Cake

Birthdae Cake was our destination, and it was nestled unassumingly in a strip mall across from Albertsons.

It was a small establishment, and while there weren’t any lines out the door during our visit, the people that were there knew what they wanted and were content with what they got.

The wallpaper :P
The wallpaper 😛

I knew I had to get one of their iconic creations featured multiple times on the ‘gram. Their cookie dough ice cream sandwich was something I could not avoid getting.

COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM SANDWICH YES IT EXISTS.
COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM SANDWICH YES IT EXISTS.

My ice cream sandwich was birthday ice cream in-between two slabs of Cookie Monster cookie dough. The cookie dough slabs were sense, thick, and though they weren’t as flavorful as I imagined, they held up and didn’t fall apart/melt.

My friend got a simple ice cream cone, but we were both delighted by our choices. After our dessert for the day, we drove back to LA and spent the rest of the evening relaxing at home.

My friend dropped me off in lab the next morning before heading back on her way to Santa Cruz. Her visit only emphasized how fun and social this summer has been so far for me!

Did Summer 2017 fare well for you?

Vegan Nirvana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Days Like These

Days Like These

After a day to myself, I was eager to spend the Saturday catching up with E. I stopped by lab first to bid adieu to my undergrad, from there E and I left for Manhattan Beach.

I took the car out, and the drive out was a slightly crazy one since we were bracing ourselves on I-110 Southbound. We did make it one piece, and stopped for lunch at Cafe Rio since we were starving.

Standing in line
Standing in line

I’ve heard good things about Cafe Rio, which is a Chipotle-style restaurant, but in my opinion, everything looked more fresh.

Cafe Rio, Manhattan Beach
Cafe Rio, Manhattan Beach

I got a tostada bowl, while E got a quesadilla. My tostada was topped with cilantro rice, lettuce, guac, sour cream, tomatoes, black beans, tortilla strips, and refreshing spring of parsley.

Tostada Bowl
Tostada Bowl

I guess it wasn’t super outstanding, but since my appetite was raging, I devoured everything. E had to wait a while for me to finish since my bowl seemed to never end, and I was insistent on eating everything (including the tostada shell) with a fork, haha!

Clossssssse-up
Clossssssse-up

After getting our fill of fresh mex food, we stopped inside Barnes & Noble that was nearby before heading to the beach. We found parking in a hilly neighborhood, and only had to walk a block or two down to the shopping area right by the beach.

Once we made it past the shops, we found a spot to sit in the sand, and watch everything around us. It was more crowded than when we visited Aliso Beach, but we had fun taking in the surroundings and gossiping about our own stuff (like we don’t do that enough, haha).

Beach bummin'
Beach bummin’

We decided to head back a little before 5, and stopped for some smoothies at Jamba Juice since the weather was still warm. The drive back to LA was just as bracing as the drive we took in the morning, but I was able to drop off E and get home safely.

It was another pleasant Sunday, but I’m certainly not taking it for granted! I was looking at some past posts from around this time last year, and I was in a totally different mindset at the time, and going through some struggles that I’m glad I was able to get over! Having friends in the workplace like E has helped, and just feeling in more control of my surroundings. So yes, I’ll continue to greet and be grateful for days that pass like these ♥.

Cafe Rio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

One Weekend in Cardiff…

One Weekend in Cardiff…

If it weren’t for the stiff warm weather and having a heavy-feeling in my legs, I would have said that my 10 mile run through Cardiff the next morning was a great one. It was a 5 mile out-and-back, with the turnaround point being (Cardiff University). Having the roads transition from gravel, to cobblestone, to lawn made my run even more exciting. If the weather had been cooler that morning and my legs less sluggish, I would have run countless laps around this place! 
 
When the rest of the family got ready for the day, we traveled forth to the Opera House building, which was by some other landmark government buildings and statues. They were building a football arena, and so construction zones got in the way of the beauty of the area, but we were only outside for just enough time to walk inside the opera house—to escape the cold and to stop into the gift shop. 
 
The opera house and government buildings in Cardiff.
The opera house and government buildings in Cardiff.
 
And let me tell ya, out of all the souvenir shops we went to on this trip, Wales has some of the best shops with the most unique offerings of tourist trinkets. And of course, I didn’t buy anything, haha!
 
My cousin’s husband is a doctor and had to work in the evening, so he dropped us off at one of the shopping centers in the area.
 
There was a "Kissing Wall" at the cosmetics section of one store!
There was a “Kissing Wall” at the cosmetics section of one store!
 
My cousin took us around to all of the stores that were popular there, like Joe Malone and Cath Kidston.
 
Joe Malone perfumes and Cath Kidston bags
Joe Malone perfumes and Cath Kidston bags
 
The Cath Kidston store especially caught my eye because it reminded me of a mix between Vera Bradley and Betsey Johnson. We didn’t buy anything at these retail stores since my cousin assured us we could go to the outlet mall later and probably get better deals.
 
Shopping!
Shopping!

We did end up going to the outlet mall, and while I did find a shirt to my liking from a British brand (only 10 pounds, yay!), the winning store was the Cadbury’s Outlet. We were able to stop by a few minutes before closing, but I was overwhelmed by all of the chocolate…I seriously could have bought the whole store because it was two years of my childhood ;( .

We made a stop at Sainsbury’s a grocery store chain in the U.K., to pick up some items for making a veggie-friendly British breakfast in the morning. My sis and I had fun walking down the aisles with the girls, talking about our favorite ice creams and which products we wish we had in the US.

They were also giving free Lego trading cards with every $10 purchase and of course the girls were already collecting them. When we got to the counter for check out, the cashier handed them a packet that was supposed to have four cards. When they only found three in their pack as we were leaving the store , Little P remarked that “This whole thing was a scam”. Maybe I’m biased because they are family, but I was so impressed by how sharp and perceptive the girls were!

When we got back home, we quickly changed into pjs and relaxed in the living room, enjoying Muffin’s antics. My cousin had already prepped dinner (chappatis and all the fixin’s) and after eating, we decided to watch a movie. Our movie night choice wound up being The Arrival with Amy Adams, but I was disappointed (and confused, lol) especially since the ending had been hyped up by the media. I went to bed soon after (around midnight), and quickly fell into the kind of sleep you can only fall into after a busy but lighthearted day with loved ones.

–♥–

The next morning I woke up incredibly sore. My back and arms felt like they were going through DOMS, even though I didn’t do any strenuous workouts with those parts of my body the day before. I was so tired that I decided not to run that morning. After taking a shower, I went downstairs and hung out with Little M. She was showing off her subjects workbook and we went through some writing exercises together.

Then my Dad offered to show her how to make mashed poh-tay-toes and she went nuts! Her mashing, scooping and presentation skills were on point, but my Dad forgot to add one ingredient and so she had to take it all out of the pan again. She was happy all the while though!

{Veggie} British Breakfast
{Veggie} British Breakfast

Our British breakfast included veggie sausages and tomatoes, buttered toast, scrambled eggs, seasoned button mushrooms, baked beans, and potato mash. After consuming our feast, we immediately got on our feet and headed for the car, just so that we wouldn’t fall asleep from a food coma! A hike at Ystrafallte was our plan for the day, and we had to put these carbs to work 😉 !

The drive was a bumpy and windy one due to the roads, but we were entertained by sheep (finally!) along the way.

sheep
Peep at that sheep!

We parked near a little inn and restaurant, and then found a map of some of the best paths to follow to find the waterfalls.

Ystrafallte
Ystradfellte

To be honest, we weren’t prepared to walk on those paths…at least I wasn’t! I didn’t pack any sturdy hiking boots, and I was walking in my platform sneakers. Every step was made with hesitation, haha!

Into the woods, like a fairytale.
Into the woods, like a fairytale.

We did make it to one of the (closer) waterfalls in one piece, and stopped to rest while taking in the natural beauty.

There were some people down below us, almost inside the waterfall!
There were some people down below us, almost inside the waterfall!

The girls were having fun climbing over some smaller rocks, but when someone suggested we head back, there was no retaliation. The hike back up was hard though, I was holding onto my Dad’s hand for dear life, haha!

When we got back to the car, we drove to a beach that had a carnival set-up and all of the beach food you could think of—we indulged in ice cream and chips with curry sauce, and then went for a walk on the sand.

beah carnival
Coney Beach? Mimicking Coney Island is the way to go here 😉

It started to sprinkle a little bit, so we got back in the car and headed home to rest/freshen up for a proper dinner out. Between the British breakfast and the carnival eats, you’d think eating is the only thing we do as a family, but who’d complain about that?

Las Iguanas was our dinner destination, a South American food restaurant that reminded me of Chevy’s back in the States.

Las Iguanas Quinoa Ensalada
Las Iguanas Quinoa Ensalada

For my meal, I chose to get the Quinoa Ensalada, described as a dense salad with “quinoa, black beans, sweet potato & charred corn with molho à campanha salsa served on top of crushed avocado with a cranberry & chilli salsa & roquito pepper drops. Topped with purple Peruvian potato crisps & sprinkled with fresh coriander.”

iguanas
Quinoa Ensalada 🥗 from Las Iguanas 🦎 last night. Totally beats anything I’ve ever gotten at a chain Mexican/Spanish/Tex-Mex (or the like) restaurant, and I’m additionally surprised that I didn’t fall alsleep in it after trekking Ystradfellte💧!

It came out tasting as delicious as it sounded. The cranberry and chilli salsa with pepper drops were my favorite part. And of course the purple potato crisps!

When dinner ended, a tinge of sadness came over me because I knew that our blissful weekend was about to come to a close…our trip was pretty much almost over too! We still had one more day in London and then we were off to France, but the weekend in Wales was hands down the best part of the whole journey. Reconnecting with family—no matter where they are—is bound to turn into a good time had 🙂

What are some activities you like to do at large family gatherings?

Las Iguanas - Cardiff Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fala Me to Fala Bar (Again)

Fala Me to Fala Bar (Again)

I’m wondering if I should rename this blog “Will Study for (Mediterranean) Food” because that pretty much seems to describe what I eat when I go out on the weekends…but I mean, what’s there to be defensive about? The cuisine speaks for itself—it’s balanced, wholesome, flavorful, and pretty much can be found anywhere you look in LA.

Fala Bar, Venice
Fala Bar, Venice

Moving to Santa Monica has made it much easier for me to check out all the places (by foot) that were inaccessible to me before, due to the long travel time of public transit or, in some cases, because public transit did not pass through those areas. The row of shops and restaurants on Abbot Kinney was one of those areas. When I had a sudden craving for Medi-food on Saturday, but I didn’t want to venture too far east of West LA, I decided to stop by this hidden gem of a neighborhood for a late lunch.

I first tried Fala Bar >back in April at their Melrose location. Since I was in the Fairfax/Grove area most weekends when I lived in DTLA (DTLA to Mid-City is easy to travel back-and-forth by bus), visiting this location was not a problem. Now that it’s a little out of the way and the Venice one isn’t anymore, I was eager to dig into some familiar food in a new locale.

food
Need help deciding what to get?

I have plans to explore Abbot Kinney more in the future, as there are so many cute shops and eateries lined up side-by-side. The area reminded me of a small district in Disneyland—the sidewalks were small, and the buildings were close together as if it was a movie set for a small town.

signz
Abbot (Kinney) that Fala Life 😛

I found Fala Bar nestled between Blue Star Donuts and a cafe serving up acai bowls. Last time I visited Fala Bar, I proposed to have one of their burgers if I ever visited again, but I truly wanted a hearty plate. I ended up getting the Baba Plate, which didn’t come with falafel but instead a fluffy, round piece of soft pita bread.

plate
Unpictured Tahini and Babaganoush -> Cucumber&Tomato Salad + Cabbage + Tabouli -> Pita Bread

I carefully carried my compostable tray outside, and sat at the counter positioned just in front. It was an awkward seating arrangement because it was literally on the sidewalk, and my back was facing those that were walking by. Funny thing was, people would slow down their stride to take a look at what I was eating. Some even went inside Fala Bar after seeing my plate of colorful cabbage and creamy tahini.

platee
Plate of beauty in full view!!

Everything was eaten until only drops of lemon juice colored purple were left on the tray. I could have spent the rest of my afternoon checking out the shops, but the heat/crowds got to me, so I chose to save that as an adventure for another day. I also wanted to get home and just completely relax since I didn’t have to make plans to go to lab (for once!) for the remainder of Labor Day Weekend! I needed to make time to plan my adventure on Monday…;)

What cuisine do you tend to mostly gravitate towards when eating out?

Fala Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Green Temple

The Green Temple

Sunday was the first day in forever (well, since my visit to Tulsa) that I did NOT have to go in to lab.

Yup, I did not have to set one foot on campus the entire day, which was entirely shocking but so refreshing!

I slept in (till 8am, haha), and got ready at my own pace to head down to Redondo Beach. The sun was out, and the temperature was warm enough for eating, grocery shopping, and walking by the beach.

I was meaning to visit the Green Temple restaurant the next time I was in RB, and Sunday happened to be the perfect day just for that. The bus ride(s) took almost two hours one-way, but at least it gave me enough time to form a large enough appetite!

The restaurant was picturesque—enveloped by green shrubbery, fountains, and statues. There was indoor, outdoor, and patio seating, but the patio seating looked to be the best option.

peaceful

I was given a menu, and honestly did not know where to begin. I finally chose to get nachos, even though there were lots more creative entrees to choose from. But I had to go with my gut and cravings, and they were simply happy with having a plate of crisp chips with melted cheese, black beans, and salsa.

thegreentemple

Since it wasn’t an appetizer, I ordered the full-size plate. The chips were actually freshly-cut tortillas in the shape of triangles. They still had a slight chewiness to them, so that’s how I knew 😉

nachosssss

The entire dish was quite filling, and even though it wasn’t something that’s usually thought of as a naturally vegetarian dish, it was certainly nourishing enough to be so.

After my meal, I window-shopped while I made my way to the Trader Joe’s nearby. I was able to purchase everything necessary for the upcoming week grocery-wise, and thought about stopping by the Yogurtland next door before heading home.

froyo

Obviously by the looks of it, my froyo-positive thoughts won me over, and I packed a cup with four different flavors, plus some of my favorite toppings (mochi, cheesecake bites, poppers).

I was still out as the Super Bowl started, and as I walked to the bus stop, I could hear the opening ceremonies blaring from TVs at a local pub and restaurant. I was in no rush to get home, but I managed to get back while there was still daylight…at 5pm. It’s February, and it already feels like summer!

Green Temple Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Showing Off My City

Showing Off My City

After reuniting over pizza and dragging my Dad to a 10 mile race on the Saturday morning of my Dad and sis’s weekend visit, I planned to take both of them to some of my favorite places in the LA area so far—more so for my sister’s sake, since she had never been to Santa Monica. So after some homework and nap time, we left my apartment around 3pm and headed over to the Pier/Promenade area.

SAMSUNG

We found $5 parking underground…a few blocks from a parking lot that had the nerve to charge $20 for a spot. Guess we showed them! My sis was feeling peckish, so she had some appetizer-size tacos from one of the food stalls at the food court in the upper-level.

SAMSUNG

After having the chance to quell her munchies, we walked around the Promenade, and browsed a couple shops—including Urban Outiftters and Crossroads Trading Co. She’s more of a thrifter than I am, but I was the one that ended up making purchases that day (two jeans, one of which was a pair of dark wash Free People flares for only $25!) Yay!

After shopping, we found our patient Dad waiting for us outside. He was able to entertain himself, and us later, by showing us photos of the “interesting folk” that passed by. I (sort of) seriously recommended that he should make it a thing—could get an art book deal or something out of it 😛 !

 Crossing the street to get to dinner!
Crossing the street to get to dinner!

For dinner, we headed over to Real Food Daily since I was craving a huge bowl of wholesome food. My sister was surprisingly still ravenous, but I knew that RFD was the perfect solution!

SAMSUNG

The SaMo location would be pretty easy to miss, if it were not for the square hanging sign humbly displayed outside. We entered the dimly lit restaurant, and asked if we could sit upstairs.

SAMSUNG

We found a cozy spot in the back corner, and after settling in, we looked at the menu and decided to order family-style since it was the perfect opportunity to get a taste of all sorts of crazy-delicious RFD menu items. In the end, I picked the Not-Chos, my sis the Club, and my Dad the Basic Five, from which we selected five items from the categories of veggies, beans & grains, and one plant protein. After much convincing and a guarantee from our server that “yes, the golden gravy is flavorful, Dad”, we chose as a group our five selections to be the sea vegetables, garlicky greens, soba noodles, mashed potatoes w/gravy, and the almond “tuna”.

SAMSUNG

After placing our family-size order, my sister and I climbed downstairs to wash our hands in the restroom. My sister didn’t lock the door since she was just washing her hands, but it was still awkward when one of the kitchen staff shot by me and opened the door to the bathroom without even knocking.

 The kitchen area where a member of the kitchen staff flew right by me!
The kitchen area where a member of the kitchen staff flew right by me!

After that awkward incident, we went back upstairs and chatted amongst eachother while we waited for our food…which, despite our growing hunger, was well worth the wait…

 Not-chos ~ Melted cashew cheese, black beans, pico de gallo, tofu sour cream, guacamole
Not-chos ~ Melted cashew cheese, black beans, pico de gallo,
tofu sour cream, guacamole
The Club ~ triple decker  or in a wrap w/ crispy seitan, tempeh bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, aioli, sourdough
The Club ~ triple decker or in a wrap w/ crispy seitan, tempeh bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, aioli, sourdough
 L-to-R going clockwise ~ almond "tuna", sea vegetables, soba noodles, mashed potatoes with gravy, garlicky greens---they forgot the golden gravy at first, so they brought it in a little bowl off to the side...
L-to-R going clockwise ~ almond “tuna”, sea vegetables, soba noodles, mashed potatoes with gravy, garlicky greens—they forgot the golden gravy at first, so they brought it in a little bowl off to the side…

I mostly attacked the nachos, but I wasn’t a fan of the chips. They tasted a bit too stale for me—but when topped with the almond “tuna”? De.licious.

So obviously I was using the almond “tuna” as an additional topping for my nachos because I couldn’t get enough of it. I also found the sea vegetables, garlicky greens, and soba noodles all flavorful and filling (very filling). My sister finally felt full after (almost) getting through all four sandwich quarters.

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Don’t let vegan food fool ya…it can be quite rich!

My Dad and sis were both pleased with the meal, with my sis saying she hasn’t had anything that tasty and delicious for quite some time, since her dining commons at school has nothing in comparison. I was glad that I was able to share another one of my favorites with them, and thought about taking them to the RFD in WeHo next time.

 Fancy art shows.
Fancy art shows on Ocean Ave.

We left with our bellies full (no room for dessert!) and semi-waddled over to Ocean Ave. We were too stuffed tired to make it down to the Pier, but I didn’t mind since we could always save that for another day. 

 The SM Pier @ night.
The SM Pier @ night

On Sunday, I let my Dad and sister sleep in while I went out for a morning long run with the group I’m training for the LA Marathon with. After the run, I came back to an apartment smelling like omelettes, coffee, and freshly-washed dishes. Gotta love parents!

My Dad had been wanting me to give him a campus tour, so that occupied the rest of our morning after running some last-minute in-house errands and helping the fam pack up. After walking around my campus (very slowly, in heels nonetheless), we decided to have a late Sunday lunch at the Urth Caffe in DTLA. When I told my sister about the amazing green tea tiramisu I had, she looked up the menu and had tre latti on the brain all weekend. I couldn’t deny her the indulgence after letting her in on the secret 😉 ! 

I have got to be honest and say it was hard to find, since it was in the middle of the Arts District downtown.

 Nice art!
Nice art!

It was also the only “edible” location in the area…

SAMSUNG

While my Dad looked for parking, my sis and I found our spot in the queue that was (not surprisingly) already out the door.

waiting outside

When we made our way inside, we still had to face some crowds…

crowdsgrrr

…but, at least our eyes weren’t bored!

 Tea and mug wall // dessert goods // cool mural
Tea and mug wall // dessert goods // cool urth-y mural

There were a lot of seating options, and so we found a table in the indoor patio dining area.

 Beautiful room, not so beautiful display of wasted food.
Beautiful room, not so beautiful display of wasted food.

^ If I wasn’t wary of infectious diseases, I would have grabbed that tiramisu. Pity it had to go to waste 🙁

We ordered family-style again, but we ordered platter-style entrees that would be easy to split among three people. It was a long wait, but all of our food (and teas!) came out at once so it was like a feast:

 Platter
The Mediterranean Platter – a plate of feta cheese, grape leaves, hummus, tabouli, roasted peppers & mixed olives (with pits) garnished with mint, grilled artichokes and pure olive oil served with pita bread.
-  nori sheet stuffed with avocado, organic brown rice, carrots, broccoli, green onions, umeboshi plum paste, and five spice tofu served with a mixed greens salad and wasabi.
Nori Plum Rice Wrap –  nori sheet stuffed with avocado, organic brown rice, carrots, broccoli, green onions, umeboshi plum paste, and five spice tofu served with a mixed greens salad and wasabi.

Pita bread on the side 🙂

SAMSUNG

I split the Moroccan Mint Tea with my Dad, while my sister indulged in the English Tea Latte with her Tre Latti!

Moroccan Tea Latté - made with organic green tea and cool creamy mint
Moroccan Tea Latté – made with organic green tea and cool creamy mint
English Tea Latte - a rich creamy organic tea latte perfect for high tea!
English Tea Latte – a rich creamy organic tea latte perfect for high tea!
Tre Latti - vanilla sponge cake soaked in FOUR different sweet milks, a layer of chantilly cream and iced with a caramelized meringue
Tre Latti – vanilla sponge cake soaked in FOUR different sweet milks, a layer of chantilly cream and iced with a caramelized meringue

The description itself sounds like it flew over from Italy personally, and landed on my sister’s plate!

SAMSUNG

 Helpin' myself.
Helpin’ myself.

We were able to clean our plates (in other words, no excess food was ordered or wasted), and we left the restaurant happy with our family meal out, yet again.

I was dropped off at home while my Dad headed up north with my sis to drop her off at her college before Monday classes. My Dad actually ended up seeing me the next two days since he had to come back for business, but it was a real parting between my sister and I that afternoon since I wouldn’t be able to see her until Thanksgiving!

But for the time being, I would say we had a pretty swell time ♥

Real Food Daily on Urbanspoon

Urth Caffé on Urbanspoon

Beach Magnet

Beach Magnet

The second day of apartment hunting had a set itinerary, except things took a strange turn (literally) in the morning. My Dad wanted me to navigate to some apartments near the school from the hotel via the Metro Rail. I mapped out my route and transportation times through Google Maps the night before since I can only access wi-fi through my phone when it is available for free or at home.

Things started off alright, but now looking back at the situation, I realized I made a wrong turn on a main road, which caused me to walk for almost three hours in the wrong direction.

When I ended up at the beach, I knew I was no where near the train station 😉 .

beachmagnet (7)

This was the first time I ever messed up with directions, since usually I am the one making fun of my sister and friends for not finding their way out of a cardboard box.

 I'm such a nomad, haha! Hilly sidewalks and seagulls chilling in the parking lot of Sprouts were some of the sights on my "long walk".
I’m such a nomad, haha! Hilly sidewalks and seagulls chilling in the parking lot of Sprouts were some of the sights on my “long walk”.

But it was all part of the experience, and it really gave me the opportunity to explore by foot which I love to do—even though I didn’t get to my “real” destination.

 The beach  is not  a bad place to end up though!
The beach is not a bad place to end up though!

After learning about my “adventure”, my Dad found the whole situation to be amusing, and I guess that sort of helped in convincing him to have a mid-afternoon pick-me-up cupcake with me from Crumbs Bake Shop in Larchmont Village.  

I recently learned that the other two SoCal Crumbs locations had closed this year, leaving only the Larchmont doors open. While the unfortunate news was a bummer, I am grateful that I will have at least one Crumbs location to frequent when I move, even if it is 40 minutes away by bus (beats having them all be across the country though, am I right?).

But I am not too disappointed about the lack of Crumbs Bake Shops in the area…there was a Babycakes NYC a few doors down and a Magnolia Bakery was nearby as well. I can definitely see myself making some weekend visits up to Larchmont Village…you know, when I’m not busy studying 😉 .

...
“OMG- Crumbnuts are here!” sign // 99 cents coffee // beautiful cupcakes display case…I want them all!

There were two female employees working at the time who greeted me pleasantly when I walked in, despite it being completely empty inside. I would have thought the bake shops would have been busy in the late afternoon, especially in the summer, but then again it was pretty hot outside…perhaps everyone was craving ice cream?

...
cupcake utensil necessities // cashwrap // only one table and two chairs—it was pretty small compared to NYC Upper West Side

This time around, I chose to try the Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie cupcake (what is with my mint craving lately?)

Girl Scout Thin Mint Crumbs Cupcake

The cupcake was layered with mint-colored frosting and topped with a single Thin Mint cookie. I was also glad to see that this cupcake actually had a cream filling, even if it was just chocolate. I have to be honest though and say I did get bored with it after all the frosting was gone. The chocolate cake itself was sub-par.

My Dad had half of a muffin and some coffee before leaving for a meeting. After departing the bake shop, I was able to take the Metro to the destination I intended to reach in the morning—better late than never, right? 

I was able to get a look at another spacious studio in the area before meeting with my Dad again. At this point in time, I now had three legitimate options to choose from in regards to my future apartment! And on top of that, I had to act quickly since the managers from each property were saying there was high demand and inquiry from other students…

My Dad and I had an hour to kill before getting dinner, and while we talked more about the apartment options I had before me, we somehow decided to check out the Santa Monica Pier. I guess it’s a fact—I just can’t resist beaches!

santamonicadays

Seeing the sights made me excited about the months and years ahead, thinking about bringing friends and family down here when they visit. I mean, how can you not feel happy when you’re in the vicinity of a beach, boardwalk, and lots of sunshine 😀 ?

warmdaysonthepier

After soaking in the ocean air and sunny sights, we worked up large enough appetites to hear our tummies grumble. Dinner was at Native Foods Cafe, since our first choice for dinner ended up being the location for a particular restaurant’s food truck that wasn’t present that day! I wasn’t complaining though 😉

We were able to find parking a street over, and were able to avoid feeding the meter since it was after 6pm. Yes!

The storefront was difficult to see from afar, but once I saw the iconic lettering, I didn’t hesitate in my steps.

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 Inside of NFC in Santa Monica
Inside of NFC in Santa Monica.

Like we did at Veggie Grill the previous night, we spent quite a bit of time figuring out what to order. While my Dad was still making his decision about what to order, I noticed this adorable “heart beet” on the wall .

heart beet

I ended up getting the Sesame Kale Macro Bowl. I loved how the tempeh looked like warmly toasted flatbread triangles, but unfortunately they weren’t marinated or anything, so the tempeh itself tasted quite bland. At least the ginger sauce mixed in the bowl and with the kale helped in that aspect.

 Sesame Kale Macro Bowl - Grilled Native Tempeh atop steamed kale, brown rice, creamy ginger sesame sauce, tangy sauerkraut, gomasio and toasted sesame seeds
Sesame Kale Macro Bowl – Grilled Native Tempeh atop steamed kale, brown rice, creamy ginger sesame sauce, tangy sauerkraut, gomasio and toasted sesame seeds

It came with a side cucumber salad, which I ended up eating after getting through my bowl even though it’s meant as an appetizer.

Green onion garnish and crunchy cucumber seaweed salad on the side.

Dad got the Bangkok Curry Bowl, but was frustrated by how uncooked the vegetables were. He felt like a panda bear chewing at bamboo all day because of how much chewing he had to do. But at least his bowl had a  bright orange curry sauce, and the tofu steak looked more flavorful than my bland tempeh.

 Bangkok Curry Bowl - Seared tofu steak on top of steamed veggies, greens and brown rice with a lemongrass and ginger-infused coconut milk curry. Topped with sesame seeds and cilantro.
Bangkok Curry Bowl – Seared tofu steak on top of steamed veggies, greens and brown rice with a lemongrass and ginger-infused coconut milk curry. Topped with sesame seeds and cilantro.

He was also disappointed with the Native Fries because of how “limp and soggy” they were. Native Foods may not have the best french fries, but their sweet potato fries can’t be beat! Maybe we should have ordered that instead…

 Native Fries – thinly-cut, cooked in pure vegetable oil and seasoned just right.
Native Fries – thinly-cut, cooked in pure vegetable oil and seasoned just right.

After dinner, froyo was in order. Good thing Menchie’s was right across the way.

 Menchies froyo -  in the mix is carob chips, rainbow mochi, strawberry poppers with cake batter, honey graham, and hazelnut flavors.
Menchies froyo – in the mix is carob chips, rainbow mochi, strawberry poppers with cake batter, honey graham, and hazelnut flavors.

At the end of my visit, I was able to come to a decision and signed my lease immediately. Even though it wasn’t exactly what I planned or pictured as being my first apartment, I can only keep telling myself that I made a logical, practical, and the right choice.

 Sunny skies, palm trees---see you soon LA ;)
Sunny skies, palm trees—see you soon LA 😉

Crumbs Bake Shop on Urbanspoon

Native Foods Cafe on Urbanspoon

Have you ever had to make a major moving decision? How was the process for you?

The So-Called Bloggy Break, Part Trois

The So-Called Bloggy Break, Part Trois

To see part one (or part two) and learn more about the “break”, click here!

Aug 13th) Home

Palm trees = Cali = Home
Palm trees = Cali = Home♥

Aug 14th) Stillness

The still trees at the local park on a warm August day :)
The still trees at the local park on a warm August day 🙂

Aug 15th) Books

I like books as much as the next person, but my sister is the bookaholic...this is just one shelf.
I like books as much as the next person, but my sister is the bookaholic…this is just one shelf.

Aug 16th) Floral

So many lovely flowers are finally starting to grow in our garden :]
So many lovely flowers are finally starting to grow in our garden :]

Aug 17th) Touch

Cat fur...enough said ;)!
Cat fur…enough said ;)!

Aug 18th) Looking Down

Looking down on a cherry tomato plant. They're fun to pick and top on salads :)!
Looking down on a cherry tomato plant. They’re fun to pick and top on salads :)!

Aug 19th) White

First night of short trip to So Cal---clean duvet covers are nice to lie on when in a car for six hours...
First night of short trip to So Cal—clean duvet covers are nice to lie on when in a car for six hours…

Aug 20th) Taste

Two new-to-me bars!
Two new-to-me bars! I love the Greens Plus Natural Peanut Butter Protein Bar, even if the greenish hue can be off-putting to some. And of course the Pure Organic Wild Blueberry Bar. It’s a good snack to munch on even if you have butterflies in your stomach ;).

Aug 21st) Something Old

They may look old, but these stairs have a charming beauty...and they lead you to the beach!
They may look old, but these stairs have a charming beauty…and they lead you to the beach!

Aug 22nd) Midday

I saw these while walking through the beachy neighborhoods of  Hermosa Beach midday, and they reminded me of tomatillos.
I saw these while walking through the beachy neighborhoods of Hermosa Beach midday, and they reminded me of tomatillos.
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