2017, and All of its Blessings ℘

2017, and All of its Blessings ℘

Is it to early to reflect on 2017?

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

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

;
Just felt like eating & staying local…

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

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

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

Sour Cream
Sour Cream!

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

lll
Guaccccc!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was 2017 a good year for you?

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

Brunch & Beach

Brunch & Beach

My sister needed me to check out a potential housing option in the OC, and so I thought it would be the perfect reason to head down to the area for a brunch & beach day. Lucky for me, one of my undergrad assistants was able to take care of some small things for me that Sunday, and so I did not have to step into lab. It feels great to delegate work sometimes, haha.

I picked up E from a nearby Expo line station after my morning run and shower. From there, we got on the freeway and it was pretty much an easy Sunday drive down to Aliso Viejo.

Bagels & Brew
Bagels & Brew

I suggested we eat out at Bagels & Brew, mostly because of their unicorn bagel, but they had other enticing options as well.

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We decided to eat inside at a booth, but ordered first at the counter. E got a sandwich of course, and a grande sized coffee. I went for the unicorn/rainbow bagel with jalapeño cheddar cream cheese, avocado, tomato, and lime juice…otherwise known as “Aliso Viejo” style.

♥

For my drink, the agave nectar latte sounded warm and sweet, so I had that to accompany my meal.

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Everything was piled on so high since it was served open face, so I needed the help of a fork to ensure no avocado slice or cream cheese drop was left behind.

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We sat for a good half hour at our booth after eating, and then got up and walked around the shopping plaza. This Bagels & Brew was actually near the Native Foods we went to for my birthday last year, so I was circling familiar territory.

♥

E and I had fun walking in and out of stores like Michael’s, Lowe’s, and B&N, joking about what we could get to decorate our lab office, picking up some Drain-O, and browsing through aisles of overpriced books. After killing some time at the shopping plaza, we headed out towards Aliso Beach. The temperature was starting to creep up without warning, so driving with the A/C on was much needed.

Walking to the beach
Walking to the beach

We parked on a slope in a residential area, about 10 minutes away by foot from the beach. The walk down was easy to navigate, and when we got to the sand, we took our socks and shoes off only to be burned by the sun-exposed sand.

At the beach
At the beach

The water had a truly beautiful blue hue though, and even though we didn’t bring a towel to sit down on, we managed and found a nice little spot to sit down at and enjoy the relaxing view.

After about an hour of sun-bathing and self-reflecting, we got up and made our ascent back to the car. Dusting the sand off our legs and feet was quite the task, but we did the best we could before getting in the car and driving off to Mission Viejo.

Several entrances on freeways and u-turns later, we stopped for a smoothie/acai bowl break. That helped cool off our beach-raised core body temperatures!

A PB acai bowl to help cool off...
A PB acai bowl to help cool off…

And finally, we made it to the house that could potentially house my sister. The current tenant seemed friendly, and E and I took a look around while I took some pictures for my sis. There were two cute fur babies (a black and a gray/white cat!!) who apparently took ownership of the domain. My sister had been wanting this place to work out, and when I sent her the pictures, she was definitely sold. I mean…I couldn’t argue about her decision. With a backyard looking the way this place’s does, how could anyone say no?

I thought she should say yes based on the view alone...
I thought she should say yes based on the view alone…

We immediately drove back to LA after, and after dropping E off, I surprisingly didn’t feel as exhausted as I did last weekend. In fact, I felt reenergized! Just comes to show how a full day off can work wonders! The pint of the weekend was So Delicious’ Soymilk Peanut Butter Zigzag, and to me it was yet another disappointment.

♥

I had my eye on this flavor for a while, but never thought about getting it because of my love for Snickerdoodle and Cookie Dough like I previously mentioned. It had a number of peanut butter chunks and chocolate pieces, but there just wasn’t enough PB to balance out the chocolate. In other words, a flavor worth missing out on in my opinion…

What do you think of the rainbow/unicorn foodie trend?

Bagels & Brew Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

First Stop, Iceland!

First Stop, Iceland!

Our European adventure began on a Sunday morning, with a stop for bagels before heading to the airport. My Dad had a rental since we used it to move my sister’s stuff, so before heading over to our terminal, we dropped it off and took the shuttle from there.

Checking in and security was surprisingly not too bad! TSA Pre does have it’s advantages…since our first leg was a domestic flight to JFK Airport in NYC.

Our flight was about six hours long, but on Jet Blue, so we were set, haha. Once we landed, we realized we had to walk over to another terminal and go through security again (this time, a much more tedious process), before being able to find something to eat.

Options for food at JFK’s international terminal are all things mediocre and mundane. We ended up getting personal pizzas and a salad to “get our greens in”. It took about an hour between dinner and finally boarding on Icelandic Air.

When we did board, we were handed cute water bottles with the top part of the bottle shaped like a glacier. And the music playing was very Enya-like.

Glacier bottle?
Glacier bottle?

There were no free inflight meals or snacks, but we came prepared with our own. I mostly slept for the majority of the flight, so hunger wasn’t a huge issue. We reached Reykjavik (actually Keflavik) by morning.

Upon landing, we had to exit out of the side of the plane (in the cold…) and board a bus to take us to the airport. After going through immigration and collecting our luggage, we were able to grab a rental and head out on Icelandic roads.

Everything looked so dreary and foggy, but overall it actually felt quite peaceful. It was an hour drive from the KEF airport to Reykjavik proper, but we knew we were in “civilization” upon seeing large warehouses and more traffic.

The address to our Airbnb was so short, I was surprised Google Maps didn’t come back with an error message. We weren’t too trepiditious about the apartment we would be staying in once we got settled in.

Airbnb digs.
Airbnb digs.

Yeah the bathroom was tiny, but the rooms were simple, clean, and our host left us a good number of blankets on the sofa so we wouldn’t get cold. Plus, I think tiny bathrooms are part of the whole European living experience, haha.

After freshening up, we got in our rental and drove to the city center. It was freezing cold, and I wanted to make sure we knew exactly where our coffee/breakfast destination was before getting out of the car! Good thing we parked in front of Reykjavik Roasters.

Reykjavik Roasters
Reykjavik Roasters

It was like walking into someone’s kitchen/garage. Half of the space had a bakery counter and tables, while the other half was “storage” for large bags of coffee beans.

coffee
Eclectic decor, eclectic people
roasters
Bread and baked goods 🙂

We first realized Iceland was pricey when we saw that the coffee would be 800 Kroner…$8 USD for a single cup of coffee. It was sticker shock for sure, but we knew we’d only be here for two days so we put up with it. Along with coffee, we split some fresh nut bread with cheese and jam, a cinnamon scone, and a coffee “jogart” parfait topped with honey and almonds.

Icelandic breakfast
Icelandic breakfast

Everything tasted so fresh and warm, and even though I was the one that had the coffee jogart, I gobbled up my piece and leftover crumbs left from the scone.

After our authentic coffee break, we walked a couple blocks towards the water. There was a huge walking path that was carved alongside the water, hugged by rocks. Walkers, runners, and photographers could all be seen walking along the trail.

icelandddddddddddd
A glimpse of Icelandic coast

We stopped to take pictures along the way, including one of what we thing is an abstract sculpture of a viking’s ship.

Before heading back to the apartment for a few hours of rest, we stopped at a shopping mall called Kringlan to see if we could grab some snacks that weren’t, uh, so pricey in comparison to the morning’s meal…

kringlan
Kringlan

We stepped inside a store similar to the dollar store, and came out with nothing since everything for sale was extremely overpriced for what it’s actually worth. It left me wondering, are Icelandic people just richer than the rest of us? Or is it really that much of a struggle to live here?

1500kroner
An expensive fish pilow

We felt more justified buying food, and when we entered Bonus, an Icelandic-based grocery store, we were able to make it out alive with our wallets not undergoing a huge drop in weight, haha!

bonus!
Oh hello Nutella!

After our purchases, we were able to rest up, and then head out again for dinner—at Kaffi Vinyl! More on that in the next one 🙂

Nothing But Self-Care

Nothing But Self-Care

There is nothing like waking up without an alarm clock, with your eyes feeling refreshed and your body at peace. This was exactly how I felt the night I went to sleep after working for 43 hours without rest. It’s something I never, ever want to do again, but believe me when I say I have never felt more restored than I did after (deeply) sleeping for eight hours straight after that.

I needed a cookie+coffee after this all-nighterrrr
I needed a cookie+coffee after this all-nighterrrr

I didn’t get up and go run, or immediately get ready for lab (even though I did have to go in for a bit in the afternoon). Instead, I practiced some self-love by showering, stretching, and making some breakfast for me to eat on the go while walking to the train station.

My sister sent me this Fat Cell microbe for my birthday <3
My sister sent me this Fat Cell microbe plushie for my birthday <3

The last place I wanted to be that day was lab, but I was able to work up an appetite and get back to Santa Monica around 3pm for a late lunch. I strolled along Main St., stopping only when I got to Areal across the street.

Areal Restaurant
Areal Restaurant

I was slightly confused at first when trying to find the entrance, thinking I needed to walk by a bar and a huge patio in order to get to the restaurant, but instead I ended up standing awkwardly in front of what I assumed to be the kitchen, with wait-staff running around me. No one acknowledged I was even there/willing to direct me to where I should be seated, which I found to be quite rude.

Got some water in a mason jar after finally getting a seat.
Got some water in a mason jar after finally getting a seat.

I made my way back outside, and found out that the person in charge of seating was outside the wall that guarded the patio. Even talking to her was a chore, as she had that “I’m-only-working-here-until-I-make-it-big-in-Hollywood” attitude, and all I wanted was a seat.

The patio seating was gorgeous though!
The patio seating was gorgeous though!

After being told the brunch selections were no longer an option since it was past 3:30pm (gasp!), I was pretty much left with salads, sandwiches, or pizza. My 43-hour sleep deprivation experience still left me craving an immense number of carbs, so pizza sounded more appetizing to me than usual. When Mr. “I’m-only-working-here-until-someone-discovers-me-walking-shirtless-on-the-beach-and-makes-me-famous” came by, I gave my order for a marinara pizza with pineapple, onion, and artichoke hearts (basically a Hawaiian without the ham).

Look at that flying saucer beauty...
Look at that flying saucer beauty…

My pizza came out with steam still flying off of it, on a black pan and its own elevated stand. Across 10” of thin-stretched dough was a coating of marinara, mozzarella, onion, artichoke hearts in cubed, layered pieces, and pineapple cut in the most exquisite way.

That pineapple slice though!
That pineapple slice though!

I was accustomed to associating cubed pineapples as a pizza topping, but seeing pineapples sliced like this—in disc form—was much more aesthetic in my opinion. I finished every last bite, and with no crumb on my plate or tray, I felt sleepy in the best way. Walking home under the bright sun only exacerbated my sleepiness, and once I got back home all I wanted to do was take a long nap.

My plans to finish packing Saturday night for my week-long trip to Oklahoma were thrown out the window, but I believe my reasons were justified. I needed to honor myself for working so hard during the week, and if it meant scarfing down a pizza and napping away the rest of my Saturday, then that’s just something I had to accept 😉

Areal Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Just the Usual

Just the Usual

Last weekend was a weekend like any other…ya know, new food and new pints 😉

I got a hold of the non-dairy Fudge Brownie B&J’s flavor, and was not blown away at all when I tried it on Tuesday. It tasted like a milder version of Arctic Zero’s Brownie Blast without any brownie chunks or mix-ins for that matter! Ugh, I bet the even the froyo version is better than this!

B&Js Fudge Brownie Non-Dairy Frozen Treat!
B&Js Fudge Brownie Non-Dairy Frozen Treat!

On Saturday, I decided to travel a ways north to check out Leonor’s in Studio City, because they had been on my radar for some time with their all-vegetarian Mexican food options!

Leonor's!
Leonor’s!

They offered pretty much any Mexican item you can think of, and if it usually had chicken or beef in a “regular” restaurant the soy version was the only one available here at Leonor’s. I chose to get the soy chicken tostada, since I wanted something crunchy but still wanted to get my greens in.

Soy Chicken Tostada
Soy Chicken Tostada

The tostada only took up a small portion of the plate, as most of it was greens, and a light sprinkling of cheese. Even though the tostada wasn’t as big as I thought it would have been, at least it had a generous layer of beans and slices of breaded soy chicken.

Leonor's interior
Leonor’s interior

Along with countless cups of water, I was nourished enough to get back on the road and grocery shop at Vons before heading home.

For dessert that night, I had a new-to-me Oikos Greek frozen yogurt pint in Cookies & Cream. It actually tasted something along the lines of oreo cookie soft serve, and was quite delicious.

Oikos Cookies & Cream
Oikos Cookies & Cream

I also had the mint chocolate chip flavor that weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much more like ice cream it tasted than yogurt 😉

Oikos Mint Chocolate Chip
Oikos Mint Chocolate Chip

Another Vons find from the weekend allowed me the opportunity to try PB Crave for the first time. Cookie Nookie was the flavor, and was a PB base with cookie dough flavor, chocolate chips, and honey. I scooped some in a small bowl to get a taste, and while I could detect the sweet swirl of honey (that complemented the PB well), the chocolate chips seemed to have dissolved/be non-existent because I couldn’t taste any chocolate…and the cookie dough flavor? Nothing. I had high expectations for this flavor, but sadly it did not rise to the occasion.

PB Crave - Cookie Nookie
PB Crave – Cookie Nookie

Hmm, at least if I ever have a craving for honey-infused PB, I’ll know where that stems from!

Tostadas, tamales, or tortas??

Leonor's Vegetarian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Race Recap – Rotary Ten Chocolate Run (& More Food)

Race Recap – Rotary Ten Chocolate Run (& More Food)

While I was visiting my sister in Fresno, we didn’t just eat, but when we did on Saturday night an Sunday for lunch, we had some amazing burgers, fries, and pretzels.

But before all that, I was able to run in a local race on Saturday morning: the Rotary Ten Chocolate Run. My sis had to be present for a writing exam to get out of an upper-divison writing requirement, and so I drove myself to the race. It was in the same location as the half marathon I ran in September, but this time, I had to walk even further into the park. I barely made it before the starting time, and I was already warmed up!

shirt
Rotary shirt.

There was a 2 mile walk, 2 mile run, 5 mile run, and 10 mile run. I chose to register for the 5 miles run because I didn’t know how I would feel almost a week after the marathon! Despite some lingering foot and inner thigh tendon pain, I managed to run at a solid 9:10/mi pace. The course itself was only 4.3 miles, and much shorter than 5 miles. Because of this, our paces were calculated to be much faster than what they should be. They posted my pace as being 7:56/mi (!!) Wouldn’t that be nice??

race stuff
Race goodies!

Even though they said my pace was much faster than what my watch reported, I still ended up winning first in my division (and it was still legitimate with my Garmin time, 😛 ).

The race was a good way to slowly get back into running again after an arduous marathon. My walk back to the car was a very long cool-down walk, but once I met up with my sister again around 12pm, we had lunch, went shopping for a bit, and then retreated to the newly-built Campus Pointe for dinner.

mad duck
Mad Duck Bistro

My sister was excited about taking me to Mad Duck Bistro, and I could tell it was a popular pick among the locals and students because it was CRAZY PACKED. Like the night before at Yard House, we waited a little over an hour for seats.

madduck
Mad Duck interior

Mad Duck is known for their hand-crafter burgers and pub food. My sis got a custom-made burger subbed in with a juicy veggie patty. I was considering getting a burger as well as there were a variety to choose from, but I felt like getting a pub pretzel instead. Because that was just what I was in the mood for.

custom burger
Custom veggie burger!

Along with her burger, my sis got the kettle chips with ranch sauce as a side. I took some of those, and was glad she made the decision to get them and was thoughtful enough to share 😀

kettle chips with dip
Kettle chips with ranch.

My pretzel was perfect! It was brushed lightly with oil and sprinkled with salt. It came with some spicy mustard and cheese sauce on the side. The size was just right and I wasn’t too full or too hungry afterwards.

pretttzel
A Mad Duck pretzel

After dinner, my sis and I watched some episodes of Lisa Ling’s documentary series on her computer, while snacking on two of Arctic Zero’s new chunky flavor pints.

Banana Pudding was not a favorite of mine. Thinking that the banana flavor would die down after a while, I thought I would find this flavor eventually tolerable, but that was not the case…

arcticzero__bananapudding
Arctic Zero Banana Pudding

I did fall in love with Brownie Blast however. My sis did too, and I urged her to visit her Sprouts more often (where I actually bought these two) to get some and treat herself after her exhausting days of school! She seriously works around the clock—I don’t know how she does it but I am super proud of her 😀

arcticzero__brownieblast
Arctic Zero Brownie Blast

I went to bed (in a sleeping bag on the hard carpet floor…) around 10, and had a restful night’s sleep despite waking up at 2am needing to use the bathroom, a fire truck driving by in the middle of the night, and shifting myself around trying to find the right position to sleep so as to avoid the most amount of aches in the morning!

On Sunday, my sis and I took it easy getting ready in the morning, but hurried as it got closer to 11am so we could head over to another popular Fresno lunch spot—The Dog House Grill.

menu
Dog House Grill menu

There was seriously already a line out the door minutes before the restaurant opened.

eatingggg
Really high ceilings.

Even though the restaurant looked small on the outside, there were high ceilings that made the eating space look larger than life. No wonder this place is always busy during all business hours!

Ordering our food was an efficient process though. After simply making a purchase at the counter, we were given the freedom to find seats, and once our orders were ready, all we had to do was bring back our receipts to the side counter for our food.

My sister tried their veggie sandwich for the first time, which had all the fixings of the veggie burger, but instead of buns was sandwiched between two slices of sandwich bread. She wasn’t a fan, but I was certainly a fan of the veggie burger.

veggie sandwich
Veggie sandwich

It was piled high with sprouts (!!), melty cheese, a golden veggie patty, onions, tomato, and lettuce. Each bun also had mayo and BBQ sauce spread delicately on the insides.

burger
Veggie burger

The bun was so soft and chewy…I think my sis told herself never to get the sandwich again after being reminded about the burger buns!

garden burger
Inside of veggie burger!!

We also split a basket of fries with ranch and BBQ sauce. It was a mighty big basket, and we felt STUFFED when we were done. It definitely kept me satisfied (and sleepy) on the train ride home!

fries_and_sauce
Fries with ranch and barbecue

Quick, what would you pick from these options: burgers, fries, or pretzels?

Dog House Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Pre-Christmas Bagels

Pre-Christmas Bagels

During my visit to Tulsa, my Dad insisted we pay a visit to his favorite bagel place. By the end of the trip, we had eaten there three times—two of which were in the same day!

We stopped at Old School Bagel Cafe after spending an hour at the gym, for a late breakfast.

old_school_bagel_cafe
Old School Bagel Cafe

My Dad and I split a savory and sweet bagel. For our savory bagel, my Dad insisted that I try his go-to combo: a jalapeno bagel with melted cheese and egg. Sounds delicious, right? For our sweet bagel, we opted for a cinnamon raisin bagel with melted Nutella spread.

The cafe was warm, cozy, and obviously a popular spot with the crowds all around. We had a hard time finding some place to sit, but we found a small table to enjoy our bagels at soon enough.

oldskool
Inside of Old School Bagel Cafe

My Dad was absolutely right—the jalapeno bagel with egg and melted cheese was absolute perfection. It had a mild spicy flavor, and it hit the spot!

jalapenobagel_cheese_egg
Jalapeno bagel with melted cheese & egg 🙂 !!

The cinnamon raisin bagel was toasted just enough to make the minimal-coat of Nutella melt to the point that it looked like there was more of it than there really was!

cinnamonraisin_nutellabagel
Nutella in a Cinnamon Raisin Bagel!

After breakfast, we picked up my sister and we all ran some errands for the rest of the morning/early afternoon. We had plans to see a play later that afternoon, and it got to the point that our stomachs were rumbling for lunch.

Off to Old School we went…my sis hadn’t experienced their bagel finesse yet, so we had to fix that! 😉

This time around, I decided to get a salad + sandwich plate instead of a bagel. It might have not been the best choice however…

For my salad, I got the Asian salad with orange slices and almonds thrown in (and chicken taken out), my sandwich was the veggie on sourdough, with cheese, avocado, and fig jam. The fig jam was a unique add-in, but perhaps another bagel would have been more satisfying?

saladandsandwich
Veggie sandwich with asian salad.

After this lunch, we saw Beauty and the Beast in downtown. Later that evening, we caught up with an old family friend and dined out at Olive Garden. This bread-ful day was a great way to begin pre-Christmas festivites, since in the days that followed, home-cooked meals and meeting more family friends took precedence.

Have you visited a restaurant more than once in the same day?

Old School Bagel Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pasta on Pizza

Pasta on Pizza

My sister and I spent the rest of our Saturday afternoon, after stuffing our faces with cookies and milk, being emotionally-moved by The Good Dinosaur. I was also touched by the short beforehand (Sanjay’s Super Team). My sis and I agreed that even though TGD was excellent, it wasn’t advertised as much as it should have been. I remember seeing promotional stuff about Inside Out months before it came out, but TGD came up by surprise. It really should have gotten more press…

After our movie, we didn’t want to travel too far for dinner. We thought we’d check out one of the more fancier places nearby (an Italian restaurant), but their vegetarian pizza selection was minimal.

So we opted for the other Italian place next door…

 Mobtown Pizza, Tustin
Mobtown Pizza, Tustin

It seemed less pretentious, had more pizza variety, and easy on the student wallet 😉

mbpizza_icecrm_l&lcookie (3)

It was also brightly-lit inside, unlike the dimly-lit, fancy place we almost dined in.

 Comfy & casual atmosphere
Comfy & casual atmosphere

It also seemed like it was a pretty popular place to go—there was a birthday party going on, and lots of mom/daughter pairs having pizza after a long day of shopping.

 Saturday night pizza.
Saturday night pizza.

My sis and I initially wanted to get a deep dish pizza slice each, but they didn’t have any available that were vegetarian. So we decided to do the next best thing and order a full pizza, with half veggies and half pasta. While we waited for our pizza to be rolled out and baked (which actually took a while…but maybe it was because we were hungry…), we noticed the mobster/Godfather-themed décor:

 Godfather-themed
Godfather-themed

The mobster phrases though!

 Common Mobsta Phrases
Common Mobsta Phrases

Before we got to the point of eating our arms off, our pizza arrived!

 Half-n-Half
Half-n-Half

I helped myself to two slices of the Don Veggie, which was topped with an assortment of veggies, including artichoke hearts.

 Don Veggie
Don Veggie

I tried the Fat Macaroni Pie slice, and it was incredible. It was literally like having pasta with marinara sauce on pizza crust.

 Fat Macaroni Pie!
Fat Macaroni Pie!

Pasta usually isn’t my entrée of choice, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be. Sometimes it’s okay to take a break from the comfortable falafel and quinoa 😉

 Fat Macaroni Pie Pasta Slice
Fat Macaroni Pie Pasta Slice

Our OC Thanksgiving weekend was over on Sunday, when my sis and I parted ways at Union Station and I had to park myself in front of a computer for the next seven hours just to finish a proposal.

At least it was completed by a decent hour, and I was able to treat myself to this exclusive Wal-Mart B&J’s flavor. I was able to stop by the one close to Union Station before dropping my sis off!

 Ben & Jerry's Pumpkin Cheesecake
Ben & Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake

Graham cracker swirl. That’s really all there is to it. Sorry to say the pumpkin was not that noticeable!

I also picked up the other Wal-Mart exclusive to try the next day, but I was not a fan. Too much (icy) strawberry and not enough shortbread :/

 Ben & Jerry's Strawberry Not So Shortcake Ice Cream
Ben & Jerry’s Strawberry Not So Shortcake Ice Cream

But at least L&L’s Birthday Cake Cookie was not a disappointment! I bought a box on Black Friday (most of my purchases that day was solely on food!!), and I had most of them over the weekend…

They taste like a regular, soft sugar cookie, but smell like birthday cake. Put some icing on these and you’ve got a protein-packed Lofthouse-style cookie.

 Lenny & Larry's Birthday Cake Cookie
Lenny & Larry’s Birthday Cake Cookie

Do you prefer pizza from a casual or fine dining place?

Mobtown Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday Night Pizza!

Friday Night Pizza!

Last Friday, I was bit by the social bug yet again! Instead of a thrilling blogger meet-up though, I ended up going out for some gourmet pizza with some marathon teammates. 

But before stuffing my face with all the pizza (you could say quite literally, after seeing the pics!), I stuffed my face with two, new-to-me bars. I ended up paying bookstore prices for these bars (in other words, much more than what I would pay at GNC) by Oh Yeah!

I was finally able to try two of their new “One” bars—Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cookies & Creme. 

Oh Yeah! One - Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Oh Yeah! One – Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

I like how the bars are fully coated, but since I have become used to associating cookie dough-flavored protein bars to actually looking like molded cookie dough, I was thrown off by the chocolate coating at first. 

Oh Yeah! One - Cookies & Creme
Oh Yeah! One – Cookies & Creme

I grew to like the bar as I continued eating. Cookies & Creme on the other hand, could have tasted so much better. Nice try though Oh Yeah! folks? 

Fridays tend to be slow days in lab since everyone is exhausted by the end of the week/anxious to find an excuse to leave early, but I held on until ~6pm, when I headed out to meet my running mates for our pizza dinner! Apparently we had 20 people RSVP, but including me, there was only six of us total! Bring on the pizza now!!

racing_for_pizza
Racing for pizza.

We carpooled to DTLA, and reserved the top floor of Pitfire Pizza…

pp
Inside Pitfire Pizza

…even though we really didn’t need that much space after all…

knightstable
All this space…what to do??

To start of the meal, we were given full-size pitchers of lemonade, coke, water, and tea. Among the six of us, we literally could have sipped out of our own personal pitcher if we really wanted, haha.

 Want a pitcher?
Want a pitcher?

Before there was pizza, we helped ourselves to plentiful servings of salad. It was hard to resist having more than one plate because the salad was actually pretty good—dressing, onions, shaved parmesan, and all!

the_salad
Salad.

We were also able to cut down the order from the original EIGHT pizzas to just four, which included two vegetarian and two meat-eater pizzas. They took a while to make it up the stairs to our “knight’s table”, but when they did arrive, we dove right at them as if we had just finished a Sunday long run 😛

PIZZA.
That pizza tho.

The veggie-friendly pizzas included a simple marinara & mozzarella pizza which was mostly sauce. I ended up having more slices of this pizza because it was right next to me, easy to pull apart, and simply delicious. The second veggie-friendly pizza was covered in greens, but underneath it all was swirls of creamy red and white sauces. It was definitely the more “gourmet” of the two.

After stuffing ourselves silly (we demolished the food pretty well for six people!!), we thought it would be great to finish off our carb-o-licious Friday night with a cookies-and-ice-cream dessert. We split chocolate chip cookie ice cream sundaes with chocolate or caramel sauce with the person across from us.

cookie_and_icecream
Spoons ready!

I ended up sharing one of the chocolate sauce sundaes 🙂

Our dinner ended around 9pm, and I was more than ready to go to sleep! We had an exhilarating time getting home (driving home clown-car-style, trying to avoid any tickets!!), but we certainly made it home safely. Even though I was content enough to fall into a deep sleep, I was also content with the fact that I would have plenty of energy for my next day’s impromptu 10k race!

What’s your favorite Friday night pizza stop?

Pitfire Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

LDW ’15

LDW ’15

Labor Day Weekend is such a precious gift for a graduate student…especially one who has to go into lab prettymucheveryday, and has to read abajallionpapers every week for class. I wish I was exaggerating, but such is the life of a second-year! Even though I felt overworked and drained from a long week, I surprisingly had enough energy to talk to my new roommate once I got home and got some dinner in me! I also had to have an pint of ice cream of course because duh, Friday. 😉

 Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.
Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

Since my roommate and I were talking non-stop, I ended up eating this ice cream in a semi-melted state. It was not too big of an interruption to affect the taste though. It was like eating frozen yogurt with large chunks of cookie dough thrown in. How is that ever a bad thing? 😛

We had planned to go out for an afternoon hike the next day, but other things got in the way for the both of us. Instead, after fulfilling my lab duties in the morning, I ended up spending the rest of my Saturday playing catch-up. I thought another ice cream pint would get me through the mundane workload, but let’s just say New York Super Fudge Chunk left me feeling less enthused.

So what if it had white chocolate fudge chunks and fudge-covered almonds? Certainly not my go-to flavor or one to try again later… :(
So what if it had white chocolate fudge chunks and fudge-covered almonds? Certainly not my go-to flavor or one to try again later… 🙁

Maybe it was the too-frozen consistency, or the dark chocolate ice cream. Perhaps it was the overload of nuts? Too many cons, and not enough pros made this flavor an unfortunate no-no for me 🙁

On Sunday morning, I managed to still wake up at the dark hour of 5AM and head out for a 12 mile long run. Averaging an average pace of 9:20/mi, I made it back to the apartment around 7:30AM, just as my roommate was getting up. I still had to go into lab that morning, and we planned to meet up later to go grocery shopping/eat out, but something else came up for her that she had to attend to. So after my work was done, I was off on another weekend solo adventure, as usual 😉 !

The last time I was in Westwood, it was scorching hot in mid-July and I was eating my weight in pie and ice cream. About two month’s later and nothing’s changed…except I was about to eat my weight in pickles, bread, and cabbage at Lenny’s Deli. After seeing their feature on Mystery Diners and learning about their famous Rosenberger, I was excited to be able to cross them off my LA foodie bucket list 🙂

 Lenny's Deli
Lenny’s Deli

It was almost 4pm when I made my way inside, and having run 12 miles in the morning and being cooped up in lab right after, I was more than ready to chow down. Then entrance opens up right to a huge bakery, with countless dessert options.

 The HUGE bakery and Happy Birthday Israel sign---it was a Jewish deli after all!
The HUGE bakery and Happy Birthday Israel sign—it was a Jewish deli after all!

I made my way over to the restaurant area, which was towards the right of the restaurant, and had a diner-like feel with the huge booths and TVs lining the top of the walls.

 Isolation, diner-style.
Isolation, diner-style.

I was given a menu to look through, but I noticed that a new and featured special—the Vegan Tuna Fish Dish—was currently being offered. My original plan for a burger went out the window when I saw that, and I made my request to the hostess.

 Don't tease me like that!
Don’t tease me like that!

Unfortunately, she came back with the sad news that they were actually out for the day. I ended up ordering what I initially planned on—The Rosenberger.

I didn’t have to wait in a hangry state, since right after I made my order, I was given complimentary pickles + sauerkraut, along with four slices of rye bread. The sauerkraut actually tasted sweeter than I expected, but it, along with the large pickle halves, paired deliciously with my rye slices.

 Pickles, sauerkraut, and rye bread---almost didn't even need to order a meal!
Pickles, sauerkraut, and rye bread—almost didn’t even need to order a meal!

By the time I got through all of the pickled items, my Rosenberger arrived—full and ready to be devoured.

therosenberger-FULL
The Rosenberger, vege-fied: two flat, thick onion bread buns with a soft, veggie patty, melted cheese, mushrooms, grilled onions.

I was amazed by the appearance of the onion bread buns, and the inside of the burger was mind-blowing.

ld
The good stuff on the inside.

On the side, I got a cup of coleslaw:

coleslaw
Cold, sweet coleslaw

I guess it wasn’t too bad that they ran out of vegan tuna 😉

I was already feeling full from all of the fibrous pickled items I had inhaled before, but this burger deserved to be consumed in its entirety. I ate it open-face style with a fork, and mixed in my coleslaw with the mushrooms/cheese/onions for flavor-packed breadfull bites!

I was STUFFED by the end of it, but the meal was certainly balanced. I was also incredibly thirsty afterwards…perhaps due to all of the salt from the pickles? 😛

How did you relax this Labor Day Weekend?

Lenny's Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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