Going into this Europe trip, I honestly didn’t think much of Wales as more than where my cousin and her family lives. We used to live in the U.K., and we actually did visit Wales when I was younger. I remember having a shirt from Wales with a bunch of cartoon sheep on it. It was one of my all-time favorite t-shirts.
On a Friday morning, we caught the Great Western Railway (GWR) from Paddington Station. It was easy to board, except we had to make it exactly on time. It’s not like Amtrak where they’ll wait for an extra fifteen minutes after the actual departure time before leaving…
Fortunately we caught our train, and settled in for the three hour ride. I was asleep for most of the ride (of course), but when we got to Wales, everything looked so bright and cheerful compared to the dreary gray and smoggy London we left that morning. I’m not sure why, but I just felt happier looking at the scenery. Signs in Welsh started popping up as we made our way through the Cardiff station.
When we saw our cousin, we immediately went into hug mode. It had seriously been SO long (like seventeen years…). She and her husband picked us up, and we made our way back to their house.
The roads, highways, rolling hills, and architecture is the houses were so amazing. It was like walking through a suburb with a strong Medieval history.
Our cousin had lunch prepared, and afterwards she, my sister, and I went to pick up her younger daughter from primary school. Imagine a peppy and petite Desi girl short enough to be five, but is actually eight, with a thick Welsh accent and that’s Little M. She came out in her uniform, saw us, and became very bashful. Her mom was like “Oh, so now you’re quiet!” She did open up to us soon enough though!
At home, we met my cousin’s older daughter, who I’ll refer to as Little P. She presented herself as quiet, but was very polite. We were all then introduced to Muffin, the baby of the family.
Apparently, her sibling won the title of “Best Pug in Wales”. Go figure.
The plan for the evening was to go for an hour drive west to the cliffs in Swansea. The car ride was absolute fun since the girls were so full of energy. They took a particular liking to my sister, especially Little M.
We parked near a lush green cliff and saw sheep not too far from us. The girls jumped out and ran manically towards them and the sheep bounded just as fast. It was a funny sight for sure. Near the cliffs was The Worms Head Hotel/Pub, we found a table out back, and ordered some plates of garlic bread and chips.
Little M was adorably hyper, and would not stop chatting. We couldn’t help but laugh, even though her parents told her to calm down a bit for the consideration of others. I could see others were smiling though.
We didn’t go down to the cliffs, but we walked for a bit after, down a gravel-packed trail. There were a bunch of dogs, and the girls had to pet them all. When we got back to the car, it was almost 8pm but we just had to stop at Verdi’s Ice Cream before going home.
Verdi’s was by the water, near a dock with a bunch of boats.
It was getting chilly, but it wasn’t too cold to deny ice cream. My cousin recommended the Turkish Delight ice cream, and I eagerly jumped at the chance to try a new ice cream flavor. It ended up being a winner for me.
The ride back was more quiet, since the girls fell asleep, but drive back while the sun was setting was a gorgeous sight indeed. Watching Wales turn down for the night only emphasized to me how magical this place was.
This weekend was certainly going to be a great one.
Last week flew right on by! I took the first three days of the week fully off to recover from the marathon and let my muscles, black toe nail, and heel blister rest. I was able to get back into a running groove with some short runs, and actually felt quite refreshed!
Since E was in lab over the weekend (as was I, haha), we decided to convene for a late lunch in Koreatown after finishing up our work. We left around 2pm, but didn’t sit down to eat until about an hour later, since the restaurant we’d thought about visiting was closed for filming…despite there not being any signs/security guards indicating that the restaurant was closed to the public.
Since we were getting quite hungry, Korean-Italian sounded delicious and we immediately walked towards Wilshire/Western.
The Spoon was actually right across from the Paris Baguette I visited back in September after running a 10k in Koreatown. I remember noticing it at the time and thought how cute it looked…I then promptly forgot about it, until coming here now with E.
Inside, the set-up was sleek, yet adorable at the same time. Two adjectives that can only be used to describe a Korean fusion restaurant I suppose…
We both were unsure about what entree to get, so we decided to get a 10″ pizza and split it.
We waited a while for the pizza to show up, but in the meantime we sipped on some waters and tried to cool off from the brisk walk we had outside under the hot LA sun. It reminded me of how hot it got during the september 10k!
When our pizza arrived, we were more than ready to dig in. E’s a pescatarian, so it was easy to choose a pizza that satisfied both of us—the “Fresh Garden Pizza” was a thin crust pizza with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese cubes, onion, mushroom, zucchini, bell pepper, chopped romaine lettuce (that’s a first for me…), and roman tomato. The pizza was sliced up into ten almost-equivalent slices.
I actually like the crisp, cool touch of the lettuce. The cheese cubes were cute too.
After devouring every slice but one, we got a waiter over to prepare the bill. As he turned to walk away, I asked that he split it but then E piped in right away instructing him not to do so. From that point on it was shout-fest between me and her, scaring the poor guy and confusing him as to whether he should split the bill or not.
Ultimately, E won since he said they could only put $10 minimum on a card. Our pizza was $18. So E had her way and pizza was on her—this time 😉
How often do you like going out to eat with friends?
Are your friends willing to split the bill, or is it always a battle when it comes to whose paying?
Our last full day in Seattle began with yet another bus ride to Ravenna, where we were the previous day drinking tea. This time though, we had brunch at a hipster cafe, and one of my favorite places we ate during the whole trip: Wayward Cafe!
The clientele, employees, and restaurant space all had a hipster vibe going on, so obviously my sis, friend, and I felt out of place but this did not chase us from getting our share of comforting vegan food!
We sat at the counter, so in a way, we were somewhat secluded from the rest of the diners. It didn’t matter though, because we were all quite hungry and didn’t mind so much that the view in front of us was a mix of kitchen gear and foggy windows showcasing a highway.
We each started off with coffee/tea, and you know I took those extra stevia packets for the road 😉
For my dish, I was all for the Country Bumpkin. I finally got my biscuits and gravy craving taken care of on this trip!
My sis got the Dixie Fried with a circular scone look-alike biscuit, and my friend got a gorgeous enchilada (I think) type dish smothered in sauce and aligned next to seasoned cubed potatoes.
Our grand-in-flavor brunch was also easy on the wallet, and we were able to catch a bus to downtown feeling renewed. On the way there, we rode alongside not one, but TWO adorable animals! The first was a cat “with an eating disorder” headed to the vet. He was a golden, obese tabby who had the most precious meow. The next was this adorable groomed pomeranian who obediently sat on his/her owner’s lap all the way to downtown! I have yet to see an animal board a bus here in LA so I was probably a little too excited upon observing these animals boarding the bus, haha!
Once we were in downtown (yet again), we actually took the time to go inside Pike’s Place Market (just like many other tourists), walk around, get bored, and then walked further down, ending up at the gum wall!
After taking a couple pictures with the wall in the background, doing our best to not LEAN against the wall, we walked back towards our starting point, and then made our way towards the movies to watch the latest Alice movie, since we couldn’t watch it the day before due to my sister not feeling well, and my friend was dying to see it. I never was a fan of the Disney Alice movies (I guess I liked the animated one?), so I found myself getting restless at some parts, but I was glad that watching the movie made my friend happy 🙂
After the movies, we obviously had dinner 😛 . And how could we pass by a Veggie Grill and not go in?
We all ended up ordering hearty meals like burgers, mac and cheese, and even shared my sis’s favorite chocolate pudding from when she tried it the first time we visited a VG.
I got the Buffalo Bomber, oozing with spicy BBQ sauce and a side of coleslaw.
Having warm meals in a restaurant with an orange hue made us feel so cozy with the weather starting to get cold and rainy outside.
After dinner, we just wanted to get back to the Airbnb and relax for our last night in Seattle. I actually ended up staying up until midnight, which is something I rarely do, but I had the energy to do so, and I wanted to really enjoy the time I had with my sister and friend because those chances are so few nowadays.
After a long night’s rest, I woke up the next morning, and got everything packed. After getting my sis and friend to do the same, we headed out to the Fremont District for one last adventure before flying out of the glorious PNW.
Our destination was a chocolate tour at Theo’s Chocolates!
The cost of the tour was only $10, but there were samples galore and learning about the process of making fair-trade and organic chocolate was quite interesting.
After putting on hairnets, we were guided into a small green room with benches where our guide explained to us the story of how the cacao plant becomes what we know as chocolate.
During her talk, she passes around samples, and I fell in love with a flavor speckled with raspberry.
After the short lecture, we were taken inside the factory, where we saw the vats and got to sample some cacao nibs: the mild and bitter ones! My sis and friend ended up buying a bag of the mild cacao nibs from the gift shop after the tour.
Once we made a rotation through the actual factory, we were lead into the kitchen, a.k.a. the best room on the tour. In this room, we were given the opportunity to sample truffles, limited edition chocolate flavors, and other intriguing sweet (and savory!) chocolate items. And immediately after that, we were given coupons and directed straight into the gift shop…where there were even MORE samples.
I literally made laps around the store sampling all the chocolate, even finding myself at one point just pacing near the main wall where the samples for the original chocolate flavors were. When my friend and sis were done picking out their cacao nibs and truffles, I even took some store samples for the road! I guess I didn’t completely overdose on sugar, because I still had some room in me for a small lunch! Flying Apron was just along the way, so we decided to sit down there and munch on something savory.
I was able to hit it right with my order of red lentil soup with a slice of their bread of the day (which I believe was multigrain).
My friend and sis however, weren’t so lucky. They shared three dishes among the two of them, a pesto salad, mac and cheez (with lots of spinach apparently), and a BBQ tofu pocket, all of which were doughy, and lacked flavor to the point where it tasted completely bland. I had to taste them myself just to believe it, and my sis and friend were absolutely right.
If I wasn’t sweetened out by all the chocolate I had earlier, maybe I could have tried a sweet baked good and could have given the chance for Flying Apron to redeem itself. Oh well, I was happy with my humble bowl of soup.
We spent another hour strolling around the Fremont district, and then took the bus back to our Airbnb in order to get our luggage and call for an Uber. My sis and friend were sharing a second suitcase filled with books from their Amazon Books adventure, so it was necessary.
It was hard to bid goodbye to them at the airport, since I was flying back separately to LA and the both of them were flying back to Nor Cal together.
Overall, I was so happy that the trip happened at the time that it did. Right now I’m already wrapped up again in my work but prior to my vacation, I was running on fumes and felt so burnt out from my work! There’s no doubt that I’ll probably need another week off (at least) by August rolls around, but until then, I think I feel refreshed enough to continue being my normal busy self. The fact that summer is just beginning kind of helps too 😉
Over the summer, my family made the move back to Oklahoma, leaving our Nor Cal abode behind. Even though Nor Cal was where I did most of my growing up—elementary through undergrad—my baby/early childhood all took place in the middle of the country…the humble heartland.
It was so nice being able to spend a week full of laughter, company, and of course great food, with my family and our close friends. Yeah, I felt like I had to leave too soon (#responsiblegradstudent), and even though I wasn’t able to spend NYE with them, I’m grateful I was able to spend the most important part of the holiday season with them.
I arrived on Monday evening, and after getting picked up at the airport by my Dad, I was introduced to our new home and had a home-cooked curry stir-fry for dinner. I caught up with my sister since last seeing her during our Thanksgiving break.
On Tuesday, I went for a 6 mile run, and ran some errands with my Dad. For dinner, we ate out as a family at something we all were able to agree upon—Mediterranean food!
At the counter, there is a large menu on the wall, and everything starts out with a variety of hummus.
When you order the veggie plate, you can pile on the plate with anything offered down the line. Start with hummus/babaganoush, add some of the salads, and then rice/grains or pita bread. By the time I reached the cash register, my plate was packed with babaganoush, spicy harissa hummus, fattoush salad, cabbage slaw, tabouli, italian squash, and roasted veggies…with falafel + tahini and pita on the side.
One note about the pita though…they forgot to give it to us, and by the time we reminded them the second time, we were practically finished with our plates…meaning, what was there to dip the pita in? And the falafel was less than stellar. Even though it has a nice crisp texture, the inside was chewy, dry, and NOT green. When a falafel isn’t green on the inside, I doubt it’s gonna be a good one 😛 !
But I suppose the plate itself was good enough!
After dinner, we drove by the Rhema Christmas Lights: a grand display of holiday lights that people from all over Oklahoma make the trip to see. We were too lazy to get out of the car, but we enjoyed what we were able to see from the car.
When we finally got home, I introduced my sister to the beauty that is edible cookie dough, and we tore into the cookies and cream flavor that I found at a local grocery store while running errands earlier in the day.
The cookies were perfectly swirled into the cookie dough, and meshed with the dough quite well. This made up for the overwhelming, chunky chocolate chip flavor I had a few days earlier, and hopefully the other flavors left to try will be just as good 😉 . But when I think about it, this flavor may have tasted 10x as good only because I was sharing it with family, haha.
I think I started to get frustrated with recent chilly weather LA has been having after the first two days of it. I’ve also started to feel jaded from school—since the semester is winding down and rotations are wrapping it up. It makes sense, but it can be difficult to shake-off when you know you need to study!!
Being able to spend a few days with my Dad when he was in town for business helped to break these mundane routine feelings as of late, and it was just what I needed to freshen my perspective. It was nice to see him even though I would be seeing him again the following week for Thanksgiving break 🙂
As in previous instances, we only got to get together around evening time since we both had our tasks to fulfill during the day. Since we were staying in the Pasadena area the first night, we decided to check out My Vegan for dinner—voted Pasadena’s best vegan restaurant.
For a weeknight, it had a fair amount of customers dining-in around 6pm. There was also someone waiting by the door for a take-out order. From the booth, it was easy to get some pictures of the surroundings.
To start off, we split a spring roll appetizer, and I knew what I wanted after a quick glance at the entrees and went for the P.E.T.
My dad ordered the Green Curry, which included eggplant, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, basil leaves, and of course all of which was swimming in a spicy green curry sauce. Even though he requested that his dish come out milder, it was still too spicy for him.
We finished off our meal with some greek yogurt cups from Trader Joe’s nearby, and I promptly went to sleep since I was feeling quite exhausted from my day as a whole.
The next day was one of my on-campus-for-pretty-much-the-whole-day days, but even though I got out of my late afternoon lecture as the sky was turning dark, we made the hour (and then some) trek to Costa Mesa to check out a restaurant that has been on my foodie bucket list since learning about its existence almost two, three years ago!
I was finally approaching Seabirds Kitchen!
Since it was prime time for dinner, we were lucky to find a seat in a corner booth.
The menu selection was current for Fall, and quite overwhelming. I ended up ordering first, while my dad took some time to decide what it is he wanted exactly…and to make sure it wasn’t too spicy!
For appetizers, he ordered a carrot ginger lemonade and we split the burnt brussels sprouts.
I couldn’t wait to dig into my Holy Smokes Bowl when it arrived—as it had the bbq jackfruit Seabirds is famous for!
My dad ended up ordering the Butternut Enchiladas, which sounded innocent at first, but then when I pointed out it had roasted pasillapepper sauce, the appeal of the dish was quickly lost. In my opinion, it looked beautiful in appearance!
So even though we had to make an hour-long trek back the next morning, I can’t deny that I felt nourished and content from my meal at Seabird’s. The next day was more of a low-key day anyways, so the return trip didn’t feel too rushed. Sure, it may have been out of the way—just for a restaurant—but it was absolutely worth it 🙂
Even though I had to bid adieu to my sister once the end of her visit rolled around, I was glad I was able to spend some time with my Dad for two more days after the weekend of their visit. Since we were both busy during the day, our only time to meet up was for dinner—so that’s exactly what we did! We decided to head over to Lemonade in Pasadena since neither of us had ever been, and the fresh-take on cafeteria food the local chain specializes in sounded appetizing at the time.
We were kind of stumped as to how and what to order when we arrived, but since we didn’t have to worry about crowds on a weeknight, the staff behind the counter were at ease and were patient in guiding us through the process.
We could choose from one to six portions from the Marketplace, where there were many salad-like items and hot pots. There was also a meat section, breads, and luscious-looking cakes.
We made our way down the counter with a 6-Portion plate, a veg pot, and some bread for the side. The 6-portion plate was quite hefty, and seriously landed with a thud on the tray!
My favorites from the food we ordered included the cranberry nut bread and the beets salad. I loved the soft texture of the bread, as well as the mix of bite-size cranberry pieces and slivers of almond, I believe. The beets salad though…it had a hint of sweetness and crunchiness not from the beets, but from something small, orange, and sticky in consistency. Orange-glazed walnuts? Not too sure, but it made the salad worthwhile for sure!
Before leaving, my Dad and I decided to split a macaron cookie. We split a generous-sized lemon macaron that was super soft and filled with lots of cream! It almost fell apart in my hands as I was taking the picture and trying to split it into two halves.
The next day was another busy day for the both of us, especially me! I had a two-hour lecture in the morning, spent a couple busy hours in my rotation lab, and then followed that up with an afternoon lecture for a class that requires me to make the trek to our campus health center for free coffee. Anything to stay awake! My lecture that day that went 20 minutes over schedule, since we were being rushed through a 75-slide power point presentation on one of the most detailed aspects of genetics. My brain was fried, and in dire need of glucose 😛
Since my Dad wanted to stop by Little India in Cerritos for some Indian groceries to take back home, we decided to have dinner at a local spot in the area.
The Sahara Restaurant was pretty much like any other Indian restaurant you’d find in a city strip mall, but they apparently served a pretty tasty Gobi 65 and Cauliflower Manchurian—I would be the judge of that!
We were the only ones in the restaurant, other than a couple of police officers who came in to place a carry-out order. It was comical to watch them transfixed on the Bollywood music videos playing on the TV hanging in the corner of a wall. Our server was a sweetly awkward guy who had a hard time explaining the true difference between Gobi 65 and Cauliflower Manchurian. It was okay though, since he did make the effort and asked the chef for his input 😛
So along with the Gobi 65, we ordered the Baingan Bharta with a side of roti and long-grain rice. For an appetizer, we snacked on papadum and my Dad had a mango lassi.
I passed the time by looking up my exam scores for one of my classes (which took forever to do on my phone), and by the time it loaded in full, our food had arrived to the table.
The Gobi 65 was spicy and full of flavor, but far from having the crispy texture I associate with a well-cooked version. In fact, it was quite chewy and almost seemed soggy from the sauce/spices. The Baingan Bharta was delicious on all fronts though, and I used it to coat my slices of warm, crisp roti.
After dinner and shopping, I was dropped off back at my apartment. My Dad had a long drive that night and so after getting him a cup of coffee from my apartment complex’s coffee machine, we said our good-byes. It was semi-difficult to get back into my regular routine the next day, but I reminded myself that a new weekend was not too far away 😉
In two months, I will be taking the next step in my [academic] career…and, you could say, my life. I’m looking forward to my move in a few months to this amazing city…
Last month, I had to make a quick trip down to Los Angeles in order to make my final decision on apartments. My first choice was trying to find a studio or 1-bedroom through university housing, but those units quickly filled up and so I had to look at some privately-owned properties.
In the first day of my visit, I was able to tour the apartments of two different companies, and both each had their pros and cons. It made making my decision a lot harder than I expected, and I was going back and forth with reasons why/why I should not pick one apartment over the other.
All of this apartment talk was making me hungry, and I made myself treat dinner as my “break”. I knew I wanted dinner to be at a Veggie Grill that night, since SoCal has quite a few in the area. My visit to the one in Santana Row last year clearly wasn’t enough. The closest one to me at the time was in El Segundo, so that’s where I trekked to around 6pm.
The El Segundo location was hidden away in a shopping plaza—I almost missed the sign too!
Like it’s discrete sign on the shopping plaza pillar, the restaurant was tucked away in the far corner of the plaza. At least there was plenty of parking on the side, and the front sign was bigger.
There was outdoor seating, but since a breeze was picking up in addition to the already cloudy weather, sitting inside was the better option.
Deciding what to get at VG that night felt just as difficult as choosing which apartment to rent! I finally decided on going with one of their newer, intriguing items: the Bombay Bowl. My Dad chose to go with the Papa Portabello burger with a side of sweet potato fries, as well as some tortilla soup.
It was a 15-20 minute wait, and that time was spent discussing apartments. Yup, I couldn’t resist not using that time to continue weighing my options, even though dinner was supposedly my “break time” from apartment talk…
But like I said, apartment talk makes me hungry. When the soup came out first, I helped myself to some of the side crackers.
The server also let me know that they had run out of roasted veggies that were supposed to be a part of the Bombay Bowl. Actually, they were pretty much the starring role of the dish. At first I thought how could a place like Veggie Grill run out of roasted veggies? But when she said they could sub in kale, I said that was fine.
I didn’t even notice the roasted veggies’ absence when my bowl arrived. I was more focused on the super grains buried at the bottom of the bowl, and the coconut-milk curry sauce!
Dad’s burger looked appetizing also…
Overall, I found the Bombay Bowl to be top-notch in how it was crafted and presented, especially the addition of the almonds as a garnish. My Dad thought the portabello burger was pretty decent, but he found the soup to be more of his favorite.
After dinner, I researched more apartments to look into in the area. I found an extra large studio that I planned on looking at the next day, and also thought it would be a good idea to practice using the Metro since I will be without a car once I move. So even though I went to bed with a full belly, I still had a major decision to make, and a busy schedule planned for the next day.
Do you like making decisions, or find the process frustrating?