Turkish Delight!

Turkish Delight!

The semester is coming to a close for most, but I technically don’t become a “fourth year” until after this summer. And this summer is gonna be a doozy with all the work I have planned and have to get done, oh boy.

There’s so many things to do for trip prep and managing work here, I’m proud of myself for not going absolutely crazy and still finding the time to go about my usual daily tasks without worrying too much.

Lab was a necessary task that needed to be addressed on both Saturday and Sunday. E had to come by Saturday morning to help me get into the building since I forgot my set of keys in my desk (lol), but after I finished up, we made plans to have lunch.

She had been mentioning that we check out this Turkish restaurant in Beverly Hills sometime, and I thought it would be perfect to finally do so.

The bus we took that was supposed to drop us off at Beverly Blvd cut its route down by Fairfax near Little Ethiopia, so we ended up walking for another 45 minutes due to construction and having to take the most roundabout way to our destination.

Needless to say, we had rallied up a strong enough appetite to chow down on some mouthwatering Turkish food. Our appetites would be appeased at Cafe Istanbul.

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Cafe Istanbul

It’s hard to believe I passed by this joint without much thought. I used to frequent this street a year and a half ago, visiting the likes of Panera Bread, Creamistry, Momed, and Beverliz Cafe. I had been meaning to come back, but time flew by!

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Pita bread chips and sauce.

Now I was here with E, and I was making the most of this experience. E is Turkish-German, and so she volunteered herself to order in Turkish for the both of us. The servers spoke English, but E wasn’t going to miss out on an opportunity to show off, haha!

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Pita bread and grape leaf rolls

We were served some crisped flat bread with a tomato-based dipping sauce as an appetizer. We also got vegetable dolmas, and for our entree, the Imam Bayildi.

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IMAM BAYILDI ~ Fried whole eggplant, stuffed with onion, tomato, garlic and slowly baked in the oven, served with tzatziki sauce and with pita bread.

Our entree featured three eggplant strips topped with tomato, onion, and pepper. We were able to cut through the soft, chewy boats, and top them on some pita bread after adding some tzatziki.

I thought we were done after this meal, but E insisted that we finish off the right way—with Turkish tea and Kunefe.

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Tea and Kunefe

The tea was a dark crimson liquid served with sugar cubes. It paired well with the soft, sticky dough pastry that is Kunefe. It was like a sticky bun rolled in pistachio grounds. The small, rich dessert was the perfect way to complete the feast. I’m glad I trusted E, haha!

We walked around for a bit, and then departed to commute home. I made a stop at Sprouts for groceries, and decided to pick up a pint of Nada Moo to try later as a night snack.

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Birthday Cake Cookie Dough

I picked out Birthday Cake Cookie Dough, and for my first time trying Nada Moo, I was mad at myself for not trying this fluffy goodness packed in a pint much sooner! Birthday Cake Cookie Dough has a bright white base of fluffy coconut milk-based ice cream, mixed in with thick chocolate chips and sizable pieces of cookie dough. If you are looking for a pint-sized cloud with a varied texture of mix-ins, look no further!

Earlier in the week, I tried some new items I picked up from Trader Joe’s. One of which was one of the three new RX Bar flavors—Mixed Berry!

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RX Bar Mixed Berry

The eye-catching bright pink wrapper was what caught my eyes first, but the taste of the bar was quite interesting. It had the usual density of an RX Bar, but the flavor reminded me of fruity pop rocks, and it really hit the back of the mouth in regards to flavor intensity. Not sure if it’s my favorite, but the bright pink color made it seem like it would match well with a cute pink dress!

The second item was the Birthday Cake Bar from Trader Joe’s! I first saw it on Instagram, and was ecstatic to find it sitting on the shelf with the other chocolate bars πŸ™‚ !

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Birthday Cake Bar

Sprinkles and cookie crumbs gave the bar its full textured appearance, and the chocolate had a smooth flavor profile. It’s definitely a treat that can’t be missed out on!

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

What I’ve Gained

What I’ve Gained

I honestly can’t believe that March flew by so fast…to be honest, I’ve been in an emotional whirlwind for almost a month and a half! I sort of hinted at these feelings in an earlier post (that I literally feel like I wrote yesterday…), but now I feel like I’m comfortable with going more in detail.

My eating disorder first plagued me when I was in my senior year of high school, and I would say it had a firm grasp on me up until late 2015, when I finally started making steps towards real recovery. For 5 1/2 years, the only relationship I cared about was the one I had with food: how I could control it, make certain foods fit into a day, nap away hours in the afternoon just so I could eat again for dinner…it was barely an existence. 

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With each day passing day, it slowly becomes easier to push those thoughts and honor/respect my body enough to go back for seconds, thirds, and fourths at a dinner, even after a full day of eating. Starving all day just to save my calories for the end of the day doesn’t make sense to me anymore…

When they say an ED becomes your one and only relationship, nothing could be truer. Yes, my Dad and close friends were still nearby, but food took priority no matter what. I would sacrifice going out to a restaurant to hang out with my sister and our close friends just to avoid the calories. I would shout at my Dad for buying too many yogurts or granola canisters because they tempted me to binge. All because I had to live by a number, and ANYONE who got in the way of that would see the worst of me…

So to say that taking the plunge and going into recovery full force only helped me physically would be an understatement. I repaired not only a relationship with myself over the course of 2016, but I also repaired old relationships as well as planted the seeds for new ones. Therapy helped me to understand why I thought about things a certain way, as well as find ways to be okay with things as they are.

When my sister and I saw my Dad over the holidays this past year, the three of us had an emotional, yet necessary, talk about the future. It was the first time we heard all the details of my Dad’s story, and having such a deep, emotionally-revealing discussion with both my Dad and sister made me feel so much more grateful for them. The discussion also helped to make me feel more comfortable with the idea of being open to pursuing a romantic relationship, or at least taking the steps to get to such a relationship in the future.

So that’s when I began to feel all the feels…and the first guy I thought about was That Tall Guy…let’s call him TTG (name changed for privacy, chose to go with the first thing my guy friend from my lab said when I told him about this whole thing, lol).

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The Culver City Stairs at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook—a challenge E and I took on this weekend in order to be rewarded with glorious views of the city from the top.

Preparing for my qualifying exam in January was enough to keep my feelings in check, as stress for that took over. But once that was taken care of, those flitter-flutter butterfly feelings started to come up again, and I couldn’t shake the thoughts of trying to see if something with That Tall Guy could work.

Around the time I visited my cousin, these feelings were growing even more, and I felt like I just HAD to tell someone or I would burst. My sister was the first one to know since we talk about everything as it comes up in our lives, but my friend E was the first one I told among the people I see on a daily basis (actually on my bus ride back after visiting my cousin) and since she has been actively trying to get her love life together too (lol), we thought these would be “fun distractions” to have while we continued on with our mundane lab lives πŸ˜›

Funny thing was, I started to see TTG a lot more frequently since my confession to E. He started using the same facility that I use for some of my experiments. He is a quiet/shy person in general, and I think that’s one of the things that attracted me to him. This also made things quite complicated as I soon learned. I knew that the first step in this whole process was to make him aware of my existence, so I began initiating conversations. Being the first one to say hello, how’s it going, following up on something that he may have mentioned in previous days…

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Hello LA.

But it wasn’t like I was starting from scratch. Just a year ago, we were in the same class, and saw each other at least 2-3x a week for a two hour lecture. I thought he was attractive then too, but the feelings weren’t as strong (or I made myself ignore them/not allow myself to sit with them). I was also working on myself (recovery, body image issues, starting therapy) and so my thoughts were more focused on myself than seeking out a relationship. Then summer, fall, and winter came, and I rarely saw him for the rest of the year since I became plenty busy with lab/my qualifying exam.

So when I did have time to start thinking about him again, on top of the fact that I was now seeing him again on a close to daily basis, I couldn’t deny that I had feelings for him. These feelings felt so new and exhilarating—I was feeling euphoric for the first time in a long while! I didn’t mind staying in lab longer, and since my experiments weren’t time-sensitive, I tried to match my schedule to his so as not to be too obvious, but still increase the likelihood I’d encounter him. I was the first one to say hi, ask how he was/how his project was going, and smile a lot. It was so unlike me, but I was feeling adventurous and ready to get out of my comfort zone.

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Reflecting on things after the ascent.

I started leaving lab later because I learned mid-way through this whole lovesick journey that he took the same train I did, except in the opposite direction. One day, E and I secretly followed him (lol) just to see where he was going when leaving for the day, and that’s when we confirmed he didn’t drive to work. I felt like I had found a hidden clue to solving this β€œguy mystery”.

Over the course of several weeks, my mind may have exaggerated things to mean more than what they were, but I couldn’t help but think these coincidental (and intentional, lol) encounters, exchanged smiles, and reaching out for help meant something more. He sent me a very thoughtful email asking to borrow an item from our lab, and E and I were practically squealing when writing up a reply. Infatuation at its peak I suppose.

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When you reach the climax.

After weeks of trying to time my Monday morning train ride with his, both our trains ended up at the stop at the same time. I literally had to power walk behind him just to catch up, but once I did, I initiated conversation. After asking how his project was going, he asked how my weekend was. When I asked the same question in return, that’s when he dropped the G word. I hadn’t seen him over the weekend because his GF was in town.

I played it cool, wished him a good day, and as soon as I got to lab I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself. I then texted E and my sister. The game was over.

But because he is such a nice guy, I wanted to keep things as normal as possible. I still said hey to him when I saw him, and asked how is project was going. As the days went by, my feelings calmed down and in their place emotional exhaustion set in. I left lab early on some days, just to get home and rest up. I drifted from disappointment, sadness, irritation, anger, and fatigue.

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I left lab very early one day during the week, due to just feeling emotionally exhausted. Stopped by Sprouts and bought this bar. Instagram review —> “So happy to see that Sprouts has started to carry more RX Bars…including the Mint Chocolate flavor! It’s the last one I’ve been needing to try, and upon opening it, I was hit by a friendly peppermint-y aroma. Other than that, it pretty much tasted like the coconut flavor only because of it’s mixed-up texture, with the chocolate chunks and chopped nuts and all that πŸ˜‹πŸ˜‹πŸ˜‹”

Overall, I see this as a life lesson. I’m grateful that I experienced such euphoria for six weeks. It proved to me—if anything—that I am continuing to push away from my eating disorder past and seek relationships. Even after hearing TTG had a GF, I did not feel the need to go to a mirror and body check. I knew that there was nothing wrong with ME, and that for whatever reason, the timing wasn’t right.

Yeah, we never went out for coffee. There was no first date, and I didn’t learn anything new about him besides what he does in his lab, but I held my head high and carried on as usual. I felt exhausted, but the self-confidence I gained over the past six weeks still seemed to stick around. I may have not gotten the guy, but this chase has rewarded me with so much more.

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β™₯β™₯β™₯

I honored myself with time to sit with my feelings, but then I respected myself to move forward from this experience. I’m just going to continue to keep doing what’s right for me. Continue to shower myself with lots of love, doing what makes me happy, making sure I feel my best…when the time is right, and when I am at my happiest, that one person will be there.

When I least expect it.

Shoutfest at The Spoon

Shoutfest at The Spoon

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.

The Spoon
The Spoon in Koreatown

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…

Menu and inside-of-restaurant peep.
Menu and inside-of-restaurant peep.

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.

Fresh Garden Vegetabe
Fresh Garden Pizza!!!

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 πŸ˜‰

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?

The Spoon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Little Lab Outing

Little Lab Outing

We recently has a post-doc leave our lab to pursue a new job, and as a result, we’ve been shifting the seating arrangements of our lab personnel…in other words, my lab bestie (E) moved into the office I am in, as well as another person I like talking to in lab! From the two offices our lab occupies, my office became the “loud and fun one” pretty much overnight πŸ˜›

To celebrate the new arrangements, me, E, and our other colleague went out for lunch Tuesday afternoon. Azla Vegan Ethiopian was a food court-style restaurant in a mini shopping complex called Mercado de Paloma, but this specific food spot was a place I had on my foodie radar for a while now (like so many places I am realizing, haha)!

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Azla Ethiopian Vegan

E and I ended up eating here while our colleague got a quesadilla lunch from one of the other food court stalls. We picked 3-4 side items, and got two rolls of injera with our plates.

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Small, but one of the cuter storefronts in the shopping complex.

We were able to pick from dressed lentil salads, curried lentils, greens, cooked vegetables, and spicy tofu to pair up with our injera.

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Salads!

There was also a small assortment of vegan baked goods, but we (well at least I did!) knew our plates would be filling enough.

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Savory, and a bunch of sweets.

E’s plate was full, packed and looked delicious! I didn’t get the lentil salad, but looking at E’s plate made me second-guess that decision.

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E’s plate

My plate had the curried lentils, boiled potatoes/cabbage/carrot, gomen (cooked spinach), and two rolls of injera. The three of us walked over with our plates of food and found a table to sit at, amongst racks of clothes and in front of other food stalls.

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My plate πŸ™‚

We spent the next hour enjoying our lunch and each other’s company. I made this comment on Instagram, but being able to go out for lunch on a Tuesday with lab mates, and not having food be the focus felt so refreshing. It was just another reminder that I am progressing through recovery, and that I’m also improving when it comes to taking advantage of social opportunities. I’m forming relationships, and allowing those to grow while, gradually with each day, I am squashing that eating disorder voice. This is recovery in action, and I’m loving that days like these are starting to occur more in frequency.

We went back to work after lunch, but I felt much more energized from both the food and endorphin burst from all the laughing we did. I’m sure these lunches will become a regular occurrence, and seeing that it took me two years to feel “at home” at work, I couldn’t be happier about this prospect.

Do you hang out with work colleagues outside of work?

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

Let the Good Times Roll

Let the Good Times Roll

I got a good dose of endorphins and happy hormones last Saturday. Actually, the happiness rush began last Thursday evening, when I received a care package from my Dad! He says it’s for passing my quals, but I think he would have been kind enough to send me a little something regardless πŸ˜‰ . It absolutely made my week and I thanked him for it!

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“This is what happens when your Dad wants to surprise you for passing your qualifying exam a little over a month ago…and when Sprouts has a 3/$5 deal on @lennyandlarrys cookies. Shipping just the cookies alone in a small mailing box did not justify the shipping price. So in went some other items, and the box naturally grew wider πŸ˜‚. Haha, I was so happy to find this at my doorstep yesterday evening ☺️”

On Saturday, my friend from lab (let’s call her “E”) and I were able to hang out outside of lab again. We had not spent some free time together since our movie outing to see Hidden Figures last month, so a girl’s day was overdue!

We both met in lab (duh) Saturday morning to take care of some things for our experiments. From there, we bused to Koreatown, laptops in hand and with coffee on the mind.

She used to frequent a little, hole-in-the-wall place known as Document Cafe. Based on her previous ventures, she has been insisting that we both go together sometime to have coffee and get some work done, since they have a good environment for working and strong wi-fi.

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People here know the drill…

We finally did so on Saturday, and I was able to prevent her from buying for me ;). She got a simple cappucino (with barista foam art) and I felt adventurous and bought their affogato.

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“Affogatos and data analysis on a Saturday afternoon with the lab bestie β˜•οΈ πŸ”¬ πŸ€“. This vanilla bean ice cream + chicory root coffee mix from @document_coffee_bar was excellent!”

We found seats by the wall, set-up our workspaces, and waited for our caffeinated creations to be completed.

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Waiting for treats!

My affogato immediately reminded me of a mini root beer float. It had a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream at the bottom, chicory root coffee throughout the cup, and then another generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream at the top.

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Cute little spoon to eat the Affogato with.

I will say that it doesn’t taste good unless you completely immerse the coffee with some of the ice cream, the melted parts. Otherwise the drink tastes too bitter…

We spent about 2 hours at the cafe enjoying our afternoon treats and working on lab-related data analysis/readings. We also chatted while doing so, just so that we made the whole experience a little bit more fun.

After getting our fill of caffeine, we had enough energy to walk to Wilshire/Vermont. It was approaching 4pm, and we figured why not have some froyo before calling it a day?

Yogurtland was just down the way, and I went to town with three different flavors of froyo, poppers, mochi, maraschino cherries, and Whoppers chocolate malt balls.

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“Yesterday’s fun day out in K-Town naturally ended with a stop at @yogurtlandinc . Froyo makes the best accompaniment for lab gossip πŸ™ŠπŸ˜œ”

We gossiped about lab and the crazy antics of our colleagues. It felt so good to be able to vent and laugh with E outside of lab!!

I left for home around 5, and got back around 6. Since our “last” team long run before the marathon was the next morning, I went to sleep early to ensure I’d be rested enough to put in a good effort into the taper πŸ˜‰ . Sure enough, it worked since I ran the 12 miles at an average pace of 8:07/mi! Really, really hoping that I can pull off a sub-4:00 come next Sunday!

I definitely do think that having days much like Saturday have been helpful in keeping my mood up, and feeling validated by my running improvements has also helped a lot. I know that it’s normal to have an ebb and flow with moods and feelings (it’s HEALTHY to feel sad sometimes), but if I can find ways to keep my happiness up the majority of the time, why not πŸ™‚ ?

What do you do to keep happy?

Document Coffee Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sit Back and Relax?

Sit Back and Relax?

Once Wednesday morning rolled around last week, I felt much less anxious, but I did have some lingering adrenaline because I could not sleep. Post-presentation jitters? I guess that’s a thing.

I did treat myself to a latte in the morning: the new Cascara latte from Starbucks.

As a treat for my major accomplishment yesterday, I treated myself to a tall cup of the new Cascara Latte from Sbux. Was it worth a $1.00 extra vs a cappucino? Interestingly, I thought the froth was softer and creamier, and maybe it was the stevia, but it tasted so sweet. I usually have to add two packets of stevia to my cappuccino in order to get half the sweetness I got with this cup.
As a treat for my major accomplishment yesterday, I treated myself to a tall cup of the new Cascara Latte from Sbux. Was it worth a $1.00 extra vs a cappucino? Interestingly, I thought the froth was softer and creamier, and maybe it was the stevia, but it tasted so sweet. I usually have to add two packets of stevia to my cappuccino in order to get half the sweetness I got with this cup.

I saved my celebrations for the weekend though. My friend from lab and I snuck out a little early Friday evening to head downtown and see Hidden Figures. It was my friend’s second time seeing it, but she loved it so much that she didn’t mind seeing it again with me.

She ended up buying both of our tickets even though I insisted she didn’t. Ah, now I owe her—if she’ll ever give me the chance πŸ˜‰ !

I absolutely loved the movie, though I will admit I love movies and books about people and their stories. I loved reading biographies as a kid, and even now I prefer memoirs over anything else literature-wise.

On Saturday, I gave myself a rest day knowing that the next morning I would have to get up and run 15 miles. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with my day, knowing I had it all to myself with no impending items on my to-so list…

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Except maybe go frolicking around Westwood?

I ended up walking around Santa Monica in the morning because I woke up ravenous, and I wanted to get donuts from DK’s. Unfortunately, my debit card wasn’t working and I couldn’t withdraw any cash to buy any donuts from the cash-only shop. I don’t understand why they can’t take credit cards at this point with all their success/recognition, but one day I’ll be able to see what the hullabaloo is about…when I have cash in my pocket.

In the meantime, I had to find something pronto because my stomach was growling…

SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica
SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica

I totally forgot about SuperFood Cafe’s existence, even though I had been planning to check this place out a while back. They have an incredible amount of vegan and vegetarian items, hinted by the size of their large laminated menus.

At the counter, I ordered a warm bowl called Chef Tofu and a coffee because that morning I desperately needed one. I then found a seat and admired the high ceilings and warm, cozy color tones.

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Nothing says comfort like a giant mug of coffee

I added two packets of brown sugar and one serving of creamer to the coffee, which made it taste much more magical. My bowl came in a very interesting-shaped bowl—it looked like something you’d find in an art gallery.

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That crazy looking bowl though.

The bowl itself contained organic tofu, hemp seed, organic broccoli, kale & spinach, and organic tomato-corn-chipotle salsa. The tofu had a nice spice to it, being coated with a light curry sauce and all.

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Ah, a bowl of yum!

With my hunger satisfied, I decided I might as well do something fun, but cultural, with my free day. I took the bus (which stopped right in front of SuperFood, conveniently!) to Westwood, and decided to check out the Hammer Museum since I hadn’t been yet!

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Hammer Museum—an illusion of size

The museum was actually pretty small. From the outside it looks enormous, but then I realized that the bulk of it was a parking garage…so much for culture! While it was gorgeous on the inside, there were only TWO art displays open, and so my visit was drastically cut down to a fifteen minute walk-through…

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Pretty, but small & quiet

So, I ended up doing what I pretty much do on my weekends when not in lab…grocery shop, and then head home to nap! At least at my grocery stops over the weekends, I treated myself to some delicious new finds:

I had this Falafel Wrap from Trader Joe’s on Sunday, after a 15-mile long run with my team. After having the Veggie Hummus and Grilled Eggplant wraps though, I found this one to be awfully dry even with the provided tahini sauce. It didn’t help that all the falafel were to one side (it made it harder to dip that side into the sauce cup)…maybe if they had been assembled in a staggered arrangement, it would have helped with the dunking?

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Trader Joe’s Falafel Wrap

I also used some Vitamin Shoppe points I had to go towards my first jar of D’s Naturals Fluffbutter!

I tried D's Naturals Fluffbutter for the first time last night! It's a vegan protein-infused peanut butter that comes in a number of flavors, but Creamy Chocolate S'mores caught my eye immediately. It has a thick consistency, but that's balanced out with a good proportion of peanut oil to make it easy to spread. It tastes like a mild chocolate peanut butter, and comes in the perfect small-sized jar. So excited to get my hands on the other flavors and see how they compare!
I tried D’s Naturals Fluffbutter for the first time last night! It’s a vegan protein-infused peanut butter that comes in a number of flavors, but Creamy Chocolate S’mores caught my eye immediately. It has a thick consistency, but that’s balanced out with a good proportion of peanut oil to make it easy to spread. It tastes like a mild chocolate peanut butter, and comes in the perfect small-sized jar. So excited to get my hands on the other flavors and see how they compare!

As described by my caption so succinctly, I enjoyed this flavor immensely πŸ™‚

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I will be on the hunt for the others!

I would say that my post-exam jitters finally went away Monday morning. I woke up feeling much more refreshed than I did last Wednesday, and so far, that feeling’s been holding up pretty well πŸ™‚

Does it take you a while (psychologically) to get back to your normal routine after a long stressful event is over?

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

Her 21st

Her 21st

Last weekend’s events were spectacular. I am so grateful for being able to visit my sister on a milestone occasion—her 21st birthday!

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Slice of chocolate birthday cake. Can’t pass up a slice in celebration!

I wanted to maximize the time I spent with her so much that I took a night MegaBus so that I could get to Oakland by 7am that Friday morning. From there, one of our besties who also didn’t want to miss out picked me up, and after getting coffee we drove 3 hours to Fresno!

My sister couldn’t contain her excitement when she knew we were close. She skipped class (haha) so that we could all have lunch together at Taqueria Don Pepe.

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Taqueria Don Pepe

It was incredibly hot outside (pushing 100s!!) but they had a small, shaded patio where we could sit down and enjoy our lunch. My sister and I both got vegetarian tortes while our friend got enchiladas (despite talking nonstop about her taco craving for the 3 hours I drove with her, lol).

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Pickle bar, small interior

The torta was made with a soft but toasted hoagie roll and filled with refried beans, good ol’ avocado, tomato slices, onion, and shredded cheese. My friend seemed to like her enchiladas, but she actually got bored mid-plate and started talking about splitting fries with my sister from Dog House Grill next door!

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Veg torta anyone?

We went shopping for a bit afterwards at Target, and then came back to my sister’a dorm for some rest before heading out to dinner.

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Everythannnng in here

My sis and friend spent forever doing their makeup, and opened a bottle of wine to drink before we left. I was “designated mommy” since I don’t drink, so I let my sis enjoy her new-found freedom with alcohol. She’s actually probably the smartest person I know when it comes to drinking safety…she did her research and did not go crazy at all. She told me she stayed hydrated and drank only after eating something substantial the night she had her first drink, on her actual birthday. Obviously I’m bragging now because I’m such a proud older sis.

After they had their fun, I drove us all to The Cheesecake Factory because my sister had a giftcard she wanted to use, and because I had never been to TCH!!

lol
The Cheesecake Factory on a Friday…so busy!!

We had to wait about 45 minutes before we could get a table, and when we were taken to our seats we came across a server who was scrambling to set up our table. It was the most awkward thing ever, as it looked like he was literally playing musical chairs with silverware. We stood there in polite silence, but were all actually thinking what the…

drinks_chips
Sis and friend’s drinks…I helped myself to chips and guac.

We ordered A TON, and I ended up reprimanding both ladies for it afterwards because we needed up taking four boxes home. We devoured a whole bread basket, shared chips and guacamole, and my sis and friend ordered huge plates of burgers with sides. My sis got a side salad that she didn’t even touch because she got the kale salad appetizer. I tried the mozzarella flatbread, and while it was crisp and creamy from the cheese, it was not the most stellar thing to cross paths with my tastebuds.

pizza
A sub-par flatbread pizza

After dinner, we walked through the mall for a bit and then drove back. We finished the night with the Bratz movie (just to make fun of it, and it was unsurprisingly the only thing we could all agree upon) and I was the first one to fall asleep.

I woke up the next morning to squeeze in a 6 miler, but as soon as the ladies woke up, we for ourselves ready for an eggy brunch—Fresno style!

Do you drink?

What was your first alcoholic drink ?

Taqueria Don Pepe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Avocado Toast

Avocado Toast

Last week was a hectic one, and this week was insane. Thankfully it’s Friday, and my vacation to the PNW is coming up πŸ˜‰

Since last week was graduation, and we had two people in my lab walk in the ceremony and officially receive their PhDs, everyone has been feeling the stress (and excitement). I would say for me, it’s more stress than excitement, but I’m doing my best to work it out, and work it out with the people that are involved.

Did I mention that I need a vacation?

Snacks leading up to graduation were alright, and featured some new-to-me bars. I tried the NoGii brand for the first time, and Oh Yeah! One’s newest flavor: chocolate birthday cake!

The NoGii super protein bar in chocolate peanut butter flavor had a mild after taste and the chocolate layer seemed filmy, but the chocolate flavor itself was alright.

NoGii Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Crisp Super Protein
NoGii Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Crisp Super Protein

The cookies & creme flavor had a harder texture, but it didn’t have an abnormal aftertaste.

NoGii Cookies & Creme Super Protein Bar
NoGii Cookies & Creme Super Protein Bar

The campus bookstore was fully stocked of Oh Yeah! One’s newest, chocolate birthday cake, and it tasted more like a stick of fudge with sprinkles. Perhaps if it had a cake-like center things would have been more different?

OhYeah! One Bar - Chocolate Birthday Cake
OhYeah! One Bar – Chocolate Birthday Cake

On the Saturday after graduation, one of my lab mates and I attended a series of talks in the afternoon. Prior to the event, we had a light lunch at Dinette, a small but cleanly-designed eating space in the heart of Echo Park.

dinette (8)
Somewhere in Echo Park

Even the umbrellas looked fresh.

dinette (2)
Dinette

The ordering counter was encased in glass, and there were pastries/savories placed by the display case on the side.

dinette (1)
Such clean windows at the ordering counter
dinette (4)
Behind all those pastries…

The menu was written on a classic blackboard, but I knew I wanted the avocado toast, and it didn’t take much convincing for my friend to order it either πŸ˜‰

dinette (3)
Menu!

We were able to find an empty table in the patio area as we waited for our names to be called and our toasts to be handed over to us.

dinette (5)
Patio seating…don’t mind that guy’s leg, haha.

My friend’s name was called before mine even though she ordered after me, but they handed her my toast as well.

dinette (9)
Avocado toast with olive oil and chili flakes…

Each toast was placed on branded parchment paper in a baking tray, and spread generously with heapings of avocado, chili flakes, and olive oil drizzle.

Just look at it though…

dinette (6)
I SAID, avocado toast with olive oil and chili flakes…

Once our toasts were eaten and not a crumb was left, we ended up walking in the wrong direction for ten minutes before turning around and heading to the actual event! We stayed in the area until about 4pm, and then took the bus back home since we live in the same general area (and since neither of us have a car!).

dinette (7)
Heading home.

It was a nice break in routine to spend a weekend outing with another person, instead of having yet another solo adventure…and it was even someone from work, which made it more fun in since I got to know them in a more casual setting.

An (avocado) toast—to sharing more weekend outings with acquaintances that slowly become friends πŸ™‚

What is/are your favorite topping(s) for toast?

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

Fries & Friends

Fries & Friends

I originally didn’t plan to have much of an exciting Halloween weekend this year. While this year’s festivities didn’t include a Halloween-themed race or an excuse to buy a costume, I at least had the opportunity to meet two fabulous bloggers for a “Halloween Eve” dinner on Friday night.

My FriDAY included the usual things—lab from morning to evening, but leaving an hour before the dinner meet-up so that I would have enough time to get to Los Feliz by bus. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much traffic for a Friday night, and the bus wasn’t too crowded either!

 It wasn't quite Halloween, but it was starting to feel like Christmas with the lights out and all!!
It wasn’t quite Halloween, but it was starting to feel like Christmas with the lights out and all!!

It took me about 10 minutes to walk from the bus stop over to our restaurant destination, and once I arrived, I waited outside.

 Outside of Spitz in Los Feliz
Outside of Spitz in Los Feliz

To be honest, I was a bit nervous about meeting these two ladies, but when I finally met them, I realized I had nothing to be worried about. Britt and Gigi were all smiles, and after a quick set of easy-going intros, we all proceeded inside—straight towards the restrooms, haha.

 Menus outside
Menus outside

After freshening up, we gravitated towards the counter so we could order food. Gigi is an expert on all things Spitz, so she knew exactly what to get. Brittany ordered a vegan-friendly plate with one (adorable) falafel on the side, and I decided to chow down on the Street Cart Fries. I think the words “garlic aioli” are what caught my attention on that one πŸ˜‰ !

 Can you guess what I got? Not sure if the arrow helps ;)
Can you guess what I got? Not sure if the arrow helps πŸ˜‰

We found a table at the back of the restaurant, and quickly got into conversation. Our conversation naturally focused on food, running, blogging, and anticipation about B’s and G’s trip to Disneyland the next day, so there was no room for awkward silences πŸ˜›

 Street Cart Fries - fries topped with garlic aioli, feta, onion, green pepper, tomato, olives, and pepperoncinis
Street Cart Fries – fries topped with garlic aioli, feta, onion, green pepper, tomato, olives, and pepperoncinis

The only exception would be was when our food arrived. We were all so hungry, so it was understandable. Plus, food >>> spoken words, it’s a well-known fact.

 Close-up of fries. Yum yum!
Close-up of fries. Yum yum!

I ended up getting the happy hour portion, which was supposedly smaller than the regular portion. The cashier recommended that it would be enough food, and even though I found that to be true, I felt like I could have cleaned out the regular-sized basket. The fries were that good…probably because of the aioli and feta. I was also blown away by the roasted chickpeas Gigi ordered and kindly shared with the table.

Our meet-up was only ~ 1hr long, and my only regret was not being able to spend more time with these lovely ladies! After being dropped off at the closest Metro, we exchanged hugs and wished each other well. Hopefully there will be more chances in the future to get to know these two more πŸ™‚ !

My first-ever bloggers meet-up was a success, and hopefully it won’t be my last πŸ˜€ !

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

Crossroads Kitchen & a Troubador Concert

Crossroads Kitchen & a Troubador Concert

I normally don’t do much on weekend nights, since I tend to do all of my adventuring during the day, but when my friend (who I met from my marathon training team last year) invited me to attend a concert with her at the Troubador, I agreed because why not?

Before getting to the venue at 8pm, we had dinner at a way-too-fancy vegan place—Crossroads Kitchen.

 Crossroads Kitchen
Crossroads Kitchen

Even though the lighting was not ideal for pictures, it was beautiful. We were able to get a high table near the front of the restaurant, and the view from high(er) up was awesome.

 Dim, but beautiful lighting!
Dim, but beautiful lighting!

It took us a while to get our orders in, but we didn’t order that much anyway. Just a small salad and a pizza to share. We were even warned by our hostess that the portions would be small, but we decided to go through with our initial choices and consider ordering more later if need be.

 Tapas-style menu.
Tapas-style menu.

One of the iconic dishes served here is the “seafood” tower, which is really all plant-based, vegan-friendly, seafood-shaped finger food to share among 4-6 people. It’s also pretty pricey…$45 I think!

 Front and back of Crossroads Kitchen.
Front and back of Crossroads Kitchen.

Our baby beet salad came out first, and featured a variety of mellon-balled beets mixed with feta, walnuts, apple slices, and balsamic sauce.

Baby Beet Salad - candied walnuts, kit hill almond cheese, granny smith apples, balsamic gastrique
Baby Beet Salad – candied walnuts, kit hill almond cheese, granny smith apples, balsamic gastrique

The pizza—which was certainly perfect for one—was our favorite. The crust was warm and toasty, while the cheese and “meatball” pieces had just enough crumble for added texture without falling all over the plate.

Spicy Meatball Pizza - housemade "meatballs", calabrese peppers, almond ricotta, micro basil
Spicy Meatball Pizza – housemade “meatballs”, calabrese peppers, almond ricotta, micro basil

These two dishes were actually enough to tide us over for the concert. We were also running short on time, so we thought it would be wise to not invest in more food.

We got to the Troubador a little before 8pm, and waited near the stage until the concert started at 8:30pm. The act was William Fitzsimmons, an indie folk singer with a mellow, acoustic sound.

 At the Troubador before the show start.
At the Troubador before the show start.

There was opening act before WF playing until 9:30pm, and WF took the stage until 11:15pm, but my friend and I left around 10:30pm since I was feeling tired and she had a 40 minute drive back home. Overall, it was a very soothing concert…even though I had to stand up the entire time since my friend insited we be close to the stage πŸ˜‰

At least I was exhausted enough to fall into a deep sleep once I got home!

Are you a fan of indie folk music?

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

william fitzsimmons.

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